These may be times of drawing political lines in the sand, but if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s the charms of our nation’s capital city itself. There’s much more to the District of Columbia than the federal government: Its flourishing nightlife, innovative culinary scene, and inspiring museums are waiting to be explored by intrepid weekend travelers.
Washington replaced Philadelphia as the nation’s capital in 1790, due to a central location on the East Coast that made it accessible to both southern and northern states. Today, DC is only a three-hour Amtrak train (or four-and-a-half-hour Bolt Bus) down from New York City, making it the perfect candidate for this edition of carless weekend travel. Whether you’re interested in art or history, cocktails or tapas, there’s something for everyone in Washington, DC. So pack up your bags (and maybe some protest signs), and read on for your travel guide to 48 hours in the District.
Whether it’s the upscale Sofitel in Lafayette Square or one of the 10 boutique Kimpton Hotels located throughout the city, there are endless accommodation options for the luxury-seeking traveler in our nation’s capital. Additionally, iconic institutions such as The Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons both have enticing outposts in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. Even if you end up somewhere other than the Four Seasons, we recommend making a reservation at the hotel’s restaurant, Bourbon Steak, and ordering a bourbon tasting. The server arrives with an entire cart of bourbon, so it’s probably best to plan this event for the evening — it will mean you can take advantage of the neighborhood’s lively bar scene as well.
Other chic choices include a Cambria Hotel centrally located in the bustling neighborhood of Shaw, or the ever-popular W Washington DC. Directly across the street from the Treasury Building, the W is a go-to spot for a reason: The hotel’s POV rooftop bar serves cocktails overlooking an unforgettable view of monuments and the White House.
What to Do
First things first: East Potomac Park is the prime starting spot for touring the monuments of the National Mall (we particularly encourage visiting over cherry blossom season). Wake up early to catch the sunrise over the Tidal Basin — note that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial gazes across the basin at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (our nation’s third president enslaved over 600 people), symbolizing the country’s continuing evolution regarding civil rights. Continue tracing American history with a visit to the Newseum, only one block from the National Mall. Though many museums in DC are free, the Newseum is more than worth the price per ticket. The interactive museum chronicles the evolution of expression in this country, and it’s never been more important to educate yourself on the First Amendment.
The White House is, of course, another must-visit destination — whether to protest or merely witness a bit of living history. If the behavior of the current occupant has you feeling down, check out the free exhibits at the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum located across the street from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Once a well-kept local secret, The Renwick has become increasingly celebrated in recent years.