Semper Travel

Washington D.C.

Explore Washington D.C.

Are you preparing to visit Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol?  There are so many things to do, places to eat, sites to see, museums to explore, and politicians to bump into… 

My 1st trip to D.C. was actually when I moved here for a semester during college to intern for Congress. I was fortunate enough to live on Capitol Hill, just behind the Supreme Court. Part of my coursework was to visit all of the art museums, monuments, and other sites. This was a great opportunity to explore D.C. for a few months. I visited a few times after that for weekend trips, and a work trip, and then I returned as a Northern Virginia (NOVA) resident.

This will be a page in progress as I explore and re-explore all of the amazing sites across the city and surrounding areas, this time as a NOVA resident.

  • The Marine Corps Marathon held annually in Arlington/Washington D.C.  The Marine Corps Marathon started in 1976, and is well-known as “The People’s Marathon.”  As of writing this, it is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money.  Typically the event occurs the final Sunday in October.  I’m a certified group fitness instructor and I was a certified personal trainer (accidentally let that lapse while stationed overseas), but I never I thought I’d run a marathon.  My knees hurt from running 5 miles, and I don’t believe regularly pounding pavement for that many miles is good for the body.  That being said, my husband and I thought we should challenge ourselves to do it once, and if we’re only going to do it once, we better do it right!

Update: We successfully completed the Marine Corps Marathon! It was a GREAT experience and I highly recommend. Training wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Only once, on our first 15 mile run, did I take off my shoes a quarter mile before home and walk barefoot for the last few blocks. The rest of the training was actually enjoyable. (Did I say that?) We looked forward to our Saturday morning “long runs” together, completing countless “half-marathons” and longer throughout our 16 weeks of training.

The Typical Tourist Attractions:

  • United States Capitol (on the east end of the National Mall)
  • National Mall (surrounded by the majority of the Smithsonian Museums)
  • Botanic Garden
  • White House (on the west end of the mall)
  • Washington Memorial (near the White House at the west end of the mall)
  • WWII Memorial (I always loved this one, located between the Washington & Lincoln Memorials)
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Vietnam Memorial  (on the side of the Lincoln Memorial)
  • Korean Memorial (on the side of the Lincoln Memorial)
  • Roosevelt Memorial (on the way from the Lincoln to Jefferson Memorials)
  • Jefferson Memorial (around the pond from the Lincoln Memorial)
  • National Zoo (a bit further from the main drag)

The Smithsonian Museums (and they’re FREE!):

  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Air and Space Museum

Other Touristy Things To Do:

  • National Archives
  • Holocaust Museum
  • Nationals Park (Major League Baseball)
  • International Spy Museum
  • Newseum
  • National Cathedral
  • Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
  • Ford’s Theatre
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Freer Gallery of Art
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception
  • Mount Vernon (Just south of D.C. in Northern Virginia)

Restaurants:  We don’t tend to eat out often, but when we have visitors in town, it is always fun to try new places. Here are some of our favorite NOVA and D.C. restaurants.

  • Mission BBQ – We first tried Mission BBQ at a coworker’s house; he catered their food for a work party. It was delicious. We heard Mission BBQ supported the military, so a few months later we stopped by their Stafford location. The atmosphere was great, with many military and police pictures. A highlight is at noon, when everyone stands during the playing of the National Anthem. A few months later, we received our alumni magazine, and found Mission BBQ’s owner in the centerfold. Surprise! Small world! My husband wrote to Mission BBQ on their website, and within hours the owner personally called him to talk. That evening, the local branch manager also called my husband. Great customer service! I recommended Mission BBQ to my work for during our work conferences, and now my company caters from them on a VERY regular basis! Mission BBQ is expanding like crazy! Since we first visited, they now have a location closer to my office, and they’ve opened dozens more. Very impressed by their business model, customer service, support of the military, and focus on hiring veterans. Thank you Mission BBQ.
  • Not Your Average Joe’s – Delicious. Their bread is amazing. You will return, many times, just to eat their bread. (And if you know me, that may shock you, as I don’t eat bread often…I’m known for eating 9-18 egg whites per day.)
  • Mike’s Great American Restaurant – Again, delicious, with amazing bread!  Mike’s features a bread bowl with 3 types of breads, but your waiter will know your favorite and bring more of that kind… We also like the atmosphere; it’s a large brick building with lots of vintage baseball memorabilia.  Warning – It’s often crowded with little parking.  Plan ahead for long waits!
  • Silver Diner – A 50’s style diner with a variety of food, including many healthy food options! We had a vegetarian visitor, and she loved it here.
  • Ollie’s Trolley – This vintage-style, family-owned diner is just blocks from the Smithsonian Museums in downtown Washington D.C. It’s a great place to stop for a quick burger, fries, and milkshake while you’re on-the-go sightseeing D.C.
  • Fogo De Chao – If you’re in the mood for a fancy meal while in downtown Washington D.C., this is our favorite. Stop by for lunch and save a few dollars ($35 per person instead of $50 per person). Fogo Do Chao is an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse. Come hungry. Their filet mignon and bottom sirloin are our favorites!!! The buffet salads, cheeses, cold cuts, and more are also delicious, but with so many good steaks, we try to limit eating the side dishes. The location is also ideal; along Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks from the White House, Smithsonian Museums, and directly across from the Trump Hotel. (It’s worth a stop to see the lobby of the Trump Hotel. It is gorgeous!)

Do you have any unique experiences or tips for exploring Washington D.C.?
Please share!