Matt and I visited Washington, D.C. over Spring Break and it was hands down one of our favorite vacations we have ever taken together. I hadn’t been to D.C. since I was a kid and didn’t remember much from those trips. Matt had never been before, so we were eager to explore this city side-by-side.
We got so lucky while we were there because the weather was beautiful and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom! Those two things were enough to make us fall in love with this gorgeous city. But honestly that was just the beginning of the many, many things we fell in love with at the nation’s capital!
Here’s a list of 10 things we did while in D.C., and they’re all activities we would highly recommend to anyone else who may be taking a similar trip.
1. See the Cherry Blossoms around Tidal Basin
Seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom around Tidal Basin was absolutely breathtaking. I expected these to be pretty, but the overwhelming amount of pink/white blooms paired with the fresh smell was way better than I had even imagined.
There were some blooms around the monuments, but most of the cherry blossom trees lined Tidal Basin and walking through them was such a bucket list moment. If you ever get a chance to visit this area during peak bloom, I HIGHLY recommend it… at least once! We even got up early one morning and went to the lake to see the blossoms again, but this time at sunrise. It was awesome because there wasn’t a ton of foot traffic (only a few photographers) and we could sit down and really enjoy them. Sitting on the edge of the lake, while watching the sunrise with these blossoms surrounding us was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
It was also fun to see the cherry blossom “theme” throughout the city. From window stickers, to bus advertisements, and lots of souvenirs, cherry blossom pride was very clear throughout the city. We even snagged this cherry blossom doughnut from Astro Doughnuts because… why not?! It was a tiny doughnut shop but definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area because the doughnuts were delicious!
2. Explore the Historic Landmarks
The next obvious recommendation is to check out the historic landmarks while you’re in Washington, D.C. I’m not necessarily into seeing historic landmarks on other vacations, but something about the history in this city was so fascinating to me. Plus walking outside in the gorgeous spring weather to all of these places made it that much more enjoyable!
The cool thing about D.C. is that a lot of the national monuments and museums are all located in the National Mall, which is very walkable and wide open (lots of room for kids to play or families to picnic).
We walked from the Congress building to the Washington Monument, over to the Lincoln Memorial, and then kept on walking to the Arlington National Cemetery. All of these places are in a straight line and made for a three-mile walk. Plus all of the museums are in this area so you can cover a lot on your to-do list without going very far.
Arlington Cemetery was a little bit farther out but definitely worth the trip. We opted out of the free walking tour of the cemetery since we had already walked a ton that day and paid for the driving tour instead. We saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and really enjoyed hearing all of the amazing history that surrounds Arlington Cemetery.
Although the National Mall was crowded during the day, it never felt too crowded or overwhelming. But we were able to get almost the entire mall to ourselves when we got up to watch the sunrise over the Washington Monument (more on that in #4).
3. Tour the White House
We were fortunate enough to tour the White House while we were in D.C., which was another bucket list moment. It’s free to get in, but does require tickets. To get tickets you need to contact your representative a few months (about 6-9) prior and ask for permission. I emailed our representative in December and then had to send our information and Social Security numbers for approval. Even then, I didn’t hear back with confirmation until the week before we left.
The tour was really cool. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to bring a camera in, so I don’t have any pictures to report back. But being in the White House and hearing more about the history of each room was fascinating. If you’re ever in the area, I would definitely recommend trying to get tickets! The tour is self-guided so you can make it as long or as short as you want, which is my kind of tour.
4. Take a Bike Ride (at sunset or sunrise!)
A few of our readers recommended renting bikes in the city and exploring the National Mall via bike. One reader even recommended taking a ride at night (thank you!!) because it’s less crowded and far more magical. I loved this advice, but we opted to take a sunrise tour instead of a sunset tour. This early morning ride turned out to be my all-time favorite part of the entire trip.
We woke up before the sun one morning and rented bikes ($8 for 24 hours). Then we rode through the streets of D.C. down to the National Mall where we sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watched the most stunning sunrise behind the Washington Monument.
WOW… if you have the chance to do this, I would HIGHLY recommend it. We especially loved riding at this time of the day since we aren’t city bikers and being able to ride in the city before everyone woke up was a lot less stressful! We rode past the White House, through the mall, and over to the Tidal Basin and were practically the only ones around… which made for the perfect chance to take in the scenes without the crowds.
5. Walk to Georgetown
Another highlight from our trip was exploring the colorful, charming Georgetown.
The cobblestone roads, the colorful doors, the unique door knockers, the delicious cupcakes… what’s not to love about Georgetown?! We walked from downtown D.C. to Georgetown and back, which was only about 2 miles each way. Walking by all of the amazing houses made me want to come home and paint my house a bright and happy color!I mean, can you even?! How could you be in a bad mood living on this block?! The city was so charming! Besides the adorable neighborhoods, there is LOTS of shopping. We skipped the shopping and headed to Georgetown University per Matt’s request. The campus was stunning, especially with all of the tulips in bloom. It’s definitely worth the trip if you’re in the area.
6. Go to a Museum
Like I mentioned before, I’m not someone who typically loves visiting museums or historical landmarks on vacation. But there were so many FREE museums to choose from in D.C., so I was excited to check out a few. My favorite was the National Gallery of Art. The modern, minimalistic approach and floor to ceiling windows stole my heart right away. We didn’t spend a lot of time there (a benefit of FREE admission) but our time there was so inspiring. This blue rooster was on the upper deck of this art museum and was an easy way to see a different perspective of the city.
We also visited the Holocaust museum and the Smithsonian while we were there, both were really interesting. If you’re looking to get tickets to the Holocaust museum (highly recommended), make sure you book them well in advance. They sell out quickly, but you can reserve them online months before your trip.
7. See a Nationals Baseball Game
A ballpark with cherry blossoms in it? Only in D.C.!
Nationals Park was very clean and super pretty, it’s definitely worth seeing if you have a baseball fan in the crowd (like I did). Matt loved it!We took the Metro to get there, which was super easy to navigate and totally worth it! We didn’t get a chance to go, but I hear that Bluejacket Brewery and Ice Cream Jubilee are awesome places to check out in the area before/after the game.
8. Visit Union Station
On our last day in D.C. we walked to Union Station because we heard it was really pretty inside and I’m so glad we did! It’s not as grand as Union Station in New York but it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area. The architecture was ah-mazing. Plus there’s a whole mall (and lots of restaurants) inside of Union Station so that was a fun surprise!
The architecture throughout D.C. in general is pretty amazing. I was in awe at how detailed and stunning these old buildings are and how clean/pristine they still look.
9. Treat Yourself!
From delicious doughnuts to amazing crab cakes, we ate a lot of great food while in D.C. We ate at Union Market one night (where this wall art was found) and loved checking out the open-air market, such a fun vibe there. We ate cupcakes in Georgetown and had to try both hotspots — Georgetown Cupcakes and Baked & Wired — just to see which one we liked more (both were amazing but we did like Baked and Wired a bit more).
We also ate at Old Ebbit Grill, which was a delicious old-time pub right by the White House. Astro doughnuts & District Doughnuts were both delicious too. One thing we didn’t get around to eating was from one of the many food trucks around the city… they all smelled amazing if that counts for anything.
10. Pack the Essentials
Overall our trip to D.C. was so much better than I ever could have imagined. We loved everything about this city and were so impressed at how clean it was and how NICE everyone was. Like really, really kind… everywhere! If you’re heading there anytime soon, I would recommend packing a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses and most importantly, comfy walking shoes!
Matt and I walked over 50 miles (!!!!) during the four days we were there and were extremely thankful that we packed comfy gym shoes (these are the ones I brought). Although 50 miles seems like so much walking, we never felt overwhelmed or bored from walking because we loved exploring.
Overall, we would give our Spring trip to Washington, D.C. an A++ and can’t wait until we can visit again some day!
P.S. If you’re local to Chicago then be sure to watch ABC news tomorrow morning. We’ll be on at 8:20am chatting about ideas to refresh your home for spring!