text & photography by SHANI SILVER
Wanderlust is real, and sometimes in order to satisfy travel cravings, we have to scale down a bit. I had a theory that a weekend away in DC might satisfy my need to explore, without causing totally counterproductive financial stress, and I was right. Read on for a look at a weekend in DC, some classic tourism, and my new favorite restaurant in the whole wide world.
My first challenge was lodging. I wanted to stay in a place that felt very “DC” to me, though honestly since I’d never been, I wasn’t sure what that meant. I needed to be centrally located, because I love to walk everywhere, and was hoping to find a reasonably priced place that felt a little bit luxe (this was vacation, after all). I chose The Mayflower, and I couldn’t have been happier. Famed for hosting, oh I don’t know, a ton of Inaugural Balls starting with President Calvin Coolidge, the hotel has old school glam for days, with completely updated and modern rooms that couldn’t have been more comfortable. It was perfect location wise, too, allowing me to walk to almost every destination on this list.
Don’t miss the ballrooms, full of history and timeless elegance.
So many people recommended this gallery to me that I couldn’t not go. Housing nine breathtaking, innovative exhibitions, photos simply aren’t enough. My only advice? Go on a weekday if you can. This place is packed on weekends!
Instagram can’t do it justice.
I’ve wanted to see the presidential portraits for as long as I can remember. This being my first trip to DC (I know, I know), I couldn’t miss them–you shouldn’t either. Set aside time to explore various exhibits on display other than the presidential portraits, there’s a lot to see here!
chat with the lovely people at the information desk, they’ll give you the scoop on what you can’t miss!
This is the DC restaurant making ALL the best-of lists in existence, and for good reason. The dish pictured here is without question one of the best things I’ve ever ordered in my LIFE. Lychee, spicy peanuts, pork sausage, and pickled onion. Trust me. One word of advice–get there early. This place has a LINE before it opens, and you’ll want to put your name on the list for the seating of your choice, grab a drink somewhere else, and then enjoy. Or if you’re just a party of two, line up and then grab two seats for dinner at the bar upstairs, which is lovely.
tip: ask your server what to order, and trust them!
You should really go at night. Really. All the monuments are so powerful after dark, but this one in particular is a must. I’m so glad I visited when I did, just make sure you’ve saved enough phone battery for photos by that time of day!
amazing view from the steps. hang out awhile!
If you like, you can contact your state representative to arrange a tour of the White House. I opted to see it from the outside (and stand there and oogle it for awhile), rather than go inside. I won’t lie…it’s pretty cool. You’ll probably walk by it a few times during your stay in DC–or should at make a point to.
barriers in front of the fence often change day-by-day. if you can’t get too close, try again tomorrow!
A short walk from the White House, you’ll find Round Robin Bar inside the Willard Hotel. This place dates back to 1850 (as in, before the Civil War), which makes it basically a must-see in my book. A wonderful pit stop when your feet need a rest, the round (of course) bar is welcoming and cozy. Portraits of famous patrons line the walls for you to enjoy as you sip the bar’s signature mint julep.
if mint juleps aren’t your thing, ask the bartender for another house special.
This was my favorite stop on my trip. I’ll just go ahead and say that. I visited on a weekday and had no trouble wandering from room to room at my leisure.
You’ll happily lose track of time here. Housing paintings and sculptures you typically only see on postcards, each treasure-filled room is more of a visual feast than the one before it.
allow a LOT of time for this one!
A bit “out of the way” if you’re a tourist, Union Market is a very cool space filled with mini-restaurants by way of counters where you can try amazing oysters one minute and pickled everything the next. And then an empanada when you’re done.
Also located in Union Market is Salt & Sundry, a home decor-focused shop where deciding on a purchase is nearly impossible. You’ll want everything. Anyone in the market for a gift will find it here, but beware, buy two. You’ll want to keep one.
save time and uber here–trust me!
The Newseum is exactly what it sounds like: A museum about the news. One of the most informative and well-designed museums I’ve ever visited, this place made me wish I’d been a little kid growing up in DC, touring this place on yearly field trips.
Most of the places I visited in DC had free admission, but the Newseum was worth every penny of the ticket price.
do NOT skip the top floor view of the capitol!
Did you know we have one of these? A giant, stunning glasshouse, the National Botanical Garden was an unexpected stop on my trip, one that I literally made an Uber driver stop in the middle of the road for. Photos can’t do it justice–you must go.
THIS is where you take your selfies, k?
One thing DC is really good at is giving you new life goals. I went to the Library of Congress, which as you can see is one of the most incredible buildings in the city.
I wasn’t able to go into the library itself, only the foyer area outside of it, but watching people research inside from a balcony viewing area let me know I needed to find a reason to research in this spot specifically and get down there, asap.
I saw a couple taking engagement photos here!
I couldn’t not go to the Supreme Court. It’s next door to the Library Of Congress, and is such an epic presence you really can’t miss standing on those stone steps yourself. While I wasn’t able to get very close to the courtroom, I’m still thrilled I went inside. Check out their website before you plan a trip, there are lectures and tours available.
try to attend a lecture!
This is my new favorite restaurant. Period. Brand new and a tough table to get, The Dabney is one of the most delicious experiences I’ve ever had, which is really all you want in a restaurant, but this place adds to the experience by being incredibly cool and well-styled.
Are you seeing those chandeliers? Also one to draw a line, get there early and score a bar seat, or just put your name on the list and enjoy a cocktail by the bar for awhile.
do NOT skip the cornbread.