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This is not a political diary, so my apologies for that, but many are familiar with the DC area, so that's why I wrote this diary.

As I write this, I am ecstatic. Okay, that's an understatement, but the point is, I'm incredibly excited.

Today, my mom and I (or me?) had a conversation, and we decided that we wanted to go to Washington, DC. We are tired of living in our little bubble in Oklahoma, and we want to explore our country, so DC is our destination this year.

We are flying into Reagan in October, and we will be staying six nights. We got a really good deal on Travelocity that includes airfare, hotel and a rental car. Our hotel is The Liason Capitol Hill, and based on the reviews, it seems to be a decent place, but if anyone reading this has stayed there, and had a different experience, let me know.

Now, this is where you come in! We have a general idea of what we want to do while we are there, but my mom was asking about restaurants in the area. She prefers the "mom-and-pop" places or "dives", but I couldn't find very many on Google. I found the Metro 29 Diner, Tortilla Cafe, Tune Inn Restaurant and Oohhs and Aahhs, but that's the extent. Any other suggestions? We need to fill up a food schedule for a week, and we're limited at this point. : )

In terms of general things to do, I've included a list of places that we plan to visit, but I'm almost certain I will be going out on my own a lot of the time, so can anyone recommend some good political places besides the norm (Capitol, etc.)?

Arlington National Cemetery        
FDR Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Vietnam Memorial
Washington Monument

Crime Museum
Ford's Theater
International Spy Museum
National Air & Space Museum
National Museum of American History
National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of the American Indian
National Postal Museum
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
United State Capitol*
White House*
Supreme Court*
Library of Congress*
National Archives
Bureau of Engraving and Printing*
National Cathedral

* - Pending with our congressman

This might be the only time I'm in Washington, DC, so I want to make sure it's a week I will never forget.

Your help/suggestions will be greatly appreciated, and thank you for reading!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hang out on the Mall. (10+ / 0-)

    Just take some time to soak it all in, between monuments, people watching, and museums. There's so much... it's kind of the nation's backyard.

    Running around the Mall is my favorite all-time run.

    Screw John Galt. Who's John Doe?

    by Mike Kahlow on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 08:02:23 PM PDT

  •  It sounds like you will have a great time. I've (7+ / 0-)

    only visited DC a couple of times, so I don't really know the special restaurants you might like. However, there is a DC Kossacks group. You can see if this link works to send a kosmail or you can do a search for the group, to see if anyone who missed this can add some information.

  •  National Gallery, and other art museums (6+ / 0-)

    If you like art at all, the area around the Mall has some of the finest museums in the world, and they are free! The National Gallery is astonishing. They also have special exhibits - there is a Degas/Cassatt exhibit through October 6 if you will be there that early. The East Building addition by I.M. Pei, next to the main building, is worth seeing just for its startling (at the time) angles and design. The Freer, part of the Smithsonian, has a wonderful collection of Asian art, as well as a lovely collection of James Whistler's art (you can see more in the American Art Museum). I could spent an entire week just soaking in the museums, including some of those on your list. I'll also second the advice just to walk around the Mall.

    You'll find, sadly, unless things have changed drastically since the last time I was there, that our nation's capital is not immune to the sorrows of poverty and homelessness, with people sleeping in sheltered corners just a block or so from the White House. If you want a different political experience than most people have who visit DC, just pay attention to the people in the city - all of them, not just the powers that be. I'm guessing from your words that this will speak to your heart as deeply as the monuments, even if it seems to leave many of the powerful unmoved.

  •  Air and Space museum. Shoah museum. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer, chancew, Villanova Rhodes

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 08:39:16 PM PDT

  •  Your list of destinations is great. It's too long, (10+ / 0-)

    so you will not be able to do everything this time. DC isn't going anywhere, so you can come back - really!

    Your hotel is in a great location. Congrads! Good walking distance to most everything!

    The Capitol is a must-see, with or w/o your congressman. The dome is stunning. When I was a girl, living in MD in the DC suburbs, we used to catch a bus and go visit Senate committee meetings, just to be there. I don't know if you can still do that, but it might be worth seeing the daily work of Congress if you can.

    Anything in the Smithsonian, plus the National Gallery of Art. The Mall can keep you busy for a lifetime. Unfortunately, I can't give you restaurant suggestions, since my Mom is not a restaurant person. Le Pain Quotidien makes really good bread, and their restaurant near DuPont Circle (there are others - it's apparently a small chain) looked lovely - but it's more yuppie than Mom&Pop.

  •  On the Mall - National Gallery of Art, Sackler (5+ / 0-)

    Gallery (Asian), Freer Gallery (Asian), Hirschhorn Gallery (Modern)
    National Botanical Garden
    A few blocks north of the Mall -
    Smithsonian Museum of American Art
    National Portrait Gallery
    (they're in the same building, the former Patent Office building)

    Lost Tom. Lost Charlie. Can't read (Paul Newman, 'The Left Handed Gun')

    by richardvjohnson on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 08:57:41 PM PDT

  •  Welcome! (11+ / 0-)

    Keep in mind that millions of Americans visit Washington every year, and a whole lot of the people who live here--I am one--came from somewhere else.  You may run into rude people here and there, but that is because rude people are everywhere and not because you are a tourist.
        You mentioned that you will have a rental car. That will be useful only if you plan to make day trips outside of Washington. For seeing the sights in Washington itself, a car is worse than useless.  Our Metro is undergoing renovation work, and locals are scathing about its shortcomings, but there are few subway systems in the world as lovely...and the handful of places that the subway doesn't go (like Georgetown) Metrobus or the D.C. Circulator buses do. Trust me on this, don't drive to the Mall. Don't.
        However, if you have time for some trips outside Washington--as you said, this may be your only trip to this area--there are multiple Civil War Battlefields 45 minutes to 90 minutes from Washington. Gettysburg is well worth taking a full day out of your 6 to see.  You might also--not in rush hour (6 to 9 am and 4:30 to 7 pm) take a drive along the George Washington parkway to enjoy the leaves turning, as it will be october. The Great Falls of the potomac are  a short drive from Washington, and beautiful.
       Washington, unlike most cities of the Northeast, did not get many immigrants in the 1880 to 1924 period, so we have no Little Italy and our Chinatown is about as Chinese as the Gap. What we do have, though, are lots of ethnic restaurants from the immigrant wave that began in 1965....Vietnamese, Thai, Afghan, etc etc. Washingtonian magazine has an online restaurant finder that will help you locate good "Cheap Eats", as most of these little places are inexpensive as well as being very good eating.  
        Some of the museums you mention--the Newseum, the Spy Museum--are private, and charge admission fees. The government ones, however, are free as is the National Zoo--when I visited as a child in 1957 it was a bleak animal jail, but it has been turned into a delightful place well worth spending a sunny afternoon in. Plus the Zoo is in Rock Creek Park, an oasis of green in the city.  
         Keep in mind that the Museum of American History, for example, is huge. You could easily spend a full day there and still not see everything. Don't frustrate yourself trying to "see it all"..tell yourself you will be back and see what you miss, even if it isn't true. Prioritize your list--if you could care less about art, don't waste your time in the art museums. Try to hit the open-air monuments--Lincoln especially--at night, when they are illuminated and less crowded and more conductive to reflection. Your hotel is near Union Station, which is magnificently restored and full of shops and places to eat.
        Have a wonderful time!

    "Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed." Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

    by Reston history guy on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:06:50 PM PDT

  •  check out ''old ebbitt grill'' - best shrimp ever (4+ / 0-)
    Old Ebbitt Grill is just steps from The White House and museums in downtown Washington. Established in 1856, it was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. See full history
    we got real ''hysterical'' and stayed at ''The Willard''

    ''the truth at any cost lowers all other costs,''

    by lostinamerica on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:34:19 PM PDT

  •  You have too much! (4+ / 0-)

    but my favorites are the First Ladies Dresses in American History (I think), Air and Space, the old original Red Castle Smithsonian, the Portrait Gallery of American Presidents, especially the FDR pictures and the JFK portraits.

    Have  a blast, and don't be afraid to take the subway

    The GOP -- Hating Women, Gays and People of Color since 1854
    PS Despite the dumb screenname I picked, I'm female!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:39:35 PM PDT

  •  When you need a break and want to get away, (5+ / 0-)

    take the car and go to Roosevelt Island, at least if there are still leaves on the trees. The GW Parkway & RI can be beautiful in October depending on how the fall weather goes, so getting there can be nice too if you don't do it during rush hours. It's amazing how away it can feel at Roosevelt, but you may not be there long enough to need that.

    I'd advise not even getting a car unless you're determined to leave the city to go to Mt Vernon or other Virginia sites (e.g., the off-site part of the Air & Space Museum) or up to Maryland or Gettysburg. Driving in D.C. is a major hassle and parking is usually expensive at hotels. You won't need a car for most of the sites you've listed. If you don't get a car but need to get away from the city, go to Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown to see the gardens, then kick around Georgetown and see old houses. You'll find plenty of restaurants and bars. Avoid it on Halloween, at least with your mother.

    On your first full day, take a tour on whatever replaced the Tourmobile -- I'm assuming it covers basically the same ground. Hit the major stuff and decide where you want to spend more time. Unless your mother wants to spend a lot of time walking, it's the only reasonable way to see the typical draws at Arlington Cemetery (Kennedy graves; astronaut memorials; Tomb of the Unknowns) and they're worth seeing. A great and sobering place to spend a long time, but not if you've only got a week. Once you've done a tour circuit, use Metro or cabs. (There used to be an after-dark "scandal tour" that could be fun, too.)

    Try to be at the Lincoln Memorial at sunset at least once. Get there a little earlier and read the addresses -- both of them -- carved in the walls. Talk to the guy at the POW/MIA booth between there and the Vietnam Wall. If you don't already have a connection to anyone on the wall, come equipped with the name of someone from your hometown and look him up. Take a photo or do a rubbing. Connect. Walk slowly. Read names and notice the variety of ethnic backgrounds they hailed from. They're grouped by death dates -- observe how many really bad days there were. Don't miss the Korean War memorial, especially if you get bad weather and can experience the tiniest bit of their misery.

    It's easy to get museumed out, so visit their websites in advance to see what exhibits will be featured, and prioritize. (Have you seen money? OK, skip Engraving and Printing and go see Friendship 7 and the Spirit of St. Louis.) I always recommended American History and Air & Space above the others -- a lot of stuff you won't see elsewhere, and isn't the same in a photo -- but if a particular type of art or a gem collection interest you, you can find that out online and map out your day.

    Find out the argument schedule at the Supreme Court and see if you can arrange your visit for that day if you want to see them in their native habitat; if you're more interested in the building, do it on an off-argument day. Same for the Capitol - the statues are mildly interesting, but see if you can find a hearing to sit in at. Better still, find a demonstration outside and chat up participants petitioning for redress of grievances.  

    If you need to sit down indoors during the day for free, go to Union Station. Have a beer at the Center Cafe if that's still there and watch people run for trains. (No Biden anymore, though.) There's usually at least one good restaurant in the station, plus a food court full of familiar chains, but I've been too long away to recommend anything. Have another beer at the Dubliner if you decide to visit the Postal Museum. The pub food wasn't bad last time I had it. I hear the best museum food is at the American Indian museum.

    Figure out what you and your mother care most about - history, gardens, art, architecture, government, people watching?? Want live performances? Combine it with seeing a site like Ford's, the Kennedy Center (there's always something going on on one of its stages) or an embassy such as here or here.

    Don't expect great food and you won't be disappointed but Dupont Circle usually seemed to have good places at a wide range of prices. Go to New Orleans for food. You'll be too busy with this list (which is way too long) unless you want to plan one really great dinner somewhere that a D.C. kossack might be able to suggest.

    Now I see Reston history guy has covered some of this ground, so I'll just add: On Metro escalators, please, please, please walk to the left and stand to the right!!

  •  Maybe your mom would like to eat at (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    some of President Obama's lunch stops?
    I know that I would.
    Don't remember the names off hand...
    Maybe someone can fill in the details.

  •  You should be able to get a meet and greet w/ (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, chancew, unfangus, VirginiaJeff

    your Congressperson.
    Contact them well in advance.
    Their staff can accommodate a tour of the Capitol and at the very least a picture and a handshake.
    Might be a good time to bend their ear ever so slightly. lol.
    Your mom might like that and she won't need to dress up too much.

  •  I haven't been to D.C. in many years, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I remember having some terrific dim sum in its Chinatown, which was in walking distance of the convention center -- itself not far from the mall. I'm afraid I don't have any idea what the restaurant was called: someone else took me there. But for inexpensive, good dining, you should definitely check out Chinatown. I'd suggest joining Chowhound and posting a thread there -- or even just going there and searching for inexpensive restaurants in the city.

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:19:23 PM PDT

  •  Get tickets to a show - DC has a thriving theat... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Get tickets to a show - DC has a thriving theatre community. Check the Kennedy Center or Ford's Theatre or Arena Stage or any one of a number of smaller theaters in and around DC. Don't bother with a car but wear comfortable shoes! The mall itself is quite a hike. I like the Portrait Gallery. I agree with other posters though - your list is a little ambitious. Any one of the museums might take you a whole day depending on how much you are interested in the subject.

  •  Other great things/places (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, Cedwyn, chancew

    Off the top of my DC-raised and VA resident head, a few others:

    First of all know that DC is divided into quadrants and you need to know the quadrant or you will get lost.

    NW, NE, SW, SE. has a list of "Things to Do in DC".

    National Geographic Society Museum. Lots of exhibits, some very special, and a great gift shop. Check the calendar and info on their website.

    Hillwood Museum (this was heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post's home) has an incredible collection of Russian things and wonderful gardens in good weather.

    You can take a shuttle from the Air and Space Museum on the Mall to the Annex out at Dulles that has a space shuttle, a stealth fighter, and a huge collection of aircraft.

    The Eastern Market on Capitol Hill is an old-time open indoor market, fun anytime with food available, but has even more going on on the weekends.

    Mitsitam Cafe (great food in a cafeteria-style restaurant in the Museum of the American Indian, my favorite place to eat anywhere near the Mall, native foods from all regions of the US)

    Any Ethiopian Restaurant like Dukem, Meskerem, Addis Ababa, Etete, or many others. The food is savory and delicious. (Very few places in the US have Ethiopian restaurants and DC has a big Ethiopian community and is known for it.)

    Other restaurants:  Check The Washingtonian Magazine website, Chowhound, UrbanSpoon, Yelp or Tripadvisor for recent ratings. These, or Zagat's, will be a good place to find restaurants and ratings near where you will be staying or visiting.  

    More Food places that are only in DC: The classic DC dive (and favorite of many from Obama to Bill Cosby) is Ben's Chili Bowl. It is a CERTIFIED dive with a long DC and civil rights history.

    Shake Shack is not a DC native (it's from NY) but is arguably one of the best burger spots around and the president and veep have eaten there.

    Michelle Obama likes casual spots We the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery. She and the President have also eaten at The Coupe and Open City. Most of their date nights however are more formal places.

    Here's a list if you want to stalk the prez's food choices.
    Obama-endorsed DC food spots

    Busboys and Poets is a great coffeehouse type cafe place at 14th and V or 5th and K, a true community gathering place, and across the street at 14th is Eatonville, more upscale soul food inspired by Harlen writer Zora Neale Hurston (Michelle eats there).

    Not a gourmet experience but an interesting stop with food is the open air Maine Avenue southwest fish market if you are in the area on a nice day. Shrimp, fish and chips, crabcakes, etc.

    I agree with Old Ebbitt Grill, although more upscale than a dive it is a classic downtown DC spot for celebrity watching.

    We sometimes catch a bite downtown at The Greene Turtle. Kind of a sports bar at the arena.

    In Georgetown, Martin's Tavern and The Tombs are both interesting classic dives. Martins was a JFK crowd hangout and the Tombs is a classic university bar and grill.

    Back to tourism.
    If you have a car, Annapolis in Maryland or George Washington's home Mt. Vernon in Virginia both make a nice day trip on the fringe of the area.

    One of the Potomac rivercruise dinner ships makes a nice scenic outing in the evening when everything is lit up downtown. Nina's Dandy is one, or try Spirit or Odyssey, check online for others and ratings.

    If DCDuck is still running, they are a fun "tour bus" kind of thing for an overview of the town.

    You can do an internet search for location and contacts for any of these. Have a great trip!

  •  Chance we can believe in! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, chancew

    I lived in NOVA as a child in the '60s. My favorite memories are of the Marine band playing live concerts near the tidal pool. I don't know where they play now for the public, but this is the epitome of a DC experience for me.

    Libertarian? Libertine!

    by Jake Bodhi on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 03:40:14 AM PDT

  •  Hotels (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the same general area as the Liaison:

    Capitol Hill area hotels top rated on Yelp

    I'd look at #1,3, 4 and 7 on that search as well as your choice.

    And check the same kind of search on Tripadvisor.

    I don't know the Liaison at all. The only negative I can give you is that it is right next to a DC fire station, which might bother a light sleeper. And the web site says they charge for WiFi.

    We do like The George, which is nearby. It is also a boutique type hotel, a Kimpton property so if you join their "friends" program before you reserve, you will get free WiFi and a credit for the minibar.

    Both places have in-house or next-door restaurants that are not cheap but do attract Capitol Hill folks (might see a celebrity).

  •  More hotels (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Hotel Monaco, in the Penn Quarter area, is another Kimpton property that is close to lots of sights and attractions.
    As I said in my previous posting, I love Kimpton properties. I forgot to mention that they all have a before dinner free wine hour and each room has an umbrella (and I think they use Keurigs for in-room coffee).

    Also in convenient Penn Quarter is the Courtyard Convention Center, but I don't know anything about it.

    Another fun restaurant I forgot to mention is in that Penn Quarter area: Jaleo. It is a tapas restaurant, very loved in DC by everyone, you can eat a lot or a little, we love it too.

    One final DC classic restaurant that I like is Georgia Brown's. Contemporary southern food. Great Sunday brunch with jazz. But to be safe make a reservation. Not at all a dive but VERY DC. Located on McPherson Square not too far from the White House, Michelle has taken girlfriends there.

  •  American Indian Museum (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    part of the Smithsonian, is a must see, but has a small entrance fee.  The Air & Space Museum, also FREE and part of the Smithsonian, is always a huge hit, and has two cafeterias.

    Do NOT bother with the Spy Museum; it's overpriced, and I thought it was too much flash and not informative enough.

    The Newseum is OK, but unless you have a particular interest in media, it can be seen on the next trip.

    If you still have time on this trip, I'd go to the Natural History Museum, and the Library of Congress, both of which are FREE.

    If you like Asian art, the Smithsonian has two small galleries, also FREE and worth a look-see.

    I always bring my students or friends to see the Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam, and Korean War Memorials, which are close together and FREE.  They are outside and not a good idea if it's raining, but great for cloudy or sunny days.

  •  Cafeterias are the best (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike Kahlow, chancew

    including the ones in the Smithsonians. Look for the ones with good Southern food, which is most of them.

    Really you could spend your entire time in the various museums on the mall (all free)-- Air & Space, American History (my favorite), American Indian, all of them are just superb. And the monuments on the Mall are too. Don't miss Albert Einstein, with the universe spread out at his feet.

    Washington is also an international city, and has some great restaurants from around the world -- I remember an Ethiopian one, can't remember where it was.

    I hope at the Supreme Court your Congressman will arrange for you to get the behind-the-scenes tour through the US Marshall's Office, where you get to see the robing rooms and stand in the well where the lawyers give their arguments, and see the rooms on either side of the courtroom that are just magnificent.  

  •  if you like sushi (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chancew, Kathy Scheidel, VirginiaJeff

    perry's is a fantastic restaurant.  i think it's adams morgan way.  but their sign is a rebus puzzle, so kinda hard to find.


    oh, and lots and lots of people quite frown on calling the airport "reagan."  it will always be "national."

    ; )

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 06:49:43 AM PDT

  •  the tour of the Capital (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VirginiaJeff, chancew

    is very good. you need to make a reservation, and can do it online (It's free, of course). And be ready for security. don't carry any pocket knives, scissors, etc.

  •  Shoot, now you've got me wanting to go! :) eom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Stephen Colbert does superb satire. Pity those offended by it.

    by VirginiaJeff on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:06:52 AM PDT

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