The Perfect Weekend in Washington, D.C.

With three days in D.C., you can get a heady dose of history, culture, and good eats. Devote the first day to national treasures and museums by the Capitol. Next stroll around Georgetown and the Arboretum and catch a Nationals game. Cross the Potomac into Virginia for day three at the gorgeous Mount Vernon Estate and hallowed Arlington National Cemetery before toasting your trip with rooftop drinks overlooking the city.

400 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA
From the hilltop of the U.S. Capitol to the riverfront behind the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall is “America’s Front Yard.” Lined with museums and accented by monuments and memorials, the 1.9-mile stretch of green space is also a destination for public gatherings. Spend a day (or more) celebrating cultural breakthroughs at the National Gallery of Art and the Air and Space Museum, as well as reflecting on our more somber legacies at the Holocaust Museum, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. From presidential inaugurations to protests, a pickup sporting match, or a simple picnic, no matter your reason for visiting, you’ll leave with more reasons to return. Note: The Washington Monument is closed until spring 2019 for renovations.
Capitol Driveway Northwest
The U.S. Capitol Building is the epicenter of all D.C. political action—this is where the country’s most important battles are fought. Home to the House of Representatives and the Senate’s meeting chambers for more than two centuries, it’s also an art gallery in its own right, with priceless paintings and murals adorning the walls and ceilings. Take the free guided tour and marvel at the parade of political heroes and villains who have roamed its halls during pivotal moments in U.S. history. The Capitol is located within easy walking distance of the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Botanic Garden.
555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA
The Newseum is an interactive, ever-evolving tribute to our First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. Powerful exhibits such as eight sections of the Berlin Wall (the largest display outside Germany) provide historical context for the importance of free press, while timely exhibits about the civil rights movement provoke reflection on the progress of achieving equality. The daily-updated “Front Pages” gallery of local, national, and international publications is a comparative study on current events, while the archive of headlines highlighting momentous events from the 1400s through today is an engaging history lesson. Peruse Pulitzer Prize–winning photography, enjoy panoramic views down Pennsylvania Avenue, and test your journalistic skills with a recorded mock-broadcast—reading a teleprompter is not as easy as you may think!
633 D Street Northwest
Rasika means “flavors” in Sanskrit, and its modern Indian cuisine has been spicing up the Penn Quarter for more than a decade (a West End location followed in 2012). The sophisticated lounge is accented by the bold aromas and flavors of timeless recipes perfected and reimagined by James Beard Award–winning chef Vikram Sunderam. Tandoori salmon is baked to tender perfection, with a kick of spice from the coating of Kashmiri chili, cinnamon, and black pepper. Book a reservation before 6:30 p.m. to take advantage of the $37 pre-theatre prix-fixe steal, which includes Rasika’s raved-about palak chaat, a crispy spinach salad with sweet yogurt.
1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA
One of Washington’s most beloved independent bookstores, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café is just as much a D.C. institution as the city’s historic monuments. Opened in 1976, Kramerbooks was the first bookstore/café in the United States to feature espresso, cappuccino, a full bar, and food. Popular with students and other assorted night owls, it’s open all night on Friday and Saturday, and late into the evening during the weekdays (there’s often live music). This is the place to savor the final pages of that new book you don’t want to end—and maybe a glass of red wine or a slice of one of their decadent cakes. Check out the events calendar before you go to catch a reading from a political big shot or your favorite new fiction writer.
1906 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Chef Ryan Ratino opened his first solo restaurant at age 27, riding a wave of momentum from stints at D.C.’s Ripple and New York’s Dovetail and WD-50. He’s made a big splash, racking up accolades including best new restaurant from the Washington City Paper in 2018. (Nonprofit Zero Food Print also recognized Bresca as the city’s first carbon neutral fine-dining restaurant.) Ratino’s surprising flavor combinations usually delight and always keep things interesting. Consider foie gras “black forest” with sour cherry, dark chocolate, and beets, or burrata and baby carrots with figs and chamomile. Much of the menu consists of these snacks and medium-size plates, and the decor has a similar vibrancy, from the wall of live moss in an electric shade of green to the brilliant blue velvet and tile work.
2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, USA
Overlooking the Potomac River, the Kennedy Center stands as a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy and an iconic landmark for arts in America. Its marble facade, sky-high ceilings, and crystal chandeliers exude grandeur, not to mention the central eight-foot bronze bust sculpture of JFK. With its Opera House and seven other stages presenting a variety of musical and theatrical performances—as well as a free event every day at 6 p.m. at the Millennium Stage—there’s no excuse not to enjoy the artistic expression of the human spirit while visiting D.C. As quoted by JFK and inscribed in the walls along the River Terrace, “This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.”
3316 -3318 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
In D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, Cady’s Alley is a cluster of shops and design firms specializing in high-end home furnishings, kitchens, and baths. If you’re a jewelry lover, head to JewelersWerk—they offer one-of-a-kind, contemporary design pieces. The pedestrian-only alley part of Cady’s Alley is reminiscent of a European shopping street. If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping area of Georgetown, come here. Do a bit of window shopping and then take a break at Kafe Leopold Konditorei, a nice Austrian eatery located in the center of the alley. You really can’t go wrong with a well-brewed cup of coffee and a pastry.
2401 Foxhall Rd NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
North of Georgetown, nestled on 5.5 acres of woods and gardens, this obscure museum is the former mansion of Geico Insurance executive and avid art collector David Lloyd Kreeger and his wife, Carmen. Designed and built by renowned architect Philip Johnson, the International Style masterpiece displays the couple’s collection of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, and traditional African and Asian art, with an outdoor sculpture garden to boot. Highlights include paintings and sculptures by Picasso (their favorite artist), Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Rodin, Chagall, Mondrian, and local talents. The museum also functions as a venue for after-hours classical and jazz concerts.
1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Located along the historic Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O Canal), this laid-back neighborhood bakery and coffeehouse is one of my favorite hangouts in D.C. Baked and Wired serves delicious food and drinks in a cozy atmosphere. The space is adorned with works done by local artists and photographers—as well as napkins scribbled with slogans, poetry, and pictures by visitors who wish to leave their mark. Owned by a husband and wife team, Tony and Teresa Velasquez, the shop has been whipping up handcrafted baked goods since 2001. To the delight of the young, the old, the college kids, hipsters, and the “power suit” crowd, the shop churns out a plethora of treats. You’ll find cupcakes (“cakecups”), brownies, cookies, pies, bars, muffins, cakes, quiches, breads, biscotti, and even “zilla bonez” (dog biscuits). They also serve the best coffees including Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Madcap, Barismo, and Ceremony. For tea, try the “Chaider"—a seasonal combo of chai and apple cider. Dine here like a local; upon entering, head to the left side for the baked goods (the “Baked” side) and then to the right for coffee (the “Wired” side). Signature baked goods include: — The Strawberry Cupcake: made from fresh strawberries mixed with vanilla cake batter topped with a swirl of pink buttercream (the local favorite). — Bee Stings: shortbread cookie topped with sliced almonds and honey. — OMG’s caramel s’mores: a layer of graham cracker crust followed by caramel, marshmallow, and chocolate.
1309 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Union Market is the perfect D.C. destination if you’re searching for a weekend brunch spot, craving a snack on your way to visit the Capitol, or, you know, hungry. Oyster bar, bakery, taqueria, soda shop, sandwich shop, Korean taco grill—all of the food is here waiting for you. The 47,000-square-foot space is a throwback to the original Union Terminal Market, which opened in 1931 with more than 700 produce, meat, fish, and dairy vendors in airy indoor stalls. The market moved to a warehouse in the 1960s and closed in the 1980s before reopening in 2012. When you’re finished stuffing your face, you can shop for home goods and vintage finds at shops like Little Leaf and Salt & Sundry.
3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Whether you have a green thumb or just love to bask in nature, you’ll want to check out the National Arboretum before you bid D.C. adieu. Spring is one of the best times to visit, when the azaleas, rhododendrons, and native trees are in full bloom. Summer visitors will enjoy beds of colorful annuals and perennials. And any time of year, be sure to stroll through the Bonsai Pavilion, where you can see an amazing collection of Japanese and Chinese bonsai plants, some more than 400 years old. Bring along a picnic lunch and head to the spot where the original columns from the U.S. Capitol are located—you’ll never forget the view.
717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA
Chef/owner Aaron Silverman’s farmhouse restaurant, in the heart of Barracks Row, serves creative (and Michelin-starred) cooking inspired by his travels and culinary training in the American South, Mexico, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia. Pork sausage and lychee salad is a menu mainstay; most other dishes are rotated out frequently to make way for “new stuff,” anything from grilled cucumber with coconut and anchovy to jumbo lump crab with squash blossom. Groups of six to 12 can make online reservations, all others should be prepared to wait a while. Line up before the 5 p.m. opening time to snag a seat at the counter facing the open kitchen and wood-burning stove.
Gravelly Point, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
Need some rest and relaxation after walking and soaking in the D.C. sights, history, and heritage? Head to this grassy lawn between the Potomac River and the George Washington Parkway. While it does provide pretty views of the D.C. skyline and walking trails, its main attraction is the sight and booming sound of airplanes leaving or landing on Reagan National Airport’s runways.
1025 N Fillmore St, Arlington, VA 22201, USA
Arlington natives Scot Harlan and Will Sullivan present their American take on a French bistro in this comfortable Clarendon neighborhood farm-to-table restaurant. Enjoy the culinary minded décor that includes a communal wood table for large groups, bookshelves of vintage and modern cookbooks, displays of Le Creuset cookware, recipe book pages as wallpaper, and even a statue of a green pig. The wonderful menu highlights “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which all parts of an animal is used. Favorites include crispy pig tacos with guacamole, Kung Pao sweetbreads, rabbit cake (think crab cake, but with rabbit), buffalo ribs, Parker House rolls, and poutine (fries topped with gravy, duck, and chunks of foie gras).
Arlington, VA 22211, USA
The Arlington National Cemetery is a 625-acre cemetery where fallen veterans have been laid to rest since the American Civil War. The cemetery lies at the end of Memorial Bridge, across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Wandering among the hundreds of thousands of white headstones is a solemn experience that forces visitors to reflect on the stories and dedication behind each service person. Paid bus tours that depart from the Welcome Center are available for visitors seeking to discover the grounds’ rich history. Stops include the Arlington House, Kennedy grave sites, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the changing of the guard ritual occurs every hour, on the hour. Those who want to explore the grounds at their own pace or desire to locate a specific grave can download the cemetery’s free ANC Explorer app.
Arlington, VA 22209, USA
Commonly referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial, the world’s tallest standing bronze statue honors the Marines who have defended the United States since November 10, 1775 with every major battle campaign inscribed at its base. The 32-foot-high sculpture was inspired by Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize–winning photo of five Marines and one Navy hospital corpsman raising the American flag on Mt. Suribachi during one of the most historic battles of World War II. From May to August, on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the memorial serves as the backdrop for the phenomenal Sunset Parade, which showcases the Marine Band, Silent Drill Team, and Drum and Bugle Corps. Come on the last Sunday of October to cheer on the thousands of runners who start and finish here for the Marine Corps Marathon.
515 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA
For decades, this rooftop terrace bar situated at the W Hotel (formerly the Hotel Washington, circa 1918) has provided some of the most stellar views of the White House, monuments, memorials, and beyond. P.O.V. is open year-round, unlike many other local rooftops, and encourages guests to show up by 9 p.m. Once you’ve found a spot to lounge on a velvet banquette, order a round of craft cocktails along with small plates from world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
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