In the fall of 2016, I caught the Amtrak’s Capitol Limited to Washington DC for a two and a half month stay while helping out with fundraising for a great nonprofit called BEST Kids which provides mentoring for youth in DCs foster care system. It was a great chance to explore the city like a local and a unique time to be here in the lead up to the election which basically turned politics on its head. I enjoyed soaking in all the history and good food and the beautiful fall foliage. I even got to take in my first professional baseball game. (Go Nats!)
>> Visit my Washington DC Photo Galleries.
Map of Washington DC
Things to Do in Washington DC
- Free & Almost Free Things to Do in DC – Themed lists like History & Heritage, and Best of. All of the museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution in DC are completely free!
- Politics & Prose – the best independent bookstore in DC! Also features and onsite cafe and space for author events and classes.
- White House – If you’d like to visit the White House, you may request a free, self-guided tour at least 21 days, but no more than 3 months in advance, through your state’s congressional delegation. Details here.
- Farmer’s Markets – So far my favorite has been the FreshFarm Market at Dupont Circle, (Sundays) which was full of local produce and just about anything you could possibly need – dairy, eggs, meats, even locally brewed beer in refillable growlers and gin and amaro to round out your bar! Other FreshFarm Markets are found throughout the city on various days/times. Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is open daily except Mondays (but expands with crafters on weekends) and has some of the best crab cakes in DC tucked away at the Market Lunch in the back.
- Road trip ideas: Fall Foliage drive in Shenandoah Valley, apple picking in the country, Maryland for blue crab.
Many of my picks for restaurants and things to do that are listed below can be found on my Washington DC Foursquare list. I find it especially handy if you have their free smartphone app, but also presents as a map view on the web version.
Where & What to Eat in Washington DC
- Crab – The Chesapeake region is famous for crab! In fact, Eater DC has a list of Maryland Crab Houses worth the drive. Road trip!!
- A Half-Smoke – The signature sausage of Washington, DC. Best smothered in chili! Try one at the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.
- 100 Best Restaurants of 2016 – According to the Washingtonian, categorized by price, location and cuisine. Updated yearly.
- Oysters – There are many places to get your fill of oysters in DC, but the oyster happy hour at the Old Ebbitt Grill is 50% off from 3-6pm and 11pm-1am daily. This historic restaurant and bar was the oldest saloon in DC, founded in 1856 and frequented by Presidents, journalists, statesmen and military heroes. So you get a great deal but also a bit of history.
- Michelin Guide to DC – 2016 marks the first year the Michelin Guide awarded stars in DC. Also check out the Bib Gourmand list of “cheap eats” for the less-formal version (not REALLY cheap eats by most standards!) of the guide.
Washington DC Resources
- Eater DC – Eater is always one of my favorite sources for food news. Like their other local sites, the DC page features regularly updated heatmaps and timely information.
- Washington DC Tourism – lots of tips, articles and lists of things to do
- Insider tips from Melanie Wynne – Bad Saint, The Dabney, Peregrine Espresso, Cherry Blossom HQ, the Atlantic Plumbing Cinemas, the Building Museum (and the nearby ramen places, Daikaya and Bantam King) the American History Museum, the rooftop bars at Mason & Rook and the Watergate Hotel, Buttercream Bakery, Politics & Prose bookstore (and across the street, Banana Leaf for Sri Lankan food), Thip Kao for Laotian food, the Capitol Hill Sunday Farmers Market, Bayou Bakery, Rose’s Luxury, the Anacostia Riverwalk, and Ottoman Taverna or Agora when you start to miss Turkey.
- Washington DC area groups on MeetUp – History and culture lovers take note – there are some great groups on MeetUp in DC! Sign up early for areas of interest and take a spot for unconventional tours you might enjoy. I did a free tour of the White House Garden and a Watergate-themed Walking Tour for only $10, both led by enthusiastic guides and attended by an interesting cross-section of folks.
- Getting around – DC has a pretty decent network of public transport, although it’s made up of a few different organizations that *mostly* work together pretty well. You can get a SmarTrip card (stored value card) that works on many of them. I preferred the bus to the metro, which often had delays or construction and I love being able to see things at ground level riding the buses. My favorite way to get around, by far, was the DC Circulator. It’s a limited network of buses for only $1 – including the red line which will take you all around the monuments and museums on the National Mall. Circulator buses are clean, come every ten minutes and even have USB ports to charge your phone! Ride sharing apps including Lyft and Uber and by the hour/day rentals like Car2Go and Zipcar are good alternatives when you do need a car. Capital Bikeshare has stations all over the city to help residents and visitors who prefer to bike.