Spend a weekend in Washington DC! This walkable town is easy to navigate, is filled with tons of interesting museums and memorials, and has so many amazing restaurants and cocktail bars. There is truly something for everyone in our nation’s capital. Use my weekend in Washington DC itinerary as a jumping off point for an epic getaway.
Washington, DC is such a walkable town! We walked everywhere, never once needing our car.
Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!
Use my three day itinerary as a jumping off point to create your own perfect getaway and don’t miss my travel photos at the end of the post.
Check into your hotel. We like The Pod for the central location (Penn Quarter / Chinatown), boutique charm, and rooftop bar with views of the Washington Monument. Pack light because the rooms are tiny! You can’t miss the hotel which is a few steps from the Friendship Archway, an ornate structure that was built in partnership between Washington, DC and Beijing.
It’s fun to stroll around Chinatown and look for the Chinese symbols that are on every shop, restaurant and street sign. There is even a cool pedestrian crosswalk right by the Archway with Chinese zodiac symbols painted on the street.
Lunch – Farmers & Distillers is right around the corner from the hotel. The food is diverse so there is something for everyone, the atmosphere is beautiful and they have a great bar too. They even distill their own spirits for their cocktails (you can buy a bottle of vodka, gin or whiskey to bring home). Don’t miss the amazing doughnuts in fun flavors like cinnamon bun and bananas foster (you can even order the fried chicken that comes with a glazed doughnut)!
White House – walk over to the White House where you can admire the grandeur from behind a large iron fence. It’s a sight to see!
Note: you can take a free, self-guided tour of the White House if you plan in advance. For tickets, contact your congressman or woman up to three months but no less than 21 days in advance to request tickets.
Lincoln Memorial – walk up the steps of this impressive multi-columned structure that anchors one end of the reflecting pool (on the other end stands the Washington Memorial) where you will see a larger than life Abraham Lincoln.
Note: on the way to the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Walk past the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument (walk along the right side of the pool if you are facing the Monument).
Note: you’ll pass the Korean War Veterans Memorial where you will be surrounded by life-size sculptures of soldiers as well as a very cool etched wall mural. At the end of the reflecting pool, you can relax by the fountains of the World War II Memorial.
Tidal Basin – head over to this reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel to walk the 2.1 mile loop around the water. In spring, the puffy white blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees explode! I think it would be beautiful in any season, especially fall, and you’ll pass by lots of interesting memorials.
You can’t miss the large dome of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Walk inside to see the statue of Jefferson surrounded by walls which are inscribed with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence. There are lots of other smaller monuments tucked here and there along the path so take your time to enjoy them.
Pass the Washington Monument and walk through the National Mall on your way back to the hotel. It’s lined with museums which you can visit tomorrow.
Enjoy cocktails and watch the sunset over the Washington Monument at Crimson View, the rooftop bar at the Pod hotel. Folding glass doors means it’s open all year round.
Dinner – walk to Jaleo (make sure you make a reservation), a lively Spanish tapas restaurant that mixes up great cocktails (order the margarita) and small plates. Their jamon (cured ham) is some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
If small plates aren’t your thing, take your pick from the numerous Chinese and noodle restaurants in the area.
Pop into It’s Sugar on your walk back to the hotel for a sweet tooth fix.
I recommend spending your longest day exploring the many museums.
Walk over to Gallery Place, a cluster of shops, restaurants and entertainment in Chinatown.
Breakfast – Fruitive is a cute little place to grab something organic, fresh, house made smoothies, juices, sandwiches, granola and more. It’s the perfect light and healthy start to the day.
Gallery Place – admire the art installation that changes seasonally. We were there during Cherry Blossom season and the pink paper lanterns were a delight to walk under.
U.S. Capitol – Book advance tickets of the U.S.Capitol here or you can book a staff led tour through your state representative or senator. Tours last around 90 minutes every day except Sunday. Note: same day tickets may be available.
Explore the National Mall which starts at the U.S. Capitol and ends at the Washington Monument. Here you can take your pick among 14 free museums! Start at the can’t miss red brick castle which houses the Smithsonian Institution Information Center to get info on all the museums. Favorites include the National Air and Space Museum, U.S. Botanic Garden, National Museum of Natural History and the National Archives Museum which houses the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Lunch – in between museums grab lunch at one of the many museum cafes, the Pavillion cafe in the sculpture garden of the National Museum of Art (it’s self serve cafeteria style and was way too crowded when I stopped by) or take a short walk away from the National Mall and head to Paul (there is one right next to the Navy Memorial) for delicious sandwiches and pastries.
More museums and don’t forget to wander outdoors in the Sculpture Garden and the charming garden behind the Smithsonian Information Center.
Walk back to the hotel.
Cocktails – walk over to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco for cocktails on the outdoor patio at Dirty Habit.
Walk back to the hotel for a lively dinner at Crimson Whiskey Bar. Located in the hotel basement, it is a fun place to grab a bite or another cocktail or two.
Have breakfast at the Crimson Diner, the retro meets modern restaurant in the lobby of the hotel, before heading home.
If time allows, head to places you may have missed.
Travel Notes: If you don’t want to walk as much as we did, try the Old Town Trolley hop on hop off bus tour on a day when you don’t plan to tour the museums or you can rent bikes from Capital Bike Share.
There you have it – my perfect weekend in Washington, D.C. I can’t wait to go back!
Here are some of my travel must haves (click each pic to see more) …
Now let’s check out some of my travel photos. I don’t like lugging a big camera around with me so all pics are snapped with my iPhone.
Pod Hotel Lobby
Crimson View rooftop bar at Pod Hotel
Friendship Archway – Chinatown – Washington, DC
Chinatown – Washington, DC – love the zodiac symbols in the crosswalk
Lincoln Memorial across the reflecting pool
Honest Abe is larger than life
Korean War Veterans Memorial
2.1 mile loop around the Tidal Basin
Yoshino Cherry blossoms!
FDR Memorial – a bread line represents the poverty of the working class during the Great Depression
Gallery Place – seasonal art installation
Smithsonian Institute Visitor’s Center – beautiful garden in the back