Summer is one of the best times to visit our nation’s capital. Travelers from all over the world come to enjoy the city’s monumental history, world-class museums, and diverse dining options, many of which can be enjoyed al fresco on a warm summer night.
Whether you’re coming to town for NAFSA’s Management Development Program or the Strategic Retreat for Education Abroad Leaders this summer, it’s important to enjoy all of the culture D.C. has to offer. Here are some “insider tips” on how to experience the city, whether you are using our convenient bike share program, the extensive metro and bus system, or just going on foot!
14th Street and U Street
Within walking distance of your hotel, the 14th Street corridor is a popular dining and nightlife district with cuisine from all around the world. I’m originally from South Carolina, so Ted’s Bulletin on 14th Street, with their country-fried steak, homemade pop tarts, and breakfast served all day, makes me feel right at home. If you’re looking to try something new, I’ve become quite a fan of Ethiopian food. While D.C. has many Ethiopian restaurants, it’s hard to beat Dukem on U Street with its outdoor seating area and unbeatable doro wat. While you’re visiting this area, don’t forget to check out Meridian Hill Park, the Duke Ellington statue, and the many live music venues.
If you’re looking to blend in with the locals, the newly developed Yards Park is a spot most tourists haven’t discovered yet. Situated along the Anacostia River, the park has gorgeous sunset views. The park offers a Friday night concert series, sunset yoga, and lots of other free activities. If breweries are your thing, be sure to check out nearby Blue Jacket, a popular spot to grab a drink after a Nationals baseball game or have a meal after strolling in the park. The Navy Yard station on the green line is the closest Metro station at New Jersey and M Streets, SE, just two blocks away.
There’s much to see and do in this neighborhood. Dupont Circle’s iconic fountain will let you know you’re in the right place. After visiting the fountain, take a self-guided walking tour along Massachusetts Avenue of Embassy Row and travel to Australia, South Africa, and more in only two miles. If you prefer art to embassies, make sure to stop by The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art. Afterwards, stick your nose in a book and fill up on delicious food all in one place at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe – a local haunt for book lovers and foodies alike. If you have more time, be sure to visit The National Geographic Museum, D.C.’s Spanish Steps, and I would never advise against a visit to the nearby Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Our baby panda, Bei Bei, never disappoints. The red line on the Metro stops at Dupont Circle and continue riding to Woodley Park to visit the zoo.
The National Mall
While you’re probably familiar with the big players in this area like the Washington Monument, Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the White House, I’d like to share some of my lesser known favorites. The United States Botanic Garden, right next door to the Capitol Building, has a huge greenhouse with a canopy walk, allowing you to get a bird’s eye view of the space. The newly renovated Renwick Gallery, across from the White House, always features the most exciting and innovative art. Jazz in the Garden, located in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art, has to be my favorite Friday afternoon activity in the District. Performances begin at 5:00 p.m., but be sure to get there a little early to grab a great spot and enjoy the sangria for sale at the Pavilion Café. All of these attractions are part of the Smithsonian museum system and, therefore, free to everyone.
Eastern Market and Capitol Hill
Visit D.C.’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and check out our largest farmer’s market all in on spot. With both indoor and outdoor spaces, Eastern Market has something for everyone. Vendors sell everything from antique furniture; produce and other foods; vintage clothing; and local arts and crafts. One of my favorite spots in the Eastern Market area is Capitol Hill Books, a used book store that’s literally overflowing with its wares. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss the shops and restaurants on Barracks Row, beaux arts architecture at Union Station, or the larger-than-life Supreme Court. The Library of Congress, which houses Thomas Jefferson’s original library, is a favorite for this bookworm!
Georgetown has something for everyone. If you’re a little adventurous and want to take in all D.C.’s landmark views by water, stop by the Key Bridge Boathouse to rent a kayak and cruise down the Potomac. If you prefer to admire the river from dry land, check out the Washington Harbor, which is dotted with delicious restaurants like Farmers Fishers Bakers. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll also appreciate Georgetown Cupcake. You might recognize them from a reality show focused on the store. Georgetown is definitely one of D.C.’s most scenic neighborhoods, so let yourself get lost on a side street. I’m sure you’ll end up somewhere fabulous.