8 AM: The Early Bird Catches the Worm
On such a short visit, you don’t have time to waste, so set out early for a breakfast to remember. Head to DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for a taste of Washington politicos hard at work—yes, even at 8 in the morning. Bistro Bis in the Hotel George (15 E St., NW; 202-347-4200), in view of the Capitol’s big white dome, is a power-breakfast spot where you’re likely to see Hill honchos meeting over perfect plates of eggs Benedict. Even better? The restaurant is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Union Station (on Metro’s Red Line), so it’s easy to get to practically anywhere in the city.
9 AM: Hit the Hill
Now that you’ve seem ’em eat, head to the Hill to watch ’em work. Take a tour of the US Capitol and learn about the history of the building while you see it for yourself. After walking through the Hall of Columns, the rotunda, and the old Supreme Court chambers, it’s upstairs to where the action is: the House and Senate chambers. From the visitors’ gallery, you can watch history as it happens—see bills being debated, votes being counted, and speeches being given. But a word to the wise: Congress is on recess for the month of August, so if watching a bill become a law is important to you, don’t plan a visit that month.
Tickets are free but available only on a first-come, first-served basis at the Capitol Guide Service kiosk on the sidewalk on the Capitol’s southwest side (near the intersection of First Street and Independence Avenue, Southwest). Ticket distribution starts at 9.
• Insider tip: Lines for the ticket kiosk can be long, especially in the summer. If you’re a US citizen, you might try to arrange a tour with someone from your Congress member’s or senators’ office. It’s recommended that you call in advance of your trip to secure a tour time, but even if you don’t, it’s a worth a try just popping in and seeing if they’ll give you a tour on the spot. Often, they’re more than willing to accommodate—you are a voter, after all.
For other ideas about where to eat, check out our guide to museum dining.
1:30 PM: White House or Bust
It’s off to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a look at the President’s home sweet home. Since tours of the White House are hard to come by—they must be booked months in advance, are reserved for groups of ten or more, and are available only during certain hours—you’ll be taking in the sites from behind the fence. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to see.
The White House complex consists of the main building, which is the executive residence space, and the East and West Wings. The East Wing, visible from Pennsylvania Avenue to the left of the executive residence, houses office space for the First Lady and her staff and the White House Social Office. Below it is a secure underground bunker, where the President goes in the event of an emergency. The West Wing is where the business of the White House happens. From the Pennsylvania Avenue side, it extends to the right of the executive residence and houses the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the White House Situation Room, and the Press Briefing Room. Outside the West Wing, on the White House lawn, you’ll might see camera, sound, and lighting equipment—this is the area from which White House correspondents videotape their reports.
Snap a few photos and you’re off.
2:15 PM: Shop Till You Drop
Now that you’ve seen the sights, it’s time to shop, so you’re off to Georgetown. From the White House, walk three blocks north on 17th Street to K Street, where you’ll catch the Circulator bus to Georgetown (the stop is on the northeast corner of the intersection). The red Circulator bus comes every ten minutes and costs $1 a ride. Get off at 30th and M streets, the easternmost boundary of the neighborhood.
M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown’s two main arteries, are home to many shops and boutiques. Retail chains such as H&M, Urban Outfitters, and J. Crew have found homes here along with smaller boutiques like A Mano (for leather goods) and Wink (known for carrying designer jeans).
Georgetown University begins at 37th Street. Take time to tour the campus, where you’ll see Gothic-inspired architecture, views of the Potomac River, and, during the school year, students bustling between classes. You might even catch the Hoya spirit.
5 PM: Happy Hour, Georgetown Style
Lucky for you, there are plenty of places in Georgetown to sip predinner drinks. Our pick is Mie N Yu (3125 M St., NW; 202-333-6122), a trendy Middle East-inspired spot that offers interesting fusion drinks, such as Emperor’s Nectar (peach-flavored vodka with white-cranberry and blood-orange juice) and the Dancing Shiva (Bulleit bourbon, sweet and dry vermouth, mint, an orange slice, and a splash of bitters). If you’re going during the week, the after-work menu offers drink and food specials at the bar. The Marco Polo martini, made with Centenario tequila, Cointreau, lime, and sours, is just $4.25; red and white wine are the same price. Appetizers such as fried calamari or crab with cream cheese, sambal, and Japanese mustard cost $2 to $4. The after-work menu is available Monday and Tuesday from 5 to 7 and Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 7.
For more ideas of fun, food, and shopping in Georgetown, check out our neighborhood guide.7 PM: Dinner on U Street
Head back across town to one of the newest centers of DC nightlife, the U Street corridor, where you can have dinner at Marvin (2007 14th St., NW; 202-797-7171). It's easiest and fastest to get there by cab (about $6.50 for a single passenger; $1.50 each additional passenger). If you choose public transportation, make sure to factor in extra time for your trip (approximately 45 minutes, depending on bus and train schedules).
To get there from Mie N Yu via public transportation, walk one block west to Wisconsin Avenue and catch the 34 Metrobus heading toward Naylor Road. Get off at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street, and transfer to the subway at the Archives-Navy Memorial stop (Yellow line). Board the train headed toward Fort Totten and ride four stops to U Street. From there, it’s a short walk to Marvin; go one block west on U Street and turn right on 14th. Total public transportation cost will be $2.70.
Marvin, a new hotspot, offers an unconventional mix of soul food and Belgian fare. Don’t miss the chicken and waffles. If the weather’s nice, linger over a postdinner drink on the upstairs terrace before moving on to your next destination. Even when it’s a little chilly, the heaters up there keep it cozy.
Looking for more great things to do? Check out our other itineraries in our Plan a Visit section.
This article is part of Washingtonian's Visitors' Guide. For more articles like it, click here.