Most people come to Washington D.C. to visit all the historic sites and museums. When we go there, however, we pretend to be locals hanging out on the weekend. The last two trips we took there were both in the summer, which can be pretty hot, but it’s also less busy, since many locals flee to the beach and other cooler locations.
So, how do you visit D.C. as a local?
- Find a hotel in a residential area.
- Look up great restaurants and bars within walking distance.
- Check out local events and festivals going on in the city, some of which are free.
We recommend the Dupont Circle area or Georgetown area (near the Georgetown University). Actually, both areas are within walking distance, about 15 to 20 minutes. You can find restaurants, bars, shopping and great people-watching spots in both areas. Let’s explore one at a time.
During both of our visits we stayed at a great boutique hotel called The Normandy Hotel, through a Travelzoo deal of $99 per night, which made it very affordable. The rooms are simple, yet comfortable. The best parts about this place are the complimentary wine hour from 5 to 6 PM with cheese and crackers, and the breakfast in their patio room—super cozy for morning and afternoon lounging around.
Our deal included breakfast (a cost of $12 per person normally) and consisted of hot drinks, juices, boiled eggs, toast, bagels, croissants, cold cuts of meat and cheese, cereals, some fruits and yogurt. Once you start adding up all the savings, you get a great value for the $99 spent. The staff here is very friendly, and Irka, the breakfast lady, is very nice and accommodating. Bring your book or iPad, and you will enjoy spending time in the lounge/patio area during the hot hours of the day.
Every big city has a “Georgetown”. Any time you find a lot of college students living in an area, you find fun places to hang out. Granted, in the summertime, this area is less busy with students, so you see more tourists or locals, but it’s still great for a day visit. You will find that the main M Street is the heart of this town. It has restaurants, shops, bars and cafes along the street, as well as along the perpendicular streets off M Street. The cross streets are on a hill, so wear comfy shoes if you want to climb up. Some of our favorite places to eat at in Georgetown are:
- La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe – anything from eggs, baked goods, to salads and sandwiches.
- Dean & Deluca – think of this as Whole Foods. You can buy groceries or grab prepared food and sit inside or outside.
Other than being a circle for cars to drive around, the Dupont Circle is full of great places to eat and hang out at. The inner part of the circle has a center area where you may catch a musician or two, surrounded by benches to relax in and people-watch. (You may be noticing my obsession with this hobby by now). 🙂 You’ll find restaurants, bars and shops all around the circle. We tried a few places during our second trip in June 2014 that we recommend:
- Cafe Dupont or Bar Dupont – it’s right on the circle and attached to the Dupont Circle Hotel. Saver tip: Cafe Dupont is on OpenTable and has a 1000 point tables ($10 value), which we gladly took advantage of on a Saturday night. The food was quite good. The truffle oil fries that we read raving reviews about were truly yummy! The bartender made us regular mojitos with crushed mint and sugar, the way they should be made, and it was a great night.
- Pizzeria Paradiso – it’s just a block away from the circle and has delicious pizza! They have nice outdoor seating with umbrellas for shade, which made for an enjoyable afternoon meal outside, without being too hot.
There were a lot of lounges and bars just a few blocks from the circle, but we were too tired to try them out during the last visit, since we walked from the Normandy Hotel to the Dupont Circle and back both nights (15-20 minutes). Maybe you can make recommendations on great dance spots for our next visit? Not far from the circle is 18th Street, which is full of restaurants, bars and shops as well.
We explored the north side of the street. The most notable food stop for us was Amsterdam Falafel Shop. If you have not tried this vegetarian fried chickpeas delight, you are in for a treat. The best part of this is that you get to build your own falafel. They give you a pita with a few falafel balls in it, and you choose which toppings to add, such as sauces, pickles dishes, and sautéed veggies. A vegetarian’s heaven. They have fries too, which is a nice addition.
Events & Festivals
Do check out what is happening during your planned trip to D.C. There are some free events available, like Jazz and arts festivals.
If you want to go for a weekend getaway to D.C. as a local, you can try our itinerary. This is what we did while staying at The Normandy Hotel.
- Arrive at the hotel, find free street parking in the area, relax and get ready for the night.
- Stop by the complimentary wine hour in the lounge from 5 to 6 PM.
- Grab dinner at a restaurant on 18th Street. (about a 5 to 10 min walk)
- Go for a night-cap and people-watching in a neighboring lounge or bar on 18th Street.
- Feel free to go out to some clubs or bars south of Dupont Circle or just feel good about doing all that relaxation so far and head back to your hotel for a chill out night.
- Wake up and grab some breakfast at the hotel or nearby.
- Head out to Georgetown for the day. Bring some cold water for the 20-30 minute walk! Oh yes, we enjoy walking, as you can tell. 🙂
- Walk around the main M Street, drop in to a cafe for a cold drink or just to relax before you wear yourself out.
- During the peak hot hours of the day, escape to The Shops at Georgetown Park, and enjoy the free AC while shopping or just hanging out.
- When hungry, stop by La Madeilene or Dean & Deluca for lunch/brunch.
- Ready for a climb? Go up one of the cross streets for upscale shopping. If you take Wisconsin Avenue, about 4 to 5 blocks up is a great Gellato place to reward you for the exercise you just did.
- Come back down to M Street, cross over it, and head downhill now to the other side. A few blocks down, you will find a canal with some great shaded paths, another much-needed escape from the sun.
- Head back to the hotel for a refreshing shower and to relax before dinner. Don’t forget the wine hour from 5 to 6 PM, if staying at The Normandy Hotel.
- Have dinner in one of the many Dupont Circle restaurants.
- Have a drink at the Dupont Bar, right off the circle.
- Ready to dance? Head south of the circle for a great Saturday night. Check out what suits your tastes on Yelp or TripAdvisor in the area.
- Sleep in, you deserve it!
- Have some breakfast and relax while reading a book or an online publication. If you venture out to eat, pick an outside or window seat for some more people-watching. 🙂
- Get ready to check out.
- Tear drop – until next time, D.C.!
So, what are you waiting for? D.C. has plenty to do and see. Cheers, Mrs. Enchumbao