Washington, D.C. Guide: Spring

I may be a little biased, but there's nothing like spring in Washington, D.C. Our nation's capital literally transforms into the most gorgeous and picturesque landscape this time of year. You'll see any and every spring plant, tree or flower blooming. Everything from the famous cherry blossoms along the tidal basin, to the tulips and daffodils that line the flowerbeds throughout the city.

DC is already a huge hot spot for tourists, but the number of visitors drastically increases this time of year. People will travel miles just to get a glimpse of the cherry blossoms or a photo of the capitol building with the blooming trees in the background. 

Many of y'all have reached out to me over the past few weeks, saying you'll be visiting DC this spring and have inquired about what there is to do, where to eat and where to hangout. So, I thought… why not put all my ideas and suggestions into one BIG blog post?! Hopefully this will help you plan your spring visit to DC, or if you already live here like me, provide new ideas and places to checkout. 

Where To Stay 

This time of year hotels are booked solid, at least within DC anyways. If you can find a room, you might have to pay a hefty price tag. This is peak cherry blossom time, tourist season and gala season. So many hotels have been sold out for months. But not to fret! You have several options. Aside from staying with friends or family, you can also look into Airbnb or areas just outside the District.

A few miles outside DC is an area called Crystal City, Virginia. It's a quick Uber or metro ride into the city, and hosts a massive area of hotels. This area is usually drastically cheaper to stay in, and you also avoid the high DC hotel taxes. You can easily compare flight and hotel options via Travelocity. Also checkout areas like H Street, Navy Yard and Arlington, Virginia. Those locations are a little off the beaten path, so they may offer cheaper rates. 

What To Do

One of the best things about DC is that the majority of things to do are free. Seeing the monuments, visiting the museums, walking around the various neighborhoods of the city. The opportunities to save money when it comes to activities are endless. Just make sure you pack your patience, as spring is the most popular time of the year for tourists. There will be lines, there will be masses of people, and it can be hard to get that "people free shot of the cherry blossoms." 

Here are some of my favorite things to do:

Tour the tidal basin area. You can easily hit up the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin all within one fell swoop. These major hot spots are within walking distance of each other. I recommend going in the late afternoon, early evening. As many tourists seem to be tired from the day and head back to hotels prior to dinner. You can also get great shots of these monuments and areas during the "golden hour" lighting.

What to pay for: the Newseum is 100% worth the cover charge. I could have spent hours inside this place. Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about news, media and publications, can all be found in this amazing museum. Cover is around $20 per adult.

Walk around Georgetown. If you're looking for the old colonial charm of DC, this is the area to find it. Cobblestone pathways, colorful and massive row homes, and massive lamp lights illuminate the area at dusk. I suggest going during a week day, as this area tends to pack up on the weekends. Georgetown also boasts the best shopping in the District. You'll find everything from Kate Spade, to LOFT and H&M.

Mount Vernon. It is well worth the trek out there. You can either rent bikes and combine a scenic bike ride with your visit, rent a car or split an Uber with friends. It is not metro accessible, but not too far of a drive outside the city. Mount Vernon has some of the most spectacular views of the Potomac River, and a gorgeous landscape for spending time outdoors.

Tour the Capitol Hill area. You can visit the Capitol Building, Library of Congress and walk along the National Mall all in the same afternoon. The Capitol and Library of Congress offer daily tours. You can easily request a tour through your Member of Congress's office. Do know that tickets may be sold out at this point, but the Library of Congress does offer self-guided tours.

National's Baseball Game. If you're into sports, definitely hit up a Nats game. Starting in early April, you can catch the Nats at least once a week here in DC. My recommendation is to hit up the Bullpen before and after the game. There's usually a LIVE band, beer and food trucks, as well as cornhole. A great pre and post game spot!

Renwick Gallery. This new exhibit is across the street from the White House and has been a local's hot spot for months now. There are massive lines to get in, and I've heard it's well worth the wait and visit. I still have yet to check it out, but it's something many locals are jumping at the chance to visit and a spot that most tourists have yet to discover.

Head out to the wineries. If you've already mastered the museums and monuments, and also have access to a car, DC is a central location to hundreds of Virginia wineries. All within an hour or two drive, some of my favorites are Bluemont Vineyard, Stone Tower Winery and Sunset Hills Vineyard.

Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial. One of my top 5 things you need to do in DC overall is attend the Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial. Held on Easter Sunday, arrive early and long before sunrise to ensure a seat on the Lincoln Memorial steps. My tip, avoid sitting in the folding chairs. The stage will block your view of the sunrise. Instead, get about mid way up the steps and sit right in the middle. I assure you, the best view you could ask for. Makes for the perfect Instagram photo op too. The service is non-denominational and you can find more information, here

Now, let's talk about those famous cherry blossoms shall we?

People will travel hundreds of miles to see these popular blooms. They only peek about three - four days out of the year, so expect massive crowds of selfie stick carrying tourists. No matter the time of day, there will be crowds. But some times are less packed than others. Checkout a few of these articles on tips for timing + snagging the epic "people-less picture."
The consensus? The best time of day is sunrise or sunset. I recommend during the week, at sunrise. Apparently today and tomorrow are supposed to be perfect weather days for seeing the cherry blossoms. We're supposed to get a rain on Thursday that could ruin some of the blooms. So head on over today or tomorrow if you can!

Where To Eat

If you're like me, food is at the top of your "what to do" list when traveling. I am a major, major foodie. I love discovering new places, becoming a regular at some of my favorite establishments and open to trying any new cuisine at least once. If you're only in town for a few days, I highly suggest avoiding the major touristy hot spots. They're cool and have a great atmosphere, but during prime tourist season, they're packed. So here are my suggestions...

Downtown/Chinatown: For some good pizza, burgers and salads, I love Matchbox. If you're looking for a great sushi happy hour, drink specials and one of the largest menus in the city, hit up The Hamilton. Also, Pi Pizzeria is apparently one of President Obama's favorite spots. I've never eaten there but it's definitely worth the mention. Finally, Jaleo is a local's favorite and offers plenty of small plate options.

U Street Area: my absolute favorite place to eat is Policy. They offer small plates, but don't let that fool you. The plates are anything but small. My favorites are their brussels sprouts and scallops. So, so delicious. Best part is, after dinner you can head upstairs to their rooftop bar and lounge. Other mentionables are El Centro, Ted's Bulletin for homemade poptarts and Le Diplomate for fine French cuisine.

Favorite Italian is either Lavagna in Barracks Row or Floriana near DuPont. I highly suggest getting the Brussels Sprouts at Floriana, as well as the filet mignon ravioli. If you're in the Navy Yard area, definitely try out Osteria Morini. It's another one of my faves!

Favorite Mexican is either Mission for a low-key, casual lunch or happy hour on the patio. Or Lauriol Plaza for a more upscale dinner location. Their steak fajitas are to die for. Definitely get those.

Favorite BBQ is Hill Country. It's Texas style, but it's the best brisket and mac n' cheese I've ever had. They also have a really fun karaoke night on Wednesdays downstairs.

On the Water: the best spot for great views of the Potomac is down on the Georgetown waterfront. It's the perfect place for relaxing by the water and enjoying some great seafood. For the best view and spot, checkout Sequoia. They have a pretty good happy hour, and if the weather is warm their patio boasts a Caribbean flare with palm trees, island music and delicious frozen cocktails. Some other mentionable places on the waterfront are Farmers, Fishers Bakers for brunch and Orange Anchor for $1 oysters and a killer happy hour!

Worth the wait: most certainly is Roses Luxury. Voted the best restaurant in the country by Southern Living, GQ and Washingtonian, Roses Luxury is definitely a must visit if you have the time. My recommendation is to go during the week. They open at 5:00 p.m. and do not take reservations (unless you're a party of 6 to 8, then you can make reservations online). So I recommend getting there around 4:00 p.m. to hold your place in line. They seat the majority of the restaurant at once, and anyone past that gets a time to come back. Usually not too bad of a wait during the week. All-in-all, if you're a foodie and appreciate flavors then this place is for you. If you're looking for larger servings and don't have patience, skip it.

Where To Go Out

If you're looking for more than just a cultural and food-tastic experience, you're probably interested in the night life scene as well. Let's be honest, you can't travel to a new city without experiencing a high-priced cocktail with a view! Am I right?!

Here are the areas to hit up:

U Street: the perfect area for the mid-twenty and thirty somethings. Bars are nicer, cleaner and a great selection for any type of scene you want. You'll find everything from your local dive bar, to your high priced dance club. It's all there. My picks? El Centro's rooftop, a fun nightclub is Policy (great restaurant too), and Hawthorne. Marvin and The Brixton are fun as well.

POV Lounge at the W Hotel: offers the BEST view of the city at night. You can see the White House, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial all from the comfort of a rooftop corner. Note: the drinks are extremely pricey, and you have to have table reservations to sit down, but the view alone is worth the $18 cocktail. 

H Street: a more up and coming area than the others mentioned. H Street is where the locals go to chill and hangout. If the weather is nice and you want a fun atmosphere, Red Rocks is the place to go. Great pizza too! Also, checkout the outdoor patio and rooftop at H Street Biergarten Haus. One of my favorite bars in the city! Other must mentions are H Street Country Club (you can play indoor mini golf) and Smith Commons.

DuPont: definitely your nightclub bar scene area. Public Bar's rooftop is fun, Madhatter can be fun if you're looking for a crazy dance night out, or for a more low key bar with great happy hour specials, hit up Front Page.

Did I forget anything? Feel free to email me here, or comment below. Happy to help or answer any questions you may have about your visit to Washington, D.C.

Finally, since it's technically supposed to be a shop post day, here are a few of my favorite pieces for spring travel to DC!


Amanda @ Anchored to Sunshine said...

I'm obsessed with Newseum! I tell everyone who comes here to visit that they have to go! Love this list :)

Lauren Michelle said...

Such a great list!! I have been dying to try Roses Luxury!

Unknown said...

This post, a thousand times yes! I lived in DC for a short time post college graduation and absolutely loved it. It's still one of my favorite places to visit even though I've been to nearly everything. The National's sometimes do a "Pup in the Park" day where you can actually take your dogs. It's hilariously fun, even if you're not going with dog in tow.

This post seriously has me missing DC.

Darrian // www.ohshiftyall.com

Mikayla said...

What a great guide to DC! I am from the area, too...you hit the nail on the head with a lot of things (especially Hill Country for BBQ), and I still learned about new things to do! xx


Rachel said...

I haven't been to DC in YEARS but it's such a great place to go, especially in the spring! I'll be pinning this for later reference when I finally have the change to get back down there!

Rachel | www.seashellsandsparkles.com

Primp & Proper said...

Thanks Amanda!! Yes, the Newseum is one of my favorites to visit!

Primp & Proper said...

We should definitely try it out!! I hear it's on Jenn's list too, ha!

Primp & Proper said...

Ohh, yeah. I've heard about Pup in the Park but have never been to one of those games. Will definitely add that to my "summer guide!" Thanks for the suggestion :) have a great day!!

Primp & Proper said...

Thanks so much Mikayla! Glad to hear you enjoy these things as well, and also found some new things to do! Have a great spring!!

Primp & Proper said...

So glad to hear! Thanks Rachel :) xoxo

Kelsey Patricia said...

Maybe I've been watching too much Legally Blonde II lately but I've been DYING to see Washington DC for a while now! I'm bookmarking this guide for when I'm finally able to go!
xoxo Kelsey

Primp & Proper said...

You've got to!! It's such a great city :)

Rachel said...

Agree with so many of these! The Newseum was one of my favorite things during our DC trip last year! I hope to get back again one of these days to continue exploring (and obv checking out more of the historical stuff). Will definitely keep this guide in mind!


Primp & Proper said...

So hope that you do!! So glad to hear you enjoy the Newseum :)

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