Tying to pack Washington, DC into 24 hours is a tall task for anyone — even a local. Lucky for you, our DC tour guides have some recommendations on how to see the sites and get a taste of the city as the locals see it.
If you’re not much of a walker, then find a metro station and get a Smartrip card. DC has gone paperless so the cards are the only way to get around the city with public transportation.
First stop, Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Grab breakfast at Tune Inn or Ted’s Bulletin. The decades-old Tune Inn is a dive bar where all the locals head for pitchers and burgers at night but they also make a wonderful, traditional breakfast as well. Check out the décor while you’re there, as the walls are full of DC history. If dives aren’t your style, then Ted’s Bulletin will blow you away with they slightly more up-scale food and amazing pastries. Hint: try their pop tarts, they’re a DC staple.
Now that you’ve eaten a delicious breakfast, it’s time to start touring! The United States Capitol Building shouldn’t be missed. Head down to the Visitors’ Center before the crowds get there and grab a tour of the building given by a Senate or Congress intern. Tickets are free but only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Afterwards, take the underground tunnel over to the Library of Congress and meander your way through the most beautiful building in DC!
If you’re more interested in the law than books, head over to the Supreme Court and feast your eyes on the greatest Court in the land.
Next, take a stroll down Capitol Hill towards the Smithsonian Museums. Make sure to stop at the Newseum and catch up on your hometown news by reading the front page of a newspaper from your state. Across the street is the National Gallery of Art, which houses amazing pieces featuring artists such as Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Salvador Dali, and Raphael.
Turn up 7th Street and wander into Penn Quarter. If you skipped some stuff on Capitol Hill or you’re just really hungry, you’ll have time before lunch to grab a famous DC butterkuchen (a German cake) and cappuccino from Bakers & Baristas, a European-style coffee shop on the corner of 7th and E St.
DC is full of amazing places to get lunch but if you’re looking for somewhere peaceful to munch, grab a food truck lunch or to-go box from one of the amazing restaurants in Penn Quarter and head into the Portrait Gallery Atrium. Here you’ll be able to relax and eat in a sun-lit space filled with beautiful plants and calming water features. It even has free wifi and outlets.
After lunch, head across the street to work off that fabulous lunch at the International Spy Museum. Tickets are $22/person but worth every penny! Make sure to climb through the vents and test your spy-aptitude.
When you’re finished your top-secret mission, head to a Smithsonian museum. The Smithsonian museums are massive so you’ll probably only have time for one or two. We recommend the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of American History (where you can see the First Lady’s Inauguration gowns, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, George Washington’s false teeth, and Julia Child’s kitchen), and the Renwick Gallery — a small, installation-based art museum right across the street from the White House. Make sure you take a picture in front of the gates as you walk by!
Now that you’re all worn out from exploring our amazing museums, kick back and relax at a DC happy hour. If you want somewhere a little dark, try Denson Liquor Bar right around the corner from the Gallery Place metro. This atmospheric basement bar serves up some amazing classic drinks, fun cocktails, and mouth-watering appetizers.
If you’d rather have a view while sipping your cocktail, then head to the W Washington D.C.’s rooftop bar, POV. The trendy bar and patio looks out over the White House with a breathtaking view of the National Mall.
It’s time to head to Georgetown and its beautiful waterfront. Stroll along the water until you reach the restaurant row and pick from any amazing establishments. We recommend Fiola Mare, Sequoia, or Tony and Joe’s. Sip a refreshing drink and feast on fabulous food as you watch the sun set over Roosevelt Island.
After you’re finished enjoying the waterfront, head up into Georgetown and grab a cupcake from Baked and Wired or Sprinkles to take over to the National Mall. Make your way to the Lincoln Memorial (the easiest and fastest way to get there is by taxi). Once you’re there, work your way to the back of the memorial where you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the Potomac River and a secluded place to enjoy your dessert.
Once you’ve had enough of the lights twinkling on the Potomac River, walk back to the front of Lincoln, wave to the big guy, and test your night-photography skills with a jaw-dropping picture of the Reflecting Pool and the entire National Mall.
Finish off your amazing day in Washington, DC, with a stroll up the National Mall. Make sure you stop at the World War I Memorial for a beautifully lit moment before heading up to World War II where you can find the column with your state on it. Finally, make your way to the Washington Monument and be blown away by just how tall it is and you’ll have an incredible view directly down the National Mall to the Capitol Building sparkling in the dark. Hang out at the Washington Monument while you take in all the lights and incredible history… and plan your next trip to Washington, DC!