City Guide: Washington D.C.
If you thought a trip to the Nation’s Capital was just reserved for the kids or tourists, let me tell you… that’s definitely not the case! If you follow along on Instagram, then you saw my husband Rick and I took a trip last month to Washington, D.C. where we spent a week catching up with friends, revisiting Rick’s old stomping grounds (he lived in D.C. for a year and a half after college) and eating our way through the city. I’m so excited to share my Washington D.C. travel guide with y’all today!
The last time I’d been in D.C., I still at my corporate job visiting for a conference. Because of that, there wasn’t much time to explore and when we did explore it was mostly tourist attractions like monuments or museums. Since the hubby and I had both been to D.C. before, we opted to make this trip one that wasn’t as touristy. We wanted to experience D.C. like locals and avoid the overly saturated touristy areas.
We jumped on an easy, non-stop flight from Houston to DCA and drove to our hotel in comfort thanks to our friends at Mazda. We picked up the keys to a brand new 2018 Mazda6 Signature and had it for the duration of our trip. We had plans to visit some friends and family during our stay, and knew that we wouldn’t be able to get around as easily on the Metro or ride share, so having a car was so helpful!
The Mazda6 Signature drove so well on the highways (we drove it to both Arlington and Annapolis!) and was compact enough to parallel park in the metropolitan areas. Call me partial, but my first car was a Mazda, so I’ve always loved their interiors and fixtures. The latest updates to the screen and controls are really cool, too!
We fit in a lot of adventures, eats and more on our 4 day trip to DC! So let’s jump right into the Adored by Alex Washington, DC city guide!
Where to Stay
Kimpton Mason & Rook // This chic boutique hotel nestled in the heart of the trendy & young Logan Circle neighborhood, the Kimpton Mason & Rook is where you need to book your next DC stay. Our stay at the Kimpton Mason & Rook was seriously top-notch. Between the service, the food, and the spacious rooms, I’ll definitely be staying again during my next visit. The mid-century modern interiors in the common spaces were warm and welcoming and the rooftop pool and bar was a fun surprise. The in-house restaurant Radiator, features craft cocktails and delicious eats, too. I loved the super walkable neighborhood surrounding the hotel. Within walking distance are quite a few delicious restaurants and coffee shops, plus a Whole Foods! The hotel offers its guests complimentary happy hour at 5pm with snacks on the side and even has bikes that guests can borrow to see more of the city (more on that below!). I have to admit, staying in metropolitan areas, I’ve prepared myself for busy streets below the hotel and overall loudness from the city hustle and bustle. But boy, was I surprised that the Mason & Rook was super quiet. Our 6th floor room had an amazing view of the surrounding neighborhood and you could barely hear the occasional honk from a car. Two thumbs up in my book!
Where to Eat
A Rake’s Progress // Housed in a former church, this restaurant definitely requires a reservation, as it’s chef is a James Beard Award winner. We didn’t make it here, but everyone told us this is a must stop if you’re a foodie!
Bara Vin // Charming wine bar, owned by the Chez Billy Sud restaurant, it’s an intimate spot for date night or catching up with friends (without having to yell over a large crowd). The wine menu is diverse and the food comes from the Chez Billy Sud kitchen, which is a great alternative to save a bit of money since the restaurant is quite pricey.
Chez Billy Sud // Directly next to Bara Vin, we stumbled upon this darling, authentic French restaurant randomly while wandering around Georgetown in the evening. If you’re looking for a true French food fix, then this is your spot.
Clyde’s // A Georgetown staple, Rick and I have been visiting this restaurant for years to indulge in their delicious crab cakes. If you’re a crab cake connoisseur then you know the less breading the better. These crab cakes have next to no breading! The spot is definitely an old haunt in Georgetown that has history and great bars (two, actually!).
Commissary // A neighborhood eatery, just a quick 5-minute walk from the Kimpton Mason & Rook. We stumbled upon this spot for breakfast, they serve it all day, and ended up eating here twice. There’s a huge menu and some great happy hour specials, too.
The Hamilton // Just blocks away from the White House, this restaurant is huge and also features a concert venue, too. The menu is extremely diverse, and delicious! I had sushi and Rick had a filet. There were quite a few locals mixed with some tourists, but definitely a spot I’d revisit.
Lil B coffee & eatery // A delicious, little find just a block away from the Kimpton Mason & Rook, this walk-up-to-the-counter Southern-style eatery features delicious egg sandwiches, beignets and other tasty treats. Breakfast and lunch is served at this casual spot.
Off the Record // One of the coolest hotel bar/lounges I’ve ever visited. I truly felt like I was in the midst of some political deal talks in this intimate and dark spot. The drinks have super silly politically-inspired names and the wine menu is great. Be sure to check out the coasters with the unique caricature cartoons, we brought ours home as a souvenir!
Radiator // The hip and delicious bar and restaurant connected to our hotel, the Kimpton Mason & Rook. The spot has a great happy hour, featuring a both cool indoor and outdoor spaces. The craft cocktails are delicious with super cheeky names, might I suggest the Imagine Dragon paired with the Charcuterie board and Spicy Tuna. So tasty!
Sei // This modern and hip Asian eatery was a pleasant surprise. We had a great dinner here, noshing on the fresh Tuna Poke, miso soup and other appetizers. It does get a bit loud, so probably better for a meal with 4 people or less. In an extremely walkable area, too!
Slipstream // Logan Circle coffee shop, a quick 3–4 minute walk from the Kimpton Mason & Rook hotel. Features breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, cocktails and happy hour. The space is modern and quite big and the coffee is delicious.
Honorable mentions: Chaia tacos; Le Diplomate; The Columbia Room; Requin; La Cote Dor (Arlington); Whiskey Charlie (drinks at sunset)
Arlington National Cemetery // I know I mentioned at the start of this guide that I was trying to keep away from all the touristy attractions, but there’s something about Arlington National Cemetery that I think everyone should experience. I’ve now visited in the sweltering summer heat and on a freezing snowy day, and each time was so surreal. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and ceremony is one of the most amazing recognitions I’ve ever witness and makes me so proud to be an American. Rick’s paternal grandparents are both actually buried at Arlington National, so this trip we entered on a mission to find their plots and take in the peaceful space where they were laid to rest.
Capital Bikeshare // Want to explore DC on two wheels? Then Capital Bikeshare is something you should definitely check out! Rick and I opted to rent some bikes after dinner one evening, after all the tourists had returned to their hotels. We rode around the National Mall, right by the WWII memorial and up to the Lincoln Memorial. It was hands down on of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and without a doubt is the best way to see Washington DC! See notes below for more helpful tips.
Day trip to Annapolis // About a 45 minute drive (with no traffic) from DC, this coastal town is home to the US Naval Academy and some of the most charming homes I’ve ever seen. We made the trek to Annapolis with hopes of finding some delicious seafood and exploring. We found both. Let me tell you, the crab cakes at Dock Street Bar & Grill are hands down the best I’ve ever had. Absolutely no filler and so, seriously fresh! I got to do the exploring, as Rick got stuck on a conference call. The shops along Main Street are absolutely charming, and if you venture off the Capitol building, walk down Maryland Avenue, which features original pavers from 1717! I wish we had known sooner, but it’s something we’ll add to our list when we return — the Naval Academy hosts teatime plus a tour on their grounds everyday at 2pm, definitely worth checking out!
Explore at night // Every night we were in DC, we used the evening hours (after dinner or a cocktail) to walk around. We walked the grounds of the White House, both the North and South lawns (so much easier and better at night!); we walked by the buildings that Rick used to work at back during his political career and walked in and out of some of the must-see hotels. Exploring DC at night, along with Capital bikeshare, is one of the coolest things to do — plus the amount of tourists is cut down exponentially making it all the more easier to get around.
Georgetown // One of my favorite areas in the East Coast, Georgetown is a must stop for any visitor. Yes it can be touristy with all the shops, but there are quite a few shops that are on my must-visit list: Tuckernuck, Onward Reserve, the Vineyard Vines store. You can definitely make an afternoon out of visiting G-Town — check out the University, the new waterfront area or stop at one of the many restaurants for a bite to eat.
Schedule a tour // Pre-apply for a tour of the Capitol or White House through one’s member of Congress! However, this is something you need to do in advanced, White House Tours requires at least 21 days before your date of visit. This is a great way to see the Capitol or White House, but keep in mind they are scheduled on a first come first serve basis and fill up quickly.
Other notable activities: Bureau of Engraving and Printing; The Holocaust Museum — one of the most impactful museums I’ve ever visited in my life. Reserve plenty of time to visit and take it all in; National Air & Space Museum; Day trip to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia or Mount Vernon
Public transportation // As with most metropolitan cities, the public transportation is something to definitely not ignore. Save money on ride share and opt for the Metro (they’re very clean compared to other cities I’ve ridden in), rent a bike from Capital Bikeshare (download the app in advanced and you can see where the bike pick-up and drop up locations are throughout the city + availability) or do as the cool kids do and scooter through DC (Bird; Lime; Skip scooters), just download the app in advanced and read up on how it works. Be sure to check out the Metro schedule, too, before riding. Rick and I didn’t do that and ended up on a line that was shutdown at a certain point for construction.