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Vacation Washington, D.C.

Tourist Guide

Walking Washington, DC
Our Nation's Capital

Inside the Dome of the Capitol in Washington, DC
Inside the Dome of the Capitol in Washington, DC


After you've spent the first day strolling outdoors, plan some indoors time in the city's numerous Smithsonian Institute museums, where history, art, space and nature buffs can spend hours wandering from exhibit hall to exhibit hall. But first, start the day off with a full-scale breakfast at DC's very popular Old Ebbitt Grill, where politicians, lobbyists and tourists rub elbows and enjoy traditional American fare. Thus fortified, head towards the National Mall: Most of the city's museums are located along its northern perimeter, such as the American History and Natural History museums and the National Gallery of Art.

Later, head south across the Mall to visit the very popular National Air and Space Museum, located at Independence Avenue and 4th Street, SW, with eye-opening exhibits for the whole family. A must-see hit is the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater where visitors experience a virtual space shuttle flight and get an astronaut's view of earth. Plan to lunch at its Wright Place Food Court, or save your energy and your appetite for a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian at Independence Avenue and 4th St., NW. Its restaurant, the Mitsitam Café, specializes in reproductions of authentic Native American dishes eaten by the tribes who once roamed throughout the western hemisphere. The museum's various exhibits will intrigue and inform the whole family.

Washington Monument, located in the National Mall in Washington, DC
The Washington Monument

Plan several more museum stops before day's end: Heading west along Independence Avenue at 7th St., you'll find the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian's popular museum of contemporary art. The building's modern design makes a perfect setting for its collection, and if you need some fresh air, take a stroll through its gardens. Divided more or less into six distinct spaces, it houses many of the museum's outsized stone and metal traditional and abstract sculptures.

Next stop, a must for Asian culture buffs, is the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries, two buildings in one connected by an underground walkway. Both galleries have permanent and temporary exhibits highlighting the ancient cultures from the Near and Far East, with ancillary talks, films and events. To remember your visit here, stop and shop in one of the two gifts stores for something exotically Asian.

Or if you are a news buff, leave the Mall behind after lunch, and head east from the Smithsonian museums on the Mall to the Penn Quarter, where you will find the impressive Newseum, the interactive museum that fills visitors in on all the important news and events that have made the front and back pages of America's news media. From galleries and exhibits to theaters and a food court, visitors could actually spend hours strolling throughout and stopping for a bite or two of good eats. You might want to grab a pizza or a more complete meal at the adjacent The Source by Wolfgang Puck, or stop at the nearby restaurants, Rasika on D St. between 6th and 7th Streets for blazingly good Indian food or Oyamel on the corner of 7th and D Streets for classic Mexican cooking.

The dining room at 701 Restaurant in Washington, DC
The dining room at 701 Restaurant

At day's end, the Chinatown and Penn Quarter areas are perfect for nighttime activities at the Verizon Center or for a meal at any one of the fine-dining and casual restaurants in town. If you are still on the Mall, use the Metro line at the Smithsonian and get off at the Gallery Place stop, which takes you to where all the action is. Restaurants abound, from the very trendy Zaytinya with its Mediterranean tapas, to Rosa Mexicano for tempting Tex-Mex eats, and Clyde's of Gallery Place and 701 Restaurant for American fare.

Although developers have gentrified much of the original Chinatown, vestiges of its past are still visible, especially with the colorful gate at 7th and H Streets, NW. Wander along H to 6th St. to admire what is left of the early Chinese community who lived here. To wrap up, head to the Verizon Center for the entertainment event of the evening. Be sure to check about ticket availability beforehand, as the Center is a popular destination.

Continue to Day 3


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* Images courtesy of Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corporation (WCTC)

(Updated:12/18/12 BA)

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