The Perfect 2 Days in Washington D.C.

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Advisor - Jovana Pellerito
Curated By

Jovana Pellerito

  • Washington DC

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Active Travel

  • History

  • Architecture

  • Sightseeing

A sky touching building lighting up in Washington D.C.
Curator’s statement

Washington D.C., also known as the District of Columbia, is a captivating city steeped in history and home to the most iconic landmarks and Smithsonian museums. The city is also a hub for politics, culture and education with a diverse population showcasing the country's melting pot. D.C. is also food lover's paradise with its ever-growing and diverse culinary scene. What makes visiting D.C. so unique is the fact that the city is the heart of the Washington Metropolitan area or otherwise known as D.C. Metro area, that includes parts of Virginia and Maryland. A few miles in either direction from the monuments and you are in another state, each offering a wide range of experiences!

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Day 1: Explore the Major Sights

Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

If you are arriving at the Ronald Reagan airport (DCA), then maybe you were lucky to catch a glimpse of the National Mall and some of the most iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument or the Capitol building. While the views from the airplane window may be brief, they offer a unique perspective of these impressive landmarks.

Check into your hotel and put your favorite walking shoes on, D.C. is an incredibly walkable city, although public transportation is very reliable. From your hotel, you can take the metro to the Smithsonian stop which will drop you off in the center of all the monuments or you can take an uber to the Jefferson Memorial and start your walking tour from the Jefferson Memorial.

However you decide to get there, I recommend starting at the Jefferson Memorial first, besides this memorial is dedicated to the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and is located on the Tidal Basin, a scenic body of water surrounded by the world famous Cherry Blossom trees that bloom each Spring. Continue walking towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, keep walking to see the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran Memorial and the impressive WWII Memorial. This is an approximately 15-minute walk. Finally, head to the Lincoln Memorial which offers stunning views of the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

The Washington Monument is now back open for tours, if you wish to ascend you can purchase tickets ahead of time and reserve a time slot to go up to the tippy top for an incredible view. If you like views, I recommend walking to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, a very significant building in D.C. and a newly renovated and restored Old Post Office. Take the elevator up to the Clock Tower for a 360 view of D.C. It has the best view of D.C. I have ever found; its also free! While there, do yourself a favor and grab a glass of champagne and light lunch at their opulent Lobby Bar and experience the luxury and elegance of this historic hotel as you prepare for the next D.C. adventure.

Day 2: The White House & Smithsonian Museums

White house in the middle of green trees.

Start your morning with a hearty breakfast at the Lincoln Restaurant, before you head towards the White House. I recommend visiting the White House in the morning before the crowds gather. If you plan well ahead, you can take a guided tour of the White House which may be arranged through your Member of Congress, if not, its still a very impressive landmark and worth a stop even for exterior viewing. If you are lucky, you may spot the presidential motorcade which is always an incredible sight.

After the White House visit, head to the Smithsonian Institution, which is the worlds largest museum and research complex. All Smithsonian museums are free! If you are interested in art, be sure to visit the National Gallery of Art, which features impressive collections and works of art from Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and others.

Lunch time options: Old Ebbitt Grill - This is D.C.’s oldest saloon with a lot of history as it has been in operation since 1856! Café du Parc is a part of the famous Willard Intercontinental Hotel, celebrated as “the residence of the presidents” as every U.S. President has either visited or stayed at the Willard since the 1850’s. Grab an outdoor seat for the best and most relaxing atmosphere in the heart of D.C.

If you are into more active style for the afternoon, head on over to Georgetown. Besides serious shopping and dining you can head over to the the Key Bridge Boathouse and rent a kayak. On a good weather day, this is a great activity to break up the walking and you get some serious views of the waterfront and the Kennedy Center. Keybridge Boathouse End the afternoon at Fiola Mare, a luxe hot spot on the water with amazing seafood and even better cocktails. I’d call ahead or book a reservation; walk-ins are tough to accommodate. Bring your big wallet.

If you like to see a piece of movie history, The Exorcist Steps are in Georgetown as well.

Additional Dining Establishments

Off the Record, Hay Adams Washington D.C. — "Washington's Place to be Seen and Not Heard" D.C. Institution bar, has seen many presidents, senators and political figures (including scandals.) Luxe place to be and taste amazingly crafted cocktails.

Vue Rooftop, Hotel Washington, Washington D.C. — 11th Floor of Hotel Washington (may be a good lunch spot as well, as its right by the White House,) with gorgeous views of the Washington Monument and White House.

Round Robin Bar, Willard Intercontinental The Oval Office of bars. — Located inside the historic Willard InterContinental hotel, the stately Round Robin Bar is a stalwart part of D.C. history. Its famous for the Mint Julep and its delicious. Tried and tr

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Ali Hamdany's guide, Washington DC's Top Historical Gems: A Guide to Exploring the City's Rich Heritage.

Advisor - Jovana Pellerito

Travel Advisor

Jovana Pellerito

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Washington D.C.