A Cultural Travel Guide | Washington, DC Travel Itinerary

Location: United States, East Coast,
center city dc

ABOUT Washington, DC

As a Philly native, I’ve been to Washington, DC quite a few times. There are so many reasons to go during each and every season. And because it is an easy train ride from many of the surrounding areas including Philadelphia, New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, it’s a destination that you have to visit if you live in the Northeast. Even if you aren’t a Northeast resident, you should visit the capital of the USA, no matter what. When thinking of what should be on your Washington, DC travel itinerary, consider the season that you are going. If you’re going in the Spring – make sure that you aim to visit during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. If you’re going during the Fall, aim for some of the tours during the day as well as some natural hikes in the area to see the turning of the leaves.

Over the years, I’ve visited Washington, DC for a variety of reasons. And most of the time, my visits would end up with me at some of the government buildings and historical places, because that is typically what tourists in DC visit for. But I have to say that those people are missing out on a whole other amazing experience. During a recent creator trip with Wanderful hosted by Visit Washington, DC, we created an itinerary based on experiencing the culture of DC and being outside in the warm sun during the summer season. From boat rides along the Potomac to dining experiences that you need to try for yourself, this blog post will provide you with a great cultural travel guide for your Washington, DC travel itinerary.

union station washington dc

NAVIGATING WASHINGTON, DC

How to Get to WASHINGTON, DC

If you are located in Northeast or the surrounding states around Washington, DC, I highly recommend either taking the train or driving. Train tickets, depending on when purchased, usually are under $150 round trip, and with seats to relax, WiFi for entertainment, and the ability to sit and eat, you can have a super easy trip into Union Station in DC, where you can grab and Uber and find yourself at your hotel and ready to get out and explore. If you’re driving, heading along 95 to get to DC can be quick and easy, but just prepare yourself for traffic once you reach DC because traffic can get heavy super quickly. 

If you’re planning on flying, you may fly into either Dulles, DCA or BWI. DCA is the airport that you’ll want to aim for since it’s closer to DC and super easy to navigate. From the airport, you’ll either take an Uber, or you can rent a car. If you don’t want to worry too much about parking or don’t want to pay for valet at your hotel, I would suggest Uber or Lyft.  

Getting Around DC

To get around DC, I recommend either using rideshares such as Uber or Lyft, or taking advantage of public transportation – especially the bus. If you download the SmarTrip app, you can preload an amount and use it on the buses just with a tap of your phone. If you drove into DC and plan to drive to all of your destinations, make sure to do some research on parking in the area that you are going to. Parking, like many places, can be difficult to find.

WASHINGTON, DC TRAVEL ITINERARY

hotel zena dc washington

Where to Stay in WASHINGTON, DC

HOTEL ZENA

Only blocks away from the White House, you’ll find Hotel Zena – an Urban Retreat by Viceroy. This hotel is an artistic embodiment of the courage and resilience of women. With each corner filled with arti created by local DC artists that celebrate women, you’ll find yourself feeling as if you are in a museum while staying at this modern, sophisticated hotel. 

Hotel Zena features comfortable accommodation with amazing views. I adored the shower and being able to open my curtains in the morning and having the room filled with  natural light. In the morning, enjoy breakfast at the lobby bar and even grab cocktails there later in the evening. If you’re looking for a little bit of a night cap while taking advantage of being at the place that you are staying, visit Hedy’s Rooftop, which is Hotel Zena’s rooftop bar. Just make sure that you check in with the front desk to get access to the rooftop when you’re ready to go as you can only access it with the special key.

hotel zena washington dc
hotel zena dc
washington dc travel itinerary hotel zena

Places to Eat in WASHINGTON, DC

china chilicano washington dc

CHINA CHILCANO

At China Chilicano, get ready to have your tastebuds explode from the culinary masterpieces derived from Peruvian food. Start off your dining experience by ordering a craft cocktail from their extensive menu. One of their most recommended is the Chilcano which is a Peruvian national drink. I highly recommend ordering one of the ceviche options to start, because it’ll leave you talking about it for days to come. One bite and it was literally the only thing I wanted for the rest of our trip in DC
china chilicano dc
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DUA DC

Some days in DC, you’ll be ready to kick off the day quickly. And if that’s the case, grab a coffee and a quick breakfast bite at Dua DC. During one of the mornings on our trip, we stopped in for a quick breakfast and the drinks options were just what we needed, and I enjoyed the beef empanada. It was tasty and got my day started off just right.

SWEET HOME CAFE

When you’re visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture, make sure that you head to the bottom floor to have a meal at the Sweet Home Café. With flavors derived from various southern foods, you’ll find yourself having the hardest time actually figuring out what you want to order. I over-packed my plate, but ate every single piece and even ended the meal with a finger-lick.

yardbird washington dc

YARD BIRD

Another great option to enjoy southern food is at Yardbird. I recommend putting this restaurant on your Washington, DC travel itinerary for dinner. The cocktail and dinner menu had so many great options that I had the hardest time choosing where to start. With bourbon based cocktails and the various options of comfort food, you’ll find yourself filling your belly and then wanting to go lay down right after.
yard bird dc
yardbird washington dc travel itinerary
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call you mother deli bagel

CALL YOUR MOTHER DELI

Known for its bright pink building, Call your Mother Deli in Georgetown has become a staple for visiting Washington, DC. But make sure you don’t just go to take pretty pictures. Head in and order one of their delicious bagel sandwiches. The lox sandwich that I had while visiting had me going “mmmm” on every single bite.
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  • call your mother deli washington dc
  • call your mother deli georgetown dc
  • call you mother deli georgetown
fava pot washington dc travel itinerary

FAVA POT

Transport yourself to Egypt at Fava Pot. This women-owned, immigrant-owned restaurant is known to be the first and only authentic Egyptian restaurant in the DC area. You may be thinking that you are quite sure as to whether you want to take the plunge into food that you may have not tried, but trust me in that you won’t regret visiting Fava Pot. There are so many great options that are made fresh using local ingredients in DC.
union market washington dc travel itinerary

UNION MARKET

If you’re traveling with a group and everyone wants something different, head over to Union Market where everyone can find what they are looking for. With various small businesses within Union Market, everyone can go grab what they are in the mood for and then still sit together to enjoy a meal. The rooftop is also open for seating, “lawn games” and enjoying drinks. Also, when planning to visit, make sure to keep a look out for local events. During the day we visited, they were having a drive-in movie experience!
mi vida washington dc

MI VIDA

Mi Vida is one place that I also highly recommend you put on your Washington, DC travel itinerary. Whether heading there for brunch, lunch, or dinner, you won’t regret it. The Mexican dishes that are on the menu had flavors that will have you savoring every single bite. And the décor and atmosphere of the restaurant will make you feel as if you have been transported to a different area while enjoying the specialty drinks and food items. If heading in for dinner, try to get a table on the upper level where the back area where you can overlook the bottom floor and also see the back area that contains a different décor style that is so comforting.
mi vida washington dc travel itinerary
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washington dc travel itinerary

Things to Do in WASHINGTON, DC

CRUISE ALONG THE POTOMAC WITH POTOMAC PADDLE CLUB & TIKI CLUB

Ride along the Potomac and take advantage of an experience that you won’t find anywhere else with the Potomac Paddle Club and the Tiki Club. The Potomac Paddle Club has you boarding a pedal boat bar where you can feel like you’re in spin class while enjoying some drinks and the view. With the Tiki Club, ditch the pedals, and cruise along on a blue tiki boat and party away. But don’t feel like you have to choose just one, book one for lunch and then the other for the evening, because why not?

national museum of african american history and culture washington dc travel itinerary
VISIT THE NMAAHC MUSEUM

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a museum that you need to put on your bucket list of places you need to visit. It’s a museum like no other and the experience that you have while visiting this museum is so hard to put into words. When planning your visit, make sure to plan way ahead as there tends to be a waiting list to get access because of the popularity of the museum itself. The NMAAHC is one of the very few museums that I have left feeling honored that they allowed me to visit. 

EXPLORE THE US BOTANIC GARDENS

For those who want to take a moment to get out of the bustle of the city, the US Botanic Garden is a great place to relax, slow down, and learn about different plant groups that survive in various climates. When exploring indoors, you can walk through various rooms that have atmospheres specific to the area that the specific plants survive in. For example, in the larger, center location, you’ll find humid climates that are ideal for the tropical plants that are planted there. 

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  • botanical gardens washington dc travel itinerary
  • botanical gardens washington dc
hook hall washington dc travel itinerary
HAVE AN ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE AT HOOK HALL

Hook Hall is a place that you can visit multiple times and have a difference each time. The reason why – each season they change their theme and bring new cocktails, food, and events for visitors to enjoy. With themes such as the Safari and Cherry Blossoms, you’ll feel transported and immersed in the experience that you are being taken on. When planning to visit, make sure to book yourself a cocktail experience where you’ll be taken into a secret bar area where you can enjoy some of their specialty craft cocktails, and then afterwards, spend the rest of the evening sitting at a pre-booked table that is centered around the theme such as a safari tent when the theme was Safari. 

hook hall dc
hook hall cocktail experience washington dc travel itinerary
HAVE A NIGHT CAP AT VUE ROOFTOP

Overlooking the city atop Hotel Washington, enjoy evening cocktails while also being just steps away from the White House at Vue Rooftop DC. This is a great place to have a night cap and enjoy cocktails and bites while being outside enjoying the cool breeze, the night sky, and the amazing view of the city. 

vue rooftop dc
big bus tours washington dc travel itinerary
TAKE A TOUR WITH BIG BUS

If you’re looking to take a historic tour through the city, I recommend Big Bus Tours. This tour group, having bus tour options all around the world, is known for their amazing sightseeing tours. Making it a part of your Washington, DC travel itinerary is something that you’ll want to do if you’re looking to explore the DC area’s unique history and culture. 

lincoln memorial washington dc travel itinerary
EXPLORE AREAS OF DC

There are so many great areas to visit and explore in Washington, DC. If you’re someone wanting to take a mural tour, visit the NoMa area close to Union Market and find all of the street art and beautiful murals. Georgetown is another great area to visit. It’s so beautiful and it’s a great area to take photos, shop at the local businesses, and just spend a day exploring the entire area. You can also visit DC City Center, which is, as you can guess, in the center of DC. You can find stores to shop here, places to eat, and this is the location where you’ll find the seasonally changing walkway with the beautiful hanging art.

center city dc

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