What would you do on a time crunch in DC?

Hi, all! As part of a family vacation over the holidays, I’ll be in Washington DC for three days. I’ve never been before, so I expect to do the quintessential touristy things, like the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums. Because things like museums tend to be time-consuming, I figure I’ll have one of those days to do other things. So, what should I tuck into my itinerary?

What are your favorite neighborhoods and the must-not-miss restaurants or coffee shops? We’re also art and culture buffs, and would love recommendations for a good bookstore or unique-to-DC shops. What are sites and neighborhoods with little-known histories that would be good for a stroll (winter-weather permitting)?

Also, what would you advise is over-rated for a brief trip to DC?

To cut down on transportation time and maximize our trip, I’d prefer recommendations near the Mall, but of course will consider everything!


I have so so many thoughts on this. Lincoln memorial is the one must see, and Vietnam memorial too. The Frederick Douglass house in anacostia is a nice way to see something cool that’s off the beaten track. Ben’s chili bowl massively overrated. The best bookstore in DC is politics and prose. It is up next to a great coffeeshop, Little Red Fox, and a great and now-notorious pizza place, Comet. The area around Union Market is fantastic for cool new shops and grittiness and amazing restaurants, and Union Market itself is marvelous. Capitol Hill is a lovely neighborhood to stroll in for beautiful houses. Another good walk is going west on Massachusetts Ave from Dupont Circle. You will pass dozens of wonderful Embassy Buildings, and eventually reach the Vice President’s House. If you get to the Finnish embassy and it’s open, drop in for a visit and to see whatever weird Finnish art is on display


Hey @allisonkc, in addition to David’s comment, give Busboys and Poets a try at 450 K St, NW, DC. It’s a bookstore and restaurant that’s approximately a 15-20 minute walk north of the National Mall. It’s a popular spot for DC creatives to gather for a coffee or quick bite.

If you’re into it, take a look at ARTECHOUSE, an exhibition space that showcases immersive audiovisual experiences and has an AR bar. This is south of the Mall, close to the The Wharf, which is a popular new development in the city with some amazing music venues.

For walkable neighborhoods with cool shops and places to eat, I’d recommend Logan Circle and Dupont Circle. In Dupont Circle you can check out Shop Made In DC, where everything in the store is made from local creators. There’s also a lot of cool historical and cultural locations in the neighborhood to check out, like The Mansion on O Street (an Atlas Obscura fave), Woodrow Wilson House, The Philips Collection, and Dupont Underground (I’d check availability and what exhibitions are showing before going to this one).

Enjoy DC! It’s an amazing city with something to offer for everyone in your family!

1 Like

I agree with all of the above.

I’d also add Adams Morgan and Mount Pleasant as a couple of other scenic neighborhoods that are good for leisurely strolls, with a handful of fine restaurants in each.

There are also a couple of decent bookstores in Dupont Circle — Kramberbooks (new) and Second Story (used).

The National Arboretum is a beautiful, amazing place. But it’s a little ways from the National Mall, so probably only recommended if you have a car.

Anyway, enjoy!

1 Like

Lots of great recommendations here already, but wanted to throw in a few more!

If you do head up to check out Adams Morgan or Mount Pleasant, be sure to stop by Elle, one of my favorite bakeries in DC. Meridian Hill Park is also nearby—the fountain won’t be on around that time of year, but it’s a beautiful park to walk around with a lovely view of the city.

Lincoln and Washington Monuments are iconic—the sunrise view from the steps of Lincoln is beautiful if you don’t mind the early wake up call. And there are also a few less obvious monuments on the Mall worth a visit. The Albert Einstein Memorial and the District of Columbia War Memorial are a few of my personal favorites. The Botanic Garden is on the other end of the Mall, next to the Capitol, and it’s a great respite from cold weather.


I live on Capitol Hill, a short walk from the Mall. If you’re here on a weekend, visit Eastern Market. It’s an old restored marketplace that has a wonderful cheese stall and a breakfast-and-lunch counter called The Market Lunch. The lines there can be quite long, so another option is going across the street to Tortilla Cafe for first-rate Salvadoran pupusas. On weekends outside is a large flea market with lots of antiques and crafts. The neighborhood also has multiple cool stores, including Capitol Hill Books, an excellent used bookstore. East City Books, which sells new books, isn’t far away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Down Eighth Street is Barracks Row, full of terrific places to eat. Finally, directly across the market and upstairs from the Acqua Al 2 restaurant is a speakeasy (unmarked doors) called Harold Black that’s a wonderful getaway with excellent bartenders.

1 Like

If you need a quiet afternoon, the National Zoo is nice. It’s not San Diego, but it does have pandas. And it’s free and on the metro red line.

The view from the old post office is great, and if you don’t want to do the stairs, there’s an elevator.

The 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon is beautiful. Arlington is solemn and you’ll want to see the changing of the guards.

For dinner, I like theIron Gate Inn.

The nice thing about DC is that it’s constantly changing. You can visit a hundred times and not run out of places to see and things to do.

1 Like

I enjoyed Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was shot. The Holocaust Museum, The Viet Nam Memorial because I knew someone whose name is on it. The Capital Building, The Supreme Court Building. You can visit your congress person’s office. The Old Post Office. The National Archives if you are into genealogy…

1 Like

The Smithsonian is not a one day experience, being its actually a series of museums. Personally, I could not get through it in a week, but I’m a museum buff. If you know you’re only really going to want to do Air & Space, or Natural History, you could do one of those in a day, but arrgh, how do you choose? (And the National Zoo…) Arrrgh.

1 Like

For museums and historical art, I’d recommend the National Portrait Gallery. Continuing with history, there is the Spy Museum and National Archives. The Newseum is scheduled to go out of business soon, so if there is interest in seeing old news, you must hurry. The Circulator bus does carry a person all over the downtown area and I think it is $1 or free.

1 Like

Packages keep you update about all telecom companies packages.
You can find the packages of all companies with full detail and activation code.
Mobile Packages