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Staycation Ideas for All in Washington, DC
Whether you’re solo, with your boo or traveling with family and friends, DC has plenty of options for the ideal staycation.
Staycations come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps you’re looking for a one-day outing with your boo or a multi-day escape with the entire family. Maybe you need a solo break in the city. Regardless of your approach, Washington, DC is stacked with worthwhile experiences, many of which are detailed below. And as you plan your trip, make sure to check out our Stay Local DC deals and discounts, which include hotel offers.
• Marvel at renderings of leading American figures at the National Portrait Gallery and explore cutting-edge work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Afterwards, wind down and enjoy peace and solitude inside the Kogod Courtyard, which connects the two museums.
• Venture to the Phillips Collection to view legendary pieces by Renoir, Picasso and van Gogh. Make sure to spend time in the Rothko Room and conclude your visit with a coffee at Tryst, the museum’s café.
• Browse arts, crafts, baked goods and so much more during a morning visit to Eastern Market. Before heading home, settle in at Market Lunch and try their delicious blueberry buckwheat pancakes.
• Grab a seat at the downstairs bar at Clyde’s of Gallery Place and order one of their classic cheeseburgers and a beer. TVs line the walls and there’s almost always a copy of the day’s Washington Post available. The restaurant also makes for a perfect stop before or after seeing a game or show at the Capital One Arena next door.
• Take a tour of the architectural wonder that is the Washington National Cathedral, where you’ll stained glass windows and Gothic spires. The Bishop’s Garden is a gorgeous medieval-style abode that is ideal for a post-tour stroll.
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• Take the elevator voyage to the top of the Washington Monument, a 50-story journey that concludes with a superb view that extends roughly 25 miles into the horizon in every direction.
• Hold hands as you partake in an ice skating adventure at any one of DC’s rinks. There’s the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, Canal Park’s figure-eight structure, the Wharf’s cozy environs and the city’s largest rink at Washington Harbour, which also provides views of the Potomac River.
• Head to Union Market, DC’s hippest feasting ground featuring food stalls and informal restaurants packed with flavor. You can also browse kitchenware and accessories from local artisans. La Cosecha is a new addition to the area, a Latin American marketplace just two blocks down the street.
• Elevate date night with dinner at one of DC’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Newly appointed gems include Matt Baker’s Gravitas and Daisuke Nakazawa’s Sushi Nakazawa, while Eric Ziebold’s Kinship and Metier and Nicholas Stefanelli’s Masseria are mainstays.
• Become captivated by any of the wondrous shows on display at the city’s illustrious theaters. Fall and winter are particularly fruitful at places like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Folger Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company.
• No DC vacation is complete without at least one meal at a José Andrés restaurant. You have so many options: the Mexican City-inspired Oyamel, the Mediterranean flavors of Zaytinya, the Peruvian-Asian mix of China Chilcano, the small plate sexiness of Jaleo and the Michelin-starred, molecular gastronomy-focused minibar.
• While DC’s larger concert venues like The Anthem, 9:30 Club and Capital One Arena are a treat, smaller, more intimate spaces make for a fantastic date night. Check what’s playing at spots like Union Stage, The Black Cat, U Street Music Hall and Blues Alley.
• The U.S. National Arboretum is one of DC’s best locations for sightseeing. Bundle up and traverse its 446 acres, which include the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, the Gotelli Conifer Collection and the Instagrammable National Capitol Columns. The 22 Corinthian columns supported the east portico of the U.S. Capitol when it was first built in 1828.
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• The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art's 4.6-acre expansion, The REACH, includes three pavilions, an arts café, an outdoor stage and video wall and ongoing workshops and free performances. Turn your family day into an art day at one of the most innovative spaces in the city.
• Incredible historic and scientific wonders await inside the National Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Hall of Fossils, which houses Deep Time. The exhibit chronicles billions of years of science through fossil specimens, informative text, dioramas, murals, videos, interactive touchscreens and touchable objects.
• We all scream for ice cream! Ice Cream Jubilee has two locations in the District, each providing a plethora of creative flavors that are sure to wow the entire family. We’re talking Cookies and Cookie Dough, Maple Rye Pecan, Peanut Butter Chocolate, even Thai Iced Tea.
• See the three most important documents in American history at the National Archives. Inside the building’s Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, you can view the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
• Try the signature half-smoke, one of DC’s most popular food items, at the legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl. The restaurant has become an institution, first opening its doors in 1958 and surviving decades of change in the District. Oh, and the food is absolutely delicious.
• Fill a day with spy-related intrigue and interactive fun at the International Spy Museum, which recently re-located to its new mega location in L’Enfant Plaza. Embark on an Undercover Mission, learn about spies throughout history, learn about spycraft strategies and so much more.
• Family-style dining is the specialty at Carmine’s. The Penn Quarter gathering place serves heaping portions of Italian favorites, including an extensive list of pastas, veal, chicken and seafood dishes.
• Take the kids to Wegmans Wonderplace inside the National Museum of American History. Geared towards ages 0-6, the exhibit features a wealth of interactive experiences, including a kid-sized version of Julia Child’s kitchen and a tugboat that young ones can captain.
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• Capital One Arena rocks with Washington Wizards and Capitals games throughout the winter season, making for the ideal friend group activity. The Wiz are led by superstar guard Bradley Beal, who is well worth the price of admission. The Caps, 2018 Stanley Cup champions, are stacked with talent, including winger Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Braden Holtby. Check the schedules for both teams to find a game for you.
• Satisfy a group shopping fix by visiting CityCenterDC. Find the perfect scent at Jo Malone or scour the racks at Paul Stuart, Gucci and Dior. After the spree, grab a bite at DBGB Kitchen & Bar or Centrolina.
• Take a tour of any one of DC’s many distilleries, many of which are housed in the emerging Ivy City. One Eight Distilling is a must-visit for any fan of spirits. Also note that Don Ciccio & Figli offer free liqueur tastings every weekend, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. is open for free tours Thursday through Sunday and New Columbia Distillers dishes out free tastings of its Green Hat Gin and tours on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.
• If your crew is filled with wine enthusiasts, DC has you covered there, too. City Winery in Ivy City offers tours and a tasting bar in addition to a calendar packed with live music performances. District Winery in Capitol Riverfront offers three options at its own tasting bar and its tours will enlighten you to the art of urban winemaking.
• Experience a concert inside The Anthem, an acoustically optimized, 6,000-person concert hall that attracts some of the coolest acts in the music business. Beforehand, enjoy a perfectly made s’more from Camp Wharf at the Firepit.
• Book one of the many fascinating tours available for the Mansion on O Street. Treasure hunts are popular with groups, letting you explore the fascinating and historic building to find clues and track down items to complete your mission.
• You didn’t think we’d forget about breweries, did you? We highly recommend indulging in Bluejacket’s offerings, which include more than 20 beers in the 5,600-square-foot building. Right Proper’s Shaw Brewpub has affordable eats and eight rotating in-house taps, plus you can tour their Brookland Production House & Tasting Room for free on weekends at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.