This November, a couple of my closest girl friends and I spent a weekend exploring all that DC has to offer – historical landmarks and museums, beautiful parks, charming old neighborhoods, amazing food, and a great happy hour scene!
You could spend so much time in DC, especially if you like museums, as most of them are free to the public. We only had two full days in DC, but we made the most of them. All of us felt like we were able to do and see a lot in our short trip!
If you’re looking for a fun girls’ weekend with a great mix of things to do, this is the guide for you!
How to get to DC
There are 3 airports near DC to choose from. Ronald Regan Washington National Airport (DCA) is the closest to downtown, followed by Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) is the furthest from downtown, all the way in Baltimore.
My friends and I flew into Baltimore (BWI), only because we got an amazing flight deal and knew a Lyft would likely be pretty cheap split between the 3 of us. The car ride took about 45 minutes and was ~$50 total each way, but this could vary depending on time of day you arrive and depart.
Where to stay
We opted to stay in a hotel downtown so we were in a central location, with Dupont Circle and Logan Circle (where most of the restaurants we wanted to go to were located) just north, and National Mall (and most of the landmarks, memorials, and museums) just south.
If you stay downtown, almost everything you want to see is within walking distance, if you don’t mind long walks. We found Uber and Lyft rides to be super reasonable. So, if we got tired of walking or if we were running late to a reservation, we would just request a ride.
We stayed at Hamilton Hotel located downtown, near Franklin Square, an urban park filled with benches and mature trees.
Hamilton Hotel was such a great find! It was in the perfect central location, it was really affordable (at least it was during our stay), the lobby was gorgeous and smelled of amazing perfume, and we were greeted by the concierge with bubbly champagne at check-in. We were very impressed!
What to do in DC
There is so much to do in DC! My friends and I wanted to make sure we saw a lot of the monuments, memorials, and a couple of the museums that we all really wanted to visit, but we obviously didn’t have time to visit them all. Especially because we also wanted to check out locals’ favorite restaurants, visit the beautiful Georgetown campus, and catch a happy hour or two.
Our first morning in DC, we woke up early, grabbed some coffee, and started heading toward the National Mall. On our way, we strolled through Franklin Square and passed by the back of the White House.
If you’ve never been to DC, National Mall is a long park running east to west. The Washington Monument is in the middle of the mall, with the US Capitol Building on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. Dozens of monuments, memorials, and museums can be found on or around National Mall.
Next, we walked to the Washington Monument. This monument, built to honor the United States’ first president George Washington, was, at the time it was completed in 1884, the tallest building in the world!
From there, we walked to the Holocaust Museum, walking by the Jefferson Memorial Tidal Basin on the way. The Holocaust Museum was a sad, but very educational experience that I would really recommend dedicating at least 3 hours for. This museum, like most in DC, are free.
After the Holocaust Museum we walked back past the Washington Monument to the World War II Memorial. I was surprised to find to find that this memorial opened less than 20 years ago, in 2004. The memorial features a wall of over 4,000 gold stars, known as the Field of Stars, each representing 100 Americans who lost their life serving in the war.
World War II Memorial
Across from the World War II Memorial is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with the Korean War Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial on each side. After going to each of these memorials, we walked up the grand staircase to the Lincoln Memorial.
After a landmark and museum filled morning and afternoon, we were ready to get off of our feet and enjoy some delicious food and drinks.
We went to a couple of happy hour spots in Logan Circle, but our favorite was Barcelona Wine Bar. This modern, yet rustic restaurant had a warm ambiance and an amazing selection of delicious Spanish inspired tapas, as well as charcuterie and cheese spreads.
For dinner we went to Ghibellina, an Italian restaurant in an industrial, yet cozy space with a marble bar, located just a block from Barcelona Wine Bar in Logan Circle. I loved the ambiance of the restaurant and the food was great. Their wood-fired pizza, gnocchi, and Aperol spritz were all amazing. I would highly recommend Ghibellina! If you want to have dinner here, be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Le Diplomate is another restaurant right across the street from Ghibellina. Several of of our friends recommended it, but we didn’t get a chance to eat here during our trip. If you’re looking for a bit more upscale, yet casual and comfortable, restaurant with French cuisine, Le Diplomate could be a great option.
Our second day, started similarly to the first, doing touristy stuff centered around the famous city landmarks. We picked up coffee from the Starbucks, located right in our hotel, and took a short car ride to Union Station.
Union Station was beautiful with it’s grandiose ceilings and pearly white marble floors. The history of this station is also fascinating.
From Union Station, it’s just a 20 minute walk down a beautiful tree-lined road to the United State Capitol Building.
We were at the capitol building on a Saturday morning so it was pretty quiet, but I can imagine during a week day it could be very crowded. Right across the street from the US Capitol Building you can also see the Supreme Court Building.
US Capitol Building
Next, we walked all the way to the White House. Unfortunately, there were barricades in front of the White House fence, so we really didn’t get a great view. If we would have known this we probably wouldn’t have made the trek, but oh well!
Next, we caught a ride so we wouldn’t miss our brunch reservation at Mission in Dupont Circle. Mission is a Mexican restaurant with an upbeat and fun brunch menu. They have a bottomless special that includes an entree, bottomless chips and salsa, mimosas, margaritas, and bloody marys, and oh yeah, a tequila shot.
Mission’s food and drinks were great, and the atmosphere was just as top notch. The place was packed and there was awesome music playing (think old school Drake and Lizzo). I would highly recommend making brunch reservations here. We had an absolute blast!
After brunch, we made our way to the beautiful campus of Georgetown University. This cute, historic neighborhood was fun to walk around. We loved shopping on M Street, where you can find all sorts of shops like Warby Parker, Patagonia, and Free People. Next, we made our way to a small, quirky bakery with a line out the door called Baked & Wired. We got some goodies for the road and went back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.
Before our dinner reservation, we stopped at the National Portrait Gallery since it was right next to the restaurant. If you have the time, I definitely think it’s worth a short stop. The gallery is free to the public and has an awesome collection of painted portraits of all former US Presidents, as well as many other famous people.
For our last dinner in DC, we went to Zaytinya, a mediterranean restaurant by Jose Andres. The menu is inspired by Turkish, Greece, and Lebanese cuisines. The food was absolutely phenomenal! We thought about doing the Chef’s Experience, but realized we could order lots of small plates for much cheaper. So, we opted to just order off the menu. We loved everything we tried. Our favorite plate was the Seared Halloumi Cheese with dates, citrus, and pistachios. Such an interesting, yet delicious combination of flavors.
After dinner, we went back to our hotel because we had a super early flight the next morning.
While many will plan a trip to DC to witness the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, I have to say, the fall foliage was a warm and colorful backdrop that seemed all too perfect for this historic city. No matter what time of year you visit DC, there will be plenty to see and do during your visit!
I hope you find this post helpful in planning your own trip to DC! See below for links to the restaurants I recommended, to make planning your trip even easier.
- Barcelona Wine Bar (Happy Hour) – Logan Circle
- Ghibellina (Dinner: Italian) – Logan Circle
- Le Diplomate (Dinner: French) – Logan Circle
- Mission (Bottomless Brunch: Mexican) – Dupont Circle
- Baked & Wired (Bakery/Desserts) – Georgetown
- Zaytinya (Dinner: Mediterranean) – East End of Downtown
- Hamilton Hotel – Downtown