Where to Stay in Washington, DC National Mall

I love that I live in a city that is a major travel destination. It’s been almost five years since I moved from Belgium and I am still in a constant state of discovery. A few of our readers have asked: “how do you spend a day in Washington, DC”? Some have a day off from their business travel, others have a long layover. There’s so much to do in this city! Hard to pick how to divide your day downtown, but I try my best to give you my idea of the perfect itinerary. I’ve been spending more time at home as I am working on my book and other projects.  Having these days to explore the city gives me the travel fix without hopping on a plane.



Morning

My favorite time to see the monuments is very early in the morning or late at night. The city always has tons of visitors but these times allow you to take it all in. I love the pattern of the sky as the sun rises over the nation’s capital. It’s the perfect time to wander around the Jefferson Memorial as you see the sunrise over the Washington Monument. If you have time to start with breakfast, we highly suggest a decadent breakfast at The Lafayette at the Hay-Adams after your morning stroll. If you’re on the go, Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken has some of my favorite doughnuts in the city. Take them to go as you explore the National Mall.

Lunch at The Oval Room during a Day in Washington, DC
Crispy Tuna at The Oval Room DC

Lunch

A day in Washington, DC must include a snapshot of the DC power lunch scene: men and women in their dark suits negotiating bills or lobbying for “insert special interest here”.  A place to observe this moving and shaking is The Oval Room, a restaurant aptly located near the White House.  Chef John Melfi creates the most beautiful dishes and his best work is not only reserved for dinner service. The best kept secret is their bar lunch special. You can eat lunch at their bar: main course, dessert and a glass of wine for $20! If you know the DC dining scene, this is a steal.

National Gallery of Art visit a day in Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art

Afternoon

The beauty of this city is that you can go to a selection of museums for free. The Smithsonian has a large selection of museums to peak anyone’s interest. If you can snag a ticket to the African American History Museum, consider yourself fortunate as the collection is amazing. If you have time, make sure to have a bite at Sweet Home Cafe. It has some of the best museum food I’ve ever tasted. For the lovers of fine art, head to The National Gallery of Art. I don’t tire of admiring the Dutch Masters or browsing through their museum cafe. Another great space is the National Portrait Gallery. Not only are the portraits compelling but you cannot miss taking a little break in their courtyard. It’s one of my favorite spaces in the city. Need coffee during your day in Washington, DC adventure? Have a pick me up at a local favorite, Compass Coffee. Bonus: it’s veteran (Marine) owned… ooh rah!

A day in Washington, DC tapas at Jaleo
Tapas at Jaleo

Dinner

Since you started with a fine dining experience for lunch, I suggest a very fun and casual dinner experience: Bantam King. This place opened when I was pregnant and I quickly became obsessed with their ramen and fried chicken. Although I no longer have a justification to indulge, I still make it out there at least once a month! From the same owners as the ramen classic Daikaya, this place is as lively as it is delicious. As you walk in, you’re welcomed with 90’s hip-hop and friendly waiters. Their chicken based ramen is delicious, whether you love spicy or savory, there’s something for you. Not a ramen person? Try the fried chicken. It’s epic! Trust me.  Walk off the fried chicken with a evening stroll along the National Mall. I find the Korean War Memorial hauntingly beautiful at night.

Dirty Habit DC Cocktail Menu A Day in Washington, DC
The Gaucho at Dirty Habit DC

Drinks

Allegedly DC is one of the places with the highest consumption of alcohol in the United States. I believe that alternative fact. Many are looking to decompress after a hard day of hustling. That being said, a day in Washington, DC cannot be complete without some libations. One of my favorites is the bar at Jaleo. Jaleo has been around for years and the sangria there is a classic and the crowd is always lively. Dirty Habit is a new bar near Penn Quarter that has a selection of creative cocktails with exotic ingredients such as yuzu and chili ice cubes. On a warm day, their patio is the pace to be. If you’re looking for a glorious view at the end of the day, head to POV Bar at the W Hotel. It does get crowded but for a reason: it gives one of the best views of the city.

A Day in Washington, DC
A Day in Washington, DC would not be complete without a stroll along the National Mall

A Day in Washington, DC: The Verdict

One day in Washington, DC is not enough to see it all but enough to want to come back. Although I live here, I do not tire of walking along the monuments, taking in the art at the museums or exploring the many special events that happen in the heart of the city. If you have time, I do suggest exploring one of the many vibrant neighborhoods that make our nation’s capital so unique.

Are you visiting DC with your love? Check out my Date Night in DC tips…

  • Um, this video is all sorts of amazing. I rarely see videos like this on DC. So many places to see and things to do in this city.

    • Thanks Micshi. That means a lot to me, especially coming for a DC native like you! Glad that you enjoyed it!

  • Heather Raulerson

    This is definitely a jam packed itinerary. I’ve been to Washington D.C. a couple of times and I am always having a hard time trying to fit in everything I want to see. I agree about the Korean War Memorial. I walked through there when it was raining and it was even more haunting. Thank you for narrowing it down a bit for the next trip.

  • Kenny T.K. Chow

    DC is lovely with great food, nice shops whilst I was surrounded by astonishing monuments. Thanks for sharing and lovely post and photos! @ knycx.journeying

  • Cat Lin

    I’ve heard DC has some of the best food! I can’t believe you can get lunch special for $20 at The Oval Room! What a deal!

  • I didn’t know the National Gallery of Art was so beautiful! I’ve heard DC has a great food 🙂

  • This is a perfect way to spend a day in DC! The food all looks so amazing. Thanks for sharing!