· What to do in Washington, D.C. ·
These days, the mention of Washington, D.C. can be polarizing. In our increasingly polarized political landscape, D.C. has come to represent corruption, inaction, or inappropriate action. However, underneath the strife is one of America’s great cities, a popular destination for Americans and foreigners alike. The Capital is home to America’s federal government, some of its most famous landmarks, and its national museums.
Washington, D.C. was founded in 1790 as the site of the newly formed United States’ capital. George Washington chose the site himself while Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were integral in the negotiation of the location as a compromise to satisfy both northern and southern states’ wishes. Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed the city to have a grid of streets and large boulevards emanating from the Capitol.
Since its inception, Washington has been burned almost to the ground (during the War of 1812) and had new landmarks and museums built into the city. Its borders have fluctuated and come to include nearby Georgetown and its residents ironically have minimal representation in the federal government.
While the idea of Washington may be contentious right now, a visit to the capital city can be free of overly political experiences. Enjoy all there is to see and do with or without partisan politics!
Where to go: Georgetown
Nearly forty years older than Washington itself*, Georgetown is a charming city within the city just a short walk or drive northwest of the center of the city. Charming brick row houses with colorful doorways and windows are worth a visit, while the shopping and restaurants on M Street and beyond make for a vibrant destination while in D.C. Georgetown University helps foster a young, lively atmosphere and wandering the waterfront is always a good idea.
In contrast to Washington’s wide boulevards and carefully planned monuments, Georgetown has an almost Old-World charm. It boasts the former home of John and Jacqueline Kennedy (pre-presidency) along with D.C.’s oldest building, the Old Stone House. With many embassies scattered around, it has a high brow atmosphere and there’s always the chance you’ll catch a motorcade. Its winding streets feel intimate and energetic compared to Washington’s business-like political center. No trip to D.C is complete without at least one visit to Georgetown!
What to do: Museum hop
America’s national museums, the Smithsonian museums, are mostly located in Washington along the National Mall. These world-renowned museums are not something to miss while in D.C. and their close proximity makes it possible to hit as many as possible. Lining the National Mall between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument, unlike the museums of London and other cities, the Smithsonians are all within quick walking distance of each other.
All free, these large museums have something for everyone. The list of museums includes the Air and Space Museum, the American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, and the African American Museum among many others. No matter what kind of museum you like, you’re bound to find something. Don’t miss out on these famous institutions!
Where to drink: Happy Hour
Okay, it’s not exactly where to drink, but when to drink. D.C. is EXPENSIVE. Other than the free attractions, the rest of your trip will be fairly hefty. Food is pricey, but beer and wine are even pricier. That’s why your best bet is the happy hours that pop up in bars and restaurants all over the city. Typically from about 4 to 7, your wallet will thank you if you opt for an earlier than later libation. That being said, the bars tend to have large selections of craft beer so your taste buds will be happy, too.
Where to eat: The Old Ebbitt Grill
Just steps from the White House, the Old Ebbitt Grill is a Washington institution in itself. While it has only been in its current location since 1983, the saloon was founded in 1856 and has hosted a long list of politicians and famous names since.
Its history would warrant a visit alone, but it also boasts an ornate interior. Dark wood, mirrors, animal trophies, and large paintings give the restaurant a Victorian impression. Its proximity to the White House and other government buildings make it a popular stop for politicians and it’s always busy. Try grabbing lunch at the bar if the wait is too long but make sure to have a wander around. While the food is great, the surroundings are better and well worth the stop.
Whether you’re a fan of House of Cards, a follower of politics, or simply like museums, you’ll find something to do in Washington, D.C. Though a relatively small city, it’s chock-full of things to do. And there’s always a chance you’ll run into a politician or dignitary!
Check out what to wear on a trip to D.C.!