I have called the District my home for the 3.5 or so years since I graduated from college, and I can say wholeheartedly that I have loved living here. Just like everyone else, I get cranky about the weather “extremes” (the swampy summers and the windy, dull winters) and the traffic, but those are just blips among the many things I enjoy about the city. I will be very sad to leave in December — even though I’ve been planning to leave basically since I arrived — and I really want to be ready to go when the time comes.
To that end, I have — with a little help — come up with a list of the sights I need to see, the meals I need to eat, and the experiences I need to complete before I pack up and drive away. I have had a blast checking these things off in recent weeks. If you’re looking for things to do in D.C., this is a great start. It is by no means an exhaustive list, as it doesn’t take into account things I’ve already done or things that are out of season right now (picnic among the cherry blossom trees, for instance).
The D.C. List
Food Truck Fridays Hike @ Great Falls Hike Old Rag Go apple picking(I went to an apple festival in PA. It counts!) Visit Gettysburg Visit a vineyard(Did yoga in a vineyard followed by a wine and cheese picnic!)
- Screen on the Green and jazz in the Sculpture Garden (Unfortunately, I missed the season for this.)
- Picnic @ Meridian Hill
See the Nats play Attend a D.C. United game Climb to the top of the Old Post Office Mall scavenger hunt Visit the National Geographic museum
- Supreme Court
Wander Eastern Market(and visit the crepe man for breakfast!) See the Library of Congress Visit the U.S. Botanic Gardens Sundays @ Hillwood Estate
- Naval Observatory
- Building Museum
Watch the sun rise at the Lincoln Memorial See the leaves in Rock Creek Park Wander Arlington Cemetery, and see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Scavenger Hunt
Inspired by a post in Traveler, I combined several of my must-do activities to create a National Mall scavenger hunt. I picked a perfectly beautiful fall Sunday, got up early, and worked my way from east to west with stops at various Smithsonian museums and other landmarks you can’t miss if you really do D.C.
Stop #1: View the Gutenberg Bible and the 1507 Waldseemuller map, the first map to mention America, at the Library of Congress.
Stop #2: Wander the U.S. Botanic Gardens.
Stop #3: Visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Have a buffalo burger and Indian fry bread at the Mitisam Cafe.
Stop #4: Touch the billion-year-old moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum.
Stop #5: Channel your inner kid for a ride on the 1920s Smithsonian Carousel.
Stop #6: See the Hope Diamond and observe the butterflies at the National Museum of Natural History.
Stop #7: Take a gelato break at the National Gallery East Wing. I highly recommend the peppermint — it’s all made in-house!
Stop #8: Take in the view at the top of the Old Post Office.
This only got me to 14th St, but I had spent a previous weekend doing a photo workshop on the west end of the Mall and really wanted to get off my feet — this was a lot to take in! There were a lot of great things about doing my sightseeing this way. First, it was efficient. No one loves trekking to the Mall and dodging the tourist crowds more than a few times, and knocking it all out in one day added some excitement and ease to the process. I covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. Second, it took the pressure off to see EVERYTHING. Because I was excited to get to my next stop, I didn’t see every exhibit at every museum. The scavenger hunt list only called out very specific (and often popular) sites, which kept me from even attempting to do more. And last, it gave me a new perspective on places I’d been and took me to others I’d never even considered visiting. For example, I’ve seen everything at Air and Space many times over and spent a whole day at the Natural History Museum last year so I could read every last board for every last exhibit. But I hadn’t prioritized the American Indian Museum, and I’d never been in the Library of Congress. And now I think these are really important stops on any D.C. tour.
Finally, getting out and about in D.C. is so easy, but it’s also easy to take it for granted when you live here. For three years, it was “I’ll do it later” or “I have to go for a run instead” or any number of excuses. This is an incredible city with so much to offer. Don’t let it go to waste.