How to Make the Most Out of a Weekend in Washington DC

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Looking for a fun place to spend a weekend away? A great city with plenty to see and do, a great food scene, and somewhere easy to get around? Washington DC makes for the perfect weekend escape; with so much to see and do you won’t get bored, but two days in Washington DC is also enough to give you a good taste of what the city has to offer. Interested? Good. Because in this post I’m sharing how to make the most out of a weekend in Washington DC.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

HI Washington Hostel

Washington DC has no shortage of places to stay and accommodation options for every budget. My best advice would be to look for a place that is close to a metro station or The Mall which will make it easy and quick to get around to best maximize your time. For a weekend in Washington DC, I recommend the following:

For Budget/Backpackers- HI Washington DC hostel: This is where I stayed since I was on a budget trip. There are dorm and private room options available. The hostel is central, clean, and dorms are quite spacious. It’s a great pick for solo travellers hoping to meet some people, or anyone looking to cut costs. Breakfast is included in the price and the hostel puts on some great social activities such as walking tours and pub crawls. Book your stay here.

For a Midrange Hotel: Marriott Marquis Washington DC or InterContinental Washington DC

For a Luxury Hotel: Sofitel Washington DC or Mandarin Oriental Washington DC

Getting Around Washington DC

Washington DC airport

Getting around in Washington DC is pretty easy as there are several options. Walking, of course, is the cheapest option and was my preferred method of exploring for most of the city. Bike rentals are also popular and a budget-friendly choice.

Washington DC also has a number of public transit options including the metro and the circulator bus which is pretty much all you will need for two days in Washington DC. To use either, I recommend getting a metro card and pre-loading it. The card itself costs two dollars and then you can load with whatever amount you desire (start low, it’s easy to add money but I didn’t see an option at the airport to get refunded). Metro rides vary in price depending on where you are going, however, the Circulator Bus is only $1 for 2 hours and can be used as a hop on hop off type system which is great for getting around The Mall area.

Taxis and Ubers are also readily available in the DC area.

How to Spend 2 Days in Washington DC

Day 1: The Mall for Museums and Monuments

The Mall and the surrounding Smithsonian Museums and monuments are the main attractions in Washington DC. Even if you aren’t a big museum person (I fall into that category) you really need to check out at least a couple of the Smithsonian’s- they are some of the best things to do in DC and they are free!

My favourite Smithsonian Museum was the Air and Space Museum; the displays were fantastic and I actually learned quite a bit. Fun fact: Did you know that Amelia Earhart was the aviation writer for Cosmopolitan magazine? I wish they still had that section!

Washington DC Air and Space Museum

Another museum worth checking out is the Holocaust Memorial Museum. While not a Smithsonian, this museum is also free of charge though tickets need to be pre-booked ahead of time as only a certain number of people are allowed in at a time. Expect to spend about 2-3 hours here as you travel through multiple floors that share the stories and the horrors of the Holocaust. Having been to Auschwitz before, I knew what to expect but it was still a very heavy experience. However, despite the depressing subject matter, I think it’s an important topic and a place that everyone should visit.

DC holocaust museum

Of course, when walking around The Mall, you can’t forget the monuments and other impressive buildings along the way. These include The Capitol Building, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool, and more. You can even see the Whitehouse from the Mall. It is quite a large area to walk around though so do take advantage of the Circulator Bus. After all, if you only have two days in Washington DC, you want to make sure you can see and do as much as possible. You can arrange your tickets here.

Washington Monument

Day 2: Local Neighbourhoods

If you are a museum enthusiast, you may want to spend your two days in Washington DC exploring the many museums. However, if you need a break from museums then I suggest checking out some of the city’s neighbourhoods. There are definitely some cool spots. I personally really liked the Eastern Market neighbourhood and the area around Logan Circle and the U Street Corridor.

The Eastern Market is home to a local farmer’s market which is a great place to pick up fresh ingredients and even some pre-made meals (especially around lunchtime). There are some cute shops, bookstores, and cafes in the area as well and, from what I saw, was more local than touristy.

Eastern Market DC

Logan Circle is a residential area full of beautiful historic buildings and houses with lush lawns and leafy gardens. It’s very picturesque and quite historical as well; during the Civil War it was a former barracks which was then converted into a refugee camp for freed slaves from nearby states including Maryland and Virginia. Logan Circle is also home to what I thought to be some of the coolest street art ever: the watermelon house.

Watermelon House DC

The U Street Corridor is about a fifteen-minute walk from Logan Circle and, like Eastern Market, has more of a local vibe than a tourist feel. Lots of cute boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s definitely a fun area to check out if you are looking for a break from the crowds and museums of The Mall.

Where to Eat and Drink in Washington DC

Washington DC seems like it could be a foodie paradise with plenty of choices for all budgets and, I have to say, eating your way around the city really is one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

Our trip was to explore Washington DC on a budget so we actually ended up cooking for ourselves in the hostel kitchen. Thanks to the fresh find at the Eastern Market, we whipped up a delicious meal of cheese-stuffed pasta with pesto and had it with a fresh French baguette and cannoli for dessert. All of that ended up costing $12.50 each and it was delicious.

Hostel cooked dinner

If you aren’t staying somewhere where you can cook but are still looking to eat on a budget, be sure to check out Washington DC’s food trucks. They have plenty of great options that go beyond your basic hotdog and pretzel. Locations vary but locals say you can find plenty of choices on 9thstreet up past The Mall.

Washington DC also has a number of great little cafes or bakeries perfect for stopping and grabbing a cold drink, snack, or tasty treat. Cupcakes are a big thing in DC and I was told by several people that I HAD to try Red Velvet Cupcakery. I was happy to oblige and was not disappointed. Other popular cupcake shops include Georgetown Cupcakes and Sprinkles Cupcakes.

For something more substantial, we loved Busboys and Poets. This fun spot is a combination of a bookshop and restaurant that served up yummy food and drinks and had a great atmosphere. We stopped for lunch which, for me, was a crabcake sandwich and sangria- delicious.

Busboys and Poets DC

When it comes to cafes, we skipped the Starbucks in favour of something more local. Colada Shop was a fun find. This brightly coloured café offered a Cuban-inspired menu and had a little outdoor patio and rooftop seating where you could enjoy the outdoors.

If you are looking for a nice dinner out, I loved our meal at Casa Luca; an upscale Italian restaurant on 11thstreet. We split a tomato salad and hot churros with parmigiana and marinara sauce, then each had a pasta dish, a cocktail, and dessert (the chocolate hazelnut cake is amazing). In fairness, we probably would have eaten anything at that point since we had spent several hours stuck in airports. However, it really was delicious and beautifully presented.

DC restaurants

There is no shortage of great food finds in the city, and with two days in Washington DC you should definitely try as much as possible.

If you aren’t ready to call it a day after dinner, this post shares some great ideas for things to do in DC at night. 

You could easily spend a week exploring this city and everything it has to offer, but for those short on time, you can still see and do a lot over a weekend in Washington DC.

Planning a weekend in Washington DC? Here are my tips on the best things to do in Washington DC in 2 Days.

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