For the final installment of our DC travel guide, we’ve highlighted the best activities for your getaway to Washington. We’ve already written about what to eat and what to drink, so let’s talk about what to do. If you’re visiting this holiday, be sure to check out the Zoo Lights, and take in a Wizards or Capitals game. Whether you’re into culture, sports, history or the outdoors, there’s something for everyone in the nation’s capital—just read below.
Meridian Hill Park // 16th St NW & W Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Check out this great park between Adams Morgan/Dupont/Columbia Heights when you want to escape the tourist scene. Head there on a Sunday to take advantage of the lax open container laws and boisterous, anyone-can-join dance circles.
Renwick // 1661 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
If you're walking around the White House and feeling a little down, check out the Renwick Gallery, which is a branch of the Smithsonian Art Museum. Located right across from the Old Executive Office Building and the White House, this museum typically has great art (and is a well-kept secret amongst locals who tire of the more crowded museums).
Newseum // 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
This museum is worth paying for, and the perfect spot to start your day of exploring since it’s located one block down from the National Mall. The interactive museum traces the history and evolution of expression, and the First Amendment of the Constitution, so educate yourself along the way.
National Gallery // 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565
Though we recommend checking out all the free museums, the new wing of the National Gallery of Art is not to be missed. Plus, there is a cool rooster on the roof. So, you’ll get an Instagram out of it, at the very least.
Portrait Gallery // 8th St NW & F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
While the American and Natural History museums are large and crowded, the Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery (see above) are definitely underrated. Look up which exhibitions are on display when visiting.
Monuments // East Potomac Park & Tidal Basin
We recommend East Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin as prime spots to visit the monuments (as well as great locations for Cherry Blossom weekend). Be sure to visit the MLK Memorial, which gazes across the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial (a slave-owner), tracing our nation’s evolution in civil rights.
Nationals Park // 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003
When you’re finished exposing yourself to history and culture at the museums, catch a Nationals Game. The stadium is beautiful and there are amazing food options (plus it’s easily accessed in the city). Get drinks beforehand at Bluejacket, which we wrote about for Part 2.
Capital One Arena // 601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Like Nationals Park, Capital One Arena is also conveniently located in the heart of DC right by Chinatown. Head there during hockey season to experience the sport that DC residents care about the most. Witness what many locals refer to as the best sports games (and the best fans) in DC. The Wizards are also one of the best shows in basketball, and not to be missed—take in a game of either teams while in town.
The National Zoo // 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
After behaving like an animal at the game, go frolic with actual animals the next day at the zoo. Wintertime is the best time of year to go to the National Zoo, thanks to the Zoo Lights: the zoo remains open at night, with lights that illuminate the space. This year, the Mobile Art exhibition (a mobile art space that brings art to all eight of D.C.'s wards) will be parked across from the Cheetah Conservation Station as part of the Zoo Lights festivities. But even if you’re not in DC for the most lit time of year (literally), the zoo is still highly recommended. Check out the pandas, of course, but also the intriguing array of rodents and other creatures hanging around. Maybe you, too, will discover your spirit animal. Shout-out to the golden-headed lion tamarin.
OFF THE GRID
The National Arboretum // 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
Way off the beaten path in Northeast, the National Arboretum is a must-see, and way off-the-grid in DC. Go there for a Bonsai exhibit, or a nature walk. Discover that plants are cool.
The Glenstone // 12002 Glen Rd, Potomac, MD 20854
This outdoor gallery/museum of contemporary art in Potomac is free and absolutely gorgeous—DC’s answer to Storm King. Wander 200 acres dotted with sculptures by Jeff Koons and Richard Serra
Billy Goat Trail // 11710 Macarthur Blvd, Potomac, MD
Park in the lot at Great Falls and embark on this beautiful hike—only 20 minutes outside of DC, the trail also boasts a great rock scramble and views of the Potomac River.
Dupont Underground // 19 Dupont Cir NW, Washington, DC 20036
These abandoned trolley tunnels located underground—and only one mile away from the White House—have been transformed into an art space. Check out this underground gem if you like street art/graffiti/cool things in general. This is way trendier than anything going on in New York these days, trust us.
Rock Creek Park // Northwest
Come up for air and take a walk in the expansive Rock Creek Park. Wander off the trail to discover historic Capital stones that date back to the early 1800s, according to legend (and the Washingtonian).
Eden Center // 6751 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044
This sprawling strip mall is 100% Vietnamese—you will feel like you are in mini-Vietnam. Transport yourself to Asia via Falls Church, Virginia: the restaurants here are simply amazing, and must be experienced.
FILL YOUR BAG
Politics and Prose // 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
One of the best bookstores in DC, Politics and Prose also hosts an amazing speaker series; plus, there’s a café downstairs for you to read your book and peruse your latest purchase.
Upshur Street Books // 827 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011
This excellently curated bookstore in Petworth also prominently features local artists.
Eastern Market // 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Check out this historic market in the heart of Capital Hill, and pop over to Capitol Books, which has endless stacks of used books in a space we are surprised is not a fire hazard. So many hidden gems in this spot in a wide array of fiction and nonfiction genres. This wraps up our mini-bookstore tour of DC—now, onto clothing.
Tuckernuck // 1053 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007
Hands down, Tuckernuck is the best place to find the perfect, all-American clothing for both men and women. Perfect for a visit over the holidays—though, we warn you, you will probably walk out with just as many gifts for yourself as you do for the people on your list.
Union Market // 1309 5th Street NE, Washington, DC 20002
Check out the incredible food hall and myriad pop-up shops in this old warehouse space next to Union Station. Be sure to visit Salt and Sundry,
Salt and Sundry // multiple locations
When visiting Union Market, be sure to stop into Salt and Sundry, which—just like Tuckernuck—offers everything you would want to buy, all in one store, though in this case it’s home-related. Another shop is located on 14th Street as well.
The Wharf // 1100 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
DC's latest go-to shopping and dining is the Wharf. A new waterfront modeled after Georgetown, the Wharf is a little more modern, and is located in a completely redeveloped former industrial area. It’s worth visiting just to marvel at the development of Washington in the past decade.
City Center // 10th & H St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Last, but certainly not least: head to City Center for some great high-end shopping all in one spot.
HANG YOUR HAT
The Rosewood Hotel // 1050 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007
If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, we recommend the Rosewood for the rooftop lounge, spa, and—of course—infinity pool.
The Four Seasons DC// 3100 South Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
Another one for those accustomed to the finer things in life.
The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown // 3100 South Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
For putting on the ritz, and maximizing your time in Georgetown.
Sofitel // 806 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
Upscale option in Lafayette Square.
Cambria // 899 O St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Ideally located in the bustling neighborhood of Shaw,
Kimpton Hotels // multiple locations
The Kimpton’s ten boutique hotels are scattered throughout DC, so you can pick the spot most convenient for you.
Special thanks to Dane Evans, Cara Manket, Meredith Murphy, Biff Parker-Magyar, and Aidan Pongrace for the insider tips!
did we miss anything? Hit us up in the comments....