For the past few Memorial Day weekends, a small group of my friends gathered in Folly Beach, South Carolina to reunite and celebrate a “grown up spring break” of sorts. Sadly, due to busy personal travel schedules, budgets, and timing, Grown Up Spring Break 2015 in Charleston was not meant to be.
Instead, I hosted two college girlfriends in the new home for a Washington, DC staycation. The long weekend was carefully planned to optimize DC sightseeing time since we had a DC-newbie in the group. Us ladies crammed in official White House and Capitol tours, as well as the visits to the Washington Monument, MLK Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial.
Phew, it’s exhausting just to list it all out. It was beyond tiring to walk them all in the DC heat, surrounded by tourists and motorcycle gangs.
One of the weekend’s highlights was during our White House tour. While walking through the famous Green Room, out the window on the South Lawn, there were Bo & Sunny (the first dogs) running around on their afternoon walk, unfazed by the gorgeous monuments and hordes of tourists behind them. It was precious and patriotic all at the same time.
In addition to walking the National Mall, the girls requested a bottomless brunch, which is about as DC as it gets. We headed to Capitol Hill and feasted for hours on the Caza Mezze rooftop. Not only were the bottomless tapas and penny mimosas delicious, but I walked away from brunch with a lightly bronzed summer tan too. The Capitol Hill restaurant is the ideal place to take DC guests, since it places you right near the Capitol and Eastern Market. The neighborhood is perfect for slowly walking off brunch afterwards.
In addition to the monuments, we spent some time visiting the Smithsonian museums that line the National Mall. With museum entry being free, you don’t feel guilty rushing your visit to keep on schedule. We checked out the Impressionists exhibits and were quickly on our way to the Capitol tour and Newseum.
Sadly the Capitol Dome was covered in scaffolding, which looked like a sparkly top hat from afar. Inside during our tour, the inflatable “Donut” covered the Dome ceiling for renovations. At least it made for some interesting photos. According to our lovely guide, the Architect of the Capitol team is hoping to have the dome back in tip top shape in time for the next Inauguration, returning the DC skyline back to normal. Phew.
To wrap up our Memorial Day weekend, we partook in one final tradition: a low country seafood boil. When we get together for Memorial Day weekend in Charleston, we established the tradition of serving this dish to close vacation with this final dinner. It’s the perfect social meal. I love standing around the table with friends, picking at the food and talking.
Being a host in a city like Washington, DC, is thankfully pretty easy. The museums and monuments are both free and easily accessible together.
But sometimes I get stumped after I’ve checked off the prerequisite touristy items from the To-Do list. When you have repeat guests to DC, who have already done the National Mall circuit, what do you do? Below is a list of my favorite tourist and cultural activities to do with out-of-town guests to Washington, DC:
- National Mall – Must check this off first before completing the following ideas!
- Extend your sightseeing – Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, National Cathedral, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, National Zoo, etc.
- Winery day trips – Had further out to Charlottesville (we love Trump, Blenheim, and Jefferson Vineyards) or closer to the city near Clifton (like Paradise Springs or Barrel Oak Winery)
- Museum day – Show your friends museums away from the National Mall. I love the Portrait Gallery in Chinatown.
- Day trip – Get out of DC and visit Annapolis, Philadelphia, or Baltimore
- Water Taxi from Georgetown to Old Town Alexandria – Great way to see the monuments from the water while also seeing the quaint neighborhoods. If you go to Georgetown, skip Georgetown Cupcake and head to Baked & Wired (holy cow amazing, local favorite) instead.
- Kayaking on the Potomac – Do NOT fall in. Really, do NOT fall in.
- Northeast DC – Visit Union Market for shopping, lunch, and a soda fountain drink at Buffalo & Bergen. Then head to the National Arboretum a mile away for a picnic, seeing the columns, and hiking off lunch in the gardens.
- Bottomless Brunch – Go for a place with bottomless food and/or drinks! My favorites are Cava Mezze, El Centro, Scion, and Local 16.
- Show your friends a night out on the town: – I take my friends down to 14th Street. We start with a fun dinner at Ted’s Bulletin, then bar hop.