The first stop on our Southern Road Trip, Washington DC, was about halfway between Connecticut and our final destination, Charleston, South Carolina. Neither my husband nor I had ever visited before, so it was a wonderful new experience for both of us. We only planned to spend two days in the capital, so we packed our visit full of as much as possible to maximize our time in the area. Here’s everything we did in our 48 hours in Washington DC.
It’s important to note that several places, like the White House and the Capitol Building, were cordoned off ergo inaccessible due to the failed insurrection attempts back in January by terrorist groups within the United States. Furthermore, some museums have changed their hours or have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic but are reopening in May as pandemic restrictions ease up, so don’t forget to check opening times of attractions you’d like to visit before booking your stay. With this in mind, 48 hours in Washington DC is the perfect amount of time to see many of the major landmarks in the area.
The Hay-Adams Hotel
Upon arrival to the city, we checked into The Hay-Adams hotel, which had come highly recommended by friends and family. It turned out to far exceed our expectations and ended up being one of our favorite hotels we’ve ever stayed in.
The valet parked our car for us after we dropped our bags off in our room, and we headed out to explore immediately. The hotel is located right across the street from Lafayette Square and the White House, behind the majority of the monuments in Washington DC, so we had a very short commute to see all of the things we had visited to explore. This was also very convenient if we wanted to come back to rest, change, charge camera batteries, etc.
As I mentioned, the hotel we stayed in was only a brief walk from many historical sites, monuments, and landmarks that draw people from all over the world to Washington DC. That being said, due to the failed terrorist attacks & insurrection attempt back in January, the White House and most of Lafayette Square were closed during our visit so that we couldn’t get close to the White House. Instead, we had to walk around the backside of the building, which took us a couple of blocks out of our way but didn’t set us back very far time-wise. In fact, it was a really nice walk, albeit a bit disappointing to not be able to see the White House up close. Hopefully, the barriers will be removed by the time we visit again.
We walked past the White House (we had to take the diverted route) and continued past toward the Washington Monument. If you’re interested in getting a great, unobstructed view of the White House for photographs like we did above, head to The Lafayette restaurant atop The Hay-Adams hotel, where you can not only dine in elegance with a view of the White House and Washington Monument, but you can also walk around the balcony outside to get a wonderful view of DC unlike anywhere else in the city. Currently, tours of the White House have been suspended, but I will update this guide as soon as this changes.
The first memorial we encountered on our walk to the Capitol Building from our hotel was the World War II Memorial. It was a somber reminder of the brutality of war, and it acknowledges the heroic men and women, both Americans and other Allies, who came together and ultimately died to protect not only the United States but the rest of the world from true evil. It serves as a reminder of both the cruelty that arises from tyranny, bigotry, and hatred and the fact that as long as there are good and brave people in our world, evil will not prevail. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and beyond, the symbolism of global unity was solemnly beautiful after the heavy rains that had only just let up before our arrival.
Just beyond the WWII Memorial, we arrived at the base of the suspiciously shaped Washington Monument. Tours of the Washington Monument have abbreviated hours at the moment, and minimal capacity, meaning there are only a few reservations available each day. Since we visited so close to the cherry blossom festival in DC, tickets were completely sold out, so we didn’t get to go up during this visit, but hopefully, we will do this on a subsequent visit. The view from the top is one of the best in the city. For my non-American readers and/or those who may be unfamiliar with the intricacies of American History, this monument, and many other monuments, streets, and areas in the Washington DC area are dedicated in varying degrees to a man named George Washington, a person who enslaved around 150 men and women during his lifetime, was a founding father of the United States, and served as the first president of the United States of America. You’ll see his name all over Washington DC, so if you weren’t exactly sure who he was before, now you know!
From the Washington Monument, we walked past the parks surrounding the Reflecting Pool, the major rectangular pool between the Washington Monument obelisk and the Lincoln Memorial. This is one of the most iconic spots in all of Washington DC, and what many people think of when they think of the capital (in addition to the White House, of course), so it was so much fun to see it in person finally.
Lots of people were milling about taking photos and graduation portraits, which was heartwarming to see after such a bizarre year. If you’re looking for a place to jog, run, or enjoy a walk on a sunny day, this area which includes the aforementioned monuments and pool, as well as the surrounding grassy parks and running trails where cherry blossoms bloom in early April, called the National Mall aka America’s Front Yard, the perfect place to do so. It’s also where Captain America goes for a run in the Winter Soldier movie. The more you know!
As we continued walking towards the United States Capitol Building, we passed by several museums & museum offices, including the Smithsonian & its gardens, as well as the National Museum of Asian Art, which is at the very top of my list of things to visit the next time we are in DC. I absolutely love museums and Asian art, in my opinion, particularly Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Vietnamese art, which have some of the most intricate and unique artistic styles, so I’d love to see what’s inside this museum.
We arrived at the Capitol Building and were dismayed but not surprised to find that everything surrounding it, including the entirety of the sidewalks, was still covered in anti-scale fencing, cement barriers, and barbed wire. It was a bizarre sight, to be sure, but hopefully, one that won’t last much longer. I could get a few cool photos of the capitol building from farther away from where the fence wasn’t visible. It would have been much better to have been able to get closer to where so many major decisions and important events have occurred.
On the evening of the first full day of our 48 hours in Washington DC, we realized we hadn’t eaten all day! We’d been too distracted by how much fun we had site seeing. We ended up enjoying an incredible meal at Old Ebbitt Grill, which thankfully could accommodate us last minute.
On our second full day in DC, we walked through Georgetown neighborhood to admire the colorful buildings and unique front doors & flower boxes that make this neighborhood stunning.
We stopped for lunch at Rakuya, a Thai, Chinese & Japanese restaurant with lots of indoor and outdoor seating. We each ordered a beautiful bento box and a sushi roll, which ended up being far too much food for us, but everything was so delightful and transported us back to our wonderful time in Japan. I can’t recommend this place enough if you love Japanese food!
After lunch, we headed to Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens, which has a huge collection of Russian & other European art and several ornate ornamental gardens, and the large mansion. We spent a few hours here, wandering the grounds and enjoying the flowers on a gorgeous day. If I could do this day over again, I would have gotten our bento boxes from Rakuya to go and had a picnic at Hillwood because picnics are encouraged on the grounds! Read all about the gardens here.
We visited a restaurant near our hotel for dinner that someone at Hillwood had recommended called Blackfinn Ameripub, and everything there was delicious. I ordered a large salad, Finn Fries, that Robin and I shared, and he had the Ahi Tuna Sandwich. It was the perfect end to another perfect day in Washington DC. I planned our 48 hours in Washington DC trip a bit last minute, so the next time we visit, we plan to check out a couple of the Michelin Star restaurants in town since DC is one of only a few cities in the nation where restaurants are so highly regarded.
On our next visit, which will hopefully be longer than 48 hours in Washington DC, we hope to eat at more of the wonderful places in town, explore some of the many, many museums in DC, and hopefully see government buildings and landmarks without restrictions. All things considered, we had a phenomenal time, and I am so excited to visit again soon since we live so close now.
See more of my Washington DC posts here.
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