Arriving early and checking into your hotel frees your evening for acclimating yourself to the District. Grab a casual dinner on the fly as you make your way to the National Mall. Nothing will inspire the feel of the nation’s capital as does this Mall, a two-mile stretch abutted by such magnificent sites as the U.S. Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and numerous Smithsonian museums – all just south of the White House. Enjoy the lighted monuments and public activity at this, the iconic green space intended to be the heart of civic America.
Saturday morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel and head out for a day of museum tours. You’ll want to pick and choose which of the Smithsonian institutions you want to visit since, with 19 in total, seeing them all in a weekend isn’t likely. The National Air & Space Museum is one of the more popular options, as are the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian. But you’ll want to be your own judge and choose from among the Smithsonian and other important and popular sites, such as the somber Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Newseum, to name just a few. By day’s end you will want to settle in for a memorable dinner, so plan well in advance for reservations at Jose Andres’ famous Zaytinya or Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Washington D.C.
After breakfast Sunday, it’s time to return to the National Mall to explore the nation’s heart by day. The Smithsonian remains open, and the major monuments present a different view by day. Catch the ones you missed Friday night and opt for others relevant to you, such as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Declaration of Independence Memorial and others. Alternately, consider a trip outside of the urban core to other historic sites of interest to you, from the Watergate in town to Mount Vernon, where, one could argue, the inspiration for the whole American experience took shape.
The nation’s capital can be an expensive place to overnight, particularly when staying close to the action. But for most people, it’s worth the expense to avoid commuting too far from outside the congested area.
The Jefferson, Washington D.C. benefits from close proximity to the White House, the Metro and many downtown restaurants and attractions. After major renovations, it’s more comfortable and spacious, so the elegant attention to detail matches the outstanding service and the ambiance evocative of Thomas Jefferson’s Parisian years. http://jeffersondc.com
The Palomar Washington D.C., a Klimpton Hotel, offers the gorgeous, hip setting and thoughtful service one expects from a boutique hotel, as well as the requisite playful eclectic room décor. But many of The Palomar’s rooms are also huge, well insulated from sound, and some include a hosted wine reception to welcome guests to D.C. www.hotelpalomar-dc.com
Four Seasons Washington D.C. is the only five star, five diamond hotel in the Capital region, situated in comfortable and accessible Georgetown, and possessing the flawless level of service and hospitality one would expect. Two distinct wings are connected by a scenic glass-enclosed garden walkway and many of the 222 rooms (including 59 suites) offer views of Georgetown, historic Chesapeake and the Ohio Canal. www.fourseasons.com/washington/
The nation’s capital is one of the most visited places in the country for its monuments, museums and history.
Access: One of the most accessible cities in the country, D.C. is served by three airports, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Amtrak also covers D.C. from around the country with all trains stopping at Union Station near the Capitol.
Population: Approx. 600,000 full-time, with a noticeable increase in population when Congress is in session, in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom and in the summer.
Climate: Despite being in a humid subtropical climate zone, Washington D.C. experiences four distinct seasons with usually gentle transitions but also with occasional extreme weather in the summer (high heat) and winter (blizzards and heavy snow).
Main Attractions: The National Mall and its museums and monuments and countless other historic sites are at least as popular as the more obvious sites such as the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
See: The newest monument in D.C. has been a long time in coming, so it’s particularly worth the effort to check out the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
Eat: Most people are largely unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, but D.C. is a great place to explore its exciting and eclectic flavors – notably in a “Little Ethiopia” section of Shaw, a north-central neighborhood.
Lingo: You’ll rarely hear the U.S. capital called by its full name by locals. Instead the city built on politics is simply called “the District” except in official or academic parlance.