The Perfect DC Summer WeekendLast weekend, my husband and I decided, spur-of-the-moment around Thursday morning, to do a "staycation" in downtown DC. We live about nearby in Northern Virginia and are down there often for work and play, but we rarely spend the night and have never spent more than a single night downtown since moving to NOVA.
This weekend was the best! Here are some highlights in case you want to come to DC to visit or do your own getaway if you're local. Heads up-I took a lot of pictures for you!We did a mix of touristy, cheesy, and local things. I highly recommend the following.
Stay at the Hotel George. It's a Kimpton Hotel, and if you don't know that chain of hotels, thank me now. We stayed at the Hotel Palomar, also a Kimpton, in Philadelphia a couple years ago, and we love them. Some highlights from the Hotel George include their complimentary wine hour from 5-6pm every night in the lobby, plush animal print robes, first-come-first-serve free bikes (with locks) to use around town, and really fun decor. Oh-and it's right by Union Station, which makes getting there and getting around town by Metro and on foot very easy.
I love a hotel with plenty of towels and a nice big bathtub!
The decor extended to every detail. Very tongue-in-cheek!
Graffiato. Yes, it's a restaurant owned by a Top Chef contestant and, therefore, a bit of a touristy destination. However, it was not pretentious and delicious. Insider tip: they were completely booked online but had reservations available when I called.
We took a cab there from the hotel, feeling like the city people we used to be when we lived in Chicago before moving to a small town near DC. On the right, I was happy I packed a scarf to wear as a shawl inside the freezing cold restaurant!
Eat breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, especially if you are gluten free. For those of you who've never been to one before, this is a chain. For those of you who have been in the past but felt deflated by the over-emphasis on bread and other gluteny things, re-consider it. They have an expanded menu, and along with eggs and rice pudding, they have glorious, glorious tartines. If you eat bread, you can get one like my husband did (top) on regular toast. Good for you.
If, like me, you are gluten-less, yours will come on a cracker. It's not the most tasty cracker you've ever had, but it doesn't matter. It's just a vehicle for the deliciousness on top. We actually went here twice, first near Eastern Market (a Metro or cab trip, a long walk, or a great bike ride from the hotel if you want to brave DC traffic) and a second time inside Union Station, because my husband loves to humor me when I'm really excited about something gluten free.
First I ordered the curried chicken salad tartine, and the second day I got the smoked salmon tartine, which I have loved in the past, too.
Visit the Capitol. I've been to, and even worked in, DC, but I had never been to the Capitol nor it's museum, isn't that crazy? It's one of those things that you walk by but don't go into. This time, we stayed steps from it and finally spent some time there. Be sure to go up to the Capitol building, and go into any part that's open. You'll learn so much about our country-our victories and blunders.
Keep your eyes peeled! That's a phrase that my father used to say, and it always grossed me out because I was a literal kid. While in DC, keep your eyes open because it is some of the best people watching you will ever see. We saw multiple weddings by the Capitol building and this incredible
quinceañera with her matching attendees.
Oh, and side note: this is right around where an aggressive squirrel charged us. I really thought he had rabies, but I think he was just very tame from all of the people feeding him!
Stop by the Postal Museum. You may not know that the large majority of the museums in DC are public-and free. Having lived in NYC for a few years and then in Chicago, this came as a complete shock to me. You can find the occasional museum (like the Spy Museum) that charges admission, but most will let you in for nothing. Don't skip the Postal Museum-it's a lot more interesting than it sounds!
Snack at Shake Shack. You may never think you'll eat again, but en route to the hotel you might happen to need a snack. After years of eating fertility-friendly and avoiding my dairy sensitivity, I typically don't use Lactaid anymore. But, on vacation I bring it and indulge in dairy treats. If you eat dairy or have your trusty pills, you'll want to stop by Shake Shack in Union Station for a frozen custard.
Head out for the night. As long as you're aware of your surroundings, as with any bigger city, DC is a great place to go out for the night. I say that like we're big late night birds, which is not at all the case. My husband loves a late night movie, but we hadn't been out to listen to live music since we lived in Chicago. However, we ate a decent dinner at Georgia Brown's (they were very allergen-aware) and headed down the street, at my good friend's recommendation, to hear music at The Hamilton.
This was a great venue! Insider tip: look up a band you're considering seeing on You Tube. We had never heard of the band we saw (Phox, pronounced Fox, although we joked that we were so out of it we should call them P-hocks), but we loved their sound and decided to get tickets to their show.
Do the cheesy bus tour. On Sunday, we spent a few hours as the ultimate tourists on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. My husband liked this company best because they offer live narration and a variety of loops around the city.
We took the extra shuttle option to visit Arlington Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was very somber. Insider tip: we lucked out on a day in the 70s, but there is a lot of walking on this part of the tour. If it's a typical hot, summer DC day or if you have older folks with you, you might want to think twice about this part-or be sure to bring water with you and take breaks.
That's it, guys! Thanks for coming with us on our mini vacation here in DC! I can't wait for our next trip.