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.
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
Where to Stay in WASHINGTON, DC
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.
Places to Eat in WASHINGTON, 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.
CALL YOUR MOTHER DELI
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.