Your Ultimate Weekend Guide to Washington D.C.
01 August 2018
Your Ultimate Weekend Guide to Washington D.C.
By Ryan Donovan
With so many incredible activities to fill up a weekend in Washington D.C., it can be a bit overwhelming to put together the best itinerary.
That’s where our team comes in! Here’s the ultimate guide to a perfect weekend in Washington, brought to you by our crew of D.C.-loving locals. From iconic sites to neighborhood haunts, this itinerary will whisk you through the best of what the nation’s capital has to offer!
Okay, just to let you in on a little D.C. secret – the weekend for most Washingtonians typically starts Friday afternoon with a nice long lunch. So that’s where your adventure begins as well!
LUNCH AT CHINA CHILCANO
Join D.C.’s buzzing office worker bees downtown for a delicious lunch at China Chilcano in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Opened by D.C.’s iconic chef and restaurateur José Andrés, China Chilcano blends Peruvian and Asian cuisines into a flavorful culinary journey of citrusy ceviches, pork belly potstickers, and ginger-spiked skirt steak. And since it’s Friday afternoon, you won’t be alone in having a cocktail (or two, no judging here!) The pisco sours make for a refreshing summer sip!
Now unless you bring out your inner lobbyist and have an extra long lunch, you should have a bit more time in your afternoon for a post-lunch visit to the National Archives. Luckily, the grandiose, multi-columned Archives building is located just two blocks away from the restaurant!
No trip to Washington, D.C. is complete without laying your eyes on America’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These three fundamental American artifacts are on display in the National Archives soaring grand atrium, along with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Louisiana Purchase. History buffs in your group can descend into the Public Vaults of the Archives, where visitors are free to sift through millions of letters, maps, films, and other records that give a glimpse into our nation’s storied history.
JAZZ IN THE GARDEN
But don’t get lost in the stacks for too long, because you have a concert to attend! Don’t worry, you won’t be jostled into a crowded arena for this particular concert. Simply cross the street from the Archives to the Smithsonian’s National Gallery Sculpture Garden for Jazz in the Garden.
This weekly Friday night summer concert serenades you with the sweet sound of jazz from local and world-renowned artists. Washingtonians flock to the garden with their picnic blankets, cheese platters, and the occasional bottle of wine to enjoy an evening of art and music. We suggest bringing some sandwiches and your favorite beverage for a picnic dinner under the twilight sky to the riffs of a saxophone. It’s the perfect start to your weekend in the District!
You may have wondered why we didn’t recommend any late night spots to cap off your Friday evening. Well, now you know the reason, because we’re starting your Saturday off with an early morning tour of the U.S. Capitol. We always recommend hopping on this tour earlier in the day to avoid the crowds and lines that are typical for a summer Saturday in D.C. Another key tip is to book your tour a few weeks in advance through the Capitol Visitor Center’s reservation system. However, they do offer a limited amount of same day passes, and the early birds often get the worm there!
The Capitol Tour weaves you through the history of the Legislative Branch’s headquarters, from the laying of its cornerstone in 1793 to the political goings-on of today. Your guide leads you through the Capitol Crypt and up to the Rotunda, a circular room beneath the massive 288-foot dome. Nothing like starting your day off exploring one of America’s most iconic buildings!
BRUNCH ON CAPITOL HILL
In case you haven’t heard, the nation’s federal capital is also the nation’s BRUNCH capital. That’s right, D.C. has perfected the art of brunching, so we fully recommend you get in on the action and hop into one of Capitol Hill’s trendy brunch hotspots. A 10-minute walk or a 1-stop metro ride puts you on 8th street, known locally as Barrack’s Row thanks to the 200-year old Marine Barracks located at the end of the street.
Barrack’s Row is your idyllic Capitol Hill thoroughfare lined with trees and bustling eateries with top notch brunch menus. We recommend trying out Cava Mezze, where their multitude of mimosa flavors and all-you-can-eat Mediterranean tapas menu will have your mouth watering. Plus, Cava was founded by three D.C.-area locals of Greek descent, so you’ll get some authentic flavors with local flare!
A walk will certainly be in order after you’ve had your fill of all-you-can-eat brunch tapas. There’s no better place for a Saturday afternoon walk than through the vendors and craftspeople at Eastern Market. Just a few blocks from Barrack’s Row sits D.C.’s most popular weekend farmers market, where vendors from around the area bring their food, crafts, and goods to sell. At the center of this bustling outdoors marketplace sits the historic Eastern Market building, a sturdy red-bricked structure that has housed local food sellers since 1873. Walk past the stands and (if there’s still room after brunch) sample the many delicious produce, meats, cheeses, and jams.
AN EVENING IN GEORGETOWN
Now we’re sure after an early morning tour and two food-centric activities, a nap may have been in order, so we figured we’d save our next activity for your Saturday evening.
And your Saturday evening should absolutely be spent in D.C.’s most famous neighborhood, Georgetown. There’s no better spot to start your summer Saturday evening than along the Georgetown Waterfront at one of its many outdoor bars for a round or two of happy hour. Sit back with a bubbly cocktail or crisp beer and watch the different boats coming and going along the Potomac River. You may even catch a hint of an orchestra or Broadway musical echoing from the nearby Kennedy Center!
After you’ve had your fill of boat-watching, walk along the historic C&O Canal to Filomena Ristorante, a longstanding, family-owned D.C. staple, where you’ll be treated to a sumptuous Italian feast. You’ll know the pasta is fresh because you can watch the pasta chefs making it in the storefront window pasta kitchen! Filomena has many fans among Washingtonians – with its most recent praise coming from D.C. baseball superstar Bryce Harper:
“For dinner, Filomena. Really good. They really treat you like you’re a part of the family, and it’s a lot of fun to just go in there and enjoy a night and eat some good food.”
And what ends an evening better than a nightcap? A night cap in the bar where then Senator John F. Kennedy proposed to a young Miss Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1953. The famous Martin’s Tavern sits just up the street from Filomena. The dark, cozy, wood-clad bar offers the perfect setting to have the bartender share some famous stories of the bar’s historic patrons. You may even catch a glimpse of some modern day political celebrities, as many of our staff have in the past!
NATIONAL MALL MUSEUMS
We know, we know, all good trips must come to an end. So before you hop on that afternoon flight, train, or road trip, we want you to make the most of your final hours in D.C. The best way to do that? Spending the morning exploring the Smithsonian museums along the National Mall. Grab a coffee from Dolcezza in the Hirshhorn Museum, then venture through the National Museum of American History, where you can find the original Washington Monument, the First Ladies’ Inaugural Ball Gowns, or Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz.
If the animal kingdom is more your speed, then the National Museum of Natural History is your best bet. There, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to every aspect of the natural world, from animal species to archeological and mineral studies. A can’t miss in the Natural History Museum is The Hope Diamond exhibit, where you can feast your eyes on the world famous 45 karat Hope Diamond.
If you’re more interested in the activities outside our atmosphere, then the National Air and Space Museum, dedicated to America’s rich history in aviation, spaceflight, and planetary science. From Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane to the Apollo 11 module, the artifacts held in this museum are nearly too impressive to comprehend. You can even touch a piece of the moon on one exhibit, truly making your visit an out of this world experience.
Like we said at the start, Washington D.C. is filled to the brim with activities and adventures We hope our recommendations here will help you plan a brilliant weekend in the District!
Follow along with Ryan’s day to day DC adventures on Instagram at @rydongrams! Comment below what you thought of any of the activities we suggested above!