Although it may be the historical heart of the country, Washington D.C. is far from a staid open-air museum, it’s a vibrant, ever-evolving metropolis where punks and power brokers rub elbows, acclaimed chefs serve cutting-edge cuisine, and democracy fills the air. This guide will show you how to have a magical weekend in Capital City.
Start your 72 hours in Washington D.C. by checking into the landmark Watergate Hotel, which plays up its scandalous past with “no need to break in” keycards and reception messages featuring Nixon speeches. The Watergate not only offers a taste of old-school glam, it has an indoor pool, a rooftop terrace, and a convenient Foggy Bottom location. For a true Washingtonian experience, book the infamous Room 214, where G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt orchestrated history’s most notorious burglary.
After checking in, head down to the Watergate’s Kingbird, a French Riviera-inspired restaurant with a killer design and even better eggplant caviar. Top off your Mediterranean meal with some Lavender Crème Brûlée, and then stroll next door to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where you can catch the National Symphony Orchestra, soak up some jazz, or take in an opera. The center even offers free daily performances on the Millennium Stage.
Saturday morning in Capital City calls for a big meal, and the Florida Avenue Grill in Northwest D.C. has been serving up belly-busting breakfasts since 1944. Pull up a seat and dig into Miss Bertha’s Breakfast Special, a thick platter of southern heaven complete with French toast, eggs, scrapple, and home fries.
Once you’ve fueled up on soul food, head to the National Mall, a 1.9-mile oasis filled with some of America’s most important landmarks. Not only does the Mall bring you face-to-face with the nation’s history, many of the attractions and museums are absolutely free. Linger at the Lincoln Memorial, tour the Washington Monument, buzz through the insect room at the National Museum of Natural History, and reflect at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall: the National Mall really is one of the most moving places in America.
After sightseeing, grab lunch at the Mitsitam Café, a Native American restaurant housed in the National Museum of the American Indian.
A meal at Mitsitam puts you right on the doorstep of the Smithsonian museums, and no D.C. visit would be complete without taking in some of the fascinating exhibits. Alas, Fonzie’s jacket has been put into storage, but you can still check out The Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s Slippers, and Lincoln’s Top Hat at the Museum of American History, head over to the National Air and Space Museum to take a gander at the Wright Flyer and Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega, and stop by the National Portrait Gallery to see Kehinde Wiley’s incredible portrait of Barack Obama.
For dinner, keep the historic vibe going by pulling up to a plate of oysters at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a vintage 15th Street saloon that’s been slinging 5-star shellfish since 1856. Then, add a thumping soundtrack to your Saturday night with an indie concert at The Black Cat, one of D.C’s hippest venues.
Sunday morning means you only have 24 hours in Washington D.C. left, so shake off your late night with a mug of locally roasted coffee and a breakfast burrito at the Instagram-worthy Big Bear Café, an elegant spot in the quaint Bloomingdale neighborhood. The bustling café is a hotspot for celeb sightings, making it the perfect place for a lazy morning of people watching.
Walk off breakfast with a stroll down storied Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Archives. The National Archives houses the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, where you can peruse the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, making it a bucket-list spot for anyone with an interest in American history and politics.
Reflect over your brush with the birth of American democracy over lunch at the Blue Duck Tavern, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a rustic atmosphere, an open kitchen, and classic seasonal cuisine.
If the National Archives put a lump in your throat, then prepare to have your heartstrings tugged again at Arlington National Cemetery, a 624-acre site that’s one of the nation’s most hallowed grounds. Arlington dates from the Civil War, and is the final resting place for many soldiers, nurses, and casualties of conflict, as well as William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, whose grave is marked with an eternal flame. Make sure to pay your respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where an elaborate changing-of-the-guard ceremony takes place every half-hour.
Then hit up a Washington Redskins game if you’re visiting during football season, or a Sunday night baseball game at Nationals Park, a modern ballpark in the waterfront Navy Yard neighborhood. Navy Yard has become one of the city’s hippest districts, and you can take trapeze lessons, catch an outdoor movie, and grab dinner and a beer at The Arsenal, an industrial-inspired American restaurant in the Bluejacket Brewery.
With so many amazing attractions, inspiring landmarks, and mouth-watering restaurants, it’s no wonder that Washington D.C. is one of the country’s most beloved cities. Book your weekend in Washington D.C. today!