24 Hours in Washington, DC

After a few busy weeks at my new job, I thought it was time to get away from the average life of Western Pennsylvania and make the scenic drive to one of my favorite cities, Washington DC.

A four-hour drive from my home outside of Pittsburgh, PA, DC is an easy weekend trip that promises great food, plenty to discover and explore, and history and beautiful architecture around every corner. At the time of me booking our hotel in DC and committing to a weekend in the nation’s capital, the peak of the famous cherry blossoms had not yet been announced. However, a few days later we discovered that our visiting weekend would be the peak of the blossoms- allowing us to discover something new that we had never experienced in DC before.

While I was looking forward to seeing the cherry blossoms, I was most excited for the accommodations that I had managed to book for our one-night stay: The Watergate Hotel.

Famous, (or perhaps, infamous), for The Watergate Scandal that went down in 1970 during Nixon’s presidency, The Watergate Hotel elegantly embraces that history with an exclusive, themed stay in the scandal room where documents from the Democratic National Committee were stolen and room keys for all guests that read, “No need to break in.”

While we didn’t have the budget needed to stay in the scandal room, we had a room that faced the rest of The Watergate complex and its unique, rounded architecture.

The room we had was spacious and modern with a king bed, desk area, floor-to-ceiling mirrored closet sliding doors, a large, elegant bathroom, and seating area near the windows. Overall, our room was just what we needed for this short trip, but when I stay the next time, I would like to have a room with a balcony that overlooks the Potomac River.

The hotel lobby, seating areas, and even restrooms were elegant and eclectic with unique decor. The seating in the main lobby was perfect to have early morning coffee and conversation and The Next Whiskey Bar, right off from the lobby, was the perfect place to enjoy a drink in a one-of-a-kind whiskey bottle wall with comfortable red chairs.

During the summer months the place to be at The Watergate is the rooftop bar that overlooks all of DC and Georgetown, The Top of the Gate. If you’re looking for a VIP experience while in DC, this is the place to be. The views are the best in the city and the drinks, (while pricey), are worth it if your goal is to enjoy handcrafted cocktails with an upscale outdoor vibe.

Perhaps the best part of staying at The Watergate though is the central location to, well, everything! There is a walkway next to The Watergate that leads you to Georgetown and on the backside of the hotel is The Mall- the main stretch of DC museums, historic sites, and monuments.

We enjoyed the short walk to Georgetown because it allowed us to do dinner and drinks on Saturday night and coffee, cupcakes, and a Sunday stroll the next morning. Having been to Georgetown during previous DC trips, I knew that this was a must-do during this girls trip weekend.

The walkable streets of Georgetown house plenty of restaurants, shops, and sites of interest for DC visitors. While the main stretch and canal area of Georgetown is more for the tourists and a night out, this neighborhood is, in fact, a neighborhood with beautiful, stately homes.

Saturday evening we stuck to the main stretch, hopping into shops and making an impromptu stop at Martin’s Tavern. If you’ve never heard of Martin’s Tavern, like I hadn’t, then it’s a good thing you’re reading this now. Labeled as “A Georgetown tradition,” Martin’s is just like the rest of DC- historic with a good story to tell.

From Martin’s Tavern website: “For almost nine decades, visiting guests, future presidents, senators, staffers, and stars have all called Martin’s Tavern their home away from home. It’s where JFK proposed to Jackie, and every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, has come to dine, discuss, and relax while shaping the nation’s history.”

A favorite place of mine in Georgetown that I couldn’t wait to get back to was Baked & Wired. Better than Georgetown Cupcakes and Sprinkles, Baked & Wired is the BEST cupcake you will ever have in your life, guaranteed. No need to stand in line for the other two mentioned.

Located near the canal in Georgetown, Baked & Wired is known for their delicious cupcakes that may give you a little bit of sticker shock, but I promise that they’re worth the $6 you’ll have to fork out to experience this treat. I highly recommend the strawberry cupcake which is their top seller and tastes like a strawberry milkshake. The unassuming bakery is small but has a cupcake counter, coffee shop section, and seating area for guests.

The best part of Georgetown during this trip though was walking through the residential portions of the neighborhood and stopping to appreciate all of the unique and dignified-looking homes for, what I can only imagine are the well-off, important citizens of the DC area.

On the other side of our hotel we ventured to the Mall area to have lunch as close to The White House as you can practically get.

The Old Ebbitt Grill appealed to me because of its central location and interior design, but we were happy to find that it was also a great choice for lunch. Luckily we had a reservation because this place was PACKED.

The decor is elegant with a warm lounge feel and features multiple DC sights etched in glass behind green velvet booths. The wait staff was friendly and attentive and most importantly the food was fantastic. The grilled chicken sandwich and the French toast are highly recommended if you choose to dine here.

Of course we had to stop for a glimpse of The White House which is pretty underwhelming considering the closest you can get to the actual house itself is a good distance back. There are White House tours available but must be requested a few weeks in advance through your state governor or senator’s office. While a prebooked tour will guarantee you a closer look at the American icon, the part of the house you will get to see is all staged.

After a brief stop at The White House, it was off to the Washington Monument- the center of DC and visible from mostly everywhere in the city. The Washington monument offers some great photo ops of both the monument itself and surrounding areas since this section of the Mall is wide open with nothing in the way to block the view of The Capital and Lincoln Memorial.

A short walk from the Washington Monument, the National Archives is a must see for anyone looking to get up close with a true piece of history. I had been to DC numerous times and never made it to the National Archives. I expected a large, grand room with the centerpiece being the Declaration of Independence so I wasn’t surprised to find that that is exactly what the Archives is. On the top floor is the Declaration as well as the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What I was surprised to find was that the Declaration of Independence, even up close, appears to have weathered down to a blank sheet of paper. Very little of the ink that gives the paper its importance is left.

The rest of the archives features letters, petitions, and other documents that shaped America’s laws, society, and economy. If you want to experience everything on display in the Archives, plan to spend a good amount of time here as there is a lot to take in.

Also in the main Mall area of DC you will find multiple Smithsonian Museums that are free to enter and explore.

The National Museum of Natural History is one of my favorites as it displays and features early human history, ancient Egypt, and geology of our world. As someone who thought she was originally going to go into geology in college, I appreciate that this study has its own central museum in our nations capital.

The other Smithsonian museum that I find of great interest is the National Museum of American History. This museum displays pieces from America’s past as iconic as hand written Presidential speeches and past first lady dresses to items that crafted the American experience such as yo-yo’s and the creation of super heroes in fictional works.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this museum for me though are the many quotes from Americans of importance that are featured throughout the museum that capture not only the epitome of their time, but the overall themes of our country that we should learn to not disregard.

Famous or infamous, the Nation’s Capitol Building is one of my favorite icons in DC because of its detailed architecture and many unique and important spaces within. Perhaps the most interesting room is the National Statuary Hall which was built with the architecture to turn it into a whispering gallery.

When standing in certain spaces, you can hear whispered conversation from the other side of the room as if that person were standing right next to you.

One last stop we had while in DC was the Tidal Basin- a waterway and green space on most days turned into a Japanese garden in March and April due to the blooming cherry blossoms. We were lucky enough to be in DC this time for peak cherry blossoms and they did not disappoint.

While the rainy weather and gray skies didn’t quite make the pink of the cherry blossoms pop, the hundreds of trees throughout the city were a beautiful sight. Were they worth the crowds and increased traffic? Mmmmm… probably not. But I was glad to say I saw the famous blooms once.

The Tidal Basin was the best place to see the blossoms but also the most crowded. However, getting to view the trees with the blue water behind them may just be worth the headache.

DC may be a trek for some Americans, but the city provides a beautiful stage for everything that makes up our country- museums cataloguing anything and everything you could ever want to see, connections between other countries, a wide variety of cuisine both familiar and unique to an everyday American’s plate, and history galore.

I think the main reason I come back to DC again and again though is that every building and monument seems important because it is. How rare it is to find a place where every store front, restaurant, and building is celebrated for its part in making the city successful, historic, and inclusive.

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