Help me have a nice day trip with my girlfriend in DC!
October 3, 2011 6:49 PM   Subscribe

What should my girlfriend and I do on a day trip to Washington DC? We're willing to do a mix of touristy and not-touristy things, so suggest whatever's fun or interesting!

This weekend, my girlfriend and I are taking a college-subsidized trip to Washington DC from about 9 AM to 6 PM on Saturday. What's good to do in DC in that timeframe?

I'm not clear on all the details, such as where exactly we will be dropped off, at the moment, but I'll update later when I get more info on the trip.

We're both pretty unfamiliar with the city. I've been to the Air and Space museum a long time ago (I was 10 or 11, I think), and the Holocaust museum relatively recently, and I was at the Rally to Restore Sanity on a tight schedule, but I've not really had free run of the city like this trip offers.

But we don't just want to do touristy things like visiting the monuments. What else is good to visit there in our short timeframe? My girlfriend is 20, so we can't really visit bars without a dining area, but otherwise, any interesting restaurant that isn't too expensive (>$25 a person) is a welcome suggestion.
posted by mccarty.tim to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It's been years since I lived in D.C., but I would say definitely pick one of the Smithsonian museums to check out (there are many, and there's no way you could see most of them in one day unless you run), and go to an Ethiopian restaurant.
posted by sugarbomb at 7:01 PM on October 3, 2011

My question about what to do in DC with a younger relative may be somewhat relevant here.

A word of caution: we're experiencing a bizarre, unseasonable cold snap here, although it should right itself by this weekend.
posted by Nomyte at 7:12 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a taco or cemita at Super Tacos & Bakery or a falafel/shawarma with the works at Old City Cafe and head southeast to the south end of Meridian Hill Park to look down over the city. If it's not too late in the season, there will be different types of Central American food for sale at at the little triangle at the south side of Biltmore and Columbia NW and you should definitely try that on your walk.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:19 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Argh. Not "a taco". One taco is not enough. Many tacos. But the horchata sold at the triangle park is far superior than Super Tacos' version.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:22 PM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: The American History Museum was unexpectedly awesome. Turns out to have been my favorite. Go and spend too much time in Julia Child's kitchen!
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:39 PM on October 3, 2011

I'm a fan of the National Building Museum, which is a bit off the beaten path for museums, since it's not on the Mall, but totally worth the trip. For food, I like the tapas place Jaleo, which can be done on the cheap.
posted by booksherpa at 7:40 PM on October 3, 2011

Try this Civil War walking tour.

Go to Eastern Market for a crab cake or fried oysters for lunch, or blueberry buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. If it is a weekend, be prepared to wait.

You could use Capital Bikeshare and ride around the Mall and along the river.

You could go to Martin's Tavern in Georgetown and sit in the "Proposal Booth" where JFK proposed to Jackie. There's a "Nixon" booth as well. Then walk up to the 1500 block of Wisconsin to Dolcezza Gelato, and if you are lucky they will have vodka cucumber mint available.
posted by jgirl at 7:47 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always thought a cool way to really see a mix of residential and commercial parts of DC is by getting off the Cleveland Park metro stop and hitting the zoo, then walking down Connecticut Ave to Dupont Circle where you can stroll around and hit whatever shops or cafe's strike your interest.

The walk from Cleveland Park to Dupont is about 2 or so miles and I personally think it's just a great way to see that part of NW DC, a lot of beautiful expensive old homes and apartment buildings. It can take like a 2 or 4 hour chunk of the day depending on how long you hang at the zoo, where you decide to stop, get lunch, chill at the circle and people watch, whatever.

If you're over museums, this is "the walk" I always recommend to people who really want to just get a feel for a nice part of the city.
posted by windbox at 7:55 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always recommend the National Building Museum, but now that I see it's already been recommended ... maybe it's not quite as off-the-beaten-path as I thought. You should still go, though. Take the tour.

If the weather is crummy, go to the National Arboretum.

I used to go to the Building Museum back before they sold out, man. Their early stuff was so much better. *sips PBR*
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:14 PM on October 3, 2011

I loved The International Spy Museum. Lots and lots of the exhibits are interactive, and there's even an air duct you can crawl through to spy on the visitors below!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:20 PM on October 3, 2011

Warning: the duct is filled with small children.
posted by Nomyte at 8:26 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mitsitam Cafe in the Museum of the American Indian. Museum itself needs some work, but the cafe is awesome. Pricey, but I thought well worth it. Make sure you go into the food area itself and look around; the cafeteria-style setup fools many.
posted by oflinkey at 9:04 PM on October 3, 2011

I think I asked a similar question before and was recommended Ben's Chili Bowl, which is fun.
posted by cabingirl at 9:21 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed the National Portrait Gallery the last time I was in DC.
posted by hwickline at 9:57 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you plan on doing Ben's Chili Bowl, make sure they're gonna be open; they're closed right now for some construction work, I believe.

Building Museum has a lego exhibit (not free, but fun).

I've always heard that the Crime and Punishment museum is better than the Spy Museum (though I've only been to the latter); YMMV.

Check the Going Out section to see if there's any good events this Saturday. Pretty sure "Taste of DC" is going on, though I don't know details off the top of my head.
posted by inigo2 at 4:22 AM on October 4, 2011

Best answer: My suggestions definitely can't all be done in one day, but if I were passing through DC, then at least one these stops would make my trip memorable. What's key is that these are all accessible for people that are new to the city and need to stick near Metro stops.

If you're going to be in the Dupont area, I'd recommend the following a stop at one of the following places:

A beautiful Victorian home in the architectural style of "Richardsonian Romanesque" that was very popular in DC in the 19th century:

A walk through the O Street Mansion. A very cool hotel with themed rooms and trap doors:

The Tabard Inn for a coffee or lunch. Supposedly the oldest-running hotel in DC and with a great lobby/restaurant. Dinner is pricey, but the lunch is reasonable and amazing. If you're on a tight budget, split a meal and you'll still be full:

If you're looking to explore other areas, I recommend the following:

If you're really looking to go to a side of DC that is off the beaten path, but still Metro accessible, this is one of my favorite places in DC and it's very unusual. Dozens and dozens of shrines to the Virgin Mary replicated. It's off the Red Line metro at the Catholic University stop:

If you're going to be near the Lincoln/FDR memorials, then walk the extra mile to Hains Point and watch the planes take off and land across the Potomac. This place is always pretty empty and it's a great area to sit on the grass and relax:
posted by Cwell at 6:59 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've always heard that the Crime and Punishment museum is better than the Spy Museum
No. No no no no no. Crime and Punishment is the poor-man's Spy Museum, full of misspelled placards and lame replicas. Fulsome Prison? Not the car that Bonnie and Clyde were shot in, not the car that was in Bonnie and Clyde, but a replica of the car that was in Bonnie and Clyde? Lame.

I'm not really a museum person, and I'm certainly not a fan of museums that I have to pay for, but I loved the Spy Museum, stayed until I was too tired to go on. I, at 6'5" and 250 pounds, crawled through that air duct. Way fun.

windbox's walk is a good idea. I did it in the opposite direction as a tourist years ago, and it was pretty much what convinced me to move to DC. Wear good shoes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:01 AM on October 4, 2011

I think the diamond in the rough of DC museums is The Renwick, just down the street from the White House. Rarely crowded, always interesting and fun, way less imposing than the others (though it is small).

Ben's chili bowl is okay... as far as other places that DC people go more often, Tryst Coffeehouse or Busboys & Poets.
posted by tmcw at 9:26 AM on October 4, 2011

Whatever you do, walk. It's going to be a gorgeous weekend and walking allows you to really see the sites (meaning not the Mall).

Metro to Woodley Park, south to Calvert, east to 18th and walk south.
Somewhere around Mass Avenue, head east and zigzag your way towards Union Staion.
Walk around the Capitol and other buildings for the insane before heading east again and south to Eastern Market.

People watch. Eat a little something when you feel the need or see a place that isn't a chain.

And the NEXT time you come and if the weather's crap, do the museums 'cuz you'll not see them effectively in the time you have allowed.

Enjoy your stay. It's a great town.
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:37 AM on October 4, 2011

Also, there's a bunch of metro work being done (Columbia Heights, Shaw and U St stations are all closed, among other things) so pay attention to that if you decide you want to take the metro somewhere.
posted by inigo2 at 10:09 AM on October 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for suggestions, everyone! We went to the American History Smithsonian museum, and ate lunch at the Hotel Tubard Inn with some friends who happened to be in the MD area. The museum was awesome, and the Hotel Tabard Inn's food was incredibly good. The menu was short for brunch, but near impossible to choose just one dish from.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:42 AM on October 9, 2011

Response by poster: BTW, the other suggestions are now on the shortlist for next time we visit. Thanks!
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:43 AM on October 9, 2011

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