I love visiting our nation’s capital any time of year and I’ve been fortunate to have visited during all different seasons. Our last visit to Washington, D.C. was in 2013 in the fall; you can read about it here. This time, we traveled there just before Christmas to visit some of our good friends from law school and my brother. It was my first time visiting D.C. during the winter and although it was cold much of the weekend, it didn’t stop us from having a great time and getting outside! (Side note: I apologize in advance for the photo quality in this post. Everything was taken on an iPhone since I left my camera at home.)
We stayed near Union Station with our friends Cullan and Katie. The location is super convenient to all of the sights on the National Mall, so I recommend staying in the area if possible.
After arriving late Friday afternoon, our first stop was at Union Pub to grab a drink. Union Pub was lively and filled with locals having an end-of-the-week happy hour.
Our next stop was to see the ZooLights at the National Zoo. If you visit Washington, D.C. between Thanksgiving and January 2, I highly recommend making a visit to see the ZooLights. It is such a fun, unique, and festive way to visit the National Zoo. ZooLights has live music performances and winter treats like hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies are available for sale. There is even a light show set to music. The full Zoo is not available to the public at night, but you can visit the Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, and Small Mammal House. ZooLights also offers complimentary shuttle rides from certain metro stations.
After leaving the ZooLights, we walked to have dinner at St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar where we shared several delicious orders of mussels and frites in a tavern-like atmosphere. I really wanted to try the Belgian waffles for dessert, but unfortunately our waiter abandoned us and we left without dessert. What to order: Thai Curry Mussels, Mussels St. Arnold’s, Poached Pear Salad
After dinner, we met up with our friends Christine and Scot at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black Jack (upstairs from Pearl Dive). Both had a young and raucous crowd and were a blast. If you’re into bar games, Black Jack even features a bocce court.
Alex and I were training for a half-marathon during our trip, so our friend Cullan joined us for an 8 mile run on the National Mall. It was so much fun to see all the sites without actually being in the crowds of tourists and I really felt like a local around all of the other runners and walkers. We ran by the Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, several of the Smithsonians, through Foggy Bottom near George Washington University, and past the White House.
We had worked up an appetite after our run, so we grabbed lunch at a fast and fresh local favorite, Taylor Gourmet. The restaurant offers a wide selection of gourmet, hand-crafted sandwiches that will really change your understanding of the term “fast food” and will make you forever dissatisfied with Subway sandwiches. What to order: Porter, City Line
That afternoon, we met up with our friends Meryl and Chris at Port City Brewery in Alexandria, Virginia for some beers. Port City Brewery was rated the small brewing company of the year in 2015 and has been winning awards since its inception in 2011.
For dinner, we drove to meet my brother and his girlfriend at Galaxy Hut, a fun bar in Arlington, Virginia, that also happens to serve a full dinner menu until midnight (with all offerings available vegan). The bar focuses on small-batch craft beer with 28 beers on tap at any given time. What to order: Apple grilled cheese, eggplant fries, totchos (tater tots with melted cheese)
We ended the night with cocktails at Old Ebbitt Grill. Founded in 1856, it is reported to be the oldest saloon in Washington and feels like you stepped back in time when you walk through the door. Although it is not in the original location, it still retains the old-fashioned feel of an 1800s saloon through its decor. Although we only had cocktails, you can also have lunch or dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill.
On Sunday, we woke up to spend the day in Old Town Alexandria before flying back home to Florida. We started with brunch at Union Street Public House. Like Old Ebbitt Grill, Union Street Public House has a very colonial feel and the building dates back to the late 1790s. Brunch was delicious and filling and a great way to start a day in Alexandria. What to order: Creole frittata
After filling up on brunch, we walked in and out of shops on King Street. There are several cute boutiques and you could easily spend the day shopping. As it was a bit cold, we picked up delicious Italian hot chocolates (cioccolata) at Carluccio’s to drink as we walked around.
One of my favorite shops was The Christmas Attic, where you can find any Christmas ornament under the sun all year long! I’m not a big collector of anything, but in the last few years, I’ve been buying Christmas ornaments on our travels. It’s a really fun way to collect something on my travels, but not have to display it all year. Plus, we love taking them out of storage and reliving the memories of our travels when we hang them on our tree!
Finally, we made our way to The George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which we could see during our entire walk down King Street. The Memorial stands as a sentinel in Alexandria and provides incredible views of the surrounding area. It is a memorial to George Washington, but also serves as a research center, performing arts center, concert hall, banquet site, and meeting site for Masonic organizations. The Memorial is open seven days a week to the public and full access and tours are available for $15 per person.
After visiting the temple, we decided to ride the free King Street Trolley back to our parking lot. It’s a fun and quick way to get through town and is also great if anyone in your group needs a break from walking. The hop on-hop off trolley operates daily year round and is handicap accessible.
Thanks for reading! Tune in next week to hear about what is on the travel schedule for Candie Travels in 2016!
Union Pub, 201 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar, 3433 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
BlackJack/Pearl Dive, 1612 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Taylor Gourmet, locations across DC
Port City Brewing Company, 3950 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria, VA 22304
Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201
Old Ebbitt Grill, 675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
Union Street Public House, 121 S Union St, Alexandria, VA 22314
Carluccio’s, 100 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314
Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
The Christmas Attic,125 S Union St, Alexandria, VA 22314
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial, 101 Callahan Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301
That would be perfect! Visiting Zoo Lights is a unique travel experience. What I like about it is that the lights are so beautiful and sparkling with different colors. What is night about it is that there’s no entrance fee this year so you can really explore the place without having to worry about budget.
One of my favorite things about DC is that so many attractions/museums are free! I lived in St. Louis for college and loved going to the free museums in Forest Park!
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