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

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.

Old Town Alexandria

Washington, DC

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.

Sculpture in Washington, DC

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.

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.

National Museum of American History

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.

National Museum of American History

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.

National Museum of Natural History

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).

National Gallery of Art

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.

Arlington, Virginia

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).

Restaurant in Arlington, VA

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.

Restaurant in Arlington, VA

Our first stop is Arlington National Cemetery.

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.

Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery

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.

The Women's Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery

Alexandria, Virginia

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.

Old Town Alexandria

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.

Old Town Alexandria

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?

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48 hours in Washington, DC

24 Comments on Lady’s 48 Hours in Washington, DC

  1. I always love to go around Georgetown, particularly Dupont Circle area in Washington DC. The collection of foods from all over the world there is amazing! Made me miss the spirit of the place a bit more as I am writing! 🙂

  2. What a wonderful trip and wow! The women’s march must have been a phenomenal experience. Like you, I have expat problems between South Africa and the UK and can totally identify with the awkward bits as well as the surprise homesickness at strange times. Ha. 🙂

  3. I spent one day in DC many many years ago, and as a Brit, I toured around the typical Washington sites, I remember I practically walked my feet off that day. As I was studying art at the time, I did go to the National Gallery which I loved, but it’s nice to see what else there is to see in DC bar the obvious landmarks. Great post thank you. I can’t wait to return some day. I keep flying through en route to Houston where I have friends, but have not managed to stay over – maybe next time!!

  4. I’m from DC (well Virginia technically), so this made me miss home. Glad you enjoyed yourself – DC museums really are some of the best in the world! If you have more than 48 hours, or go again, there’s so many cool neighborhoods besides the Mall area – H Street, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Logan Circle, Cleveland Park to name a few.

  5. Haha, when I traveled in Cotswold, the first day is snowing, and two of my five days drizzled. Luckily, there are many tea rooms that perfectly compensate the weather, especially Brouton on the Water.

  6. It’s amazing what you can fit into 48 hours. I went to DC a few years ago, but I’ve since discovered that there’s still so much to see. Hope I can go back sooner rather than later.

  7. What a great whirlwind trip to DC and I’m so glad to hear you participated in the Women’s March. That must have been inspiring. The museums in DC are so fantastic that the last time I was there I spent all my time there too!
    On one of my trips to London several years ago, it rained every day I was there so I know how you feel. I never let it stop me. London is another city with plenty of indoor things to experience.

    • I’m glad you didn’t let the rain stop you in London. The museums here are a lot like those in DC in that they can keep one busy for days (and thank goodness for it with weather like London’s!).

  8. When traveling to a city, I often look for suggestions on what to see in a limited time frame. I love that you attended the Women’s March in Washington and, in your short stay, incorporated journeys to museums and exhibits that support women–the First Ladies Exhibition and the Women’s Memorial. I’ll have to check them out in my next visit to D.C. And LOVE your photos.

  9. I’ve spent countless days in D.C. sinve I’m from northern Virginia and am all too aware of the things I did not do. My biggest regret is never visiting the Arlington Cemetery. Great reminder of some great things to do. My favorites are both Air and Space museums and the botanical gardens. Done the White House twice but it was so long ago that I don’t even remember. Same with going up in the Washington monument. It has been too long and now I just want to do it all over again!

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