With my first 2016 spring vacation recommendation, I risk being (rightfully) criticized for boosting my own home town, Washington, DC. However, it is a solo travel destination that has something for everyone. Although it can be pricey, I included some of my personal budget recommendations.
During my early student days, Washington was a city primarily known for government. President Kennedy once famously described it as a “city with northern charm and southern efficiency.” In the intervening decades, DC has grown and grown up to be an exciting international metropolitan area filled with cutting-edge tech start-up’s and yes, local fashion.
One special reason to travel in spring is that both airfare and lodging are much cheaper than during the high summer season.
Why Washington, DC is one of our top 10 picks for a spring vacation:
-Three very special annual March-May events:
National Cherry Blossom Festival Dates: March 20 – April 17, 2016
40+ Embassy Tour-May 7, 2016 + 100 cultural events (Check out Passport DC for more details.)
European Union Embassies: Open House May 14, 2016
Lots of culture and history:
With enhanced security currently, you will need to check ahead of time as to public visits to the Capitol and White House. However, if you don’t get to see either, there are multiple monuments primarily on the Mall to take up most of your visit. My personal favorites are the Jefferson Memorial where you can try out the paddle boats, the Lincoln Memorial with the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument and the Korean War Memorial. If you go to the latter close to dusk, you may almost “see” the statues moving through the bronze battlefield!
Smithsonian Museum-Sometimes it is mistaken to be just the “Castle”. In reality, the Smithsonian is a complex of multiple (yes, free!) museums. I highly recommend for the young, and young at heart, a spin on the merry-go-round right outside. You will need to purchase a ticket and may have to outrun a toddler to get your 1st choice of steed among the brightly-colored animals that await you!
For Easter/Passover observances, there are many options most famous of which are:
Washington National Cathedral
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
St. Matthew’s Cathedral-site of Pres. Kennedy’s funeral
Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
Also of great interest is the Islamic Center-originally one of largest in this hemisphere. As a child on my first visit to Washington, it was this mosque and the National Cathedral that I remembered best.
Verizon Center-for a wide variety of spectator sports
Biking/Hiking-to Mt. Vernon and to Great Falls
Kayaking and Canoeing-Potomac rentals available
Clubs and restaurants: U Street, Georgetown and Adams Morgan
Jazz: Blues Alley and the Bohemian Caverns
Theater: Kennedy Center, National Theater, Woolly Mammoth
Museums that do charge for admission:
Newseum-It is filled with photographs of some of the most important current events and figures.
Spy Museum-Do sign up for role-playing to be a spy on a secret mission!
National Museum for Women in the Arts-Relatively new, having just opened in 1987, this former Masonic temple in Renaissance Revival style is breathtaking and not unpredictably a popular, upscale venue for weddings or private events.
Phillips Gallery in Embassy Row-Washington’s more diminutive version of Paris’s Musee d’Orsay. Do save time to stroll Massachusetts Avenue and the surrounding Embassy Row where you will see a melange of architecture from the Cameroun’s Loire Valley castle to the South Korean’s welcoming Jeju Island statues. Somehow it all manages to work together.
The Holocaust Museum which has both a permanent collection and special exhibits as well as serves as a resource for academics and research. If you plan a visit, be sure to check the extended spring hours!
For the budget-minded:
-Lodging can be expensive so consider short-term rentals, bed and breakfasts and Metro DC’s suburbs
-Metro-If you are a Baby Boomer, check out the online instructions for getting 1/2 price tickets. Unfortunately, you must go to a downtown Metro station to purchase this reduced card in person.
-The multiple Smithsonian museums are all free.
-Neighborhood bistros range from pizzerias to more formal fare. Adams Morgan’s diverse international restaurants do include many that are well-priced. Chinatown is another option right on the Metro Red Line. Unfortunately, it is shrinking with the encroachment by larger chains and developers. However, they have great authentic Chinese restaurants and fun small shops. (My favorite is a boutique with everything from canned goods to small gift items. I never leave without getting a few brightly colored wine covers that look like traditional Chinese dresses!)
Millennium Stage in the Foyer of the Kennedy Center has free daily performances. No tickets needed!
Having been a solo woman traveler for years, I do also consider safety, especially after dark. I always recommend being aware particularly at night, even in enchanting destinations like London and Paris. I choose my lodging in part with safety and access to transportation in mind. When in doubt, I take a locally recommended taxi or car-sharing ride rather than stroll after hours in unfamiliar locations. Some of my best information has come from asking local women what they consider safe and what areas to avoid.
There are a myriad of social media sites for daily events in Washington so take a look and chart your own course to celebrate the end of winter!