Why I went here? The first time, way back in early 2000s, was to visit my aunts. I enjoyed it very much I ended up spending several summers up here up until they moved on opposite ends (one now lives in VA and one in MD). This latest trip had three major purposes: to pay my aunts a visit, see the cherry blossoms, and go to the National Holocaust Museum. I also wanted to recapture the sights around town. Let’s just say that it’s been ages since my last escapade here, my photographs weren’t even in digital format.
Best time to visit? Spring is definitely the best time to visit here. The Cherry Blossom Festival occurs annually sometime between March and April (exact blooming dates vary every year) and the weather seems to be the most pleasant around this time of year.
Best way to get there? The most convenient route from Dallas is to fly from DFW into Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA). It’s located just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC and has metro connections to the city. An alternative to Reagan is Dulles International (IAD). If your destination is around suburban VA, this is your best bet. Lastly, Baltimore International (BWI) can also be a suitable landing area. Reagan is connected to DC via the Metro and it is served by both the Yellow and Blue line. The cost depends on the distance, but a one way fare will fetch around $6.
What to see/do? There are loads and loads of things to see and do in this city. There are plenty of museums and monuments to satisfy one’s whim, historical districts to get lost in and be discovered, and a cathedral that will strain one’s neck. A visit to DC however, should start at The Mall, the area where several of the Smithsonian Institute museums are located. The Smithsonian is comprised of 19 museums and the National Zoo. You can easily spend a day visiting and learning about NASA in the Air and Space Museum or about pueblos in the American Indian Museum. Best of all, museum fees are by donation only. Other free attractions include the monuments of past American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, as well as the structures that represent our democracy: the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. Lastly, there are the memorials dedicated to veterans of wars in Vietnam, Korea, and the global conflict of WWII. DC also has a couple of historic districts lined with pre-war mansions and townhouses. The first one is the Dupont Circle area. This quaint part of NW DC is filled will beautiful pre-war mansions (most of them serve as foreign embassies) and has plenty of shops and eateries around. Georgetown is another historic district within the city. This area is one of the oldest in DC and is home to one of the country’s most prestigious university. In the NW part of the city, you’ll find the National Cathedral, a beacon of all faiths that holds historical significance. Its gothic spires tower over the city and the cathedral itself has hosted several presidential inaugurals and funerals over the past 100 years.
Food and drinks: DC is a very international city when it comes to cuisine offerings. My weekend saw me trying a tapas bar and restaurant, an organic Japanese teahouse for brunch and a local pizza joint which boasts to offer Italian approved Neapolitan pizza. Estadio is a small, yet lively tapas bar and restaurant on 14th St. Its décor is very Spanish indeed, and it is a certified local hangout. The food is very good here. They also have a decent selection of Spanish wines (both red and white) and the ambiance is authentic Spain. There’s football on televisions and on wall murals, Flamenco hints around every corner, and there are dangling cured hams at the bar. For après dinner hangout, head over to Tryst, a coffee house/bar in the Adams Morgan district. It’s great for people watching and they offer a sumptuous chocolate waffle that one has to make room for. Try the Masala chai for drinks. For brunch, try the nearest Teaism (they currently have four locations). It’s a small shop specializing in teas but also offers healthier and unusual options for brunch. The Washingtonian lists it as one of the cheap places to eat in town. 2Amy’s is a mom and pop joint granted with D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status by the Italian government in pizza making. It’s located north of the Embassy Row district and west of Cleveland Park in NW. Try the Margherita for an authentic Neapolitan taste.
Where to sleep? For accommodations, consider the areas around Dupont Circle or Downtown (McPherson Square and the Federal Triangle). Both areas provide optimum locations for sightseeing and offer a great deal of restaurant varieties. One Washington Circle Hotel is a bargain I found on Travelzoo. They had a promotional period of weekend stays for the month of April. For $99 a night, I got a studio suite with a balcony and a full kitchen to boot. It’s location near the Foggy Bottom/GWU metro stop proved to be very convenient (the line stops at The Smithsonian and Ronald Reagan airport) and most importantly, it has free Wi-Fi in the rooms. I would definitely recommend this hotel and would likely consider it on my return visits to DC.
Why I would go back? Washington, DC is a bona fide international town and I love it for that. There’s such a mixture of cultures here that every experience or encounter you have is a unique one. I will definitely return to participate in Passport DC, a celebration of international culture, wherein participating embassies open their doors to invite those of curious minds. Visitors will get a peek into these mansions which are generally not open to the public and will get the opportunity to learn about the country’s culture. The cherry blossoms are also another reason to return. My recent trip saw me just missing the peak bloom. Finally, a visit to the International Spy Museum and the National Archives remains on my list of to dos.