It might sound like it’s hard to take a trip to the nation’s capital and not do something politics-related. The Montclair Girl proves, with our day trip guide to Washington, DC, that this can be done. Often, the rest of what Washington has to offer gets lost in the noise of headlines, politics, and talking heads. There is so much to see and do in all seasons, and things that bring a one-of-a-kind perspective based on the city’s rich history and proximity to power. This trip won’t be anything like your 8th grade field trip — the agenda is filled with award-winning restaurants, beautiful architecture, local-approved retail, and boutique hotels that are worth the trip. Read on to plan a not-your-typical trip to Washington DC.
Where to Stay
Eaton DC | 1201 K Street NW
Eaton Workshop is a hospitality company that’s in it to change it. What that means for guests is that not only are the rooms beautiful and filled with eclectic art and literature, the building is so much more than a hotel. It has a House which is a co-working space including a podcasting studio; a Wellness area made up of a gorgeous spa facility, gym, and yoga studio; and the Food and Drink amenities focus on locally-grown ingredients and showcasing different cultures through the menus and the artwork. All that being said, it’s a vibrant, bustling place to stay and is popular with locals for the restaurants, rooftop bar, and wellness spaces as well as travelers looking for a unique stay. It’s the kind of place where guests might bump into a guest lecturer in the lobby, or find themselves eating breakfast with an artist-in-residence. It is located in downtown DC, within walking distance of three metro stops and several bus lines. This hotel is pet-friendly.
Riggs Hotel | 900 F Street NW
(Photo credit: @riggshotel)
Like a lot of buildings in Washington, the Riggs has lived many lives. While it is now a boutique hotel with 181 guest rooms and suites, it started life over a hundred years ago as a bank. The Riggs National Bank was a longtime local bank in Washington founded by, you guessed it, Mr. Riggs. The bank was acquired in 2005 but the building had been a few different things before then, including a nightclub. The recently-renovated Riggs Hotel had its grand reopening in February 2020. The bank theme is a fun motif throughout the building — the lobby has an old-timey bank feel, and Cafe Riggs takes advantage of the high ceilings and Corinthian columns. The hotel has two bars — the Riggs Rooftop, and Silver Lyan, a speakeasy in the basement that uses the original bank vault door as the entryway. The location in Penn Quarter gives guests easy access to several downtown attractions like the National Portrait Gallery and the Capital One Center, as well as the Chinatown/Gallery Place and Metro Center metro stations. This hotel is pet-friendly.
The Graham Hotel | 1075 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
(Photo credit: @grahamhotel)
This boutique hotel has charm in buckets. Starting with its brick, Federalist-style exterior, the building blends in seamlessly with the classic Georgetown rowhomes of the neighborhood. Leave the Graham in one direction, and guests are directly on M Street, Georgetown’s main street full of shops, restaurants, and bus lines to go elsewhere in the city. Leave the hotel in the other direction, and guests will cross over the restored C&O Canal, which was once part of Washington’s thriving port-based economy. In warmer months, the National Park Service has a replica canal boat to show visitors what the canal used to be like. Keep walking and guests will find themselves on the Georgetown Waterfront, a busy area with a park, restaurants, an embassy, and office buildings directly on the river. Water Taxis and other riparian adventures pick up and depart here, and the many local college rowing teams practice on this part of the river. Back at the Graham, guests will find some of the 57 rooms equipped with Peloton bikes. The rooftop at the Graham is a small but lively bar where guests can enjoy a sunset happy hour over the river.
The Line Hotel | 1770 Euclid Street NW
(Photo credit: @thelinehotel)
The Line Hotel in Adams Morgan is many things. It’s housed in a 100+ year-old church with many of the original fixtures in place and even featured in the space. It has a podcasting studio. The food and drink offerings are casual neighborhood hangouts in the main lobby, but also award-winning venues that are destinations on their own. Most of all, it’s a hotel where guests can live like locals. Guests can use the hotel’s bikes to explore the Adams Morgan neighborhood and can get a picnic to-go to enjoy while out and about. Pets are welcome, so in addition to your own pet, you’ll see locals popping in to get coffee on their way to or from the nearby dog parks. The all-day restaurant No Goodbyes is a local favorite where you’ll see students studying, people on dates, and regular people enjoying the space and the offerings. The Line Rooftop has one of the best views in Washington, overlooking all of Adams Morgan and straight over the Mall. There are frequently special events and themed offerings so keep up with the Line on social media for the latest. This hotel is within walking distance of two metro lines and several bus lines.
The Tabard Inn | 1739 N Street NW
(Photo credit: @tabard_inn)
Three Victorian-era townhomes make up The Tabard Inn and the end result is unforgettable. There are 35 guest rooms, each with a unique layout and decor scheme, grand staircases throughout, wood-burning fireplaces, and a brick-lined courtyard. Washingtonians love The Tabard Inn for its lounges and restaurant, where live music is played on the weekends and brunch is a reservation-worthy affair (don’t miss the donuts). The Dupont Circle location is prime: walkable to the Metro and several other relevant destinations, like The White House. Both the restaurant and the hotel consistently win awards year after year, and the restaurant has a Michelin Star. This hotel is pet-friendly.
Things to Do
Explore the Potomac + the Anacostia at Boating in DC | 3500 Water Street NW; Potomac Avenue SE + First Street SE; 700 Water Street SW
(Photo credit: @boatingindc)
Even if you’re a total beginner to paddlesports, you’re in good hands with the Boating in DC crew. There are guided tours, classes, special events, and equipment for rent at this boathouse, with several locations along the Potomac. Once it gets closer to summer, keep an eye out on social media to see the special offerings at each location. For example, dock yoga at Key Bridge, or the jitney available at the Wharf. The Tours take guests around the river while they learn about the Potomac and the Anacostia’s history and different wildlife nearby. The Fourth of July paddle-out is truly the best seat in the house for fireworks over the monuments.
Dupont Farmers Market | 1600 20th Street NW
Since 1997, this market has been keeping Washingtonians in fresh produce year-round. Today, the Sunday morning market has grown to over 75 vendors including food trucks and carts selling food to enjoy right on the spot. Gorgeous flowers, jewel-like produce, fresh cheeses, and gourmet meats are just some of the choices available. In addition to getting fantastic produce, there are often live music performances and chef demonstrations going on. One of the Dupont Market’s biggest fans is a celebrity chef and humanitarian Jose Andres, who is often spotted at the market, chatting with vendors and tasting the produce. The market is a festive reminder that real people live and work in DC, not just talking heads and politicos.
Hillwood Estate, Museum + Garden | 4155 Linnean Avenue NW
The tagline of this museum is ‘where fabulous lives,’ and once visitors step onto the grounds in all makes sense. Hillwood is a private home turned into a museum. It was owned by Marjorie Meriweather Post, a woman who was an avid art collector, the wife to an Ambassador, and the heiress to the Post Cereal company. Mrs. Post bought the property later on in her life and designed it to be a museum of her collections and her lifestyle. She has one of the largest private collections of Faberge eggs, and her collection of Russian sacred art is museum-quality. There are often special exhibits in the outbuildings and seasonal programming that is open to the public. Meriweather Cafe, the on-site cafe, serves sit-down meals as well as picnics to enjoy on the grounds. While the collections are beautiful, the home offers an interesting vantage point of how a millionaire would live in the 1950s and 1960s — the kitchen in particular offers a curious mix of ‘modern’ conveniences and old-fashioned tools.
Library of Congress | 101 Independence Avenue SE
(Photo credit: @librarycongress)
This isn’t your local library branch. The Library of Congress (LOC) is made up of three buildings and holds over 40 million primary source materials. In particular, we’re headed to the Thomas Jefferson Building, which opened in 1897. It is a stunning example of the Beaux-Arts style that which many buildings in the Capitol complex are designed. The building is made of granite and marble, and the interior is richly decked out with mahogany, brass, and countless artworks. The exterior has fountains and statuary. Visitors can explore the facility and enjoy various events that are open to the public. There are exhibits on display with frequently-changing topics, drawn from the LOC’s vast collection. American music, art, and literature coexist with governmental records and presidential archives. Timed entry passes are required but are free.
Believe it or not, DC is a huge sports town, and we’re not talking about the Washington Football Team. DC has many other professional sports teams in town, so depending on the timing of your visit, you can take in one or more games. Because so many DC residents are transplants, the visiting teams are always well-represented, so if you don’t want to don the home team’s color, you’ll probably find some compatriots in the stands.
Catch a Washington Nationals Game | 1500 South Capitol Street SE
(Photo credit: @nationals)
As fun as it is to watch a baseball game, a visit to Nats Park is quite a draw. Gamedays start with a visit to the Bullpen, a beer garden, and performance space, to enjoy a tailgate atmosphere. Go into the stadium and see what promotions are happening at that game — it could be a bobblehead giveaway, a college’s alumni night, or some other fun thing. There are ballgame classics like hot dogs and dippin’ dots as well as local favorites like Ben’s Chili Bowl available at the park. The Racing Presidents come out in the 4th inning and everyone roots for Teddy.
Attend a Washington Wizards Game | Capital One Arena, 601 F Street NW or a Washington Mystics | Entertainment and Sports Arena, 1100 Oak Drive SE
(Photo credit: @washmystics)
DC is a town that loves superlatives, so of course, that includes sports teams. The Wizards are one of the oldest teams in the NBA (since 1961), and the Mystics are one of the winningest teams in the WNBA (2019 WNBA Champions). The games are always fun and lively, with frequent giveaways and theme nights. The Mystics’ home arena seats just 4,200 people, so guests will get up close and personal with the players. There are three current Olympians on the Mystics’ roster.
Watch The Washington Capitals Play | Capital One Arena, 601 F Street NW
(Photo credit: @capitals)
The Caps are the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions and the team is still having fun. Many of the players have been with the team for five or more years, and star Alex Ovechkin has been with the team since 2004. The arena is directly on top of a Metro station so it’s easy to get to, and the games are crazy fun.
Get Tickets to See DC United | Audi Field, 100 Potomac Avenue SW
(Photo credit: @dcunited)
DC United is a four-time MLS Cup champion, and the team plays right in DC. The new Audi Field is a stadium designed specifically for MLS games and it opened in 2018. While watching the game is fun, something unique about DC United is its organized fan groups. These fan groups are officially recognized by the team and have longstanding traditions. The biggest and oldest is La Barra Brava, made up of many South American nationalities. Audi Field is accessible by the Green Line.
Where to Eat
Baked + Wired | 1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
(Photo credit: @bakedandwireddc)
This quirky spot has been caffeinating DC since 2001. It is family-run and many of the recipes are named after family members or employees, like the Tessita, named after the owner’s daughter. There are vegan and gluten-free items as well. The coffee bar is delicious and creative and the baked goods are out-of-this-world, both sweet and savory. There is a core menu of things that are available year-round, but there are seasonal and limited-time choices that get swapped in often. For example, in springtime, a cherry blossom cupcake is added. There isn’t much space to eat inside so plan on getting your goodies to go. Different local artists are featured each month and DC’s cutest pups somehow all end up outside the shop. Our favorite order is an OMG bar (a graham cracker crust layered with homemade caramel, marshmallow, and bittersweet chocolate glaze) with a dirty chai latte.
Bantam King | 501 G Street NW
(Photo credit: @bantamkingdc)
From the outside, this ramen-and-fried-chicken shop doesn’t look like much and the menu is a little quirky. But, there’s a reason why this spot is so popular: everything is so good. The fried chicken is prepared to perfection, and the variety of ramen dishes means it’s truly customizable. The noodles are custom-made for the shop in Japan while everything else is made in-house, including the broth which is simmered for a minimum of six hours. There is a vegan option with both vegan broth and noodles. There are few things more comforting than a big, slurpy bowl of ramen. MG tip: even though the ‘chicken drippings over rice’ side dish sounds wild, don’t skip it. It’s super-rich and savory.
Beau Thai | 3162 Mount Pleasant Street NW + 1550 7th Street NW, Unit A
(Photo credit: @beauthai)
Chef Aschara Vigsittaboot is the smiling face behind this local favorite. Chef Aschara shares her family recipes at Beau Thai, where everything is made from scratch. Neighbors love the laid-back atmosphere paired with world-class food and cocktails. The menu is full of familiar Thai classics, and the ‘kitchen specialties’ section of the menu features Chef Aschara’s creativity. Vegan and gluten-free items are available. Beau Thai has won many awards, including being voted Washingtonian Reader’s Favorite Thai restaurant in 2021. We like the shrimp cake appetizer, the green curry, and the Beau Thai chicken.
KC Cafe at the Kennedy Center | 2700 F Street NW
This choice is a little out-of-the-box but stick with it. This is a fast-casual, cafeteria-style restaurant on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center. It has everything from snacks and pastries to a hot bar, the restaurant serves beer and wine, but the point of going here is to get up to the rooftop. There aren’t a ton of rooftops in DC and the low building heights mean that nearly every view is unobstructed. The wide rooftop deck at the Kennedy Center allows a view of the Potomac River, its bridges, and much of DC. Between the gorgeous views and the pre-show people watching, this is an unexpected choice that will pay off.
Timber Pizza Co. | 809 Upshur Street
(Photo credit: @timberpizzaco)
There are so many great restaurants in DC, so a pizza place making this list has to be worth it. There’s not much to the formula at Timber Pizza Co. — a wood-fired pizza oven, high-quality ingredients, and creative minds behind the menu. The menu has a seasonal small plates selection, salads, pizzas, and dessert. The pizzas are divided by red, green, and white, signifying the different bases. Red is tomato sauce, green is pesto, and white is a provolone and Mozzarella cheese blend. The dessert is a seasonal ice cream and cone platter: vanilla ice cream with cones, seasonal house-made jam, granola, fresh fruit, and chocolate. It’s a DIY affair unlike any other. Timber is a Michelin Bib Gourmand pick.
See More: A Day Trip Guide to Denville, New Jersey
Where to Shop
Hill’s Kitchen | 713 D Street SE
(Photo credit: @hillskitchendc)
Washington native Leah Daniels opened Hill’s Kitchen in 2008 and it’s since become the go-to spot for cookware, gifts, and gadgets. In addition to selling practically every line of cookware and bakeware available, classes and demonstrations are conducted in-store. The Capitol Hill shop’s inventory is ever-changing, so be on the lookout for seasonal items. Something you’ll always find in stock is a cookie cutter in the shape of every state in the US, except Hawaii. Everyone needs a cookie cutter in the shape of their home state, especially New Jerseyians.
Proper Topper | 3322 Wisconsin Avenue NW
(Photo credit: @propertopper)
Anna Fuhrman opened Proper Topper in 1990 and the shop has stayed fresh and relevant thanks to her tasteful eye. Shoppers will find women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, jewelry, books, plants, and other gift items. The stock is always changing, but the two best things to keep an eye out for are fanciful hats for men and women, and baby gifts that will have you be automatically the favorite Auntie or Uncle. Many items in the shop are from small makers. There are lots of DC-centric bits and bobs as well — no need to bring home a tacky magnet when there are sophisticated, handmade items to remember your visit.
Kramers | 1517 Connecticut Avenue NW
(Photo credit: @kramerbooks)
This is the Scholastic Book Fair of our collective youth, but for adults. Yes, it’s a bookstore with a bar in it. Kramers is a longtime staple of the DC literary scene and the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Since 1976 this bookshop has hosted events, live music performances, and has been the scene of hundreds of lazy afternoons browsing the shelves. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, pastries, and a full bar are available. And, since many DC residents are the authors of books sold in-store, you may find yourself elbow to elbow with the author.
National Building Museum Gift Shop | 401 F Street NW
(Photo credit: @nationalbuildingmuseum)
This isn’t the gift shop in your mind — no mass-produced t-shirts here. The National Building Museum is housed in an allegedly-haunted, historic building that once housed the Pension Office. The Museum’s mission is to educate the public about the built environment — including architecture, energy efficiency, design, and urban planning. The Museum itself has both permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as special events, many of which are geared toward children. The building itself is stunning — the main atrium has 75-foot tall Corinthian columns that are original to the building, among other details. But the gift shop is full of beautiful architecture books, creative toys for kids, unusual home goods, and all kinds of interesting stuff that won’t be found elsewhere.
Shop Made in DC | Many Locations
(Photo credit: @shopmadeindc)
This shop sells the best of the best of things made in DC. The end result is a boutique filled with handmade, high-quality items like food, cocktail syrups, artwork, kitchen items, and more. The store works exclusively with small, local makers to ensure a creative and seasonal assortment of items. Each location has its own vibe and hosts pop-ups and other special events. Artists often host virtual events through the Shop.