Washington, D.C. is not just the political heart of the United States; it’s a vibrant city brimming with legendary museums, top-rated hotels, and a diverse range of family-friendly events. History enthusiasts can transport themselves back in time at the iconic National Mall, while bibliophiles will find themselves enchanted by the literary treasures at the Library of Congress. For nature lovers, a springtime visit is a must to witness the breathtaking cherry blossoms and partake in outdoor events like the Blossom Kite Festival. Beyond politics, D.C. thrives as a bustling college town, with prestigious institutions like Georgetown, Howard, George Washington, and American
University all within city limits.
Whether your visit is motivated by education, leisure, or simply a stopover, uncover the wonders of the nation’s capital by exploring its finest accommodations, dining establishments, and shopping districts.
Riggs Washington, D.C.
Riggs Washington D.C. is a gem among the city’s lodgings, earning the title of the best hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2022 according to T+L readers. Once a historic national bank headquarters, this hotel seamlessly blends its past with the present. Guests can expect personalized touches paying homage to its history, including in-room minibars designed as vintage safes.
Voted as one of the city’s top hotels in 2022 by T+L readers, The Jefferson is an independently owned boutique hotel offering 99 guest rooms inspired by the travels of the nation’s third president in Paris and his residence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The hotel presents a “Summer of Discovery” package, complete with a daily itinerary curated by the in-house historian, a $50 daily dining credit, and late checkout, Andrew Adams of Flight Tracking suggested.
Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Nestled in Georgetown along the C&O Canal, Rosewood Washington, D.C. is a chic retreat celebrated by T+L readers. With 55 rooms, 12 suites, and six townhouses designed for extended stays, the property boasts an on-site Wolfgang Puck steakhouse called Cut, open seven days a week and offering weekend brunch. Reservations are highly recommended.
Overlooking Lafayette Square, The Hay-Adams boasts remarkable vistas of the White House and the Washington Monument. This historic hotel, beloved by T+L readers, derives its name from its original residents, John Hay and Henry Adams. Its Italian Renaissance-style architecture and 145 rooms exude timeless charm that entices visitors year after year.
Pendry Washington, D.C. The Wharf
Among the city’s latest additions, Pendry Washington, D.C. was recognized as one of the best new hotels in 2023 by T+L editors. This 131-room establishment offers upscale amenities, including a panoramic pool terrace with cabanas, spa facilities, and a rooftop restaurant. Many rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows providing stunning views of the Potomac River and iconic monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial, Sean Philips of Ship Tracking suggested.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, is an architectural masterpiece. It boasts a magnificent reading room and intricate design details. For a unique souvenir, acquire a library card, even if you don’t enter the reading rooms. The library is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and visitors must reserve a timed-entry pass online.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Explore George Washington’s estate home and delve into the life and legacy of the nation’s first president. In addition to the mansion, which requires timed entry, Mount Vernon features a museum, gardens, a slave memorial, a working farm, and Washington’s tomb. Seasonal events, including whiskey tastings, a colonial market, and fireworks, add to the experience.
Often referred to as “America’s front yard,” the National Mall houses iconic monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The D.C. Circulator, a city bus, provides convenient transportation around the National Mall, running every 10 minutes. Check the website for regular and seasonal schedules.
Immerse in Museums
Washington, D.C. boasts a remarkable 74 museums covering diverse topics from history and art to science and aerospace. Notable mentions include the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Don’t miss the Capital Jewish Museum with its inaugural exhibition, ‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.’
United States Botanic Garden
While the National Arboretum is more extensive, don’t overlook the opportunity to explore this curated nature exhibition in downtown D.C. Established in 1820, it’s the oldest continuously operated public garden in the U.S., offering a serene escape to learn about various plants and flowers, Ivan Wainwright of Vlucht volgen suggested.
This design district houses high-end designers and local antiques, including home furnishings,
fashion, and chic shops. Among the 19 stores, you’ll find Brilliant Earth for high-end jewelry, Relish for clothing and accessories, and District Doughnut for delectable donuts.
M Street Shops, Georgetown
M Street is a shopping haven with high-end boutiques and national favorites like Patagonia, Urban Outfitters, and Brandy Melville.
Politics and Prose
Known for its author talks, this independent bookstore carries thousands of books and includes an expanded children’s section. With additional locations at Union Market and the Wharf, it’s accessible as part of any sightseeing day.
Located in downtown D.C., CityCenterDC is your comprehensive shopping destination, offering 34 retail options, nine dining venues, and lodging at the Conrad Washington D.C. High-end brands like Gucci, Dior, and Chanel are among the shops. Don’t miss gourmet food stores like Mercato Centrolina for house-made pasta and sauces and Piccolina for delectable cakes and tarts.
The Restaurant at District Winery
Inside D.C.’s first operational commercial winery, indulge in an upscale dining experience with expansive windows overlooking the Anacostia River. Chef de cuisine Nicholas Fulginiti crafts a delightful vegetable-forward menu inspired by local ingredients. Open for dinner on weekdays and brunch on weekends.
Call Your Mother
President Joe Biden’s favorite spot, Call Your Mother, is a D.C. deli renowned for bagels inspired by New York and Montreal styles, along with deli classics like tuna melts and pastrami sandwiches.
Fiola Mare offers exquisite seafood, impeccable service, and waterfront views. The menu reflects the flavors of Italy’s famous coastlines, making it an ideal fine-dining choice around Georgetown. Open seven days a week, with limited hours on Mondays. Reservations recommended.
Founded by award-winning chef José Andrés, Jaleo has been a D.C. culinary institution since 1993. Celebrating Spanish culture through signature tapas, paellas, and cured meats, it’s a must-visit. Don’t miss “sangria hour” on weekdays with reduced prices from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Housing 41 vendors, Union Market is an artisanal hub featuring a diverse range of restaurants. From Argentinian empanadas to avocado toast and Southern comfort food, there’s something to please every palate. Open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Best Times to Visit
The ideal time to explore Washington, D.C. is from April to June when the weather is pleasantly warm, and the city is abuzz with events.
Spring heralds the renowned cherry blossom season, transforming the city into a breathtaking spectacle. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, spanning late March to early April, features a kite festival, a parade, and cherry blossom-themed culinary delights.
May welcomes graduation season, leading to high demand for hotels, so early reservations are advisable.
July and August mark the peak season, with pleasant weather but higher temperatures. The Fourth of July celebrations are a highlight, and taking a water taxi from the Southwest waterfront to Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria offers picturesque views of iconic landmarks.
Getting to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is accessible by plane, with Washington Dulles International Airport being the largest airport in the area, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport offering proximity to the city center.
Amtrak trains run daily from major cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago, arriving at Union Station, within walking distance of key attractions.
Bus services like MegaBus connect D.C. to various major cities, including New York, Pittsburgh, and Boston.
Explore the Neighborhoods
Downtown: Home to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House, Downtown also houses famous museums like the National Geographic Museum. Don’t miss the old post office and clock tower for incredible views of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Georgetown: Beyond Georgetown University, explore upscale dining along the C&O Canal, luxury shopping on M Street, and historic 18th and 19th-century homes.
Capitol Hill: As the political epicenter, Capitol Hill hosts the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and charming 19th-century row houses.
The Wharf: A trendy waterfront neighborhood revitalizing D.C. as a waterfront destination, offering shopping, independent bookstores, delectable food, and ice cream.
Navigating the City
Trains: The Metrorail system, operated by WMATA, provides comprehensive transportation across D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Tickets range from $2 to $6, with day, three-day, and seven-day passes available.
Buses: WMATA’s Metrobus system is undergoing significant enhancements under the Better Bus initiative, improving service and routes.
Taxis and Car Service: Uber, Lyft, and local cab companies are readily available.
Cars: Public transportation is extensive, but parking can be found using apps like SpotHero if needed.
Washington, D.C. is not only a political hub but a treasure trove of culture, history, and culinary delights waiting to be explored. Plan your visit wisely, and you’ll uncover the city’s diverse offerings and timeless charm.