We’re posting some of our favorite things to see and do in DC, but there are hundreds of things to do in the nation’s capital. Destination DC is the Visitors’ Bureau; you can find loads of travel and activity information here. Cultural Tourism DC strives for “experiences that are authentic to Washington.” Take a walking tour of historic neighborhoods or find some kid-friendly activities. And of course, DC has more than its fair share of historic buildings. Check out the guide to the local National Register of Historic Places.
Chinatown (also known as “Chinablock” in local lingo) and Penn Quarter are full of inexpensive chains you already know. Here are some of our favorite local cheap eats in the neighborhood. From the hotel, it is a 10-15 walk, or two stops on the Red Line.
Chinatown Express is known for its dumplings and fresh noodles; you can see them being made in the front window. To call it a hole-in-the-wall is generous, but the aforementioned items and accompanying green sauce are more than worth the $6. We’ve never tried the rest of the menu and have heard mixed reviews. If we’re in the mood for a full Chinese meal, we usually head to Eat First (also lacking in ambience). If you’re feeling adventurous, order off the specials listed on poster board.
For sandwiches, try Taylor Gourmet (apologies for their terrible website). They serve Philadelphia style hoagies made with fresh ingredients. The closest to Union Station is at 5th & K, in the City Vista complex. The 12″ sandwich is large enough for two.
If you’re in Adams Morgan, our favorite spot is Amsterdam Falafel. It’s known for its french fries (which are terrific, and large enough to share), and the extensive salad/toppings bar. Pro tip: pull out one or two balls of falafel, add toppings, and then return the removed falafel and top again.
Old Ebbitt is “Washington’s oldest, most historic saloon.” It is one of our go-to places for out-of-town guests; we took each set of parents here when we started dating. It is just around the corner from the White House; we watched the 2008 Presidential Election returns here. We’ve been told the breakfast is excellent (thanks, Mary Ann & Gus!). Our favorite time to visit is late at night for the half-price raw bar during Oyster Happy Hour. Closer to the hotel is Clyde’s, owned by the same company. The menus are very similar – a wide range from sandwiches & burgers to raw bar & steaks. They are both good with kids, too.
These two are not under the radar like the National Building Musuem, but they do require some planning.
For the White House: Requests must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress (or your embassy in Washington, DC if you are a foreign citizen). Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. You are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible as a limited number of spaces are available. If you can’t book a tour, you should at least take a walk through President’s Park for some classic DC photo opps.
For the US Capitol: The Capitol Visitor’s Center is relatively new. It opened in 2008, and simply requires a timed ticket. This tour includes the Crypt of the Capitol, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. Statuary Hall showcases some of a collection of two statues from each state, donated by their respective state to honor notable residents. To visit the Senate and House galleries, you must obtain gallery passes from the offices of your Senators or Representative.
Speaking of congressional representation, did you know that citizens of the District of Columbia have no voting rights in Congress? That is why our license plates boast the slogan “Taxation without Representaion.”
The National Building Museum is one of the under-appreciated gems of DC and one of our favorite places in the city. Built in 1887, it originally served as the Pension Office. The Great Hall, with 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns, always hosts one of the Presidential Inaugural Balls – and is a great place for kids to run around on a gloomy day. Outside, the building is circled with a 1,200-foot terra cotta frieze depicting the Civil War. The building itself is worth a visit, but the exhibits are also excellent. Ongoing exhibits include Washington: Symbol and City and, for kids, the Building Zone. We’re not sure how to feel about the exhibit opening the month of our wedding: Designing for Disaster. Where’s the love, NBM? (photo: National Building Museum)