Five days is the perfect amount of time to soak up Washington DC. Museums alone could fill that but having a longer visit leaves room for day trips and taking your time. DC has plenty to offer from historical sites and buildings to restaurants and shopping. Regardless of your interests, there's something for everyone. Having spent quite some time in DC, I've put together an itinerary for a 5-day trip that includes everything from sightseeing to day trips. Grab a pen for notes, and keep reading…Read More
Solo travel is one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s a chance for self-discovery, adventure and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s a true test of character and resilience. You learn just as much about yourself as the culture of the destination you’re visiting. It’s an experience everyone should have at least once but something I know I try to make a regular occurrence. One of the biggest questions that I’ve been asked since my first trip is about safety. As a woman, it can be scary and intimidating to travel alone, especially in the world we live in today. While I can’t guarantee that every experience will be a positive one, I can guarantee that every experience will be a memorable one and will enrich your life in one way or another.
Each city has its own pros and cons. These factors include walkability, number of activities, friendliness of the people, etc. As a solo traveler, I prefer visiting destinations that have good walkability. I’d rather not rent a car and I’d ideally like to be able to get around as easy as possible. Public transportation is something I can figure out pretty quick so I’m not above using it when it’s available. Every other part of choosing a destination is personal to you. What are you looking to get out of your trip? What are you interested in? And what you do want to take away from it? I can’t help you there but I can share a few recommendations for first time solo travelers. These destinations also keep women in mind. I’ve personally visited all but two of these cities and I was by myself for each of them. The others come from lots of research and strong recommendations from fellow travelers.
These cities are organized alphabetically but Boston is by far my favorite on this list. As far as stateside travel goes, Boston will mostly likely always take the cake. Boston is a fantastic food city. Zagat and The Daily Meal have both recently included it in lists sharing the best food cities across America. It is a history buff’s dream city. It takes you back in time walking down the street. From trendy neighborhoods like Beacon Hill to quick trips across the river to Cambridge, the entire city is one giant adventure just waiting to be had. Don’t miss the Boston Common, grabbing a slice of pizza or a cannoli in the North End, and walking through a Harry Potter-esque, early Gilmore Girls dream come true on the Harvard Campus.
Chicago is one of those cities that gets a bad rep from the media but doesn’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful city with tons of history, stunning architecture and an endless number of things to do. Bon Appetit even named it the Restaurant City of the Year in 2017 which was a mere three months ago. The culinary scene is without question one of the best and most exciting in the US and it’s constantly evolving. There are plenty of craft coffee shops to visit in every neighborhood and our obsession with donuts can be found in too many specialty donut shops. We have some of the best museums...did you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the second largest collection of impressionist art in the world, only second to the D’Orsay in Paris? And we’re set to receive the biggest dinosaur ever discovered at the Field Museum very soon. Not to mention, Chicago is a walkable city, the public transportation is not hard to navigate at all and the people (I’ve been told) are friendly. We might be freezing cold for several months out of the year but if you catch us in a good month, especially during fall, you won’t regret the experience at all.
There are a lot of great places to visit in Colorado near the Denver area. Boulder is a fantastic city, there are several towns in the mountains that are great to visit. Denver is easy to access and it’s great for exploring by yourself though. It’s walkable, public transportation is easy to navigate and there’s plenty to do. One of the things that I feel is less known about Denver is the amount of graffiti art it has. The art scene is huge in general but it’s fun to walk around and see the designs. Denver also has suprisingly nice weather. For non-locals, Denver seems like it would always be snowed in and cold. It’s actually a somewhat mild climate with a few bad weather days. I’d say that those are pretty good odds for a successful trip.
Madison is a gorgeous city to visit any time of the year. The University of Wisconsin - Madison campus draws plenty of visitors and has become known as one of the most beautiful in the country. If you’re one of the many who prefers to discover destinations by foot, Madison has a unique bicycle program that makes covering a lot of ground easy and endless trails to explore as well. Madison has a food scene supported and inspired by locality. For example, a lot of the beers you’ll find at restaurants and bars you’ll only find in Wisconsin because they keep to a local business code. The lake views are gorgeous photo opportunities and if you visit in warmer months, the lake is a hotbed of water sports. If you don’t believe me when it comes to Madison, believe my cousin who moved there for college and never looked back...and also this article from Travel + Leisure.
San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is a surprisingly amazing city. I’m not sure what most people expect when it comes to San Antonio but for myself, I didn’t have any expectations. All I knew was that there was this riverwalk everyone talked about and that the Alamo was here. Little did I know that it feels like a tropical escape, the riverwalk is absolutely stunning and there is a load of things to do. Just the riverwalk alone can take up your time for days. There are a multitude of restaurants, shops, and activities from live music to historical monuments. The riverwalk has a water taxi that takes you along the majority of the city’s most popular destinations including the Pearl District, an ex-brewery turned multi-purpose establishment with a hotel, restaurants, shopping, residences, and more.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco was the first city that I traveled to alone. It was my first trip after starting my freelance career and more circumstantial than anything since a friend of mine was getting married out there. I organized a three week trip - two weeks visiting family in Dallas and five days in San Francisco. San Francisco, while not my favorite place I’ve visited, is easy to navigate (if you don’t include the thigh killing hills) and there is plenty to occupy your time with. From gorgeous parks to interesting neighborhoods, ferry rides to abandoned prisons and day trips to wine country, there’s something for every interest. Lots of shopping, plenty of restaurants to try, you name it. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride a traditional trolly or get a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also worth it to mention that the weather is perfect year round so packing for San Francisco is a breeze.
Seattle is one of those cities that’s always been on my radar thanks to Nirvana, Sleepless in Seattle, Starbucks and Grey’s Anatomy. The home of grunge rock, too much rain and plenty of fish markets, Seattle is a city I keep hearing about which makes me want to buy a plane ticket now. I mean, my own personal list of things I want to do in Seattle is pretty long. Visit the high school where 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed, go see a few live music performances, go to a vineyard and winery, sit in a coffee shop and pretend I’m having coffee with Frasier, Niles and Daphne, visit the original Starbucks, visit Pike Place Market, and there’s more. Seattle saw the birth of an entire genre of music which also happens to be one of my favorites. Not to mention, the cloudy days would not bother this girl one bit. For you first time solo travelers, I’ve been told Seattle has really friendly locals. That’s always a plus…
Washington DC is one of those places that is so approachable even schools send groups of students there for special trips. That’s actually how I discovered Washington DC for the first time - on an 8th grade trip. 12 years later, I returned for a 10-day visit after five days in Boston. Seeing the nation’s capital as a 25 year old as opposed to a 13 year old was a really interesting experience. DC is great for solo travel because there is an endless list of things to do, it’s a walkable city with easy to navigate public transportation, and because it’s such a high-tourist destination, the people almost expect you to approach them with a question. It’s friendly, welcoming and you certainly won’t be bored!
Even if you don’t think that solo travel is for you, I encourage you to try at least one trip. Make it a city you’ve already been to so it’s not a completely new experience. Imagine a trip where you don’t have to think about what anyone else wants to do or when they want to do it. The only opinion that counts is yours. If you want to stroll around aimlessly one day and pack in a full schedule of activities the next, you can! If you want to change your mind last minute about what restaurant you’re heading to for dinner, do it! That’s the best part of traveling solo. The only person you need to consider the entire time is yourself. When was the last time you were able to do that?
The neighborhood I spent the most time in while visiting Washington DC was Capitol Hill. For starters, it was steps from where I was staying and many of the main sites in DC are close by as well. It’s one of the more exciting neighborhoods with lots to see, eat and do. Navigating around is simple and it’s located next to a few other neighborhoods that also have plenty to explore. Some days you might find yourself walking through Capitol Hill to get from point A to point B. Others, you might find yourself immersed in the neighborhood discovering a few of its best hidden gems.
Where to go for a little culture…
Ambar on 8th street is a great restaurant to experience Balkan cuisine. Their brunch menu is top notch and offers plenty of options for even the pickiest of eaters. Eastern Market, which is not too far from ambar, is an indoor/outdoor market with artisan goods ranging from specialty foods to art. It’s a large market with lots to discover. Remember to bring cash with you because there are a few cash-only vendors. My personal favorite, the Folger Shakespeare Library, has the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s work. Find a variety of collections from the Renaissance period including books, manuscripts and art. If you have the opportunity, stop at the Folger Theater for a play. It has an Elizabethan-style design providing as authentic of an experience as you’ll get.
Tackle a tourist spot…
At the Capitol Building. This is one of the most popular attractions that people who come to Washington DC visit. It acts as the Western boundary to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and also the namesake. Get a chance to see congress in action at the Capitol Building and tour the beautifully designed space. Reservations aren’t required but they are recommended. Day-of tours are not impossible but they can be difficult. It’s best to reserve a tour in advance so that you’re guaranteed a spot.
Eat like a local…
Tortilla Coast on 1st and D Street has amazing margaritas. Stop in for happy hour where they serve appetizers and drinks for incredible prices. I mean, where else can you get a frozen margarita for $6?! We the Pizza along Pennsylvania Avenue is another great local spot with homemade sodas that include flavors like Pineapple, Co, Co, Nut, and C.R.E.A.M. Enjoy a classic Pizza Pie or a Cast-Iron Pie using one of their ingredient combos or a combo of your own. Finally, Ted’s Bulletin on 8th Street serves up some of the best milkshakes including adult milkshakes with killer breakfast. The menu has classic diner food options done better for an extra touch of comfort.
And if that’s not enough…
Capitol Hill Books is a used book store with first editions, rare books and so much more. It’s a book lovers dream. You can smell the books out on the sidewalk. Barracks Row Main Street often hosts festivals and events for locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Library of Congress is an incredible building with some of the best views of the city if you’re willing to make the climb. Browse among thousands of books and collections. Finally, visit the US Botanic Gardens for a peaceful escape from the regular bustle of city life.
Quick trips are great for limited budgets but time can be an enemy. In planning a trip, it’s important to maximize the time that is available. Washington DC is full of things to see and do, so many that it can be intimidating at first, but planning is not as hard as it might seem. For starters, many things need advance planning since reservations come recommended. Second, many of the things will be similar in content: museums, memorials, tours, etc. Rather than a traditional itinerary post where we give a recommended schedule of events, we’ve put together a series of suggested activities for art lovers, history buffs and outdoor adventurers. There are also a few recommendations towards the end to pop in if you want to go off topic. Keep reading for more!
FOR ART LOVERS
From portraits to sculptures to magazine covers, there are plenty of options throughout Washington DC to fill the time with art-focused activities. The trick is to determine what you are most interested in and prioritize time for your top picks. The National Gallery of Art would have been my first choice if I did much art viewing. The National Portrait Gallery would have also been towards the top of my list.
Day 1: Tackle the Big Stuff
The National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Phillips Museum have some of the largest collections of art in Washington DC. It’s where many mainstream masterpieces are held like those from Picasso, Renoir and da Vinci. Other than hosting some of the more well-known artwork, these museums each take a chunk of time. You won’t be able to fit all four into your day so it would make the most sense to choose one or two and enjoy yourself. All but the Phillips Museum are located along the National Mall so if you choose any of these three, stop at the Garden Cafe for a bite to eat.
Day 2: Dive into Culture
One of the unique things about Washington DC is the number of cultural art museums to visit. See artifacts from sub-saharan Africa at the National Museum of African Art and immerse yourself in Asian art and artifacts at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is home to a personal collection from Marjorie Merriweather Post who was passionate about French and imperial Russian art. The gardens are gorgeous if you can fit an hour or so into your schedule to walk through.
Day 3: Get Specific
DC has a variety of art museums that exhibit specific types of media. The National Portrait Gallery consists solely of portraits from presidents to public figures and celebrities. The National Museum of Women in the Arts hosts only artwork created by women with more than 5,000 pieces. The National Geographic Museum has an exhibit featuring all the magazine covers the publication has printed as well as exhibits featuring explorations, cultures and more.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS
History is everywhere in DC. From monuments to archived papers, there is a piece of history almost everywhere you step. It’s also where some of the more tourist-heavy traffic will be. After all, what’s traveling if you’re not waiting in line at least once? With there being so much history to experience in DC, it can be tricky to fit everything in only three days. So this itinerary breaks each day into specific themes: top tourist spots, museums, and special interest. If memorials are important to you, you might want to sacrifice one day or at least a half day of other activities to check a few off the list.
Day 1: Top Historical Tourist Sites
The good thing about many of these spots, reservations are either required or recommended in advance so it makes it a little easier to plan your day. The bad thing, they will take up a good fraction of the day and lines might suck up even more time. This reason alone is why it’s good to get these activities in the first day. It leaves two more to cram as much in as possible. The two big ones that take reservations are tours of the White House and the Capitol Building. The White House requires reservations and a screening process in advance. If this isn’t planned ahead, you won’t be able to do it. The Capitol Building does not require reservations but they are recommended. Availability for day-of tickets are scattered and unpredictable at best. If the Capitol Building is important to you, book the reservation in advance. Other sites to consider for your first day include the Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, memorials honoring wars and their veterans, and Ford’s Theatre among others.
Day 2: Museums
There are several history museums in Washington DC, five of which I go into detail in this post. A few of the larger ones include the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. For a deeper dive into specific cultures, visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture or the National Museum of the American Indian. Have a little fun at the International Spy Museum which takes a look at espionage throughout civilization or get a somber lesson in history at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Depending on the museum, it can take a few hours or half a day to make it through. The National Museum of American History took me about three hours and I didn’t hit all the exhibits thoroughly.
Day 3: Specific Interests
Similar to the art available in DC, there are also places to visit that cover specific historical topics. The Folger-Shakespeare Library has a special collection from William Shakespeare and hosts performances regularly. The Newseum features exhibits that focus on media and journalism from over the years. For those who love old documents and history by paper, the National Archives will provide an interesting visit. You'll feel like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. This is also a good day to fit in any sites or museums from the first two days there wasn’t enough time for.
FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURERS & NATURE LOVERS
From rivers to forests, there is plenty to do for those who enjoy the outdoors. Paddle Boating along the canal and hiking are just two things to plan ahead for to enjoy nature in the capitol. Explore nature by exhibit with visits to the American Museum of Natural History or the Botanical Gardens. With a milder climate, DC makes it easy to enjoy these activities almost all year round.
Day 1: Natural History & Sites
Experience cherry trees in spring unlike anywhere else at the United States National Arboretum or become an expert on flowers at the US Botanical Gardens. Get educated on the history of nature from extinct dinosaur age animals to prehistoric plant life at the American Museum of Natural History. Take a stroll through a smaller, private garden at the Tudor House for a relaxing afternoon.
Day 2: Take a Trip To Georgetown and Explore the C&O Canal
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) is almost completely intact from the original build providing an authentic historical experience. Walking or cycling is available for free along the canal or rent boats for a canoe or paddle boat ride on the water. The scenery is gorgeous and the canal is a whopping 185 miles so there’s plenty to explore.
Day 3: Hike
There are many places to go for a hike around Washington DC but one of the most popular is Rock Creek Park. There are miles to run or bike as well as horse riding activities, tennis courts, golf courses and more. The national park has activities and tours for kids and adults for those interested in expert-led experiences. To get farther out of the city, Fort Dupont Park is an old Civil War fort with hundreds of acres of land for recreation, hiking and more. It includes a long trail, community garden and even hosts concerts and events during the warmer months. Great Falls Park is another great option for hiking and boasts beautiful views of the Potomac River flowing over rocks and cliffs.
Mix up the schedule by adding in a few random activities. The National Air & Space Museum is a favorite for visitors featuring airplanes, simulations and all kinds of interactive activities. Eastern Market on Capitol Hill is a fun indoor/outdoor market that opens weekly with artisans from all over selling anything from clothing to food. Walk through the National Mall whether it’s on the way to get from one museum to another or simply to enjoy the scenery. It’s a large expanse of greenery and there’s plenty to wander around and do. If you’re on a budget, check out our post sharing free things to do in DC. For other ideas on what to do while visiting, visit our post sharing six things you must do.
The National Mall is one of the easiest ways to cover a lot of ground in Washington DC at one time. Many museums, monuments and historical sites are along the mall making it easy to get around and create a plan. Free Tours By Foot explains it best, “the National Mall is a long, rectangular public park stretching from the U.S. Capitol Building on its east end to the Lincoln Memorial on its west end.” With that said, it’s almost two miles long which may not seem like a lot but feels like ten times its length. This is most likely because there are so many things packed throughout the park from museums to memorials and even the White House. Today, we’re breaking it down for you and sharing our list of must-dos so that you can cut through the clutter and get to exploring.
History and art lovers are in luck because there are several fantastic history and art museums to explore. The American History Museum is a personal favorite. It includes the First Ladies’ Exhibit, Julia Child’s Cambridge home kitchen, a fantastic pop culture exhibit, and more. There’s also the National Museum of Natural History which is where kids will get to walk among giant Woolly Mammoths and dinosaur bones. For a more somber history lesson, visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to get an inside look at what it was like for people surviving the Holocaust during the Nazi regime. Dive into specific cultures at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Art lovers can view priceless masterpieces by classic and modern artists at the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. Get a taste of African culture at the National Museum of African Art. The National Mall also has an interactive museum for science buffs at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Kids and adults can take part in simulations and see technology through the years with their own eyes.
There are hundreds of memorials in Washington DC, many of them along the National Mall. It might be easier to narrow down the memorials to visit by personal interest. For example, if you love presidential history, you can find the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. To pay respect to veterans, the Vietnam, World War I & II, and Korean Veteran and War Memorials are also throughout the park. If you’re interested in other political and well-known figures, there is a memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Einstein too.
ATTRACTIONS & SITES
The National Mall is home to a few pretty significant DC attractions as well. The Capitol Building flanks the mall on the East end facing the Lincoln Memorial which borders the West end. The White House is also along the Mall towards the center on the North side of the Washington Monument. For a taste of history and breathtaking architecture, stop by the Smithsonian Castle which acts as a visitor’s center. Go for a paddle boat ride on the Tidal Basin which also includes the Jefferson, MLK, and Roosevelt Memorials. The US Botanic Gardens are also located right off the mall, West of the Capitol Building.
TOP 5 RECOMMENDATIONS
1 - Visit the Sculpture Gardens behind the National Gallery of Art. They’re stunning and there’s a little cafe that reminds me of a small one I found in the Tuileries Gardens back in Paris. It even has a decorative Metro stop.
2 - The Jefferson Memorial & Lincoln Memorial. These are two of the most beautiful memorials in the park. Each memorial is magnificent and breathtaking. I haven’t had the chance to see the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise but I’ve been told it’s an experience worth rising early for. The Jefferson Memorial, located along the Tidal Basin, provides an almost calm and serene experience. There are no words to truly capture it. You must experience it for yourself.
3 - The National Museum of American History has a lot of fantastic exhibits and collections. It’s my personal favorite with Julia Child’s actual kitchen, not a replica - the actual thing, from Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a dream being able to see it as a foodie. The First Ladies’ exhibit has dresses from inaugural balls and significant events from the likes of Michelle Obama and Jackie Kennedy Onassis . Don’t forget the pop culture exhibit! See everything from a Muppet to the famous red slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz.
4 - Visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. It may leave you feeling sad and you might even shed a few tears while walking through - but it is worth every second. I don’t know that I could visit every time I go to DC but it’s definitely an experience all people, regardless of nationality, should have at least once. It’s sobering to see the cruelty and hatred that was present during the time and it’s even more harrowing to know that it still exists today. This was a disappointing era for humanity but if we can learn from it, hopefully we can stop similar acts of cruelty and hate and work towards a world where kindness and acceptance are the norm.
5 - Take a photo near the Carousel. It’s not something that I included earlier in the post but it’s definitely a great photo opportunity. I saw this exact carousel several times in Bones and I was pretty excited to be able to snap my own photo of the attraction. There aren’t many traditional kid activities I genuinely enjoy but carousels are still one of them!
I have to admit, when I planned a ten-day trip to Washington DC I had expectations about how much ground I would cover. With my career I don’t take vacations, I work while I travel. As long as there is an internet connection, I can get my deadlines complete and stay on top of my clients. Many people don’t have that luxury and it’s something I’m grateful for every time I book a flight. However, I also don’t get paid vacation or sick days. So if I were to take an actual vacation, I’d have to prepare for a pay-cut and that’s not something I’m inclined to do very often. With that said, my ten-day trip to Washington DC happened to be more like a long weekend. As fate would have it, deadlines took over and I spent 6 out of the 10 days parked in a coffee shop drinking far too many lattes and working longer days than you’d see me work from home.
While I didn’t get as much content as I would have preferred from DC, it was my second time visiting and I had a decent idea of what I wanted to get to most. Keeping this in mind, I’ve put together a list of six things you must do while visiting the capitol. Pocket a few of these ideas for your own trip or use them as a guide. If there’s one thing I learned during this visit, it’s that time is something we often take for granted and maximizing what we have is imperative. Maybe if I had planned better, I would have been able to see more but the important thing was that I enjoyed the time I had available to me. If you know what you want to see most when you travel, regardless of the destination, you are preparing yourself for a successful and memorable trip.
1 - Walk the National Mall: while this might sound like a more touristy thing to do, it’s worth it for nothing else than to cover a lot of ground. Many museums, monuments and memorials are located along the Mall and if any of them happen to be on your bucket list, you can conquer a few in one trip. TIP: do not underestimate the National Mall. It’s large and you might want to dedicate two afternoons or an entire day to cover the whole thing.
2 - Visit a Museum: there are an endless amount of museums to visit in Washington DC. There are the standard Smithsonians that everyone is familiar with but then there are also smaller museums more focused in their collections. Museums might not be something that you want to spend an entire trip on but it’s worth it to visit at least one. Scour the internet for which ones are available and pick one or two you are most interested in. You can also check out our museum guides: Art, Nature & Science, and History.
3 - Visit Monuments and Memorials: there are more than 160 memorials in DC. While “visiting memorials” might be important, know that it's almost impossible to cover them all, even in a week. Instead, like I’ve suggested in previous posts, pick a topic or an era that is important to you (ex. WWII, Presidents, Historical Moments) and research memorials in Washington DC pertaining to that theme. Keep it around 5-8 tops and make sure to visit those particular memorials while you visit. That way, you’re not overwhelmed with the enormous number available to visit and you’re not spending the entire trip walking from plaque to statue to plaque.
4 - Take a bike ride along the C&O Canal from Georgetown: Georgetown is an incredible neighborhood to visit on it’s own but if you have time, the weather cooperates and you don’t mind a little activity, the C&O Canal is a fun activity by yourself or with companions. Walk along the canal or take a bike ride, whichever you choose you’ll find yourself with a plethora of photo opportunities.
5 - Take on a secret identity at the International Spy Museum: this one is so cool. At the International Spy Museum, you can actually take on an “undercover mission” with a secret identity for an interactive experience. It gives you a more personal idea of what it’s like to lead the life of a spy and fun for kids and adults. I mean, don’t kid yourself. You know that you want to visit this spot to pretend to be a spy. Who wouldn’t?!
6 - Take in a lot of great art: DC may not be the obvious city to visit art museums but there are actually quite a few phenomenal collections. While it’s no Louvre, the National Gallery of Art is not only a beautiful building with a gorgeous garden, it also has a collection that includes around 4,000 paintings, 3,000 sculptures, 70,000 prints, 31,000 drawings,15,000 photos and more. Impressive, right? The National Portrait Gallery is also interesting to visit featuring portraits and portrait collections of celebrities, athletes, presidents, political figures and more. There are art museums dedicated to specific cultures as well. So depending on what your interests are, there is a lot of art to see and plenty of interests to conquer.
If these six things aren’t enough to get you started on planning a trip to DC, I don’t know what is. Besides everything the city has to offer, it’s gorgeous in both the spring and fall. I imagine it’s quite magical with a layer of snow covering everything as well but I haven't had the chance to visit in winter. The weather is a moderate climate (in my opinion) so there’s no bad time to visit if you think about it. If you liked this post, check out the others in our DC series before you go!
For die-hard brunch fans visiting Washington D.C., Ambar on Capitol Hill needs to be at the top of your list. From decadent waffles to savory sandwiches, the brunch menu has anything you could want. If decisions aren’t your specialty, there’s always the Balkan Experience which includes unlimited plates and drinks. The restaurant has a modern, sophisticated atmosphere with friendly, accommodating service and delicious food. It’s also located down the street from Eastern Market which is a large indoor/outdoor marketing with booths from local artisans, a farmer’s market, and more. It’s a nice way to walk off brunch too.
Sweet or savory? This has got to be the worst decision, especially for breakfast and brunch. It’s like choosing between cake and ice cream! Why can’t you have both? We ordered the Balkan experience to test a variety of plates and avoid that fateful decision. Each of these items are available in full portions as well. So for those who are less inclined to try a little bit of everything, there are plenty of options to provide a full meal for one.
The Mezze Platter which is a nice way to get a variety of flavors out of one dish. It includes homemade cornbread, a chef’s selection of cold cuts, cow cheese, ajvar spread and kajmak. Ajvar is a Serbian Roasted Red Pepper Sauce that’s a bit thicker in consistency but bursting with great flavor. It pairs well with the corn bread. The “Popara” Balkan Bread Pudding comes with a slice of bacon on top. Who doesn’t love that? Featuring aged cow cheese, milk, chili flakes and country style bacon, this is a rich and comforting dish that is also decadent. I’d enjoy this one in smaller quantities. Finally, the Potato Hash includes glazed smoked onion, house spices and garlic. Order this to compliment a lot of the other savory dishes or contrast the sweeter plates. You can never go wrong with potatoes.
People who love their eggs for breakfast will be thrilled to know there is a section on the brunch menu dedicated to this particular protein. With two different types of Eggs Benedict, two types of omelettes and two more egg plates, it’s an eggfest! The Prosciutto Benedict comes on a muffin with ajvar and kajmak sauce. It’lly decadent dish with rich flavors thanks to the sauce and a nice salty balance because of the prosciutto. The Veggie Omelette comes topped with creamy ajvar sauce which adds a nice peppery flavor to the omelette. Also savory, although not an egg plate is the Fried Chicken Sandwich which is almond and walnut encrusted with a spring mix and apple-wasabi mayo. You may think that a fried chicken sandwich seems a little out of place for brunch but the apple-wasabi mayo is unbelievable. The sweet and spicy notes combine together alongside that unbeatable umami flavor.
For the sweet tooth, there are several waffle flavors, toast, crepes and more. Somewhere between sweet and savory is the Cheese Pie with cucumber yogurt and mint. It's rich and creamy but balanced out by the cucumber and mint. It’s a delightful combination that’s unexpected but works regardless. The Strawberry Waffle is a traditional Belgian Waffle with nutella, strawberries and whipped cream. It’s a combination that has become as notable as peanut butter and jelly or nachos and cheese. The Poached Pear Waffle comes with a homemade caramel sauce and whipped cream. It tastes more like dessert and less like brunch! The pear is more understated in flavor though which offers a nice balance to the sweetness of the caramel and cream. Finally, if you want to be a little more health conscious, the Fruit Granola is also incredible. There’s nothing special about this dish, it’s homemade granola with yogurt and a chef’s fruit selection. It’s a nice and hearty serving which is great when you’re sharing among friends and it’s a fresh option among many other decadent and heavier plates.
These don’t appear to be on the menu anymore but I can’t help but mention them since they were so heavenly. The beignets with nutella were a dream. Soft and pillowy, they’d melt in your mouth. Mild in flavor but nice and sweet from being rolled in sugar, they could only get better with a dip in nutella. I don’t know that I could dream up a better dessert if I tried. If you have the opportunity to try these beautiful, pillowy desserts, do not hesitate for one second. It will be the best choice you’ve ever made.
Trying new restaurants and experience different cuisines is something I enjoy most about traveling. Ambar is a restaurant that I would have never been able to experience had I not traveled to Washington DC...well, unless I made a trip to Belgrade and picked it out of the many restaurants they must have. It was a great experience I was able to have with friends and it was so much fun being able to sample a little bit of everything. If you’re in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, stop by Ambar for brunch. It’s a fantastic experience with a wonderful setting, great service and incredible food.
Me being a pop culture nerd, I was excited to find the real life version of the “Jeffersonian” which for those of you who are not obsessed with TV, is the museum in the show Bones. Sadly, I did not find the Jeffersonian because it’s a combination of about five of the Smithsonian museums. If I had to pick one that was the closest though, I might go with the National Museum of Natural History but I could be dead wrong. Sometimes it can be disappointing when you try and find the real life version of something in a movie. Anyway, to round our our DC museum guide, we’re finishing with nature and science museums. We only chose three to note in particular but they are each magnificent in their own way. See below and make sure to check out our Art Museum Guide and History Museum Guide with a total of ten more museums for your bucket list!
National Air & Space Museum
The National Air & Space Museum is a kid favorite with the big airplanes and interactive exhibits. Go through the history of aviation and spaceflight, enjoy a film on their IMAX screen, observe the Sun and planets in the observatory or see a planetarium show. A few exhibits in particular you might be interested in include “The Legacy of Aerial Smuggling,” challenges of communication in space, women in aviation and more.
National Museum of Natural History
Another kid favorite, the National Museum of Natural History is the spot for wooly mammoths, dinosaur bones and my least favorite of all...bugs. Collections include African Elephants, Human Origins, a live Coral Reef, Mammals, gems including the Hope Diamond, an Insect Zoo and more. Something to note, the exhibit for fossils is under renovation until 2019 but there are a select few currently available to view.
US Botanic Gardens
Not technically a museum but large enough to be included is the US Botanic Gardens. It includes a Butterfly Garden, Rose Garden, Rain Garden, the First Ladies Water Garden, Bartholdi Fountain and more. The indoor Conservatory features a “jungle, desert and primeval paradise” so you can enjoy the gardens even on the coldest of days. The gardens also participating in conservation of rare and endangered plants, meaning they grow and study certain greenery to protect it from extinction. It’s not only a beautiful place to visit but an educational and enlightening one as well.