How to Spend 24 Hours in Washington, DC

Jefferson Memorial | © Geoff Livingston/Flickr
Jefferson Memorial | © Geoff Livingston/Flickr

You could spend weeks in Washington, DC and still not see it all, but if you’ve got just 24 hours, here’s your insider guide to making the most of it. It’s not a lot of time, but it will definitely give you a taste of the city and have you coming back for more!


It’s going to be a packed day, so get a good cup of coffee and a nice breakfast. Start with breakfast at Blue Duck Tavern. This Michelin starred restaurant is popular for dinner, but their breakfast is absolutely fantastic too. From here, take a short walk to the Dupont Circle metro and get on the Red Line heading to Union Station.

Alternative: For more of a local vibe, pick up a breakfast sandwich at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle, and a cup of coffee before hitting the metro.

Blue Duck Tavern | Courtesy of Blue Duck Tavern

Take in the grandeur of Union Station and then exit walking towards the US Capitol. Snap a few pictures and continue walking on the National Mall towards the Washington Monument. Many of the Smithsonian museums are in this area, and since they are free, visitors can just pop into any of them to get a feel for it without feeling obligated to spend a lot of time there. The National Museum of the American Indian is unique both architecturally and in the exhibits it showcases. Spend some time here before continuing to walk on towards the National Air and Space Museum. You can spend hours in each of the museums, but pick the sections you are most interested in for this trip.

American Indian Museum | © Chris Ballance/Flickr

This should take you to the lunch hour, so from the National Mall it’s a quick walk up to the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Stop in at Zaytinya for small plates of Mediterranean inspired food by renowned DC chef Jose Andres to fuel up for the afternoon.

Alternative: Other lunch options in the area are Daikaya (ramen/Japanese bar food), Nopa (American), or local fast casual outlets Cava Grill (Mediterranean) and &pizza (pizza bar).

Zaytinya | Courtesy of Zaytinya


From here, you can continue to walk north towards Shaw walking past the flashy City Center, or jump on the metro Green Line at Chinatown and get off a couple of stops later at Shaw. Continue your walk heading towards U Street, once known as “Washington’s Black Broadway” and the heart of the African American community historically. Take a look at the historic Howard Theater and the Lincoln Theater, and the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, home of DC’s most recognized food, the half-smoke.

If you need an afternoon pick me up, stop by The Wydown on 14th and get a cup of coffee. Their scones are amazing, so grab one for a midday treat. Get back on U Street and head to Meridian Hill Park, stopping at any of the vintage record stores or boutiques that catch your fancy along the way. Once at Meridian Hill Park, walk around, enjoy the green space, and take a break to enjoy your coffee.

Meridian Hill Park | Courtesy of Meridian Hill Park

Make your way back down towards 14th Street and head south. Stop by Home Rule to pick up quirky gifts or DC memorabilia from their eclectic collection. Another fun store is Salt and Sundry, where you are bound to find something interesting. It’s probably time for Happy Hour now, and 14th Street bars are a great place for it. Ghibellina is a fun place to stop and people watch from one of their window seats while enjoying a local beer or a glass of wine.

Alternative options in the area are the French bistro Le Diplomate, Italian Lupo Verde, or the patio at Pearl Dive for oysters and champagne.

Ghibellina | Courtesy of Ghibellina


From here, take a cab or Uber to Georgetown. Walk down the main drag of M Street at a leisurely pace. If looking for some retail therapy, this is the place for it. You’ll find designer stores, consignments, and a number of national retailers as well. There are also a number of bakeries and macaron shops. Baked and Wired is a local favorite for cupcakes if you need a sweet fix, or to take some with you. Wander a couple of blocks off M Street and take a look at some of DC’s priciest real estate with the colorful and elegant row homes in the neighborhood. At the end of the evening, walk down towards the Waterfront and take in the views of the Potomac River and the Kennedy Center. End your evening with a meal by the waterfront. Try Fiola Mare for an upscale seafood focused meal where food is indeed art.

Alternative: Farmers Fishers Bakers also boasts water views and has an extensive menu of American fare. Bangkok Joe’s is a good option for dumplings and Thai fare.

C&O Canal Georgetown DC/Copyright Bob M ~ /Flickr

Where to Stay

The Fairmont Washington, or the Park Hyatt, are both in a convenient location between Georgetown and Dupont Circle.

At the end of your day, you will have experienced some of the unique aspects of Washington, DC and got a vibe for this fantastic city.

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