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Three Perfect Days: Washington DC

No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s hard to deny that excitement has gripped Washington, D.C. As the locals well know, a changeover of administration always brings a new electricity to what is, after all a “company town,” and the city always seems to puts on its best face to welcome the newcomers and to send off the old guard. Visitors to the city these days will find more choices than ever, from iconic buildings, monuments and museums to world-class restaurants, shops and historic neighborhoods, not to mention nature walks along the leafy banks of the Potomac River. So politics aside, there has never been a better time to take in the nation’s capital.

Author Neal Learner Photography United Airlines


DAY THREE / After breakfast, grab a taxi to the 1 Washington National Cathedral. Tell your driver to take you along Embassy Row, an impressive stretch of Massachussettes Avenue lined with stately mansions flying colorful national flags. Have your cabbie slow down as you approach the vice president’s residence, which many consider to be a more desirable piece of real estate than the boss’s digs.

The sixth largest cathedral in the world, Washington’s richly decorated Gothic church is great fun to explore. From the outside, try to spot the Darth Vader “grotesque” high on the northwest tower. Then visit the Gloria in Excelsis tower, the city’s highest point, which offers spectacular views of the District and its nearby environs acrodd the Potomac, including 2 Alexandria, Virginia, your next destination.

Hail another taxi to the Woodley Park–Zoo Metro station, and take the Red Line to Gallery Place–Chinatown station. Transfer to the Yellow Line and head to the King Street stop in Alexandria. It’s less than an hour to this historic zone, which today retains much of the same charm that attracted George Washington and other Colonial-era notables.

Meandering down brick-lined King Street to the Potomac, you’ll encounter many art galleries and home décor shops. Take a tour of the Carlyle House, completed in 1753 by John Carlyle, a prominent pre-Revolutionary Alexandria merchant. This impressive residence provides a unique window into the tastes and temperaments of the eighteenth-century upper class. (Did they really favor turquoise trim?)

By this time, you’re probably ready for lunch. In keeping with the Colonial theme, consider Gadsby’s Tavern, one of the only restaurants in the country that can legitimately claim that “George Washington ate here.” While the menu today is mostly modern, it also includes some traditional dishes, such as cock-a-leekie pie, an herbed chicken and vegetable stew baked in a crock with a puffy pastry crust, and “George Washington’s Favorite,” a cider-glazed duckling with corn pudding, rotekraut and port wine orange glacée. The savory peanut soup remains as much a favorite today as it was more than 200 years ago.

After lunch, conclude your Alexandria jaunt with a visit to the nearby Torpedo Factory Art Center, an actual World War II torpedo manufacturing plant which has been converted to studio space for more than 165 working artists.

As late afternoon approaches, head to the nearby Alexandria marina and board one of the water taxis—departing every hour or two—bound for Georgetown. (Service starts in April, depending on the weather.) The 45-minute cruise offers a fantastic view of D.C.’s monuments and a nice opportunity to unwind. Once on land, it’s back to your room to clean up for dinner. Your destination tonight will be Zola, adjacent to the Hotel Monaco.

Affiliated with the popular International Spy Museum, and located next door, Zola’s décor takes its cue from the intriguing world of spycraft. Large, shadowy photo portraits of trench coat clad individuals keep a silent vigil over the dimly lit dining rooms as patrons devour such specialties as lobster cake, served with tomato jam, arugula Pesto and brioche crisps, and roasted mignon of beef rib eye. For dessert, try the caramel torte and banana “Freddo.” You’ll be stuffed, but don’t worry. You don’t have far to stagger home.

Back at your room, bid goodnight to President Jefferson, who once cautioned against the dangers of idleness. “It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” he wrote. After three jam-packed days in Washington, you can take some pride in the knowledge that you’ve followed his sage advice.

Neal Learner, an Alexandria, Va.-based writer has spent many perfect days in and around Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C

10 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Washington DC”

  1. Jeffrey Says:
    February 27th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Great research on what to do in Washington and much appreciated insight on our nations capital

  2. Rachel Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 1:56 am

    The PDF seems to cut off in the middle of Day Three.

  3. janicekcampbell Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 10:33 am

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  6. Laura Brooks Says:
    January 29th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    A trip to DC isn’t complete without visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the nation’s Catholic Church and main shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A gorgeous church next to the Catholic University of America. Also, may I suggest a visit to the nearby Franciscan Monastery to the see a re-creation of the Holy Land? All is accessible by Metro, Brookland stop.

  7. cathy Says:
    March 15th, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Great job. very helpful.
    Love to go back to visit during cherry blossoms over there.

    March 31st, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    This article is one of the most informative articles I have ever read…the details were written very well. Fantastic!

  9. Mary Dulany Says:
    April 14th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    The cherry blossoms are still out — it is April 14 — come to D.C. for a beautiful 3 days or 3 weeks. We love our city.

  10. Takaishi Tadakatsu Says:
    October 26th, 2014 at 8:17 am

    When reading this article, the content of this story is outstanding. After I read this story, I had paid visited to Washington D.C. since 2012. I had taken pictures various locations such as Capital Hills. I had gone to Smithsonian, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorials, and other famous buildings. When I went to Adams Morgans, I found many fabulous restaurants. (I had eaten some great restaurants. I did not feel tired while I remained in Washington D.C. I heavily used Metro (or subway) It was easy to get around in D.C., and its suburb. This story was easy to understand for anyone who comprehends in English. International travelers could be worth to attempt to take advantage of Metro or Subway when they visit to Washington D.C.

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