Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to DC Safely During COVID-19

Life in general, not to mention traveling, looks pretty different right now. But there’s plenty of ways to enjoy DC in this new environment, whether you’re visiting from out of town or seeking a staycation and finding adventure closer to home these days. Important note: DC has mandated masks for everyone when outside. Remember to always be mindful of local travel and health advisories whenever traveling, especially now!

Choose a reputable, clean hotel. Go for one that has a backyard space or patio and a kitchenette if possible so that you can eat at least some meals (including take out!) at your “home base” and minimize exposure at restaurants for every single meal. Think beyond traditional hotels too, like bed and breakfasts. We enjoyed our recent stay at The Avery Georgetown, a local bed and breakfast, to celebrate our anniversary and rented a room with its own private backyard. We were super impressed with their cleaning standards.

  • The Avery Georgetown Bed & Breakfast
  • The LINE, DC
  • Hotel Hive
  • Yours Truly, DC
  • Kimpton Hotel Monaco
  • Riggs Hotel

Avoid public transit, if possible. Pack your best pair of tennis shoes and get those steps in! Or if you need to cover more ground efficiently, try renting a bike through Capital Bikeshare, Revel electric moped sharing, an electric sharing scooter, or a car sharing app (we’ve been impressed with the cleanliness of our limited recent experiences with Lyft and Uber) — just bring wipes and sanitizer to wipe it down.

Plan out your activities ahead of time. Museums and other attractions have started to reopen with new health and safety measures in place, like timed reservations. Plus there are plenty of outdoor-focused activities you can still enjoy!

  • The National Mall and monuments: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WWII, Smithsonian Castle, Capitol Building exterior, etc.
  • Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Timed entry for free tickets and limited capacity. Some indoor exhibits remain closed.
  • Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden – The sculpture garden is now open, while the museum remains closed.
  • Tudor Place gardens – Beautiful free gardens at a historic Georgetown manor that sits on 5.5 acres. Requires timed entry tickets, and donations are suggested. The museum portion of the house remains closed and has virtual programming available.
  • Glenstone Museum – Reopened offering visitors an outdoor-only experience. Tickets must be reserved in advance and are released two weeks in advance on Mondays at 10 a.m.
  • The National Cathedral – While the Cathedral is currently closed to visitors, you can still experience the beautiful gardens and building exterior.
  • United States National Arboretum – The Arboretum has reopened on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-5 pm and will limit the number of guests with some areas currently closed.
  • Heurich House aka The Brewmaster’s Castle – The Castle Garden is now open to the public during the day and Thursdays evenings in the summer at their socially distanced happy hour, selling beers and wine on-site. You can also pick up some Senate Beer to-go – the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. Senate Beer brand was popularized in the 1890s and and has been recently recreated and produced by a local brewery in partnership! From personal experience, this lager is tasty!!
  • Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – Visitors may visit the JFK Memorial bust in the grand foyer if they follow safety procedures. The outdoor campus at THE REACH is accessible, including pop-up wine garden and cafe Victura Park Friday-Sunday all summer long.
  • Bike or run the C&O Canal – The trail connects in Georgetown near the waterfront and continues east for hundreds of miles, but you’ll only need to go a few miles to see some historic lockhouses, which are available for rent (open with new protocols).
  • Artechouse – This art + tech exhibition hall is such a unique experience and rotates seasonally. Admission is limited and a timed ticket is required; AR Bar remains closed (see above note about virtual drinks via Colada Shop).
  • Explore DC virtually – Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and others have launched some cool virtual events.

When dining, go for patios over indoor seating. DC has plenty of fantastic rooftops and patios for drinks and dining and has even expanded several parts of the city into “streeteries,” converting roads into expanded patios to keep patrons safe.

Restaurants:

  • Union Market – Grab a spot on the benches outside after choosing from the several dining options, plus there’s a rooftop patio.
  • Boulangerie Christophe – A hidden patio in the back transports you to France and is perfect for brunch or lunch with pastries that are incredible.
  • Zorba’s Cafe – Longtime Dupont Greek restaurant with the most charming patio that has been extended to the streetery outside its doors on 20th St NW.
  • Mission – This popular Tex-Mex spot slings up great queso, margs, and mains. It can get pretty busy, so recommend visiting around non-peak hours.
  • Floriana – Arguably the best Italian food in DC, Floriana has fully embraced the patio set up that is perfect for a romantic night out.
  • Rakuya – Enjoy their delicious sushi and take advantage of lounging at their spacious streetery located on 19th St NW.
  • Le Diplomat – One of DC’s finest and most popular French establishments with a beautiful outdoor patio and big open windows. Save room for their bread basket (yep, it is actually worth the calories), oysters, and wine.
  • Founding Farmers – any location!
  • Il Canale – This restaurant and the surrounding restaurants have transformed this quite side street into a fully expanded patio!

Bars:

  • L’Annexe – Fantastic Georgetown cocktail lounge (now with an expanded patio) with creative and delicious drinks.
  • Lulu’s Winegarden – Cute urban oasis that transports you to Morocco, with two lush garden patios, reimagined dinner party fare, and a fun and affordable under-$50 wine list.
  • Residents Cafe & Bar – Great little jungle oasis in the heart of Dupont. Make reservations in advance and be mindful of their current minimum spend $.
  • Colada Shop – Awesome Cuban-inspired coffee and drinks with rooftops and patios. Locations on 14th St and the Wharf.
  • Rooftop at Riggs – Sophisticated rooftop bar offering panoramic views of Penn Quarter and Mediterranean inspired aperitifs.
  • Kennedy Center’s The REACH Outdoor campus – see note above.

There’s so many places to visit near DC as well!

  • Alexandria, VA – Old Town
  • Great Falls Park
  • St. Michael’s, MD
  • Fredericksburg, VA
  • Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Tons of nearby wineries in Virginia and Maryland
  • Historic battlefields

A Local’s Guide to Visiting the Washington, DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossom season in Washington, DC is a much anticipated time in the nation’s capital signifying the start of spring. The cherry blossoms are one of the biggest tourist attraction to the nation’s capital with over 1.5 million visitors.

Every year, the National Park Service predicts the much anticipated “peak bloom,” which is the period when 70% of cherry blossoms flower along the Tidal Basin. NPS has updated information for the latest. Peak bloom varies annually depending on weather conditions. The most likely time to reach peak bloom is between the last week of March and the first week of April, but if you visit DC outside this time frame, you may still catch sight of blossoms around the city. With self-guided walks to admire the blossoms up close plus lots of related events throughout the capital, cherry blossom season in DC will be sure to capture your heart.

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Planning Ahead & Getting to the Blossoms

When it comes to one of the busiest times of years in DC, earlier is typically better (booking accommodations, visiting in the early morning, etc.). Plan accordingly!

The highest concentration of cherry blossom trees is along the Tidal Basin, which is a narrow path on the National Mall near the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Given the high volume of tourists, walking is the least stressful if it is an option. Metro to the Smithsonian (blue/silver/orange lines) or L’Enfant (blue/silver/orange & green/yellow lines) stations or bus to West Basin Drive near Independence Avenue SW. Enter the Tidal Basin area path from anywhere. Keep in mind that the area by the MLK Memorial is typically the most crowded. Equally beautiful spots can be found on the opposite side of the basin near the Jefferson Memorial.

If you want to take a break from walking, hop in a paddle boat from Tidal Basin Paddle Boats (1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024) — see photo bombers in background below.

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Steph&Brandon(11of30)

Cherry Blossom Activities

The Cherry Blossom Festival is March 20 – April 12, 2020 and is full of events that honor both American and Japanese cultures. Highlights of the festival include the Blossom Kite Festival, which sees hundreds of kites take to the sky on the National Mall, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and Petalpalooza.

In addition to the official festival, there are lots of other special events and drink and food specials around town to celebrate. One of our favorite cherry blossom related experiences is the seasonal exhibit at Artechouse, an art space displaying interactive technology. Bonus: sip on a creatively themed drink at their augmented reality bar. Restaurants and bars will also be getting in on the fun with themed food, drinks, and decor.

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Etiquette

DO NOT TOUCH THE BLOSSOMS. Really, please don’t. The flowers are very delicate and only last for a short time. The blooms die a lot faster when people touch them. You may see others touching the blossoms or branches, but please be respectful and do not touch so that others can continue to enjoy. OK, we’re done.

It will be crowded throughout the city and especially near the cherry blossom trees, so be courteous and mindful as you snap photos away to your heart’s content!

Fun facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms

  • The first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft. Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
  • First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park. Many First Ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, have officially commemorated the blossoms. On March 27, 2012, Michelle Obama took up the cause by planting a cherry tree to mark the centennial of the blossoms.
  • One of the earliest recorded peak blooms occurred on March 15, 1990, while the latest recorded peak bloom occurred on April 18, 1958.
  • The majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety. But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.

Tell us what you think? Any other questions about the DC Cherry Blossom Festival or visiting DC in general? Leave us a comment!

How to Do DC Restaurant Week Right

Washington, DC is known for its monuments and powerful figures who call the District home, but did you know that DC also has one of the hottest food scenes? Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week is going strong, showcasing some of the best DMV cuisine — all at an affordable price! Restaurant Week, which runs this summer from Aug. 12-18, offers a chance to enjoy both new and tried and true dining spots with brunch and lunch priced at $22 and dinner at $35. Remember to make a reservation, since participating restaurants get especially busy this week. Here are our top picks for this summer edition of Restaurant Week.

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Impress a date

For just $35 for three to four dinner courses, now’s your chance to indulge at some of DC’s finest dining and favorite classics without any of the guilt.

  • Ambar (Capitol Hill and Clarendon locations)
  • Clyde’s (Gallery Place and Georgetown)
  • District Winery
  • Filomena
  • Farmers & Distillers
  • Farmers Fishers Bakers
  • Founding Farmers
  • Old Ebbitt Grille
  • Supra
  • Via Umbria
  • Whaley’s

Lunch just got more interesting

Take your team out for or indulge in a getaway from the usual lunch spot for just $22 for two or three courses. If we could hit up one Restaurant Week lunch per day, these are our priorities.

  • Agora (Dupont Circle and Golden Triangle locations)
  • Ankara
  • Chiko (Dupont)
  • Copa Kitchen & Bar
  • District Commons
  • Pisco Y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar
  • Zaytinya

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Brunch like a boss

Washingtonians know how to do brunch right. It’s basically its own culture here. These deals during DC Restaurant Week are the right move to end your weekend on a high note.

  • City Winery DC
  • Convivial
  • Logan Tavern
  • Momofuku
  • Tacos, Tortas & Tequila
  • Whaley’s (so good, we listed it twice)

Check out the full Restaurant Week list of participating eateries and menus.

Best Indoor Activities to Do in Washington, D.C.

Don’t let a bit of rain ruin your fun in Washington, D.C.! These indoor, rainy day activities are the perfect way to spend a weekend in the Capital City.

 

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Museum exhibits

Some of our favorite Smithsonian museums include the Air and Space and American History Museums. If you have seen it all, or just want a break from the ever-popular Smithsonians, explore the Phillips Collection in DuPont. Opened in 1921, the Phillips Collection is the America’s first museum of modern art located in a converted Georgian Revival style home. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir (pictured here) is among the museum’s personal collection.

 

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U.S. Botanic Garden

Rain or shine, winter or summer, the U.S. Botanic Garden is sure to be green and warm any time of year. This living plant museum was established by the U.S. Congress in 1820 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Wander among blooming orchids, cacti of all shapes and sizes, dramatic air plants, and gigantic trees.

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Bookshop browsing

There is nothing better than snuggling up with a good book while the rain pours outside. Browse in these unique and quintessentially D.C. spots: Capitol Hill Books, Second Story Books, and Kramerbooks.

 

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Library of Congress

Speaking of books… Did you know there are more than 162 million items stored here, making the Library of Congress the largest library collection in the world? Notable exhibits include a re-created version of Jefferson’s library, the first document printed with the name “America” (also known as America’s “birth certificate”), and Lincoln’s pocket items at the time of his assassination.

 

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Coffee shops with a unique atmosphere

Heads up that many D.C. coffee shops have selective hours on Sundays. Our favorites are Baked & Wired in Georgetown (both the cupcakes and coffee are excellent), Emissary in DuPont (great brunch and happy hour every day 4-7pm too), and Sidamo Coffee & Tea on H Street (they roast their beans on-site and perform Ethiopian coffee ceremonies on weekends).