Jake McGuire / Destination DC
Not only is Washington, D.C. filled with national monuments and some of the U.S.'s most-visited museums, but it is also filled with some of the nation's best cuisine, from French to fusion to festive cupcakes. There's a lot of ground to cover — the D.C. metro-area encompasses Arlington, Va., parts of Maryland, and the city of D.C. — in just three days. With careful planning and a hearty appetite, travelers can enjoy the city’s best sights and bites.
3 p.m. Time to visit D.C.’s most iconic sites. Conveniently, most of them are located on the National Mall. Starting from the impressive Lincoln Memorial, walk by the reflecting pool and then view the National Monument. From there, stop in museums, including the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art, and end your journey at the Capitol Building. If you need a snack, the National Gallery of Art, with three cafés and an espresso-gelato bar, has the best variety.
7 p.m. The National Mall’s dining options are limited, so take a short walk over to thriving Penn Quarter, which provides more options. For an inexpensive meal, head to Teaism. This Asian-inspired menu, with most items less than $10, includes udon noodles, bento boxes, Thai chicken curry, and soba noodle salad. It also offers Western fare like sandwiches and burgers. As its name suggests, it also serves an assortment of teas, including dynamic flavors like cinnamon apricot and lavender lemon mint.
10 a.m. The bustling Eastern Market, the city’s oldest continually operated public market, is a great place to grab a quick meal and view arts and crafts. Nosh on fresh fruit from local farmers for breakfast. Eastern Market functions as a culinary mess hall, showcasing colorful rows of produce and an eclectic mix of poultry, pasta, and cheese displays. Then, start shopping for one-of-a-kind crafts, like custom-painted light switch plates featuring the covers of old Vogue magazines and classic novel book jackets like Gone with the Wind refashioned into purses.
1 p.m. Georgetown is one of D.C.’s most modern and historic neighborhoods. The best way to see it is on foot. After taking in the area's vintage vibe, hit up Georgetown Cupcake. It’s (almost) become cliché to visit thanks to its starring role in TLC's DC Cupcakes, but a first-time trip to Georgetown wouldn’t be complete without it. The menu options rotate daily but flavors frosted to perfection range from salted caramel to toffee crunch. If you’re on a tight budget, the cupcake shop gives away 100 free cupcakes (one per person) each day (announced on Georgetown Cupcakes's Facebook page), but you have to get there early enough to snag one.
4 p.m. Cross the Potomac River (you can even take a ferry), and you’ll find yourself in Old Town Alexandria. Old Town has a big city feel, but is just a few blocks long. Like Georgetown, it has a very charming, old-timey atmosphere. View boutiques and other retail stores along King Street, the heart of Old Town, and then drop by The Torpedo Factory Art Center. This former torpedo factory houses more than 165 artists who work in a variety of mediums including paint, ceramic, photography, and stained glass. Once you’ve got your arts fix, you’ll need to get your food fix; and the remedy is Restaurant Eve.
Founder and Dubliner Cathal Armstrong has been sourcing local ingredients and growing his own vegetables long before it became trendy. His fine attention to detail and his Irish, American, and French background is evident in his creations that have put his restaurant on many best-of lists, including The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants in America. This romantic restaurant is housed inside a 19th-century warehouse, and, like much of Old Town, the space feels modern while staying true to its past. For those on a budget, visit The Bistro, which is a little cheaper, and serves more rustic cuisine. Appetizers include olive oil poached tuna and parsley salad. Mains range from pan-roasted veal sweetbreads with fried oysters and country ham to roasted halibut.
The Chef’s Tasting Room features five-, seven- and nine-course prix fixe menus and showcases chef Armstrong’s culinary skills. Book your reservation to the Tasting Room in advance; it fills up fast. While you're waiting for your seat, indulge in the restaurant’s bar, The Lounge. It serves some of the area’s most creative cocktails with offerings such as A Pleasantly Bitter Beginning, a concoction of grapefruit, citrus vinegar, Ketel One vodka, grapefruit bitters, and sauvignon blanc.
11 a.m.At this point, you’re probably tired. So sleep in and then head over to one of D.C.’s hippest, trendiest neighborhoods — Adams Morgan — for brunch. Mediterranean restaurant Mezè serves the traditional offerings like eggs, pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, and burgers along with Turkish fare like vegetable lentil cakes and cured beef pastrami served on bruschetta with feta cheese and tomato sauce.
Afterward, consider wandering around the neighborhood to see outdoor art murals and its diverse shops — including The Brass Knob, an architectural antiques store filled with decorative glass, door knobs, and chandeliers dating back primarily from 1870 to 1940.
2 p.m. Just across the D.C. line lies Takoma Park — one of the Maryland’s quirkiest places. Drive down its narrow streets to check out a variety of historic houses — think dwellings that really do look like ginger bread houses. After soaking up the area's history, get a true taste of its modern vibe and head to Soupergirl. This restaurant serves up locally sourced soups that rotate weekly. You'll only find organic vegetables, grains, and beans in its products. If soup isn’t your thing, consider checking out The Big Greek Café in nearby Silver Spring. This tiny shop doles out traditional Greek food such spanakopita, gyros, and offers twists on traditional American fare with its French fries topped with feta, oregano, and herbs.
Teresa Tobat is the Washington, D.C. Travel City Editor for The Daily Meal.