From selfie-worthy monuments and world-class museums to family-friendly activities and a thriving theater scene, Washington, D.C. offers a treasure trove of vacation possibilities.
While the nation’s capital is best known for its political heritage, you can discover a different side of the city when you venture off the beaten path. According to locals, you won’t want to miss these unique summer experiences inside and around the Beltway.
Skip the traffic and hop on a bike to explore the district with less hassle. Many city streets include bike lanes and there’s an extensive, easy-to-use bikeshare network that includes pedal-assist electric bicycles. Scenic routes include the Mount Vernon Trail, which offers lovely views of the city’s famous monuments from across the Potomac River.
For an easy, efficient way to see the district’s top attractions, take an Old Town Trolley Tour. These hop-on, hop-off tours allow you to explore at your own pace while knowledgeable guides provide “transportainment,” a mix of jokes and facts. Choose from several routes that feature stops such as museums, monuments, Capitol Hill and Arlington National Cemetery.
Meridian Hill Park
Locals love this urban park, which offers a serene escape in the middle of the city. The National Historic Landmark is known for its terraced design, beautiful stonework and 13-basin cascading fountain, the longest in North America. It’s typically buzzing with energy and is a great place for people-watching. On Sunday afternoons in the summer, the Rhythm in the Park event features a multicultural drum circle, dancers and street entertainers.
United States National Arboretum
This expansive and well-maintained public garden offers 446 acres of lush, picturesque scenery perfect for walking, biking and exploring. Don’t miss the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, where more than 300 miniature Japanese and Chinese trees are arranged as works of art, creating a calming garden experience.
FOR THE FAMILY
National Museum of African American History and Culture
This Smithsonian Institution showcases nearly 37,000 artifacts that document the lives, history and culture of African-Americans. Highlights include Nat Turner’s Bible and a shawl worn by Harriett Tubman. Museum admission is free and a limited number of same-day passes are available. But it’s better to reserve your timed-entry tickets as far in advance as possible on the museum’s website.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
When the sizzling summer heat arrives, locals bring their kids to this popular park on the banks of the Potomac River. It’s an oasis where you can enjoy summer breezes, relax on the lawn or feed the ducks. The park’s most popular attraction is the giant fountain, which becomes one big sprinkler in warmer weather. While water jets blast water into the air and onto the pavement, kids (and the young at heart) will love splashing around in the spray.
While the city’s farmers markets take place all year long, summer is the best time to pick up fantastic produce. Markets are also a great place to explore while trying yummy free samples. The indoor/outdoor Eastern Market in Capitol Hill offers an appealing mix of locally sourced foods and artisan crafts. On Sundays the Dupont Circle farmers market takes over the streets with vendors selling everything from fresh fruits to baked goods to seasonal sorbet.
Food Truck Fest
From April through October enjoy a world of flavors at this monthly food truck festival at The Bullpen at Half Street Fairgrounds. This family-friendly event features a range of cuisine from tacos to tapas, as well as live music and lawn games.
For a unique treat, stop by Ted’s Bulletin on Capitol Hill, where you can pick up house-made pop tarts featuring flavor combinations like bacon and peanut butter. The renowned Florida Avenue Grill near Howard University is a beloved retro diner with 1940’s flair. Order pork chops for breakfast and check out all the autographed photos from celebrity customers. You can also sample the city’s underrated Ethiopian cuisine at the upscale Ethiopic restaurant, serving up specialties like lamb tibs and kitfo.
A little over an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., Baltimore is a worthwhile day trip destination. Begin the day at the National Aquarium, home to nearly 20,000 aquatic animals including Atlantic puffins, largetooth sawfish and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. For lunch, savor a crab cake at Gertrude’s within the Baltimore Museum of Art. Afterwards, explore the museum, visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards or explore the pubs, galleries and boutiques in Fell’s Point.
Manassas is about an hour’s drive from the district and offers a fascinating three-in-one excursion. Explore the quaint shops. museums and restaurants of Old Town. Delve into American Civil War history at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of two major battles. Then round out the day with a leisurely picnic and wine tasting at the nearby Winery at Bull Run.
If you have specific interests or you’re seeking information about seasonal activities or special events, talk to the property concierge for additional tips and suggestions.