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10 Oct 2017

BY Abra Dunsby

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How to spend a day in Washington DC

From historic monuments to tasty eats, Abra Dunsby has the lowdown on how to spend 12 hours in Washington DC.

Capitol Building, Washington DC
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A day in the USA's capital is enough time for clients to see the main sights – as long as you plan wisely, says Abra Dunsby

America’s capital is so steeped in politics and history that clients could easily spend a handful of days here, but a wisely planned day ensures they can tick off the landmarks and soak up the buzz.

 

Where to stay: Embassy Row Hotel is ideally located in the trendy Dupont Circle area, near some of DC’s best bars and restaurants.

9am: Hop on the metro and grab breakfast at Old Ebbitt Grill, which began life as a saloon bar in 1856 and has become something of an institution – President McKinley is said to have lived there during his tenure in Congress, and presidents including Ulysses S Grant, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt all propped up its bar. Today, it’s a popular spot for DC’s cool kids, dishing up pancakes, waffles and eggs every which way.

 

10am: The National Mall is only a couple of miles long, so fairly walkable, though for a fatigue-beating way to see the city, take an electric buggy on Urban Adventures’ Washington DC Unveiled tour. The buggies fit eight people, making them great for families or small groups, and the local guides come brimming with facts about their city and what to do there. The city was laid out in 1790 by French planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant, hence the French boulevards and Parisian feel.


The tour swings past the Washington Monument, once the world’s tallest building until the Eiffel Tower took over. A poignant highlight is the Martin Luther King Jr memorial, which can be explored on foot. The statue has no feet, a symbol that there’s still work to be done to achieve racial equality.

 

It includes a walk around the Lincoln Memorial, which looks out across the beautiful Reflecting Pool. Clients can look out for the engraving on the step that marks the spot where Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I have a dream” speech.


The White House may be diminutive in size but not in stature, and it’s impressive to see the building that’s shaped so much history. The tour ends with a drive past the Capitol Building. A law states that no building in DC can be taller than it, so the city is atrractively high-rise free.

 

12pm: The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums, 10 of which are scattered along the National Mall. All are free. The National Museum of Natural History houses dinosaur skeletons, while the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest, opening to rave reviews last year.

 

1:30pm: Clients can take a stroll over to the Penn Quarter for a street food lunch from one of the many food trucks.

 

2:30pm: Take the metro to hit the boutique shops in Georgetown, or walk to the United States Botanic Garden, which offers free tours of its Conservatory and is a haven of green in the city. Nearby is POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace, serving up excellent cocktails and city views.

 

5pm: At the interactive Newseum, clients can watch newsreels and see coverage of major events from 9/11 to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

7pm: The African American Shaw neighbourhood has fantastic food, drink and nightlife. Try The Dabney, a farm-to-table restaurant with a Mid-Atlantic menu.

 

9pm: DC’s music scene is eclectic, producing legends including Marvin Gaye and Dave Grohl. End the evening in the soulful Howard Theatre, which has hosted everyone from The Roots to Drake.

  • Urban Adventures’ two-hour Washington DC Unveiled tour starts from £42pp urbanadventures.com
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