Continue your exploration of the Smithsonian museums with visits to the Museum of American History. The gift shop has unique gifts and there is a separate music shop with American folks, roots, blues, and rare recordings that have been collected and restored by the Smithsonian. If you love music, set aside an hour to browse that shop! This museum also houses Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Indiana Jones’s hat. Next, visit the Museum of Natural History and explore its treasures, including the Hope Diamond. If it’s cold or hot/humid outside, stay a while and enjoy an IMAX movie or proceed to the Air & Space Museum to see a showing at their IMAX. Air & Space is one of the most popular museums on the National Mall for good reason. You can see the Spirit of St. Louis and other planes actually used in the early exploration of air travel. Have lunch in one of the museum cafeterias, but realize that they are geared toward school groups and family visitors so the menu selection is limited. The newest museum on the Mall is the Museum of the American Indian and their cafeteria is an improvement. Enjoy touring the museum during the afternoon. Consider walking up to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial (west of the museums).
For an early dinner, return to Penn Quarter to get Potbelly sandwiches ordered to go. You’ve just made yourself a picnic. Walk down to the National Mall and settle in for dinner. If you are dining on a Monday night, you may be able to enjoy Screen on the Green. Every Monday night between mid-July and mid-August, a film is shown on the National Mall between 4th and 7th Streets. Admission is free and seating is first-come on blankets on the grass. No alcohol is permitted since it is National Park Service property, but picnics are encouraged. When I lived here, I went every week for a few years.
Enjoy a pleasant drive down the George Washington Parkway. Start out in Old Town Alexandria with breakfast at a pleasant spot in this colonial town with narrow streets. Alexandria is also home to a Crate & Barrel Outlet Store (1700 Prince Street). After breakfast, drive to Mount Vernon for a tour of George Washington’s home. Admission costs $13 per adult. Tour the home, walk down to the historic Potomac River from his house. Lunch is available daily at the Food Court. For dinner, return to Old Town Alexandria or find a spot near your hotel since you may be tired from walking around outside all afternoon.
Start with a breakfast bite at Cosi by Dupont Circle then go to the National Zoo. It is free to everyone. Pandas reside there and are themselves worth the trip. Spend the morning there, then head toGeorgia Brown’s(950 15th Street, NW) for your last lunch before leaving town. Main courses range from $17 to $26 and are worth every penny. They specialize in Low Country cuisine so you can have fried green tomatoes, catfish fingers, she crab soup, lump crabcake, southern fried chicken, shrimp and grits, or any of a number of mouth-watering treats to show your taste buds what it means to extend southern hospitality. Reservations are wise since it is popular, 202-393-4499.
Visit the Smithsonian art museums. Smithsonian Institution museums are free in Washington, D.C. so you’ll get your money’s worth and then some. First, explore the National Gallery of Art. Break for lunch on Capitol Hill at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a watering hole for many Senators and Representatives. After lunch, walk over to the Freer Gallery of Art to see Whistler’s Peacock Room and its neighbor the Arthur M.Sackler Gallery. If you have the chance, also visit the National Portrait Gallery (reopened in July 2006 after extensive renovations).
For dinner, treat yourself to a meal at Occidental Grillin the Willard Intercontinental Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House. Main courses range from $25 to $40. Their lobster bisque is truly memorable. If the weather isn’t too humid, opt for patio dining, but be aware that the inside and patio menus differ. This is the hotel where the term “lobbyist” was coined and the place where Martin Luther King, Jr., stayed while in town to give one of his most memorable speeches ever. For an authentic mint julep made according to Henry Clay’s own recipe, visit the hotel’s Round Robin Bar.
Spend the morning strolling around historic Georgetown. This neighborhood in DC has a rich history and is now a thriving area for businesses and restaurants. For the funky shopper, check out Commander Salamander (1420 Wisconsin Ave, NW). Traditional chain stores, such as Banana Republic and Benetton, are also present. Have lunch at Rocklands (2418 Wisconsin Ave NW). Known for its barbecue. For dinner, enjoy a delicious meal at Bistro Français (3128 M Street, NW). Early dinner specials are available for $20 per person. After your Friday or Saturday early bird dinner, go to see a performance of The Capitol Stepsat the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Tickets are just under $40 per person.
When I was married in Washington, D.C. two years ago, I prepared several one-day itineraries for family and friends. These were meant to be a starting point as they planned their visit for our wedding. Since I am back in D.C. for the inauguration, I thought I’d share those old itineraries in case anyone else is seeking inspiration for their trip to the Nation’s Capital.
Each day’s itinerary will be a separate post with “Day in D.C.” as the name with the specific focus after that. Safe travels and enjoy my hometown!