All of our best travel tips for where to eat, drink and explore in Washington, D.C.
Our house sitting adventures have taken us coast to coast. If you happened to catch it on Instagram, we recently traveled from San Diego to Washington D.C., where we spent two weeks working in and around the Washington D.C. area. We found a house sit in an adorable row house right in Old Town Alexandria with Dasha and Milo, the sweetest dog and cat duo there ever was.
I had been to D.C. just once before, but that trip left me no time to explore. This was also Dalton’s first time in D.C., so we were definitely ready to explore and see the sights. We ate, drank, walked and biked our way around D.C. and Alexandria for the next two weeks.
We got our own secret identities at the spy museum. Bought fresh caught seafood at the wharf. Got our fill of vegetables at the nation’s oldest farmers market. And wandered the National Mall to learn all about our nation’s capital. Here’s our journey.
What to do
- Air and Space Museum – With an incredible collection of life-size models, this is a must for you fellow space geeks out there – Dalton approved. Did we mention it’s free? Along with all the other Smithsonian Museums.
- Natural History Museum – From ancient bones to life-size animals, there’s something to read about in every square inch of this place. A great spot to see things of all shapes and sizes.
- International Spy Museum – Give yourself ample time here, and don’t spend all your time on the first floor! Or just go a bit earlier than we did :). Step into the world of a spy, and get your very own secret identity. This one’s great for everyone, with plenty of interactive exhibits to enjoy. Unlike most of the Mall area museums, this one’s not free. But it’s definitely worth it. And buying your tickets online will save you a few extra bucks.
The DC Tour
The DC bucket list can be a long one… A few must sees include the Lincoln & Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument (hard to miss that one), and all the amazing war memorials that remind us of all those who’ve died to protect our freedom. Very humbling stuff.
The National Mall covers a pretty big area, so be prepared to walk and bring snacks. I’d suggest hitting this area on a weekday to avoid the massive weekend crowds. And the DC August heat is no joke, so be sure to bring your own water bottle and fill it at the free water fountains around the mall.
A super cool area with fresh seafood, music-filled venues, and plenty of waterfront sites to see. We bought some fish a few times from the wharf. The fishmongers are super knowledgeable, and they’ll help you find some excellent choices. Grab a couple steamed crabs to enjoy right away on the pier! We bought enough to take home for homemade crab cakes. If you’re doing the same, be prepared for a bit of “leg work”. Getting all the crab meat out is no easy task.
Check out waterfront park and King Street. Tons of great restaurants and quaint shops line the brick roads.
Love the local art scene? Check out the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Ton of ongoing artwork from great local artists. It’s a great place to wander around with plenty of fun shops and restaurants to hop into.
The oldest farmers market in the country! George Washington used to send his Mount Vernon produce to this exact farmers market in Market Square. It’s quite possibly the best farmers market we’ve been to, with tons of produce, flowers, and products of all kinds. If you find yourself in Old Town Alexandria on a Saturday morning, the farmers market is a must.
How to get around
We loved using Capital Bikeshare
We got the monthly pass (since we were spending 2+ weeks in the area), which turned out to be a great decision. This budget-friendly mode of transportation comes with the added bonus of some easy activity! The bikes were great, with tons of bike stations throughout the entire area (Alexandria, Arlington & D.C.).
Take the bike path to Gravelly Point. Right next to Reagan International, the planes take off and land directly overhead. It’s pretty cool to see in person, but be prepared for some volume.
Going further? Take the Metro
This underground subway system is quick and easy, simply load money onto your metro card, and pick your destination. And the air-conditioned metro was a sweet relief from that August humidity.
Wandering Old Town Alexandria?
Hop on one of the free trolleys rolling up and down the entire strip of King street.
Where to eat
We cooked meals at home most of the time during our stay in the D.C area. It saves money and let’s us build meals with plenty of fresh local ingredients. But new city exploring is never complete without a few food and drink stops!
Misha’s Coffeehouse and Roastery – A great Old Town Alexandria coffee shop that always draws a crowd. Also a good option to get your coffee beans in bulk.
Killer E.S.P. – Another quaint coffee shop in Old Town. FYI – E.S.P stands for Espresso, Snacks and Pie.
Bar Deco – Set in a former industrial site, this one’s a fun drink spot with great rooftop seating.
Blackwall Hitch – Spend a warm summer night on the patio for great drinks and great vibes. It’s right on the water, offering some stellar views.
Capitol City Brewing – One of the few breweries in town. So of course we had to swing by. Get a select few local beers here.
Roti – It’s a chain restaurant found in big cities around the nation. This healthy fast casual spot is delicious, budget-friendly, and packs in the vegetables.
Umaya Izakaya was our sushi pick. Seasoned chefs putting their own twists on time-honored dishes with a cool city vibe.
Don Taco – A variety of delicious tacos and other yummy mexican fare.
Old Ebbitt Grill – An iconic D.C. restaurant that sits right downtown and started out as Washington’s oldest saloon. Their menu changes with the seasons, but the salmon with white beans was amazing.
The Alibi – An interesting British pub with a matching atmosphere and plenty of beers on tap.
Where to stay
Our house sit was in Alexandria, which was a short bike/metro ride to D.C. We were just a few blocks from King Street in Old Town.
We certainly enjoyed our time in the area, and can’t wait for another visit! We’ll likely be back in D.C. again next year for some added exploring. Can’t see it all in one trip!