Whether it was on a school trip, during a family vacation, or in your dreams, you've probably gone on a few Washington, D.C., tours to see the major landmarks. We certainly have. And not just because we're hardcore American history buffs. We admit that sometimes we'd rather take a trip to the Sunshine State and or go overseas to Europe, but a visit to the capital feels particularly poignant. Since we're eager to explore the city both on and off the National Mall, we decided to plan our dream vacation to D.C.
As with any major city, it's difficult to hit all the great spots in one trip, especially if you haven't planned it out in advance. So if you're from the local area and want to be a tourist for a day or you're headed to D.C. for business or pleasure soon, this trusty guide to the city's best sites will ensure a good experience. Scroll through to learn more about the best museums, stylish shopping destinations, and under-the-radar foodie spots to enjoy.
Where to Stay
If you love accommodations that boast a traditional, old-timey feel, The Hay-Adams Hotel is a great place to stay. This historic hotel has earned a reputation as a D.C. staple and has crystal-clear views of the White House. If you prefer more intimate boutique hotels, try The Rosewood Hotel. It's located in a charming neighborhood right along the Potomac River and overlooks a canal, so it feels secluded. Step outside, though, and you can walk around the cobblestone streets just a few minutes away from the White House by car. We recommend grabbing a drink in the hotel's lounge, Rye Bar (even if you aren't staying there).
Where to Eat and Shop
Rose's Luxury is one of the yummiest restaurants in D.C. It doesn't take reservations, though, so don't be surprised if there's a line wrapping around the block—we suggest going before your hunger kicks in. Aside from a flavorful culinary experience foodies will love, the whimsical décor alone makes it worth the wait (string lights, exposed brick, and polka-dot plating, for example). Plus, the restaurant donates 25 cents for every meal eaten to the World Food Program, having contributed $30,759 so far. Rose's Luxury also has a sister restaurant with an equally mouthwatering tasting menu and playful name, Pineapples and Pearls, that we're dying to try.
We're also huge fans of Little Serow, a romantic subterranean restaurant that serves delicious Thai food. If you're looking for a fun daytime activity, take an adventure through the Eastern Market. On the other end of the spectrum, treat yourself to a sophisticated night out with Indian food at Rasika.
When it comes to shopping, Georgetown is the best neighborhood to walk through. It hosts the usual suspects like Zara, Barneys New York, and Intermix, plus a few cool local boutiques. Our favorites are Lynn Louisa and Relish. For home goods, you can't miss Salt & Sundry. And make sure you visit the bookstore Politics & Prose—we suggest looking at its calendar to see if its hosting a cool speaker while you're in town.
What to See and Do
Before you take tours of the traditional monuments, carve out some time to explore museums dedicated to revealing alternative perspectives of U.S. history. If you can't see them all, choose between a tour of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Museum of the American Indian, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Each exhibit displays beautiful art and communicates diverse experiences that prompt powerful questions, equipping us with tools for future conflicts. Plan to purchase your tickets far in advance because you don't want to miss them; they're profoundly eye-opening experiences that will stay with you forever.
When it comes to the best Washington, D.C., tours, you should definitely stroll through the National Mall parks. Then pay homage to prominent landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial; Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial; Thomas Jefferson Memorial; and World War II Memorial. Yes, there are a lot of memorials in D.C. Next, take a tour of Arlington National Cemetery and watch the sunset from the Washington Monument. We also recommend taking a trip outside the city to George Washington's estate in Mount Vernon. It'll give you a feel for life in the 18th century (if you also happened to be America's founding father) as you explore the grounds as well as the mansion.