Washington, D.C. will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only was this the city where I fell in love and met my future husband, but D.C. was also the first city I lived in after college, a place where I met friends for life, and a city that really allowed me to discover who I am and taught me how to adult.
I first moved to Washington, D.C. in May 2010, the summer before my senior year of college. I had landed an internship with United States Senator Patty Murray, and I was so excited to live on the East Coast and make new friends… but never in a million years did I think I would meet my future husband. (Cue the love story!)
Alex and I met mid-summer 2010. We were both interns at the United States Senate, and I remember asking him (multiple times) if he wanted to hang out… but he would always come up with some excuse! It wasn’t until one day he surprised me, asking if I wanted to go to Georgetown Cupcake. Because cupcakes are the way to my heart, I said yes and we ended up waiting in line for over an hour in 100 degree weather. Despite Alex’s comments that “Safeway cupcakes are better”, we fell in love and the rest is history!
Shortly after graduating college in 2011, I moved to Washington, D.C. to join Alex, and we lived here until December 2014. Every time I visit D.C., I fall in love again and again with this city. This blog post is more or less a list of my absolute favorite things to see and do while visiting the amazing city of D.C.
One of the best ways to see Washington, D.C. is by playing tourist! Several weeks before you visit, contact your Senator or House of Representative to request a tour of the White House and the United States Capitol Building. Also, go to the National Parks Service website to get tickets to the top of the Washington Monument. The views are incredible. (Update: Unfortunately, the monument is closed until Spring 2019.)
Touring the White House one chilly winter day
U.S. Capitol Tour
The underground tram in the U.S. Capitol building
The view from the Washington Monument, overlooking the Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, and Arlington, Virginia
One of my favorite ways to soak in all the U.S. history is to walk the National Mall — by night! There are far fewer tourists, and the lighting of the monuments is beautiful. Be sure to visit the Washington Monument, MLK Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Korean War Memorial.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Washington Monument by night
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial by night
Speaking of the National Mall, one of the best (repeat BEST) places to watch the sunset is from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Be sure to make your way around the Lincoln Memorial for views of the Potomac River and Virginia.
Sunset overlooking the Washington Monument
Sunset behind the Lincoln Memorial
While visiting D.C., you cannot miss a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, just a quick subway ride or walk across the Potomac River. The cemetery is the final resting place for more than 14,000 veterans, including John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a burial vault containing the remains of unidentified service members from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The Tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — in any and every weather condition. You can watch the Changing of the Guard at the beginning of every hour. It is an experience not to be missed.
Arlington National Cemetery
Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery
Another great (and FREE!) way to learn about U.S. history is to take advantage of the many museums. The United States Holocaust Memorial is one of the most moving museums I have ever visited. Within minutes, I had goosebumps, and I immediately recognized the importance of preserving democratic values, especially in this day and age. This is a living memorial, and you will leave with a new sense of moral responsibility as a citizen of this country and world.
United States Holocaust Memorial
Any visit to D.C. would be incomplete without stopping at a Smithsonian museum or gallery. Admission is free (yes, FREE!). My personal favorites include the National Zoo (visit Bao Bao, the panda) and the American History Museum (where you can see the Star-Spangled Banner and the First Ladies exhibit).
National Zoo — don’t forget to look up to watch the orangutans swinging through the trees
Although not part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Newseum is an awesome interactive museum that promotes free expression. Exhibits include the Berlin Wall Gallery, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Today’s Front Pages.
Another great way to experience D.C. is to just walk and get LOST! My favorite neighborhoods include Georgetown, DuPont Circle, 14th Street, and Adams Morgan. Georgetown is very historic and has high-end shopping, bars and restaurants. It is also home to Georgetown University. DuPont Circle is a neighborhood centered around a traffic circle and is home to international embassies, multi-million dollar row houses, and lots of delicious ethnic restaurants. One of my favorite things to do while visiting DuPont Circle is people watch from Bar DuPont (think Mad Men-era ambiance and strong cocktails). 14th Street is full of never ending excitement. In the 1980s, 14th Street was known primarily for its red-light district, but since 2000, the area has gentrified. There are countless bars, restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, and vintage stores. Finally, Adams Morgan is a culturally diverse neighborhood, mostly known for its nightlife. One of my favorite coffee houses, Tryst, is located here! (They serve animal crackers with every drink!)
DuPont Circle on a snowy day
Adams Morgan, a very eclectic neighborhood
Okay, so after a long day of exploring, I’m sure you’re ready for drinks and dinner, right?? My favorite restaurant — in ALL of D.C. — is Founding Farmers. The restaurant supports the North Dakota Farmers Union and only uses pure ingredients in all their dishes. Plus, they make their own in-house whiskey! You definitely need a reservation, but can’t go wrong with breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
If you happen to find yourself in D.C. in April, you have to visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival! Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of tourists, but the cherry blossoms are absolutely beautiful!. In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gifted D.C. 3,000 cherry trees to honor the lasting friendship between the two nations.
Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin
And, if you find yourself in D.C. come December, enter to win lottery tickets to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. The event is crowded and freezing, but how many people can say they watched the President light the National Christmas tree?
National Christmas Tree Lighting