One of our favorite things about living on the East coast is how close we are to everything. We are surrounded by historical sites and iconic landmarks; many of which are only a few hours drive away. If you know of anyone thinking of a trip, share this!
While we had both visited D.C. as kids, we knew this would be a different trip ‘on our own’, as adults and more than 10 years later. Drew had been as a kid with his family over Fourth of July (which I’ve heard is an awesome experience by the way.)
I had been on a 4-H trip in high school over June 2010 called Citizenship Washington Focus. CWF is a leadership and citizenship trip where delegates from each state are on a week-long road trip and group tour. We saw so many places on our trip and I loved it!
We decided our vacation time over New Year’s Eve would be the perfect time to spend a few day’s in our nation’s capitol and a pretty cool place to ring in the new year.
We’ve all seen pictures of D.C., right? Follow me on Instagram to see all the photos and videos of exploring the city!
On Friday, December 28 we headed out for what was supposed to be a 5.5 hour drive but was closer to just over six because of traffic, rain and car accidents. The ultimate trifecta. Once we got into town we headed to our Airbnb in Arlington, VA.
If you’re looking for a place to stay and want to be close to nightlife and the metro, this is a perfect location and price point. While our apartment was AWFUL (so I wont show you the exact one) we stayed in the a block away from the Metro and surrounded by bars and restaurants nearby.
Our friends got into town and we made the walk to the Metro around 8:30 to head to Downtown Arlington.
A note on the Metro: You can download several apps to help you navigate the locations and stops you need to use. You will also need to load the card before taking the metro. If your card balance is less than what is on your card you will not be able to exit. Several kiosks don’t accept cards, coins and the attendant’s might not give you change.
Near Wilson Blvd in Arlington you can exit the metro and walk the street for nightlife. We ate at Whitlow’s on Wilson which had huge portions and awesome, extremely friendly and speedy service. We shared nachos, fish tacos, burgers, sandwiches and some local beers. They also frequently have live music but we left right before checking them out. We walked around the corner to Heritage Brewpub & Roastery for a flight of beer.
We stopped in one more place called Wilson Hardware Kitchen and Bar for a nightcap. This definitely had more of a club feel and they were blaring fun, loud music if that’s the atmosphere you are looking for.
It was a few minutes walk to the metro (they close at 11 pm-1 am depending on the night so check in before riding).
Saturday, December 29th
We headed down the street to Bueller’s Bagels for a quick breakfast sandwich before riding the metro to Arlington National Cemetery. This is free admission and one of the most impactful places we’ve ever been. We really enjoy and notice how important it is to pay your respects and nothing bothers us more than the people who can’t turn off their phones or climb all over memorials. If you need, grab a map while in the visitor’s center. Taking the long path up to the right you can stop and see the Kennedy’s gravesite with the eternal flame.
There is a curved cement wall at the base of it that shows off the D.C. skyline. We headed up the stairs on the edge to see the first woman’s gravesite who was buried in Arlington (turns out she was also related to every major historical figure ever including George Washington and Pocahontas) before reaching General Lee’s house at the top of the hill.
While the house was under construction you can still admire the beauty of the marbled columns and the massive importance he played in history with a view of the most powerful city in the world.
The changing of the guard takes place on the hour, every hour. When you’re in this area turn off your phone and PUT IT AWAY!! You can find so many photos and videos online, just enjoy witnessing this ceremony. Do not chew gum, do not speak and remain silent for the time you are there. They will also yell at you if you are leaning or standing past the barrier. It’s simple: just be respectful. Once the hour hits you’ll see the new guard and their ‘boss’ come out to announce that you should stand. The routine and accuracy of the Changing of the Guard is so impressive and seeing the worn path of where thousands of steps have been taken guarding the tomb is impressive.
Behind the tomb, walk up the steps and visit the Arlington Memorial Ampitheatre. There are several statues, monuments, memorials, gravesites and other places to visit on the acres of property including the actual pieces of sunken ships, masts, bells and more. Wonder around or search the map for specific things you’d like to see.
We walked around Arlington for about 2-3 hours. My feet HURT today and we had walked around 8.5 miles total. Wear comfy, supportive shoes!
The area near Arlington is very crowded and I couldn’t imagine driving or even ride sharing over to D.C. The metro is great but you come up on so many things you wouldn’t have noticed by driving or walking around. The weather was nice so we walked over the bridge which takes you into the city behind the Lincoln Memorial.
We walked into the Foggy Bottom district to eat at Tonic. This was a college/craft feel inside and a small menu you cannot make adjustments to. We did enjoy the food and I ordered a flight of beer which actually came in an airplane flight! (Check out the Instagram highlight.)
From there, Drew and I broke off to walk around downtown. It’s a 15 minute walk from Tonic to the White House and on the way we saw the Eisenhower Executive Building which reminded me of the Empress in Victoria, and the Blair House; the 19th century home where foreign dignitaries and presidential guests stay.
Seriously check out the videos and photos on my Instagram highlight! It was surreally (making that a word) beautiful.
Next up is the White House. Where it all happens. I had forgotten about the closed street, the gate, the Secret Service and the buskers and demonstrators in front of the White House.
It was crowded especially in the prime picture perfect spots. Next door was the Treasury Building (pic on Instagram.) Take a right here and walk down with views of tall, historic and regal hotels and buildings. Take a right near the gated off area and you will see the back of the White House with a view of the South Lawn.
Since it’s December the National Christmas Tree was still decorated with trees from each state, motorized trains, music and more decorations surrounding it.
The expansive lawn has tons of pathways for you to visit the Washington Monument or you can cross the street for the National Mall, monuments and memorials.
It was a beautiful sunset over it all but the weather and wind was starting to freeze us. We headed to an elevator down to the metro that took us past the giant U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That night we walked over to Punch Bowl Social in Arlington which had just opened up a few weeks before. While the atmosphere, three levels of entertainment and food was great it is a little pricey and the service was not good. It’s as if they were never trained which ended up with several bill adjustments, charges and ‘Did you guys order this?’ at least ten times each visit. It’s an awesome place to visit once or twice and hopefully they will have some more practice under the belt when you go!
We took the metro to downtown Arlington and barhopped around to Don Tito’s which was another multi-level bar with fun bartenders and strong margaritas. Definitely a party atmosphere. Next door is Spider Kelly’s which we weren’t a fan of. It felt more like a local restaurant with pool and games they were charging at least $18/hour just to play shuffleboard.
We had seen lots of people in The G.O.A.T which was a two level packed sports bar and O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub pulled us in because….what’s a trip without an Irish Pub visit? Good thing we did, too, because the band was EXTREMELY talented! They went non-stop with top hit covers to My Chemical Romance to Friends In Low Places and Toto’s Africa. Definitely a great way to end the night!
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Sunday, December 30th
Today’s walking was over 11 miles. I was limping by now which is probably another plantar fasciitis flare up. Lots of stretching, massage and comfy supportive shoes people!
Up and at ’em! Hop on the metro and walk two blocks to the local Starbucks for a quick, easy breakfast.
Today was a big walking day as we wandered around and saw the Lockkeeper’s House, WW2 Memorial, Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.
From there we headed over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a wide loop around to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
The weather was perfect and there were much fewer people out all day long until we reached the Spy Museum popular downtown area.
Since we visited during the government shutdown we weren’t too affected by the government shutdown except for some closed restrooms near the memorials. It was a long walk back around to the International Spy Museum. We purchased combo tickets for general admission to the museum as well as the Interactive Experience. While it was fun to do one time we wouldn’t recommend paying the extra money for it. The employees were aloof, rude and unorganized. The videos and materials were outdated and since there are large groups you don’t actually do much that’s interactive.
I did find the museum interesting because of the Bond Villain exhibit and the blend of fictional spies versus actual spies and materials from them.
If we had more time today I would have visited Lincoln’s house and the Ford Theater for a $3 tour.
By the end of this day and only having ate once we caught a ride about 15 minutes down to the Logan Circle neighborhood to Churchkey. They have a GIGANTIC selection of beer and, even if you think you’re well-versed, you will probably find something new to experience here. We had the tots and buffalo wings which were both pricey (it’s a craft bar in D.C.) and two Kansans were actually help serve us!
Nearby was a whiskey lounge called The Crown and Crow. This is a Victorian Era bar downstairs with a 3×3 wall of televisions playing old school movies. I believe the bartender/owner was Scottish or Irish because of his accent and the confirmation from the bouncer. I tried their local whiskey (one pour was at least a double!) and local beers.
A few blocks down is a three-story building. The top is home to Black Whiskey, the middle is a gay bar called Trade, and the downstairs is a dive bar called Kingfisher. They have free popcorn (kettle style!) and give koozies with their canned beers. We didn’t bother with the metro we just went with Uber. For as much traffic as you’ll see around town we had good luck with ride shares and weren’t ever stuck in traffic.
Monday, December 31st
We grabbed breakfast around the block at Mike’s Cafe. If you’re looking for a deli-style breakfast and sandwich spot with large portions at a great price this is it. Between four of us we had tried their iced coffee, Western Omelet, breakfast burrito and a breakfast plate.
It was a cold, rainy day so we metroed into downtown for the Air and Space Museum. This was a huge, free museum (donations welcome) and we weren’t expecting to take several hours to walk through without thoroughly reading everything. This museum was packed and busy with lots of people but there’s a piece of the moon you can touch, aircraft, shuttles, uniforms and much more.
We again rented scooters outside the museum and, since it was still dumping rain, the sidewalks were cleared up.
If you’re looking to rent scooters download the Bird Scooter app, the Lyft app and even the Skip Scooter app. You’ll need your credit card info and a driver’s license. Prices are usually $1 to get started and $0.15/mile.
We scooted up and around the National Mall area to get views of the Washington Monument, Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, Capitol Building, Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. It was a cold, long ride back on the metro and we spent the evening getting ready for New Year’s Eve.
We settled on Punch Bowl Social since there was no cover, there was supposed to be a 90s party and a midnight balloon drop. Since we got there at 7 p.m. we grabbed a table and by 9 the place was filling up. They had long lines, wouldn’t let people through levels and another night of similar service. We didn’t want to risk standing outside other bars or paying covers/ticket prices past capacity so we stuck it out and closed down the bar.
Tuesday, January 1st
Luckily there was a Shake Shack near our apartment which was awesome hangover food. Then it was time to head back home. Our friends were a 1.5 drive to West Virginia and we were another 5.5 hour drive back to North Carolina.
I know we will be back but we loved visiting D.C.! It’s a possible option for many of us as a job location move and the people and things that happen there are what impacts the world. We can’t wait to go back and finish our bucket list. We also want to hit up several New England states and cities but where else should we visit while on this side of the USA?! Leave your suggestions in the comments.
I have two more openings for January clients! I always offer a Free Consultation and you can schedule the most convenient time for you here. I can’t wait to work with you and get you the results you need!