Hey BFOTD readers! My name is Nicole and I blog at Three 31 — connect with me on social media too! I am a sweet tea drinking, Jesus loving, country girl from Kentucky married to a Texan named Husband. (Well, that’s not really his name but that’s what I call him.) We live near Fort Worth on a small spread with a white horse named Blue. While I have never given birth to another human, I consider my eighth grade students (130 in all) to be my precious, annoying, and hormonal angel babies. When I’m not blogging or teaching language arts, I enjoy photography, cooking, target shooting, reading, mission and volunteer work, reality TV, and traveling. Last summer, Husband had to go to Washington D.C. for work purposes, but I made sure there was a way for me to go for fun purposes! This was my first time in the nation’s capital and I absolutely LOVED it. For security purposes, I cannot disclose information about our accommodations but that’s okay because my part of the trip was all about visiting national monuments and museums and eating really great food!
If the pictures don’t do the trick, perhaps these travel tips will convince you to start planning your trip and pack your bags.
1. Check (and double-check) that you’ve got a memory card in your camera. If I had checked my camera, you’d see pictures of perfectly steamed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and lemon zest, fried cod, crispy potato wedges, cole slaw, and corn-on-the-cob. Husband said this particular meal was “really tasty.” He never, ever compliments food. Ever.
2. Spend at least a half-day at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. I arrived before the estate opened, but I entertained myself by taking pictures with my camera’s self-timer. It was ridiculous and silly. But a lot of fun. I also recommend a ride on the Spirit of Mount Vernon and cruise along the Potomac River. The view of George Washington’s mansion from the water is incredible.
3. Remember the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery and observe the daily ritual of The Changing of The Guard. This is a must-see. I have goosebumps remembering this experience. You can’t NOT go to Arlington and visit The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
4. Wear sunglasses, sunscreen + comfy shoes. But not new shoes. I purchased a pair of athletic/walking shoes the day before we left and had blisters on my feet within the first hour of walking around the National Mall. Fortunately, I had a pair of really comfortable sandals.
5. Use public transportation + ride the METRO trains.I cannot promote METRO transit system enough. For a mere $9, I had an unlimited daily pass and I zippy-do-daa’d all over the D.C. area. Transitioning from one train to another is super easy and really quick. Honest-to-goodness, I never waited more than 5 minutes to board. An added bonus: the “facility” where Husband and I stayed provided a personal driver who drove me to the train station every morning and picked me up later in the afternoon.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Being in a metro area during the week has its advantages. People who live and work in the area are out-and-about and, usually, eager to help. I can’t tell you the number of people I approached to ask, “Can you point me in the direction of ___?” and they answered my question with a smile on their face. I paid attention to those around me, looking for people carrying a to-go lunch. Those were the folks on their lunch break; they know the area!
7. Eat at local specialty restaurants. No offense to restaurant chains, but I avoid them when I’m in a new place. In fact, I spent several hours researching local eateries found only in the D.C. area. Taking into consideration my food allergy, every meal was incredible. Husband and I ate at Steamer’s and Woodmont Grill (Bethesda, Maryland) and Copper Canyon (Gaithersburg, Maryland). During the day, while I was by myself. I ate at Mount Vernon Inn (Alexandria, Virginia), Old Ebbitt Grill and Ping Pong (Washington, D.C.). If you love crab cakes, you must try this recipe for Old Ebbitt Grill Crab Cakes.
8. Keep a street map in your tote bag. I’ll be honest, the navigation signs on roadways in the D.C. area are somewhat confusing. I got turned around and made several U-turns, but I always found my destination. However, the day I wanted to visit the National Geographic Museum, I turned right when I should have gone left. After a delicious lunch at Ping Pong, I headed towards the museum but found myself in the middle of Embassy Row. I waved to people walking by with their dog or watering the flowers in the yard … hey, I’m a nice tourist! I turned my misfortune into a learning experience and passed more than 100 properties belonging to dignitaries and secretaries of foreign countries along Massachusetts Avenue. I saw the sculpture of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy and took a deep, cleansing breath ( Namaste, y’all). A few hours later, plus a refreshment from Smoothie King, I boarded the METRO train en route to Bethesda. The afternoon was not wasted, but I sure wish I had found the NatGeo Museum!
9. Visit the National Archives … but arrive extra early. If you’re in Washington, D.C., you have to see the documents that created this country. The original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on display inside the dimly lit rotunda of the National Archives. I got goosebumps seeing John Hancock’s signature! Let this be fair warning, however, access to the gallery is limited. I arrived 30 minutes before the building opened and the line was clear around the block. Luckily, I was included in the first group of people (approximately 40) into the sacred space. An hour later, when I left the building, the line stretched three city blocks!
10. Watch an IMAX movie at the Smithsonian Museum. Sure, I can watch IMAX films at my local movie theater, but watching an IMAX inside the Smithsonian Museum is much more exciting! I saw a film on coral reefs in the South Pacific and told Husband we really need to go on a vacation that includes a tropical destination!
11. Try a new cuisine. I know I’ve mentioned food a gazillion times already, but I tried dim sum (steamed parcels of deliciousness) for the first time and fell in love.
12. Make friends. The facility where Husband and I stayed had incredible staff. Miss V was like a grandmother and Mister S was my personal driver to the METRO train station each morning and afternoon. Mister S told me about growing up in Nepal and traveling the world before becoming a security consultant for the United States. I could have talked to him for hours. At restaurants, I made some type of connection with the staff. They were extremely attentive with my food allergy and I met the executive chef and manager before every meal. The waiter at Ping Pong is originally from Fort Worth and he attends George Washington University studying international commerce. I also met a family at Mount Vernon from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a small world, you never know who you’re going to meet next!
13. Because 13 is a lucky number, remember these tips:
- The unlimited METRO pass is valid after 9:30am.
- Keep a water bottle in your purse. And refill often.
- If bathroom facilities are available, use them!
- Avoid large and bulky souvenirs.
- Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet for a taxi.
- Allow extra time between destinations … especially tourist attractions, museums, rental car return, and going through airport security.
Have you been to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite attraction? Leave a comment!
Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us, Nicole. I’ve been to D.C. several times, but there is so much to do and see there I can’t wait to go again. Jed has never been and he is as much a history nerd as I am, so I know we will make it back soon.