How to Explore Washington, D.C.

*Hi there! Super excited to have a guest post~ here on Ampersand. Just like how I love sharing cool new things with you, I love when people share awesome ideas/tips/events with me! Meet my friends Carrie & Shannon, fellow bloggers & D.C. residents. Y’all can read their blog, You, Me & D.C., here & throw them a follow on Insta here.  

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Hey, hello, what’s up?! Your friends Carrie and Shannon from You, Me & DC here! We are so excited to be here on Ampersand! When Kasia reached out to us to do some guest posting, we got all sorts of giddy on the inside. You probably know that Kasia makes her home in Philly, BUT today we’ve got a super fun post about a city a little further south–Washington, D.C.

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Exploring a city is vastly different when you’re living there versus when you’re visiting. You have more time so you can explore slowly. You won’t have to miss out on that awesome museum exhibit because you have months to get tickets (unless you’re like us and always missed out on the Yayoi Kusama tickets). And you can scope out the cheaper weeknight shows and don’t have to binge eat horrible fast food all weekend just to try the must have foods! Depending on the city, this process could take weeks, months or even years. Moving to Washington, D.C for the first time, especially if you haven’t regularly frequented the city, is like tackling a gigantic monster. While it’s not New York City or Los Angeles, with its seemingly endless amount of museums, events (historical and otherwise) and bustling social calendar, DC is a force to be reckoned with. If you’ve just moved or are planning on moving in the near future, check out our suggestions on where to start exploring your new home! And let us know over on You, Me & DC if you ever need more suggestions!

Prepare Accordingly

There are apps that you absolutely have to have to function within a city. DC is no different. When you first arrive, set yourself up for success and download these apps.

Start with the National Mall

With the Lincoln Memorial at one end, the Washington Monument in the middle, and the Capitol at the other end, the National Mall is the place to start exploring. Not to mention the myriad of Smithsonian museums at your disposal that line the lawn in between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. There are a ton of free self guided walking tours that will give you a basic structure. Do some research and figure out which museums interest you the most then plan out your day. We suggest starting with Air and Space, American History, African American History and American Indian. But really you can’t go wrong. They’re all free so if you end up in one that isn’t your style, you can just leave. But do it slowly…check out the schedule of exhibits and events to identify what sounds fun. Often these museums will do ‘after hours’ events for 21+ and those are always fun!

When you visit the Lincoln Memorial, schedule in some time to just sit. There are a lot of places to sit on the steps of the memorial and you’ll have a great view of the rest of the mall. Sitting here, looking out on the Reflecting Pool, is one of the most amazing things about the city. Take your time. Soak it in. Then go back at night and do the same.

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DC at Night

Speaking of the Lincoln Memorial at night…take an evening, preferably a weeknight, and stroll around the memorials on the mall after dark. Walk over to the Jefferson Memorial, sit on the steps, and again…soak it in. DC at night is a sight that needs to be seen immediately so schedule this part of your exploration early on.

Head North/East

Once you’ve seen the National Mall and enjoyed relaxing on the monuments, it’s time to get out of downtown. Washington DC is much more than that small slice of old buildings and monuments. Depending on where you live in the city (or if you live in the surrounding Virginia/Maryland suburbs), you might not see other parts of the city unless you actively try and explore. We would argue that DC is best explored on foot. There are so many cute side streets that you don’t want to miss! Even after decades (does that make us sound old?) of visiting, we are still finding new streets that make us oo and ahh over. Georgetown and Capitol Hill are going to be the places to start. Just make sure you venture to parts unknown. Your instagram will thank you for it.

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Check the big restaurants off your list

There are more restaurants and bars in DC than you will likely ever get to visit in your lifetime. As you would assume, there are some places you should start with to kick your Washingtonian experiences off with a bang.

Find your community

DC is a city. It has everything you could possibly want. Because of this, there is a place for everyone. Find your niche and you will flourish. It might take some trial and error (like spending $300 bucks on boxing classes only to realize that maybe they aren’t your thing…), but eventually you will land on your feet. Start with Meetup.com and search for what you want to do in your free time. Or download ClassPass and explore some new workout studios. No matter what you’re into, we’ve got it (even if it’s parrot watching on the Mall). Welcome home.

*Kasia again! Want to guest post on Ampersand? Shoot me an email– contactampersandblog@gmail.com. 

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