This month is my birthday month, so my wife and I went to Washington DC for a little celebration. I’d like to share some tips that we collected and a list of places that may be of interest to you. (Spoiler alert: we are into food!)
What to do for a better experience
Stay close to a Metro station. DC has a very good network of Metro trains and buses that cover a wide area in the city center. To save time, stay close to a metro station. It’s particularly helpful if you have luggage to carry or when it rains.
Stay close to a convenience store. It’s annoying that we paid good money to stay at a Courtyard Marriott hotel and they didn’t give us any drinking water. Luckily, there was a CVS Pharmacy that’s just one block away. So the pain of carrying water back to our hotel was manageable. You don’t want to do that over 3-4 blocks.
Download the SmarTrip app and add a pass. Ride fares in DC fluctuate, depending on the day and time of travel. To avoid the hassle of remembering every detail, we downloaded the SmarTrip app, bought either a 1/3-day unlimited pass and added it to the Wallet app. Our phones became our passes and we didn’t have to remember about the cards or take our wallets every time. If you take 5 or more train/bus rides a day, a 1-day unlimited pass is highly recommended.
Make a reservation. Many official buildings and museums in DC require time-entry passes. Therefore, reserve your spots in advance. You don’t need to be strictly on time, but having a confirmation code on hand definitely helps.
Get the registration card at Library of Congress. The Main Reading Room at Library of Congress is a spectacular place that we believe is worth a visit. It’s accessible only with a registration card. To get a card, a visitor can pre-register online, but must officially register in-person either at the Jefferson or Madison building. While the line in the Jefferson building is long, there was nobody at the Madison building. We took the pain of going through security a couple of times, but we saved a bit of time by getting the card at Madison and going back to Jefferson.
Talk to your Representative or Senator before going to the Capitol Building. The Capitol Building is free to the public and each tour takes about 30 minutes. We enjoyed being there and learning a bit about the building’s history. But access to the Senate or House of Representatives gallery requires a different pass. For international visitors, passes can be issued onsite. For US residents, passes must come from the office of their Representatives or Senators. Thus, if you want to enter either gallery, it’s best to plan and get those passes in advance.
Travel light. It’s mandatory to go through security inside official buildings. It’s more convenient to have no belts and wear shoes that can be taken off and put on easily. Remember that a trip to DC likely involves a lot of standing and walking. Therefore, make sure you carry as little as possible. Your back, shoulders and legs will appreciate you.
Wear walking shoes, if possible. These shoes will aid your legs and back in absorbing shocks. My wife wore better walking shoes than I did. There were a couple of days when I complained about my back while she was still ok.
Be early. Same-day tickets to the Washington Monument are distributed at 8:45AM every day. If you are there at 8:45AM, you will be at the end of a long line and risk not having the tickets. Also, the African American History Museum is pretty cool. However, if you are not there early, there will be also a line to the most popular part of the place.
Places to eat
Address: 1017 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001. Opening time: 8AM – 2PM
Address: 1787 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009. Opening time: 7AM – 3PM
The pastries are absolutely delicious
Address: 1310 L St NW #100, Washington, DC 20005. Opening time: 8AM – 12:30PM
The passion fruit, black sesame and pistachio croissants are phenomenal.
Bodegon Spanish Tapas
Address: 515 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
We only tried the paella and were blown away
Address: 1207 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
One of a few great places that open by 10AM, as far as I know. We went there 15′ after it opened and the place was already crowded. Without a reservation, guests will be seated at the bar on a first-come-first-serve basis. My wife had the Dirty Caesar Salad and I had the Lebanese Fried Rice. Both were excellent and didn’t take long to make.
Un je ne sais Quoi
Address: 1361 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
The pastries here are more expensive than at other places. What we tried was good, but we probably won’t go there every day
Address: 425 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001
The Mixed Curry and Flying Fish Green Mango Salad were outstanding, but because we didn’t particularly like pickles, the “Khao Soi” dish was a bit of a letdown. You should reserve in advance as this place is very popular.
Chercher Ethiopian Restaurant
Address: 1334 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
If you haven’t tried Ethiopian food before, a visit to this Michelin restaurant is worthwhile. The food is colorful and good, especially the beef.