Washington, DC is a must visit city. But, what if you’ve already visited the tourist track before? Or what if you hate the ‘tourist trap’ visits to famous cities? Washington, DC has so much to offer that you can keep coming back time and again and experience a new feel to the city. While I’ve already offered my stops when visiting as a tourist, here is my local guide to Washington, DC. I share with you my tips, tricks and favorite hangouts.
DC is certainly a city with high need. Often, many of the locals give back to their city by volunteering in a variety of ways. One of the most popular is by working with the poor and homeless communities. I regularly volunteered with Loaves and Fishes. Volunteers cook meals for the poor and homeless on the weekends. Interesting Fact: most feeding programs in DC are closed on the weekends. Loaves and Fishes provides lunches on Saturdays and Sundays. Arrive at 10 am to help cook the meal and serve lunch. For fashion lovers, there are organizations that help supply suits to low-income women. Other organizations help the elderly with tasks around the home.
Monuments at Night
Monument tours are not just for the tourists. However, locals almost always visit the monuments at night when they are the most beautiful. I usually walk to see them all. Most of the monuments are located close to each other. You can also go on a night tour with Old Town Trolleys. To get the most history and stories on the monuments, this is the way to go. If you know the basics already, visit by foot.
Brunching is a DC must. Nearly every local has brunch plans on the weekends, particularly on Sunday. There are all-you-can-eat brunches, all-you-can-drink brunches and everything in between. All of the main restaurant neighborhoods will offer fantastic brunch options. My personal favorites were in the 14th Street – U Street District or around Eastern Market and Barracks Row. Some restaurants don’t accept reservations. But, if they do, make a reservation to make sure you don’t have to wait. Some personal favorites are Cava Mezze (tapa style), Ted’s Bulletin (homemade pop tarts!), Birch & Barley (fresh donuts!) and Lost Society (pretty economical and bottomless mimosas).
Eastern Market and Union Market
Eastern Market and Union Market are indoor markets that focus on locally sourced food. Union Market, located in Northeast DC, has over 40 artisans selling eats like empanadas, Korean tacos and cheeses. They also have special events, like transforming into a drive-in theatre in the summer. Eastern Market, near Barracks Row, is located in one of the last remaining public market buildings. Merchants sell goods such as meats, cheeses and flowers. On the weekends, over 100 vendors collect on the streets around the main building to sell their produce, clothes, jewelry and other goods. You can easily spend an afternoon milling around either of these markets trying the foods and looking at other items for sale.
The Passport DC event celebrates international culture during the entire month of May. Included in the celebrations is one day where over 70 embassies open their doors to showcase the culture of their countries. Also included in the festivities are embassy chef challenges, flower marts, street fairs and cultural presentations. When the embassies open their doors, expect to find food samplings, lessons in dance, art or traditional sports (thai boxing anyone?). In 2016, the Fiji embassy even gave away 2 free tickets to visit the country! Pro tip: European embassies have a different open house day than the other “around the world” embassies. Make sure to check out the Passport DC site for exact dates.
Wander 14th and U streets
Like the rest of DC, the 14th and U street corridors have a unique history. Destroyed in the riots after Martin Luther King Jr’s death, these neighborhoods have been working to rebuild and now are the cross-section of culture, history, art galleries and foodies. Old homes stand the test of time, lining the streets along with new development. Boutiques, restaurants and art galleries dot the neighborhoods. Old, neighborhood establishments mix with the new. You can easily spend a day wandering the streets, trying the food and coffee and admiring the history of the neighborhood.
Washington, DC is the undisputed wine capital of the United States, drinking 25% more than any other state (or district). Maybe it’s attributed to the high stakes work for government employees or the amount of restaurant options, but Washingtonians love to drink. As such, DC has cultivated an eclectic bar scene. DC bars offer locations with live band karaoke to laid back happy hour spots and bars where the political elite meet. A local guide to Washington, DC will always name the bar scene as something to visit while in town and this one is no different. Jack Rose in Adams Morgan has over 2,400 bottles of whiskey, some rare and/or unavailable in stores. Hawthorne offers four stories, one being a rooftop terrace. Biergarten Haus offers a laid back watering hole for beer lovers and a jumping off point to discovering the rest of H Street.
With so much to do in Washington, DC, you can keep coming back over and over and still experience knew things. Once you’ve hit the main stops as a tourist, follow this local guide to Washington, DC to experience a side of DC less common to visitors. From shopping, bars, brunches and back access to embassies, it will keep your days full and show another side of a city known for it’s monuments.