Planning three days in Washington, DC may seem like a tediously intense project: how on earth does one pack 250-odd years of American history into three days? Very, very selectively. Add in the sentimental joy of taking my husband to my old stomping grounds and suddenly we’re trying to cover three weeks of information in three measly days.
While there is always something else to see, three days in Washington, DC is actually almost the perfect amount of time. And if you’re travelling there without the added stop to a college campus an hour outside the city, three days will be a lovely visit.
Our time together in DC began at Chick-fil-A for supper after a long travel day from the West Coast. No photos to prove it, but you’d better believe that was a delicious meal. 😉
Day 1: Patrick Henry College and the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum
We drove out to Purcellville, VA to tour my old campus, show John what my life would have looked like ten years ago, eat dinner at the new and improved dining hall, and dodge rain drops. After dropping our 24-hour rental car off at Dulles Airport, we hopped on the Metro and made it back into the city.
It was still early in the day, so we popped out of the Metro tunnel to wind our way through the Air & Space Museum. On a raining-cats-and-dogs day without an umbrella, it was a wildly wet two blocks from Metro to Museum…and we weren’t the only tourists seeing shelter in the free museum. But, since the Smithsonians are free and the rain was cold, it was a lovely excursion.
(And, in the museum, we discovered that John hadn’t yet heard of my lifelong dream to get my private pilot’s license, so the stop was a very worthy relationship-growing detour.)
Day 2: Walking the National Mall and Capital Tour
Thankfully, Friday dawned without rain so after a lazy morning eating the most delicious breakfast (possibly of my life?!) at The Coupe we again Metro’d across town to start our 9.65km trek around the National Mall. Walking the Mall is the free-est activity in DC: a proverbial walk through history from monument-to-monument, reflecting on wars and pondering Presidents and reliving the iconic moments that have all occurred in this stretch of soil.
For the record, the Mall is not a shopping mall so don’t get confused. 😉 Wear comfortable shoes, bring hearty snacks, and take your time rather than battling the inevitable crowds.
I have oddly very few photos from one of Friday’s highlights: a tour of the US Capital. While I used to work for US Congress and have walked those halls many a time, this was John’s first time. I was so thankful for the tour we were able to arrange with my member of congress to show John the beauty and history of this iconic building.
Plan ahead for your three days in Washington, DC and work with your member of congress to arrange skip-the-line tours. Totally a worthwhile decision.
After a quick jaunt through the Library of Congress while it rained, our Friday evening was spent watching hockey as any Canadian evening should be. 😛 John and I went to a Caps game with my friend Chrissy and despite the nosebleed seats it was a swell game. I think the birds eye view of the ice actually helped this hockey novice more easily follow the puck than ever before!
Day 3: White House Tour and Smithsonians
Spoiler alert: WE TOURED THE WHITE HOUSE! Now, here’s the thing: I had submitted the security clearance paperwork three months before our trip AND kept it a secret from John. I wanted to surprise him with “visiting Donny’s house” 😉 but that’s a LONG time to wait — we were notified of our ticket time a mere ten days beforehand, so the waiting was pure torture but so totally worth it.
I didn’t actually expect the security line to take as long as it did (we were all pre-screened and no one was allowed to bring anything inside) but we waited in the frosty morning air for over an hour before entering a building. So if you’re looking at a White House tour, pick a summer’s day. 😛 (At least it was sunny, of course, but man. Still so cold!)
There’s a certain reverence at walking inside the White House, imagining years and years of history unfolding inside these rooms.
Such a beautiful, iconic space. Totally worth the hour of chilly waiting. 😉
I also thoroughly enjoyed walking out the back of the most iconic house in America and seeing jealous tourists wondering what made us cool enough to be inside.
Planning ahead is basically my favorite thing when the rewards are this memorable.
After a hearty lunch (all that standing in the cold results in grand amounts of hunger!), we finished our final day in DC with a whirlwind tour of as many Smithsonians as possible (the National Art Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum) before metro’ing out to spend the evening with some of my college friends. (Best factoid: after all that fun, John’s favorite part of our time in DC was the time we spent with friends. If that’s not endearing, I don’t know what is.)
And so there you go: that’s how to spend three days in Washington, DC.