Friday, August 3, 2012

A Summer Visitor's Guide to DC

Unfortunately, nobody pays me to write!  All opinions are 100% mine.

Washington, DC is the most touristy place I've ever lived!  It's been so much fun having friends move here for jobs long-term, and having friends and family come visit short-term.

I was recently asked to help out some friends with their itinerary for an upcoming trip.  My recommendation list turned out to be pretty extensive, so I thought I'd share it with you.

The qualifications were that they are a group of several adults and three teenagers, want to get a little off the beaten path, are staying in Crystal City, and don't want to go home broke.

What to pack:
  • Comfy shoes - You can easily walk 10+ miles a day here without even knowing it
  • Sunscreen - It's sunnier than you'd think!
  • Water bottles - There are water fountains all over, but it's expensive to buy water from vendors.
  • Hand sanitizer - The metro is germy.
  • Subscribe to Dealery DC to get a consolidated daily email of all of DC's Groupon-type discounts
  • Smart phone - Download the NextBusDC app so you know when the next metro or bus is coming, and use Google Maps for finding your way around.

Bonnie's Recommendations on DC Activities:

Touristy but worth it:
  • Shopping in Georgetown, plus cupcakes from Sprinkles
  • Newseum (the only non-free DC museum I've been to that I would pay money for)
  • Segway tours (I know they look dumb, but this was the highlight of my parents trip here!)
segway tour of DC
view from the Old Post Office Pavilion
  • Zoo (free!)
  • Nationals game (they're actually good this year!  Fireworks after Friday games, and several free concerts on Saturdays)
  • Lincoln monument (very romantic at night, too...)
  • FDR monument (very unexpected but lovely!)
  • Jefferson monument
  • Washington monument (but closed till 2014 due to the earthquake)
  • WWII monument

Off the Beaten Path:
See the monuments from your kayak!
  • Shopping at Eastern Market for local crafts and food
  • Bike riding - Our favorite way to get around DC! (There are rental companies and I think the bikeshare program has now been opened to tourists) 
  • Kennedy Center (fun shows, especially Shear Madness and the National Symphony Orchestra.  Also have free shows all the time.  Fabulous 360 views of DC and Arlington)
Enjoying a view of Georgetown and the Potomac at the Kennedy Center
  • Outdoor movies (in Crystal City, Navy Yard (near ballpark), the Mall, etc.) 
  • Watching planes take off and land at Gravelly Point Park
  • National Arboretum (especially their bonsai exhibit) 
My Dad with a white pine that's been in training since 1629
  • Simply exploring the city

Bonnie's Recommendations on DC Dining:

Ok, dining in DC is expensive!  Don't go anywhere with "bistro" in the name or anywhere that makes tapas - you'll be broke!  If you want my real opinion, eat breakfast in your room, and make sandwiches for lunch.  DC simply isn't known for having good food.  It's alright, but definitely not worth the price and time it takes away from doing other awesome stuff.  These are my recommendations for folks trying to dine casually without spending a million dollars.  Maybe another time I'll do a post on the more posh DC restaurants worth splurging on)

  • Eastern Market (food vendors, fresh fruit, delicious subs) <$10
  • Matchbox is really yummy!  I like the one in Chinatown or on Barracks Row $15-$25
  • Ethiopian (the ONE thing DC is known for, go to any near U street) <$20
  • Ben's Chili Bowl (good prices, quick, metro friendly, very historical) <$15
  • Vapiano (lots of Italian choices, but can get crowded with the happy hour scene on weekdays.  Decent prices and you don't have to tip like at a regular restaurant) $8-$15
  • Mai Thai in Old Town - good Thai food on the Old Town waterfront $10-$18
  • Paradiso Pizza in Old Town or Dupont $10-$20
  • Sweet Green - they have 9 salads they serve, that's it!  $8-$10
  • Pentagon City Fashion Mall (Loads of inexpensive options.  All the tour buses stop here)
  • Native American Museum (they have real American Indian food that I hear is really good!  Can't get that outside of DC!) <$10
  • Museums
  • Cupcakes (DC is known for their cupcakes)
  • Teaism (somewhat more ethnic and healthy food, plus huge tea selection) <$12
  • Pork Barrel BBQ (in Del Ray in Alexandria) <$12
  • Pat Troy's (very authentic Irish pub in Old Town) <$8-$20
  • Nando's Peri Peri (Peruvian chicken, very delicious, awesome sangria) <$12

    Have a wonderful trip!  And say hi if you see me!

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