One of my favorite cities in the US is our capital, Washington D.C. I was lucky enough to go to college in this town, so I have insider secrets for budget travel that Rick Steves does not! I just got back from a lovely visit, but thought I would share my guide with you as well.
My Favorite Things to do in DC
– Rent a bike and ride to all of the monuments. There are several companies that do this, the one I used was right outside of Union Station called Bike and Roll. New to DC is Capitol Bikeshare ! Similar to the Velib in Paris, you can return the bikes to different stations in the city. It is too much walking to see all the monuments on foot (the “mall” where the monuments and museums are has no restaurants and no transportation. Be sure to pack water and snacks.).
– Take a ride up the Washington Monument. Beautiful views of the city, make sure you ask the attendant in the elevator to stop on some floors, because built into the inside of the walls are jewels sent to the United States from other countries. Tickets are free, but you have to get there really early to reserve a ticket. You can reserve a ticket for a small fee in advance online (note: hopefully they’ll reopen – it was damaged by the earthquake).
– Have a drink at the W hotel. Expensive, but fun for a drink or a treat for dessert if you have a late lunch or something. Looks right over the White House and has a gorgeous view.
– Visit the Lincoln Memorial at night. Breathtaking.
– Sculpture Gardens. In the winter, go ice skating. In the spring, walk through the Cherry Blossoms. In the summer, listen to free jazz on Fridays. In the fall, watch the leaves turn.
-Smithsonian – American History (judy garland’s red slippers, first ladies’ dresses, julia child’s replica kitchen, FREE) and Air and Space (not my favorite but guys love it, games and such, FREE).
-Independent – Spy Museum (interactive history of spies in America, located in Chinatown, $2o bucks) also the Newseum (history of press in the US, $20 bucks), and the moving Holocaust Memorial Museum. Also, it you are on the mall and hungry, go to the American Indian museum for lunch! or else.
7th street in Chinatown/Penn Quarter is a mecca for good eats. I have gotten family and friends hooked on Matchbox, and for a step up try Jaleo or La Tasca. Staple is Ellas down the road on 9th and F – another cheap eat loved by all. For a drink after a long day head to Fado for the perfect Irish pint. 7th street is walking distance from the national mall (15 minutes if you are by the National Gallery of Art), next to the National Portrait Gallery.
Bistrot du Coin is hands down my favorite restaurant in DC, probably because it is a portal to France. The ambiance is hauntingly similar to an actual French bistrot, not to mention the mouthwatering fare. My friends and I love Alero, an authentic and tasty Mexican restaurant perfect for a lively night. No contest – the pad thai at Thai Phoon wins best in DC hands down (although Thai X-ing gives it a run for its money on Florida Ave).
The best pizza place in DC is called Pizza Paradiso, locations in Dupont or Georgetown. Pricy, but among the list of best Italian food I’ve ever eaten is Paparazzi and across the street at Filomena. The perfect special occasion treat. Amazing enough that you might eat a few servings worth of leftovers your roommate left in the fridge after a night out on the town. Woops. French pastry lovers unite! Get your favorite treats at Pain Quotidien (excellent brunch menu), Kafe Leopold, or walk up Wisonsin to Patisserie Poupon. For non Frenchie sweets, you can go mainstream and wait in line at Georgetown Cupcake, or you can get the best cupcakes in DC at Baked and Wired. Go here! Finally, after hot yoga a trip to Sweet Green for my fav froyo is healthy reward. Happy Hours at Rugby Café are the best.
Enjoy your visit