Friday Question of the Day – “Leaving DC – what do we need to do before we leave?!”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jim Havard

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I are leaving DC in the new year after 10/6 years respectively to move to Europe – it’s definitely bittersweet. Now I’m getting anxiety that we’ve not ventured out from our area and explored enough. Could we start a discussion about unmissable activities/places/restaurants in DC and we’ll try and check them all before we leave?!”

Ed. Note: We looked at some fun things to do here and here a few years ago – but given all the change probably time for a refresh. I’d say be sure to hit the Renwick.

53 Comment

  • Biking the monuments and the National Mall late at night. All the way from the Library of Congress to the Lincoln memorial and everything in between. Go later than 11pm when less people are around. It’s surreal to see MLK, Roosevelt, and Lincoln all lit up on a clear night with no moon.
    Have fun in Europe! My wife and I both lived there at separate times before we got married and are considering moving back at some point.

  • binpetworth

    Figure out which cuisines are not readily available in the country you’re moving to. Gorge yourself at restaurants here that represent those cuisines (spoken by someone who spent 3 years in Scandinavia desperate for anything resembling halfway decent tacos).

  • npr gives tours at 11am during the week. although its free, you have to reserve your spot (see their website). if you’re into beers, hit some breweries (hellbender, three stars, atlas, etc. right proper has that new tasting room opening dec 4 so that could be a good stop, too). see a show at the howard theatre. watch the changing of the guard at arlington national cemetery. do a free exercise class in a neighborhood other than your own. spend an afternoon at union market.

    • Is Union Market really that memorable or special? Especially considering that they are moving to Europe, where the local food market will be better quality than Union Market and only cost half as much.

      • Don’t yuck other peoples yum!

      • Europe will have more authentic markets and their own hipster bait. Depending on where you’re going some Asian cuisines with good preparation can be difficult to find. Mexican food here remains pretty lacking.

        DC does have quirky and/or interesting outdoor spaces that most people don’t know: Congressional Cemetery, the Botanical garden near the Capital, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (better in late summer, though), Theodore Roosevelt Island. Also, museums that supposedly in the know people don’t know: Portrait Gallery, Building Museum, Renwick, Textile Museum.

  • The Arboretum to see the old columns and take a walk through some of the gardens. Kenelworth Aquatic Gardens is beautiful even when the lotus aren’t in bloom. Take a walk along the boardwalk in the aquatic gardens and enjoy the fall colors and birds.

  • Visit all three branches of the federal government, no matter how you feel about the incumbents. Ride a few bus lines you’ve never ridden before, preferably to parts of the city you’ve never been or rarely visit. If there’s a business, restaurant or bar that you walk by every day wondering what it’s like inside, take the time to poke your head in. Road trip to one or more Civil War battlefields–they’re hauntingly beautiful and the NPS does an amazing job preserving them.

    • I really like the idea of “ending the curiosity and going in for a look”. I’m not leaving the city but I think I’m going to start doing just that. 🙂

    • I concur with the Civil War battlefields, as I’ve run the gamut over the years and cannot speak more highly of them. I also would recommend taking advantage of the area’s wonderful natural places and activities, particularly around wildlife (not much biodiversity in most of Europe):
      – Great Falls, Billy Goat Trail
      – Weekend trip to the Shenandoah
      – Wildlife refuges on the Eastern Shore
      Obvious, but still good answers are our National Mall (at night) and the Capitol Building. If you haven’t done it yet, I highly encourage you to lobby (whom? About what – you pick). Although at times frustrating, it’s a real privilege to be able to do as an American citizen. Also, this may go without saying, but spend as much time with your friends as possible. A simple afternoon brunch with them will be time better spent than hauling your butt over to Kenilworth (overrated, IMO).

  • David Garber

    -see a movie at the Uptown
    -tour the Frederick Douglass estate
    -the Botanic Garden during the holidays
    -Eastern and Union Markets
    -walk the grounds at Dumbarton Oaks
    -find a play, ballet, or concert and go to a venue you haven’t been to

  • why is everyone saying union market? Its like a market in any city. I can find a very similar one in my hometown. I like it, but I wouldn’t say its something you have to savor and you’ll never experience anything like it.

    Here are my suggestions:
    -Monuments at night. i never make it to roosevelt and I kick myself for this all the time.
    -Bottomless brunch. Maybe not just a dc thing, but its something I would miss if I moved.
    -shake shack. They don’t have that in europe. Or your preferred favorite fast food burger and bar burger.
    -Caps game.
    -If you’ve never been up the washington monument do that
    -If you haven’t seen shear madness at the kennedy center, I’d recommend that

    I could go on and on. I Love DC, and I’m leaving within the next few years, but you will have such an adventure where ever you are moving in Europe.

    • make reservations ahead to go up in the monument or be prepared to get down there in the wee hours to wait in line for tickets! they sell out for the day fast!

    • Tsar of Truxton

      You knock people for suggesting Union Market because “it’s like a market in any city” and then you suggest bottomless brunch and shake shack? Neither of those options is unique to DC and Shake Shack is perhaps the most overrated fast food joint outside of Chick Fil A.

  • goaldigger

    Mt Vernon and Washington’s distillery.
    Marjorie Merriweather Post house
    The Capitol
    The White House
    The National Cathedral

    • palisades

      When we visited Mt. Vernon and the distillery, they were making apple brandy and it smelled absolutely amazing. Highly recommend.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Don’t forget to take pictures of yourself at the scenic places. Your new European friends may enjoy seeing you at the White House, Capitol etc.

  • The Lincoln Cottage is a hidden gem worth checking out.

  • -Navy Museum at the Navy Yard
    -top of the Washington Monument
    -one round of mini golf at H Street Country Club
    -any of the DC walking tours (I’ve done the Eastern Market and Shaw/U Street ones–it’s fun to walk and then stop in a restaurant/bar for a snack and drink)
    -and ditto to everything above, particularly the food one.

  • First, love this question. Have lived here for 8 years and can use this boost to get out of my routines!

    – Frederick Douglass House
    – Gettysburg – well worth a day trip from DC. Incredible.
    – Restaurant-wise, that depends on where you’re going in Europe and whether you’ll really be “missing” anything here. Agree with the person who said if there’s an ethnic cuisine you know you won’t be able to get where you’re going, gorge on that. And if you’re going somewhere that thinks Nescafe is coffee, I’m sorry for you! Drink up at your favorite real coffee places. Stock up on Qualia beans.
    – Be sad that the Old Post Office Tower is under the evil rule of President Trump and not accessible right now; that was my favorite place to take visitors. View from Lee’s house in Arlington Cemetery is pretty great though.
    – Go to your personally favorite museums. Mine would be Natural History and Portrait Gallery.
    – Yes to biking the mall at night (late)! It’s awesome.

    – Union Market (seriously, that is a DC bucket list item? yeesh)

  • The National Museum of Health and Medicine, formerly at Walter Reed and now in Silver Spring, is worth a visit. They have an interesting collection of medical oddity specimens and other weird artifacts. It’s basically DC’s answer to the Mütter Museum in Philly. It’s usually not too crowded since it’s off the tourist path.

    The Udvar-Hazy Center is worth the trek out to Chantilly, VA. They have an amazing historical aviation collection, including a space shuttle, Concorde and B707 prototype.

    As an aviation enthusiast, I always enjoy a visit Gravelly Point Park to watch the planes.

    Last, I’m always surprised at how many District residents have never visited President Lincoln’s Cottage up in Petworth. It’s worth a visit, especially if you’re a history buff.

    • palisades

      Mutter museum is the bees knees

      • Planning a trip weekend to see it soon. Any other off-beat, interesting places to go in Philly? Also, do you happen to know their equivalent to 930 Club and/or Black Cat.?

        • You should check out the XPN Free at Noon concert on Fridays at the world cafe. There is also the Trocodero, the TLA, Electric Factory and Kung Fu Necktie. People on POP are hating on markets today, but Reading Terminal is a must.

        • palisades

          That is a question I don’t know the answer to. But, when I visit cities, I try to find similar venues to 930. I usually look up my favorite bands that pass through 930 or Black Cat and see where they played in Philly.

        • My favorite place to see a band in Philly is Johnny Brenda’s. It is really small, but has an awesome balcony, where it feels like you’re almost on top of the band. Also for larger venues, I like Union Transfer.

  • I love the Roosevelt Memorial. It is 7 acres, 4 rooms for each term. Water and stone reflect physical and political environment of that term (think WPA dam building, TVA, destruction caused by war). It is the only president’s memorial that includes the first lady. Walk around the back of the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson.

    Stop by the Willard Hotel and where Civil War suppiers would stop gov’t officials who stayed at the hotel as they walked through the lobby. Hence the term Lobbyist.

    The Watergate. I once drove by with someone who was stunned to learn that Watergate was a place, not just a scandal.

    Sit in the grand foyer of the Kennedy Center the night of a big event and watch the Famous for Washington folks walk to the theater.

  • I’m going to negative on this one just for variation: Visit any DC government agency and ask a dead simple question, DCRA, MDV, Parks Department, DDOT, any employee in the Reevs Center all come to mind. Spend an afternoon sitting in on trials at the court house. Buy a gun on the streets in Kenilworth. Try and pay for a parking meter without a credit card. Drive anywhere between 7am and 10am or 3pm and 8pm. Take the Metro to an important meeting. Look for nightlife that doesn’t center around alcohol. Try and find groups of people with views on politics outside of the two major parties. Take a long look at the way people dress and try and find the individuals. Try and hangout with people who don’t ask you what you do. Count the number of drivers not running lights, making illegal u-turns or glued to their cell phones. Try and buy fresh fruit or any healthy food at a corner store. See how much a trip to the emergency room costs without insurance., or even with insurance.

    DC is a growing city with a strong economy but Europe will likely be better in all of the ways listed above minus the terrorists :0

  • Touch the moon rock at the Air and Space museum.

  • – Eat El Salvadoran food!
    -bike or walk the Mall at night
    – try to score tix to the National Christmas tree lighting/celebration
    – Arboretum and Rock Creek Park
    – show at the 9:30 Club
    -tour Library of Congress and the Botanical Gardens (I feel like these often get overlooked)

  • Have fun in Europe! If you haven’t or just need to reminisce definitely do the following:
    – Have a picnic at Gravelly Point Park
    – Check out a show and head to the roof deck at the Kennedy Center for some amazing views
    – Take a boat tour or ferry on the Potomac either dinner cruise or monuments water tour.
    – Check out the Newseum
    – Washington Monument/Capitol/White House tours are also fun. Too bad the Capitol dome is being restored currently, otherwise my best tour experience was being in the center of DC from the top of the Capitol Dome.

    • +1 On the Capitol Dome tour – it was amazing. However, even when the Dome isn’t under construction, those tours are very difficult to get and not available to the general public.

      • True, I was very lucky to get one while interning at the Senate Curator’s office (definitely worth it!). People would reserve them via their senate or congressional office and wait over 6 months to get on one. Then you prayed for good weather so it wouldn’t get canceled day of, which in DC is a fun time…

  • Eat at the Inn at Little Washington.
    Get Tom Sietsema’s Fall dining guide on the Post website and eat at any/all of those restaurants.
    Visit section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery and view all the headstones of Iraq and Afghanistan casualties.
    If they are still doing them during the restoration, see if you can get a Capitol Dome tour. You need to have a Member of Congress with you, but it’s worth it if you can get one.

  • Just a minor note about the food: Get your Mexican food on if you like it. It’s very hard to find in Europe. I only lived over there for a year and kept thinking about how much money I’d make if I opened a mexican joint

    • Seriously. After searching, I can’t understand how a 28 country Union that seems obsessed with meat in hand held bread, does not have a tons of Mexican food. Even if you nix the Beans as a pricey import item. About 2 years ago I found better Mexican food in PRAGUE of all places than I could find in DC. AS far as I could tell it was the big exception.

      I’d also vote for the smaller pocket gardens on the Mall like the Enid Haupt and the butterfly garden.

  • Try amazingly prepared mid-Atlantic food at Jeremiah Langhorne’s The Dabney. Likely hard to find deliciously prepared pan-seared trout with black-eyed peas, stewed tomato, pork rinds, & pickled okra in Europe. Also their cornbread is a must-order. This place is way better than Rose’s Luxury and Red Hen and it takes reservations. (Sorry. I ate there last night and cannot stop raving about it.)

  • – Capitol tour through your Representative, it’s cool to say you’ve been in the underground tunnels and they’re much better than the large guided tours. only avail. on weekdays but DO IT!
    – Holocaust museum, Newseum, Hirshhorn, American History museum
    – Segway tour. Be a nerd
    – Spy museum, secretly so fun to do the interactive module
    – See the monuments at night
    – Eat as much Mexican as possible. I missed tacos and margs and nachos while abroad. And greasy chinese food. And sushi! Obviously depends where you’ll be living in Europe
    – Baked & Wired
    – Walk along the C&O Canal (with your cupcake from B&W)
    – Drum circle at Meridian Hill Park on Sunday afternoon
    – Soulcycle/Corepower Yoga/Barre
    – The Zoo to see the elephants and pandas
    – Bike to the airport and watch the planes take off
    – Caps or Ravens game or any sporting event you won’t get to do in Europe
    – Top of the Washington Monument
    – Arlington National Cemetery, National Arboretum, Mount Vernon

    I’ve been here 6 years, so I might know a thing or two. I know others said some of the things I mentioned and I couldn’t agree more!!

    • Great list! Find out what America restaurants or foods are in the area you’re moving to and stop eating them NOW. You’ll be tired of them, even with all the other European options around. Bring with you any seasonings that you know will be difficult to find over there.

      As far as your original question, visit the Lincoln cottage, book a tour of the National Monument, and enjoy all of the DC based restaurants that you will miss in Europe. I loved living in Europe. Enjoy your time there!

    • Oh boy – I’m pleased that you got a good tour through your rep, but I recommend the redcoats over the interns anyday.

  • Not touristy related but make sure you are set up to vote abroad. US citizens living oversees can still vote in Federal Elections.

  • Wait – but – we’re trying to do this. OP, how are you getting to Europe?? Having worked on the hill for 7 years, I’m pretty convinced that I’m professionally useless outside of this city. Help!

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