Washington, D.C.

When I Went: March 31-April 2, 2012

Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? Spring is definitely the best time to visit here. The Cherry Blossom Festival occurs annually sometime between March and April (exact blooming dates vary every year), and the weather seems to be the most pleasant around this time of year.

Why I Went There: The first time, way back in early 2000s, was to visit my aunts. I enjoyed it very much, and I ended up spending several summers there until they moved away (one now lives in Virginia and one in Maryland). This latest trip had three major purposes: to pay my aunts a visit, see the cherry blossoms, and go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I also wanted to recapture the sights around town. Let’s just say that it’s been ages since my last escapade there — my previous photographs weren’t even in digital format.

We Stayed Here: For accommodations, consider the areas around Dupont Circle or downtown (McPherson Square and the Federal Triangle). Both areas provide optimum locations for sightseeing and offer a great deal of restaurant variety. One Washington Circle Hotel is a bargain I found on a third-party travel site. They had a promotional period of weekend stays for the month of April. For $99 a night, I got a studio suite with a balcony and a full kitchen to boot. It’s location near the Foggy Bottom/GWU metro stop proved to be convenient (the line stops at the Smithsonian and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.) Most importantly, it has free Wi-Fi in the rooms. I would definitely recommend this hotel and would likely consider it on my return visits to D.C.

You Won’t Want to Miss: There are loads of things to see and do in this city.  There are plenty of museums and monuments to satisfy one’s whim, historical districts to get lost in and to be discovered, and a cathedral that will strain one’s neck. A visit to the district should start at the National Mall, the area where several of the Smithsonian Institute museums are located. The Smithsonian comprises 19 museums and the National Zoo. My museum of choice this time around was the Holocaust museum. This is not one for the faint of heart, but it was definitely illuminating. Being part of the Smithsonian, admission fees are by donation only, but be mindful that entrance passes go quickly, and you have to queue for them, so get here a bit earlier than its 10 a.m. opening. Other free attractions include the monuments of past American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, as well as the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court.  Lastly, there are the memorials dedicated to veterans of wars in Vietnam, Korea, and the global conflict of World War II.  D.C. also has a couple of other historic districts. The first one is the Dupont Circle area. This quaint part of northwest D.C. is filled will beautiful pre-war mansions (most of them serve as foreign embassies) and has plenty of shops and eateries around. Georgetown is another historic district within the city.  This area is one of the oldest in D.C. and is home to one of the country’s most prestigious universities. In the northwest part of the city, you’ll find the National Cathedral, a beacon of all faiths that holds historical significance. Its Gothic spires tower over the city, and the cathedral itself has hosted several presidential inaugurals and funerals during the past 100 years.

Eat Here: Washington is a very international city when it comes to cuisine.  My weekend saw me trying a tapas bar and restaurant, an organic Japanese teahouse for brunch, and a local pizza joint which boasts Italian-approved Neapolitan-style pizza. Estadio is a small, yet lively tapas bar and restaurant on 14th Street. Its décor is very Spanish indeed, and it is a certified local hangout. The food is very good here. They also have a decent selection of Spanish wines (both red and white), and the ambiance is authentic Spain. There’s football on televisions and on wall murals, flamenco hints around every corner, and there are dangling cured hams at the bar. For an après-dinner hangout, head over to Tryst, a coffee house/bar in the Adams Morgan district. It’s great for people-watching, and they offer a sumptuous chocolate waffle that one has to make room for. Try the masala chai for drinks. For brunch, try the nearest Teaism (they currently have four locations).  It’s a small shop specializing in teas but also offers healthier and unusual options for brunch. The Washingtonian lists it as one of the cheap places to eat in town.  2Amy’s is a mom-and-pop joint granted with D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status by the Italian government in pizza making. It’s located north of the Embassy Row district and west of Cleveland Park in the northwest section. Try the Margherita for an authentic Neapolitan taste.

Play Here: The National Mall is one big playground. You see Frisbees floating around, kites being flown, and footballs thrown from one end to the other. It is also a nice area to cop a squat and just relax after a full day of sightseeing.

If I Went Again: I would definitely plan it around the cherry blossoms’ peak bloom, or if that isn’t suitable, I will time it during Passport DC, a celebration of international culture wherein participating embassies open their doors to invite those of curious minds. Visitors will get a peek into these mansions, which are generally not open to the public, and will get the opportunity to learn about each country’s culture.

How Did You Get There From Dallas? The most convenient route from Dallas is to fly from DFW Airport into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.  It’s located just across the Potomac River from Washington and has metro connections to the city.  An alternative to Reagan is Dulles International. If your destination is around suburban Virginia, this is your best bet. Lastly, Baltimore Washington International can also be a suitable landing spot.

Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: Washington is a family-friendly town. It’s a great place to bring children and teach them about American history. Also, most attractions are within walking distance of each other, so bring comfortable walking shoes. It’s a town that needs to be walked in order to be appreciated.

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