Washington D.C. – Plan your next trip!
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Capital cities often get bad reviews – too much Government and not enough sizzle many travellers will say.
Well forget that pre-conception when you venture into Washington D.C. It’s pulsating with vibrancy and energy and you will need to spend a few days there to make the most of what it has to offer – but great news for the Kiwi traveller – many of the museums and attractions are free to the public – but you need a game plan to make the most of your time there so check the web sites before you visit – for example, the not-to-be missed is in the process of renovating so the admission is controlled by numbers so you have to book online a time for admission.
Simply put, Washington D.C. provides a delightful array of treats for any visitor from food to art museums, from cycle trails to suburban architectural wonders – through to extraordinary artefacts in museums with free entry that range from rock from moon landings (Air and Space museum) to Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen (Smithsonian National Museum of American History).
Walking around The Mall from museum to museum is a pleasant and interesting- if you get hungry, Food Trucks have hot snacks and drinks on offer if you need a refreshment.
Preferably before the busy weekend crowd get there – head to the Union Market (1309 5th St NE ) wwwunionmarketdc.com for great bagel sandwiches at Buffalo & Bergen (it’s like an old style soda shop –
their bagels are great and try their freshly made fruit sodas) and Tasty Egyptian bowls at Fava Pot and puddin’ serving Soul food to sample (try the shrimp and grits) a few stalls away fresh dosa (thin Indian pancake) are cooked right in front of you. Please go hungry. Tables inside and out make it a great place to savour the food and enjoy people watching. A wide range of interesting fresh eating possibilities and very affordable.
A little quieter and close by head to La Cosecha at a just around the corner (1280 4th St NE) for another super tasty offering the pupusa. Washington Dc has the largest El Salvadorian population outside of El Salvador and their delicious snack the pupusas ($3.95USD) (stuffed flat bread) served with a fresh tomato salsa and curtido ( Salvadoran cabbage relish) are so delicious!
With our dollar not strong and prices internationally much higher for travellers I recommend visiting Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and collecting a delicious salad for a few dollars (Trader Joe’s) and fruit /cheese to enjoy in your hotel room or those close to Whole Foods can enjoy a hot bar of food from breakfast snacks through to dinner options including very good soups at Whole Foods – in some of these stores you can eat there or take back to your hotel.
There are some “chain eateries” that serve great healthy food options – D.C. has RASA outlets serving very good Indian food bowls with excellent options and great prices.
Suggested areas to explore
14th St was in the past a vibrant but somewhat edgy part of town – today it is a smart precinct with many offerings – from the 1950’s classic Ben’s Chilli Bowl at 1213 U St (a Washington D.C. landmark) through to the African American Civil War Museum you have much to explore.
Then spend time having a Cuban coffee and great sandwiches at the roof top terrace at Colada Shop (1405 T St NW) ) or delicious, authentic Ethiopian food at Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant (1114 U St )
Make sure you try the lentils and fresh tomato salsa and leave room for an artisan ice-cream at Icecream Jubilee Made By Friends (1407 T St ) or smart sushi at Nama Ko 1926 14th St NW (sit up at the Sushi bar watching the chefs make your fresh tuna sushi). Go for Happy Hour – inexpensive drinks and gratis snacks – just walk in! But perhaps try the scallop, madai (sea bream) shrimp ceviche with “secret” leche de tigre, (citrus (lime) based spicy marinade for Peruvian raw fish) wasabi and furikake (a Japanese seasoning made with toasted sesame seeds, nori, salt and sugar). So good – fresh, clean and perfectly executed. Leave time to pop into Miss Pixie’s Furniture for great, inexpensive, re-cycled shopping.
A great discovery was the walk from the Phillips Collection (small art museum near Embassy Row 21st NW) to 14th St through the colourful Dupont Circle along Corcoran Street NW – admiring the varied architecture through to 14th ST.
Another must do – visit the Lincoln Memorial at night – even take time to visit the Vietnam Memorial at night – both poignant places and seem even more memorable at night.
A Tasty Landmark
Old Ebbitt Grill - www.ebbitt.com
This classic eatery has been a destination eatery for decades and you are best to book – it’s one of the top five independent highest grossing restaurants in the US – so you know it will be busy! I had the pleasure of talking with the chef Salvatore Ferro) who introduced me to his colleague chef Jose Hernandez from Honduras who has been making pasta there since 1983.
The menu is extensive and you can order a great steak or Maine lobster pasta or a full dinner but my recommendation for two people would be to order the Maryland Crab Soup and a seasonal salad and share a sandwich – leave room for their desserts – the Key Lime Pie looked amazing! The coffee does not disappoint.
You have several options – and don’t forget the delights of walking in DC – one day I got so carried away walking through all the beautiful streets near Georgetown I did 26,000 steps in one day – walking and the bus makes it easy to see interesting and delicious offerings your guide book or app may not tell you. Use Uber and with your Metro card easily available at the local Metro station you can use it for bus and Metro.
Check out the daily pass if travelling a great deal in one day and if buying tickets for single trip avoid rush hour as the travel is cheaper after the busy time.
Footnote: Bethesda Maryland is just a few Metro stops outside DC but if you want a great retro experience and feel like an extra on “Happy Days” go to the Tastee Diner (7731 Woodmont Ave) and order a blue plate special – the colourful waiting staff, the juke boxes in the booths and the old-school streamliner diner is a classic and open 24/7. If you are over 55 they offer the Blue Plate Special for just over $8 USD.
Walk down to Friendship Heights in DC (right next door to Bethesda) or catch the Metro back one stop to do some shopping at Marshalls and catch the bus there for Georgetown down the picturesque Wisconsin Ave.
Stop off at the Boulangerie Christophe (1422 Wisconsin Ave) for an Award winning fresh baguette and sit outside in the courtyard. Georgetown is full of delightful spots to explore form Dumbarton Oaks Museum and stroll around the neighbourhood full of smart, tree-lined streets with exquisite brick town houses you could spend hours there – but stop by the bottom of Wisconsin Ave and look in the window at Filomena’s (1603 Wisconsin Ave) – there is a lady in the window making fresh pasta at this popular Italian eatery. You might need to Uber back your hotel after this adventure.
Final footnote – if you have a car and like a day out and about – please venture to Annapolis, Maryland – yes you can visit the US Naval Academy or go out on the water – but down town the shopping and seafood eats contribute to a great day out.