Whenever I traveled to a new country, I always felt a little tinge of guilt that I hadn’t seen more of my own. I especially felt guilty that I had visited the capital cities of so many other countries, visiting their government buildings and learning more about their traditions while I had yet to visit Washington DC, my own country’s capital. There was no question of visiting Washington DC on our cross-country road trip; in fact, it was one of the first cities that was finalized.
Luckily, it was also one of the places where we already had a place to stay. My good friend Kate has lived and worked in Washington DC since we graduated in 2009. Kate’s the queen of sending postcards, as obsessed with traveling and bicycles as I am, and a super loyal reader of this blog–so I was absolutely stoked for her to share her favorite spots with us. She sent us to the Smithsonian and toured us around Eastern Markets, of course–but here are a few of my favorite things that aren’t in every guidebook:
We kicked the weekend off with St. Germain cocktails: Kate and I discovered the power of this refreshing elderflower liquor on a sunny day in Sacramento. Renee and I showed up with all the fixings as a hostess gift: St. Germain, champagne and sparkling water! We headed up to Kate’s rooftop for an absolutely stunning sunset and plenty of catching up.
VIP Tour of the Capitol
Especially in Washington, it’s all about knowing the right people. We skipped the endless lines and dorky headsets, and got a VIP tour around the Capitol Building. Kate hooked us up with one of her office’s summer interns, who spouted off trivia facts and historical tidbits as he showed us the sacred rooms where bills are passed, the underground art galleries and the unbelievable number of portrait statues.
Shopping and cupcakes in Georgetown
When my mom told me that Georgetown was the “cool” part of Washington DC, I was a little hesitant: she hadn’t lived on the East Coast since the early 1980′s, after all! After spending an afternoon strolling the shops and reviving ourselves with iced coffees, however, I definitely trusted her judgment. I’m sure it’s changed plenty since my mom headed here for Friday night drinks and Sunday brunches–it’s mostly filled with chain clothing shops, luxury grocery stores and cute cafes. But the facades–and the spirit–of the original architecture remains intact: it’s a beautiful area of the city. I’ve never seen DC Cupcakes, but we braved the ridiculously long line at Georgetown Cupcakes for a taste of what’s made this little cupcake shop famous: the red velvet did NOT disappoint.
Afternoon drinks on the waterfront
Corona buckets and a view of the Potomac: you can’t ask for a better Sunday afternoon.
The Library of Congress
I’m a little obsessed with libraries: the whole concept of free books aside, I just love the space. There’s something about the community of solitude, the silence broken by scratching pencils and tapping keys, the rich smell of bound leather and crisp pages. When Kate had to go to work and Renee wanted extra museum time, I applied to become a Reader at the Library of Congress. Even though I didn’t need to read any of the books, the hoops-jumping was well worth it to be able to spend an afternoon inside this absolutely gorgeous–and thus inspiring–space.
Screen on the Green
I love a good outdoor movie screening–and I’m hard-pressed to think of a cooler location than the National Mall. We picked up Thai food and a bottle of white wine before we spread out on the grass to watch “From Here to Eternity,” a 1950s romantic comedy so bad it was good, as the Capitol building glowed in the background and the stars came out. If you visit Washington DC during the summer, Screen on the Green is a must-do.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Washington DC?
Special thanks to Kate for being such a stellar hostess–I can’t wait to turn the tables and host her in NYC this weekend!