It’s pouring rain in Washington, DC. I had planned a day of sightseeing around the monuments and memorials, but nature has different ideas. And that’s okay, because there’s plenty to do indoors here, and with more than one day in town I can hope for better weather tomorrow. So I take out my umbrella and begin my 48 hours in Washington, DC.
48 Hours in Washington, DC
I’ve traveled here to participate in the Women’s March on Washington, and after it’s over I have two days to see the district and its surroundings. I’m staying with a friend in Virginia who gives me local insights into the area and takes me around to see the highlights. We explore Arlington, Alexandria, and DC in what ends up being a wet but wonderful time.
We start with DC itself. On the first day we spend time exploring the streets and waterfront of Georgetown. The affluent neighborhood is full of pretty houses, boutiques, and restaurants, and I love walking through and absorbing the sights and sounds.
Later in the trip I explore the museums around the National Mall on my own. Fortified by fish tacos at MXDC, I make my way through the rain to the National Museum of American History.
I remember visiting as a child and loving The First Ladies exhibition. This time I head straight there. But I find that while it’s still fun to see the dresses and teacups, I can’t help feeling a bit sad that it focuses so much on the women’s style and so little on their substance.
I enjoy seeing the Star-Spangled Banner more, although I feel a bit awkward about having UK citizenship when I’m reminded that the British burned the White House in the War of 1812. Expat problems.
Next up is the National Museum of Natural History. I spend time exploring the gems and minerals, my eyes widening at the size and color of the Hope Diamond. Then I stumble upon a nature photography exhibition and spend the rest of my visit in awe of the world as the photographers have captured it.
When I manage to tear myself away, I battle the downpour to get to the National Gallery of Art. I browse the paintings and sculptures, but find myself most intrigued by the furniture. It’s fun to compare it to British furniture I’ve seen from the same period (much of it is 18th century), and to admire the craftsmanship. At one point I catch myself wondering why there isn’t much from before the 18th century, then realize how British I’ve become in thinking the 1700’s weren’t that long ago (and also that I’m forgetting how recently Europeans arrived here).
Sadly the rain is so strong by the time I leave that my plans to frolic on the Mall and photograph the Washington Monument and other assorted buildings and memorials are foiled. But the museums in DC are world-class, so I don’t mind having been stuck indoors for part of my 48 hours in Washington, DC.
Outside the district, my friend takes me around Arlington, Virginia. On my first night in town we go to a Balkan restaurant called Ambar, where the food is seriously good (although oddly we keep having to ask our server not to clear the plates before we’re finished).
On another morning we start the day at Sweet Leaf Cafe, where pretty decor and breakfast burritos set us up for the day. And it’s a busy one, too.
Our first stop is Arlington National Cemetery.
We walk through the somber site, stopping to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Afterwards we pay respects at the John F. Kennedy eternal flame and explore The Women’s Memorial and its exhibition on female members of the military. The whole experience is emotional, and I leave feeling awed and grateful for the sacrifices people have made for my country.
From Arlington National Cemetery we head to Old Town Alexandria. It’s home to King Street, a long stretch lined with shops and restaurants culminating in a scenic waterfront. We have lunch there, lingering over burgers and crab in a converted 18th century granary that now houses Virtue Feed and Grain.
But it’s not just eating and shopping in Old Town Alexandria. The neighborhood also has an abundance of colorful heritage houses, and we have fun discovering them as we wander along the side streets. One block has so many American flags that it makes me homesick before I even get on my flight back to London.
But get on I do, and as I leave DC it’s with a lot of emotions and as many good memories. I’m sad to leave my friend, who has shown me such great hospitality (and her Golden Doodle dog, who’s lucky he’s too big to fit in my suitcase), and my country, which has revealed so many sides of itself to me. The only thing I won’t miss is the rain, although I’m sure London will have plenty of that for me when I get home.
Have you traveled here? How would you spend 48 hours in Washington, DC?