I cannot believe that I had never visited Washington, D.C before. As a history enthusiast I often focus on other parts of the world because the USA as a country is too new. It was exciting to jump back into time and see a really cool city while I was at it. D.C was a city where I felt right in my element. The look, the atmosphere, the people. From having so many plant based options and cultural cuisine to some of the finest museums in the world I fell in love with this city. We only had a quick two day weekend there but are already talking about going back. From my 72 hour experience I'll share with you what I know.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Now more than ever we need to be reminded of what hate, discrimination and a dictator looks like. We started off our list of museums with the Holocaust knowing that it would bring up some heavy emotions and be a lot to process. We wanted the rest of the fun filled weekend to lift our spirits after the visit. I have visited a concentration camp before in Germany and experienced a similar, erie and somber feeling visiting the museum. The architecture resembles the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp with the brick and iron. The huge building houses three floors of exhibitions. Upon arrival you are given a name card where you assume the role of someone who perished in the Holocaust. You are guided through some of the most informative exhibitions I have ever encountered; the rise of the nazi era, the increased discrimination against Jews, WWII and the Holocaust. In America we have little connection to the Holocust in terms of history and artifacts, this memorial gives an insight into that terror and tastefully tells its place in history. I was moved, I was sad, I felt empathy; which is all so important right now.
In addition to their permeant Holocaust exhibition the museum has a wide variety of other things to see. When I was there they had an exhibit on collaboration & complicity in the Holocaust. This focuses on those that stood by as evil spread, as their Jewish neighbors were taken away and they turned their eyes. Should they be at fault for these war crimes too? There was an exhibition about a genocide in Cambodia, children of the Holocaust, war crimes & how they are handled historically by our justice department and an interactive exhibit where you can actually real time chat with current refugees fleeing the violence that currently plagues the middle east. The museum is so much more than The Holocaust. It is a place of learning, a place of empathy, justice, education. I highly recommend this as a must see musuem out of all the many to choose from.
National Gallery of Art
I work at an art museum, so obviously this is going to make it to my list. Talk about phenomenal architecture, impressive collection, cafes and brilliant exhibitions all rolled into one place. The National Gallery of Art is a favorite of mine for several reasons. First off, upon arrival ask for a map (its huge, you will get lost) and a program of the daily events. Their lineup for activities, events and presentations is pretty stellar. There were several free docent guided tours, lectures, performances and even a showing of Casablanca in their auditorium. If the building itself doesn't make you feel like you've travelled back in time or are on a European vacation the collection sure will. From ancient near east to an entire building of modern and contemporary art there is something for everyone. My favorite is the Renaissance/Baroque/Medieval art. There is something just so mesmerizing about big, beautiful vibrant paintings that you don't see in art anymore. Their collection is impressive and ranges from several Vincent Van Gogh self portraits to Edgar Degas Little Dancer.
National Air & Space Museum
The National Air & Space Museum was definitely a must see for my engineer boyfriend and I was along for the ride. I was pleasantly surprised to really enjoy it. We saw an omnimax film in the Albert Einstein Planetarium which was an out of this world (literally) experience. On display are several airplanes from borth WWI & WWII, The Wright Brothers, and some commercial airlines milestones. They also have a huge variety of space ships, drones & other micellaneous objects like hot air baloons.
We had coffee at their espresso bar and admired their beautiful indoor botanical garden. Their gift shop is also very impressive. They don't sell cheap souvenirs and magnets. They have beautiful, genuine art work and a massive collection of books, craft kits, art supplies, hand made gifts and accessories. We visited just before Christmas and it was nice to be able to pick up some thoughtful and artistic gifts for family. What can I say, I felt so at home here. Cool, calm, collected; visually stunning an the opportunity for gelato or espresso at every turn. I was right tin my element. I marveled at the artwork and enjoyed strolling through the museum. If you are an art fanatic you'll want to spend the day here to get the most of your visit. See the exhibitions, participate in the programs and support the arts!
Make sure to hit up the gift shops for really cool & unique gifts. This place really made me think that I would of loved to be a scientist or something in the field of STEM. My prefernece will always be art museums but I can definitey say The National Air & Space Museum peaked my interests.
The Renwick Gallery was mind blowing. When you search museums in Washington you will get a list of the Smithsonian's and all they have to offer, and don't get me wrong they are world renowned and superb institutions but this hidden gem was a favorite. The Renwick Gallery is located right across from The White House. Its a small two story art museum filled with a very interesting collection. The art inside is definitely contemporary, but very creative. I don't personally like contemporary/modern at, but this may have changed my mind. Most of the things you see are really unique pieces created from up-cycled material and made with precise skill. The architecture is breathtaking. Beautiful white marble, grand staircase, sparkling chandelier and other works of art reflecting the light make it a visually pleasing walk through. I am so glad I was able to stop into this gallery because it was a wonderful time. If you're looking for an art museum that is not as dauntingly large as the Smithsonian's than this gallery would fit perfectly into your itinerary as you stop off to see The White House.
I wanted to stop off at this University specifically to see the architecture and to stroll the streets in the surrounding neighborhood. The university itself is one o the oldest in the country (founded in 1789) so you can imagine the rich history behind it. As if the university wasn't breathtaking enough the streets surrounding are filled with beautiful historic buildings dating throughout the 18th century and cafes, shops, galleries, etc. While exploring the university we were able to go inside a lot of the old academic buildings and even though its been a while since I've been out of college I couldn't help but envy the students there. Do a simple google image search of Georgetown University & its neighborhood and you'll be convinced to stop in to look around.
Chinatown's are always cool places to explore. The one in DC is heavily commercialized, for example there is a Buffalo Wild Wings & a Starbucks with the sign written mandarin as well as english... but its still visually pretty cool. Plus there are some really great places to eat there like a yummy vegan cafe I totally fell for.
Hip City Veg - This plant based restaurant was amazing. They had great variety in their menu & the prices weren't crazy. We enjoyed their housemade grilled portobello sandwich, sweet potato fries, arugula taco salad & an asian salad. It was a sriously tasty meal.
Sweet Green is a chain restaurant from what I've observed but I was so happy to have found it and to get the chance to grab some tasty bites. Sweet Green is great because it s a place for vegans & carnivores, and those with special dietary needs. Their warm bowls are full of flavor and they have delicious homemade teas and lemonades.
*TIP: Check out the cafes inside them museums for graet espresso drinks & pastries.
Amsterdam Falafel Shop - Now this is a place that I did not actually get to try myself, but we did stop in to see what the crowd and line out the door was about. Basically this place is set in the trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood, surrounded by bars and restaurants. Its open late and features a build your own falafel and gyro bar. It looked so tasty and smelled amazing. The vibe was great with a very mom and pop type feel and it was crowded which is a good sign of great food! Instead of hitting the fast food joints after the bars you can stop here for some savory Mediterranean goodness. PS they also sell pot brownies here since apparently that is legal in D.C :)
Kapnos - This is your pricey date night celebratory dinner place. Washington is very expensive and having a 100$ price tag for a nice dinner with a few drinks is common, so don't freak out. Kapnos is a greek restaurant with a variety of shareable plates and tasty drinks. Mediterranean is one of my favorite food styles so everything was delicious. They have veggie sides, hummus, warm olives and meats and cheeses. The vibe and atmosphere is very modern and we had a great (and delicious) time.
Nope this isn't for shopping! This is that huge perfectly rectangle park in DC where all the Smithsonian's, memorials, monuments, congress buildings & white house are located. We went during the winter so the park was pretty blank but from what I have researched its pretty amazing and full of life in the warmer months. Strolling along this strip would take a while so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes. You could easily spend all day here popping into buildings.
This was a surreal moment for me, a historian and lover of the past. The Lincoln Memorial has an eerie feel to it. This giant statue towers over everyone and the hall inside is gigantic. The monument itself is beautiful, especially during the sunset. There are crowds so it can be hard to get a good picture but its worth the climb. Another added bonus is the view of mirror lake and the National Mall.
D.C is an astronomically expensive city, its hard to find a hotel that is under $200 a night. What was super disappointing was the price of Air bnbs. Tiny room in okay neighborhoods that were over a hundred dollars a night. I guess when you live in an expensive city where you know accommodation is in demand you can have crazy high prices knowing people have no choice. Anyway, we decided to research bed & breakfasts. I love B&Bs. They are so cozy and romantic. We stayed at an old home in the Adams Morgan neighborhood called Adam's Inn. Its a family owned house with great service, free family style breakfast and is in a trendy neighborhood. The price of a room is under $100 and for the location, service and city it was fantastic.
- I wasn't super impressed with D.C's subway system. It isn't very efficient, the stops are spaced out and it runs infrequently. i suggest using Uberpool. If you're willing to share your ride with users headed same way as you than you can get a ride for $3 - $4.
Have fun in D.C and keep on travelling my friends!