January 7, 2009 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan out things to do in DC on Friday(s).

I will be taking the train into DC every Friday for the next few weeks, just to walk around and enjoy myself. I'll be there all day, from about 7 or 8 AM to about 6 or 7 PM, with no obligations (and no car, so everything has to be walking distance from the metro).

So please suggest items to fill one or more of the following slots in my day:

Early morning breakfast
Early morning activity
Afternoon activity (or two)

I have an okay digital camera, and I hope to bring it and a tripod along for at least one day, so suggestions on interesting places to photograph would be great as well.

posted by Nonce to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The grounds of the National Zoo are open from 6am. I live in the area and think that early weekday morning is the best time to take a stroll through the zoo. The animals are more active and there are no crowds. For breakfast, try the Open City Cafe around the corner from the Woodley Park/Zoo metro. Great coffee, good food and it shouldn't be crowded at all on Friday mornings. This is all on the red line, so you can go straight from Union Station.
posted by kjars at 2:42 AM on January 8, 2009

This blog will have some good suggestions. You'll probably need to look through a bunch of old posts to get familiar with the features that usually contain the info you want.
posted by hellogoodbye at 3:05 AM on January 8, 2009

Seconding the zoo as well as all the other free Smithsonian museums. Air + Space, Natural History and American History are usually swamped with tourists and kids, but the National Gallery of Art, the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Botanical Gardens are a bit better. Those are all within walking distance of the Archives, Smithsonian and Federal Center metro stops, respectively.
posted by DLWM at 4:06 AM on January 8, 2009

Fridays aren't really good for Celebrity/Congress watching on the Hill, but you might try a breakfast of Freedom Toast at the Senate or House cafeterias at some point. By lunch many of the Congress critters will have fled to their constituencies/golf courses/palacial mansions in warm places, but breakfast is a good time to be around. You could then stroll down to the Botanical gardens, then on for lunch at the American Indian museum which has interesting Native American foods, then tour the museum for the afternoon, or wander next door to Air and Space if you want more of a Manifest-Destiny-of-White-Men type feel to contrast.

So that's pretty much got one covered. The zoo is good for a morning as suggested above. People watching/shopping/gnoshing in DuPont is good for an afternoon, you could roll those together for a day that's nice.

For a grey, dreary Washington winter day, skip breakfast, visit the Korean War memorial (best viewed on miserable days I feel), and then head to the Holocaust museum hungry and cold. Then have a nice lunch downtown and head to the American History museum to cleanse and celebrate the uplifting sides of life as an American and watch happy and excited children having fun.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:23 AM on January 8, 2009

Thirding the zoo. Being there early is great because the crowds will be smaller and you might be able to catch animal feedings. Great for photo ops.
posted by geeky at 6:42 AM on January 8, 2009

The Smithsonian should keep you plenty busy for several Fridays. There are a lot of expensive/fancy food options nearby in Penn Quarter but for less expensive breakfast and lunch I like Teaism.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:58 AM on January 8, 2009

if you're going to the smithsonians, the cafeteria in the national museum of the american indian is superb for lunch . the bookstore politics and prose (on connecticut ave.) is also a fun place to browse .
posted by hellogoodbye at 8:03 AM on January 8, 2009

Response by poster: Great so far. Early morning zoo sounds perfect, and while I've been to most of the Smithsonian stuff, I've never been to the botanical gardens. Also, politico stalking may be fun.
posted by Nonce at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2009

You must go to...

- Afterwords Cafe for breakfast/ brunch. It's this amazingly delicious cafe in Dupont Circle that's attached to Kramer Books, an independent bookstore that is just packed with books. I could spend hours in there.

- During the winter, DC sets up an ice skating rink right on the mall. I think it's by the National Gallery. But it's just such a cool way to spend the day, ice skating in circles while looking at the top of the Capital and Washington Monument and all these other historic buildings.

- I definitely recommend the National Gallery of Art. They have a pretty big, permanent Impressionist Collection with tons of Monets and Cassatts and such. The building itself is amazing. It has a huge vaulted ceiling that must be 5 stories above the floor with huge marble columns. It's just completely breathtaking.

- the Brickskeller in Dupont Circle is a bar that has over 1000 different kinds of beer. Yes, one thousand. It's just about overwhelming.

- One more Dupont Circle place... The Odeon Cafe is just so good. It's traditional Italian food but the atmosphere is just so warm and cozy. Just go.

- Also one more tip: avoid the Smithsonian Metro stop on weekends at all costs. It's completely swamped with tourists seeing all the museums. Walk a couple blocks down and pick up the yellow/green line.

Hope that helps. Good luck!
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2009

You can't set up your tripod in front of the Capital or White House. I've seen signs saying such, and there are police are around to enforce. I'm assuming it's for safety reasons... camera tripod could look like a sniper tripod.
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 9:36 AM on January 8, 2009

Come visit me at work. I'll show you around. Email for details.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:44 AM on January 8, 2009

Early morning breakfast: Dos Gringos (Mount Pleasant - an easy walk from the Columbia Heights Metro, and to the National Zoo if you're heading over there), M.E. Swing (a few blocks from Farragut West Metro - excellent, locally roasted coffee, with a small donut/pastry selection), Pete's Diner (Capitol South Metro, near the Capitol and Library of Congress - food is decent, it's inexpensive and friendly, and you'll see the real-neighborhood side of Capitol Hill that's easily overlooked), Market Lunch (better for breakfast - walk through the market, then go across the street and see how the restoration of their old building is going. Hit Capitol Hill Books if they're open. Eastern Market Metro). If you find yourself in Georgetown, Patisserie Poupon has really, really good coffee.

Lunch: Breadline (Farragut West Metro - delicious sandwiches from the best bakery in D.C.), Adams Express (Mount Pleasant, a good post-Zoo stop), C.F. Folks (great food, friendly people, quick walk from Dupont Circle Metro), Greek Deli and Catering (if it's warm enough to eat outside - even close! - this is well-worth the trip. Cheap and very, very good but take-out only. Farragut North Metro).

If you're in Georgetown and enjoy a mid-afternoon beer on your days off, hit Martin's Tavern. High-quality comfort food and Dogfish Head on tap :)

Afternoon activity (or two): U.S. Botanic Garden (a lush, tropical oasis on the Hill), National Building Museum (Their Washington: Symbol and City exhibit is great, and this is one of the most beautiful public spaces in D.C.), Folger Shakespeare Library (their Breaking News exhibit is not-to-be-missed), Department of the Interior Museum (a chronically-overlooked and very interesting collection of historical detritus from the DOI's colorful, occasionally horrifying, history), Congressional Cemetery (an easy walk from the Potomac Avenue Metro, highly recommended if the weather is decent. Click on the "tours" link on their page for self-guided walking tours).

The Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home offers interesting tours (it's a short bus ride from the Georgia Avenue Metro. The beautiful Rock Creek Cemetery and the Adams Memorial are also within walking distance), and the Library of Congress' Jefferson Building lives up to the hype and has some interesting exhibits up at the moment. Keep the inauguration closings in mind.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second the Teaism suggestion. They have breakfast and lunch and the on by Archives/Navy Memorial is near the Mall.

I work at the Smithsonian and I wouldn't worry about using that stop on Fridays. It is fine.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

To follow up on ryanshepherd's post, I'd hit Jimmy Ts on East Capitol and 5th on Capitol Hill for a great breakfast in a great small, old diner. It's right near the Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and Folger Shakespeare Theater for great photography. And the people at the diner are the types of people who can give you good advice about where to go. Local cops, firemen, bigwigs, area historians, etc.
posted by bunnie at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2009

oh, Afterwords Cafe food is not good! :( the Brickskeller was closed over the holidays and are out of a lot of kinds of beer right now unfortunately.

However Patisserie Poupon has fantastic pastries/desserts and sandwiches and coffee. Not cheap but completely delicious.

Definitely go to Breadline.

I recommend spending some time around U Street, you can try walking down U from the metro, eventually going for a walk up 16th St from U St to Columbia Heights, through Malcolm X Park aka Meridian Hill Park, it's beautiful. Busboys and Poets is a neat bookstore/bar/cafe on 14th and U. There are Ethiopian restaurants on U St as well, Dukem and Etete are right near each other around 9th and U, and I recommend either one - lots of Ethiopian food in DC and not a lot of other cities have that.

Oh and you should def go to Ben's Chili Bowl @ 13th and U St, I guess a half smoke is the real DC thing, also the chili itself is good, or the chili cheese fries (and they have vegan chili as well). Around 16th and U you'll also find CakeLove on one side of the street, and Love Café (same owner) across it - CakeLove is a DC business that is pretty popular for cupcakes especially.. they're very rich though.. maybe worth a sample. At 18th and U you'll be at the foot of Adams Morgan which can also be nice to walk through, it is pretty ridiculous at night but very calm and quiet during the day.
posted by citron at 6:46 PM on January 8, 2009

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