You have to start somewhere!
DC may be small in square feet but it is a mighty city indeed! There is so much to do and see! So we are going to start with Capitol Hill and the National Mall for this guide. This is one of the more well known areas of town and probably one of the more visited areas as well.
Capitol Hill is such a quaint part of DC with street after street of row homes, cute shops, delicious food, parks and markets! In the middle of all of that you also have two very iconic buildings... the Capitol building and the Supreme Court, which is a must see if you are going to DC. "The Hill" as you will hear it called could keep you busy all day, but here are some of my favorite spots:
Good Stuff Eatery
Amazing burgers and shakes made in house! This is a must try! I would take all our guests here at least once.
Located right in Eastern Market this is a neighborhood favorite for sure! This is where you go if you truly want a quality cup of coffee. They have a great pour over selection as well as some loose leaf teas.
Pitango Gelato Capitol Hill
Once you have your coffee from Peregrine you can hop next door and fill your sweet tooth with some VERY yummy gelato!
This is a personal favorite of mine! I love their tacos as well as their salsa bar! My mouth is watering just writing about this place!
On the weekends 7th street SE is blocked off for most of the day because Eastern Market is in full effect! Vendors set up their tents and sell some of the most beautiful things ranging from scarfs, coffee, art, jewelry and even furniture! There is even a large portion of Eastern Market where you can buy fresh produce and flowers! If you can't make it on the weekend thats ok because the inside portion is open daily! So when in DC you need to add Eastern Market to your list of places to go!
Capitol Hill Books
This little gem is also right in Eastern Market and if you like books then this place will keep you busy for HOURS! It is 3 stories of books from floor to ceiling!
Located on Barracks Row ||8th SE|| and it is ALWAYS busy so plan ahead! It is a very fun diner and they even make their own pop tarts!
Also on Barracks Row. They are only open for half the day and once they run out of certain donuts then they are gone until tomorrow! So come early and snag some goodies to start your day!
This park has something for everyone! I held my daughters 2nd birthday their because it has lot's of open space and two playgrounds that are completely fenced in. In the spring the locals come and hangout and play with their kids and pups. It is a neighborhood gathering place!
G Street CO-OP
This is my favorite playground on the Hill! It is perfect for all ages and if your child isn't ready to play on an actual playground it has lot's of scooters, cars, and even kitchen sets they can play with! Aila and I came here weekly, and so does the whole neighborhood!
Library of Congress
If you like books then of course you need to go the world's largest library! Like most all of our government buildings it is an exquisite building both inside and out and worth checking out!
There is so much history inside our Capitol building! Every time I did a tour I learned something new and saw something I hadn't seen before. They have guided tours that you can take throughout the whole building. It is amazing and you learn so much about your Nation.
It is right across the street from the Capitol and again it is exquisite! If court is in session they do have opportunities for you to sit in and listen for 10 min time periods so make sure to see if that is available when you are there.
Union Station is one of my favorite spots on the Hill. I know it's just a transportation hub but come on it's beautiful! We would go on Sunday afternoons and walk around, grab some lunch and hangout. There is always so much going on there with the hustle and bustle of commuters coming and going from DC or just coming from different parts of the city. They have a food court on the bottom floor as well as LOTS of other restaurants and shops throughout. We liked eating there because we could get food for everyone but not have to eat at the same place. Our 3 restaurants of choice were Chipotle, Shake Shack and ShopHouse.
The National Mall:
The National Mall is fun to visit all year around whether it is in the Spring for the Cherry Blossom festival or if you come in the winter and the basin is frozen over. I don't think you would be disappointed with either time of year, and I highly recommend both! I will say though, The Cherry Blossom festival is definitely a site to see! The whole city is sprinkled with these beautiful pink blossoms and they don't last long!
Here you will find all the museums that DC is so well known for! The majority of these museums line the National Mall (which is a really large and long patch of grass that runs from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial) When you come to the National Mall make sure to wear your walking shoes because you will be doing A LOT of walking! I suggest looking at a list of all the Smithsonian's || 11 on the National Mall & 6 located around the city || before you set out and narrow it down to your top 3 or 4 MUST SEE because they are very large with LOT'S of floors and if you are anything like me and like to read everything then it will take hours to get through just one!
My top 4 favorite Smithsonian's:
**All of these are free**
The Natural History Museum GREAT if you have kids because there are so many animals to look at as well as dinosaur bones and even some fish
National Air and Space Museum Again another fun one if you have kids!!
American History Museum This one just because I LOVE history and they have some really fun exhibits. I am not sure if they still have it but they did have a Star Spangled Banner exhibit that was amazing!
National Gallery of Art This has a beautiful collection of art from all periods and from a very wide range of artists. My husband and I would come here on dates and walk around for hours!
I also recommend the Newseum! This one is not free but it is SOOO much fun! It is an interactive museum all about how communication has evolved over the course of history! They have an entire floor dedicated to newspapers from the day they were created to now! I completely geeked out being able to see articles from the sinking of the Titanic and WWII. They also have a floor where you can be a news reporter and learn how to create a story as well as be a news anchor. That is just two floors, and each one has more fun and interesting exhibits similar to those!
If you happen to be in DC on National Museum day || which just so happens to be September 27th this year || then you can visit this museum for free. I did this the time that I went and they gave us free two day tickets which was awesome since it is such a big museum!
After you have had your share of the Smithsonian's you still have the Memorials to see on the National Mall. Depending on when you are visiting DC the weather can be to either extreme and outside might be a little unbearable, but if you can do it I recommend walking the Memorials at night. I personally think they are most beautiful at night with all the lights shinning on the limestone it just looks and feels so regal. If you are strategic in your starting point you can walk pretty much in a big circle and catch them all on the way. I would suggest starting at the Washington Monument then head to the WWII and walking up the reflecting pool stopping at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and then to the Lincoln. From there start walking down the opposite side of the reflecting pool catching the Korean War Memorial and heading to the MLK. Then you could head to the FDR and the George Mason Memorial ending at the Jefferson Memorial!
Parking on the National Mall is NEVER easy and the police are on top of it when giving tickets so make sure to read all the parking signs.
Last but definitely not least you cannot forget the White House! Depending on what time of year it is there is typically something happening on The Ellipse || The White House Lawn ||. In the fall they do what they call Garden Tours. This allows for people to come onto The White House grounds and walk through the backyard. I did this back in 2012 and it was pretty neat being able to get that close to The White House! Over the holiday's they set up the National Christmas Tree as well as a tree for each state that is decorated by that state. It is very pretty and fun to walk through while enjoying the entertainment that they have planned every evening. But don't worry if you cannot make it in the fall or at Christmas time there is still a very high chance that you will get to see the President fly over in his helicopter while on the Ellipse!
While on the National Mall there are not that many restaurants outside of what they offer inside the Smithsonian's, food carts, and food trucks ||which are great||, but if you walk a few blocks there are LOT'S to choose from!
A few of my favorite spots near the National Mall:
Founding Farmers This place is VERY popular, so I suggest using Open Table so that your wait isn't AS long. They have amazing coffee ||for all my coffee lovers out there||, and a really good brunch selection. I would frequent this place often and typically get the chicken and waffles!! YUM!
Custom Fuel Pizza It is a quick spot but very delicious!
GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar Amazing lunch or brunch spot. I love their soup!
If you are still wondering about other places around Capitol Hill or the National Mall feel free to ask in the comments
below and we will do our best to help you!! As well as let us know if this is helpful! ENJOY!!