James's 72 Hours in Washington DC

02/05/2018

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be offered a place on a trip sponsored by Destination DC to see and experience what Washington DC is all about. Having never been to DC before I made full use of my 72 hours there which as you will soon see what action packed and full of sightseeing.

We flew from Heathrow to Dulles International which is the main airport of the city although there are two others that service more local flights, Reagan Airport and Baltimore Airport meaning that the city is within easy reach from anywhere in the US. We arrived late on the Friday to the Kimpton Donovan and had just enough time to get showered and changed before heading for something to eat the hotels restaurant Zentan. The Donovan is a modern, edgy, pet friendly hotel and the Zentan certainly fits with that theme, the food was Japanese with a funky twist and the Sushi was fantastic. There was a relaxed yet buzzing atmosphere and you could easily understand why the restaurant was busy with the quality of the food and service provided.

The following morning, we took the Metro across DC to L’Enfant Plaza for a bike tour with Bike and Roll. The Metro was quick, easy and incredibly clean, a little different to what you tend to find over here in the UK! The bike tour was fantastic and was conducted in a relaxed manner which allowed us to really appreciate the main sites of DC, we were able to get around easily as most of area near the attractions is pedestrianised. We started off at the Jefferson Memorial, carried on down to the Martin Luther King Memorial, then stopped at the Lincoln Memorial where we able to look out over the Washington Monument and take a bit of time to appreciate our surrounds. All along the way our tour guide Adelle was incredibly knowledgeable and stopped at each landmark to give us interesting facts and history about each monument and the story around it.

Looking out from the Lincoln Memorial over the Reflecting pool and see the World War 2 Memorial was truly amazing, all with the Washington Monument rising above. Pictures do a great job of giving you the taste of the experience however being there and seeing it first-hand really stands out as one of my best memories of my trip. Following on from our stop we carried on down to the Vietnam Veterans Wall which was flanked by statues dedicated to the fallen soldiers and for service women. We were given an incredible amount of information and history about all the monuments and their history however she does a far better job than I could ever do so I will leave it to her and for you to experience when you go. We stopped off at the World War 2 Memorial and were again given a full run down of the history, what was nice to see was the number of Veterans who were being guided around the Memorial and how much they appreciated it. Our final stop was the Washington Monument where we had 10 minutes and once again took in our surroundings. 

Following on from the Bike Tour we headed across to the Nationals Baseball Stadium for the Beer Fest that they had on, it was a great chance to relax for a few hours and appreciate some locally brewed beer before heading out to Georgetown for a bit more history. Georgetown is a beautiful colonial style area full of cobbled streets and shops, some of our group headed off to check out all the shops when a few of us found a nice bar to relax in.

In the evening we were taken on a wonderful guided street tour of U street and the surrounding areas. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and was able to give us a deep understanding of the history of the city and the importance of the restaurants around the area. We had some beautiful food at Ben’s Chili Bowl which has hosted some incredible guests including Martin Luther King Jr and President Obama. The food was incredible as were the murals outside painted on the side of the building, the mural includes such historic black figures as Prince, Obama, Muhammad Ali and Roberta Flack.

After our starter at Ben’s Chili Bowl we headed across to a Ethiopian restaurant where the food was interesting and incredible experience.  We finally finished in Tico which had a more modern and Mexican feel to it and served one of the most amazing desserts that I have ever eaten, the Cafe Con Leche.

The next day was a little more relaxed starting off with Brunch at Pearl Street Warehouse, a diner-style eatery which transforms into a raucous bar with live music and entertainment in the evening. It’s a shame we went here for brunch as I think this place would be incredible in the evening, the atmosphere would be electric as due to the close nature of the diner and the general all American all fun feel of it.

Following on from brunch we headed across to the Smithsonian, I only just managed to have a walk around National Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum before the day was out and we needed to change and get ready for the evening meal. I could have spent the entire day at the Smithsonian and still not seen everything, it was while I was here that it really hit me that it’s impossible to do all of DC in 3 days.

With 19 museums, 9 research centres and a zoo you could easily take up 2 days just trying to see everything within the Smithsonian Institute however with so much to see you would miss out a lot of what Washington has to offer. While at the Smithsonian we also had a quick walk to the White House and the Capitol Building before making our way to the POV Rooftop Bar at the W Hotel. From here we were able to have outstanding views of DC and I was able to celebrate my birthday in style while overlooking the Washington Monument and the White House.

Our final night was spent at Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar where we served a host of incredible tapas dishes that almost never seemed to end. Having never had authentic Cuban food I have to say this was definitely the best meal of the trip and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this restaurant to anyone and everyone.

Before heading to the airport for our return flight we had a humbling visit to the Arlington National Cemetery which was truly amazing, it was fantastic to see such homage given to fallen soldiers. There were 400,000 gravestones and it really brought home the sacrifice that was made and the volume of human life lost. In a change of pace, we headed across to the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlet for a bit of last minute shopping.

So, there it is, my 72 hours in Washington DC. I had an incredible time and enjoyed every minute of it, whatever it is that you are looking for DC has in abundance. My major highlight was the Smithsonian, while I wish I could have seen all of the museums I was blown away by the two that I saw and just how much knowledge is contained in the institute. The view from the POV Rooftop Bar at the W Hotel was breath taking as well and a nice glass of champagne while overlooking the White House and Washington Monument is something I’ll definitely remember.

Whether your looking for sightseeing, amazing food or just a nice relaxed weekend where you can easily get out and about and enjoy the local restaurants DC has it. I would go as far as to say that 72 hours really isn’t enough to experience all that the city has to offer and I would have no hesitation in heading back.

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