Travel Tips | Washington, D.C.

How was your Fourth of July? Did you do anything exciting? I can sum up our festivities in one word … LAZY. No joke, we did absolutely nothing. Husband’s been working like crazy lately so he enjoyed a day of nothing-ness. We watched 10 episodes of an American Revolution documentary on The History Channel then the local and national news. We’re a couple of party animals, let me tell you.

After our nightly ritual of Wheel of Fortune, we watched A Capitol Fourth hosted by Tom Bergeron from Washington, D.C. It included musical entertainers, a tribute to the U.S. Olympic Team, and fireworks at the National Mall. The scene was absolutely spectacular and the crowds were sooooooo big. I grinned thinking about my trip recently and how I had the place to myself. But watching this program also made me want to board a plane and head back to D.C. for the sights, the sounds, and the food. Definitely the food.

Since I can’t get enough of Washington, D.C., I’m sharing these easy tips for YOU to plan a trip of your very own:

If I had checked mine, you’d see pictures of a giant basket of perfectly steamed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and lemon zest, next to a plate of fried cod and potato wedges with cole slaw and corn-on-the-cob on the side. Husband said this meal was “really tasty.” He never compliments food. Ever.

I arrived before the estate was open, but I entertained myself by taking pictures with my camera’s self-timer. It was ridiculous and silly. But a lot of fun. I also recommend a ride on the Spirit of Mount Vernon and cruise along the Potomac River. The view of George Washington’s mansion from the water is incredible.

Anyone who visits D.C. must go to Arlington National Cemetery and watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I have goosebumps just thinking about my experience. You can’t NOT go to Arlington.

But don’t wear brand new shoes. I purchased the pair of athletic/walking shoes I took on our trip the day before we left. Within an hour of walking around D.C., I had blisters. Fortunately, I also took a pair of really comfortable sandals. Needless to say, this wasn’t my brightest moment. But comfortable shoes are a must in this walking city!

Seriously, I cannot promote METRO enough. For $9 I had an unlimited pass for the entire day and I zippy-do-daa’d all over the place. Transitioning from one train to another is super easy and really quick. Honest-to-goodness, I never waited more than 5 minutes to board.

Being in D.C. (or any city for that matter) during the work week is a huge advantage.
People who live and work in the area are out and about and eager to help. I can’t tell you the number of people I approached and politely asked, “May I ask you a question?” and they kindly pointed me in the direction of my destination. Around lunchtime, look for people carrying their cell phone and a lunch sack. Those folks are obviously on their lunch break and know the area. Avoid someone like Yours Truly with a tote bag and street map. Duh!!!!

No offense to restaurant chains, but I avoid them at all cost … especially when I’m in a new place. In fact, I spent several hours prior to our departure seeking out the restaurants I wanted to try. Taking into consideration my severe food allergy, it was quite simple and the restaurant staff were all extremely accommodating. Husband and I dined at Steamer’s and Woodmont Grill in Bethesda and Copper Canyon in Gaithersburg (both in Maryland). During my solo adventures, I ate at the Mount Vernon Inn on the Mount Vernon estate, and Old Ebbitt Grill and Ping Pong (both in the metropolitan area of D.C.) I recommend all of them and encourage you to visit their websites ~ they’re full of useful information, descriptive menus, and some even feature recipes of favorite dishes.

Since returning home, I’ve purchased two pounds of super lump crab meat with plans to duplicate the delicious crab cakes I enjoyed at the Old Ebbitt Grill. They have so graciously provided the recipe online —-> Old Ebbitt Grill Crab Cakes.

I’ll be honest, the navigational signs on roadways in the D.C. area are a bit confusing. I got turned around a few times and had to make several U-turns (some legal, some not), and definitely cussed when I missed the same exit TWICE, but I eventually found my destination.

Except the day I wanted to visit the National Geographic Museum. *CONSULT TIP #6*
I left Ping Pong restaurant and found the correct street, but I walked in the wrong direction. Instead of seeing the museum, I walked up and down Embassy Row. Yep, I’m the tourist that goes and waves to the neighbors as if I live there. I turned my misfortune into a learning experience and eventually saw more than 75 properties belonging to dignitaries and secretaries of foreign countries along Massachusetts Avenue. I saw the sculpture of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy, took a deep cleansing breath ( *NAMASTE* ), and determined everything was A-okay.

Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

If you’re in Washington, D.C., you have to see the documents that created this country.
The original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on display inside the dimly-lit rotunda of the National Archives. It was quite magical seeing that John Hancock signature! However, access to the gallery is limited to a specific number of visitors at a time. I arrived around 9:30 and still waited outside, in line, before the doors opened at 10:00am. I was, however, in the first group that entered the sacred space. An hour later, when I left, the crowd was INSANE and the line stretched almost three city blocks!

Sure, I can watch IMAX films just about anywhere. But when you’re at the Smithsonian, you gotta watch an IMAX film. I saw the film on South Pacific coral reefs at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I’m sexy special and I know it.

I know I’ve already mentioned food, but I tried dim sum (little steamed parcels of deliciousness) for the first time in D.C. and I’m head-over-heels in LOVE with it.
Since our return back to Texas, I’ve “friend-ed” the Ping Pong on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. I’m also begging for them to open a franchise in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

I’m not saying you have to invite every stranger on the street to Christmas dinner, but you’d be surprised what a warm smile and genuine conversation will get you in unfamiliar territory. The facility where Husband and I stayed had incredible staff. Miss V was like a grandmother-figure and Mister S was my chauffeur to the METRO station each day and provided directions to Gaithersburg too. FYI: Mister S was the shiz-nizzle. He’s from Nepal and began working for the United Nations after college. He’s traveled the world as a military-man and consultant for the U.N. and United States. I could have sat and talked to him for hours … but he was on the clock and I on holiday. At every restaurant, the staff was excellent and the food divine. They were also helpful with my food allergy. I’ve invited them all to Texas for sweet tea.

Why do you think I’ve written this blog post?! A few more things to consider:

  • The unlimited METRO pass is only valid after 9:30am.
  • Keep a water bottle in your purse. And refill often.
  • If bathroom facilities are available, use them!
  • Avoid large and bulky souvenirs. I prefer refrigerator magnets that are small and easy to pack in carry-0n luggage. Plus, every trip to the fridge is a reminder of our trip.
  • Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet for a taxi. Just in case.
  • Allow extra time between point A to point B … such as lines at an attraction, rental car return, or going through airport security. If you decide to rent a car, consider rush-hour traffic and obey parking signs. Fortunately, traffic was light the morning
    I drove to Mount Vernon. However, my late-afternoon drive along the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Arlington National Cemetery to Bethesda, MD took twice as long due to rush-hour traffic.

Seriously, enjoy every moment because you’ll eventually return home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes and 864 emails that require your attention.

By |2012-07-07T06:22:15+00:00July 7th, 2012|Blog, Uncategorized|9 Comments

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  1. Lucy Dowings July 7, 2012 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Nicole, You do have a way with words. I want to go to Washington, DC some day. You have made it come alive for me.

    • Nicole July 7, 2012 at 9:56 am - Reply

      Awww Lucy, let’s go!!!! I want to go back so bad. 🙂

  2. Celeste Zachry July 7, 2012 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Excellent tips! Maybe you should become a traveler and write about the destinations and food! I’d be happy to be your sidekick!

    • Nicole July 7, 2012 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Celeste, you have the most FABULOUS ideas …… I like how you think!!!!! I could totally travel around and then write about my experience. Now, who’s going to finance this adventure?!?!

  3. Holli July 9, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Great tips! One of my rules i made for myself years ago in my travels is to eat at local places or chains that are not national. I love going to the places that locals know and aren’t “touristy”. D.C is such a great place! I spent an entire day at the Holocaust museum. It was so incredible that had stories and footage that i had never read about or seen on TV. When i last saw the changing of the guard in Arlington, President Clinton was there. So cool! You’re great at describing your travels.

    • Nicole July 9, 2012 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Ohhh I’m so jealous, I didn’t make it to the Holocaust Museum but it’s definitely on my go-see list. I agree about the eating places, local is best and I avoid chains at all costs. Thanks for the compliment, wonder if anybody would offer to pay my way around the world while I write about my adventures?!?! hahaha

  4. […] Check out my travel necessities for Washington, D.C. —–> here […]

  5. […] and eat at fabulous (and some hole-in-the-wall) places. If I could take more trips like the one to Washington, DC, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would also like to write a […]

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