The nation’s capital is a true melting pot of personalities, activities and neighborhoods – so much so that it can be almost overwhelming. Lucky for you, dear reader, I’ve done the research so you don’t have to! This guide to D.C. is filled with all the restaurant recs, things to do & must-sees if you’re flying solo.
Here’s your travel guide to Washington D.C.!
What to do
Take a Tour of the Historic C&O Canal in Georgetown
Open for tours Wednesday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm, through October
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was a major transportation feat when it opened in 1831 as a way to transport goods and people to the towns along the 180+ mile mule-powered towpath. As you may suspect the entire canal was built by hand and took over 20 years to complete. It’s now a national historical park so this unique mode of transportation is forever protected and celebrated. Canal tours are $25 and about an hour long but if you’re a history buff like me it’s the best way to spend some time in this area. Tours happen rain or shine! This should be added to your travel guide to Washington D.C.!
Stroll the Campus of Georgetown University
Georgetown University was founded by John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S., in 1792, making it the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher education in the country. The campus is simply stunning and like something out of a J.K. Rowling novel. Healy Hall, the campus’ crown jewel, features a medieval style clock tower whose hands have been stolen multiple times.
Fun Fact: if you like the architecture of Georgetown University, you’ll love visiting the library of congress! Paul Pelz and John Smithmeyer, the architects of Healy Hall, designed it!
Sample the Iconic French Confectionary, Laduree Macarons
Open 7 days a week from 10 am – 6 pm
Black currant violet, passion fruit and orange blossom are just a few of the different flavors of the famous Laduree Macaron — a french institution from 1862. While it’s a definite experience, I’m going to share an unpopular opinion — they aren’t that great.
Brush up on your Art Knowledge at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Open 7 days a week from 11:30 am – 7 pm
Washington is synonymous with Smithsonian as there are nearly 20 museums in the capital city. And museums in my opinion are the perfect activity for a solo traveler; just leisurely make your way through at your own pace! At this specific institution you’ll find a collection of American presidents with unfinished works of George Washington, an incandescent JFK portrait and an abstract multicolored painting of Bill Clinton, among others. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is open later than most other places which makes it an ideal after work activity too!
Support a Local Indie Bookstore
Open Monday – Saturday from 11 am – 9 pm and Sundays from 12 pm – 9 pm
Bridge Street Books, in Georgetown, is a modest sized storefront boasting a pretty incredible range from prose to post-war dramas and everything in between. I love finding a book and a postcard from wherever I travel. I’ll write details about the trip on the post card & use it as a bookmark for my new read.
Explore the Hub of the City at CityCenterDC
From high end retailers like Gucci and Hermes to upscale dining like Estuary and Del Frisco’s Steakhouse, CityCenterDC is a must visit. As you peruse the shops on Palmer Alley, be sure to take notice of the art installation above! Currently there are thousands of colorful ribbons that make for an Insta-worthy pic, but the art is changed out every few months!
Visit Monuments and Take in Some of the Sights
White House: Though you’re not able to get too close with Pennsylvania Avenue blocked off, just viewing the White House in person feels pretty monumental to me! All presidents except for the very first, George Washington, have lived in the White House, though Washington did select the site for the presidential palace.
Built in 1884 to commemorate the country’s first president, the Washington Monument stands 555 ft tall and acts as a welcoming beacon to the city (often times seen upon descent into Ronald Reagan International Airport).
You can find the Lincoln Memorial directly across from the way from the Washington Monument with the reflecting pool separating the two. The permanent enshrinement of honest Abe Lincoln, the 16th president, is a symbol of unity, strength and wisdom, according to the National Park website.
Fun Fact: the Lincoln Memorial celebrated 100 years in 2022!
To recognize and honor those Americans who served in the second World War, a memorial was created in the National Mall that features stone monuments representing every state from Alabama to Wyoming. Of all the monuments, this might be my favorite.
Where to Eat & Drink
Open Monday-Friday from 7 am – 8 pm and Sundays from 8 am – 7 pm
Walking into Tatte is like walking into a bakery in Paris with the delicious pastries, cakes and breads that line the display cases. It’s a really great place to sit and get some work done with the ambient noise in the background of people talking and dishes clattering. You can’t go wrong with ordering one of their many tartines.
Call Your Mother
hours vary by location
Call Your Mother is a local bagel shop + deli that could go toe to toe with New York cafes any day (yes, I said it). Bagels are served with the perfect schmear & fixin’s — apple chai cream cheese, smoked salmon and whitefish to name a few. This is a fantastic breakfast place!
For Five Coffee Roasters
Three DC-area locations; open Monday – Sunday 7 am – 6 pm
Aesthetic coffee shops are always a vibe and For Five hits the mark. Originally started in New York, For Five made its way to the nation’s capitol in 2019. Besides the usual coffee & tea, the cafe has fantastic breakfast & lunch options. I opted for the overnight oats at the recommendation of the barista and it did not disappoint. the fun doesn’t stop there — don’t leave before trying the STUFFED cookies.
Hours vary by location
Think of this like Subway but for pizza! The chain has many locations but it started in DC! order whatever kind of pizza you’d like with different choices of cheese, sauces, toppings and drizzles. It’s ideal for a quick bite to eat during the work day!
Duffy’s Irish Pub
Open 7 days a week
What is it about Irish pubs that just put a smile on your face? The atmosphere? The people? The food? Duffy’s Irish Pub has an incredible mix of all three! Located in the Dupont Circle area of D.C., this lively establishment is packed for various sporting events — football, soccer, baseball you name it!
Farmers and Distillers
Open 7 days a week
A favorite of locals & visitors alike! Farmers and Distillers is a super unique restaurant whose goal is to serve natural produce that “unbundles the industrial food chain” taking us back to our roots. They are centered on seeing the world through the eyes of the founding farmer and in turn offer incredibly tasty dishes. Since it’s located in the heart of Chinatown the menu features asian influence alongside american favorites like fried chicken. Don’t miss their happy hour either!
Flight Wine Bar
Open Tuesday – Friday, 5-11pm
Ah yes, give me the vino! Flight Wine Bar, located in Chinatown, is a sophisticated yet casual locale with an array of wine choices and delicious charcuterie boards. The staff is very knowledgeable and can point you in the right direction depending on your tastes.
While I hope this gives you some inspiration this hardly scratches the surface of all you can do in Washington, D.C. Let us know if you use this travel guide to Washington D.C.! Leave a comment below which spot is your favorite.