Roam Again / Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C. — a city of northern charm and southern efficiency. It's a company town. Good and evil meet here. It has pockets of greatness... some are obvious; others take a little more work to find. The cherry blossoms bloom in April and it really is stunning — almost the only time this city, born in a swamp, achieves beauty. The fall is pretty good too. Delta has multiple direct flights daily from MSP and it's an easy flight at just over two hours. It's worth the little extra money to fly into National Airport (DCA). You land twenty minutes from the city center plus the views on approach never get old. Dulles and BWI are less than ideal, about an hour outside of the city.
Mike Buttry, Former Local
Mike Buttry is a father and husband in Edina, MN. He keeps a clean driveway. Baseball, Bob Dylan's music, and Winston Churchill interest him. Mike was a child of Kansas City and Omaha; a young adult of Washington, D.C.; and now he's seasoned man of the North Country. He is currently enjoying an early retirement (pre-tirement!).
Kimpton Hotels / see pricing through Expedia
The Ritz- Carlton Washington D.C. / see pricing though Booking.com
If you want to go high-end stay at the Ritz in the West End. It’s the same area as my favorite properties above, between Georgetown and Downtown and walk-able to the National Mall.
Rental Property / see options at VRBO
If you're going on a budget or want the privacy and flexibility of a home rental, look for one on Capitol Hill, Shaw or U Street. Great neighborhoods albeit a little less walk-able to the sites. We’ve linked a few good options.
‘"Budget" is a relative term. There aren't a lot of inexpensive options anywhere in the city.’
Visit the US Capitol
Call your Senator or Congressional representative to set up a tour of the U.S. Capitol. If you call with enough notice they may be able to help arrange a White House tour as well. Frequently, there will be a day of the week when Senators or Representatives will host visiting constituents for breakfast when Congress is in session. I know Senator Klobuchar does this. It's a fun way to connect with the representatives who work for you.
It's hard to recommend one or two monuments. Jefferson is beautiful, especially when surrounded by cherry blossoms in April; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is somber; the World War II Memorial will give you hope; Lincoln is epic; and Washington stands tall in the middle of it all. There is an expansive memorial to FDR and his four presidential terms near the tidal basin. BUT, that's not the first FDR Memorial. In keeping with his wishes for something small and simple, the first FDR Memorial is a simple block carving on the corner of 9th and Pennsylvania near the National Archives. I prefer this hidden little memorial.
“The Smithsonian Museums are a national treasure. Pick the ones that suit your interests. Most are within walking distance of each other on the National Mall, which is a pedestrian walkway that runs from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial”
My favorite spot in all of Washington is across the Potomac in Arlington National Cemetery. The view of the D.C. from the grave sites of John and Robert Kennedy is perfect.
RTip: Get a map at the visitor center and download the ANC explorer app to your phone, which allows you to locate grave sites, events or other points of interest throughout the cemetery.
“No place will make you feel more connected to our shared history and the sacrifices made for the country than Arlington Cemetery.”
If you have a car, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport is incredible. The Enola Gay, Space Shuttle Discovery, the Gemini 7 space capsule and the Concorde are all there. It’s the companion facility to the popular museum downtown D.C. on the National Mall.
“Charlie Palmer's Steak House is a great place to see lobbyists and government affair professionals eating out on expense accounts and lawmakers”
Rose's Luxury is a wonderful little spot, hidden on Capitol Hill. This converted townhouse restaurant offers a delightfully simple menu in a cozy dining room. They serve ‘mostly’ first come first serve, unless you are a party of 6 or more and booking same day. A line will form very early otherwise, but they also offer a full menu at the garden bar upstairs.
Rtip: Head to the nearby rooftop gin bar at The Betsy while you wait for a table.
The number of wonderful Ethiopian restaurants you can find in D.C is really unique. I’ve heard great things about Zenebech which recently moved from The Shaw into Adams Morgan. Enjoying the incredible ethnic food in D.C. can make you feel a long way from the rest of the city.
Raskia in the West End is the best Indian restaurant I've ever eaten at. If you can't get a reservation, just sneak into the bar. The craft cocktails are inventive and they have a nice wine list as well. Consider starting with Palak Chaat, which is a crispy spinach served with a sweet yogurt.
Rtip: Start or end your evening nearby at Barmini by Jose Andres for an experience in craft cocktails flights you won’t soon forget.
One of D.C.’s oldest bars The Big Hunt (Dupont Circle), and the taxidermy laden walls of Tune Inn (Capitol Hill) are both great dive bars and have endured longer than any presidential administration. I’d suggest grabbing a beer at either one.
The Barranco Family Tourists
Lifetime Minneapolis resident, Monica Barranco is a yoga instructor and avid skier. She lives near Lake Harriet with her husband Tony, and their two daughters Sofia and Luciana. While they vacation as often as they can to Minnesota’s North Shore, they also retreat somewhere warm at least once a year in the winter. They enjoy frequent visits to friends across the country. Finding adventure navigating the streets of New York to the back hills of Beaver Creek with an appreciation to life’s journey. Bucket list destinations left on her list include, Spain, Vancouver and Ireland.
The Washington Marriott Wardman Park / see pricing at Booking.com or Expedia
Because we tagged along on my husband’s business trip to DC we were subject to stay at his employers approved hotel chain. While I liked the location in Woodley Park near the zoo, I probably would have preferred to stay at the Marriott in the Westend instead, just because of it’s proximity to downtown and to be near Georgetown. We instead took taxi’s from the hotel and took an Uber back. Had we been visiting outside of this work trip we would have stayed at one of the following two options.
The Jefferson Washington D.C. / see pricing on Booking.com
This Preferred boutique hotel feels a little more stately and offers some really fantastic views just north of the National Mall and The White House. The warm elegance of their Plume restaurant can’t be beat, and the proximity to Georgetown is ideal for those who favor the neighborhood.
The Eaton DC / see pricing at Booking.com
This Sheraton property is a favorite for sure. They offer super reasonable rates in a fantastic location. Intended as a creative option for digital nomads there are several room options, a coffee shop, workshop space, and all-day restaurant on site. On a recent visit, one other contributor commented just how much she “LOVED the hotel, and it takes a lot to impress me!”
“American Son, the restaurant for Eaton D.C. was so good I literally ate all my meals there.”
Rtip: If you’re willing to add a little cozy old world charm to your itinerary, consider an overnight at The Inn at Little Washington. While it’s a little off the beaten path, at roughly an hour from DC. This historic inn boasts a Michelin Star restaurant and offers a timeless stay in one of only a few luxury cottage rooms on property.
Spend the day walking the Georgetown campus, along the Potomac River in Waterfront Park, shopping on M street or biking the Capital Crescent Trail. Plus there are so many great dining spots in the area after a day of exploring.
Rtip: We love a good historic home tour and Georgetown offers two classics; Tudor Place where you’ll find several of Martha and George Washington’s personal items as well as some incredible gardens. And Dumbarton House with its permanent collection of over 1,000 pieces from the Federal period, 1789 to 1825 and offers a glimpse into daily life in the early 1800s.
The Spy Museum / website
This museum, while not free, is so incredibly cool! Great for kids they offer interactive spy adventures that take you out into the streets of Washington. This museum comes up again and again from our contributors with kids.
Newseum / website
This was my favorite museum by far. Full of unexpected but relatable images from the past, and print archives to take you down memory lane. It’s interactive and fun for all ages with rotating exhibits and films that you don’t have to be a historian to appreciate.
Holocaust Museum / website
Many many people rate this as the best museum in DC and I can understand why. This free museum provides a somber and authentic look back at this time in our shared history. It does a wonderful job offering perspective on the events of the Holocaust and acting as a memorial for the many who lost their lives. It’s also structured well for those who want to dive deeper.
Rtip: If you add the zoo to your itinerary, check out Duke’s Counter for lunch — which literally borders the zoo grounds. This London inspired pub is low key and offers a great kids menu. If you are willing to venture a little further, head to Restaurant Elle in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. This cafe has breakfast pastries, breads, sandwiches & coffee, plus cocktails, wine & dinner fare.
The location of The Smith is a big part of the appeal with it’s proximity to the National Mall the White House and so many museums, but the bistro classics and craft cocktails are equally good. Keep in mind the portions are huge. We enjoyed the french onion soup, the skillet mac & cheese and the pot pie.
The Meatball Shop’s concept is simple and modern. They offer a truly inventive menu full of classic comfort food. It’s super casual and great for groups. They sell sangria by the pitcher of sangria, make a fantastic seasonal Moscow mule and serve a pretty incredible brunch (yes brunch!) Be brave, it’s not as weird as it sounds.
You’re going to want a reservation at Il Canale. This Italian place in Georgetown is packed with locals and tourists alike, seeking authentic Italian pizza and wine. Start with the cured meats and the house-made focaccia bread. Go from there to grilled meats and fresh pasta. You won’t be disappointed in the deserts either.
Rtip: Because we’re suckers for tacos of all kind, you must find your way to this Georgetown favorite, Chaia Tacos for their less traditional but equally delicious tacos.
This is one of the most picturesque spots in the city with great sunsets, an outdoor lounge and fabulous craft cocktails. Happy Hour is the best time to sip on Champagne and drink specials while nibbling on bar snacks. Lunch is also great time to taste the raw bar and seafood heavy menu items.
We popped down to this restaurant one night to pick up take away and ended up at the bar drinking margaritas until our food was cold. The tequila cocktails were just that good.
Kendra Scott / website
Walkable from downtown and a nationwide chain, Kendra Scott in Georgetown always has fun, on-trend jewelry at all price points.
Tuckernuck / website
Classic, easy to wear unique women's apparel Tuckernuck also offers mens, gift and home items. The TNuck flagship store in Georgetown is incredible.
Click here to see everywhere our DC Guides recommend you visit.
Want Another Guide to Washington?
See more of the States
What are we missing? Tell us your D.C favorites.