Excited to head to DC this weekend. Do any travel bloggers have tips/tricks/places I need to know?
Giving tourist advice about your home town can be hard, at least it is for me, I’m not a tourist in DC — I live here. I’ve shown visitors around, for sure, and set up tours of the Capitol and whatnot. But it’s also easy to let the attractions blend into the background.
So I had to give this a little bit of thought.
- Go to the Spy Museum. Just go.
- The rest of the museums are great, the Smithsonian unfortunately only displays something like 1% of its collection. You can’t miss Air and Space, or Museum of Natural History. The Newseum is worth seeing, and the Holocaust Museum is important. Get your tickets for that one in advance.
- You’ll see the Washington monument, but it’s just a big structure and it looks the same as it does in pictures. Is it really that special? I’ve lived here long enough to see it wrapped in scaffolding for renovation twice.
- But DC isn’t what it used to be, it’s so much lamer in the post-9/11 world. You can’t drink on the National Mall anymore. No more setting up on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial at midnight with a nice bottle of wine. Now you can’t even dance at the Jefferson Memorial.
- If you want the best food the area has to offer you need to spend real dollars or get out of the city and into Northern Virginia.
Downtown I like Del Campo a lot right now ($$$$) and try Rasika West End. There’s plenty of decent food, but not a lot that’s better than you can get in other major cities. Hill Country Barbecue isn’t Central Texas barbecue and it isn’t even New York’s rendition of Central Texas barbecue. Ben’s Chili Bowl is famous but it isn’t very good.
But go to Elephant Jumps for Thai food in Merrifield, I don’t know of a better Thai restaurant in the United States. Have the Hung Lay curry, and just about anything they’re offering on special. Go to the Eden Center (anywhere at the Eden Center!) for Vietnamese. Kogiya in Annandale is great Korean barbecue, though you won’t see what the fuss is if you’re coming from Los Angeles. The best pizza in town is Pupatella in Arlington.
DC has a good metro system, you’ll get around by subway. Avoid the red line if you are keeping to a schedule, it always seems to break down the most. When I first came to DC the advice I was given (as a pretty white bread kid moving here from California) was to avoid the Green Line but that really no longer holds, the city’s experienced tons of gentrification since then.
You want to fly into National airport. No one actually calls it Reagan. Baltimore isn’t Washington and Dulles will be connected to the city by metro in several years and billions of dollars. For now we have only one airport here.
In DC we’re proud of the Kennedy Center, and it’s a nice building with great views, but DC theater can’t compare to New York. At least we don’t have The Lion King.
What should someone coming to visit DC for the first time do? What’s not to be missed in my home town?