This is my short but sweet Washington D.C. city guide! In addition to visiting New York City last month, we took a bus down to D.C. to experience a different part of America and enjoy some of the sunshine out of the towering skyscrapers in New York. We really enjoyed our time in D.C. (although the progressive signage outside the houses clashed somewhat with the ‘make America great again’ hats we saw..) and I would definitely return to experience a little more of what the city has to offer.
Things to do
The Newseum: This museum is an expensive attraction ($25 entry!) but worth it if you are interested in American media. I came away from the experience feeling as if the ‘Newseum’ was less to do with news and more to do with American media reactions to terrorism. An interesting visit, but not quite what I was expecting. The pulitzer prize gallery is probably the best thing about this museum, the photos are displayed beautifully with accompanying short films that are really quite moving. If you can bear to pay the extortionate price, do give the Newseum a visit.
The National Mall: The National Mall is D.C.’s centrepiece. Visit both at night and during the day for stunning views and a sense of American history. Although by the end of our trip we were quite unexcited by the constant memorialising, on first sight the Lincoln memorial is impressive. It’s quite a long way to walk down the mall, without any direct shade, so take regular breaks to avoid getting heat stroke! The First World War Memorial is extremely striking and probably comes out top of the memorials in my book.
National Gallery of Art: A cool, airy space to collect your thoughts and view an extensive collection of paintings from throughout history. This gallery is free (hurrah) so I’d recommend a visit. The Impressionism collection is particularly good, featuring some of Degas and Manet’s most famous pieces.
Georgetown: This area of D.C. is beautifully manicured, think Wimbledon Village or Tunbridge Wells, with an array of upmarket shops and an attractive waterfront. Georgetown is a great place to wander around for a day, ending at the waterfront where you can grab an ice cream and head back to the city centre.
U Street: This is the go-to area of Columbia Heights for a drink or a cheap bite to eat. Here you’ll find your classic American bar and various late night restaurants and clubs.
Columbia Heights: Our airbnb was in this area, and we really enjoyed staying here. Of particular note is Meridan Hill Park, a short walk away from U Street. This park is a great place to relax, or if you fancy, join an improvised drumming circle at the bottom end of the park. Meridan Hill Park has a great, chilled out atmosphere where you can spot locals doing yoga, tai chi and reclining in hammocks.
The White House: Don’t dedicate an entire day to this, as you can reach it quite easily from the National Mall, and visitors are kept at a distance by several metal fences. It’s worth a viewing for sure, but a few quick snaps from quite a distance is all you’re likely to get from this attraction.
Places to eat
Ben’s Chilli Bowl: Before setting off for D.C., I had already heard that Ben’s is one of the city’s staples. Upon entering Ben’s, you are greeted with cheerfully colourful signage and a restaurant set out in a typical diner style. Order the classic chilli with cheese fries. Delicious!
Simply Banh Mi: This restaurant is situated in attractive Georgetown, where you will find quite a few East Asian eateries. Simply Bahn Mi is an absolute gem, there are lots of menu choices for vegans and vegetarians and you can customise your bahn mi as you like. I ordered the lemongrass tofu bahn mi with peanut sauce and crispy aubergine. The peanut and lemongrass worked wonderfully together and I would not forgo the crispy aubergine if I went again, it was extremely tasty.
El Chucho: A few minutes walk away from our Columbia Heights airbnb, El Chucho came on high recommendation. They serve (delicious) margaritas and tasty mexican bites with plenty of vegetarian options. The menu is divided into bocadillos, tacos and tortas, with some extras and snacks alongside. I opted for the torta potosina (sin carne) with a side of elote callejero. Both were very tasty and filling- once again the size of American portions rumbled me. This place is great for a casual meal and plenty of ice-cold cocktails.
Next time, I would love to explore more of the museums on offer in D.C. Particularly the new African American museum, perhaps when it’s months-long waiting list has died down a little. Overall, I really enjoyed our trip to D.C., and I would definitely recommend taking the bus down if you’re in New York for longer than a few days!