Washington DC Travel Guide

My meticulously curated travel guide for Washington, DC, includes local hotspots, under-the-radar restaurants, can’t-miss boutiques, and hip places to stay.

Start your day with a morning run or bike ride on the National Mall.

Do not miss the “blue buck” pancakes at Eastern Market if you visit on a Saturday.

Georgetown is my favorite neighborhood for shopping. Take a coffee break and enjoy the best cupcakes in the city at Baked and Wired. Skip the long lines at Georgetown Cupcake for a tastier treat at Baked and Wired.

I recommend DC By Foot Tours. You name your price at the end of the tour and pay what you feel it was worth. My favorite is the twilight tour of the monuments.

To visit the Capitol, you should make a reservation in advance. To avoid long lines. Read all the details here.

You do not need a car unless you plan day trips outside DC. I recommend downloading all public transit apps and setting up your accounts before arriving in DC.

You will need comfortable walking shoes. I suggest wearing tennis shoes and packing work shoes in a tote bag if you work or intern in DC.

Take an umbrella with you in the summer due to the frequent rain showers. I also kept a water bottle with me due to the heat in the summer. DC has a high crime rate. Stay alert, and don’t bury your head in your phone when walking the streets.

I also recommend packing a first aid kit for your trip or internship to save money. Don’t forget mosquito and tick repellant. You will pay much more for essential first-aid items at CVS in the city.

For dining out, I prefer the restaurant scene in Maryland. It’s close to DC, so visiting Maryland is a nice day trip or date night.

I also created a Google Map that reflects all my recommendations, so you can easily access them throughout your travels. You can save the map with your Google account.

You can access a list of all the recommendations here.

Here’s my ultimate guide to experiencing DC to the fullest.


Book reservations with the Resy app.

Little Pearl: This whimsical-tasting menu restaurant from the same team behind Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple and Pearls is a delightful dinner party unlike any other.

Rose’s Luxury: Get in line early with friends to share several small plates.

Pineapple and Pearl’s: Pineapple and Pearl’s is an upscale restaurant perfect for a special occasion celebration.

Eastern Market: The “blue buck” pancakes at Market Lunch are only offered on Saturday mornings.

Dabney: A farm-to-table restaurant.

Falafel: The falafel and Zaatar fries are popular.

A Litteri: My favorite Italian Market in the city and a local favorite for affordable sandwiches.

Call Your Mother Deli: If you like bagels, this is a popular local chain.

La Tejana: The best Tex-Mex breakfast tacos in the district. Order “The 956” or “Super Migas” and thank me later. The owner lived all over Texas and knows a thing or two about authentic Tex-Mex.

Love Makoto: Love Makote is a new Japanese Food Hall in the city.

Timber Pizza

Boogey and Peel Pizza

Arepa Zone: The arepas are popular.

A Baked Joint: Try the biscuits and sandwiches.

Matt & Tony’s: A popular brunch spot.

Blue Duck Tavern: Order the duck fat fries.

Thaiverse DC: Fabulous Thai food in a serene location, easy access to the metro (Dupont Circle North exit).

Chaia Tacos: Chic counter-serve for tasty vegan and gluten-free tacos.

Old Ebbit Grill: The best option near the White House and museums.

Purple Patch: A Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights. The menu includes many items made with purple sweet potatoes. They also have a great cocktail and dessert menu.


Jeni’s Ice Cream

Levain Bakery: The best chocolate chip cookies.

Baked and Wired: The best cupcakes in town.

Seylou Bakery: The best bakery in D.C.

Bread Alley: Bread Alley is located in a stall at Union Market.

Nothing Fancy: Creative soft serve ice cream—no website; located in Capitol Hill at 715 8th St SE in Barracks Row.

Rose Ave. Bakery: An Asian-American bakery offering fun, inventive, and delicious pastries.

Purple Patch: A Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights with a great dessert menu and ice cream.

Hyattsville, MD

Manifest Bakery: The pizza is offered on Thursday night. Orders open at 11 am and sell out fast because they are so good! Definitely worth a visit. The bread and pastries are also very popular.

Rockville, MD
Z &Z Manoushé Bakery: The bakery is worth visiting for Lebanese flatbread.


Sweet Crimes: My favorite gluten-free bakery in DC.

Rise Bakery: The biscuits and pizza are tasty. I prefer the bakery items at Sweet Crimes.

Seylou Bakery: Try the seed bread and rye chocolate chip cookies.

Baked and Wired: At least one gluten-free cupcake on the menu daily.

Levain Bakery: The only gluten-free item is chocolate chip cookies.

Arepa Zone: A local favorite for arepas.

Chaia Tacos: Chic counter-serve for tasty vegan and gluten-free tacos.

Old Ebbit Grill: The best option near the White House and museums.

Manifest Bakery: The only gluten-free item is a date chocolate chip cookie. I like to stop here when I visit Hyattsville.

Purple Patch: A Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights. Try the cassava cake.


Lost Sock: I like the beans.

Baked and Wired: The housemade macadamia milk is delicious.

Unido: A coffee shop located in the La Cosecha Latin Market.

Somewhere: The best coffee shop in Navy Yard.

Nothing Fancy: A new coffee shop near Capitol Hill.

Calabash Tea: The best tea shop in town.

Round Robin Bar: A swanky bar at the Willard.

Hi-Lawn: A rooftop bar-restaurant and green space.

TKYO Speaks Bar: A speakeasy with Japanese ramen and various Japanese beer and sake.

Purple Patch: The herbed-infused cocktails are popular.

*See my guide for non-alcoholic spirits here.

Hyattsville, MD

Vigilante Coffee: Award-winning beans.

Farmer’s Markets

Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market: Sunday mornings

Eastern Market Farmer’s Market: Saturday mornings

Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market: Saturday mornings

Palisades Farmer’s Market: Sunday mornings

Fish Market

Wharf Fish Market

Food Halls

Union Market

Eastern Market

Love Makoto: Japanese Food Hall

The Square: A new food hall that is opening soon.

The Roost

La Cosecha: Latin Food Hall


Tabard Inn

Ace Hotel

The Jefferson

Hay Adams


Waldorf Astoria

Thompson Hotel

Willard Hotel


National Zoo

Natural History

National Gallery of Art

National Building Museum

National Portrait Gallery

National Postal Museum

Kogod Courtyard

Air & Space

Bureau of Printing and Engraving

Cabin John Train: A 15-minute-long ride on a bright red train.

Children’s Museum

Butler’s Orchard

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Roller Skating


Museum of the Bible

Hirshhorn Museum: Don’t miss One With Eternity by Yayoi Kusama—reserve tickets online by becoming a Hirshhorn Insider Member. You can also wait in line Thursday – Sundays for free same-day timed passes distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.

Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian National Museum of American History; Download the Smithsonian Mobile App for museum open hours, floor plans, special events, and more.

National Gallery of Art: The giant blue rooster is on the roof terrace of the East Building. You can see a great view of the city here.

National Museum of American History: Don’t miss Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Renwick Gallery

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

National Archives

Arlington National Cemetery: Witness the changing of the guard by taking a 15-minute walk from the Arlington Cemetery visitor’s center to the unknown soldier’s tomb.

Kreeger Art Museum

The Phillips Collection

Hillwood Museum: The gardens are spectacular.

Dumbarton Oaks

Tudor Place

Botanic Garden

National Arboretum

GWU Museum and Textile Museum

Library of Congress: One of the most iconic places to work. With access to thousands of books, free Wi-Fi, and a free library card. Head to room LJ139 inside the Jefferson Building to get a free card.

Martin Luther King Memorial Library

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Kennedy Center: An exhibit that is open late is “Art and Ideals; John F. Kennedy” on the rooftop level of the Kennedy Center. Open daily, 10 am to midnight. Afterward, walk the roof terrace for a 360 view of D.C.

Rubell Museum


Georgetown: The best neighborhood for shopping

DC City Center: Luxury shopping in DC.

Propper Topper: A darling accessories boutique.

Good Wood: My favorite boutique in DC.

Salt & Sundry: A nice collection of home goods.

Hill’s Kitchen: You’ll find everything for your kitchen here.

Each Peach Market: I loved picking up some gourmet grocery items at this neighborhood market in Mt. Pleasant. It’s located next to Bold Fork Books.

Labyrinth Games & Puzzles: This shop features a large inventory of games & puzzles for all ages. It’s my go-to for stocking stuffers.

Tuckernuck: Don’t miss their annual warehouse sale.

Shelter: A vintage jewelry store near Union Market.

Take Care: A natural beauty product store.

Three Littles; A children’s boutique.

N.T. Souvenir: The best and most affordable store to buy souvenirs.

Pacer’s Running Store: Check out the weekly group runs.

Shop Made DC: A great selection of gifts.

Somewhere: The shop sells really cool sneakers.

Christ Child Opportunity Shop: An antique and vintage resale shop.

Terratorie: An excellent shop for maps and gifts is only open on Saturday from 9 am – 3 pm.

Appointed: Check out the planners.

Veronica Beard: My favorite blazers and jeans.

Best Kitchen Supply: A discount kitchen supply store; no website; 413 Morse St NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, near Union Market.

Schneider’s on Capitol Hill: If you need wine, spirits, or beer, this is the place to go.

Domestique: A natural wine shop named one of the best in the U.S.

Hyattsville, MD

Three Little Birds Sewing Shop: Quaint studio specializing in crafting supplies, modern fabrics & notions, plus small group sewing classes.


Each Peach Market: I loved picking up some gourmet grocery items at this neighborhood market in Mt. Pleasant. It’s located next to Bold Fork Books.

Georgetown Butcher

Trader Joe’s: The best time to shop is on weekdays when the store opens. The weekends are jam-packed with long lines, and items sell out.

Aldi: A discount grocery store. I stocked up on avocados and butter here.

Lidl: A discount grocery store.

Organic Butcher: Home delivery is available.


District Cutlery: Knife Sharpening

Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair: Luggage Repair

Sam Torey Shoe Service: Shoe Repair


Bold Fork Books: A fantastic selection of cookbooks. Be sure to check their events calendar for book signings and other events.

Lost City Books

Loyalty Books

East City Book Shop

Solid State Books

Politics and Prose

Mahogany Books

Capitol Hill Books: A used bookstore with books from floor to ceiling.

Little Library Map: Check out the Little Libraries in Capitol Hill.


Ella Rue

Close Encounters DC

Reddz Trading

Prime Thrift

Current Boutique


St. Alban’s Opportunity Shop

Remix Recycling Inc.


Capitol Cyro

Charming Nails

Nail Saloon

Monarch Skincare


Rock Creek Park: Great hiking and running trails.

Reformation Fitness: My favorite Reformer Pilates Studio.

Krav Maga Capitol Hill: Krav Maga offers adults and kids self-defense, fitness, and martial arts classes. I participated in a few of their workshops.

Capital Bikeshare

Great Falls Park: If you have family and friends visiting, this activity is about 30 minutes outside of DC.

Montrose Park

Billy Goat Trail

Kayaking/Paddleboarding: Rent a kayak or paddleboard at the Boathouse in Georgetown to see the monuments from a different angle.

Capitol Hiking Club

Tennis Lessons: free

Pickleball: free

Kraken Court Pickleball: Brand new indoor courts.


Capitol Tour: You should make a reservation to visit the Capitol in advance. Read all the details here.

The White House: If you don’t start planning months in advance, you won’t get tickets. Read the White House ticket process and another on what to expect on your White House tour.

West Wing Tour: This was the highlight of my time in DC. Currently, the only way to experience a West Wing Tour is by invitation from the White House or through a personal connection to a White House staffer willing to lead you on an after-hours tour.

White House Visitor Center: It doesn’t require reservations. Bonus: it has one of the cleanest public bathrooms around the National Mall.

Washington Monument: Since it’s a small space, you need a reservation. You can get them in advance on recreation.gov for a small processing fee if you’re a planner. Otherwise, it would help if you visited the Washington Monument for a timed entry pass first thing in the morning. It’s a lot of effort.

Old Post Office Tower: It’s not as tall, but the Capitol dome down Pennsylvania Ave and the Washington Monument can be seen. Best of all, you don’t need tickets; you can walk up and go. Find the marked door in the alley along 12th Street NW between Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue NW. It’s open 9 am -4 pm.

Supreme Court: If you’re in town when the court is in session, you can sit and watch oral arguments. You need to pay attention to the case schedule and will probably need to line up a few hours beforehand if you want to do it. If you’re visiting another day, you can do a self-guided walk around the building or listen to a courthouse lecture.

National Mall: Download the NPS National Mall app to help you navigate everything on the National Mall that you’ll want to see.


Escape Room

DC By Foot Tours

A Tour of Her Own

DC Design Tours: A tour company that runs historical walking tours focusing on architecture, design, and urban planning.

Trip Hacks DC Monumental Trivia tour

Reflections DC Private Boat Cruise: Wharf Marina, DC, and Shadyside, MD

Potomac Paddle Club: The Wharf


DC United / Washington Nationals / Washington CapitalsWashington SpiritWashington MysticsD.C. BreezeCiti Open

Military Concerts

Don’t miss these free concerts all summer long.

U.S. Navy Band’s Concerts at the Capitol

U.S. Air Force Summer Concert Series

U.S. Army Band’s Pershing’s Own

Marine Parade: Tuesday Sunset ParadeFriday Evening Parade (reservations required)


The Kennedy Center

National Theatre

9:30 Club

The Anthem

Landmark Theater: movies


Today’s Tickets


National Cherry Blossom Festival: Read the Capital Weather Gang to know precisely when the cherry blossoms will bloom.

DC Trave Guide

Passport DC: My favorite event in DC. (May)

Washington DC Independence Day FireworksNational ParadeA Capitol Fourth

Capitol concerts

DC JazzFest

Jazz in the Garden (lottery)

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

National Book Festival

Day Trips

Gettysburg: I recommend driving to Gettysburg instead of booking a tour company so you have time to explore the shops in town.

Bears Den: If you like to hike, head about an hour outside of DC to Bears Den in Bluemont, Virginia. Park at the bottom of the hill, and you’ll have a roughly 45-minute hike to a beautiful overlook of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. If you time it right, you’ll have the best sunset view for miles.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Harpers Ferry is close to DC. During the summer, rent tubes from Harpers Ferry Adventure Center and go tubing. Hiking at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a blast, too.

Charlottesville, Virginia: Tour Monticello. Stop by Daedalus Used Bookshop. It has three floors and mazes of used books. The area has many vineyards, including Jefferson’s Monticello and Carter Mountain Orchard. Lamplight Coffee is my favorite coffee shop.

St. Michaels, Maryland: St. Michaels is a quaint historic town with a beautiful harbor, exceptional dining, and shopping.

Baltimore: Take Amtrak or the Marc Train from Union Station to Penn Station in Baltimore. You can transfer to the Baltimore Light Rail. Public Buses pick up outside Penn Station. Take the light rail to the Woodberry station. Head straight to Artifact Coffee for a beverage. From Artifact Coffee, you can walk to the Hampden neighborhood. This is my favorite neighborhood for vintage shopping. Stop by Harmony Bakery before 3 pm (Thursday – Sunday) for a sweet treat. This vegan and gluten-free bakery is fantastic. Take the Baltimore Light Rail from Woodberry to Camden Yards and spend the afternoon exploring the Inner Harbor and museums. For dinner, there are many fabulous restaurants. My go-to is Clavel for authentic Mexican tacos.

I also created a Google Map that reflects all my recommendations, so you can easily access them throughout your travels. You can save the map with your Google account.

Here is a detailed list of all of my recommendations for Baltimore.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Don’t miss a Sight and Sound Theatre show.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: You can take Amtrak from Union Station to downtown Philadelphia. See my Philly Travel Guide.

New York: Take Amtrak or Megabus from Union Station to the city. The train ride is 3 hours and 15 min. The bus ride is 4 hours, depending on traffic.

Show-Score.com is the ultimate resource for Broadway show information. Some of the shows, including Hamilton, offer online lotteries. You are notified via email if you win tickets and have one hour to buy your ticket(s). It’s worth a try for sold-out shows. RUSH tickets are another way to get discounted show tickets. I also use the Today Tix app to buy show tickets.

Getting Around

DC Transportation Website

DC.Circulator: It’s the city’s best transportation deal. It costs $1.00 to ride.

Metro: Download the Metro app for mobile payments. I don’t recommend riding the local bus. I didn’t have any issues with the subway. Check the DC Metro App for closures on the weekends and delays. I used Lyft and Uber as backup if the subway was not operating.

Washington Dulles International Airport: Use Metro’s Silver Line to take you directly to the Washington Dulles International Airport Metrorail Station. The underground path is approximately five minutes from the station to the terminal, with moving sidewalks and escalators to help you on your way.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI): Use the metro to Union Station or walk to Union Station. From Union Station, take the Marc train or Amtrak to BWI airport. The BWI Marc/Amtrak station is not connected to the airport. A free shuttle runs every 10-15 min. for the short ride to the airport.

From BWI, take the free shuttle From BWI to the Marc/Amtrak station on the lower level outside of baggage claim to the Amtrak/Marc Train Station. The free shuttle runs every 10-15 min.

Capital Bikeshare

MARC Train: Ride the MARC train to BWI, Baltimore Penn Station, and other locations from Union Station in DC. Download the Charm Pass App for mobile payments.

Baltimore Light Rail: The BWI Marshall Airport Light Rail Station is located immediately outside the lower level of the terminal building adjacent to Concourse E. You can ride the Light Rail to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and other locations in Baltimore from BWI.

From Union Station in DC, take the Marc Train or Amtrak to Baltimore’s Penn Station. From Penn, connect on the Baltimore Light Rail to your destination. Use the Charm City App for tickets. *Keep up with the train arrival using the live tracker. This is important to check in case the train is delayed.

Amtrak: Download the Amtrak App to pay with your phone. Book early for the best deals.

Baltimore Light Rail: The BWI Marshall Airport Light Rail Station is located immediately outside the lower level of the terminal building adjacent to Concourse E.

Megabus: It’s the cheapest ticket to NYC. Buses leave from Union Station.


Snap DC by Angela Pan: A guide to taking extraordinary photos of the National Mall and beyond.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Including Suburban and Outlying Areas of Maryland and Virginia by Rachel Cooper and Renee Sklarew: A must for anyone that lives in the D.C. area that enjoys hiking.

The Government Geek’s Guide to Resumes


Austin Graff on Instagram for more DC recommendations.

Capital Weather Gang for weather updates.

DC Spot

Emily Goes Places

Secret DC

Architect of the Capitol


DC is very expensive. I took advantage of the fantastic farmer’s markets in the area. Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market is the best one.

If you have a Costco card and Amazon Prime account, this is helpful to save money and have the items delivered to your home. I also saved money at Whole Foods with my Amazon Prime account. Rotisserie chickens are $2 off every Saturday for Prime members. If you have a car, you can drive to Costco or take the metro to Pentagon City and walk to Costco.

Don’t forget to use your own grocery bags. The city charges a bag tax if you do not bring your own grocery bags.

I also recommend preparing your own breakfast and lunch since the food is so expensive and not very good in the area around the mall. Invest in a good coffee pot or espresso machine and save money from going out to get coffee every day. An average latte in the city is $7 with alternative milk. I saved my money for weekend trips or going to a nice restaurant on the weekend.

CVS is overpriced in DC. Pack a first aid kit.

DC Marijuana Laws

DC Mayor Declares Migrant Emergency 

DC  Public Library Card: free

Meet Up

Next Door

Passion City Church 

Join a Buy Nothing group. Find out if your neighborhood has a group by clicking here.

Trader Joe’s: The best time to shop is on weekdays when the store opens. The weekends are jam-packed with long lines, and items sell out.

Aldi: A discount grocery store. I stocked up on avocados and butter here.

Lidl: A discount grocery store.

Organic Butcher: Home delivery is available.

Apple Store: Take advantage of the free classes at this beautiful store.

Washington Magazine: Sign up for the weekly newsletter for event information.

DCist: Sign up for the weekly newsletter for event information.

DC Police Alert: Alert D.C. is the official District of Columbia communications system that sends you the real-time notifications you want.

Golden Triangle: Sign up for the weekly newsletter for event information.

DC Crime Statistics

Metro emergency numbers: Call: 202-962-2121 Text: 696873

Birdie Safety Alarm: When threatened, activate Birdie’s loud siren and flashing strobe light to create a diversion and to help deter an attack.

What to Pack

Travel Safety Tips

What’s in My Carry-on Bag 

How I Plan for a Trip

Apps to Download

DC Metro: DC Public Transit

Charm Pass: Maryland Public Transit // Marc // Baltimore Light Rail // Baltimore Bus


Uber: Ride Share

Lyft: Ride Share


NPS National Mall

Interns / Capitol Hill Staffers

Capitol Ministries

The Girl’s Guide to DC

The Glance: The Glance gives you everything you need to know about politics, pop culture, and more in 60 seconds or less.

From College to Congress


American Moment: Organizes and pays fellows $3000 per month for 12 weeks and places them at an internship on Capitol Hill or in the public policy non-profit sphere in Washington, DC.

Moment of Truth Podcast

Evie Magazine

Personalized Leather ID Lanyard: Slots for credit cards make this the perfect item for travel. Boulevard offers free personalization. 


POPlitis: Pop Culture

Evie Magazine

American Moment: Internship Events

*I also created a Google Map that reflects all my recommendations, so you can easily access them throughout your travels. You can save the map with your Google account.

What are some of your favorite places in DC? Leave your responses in the comment section.


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