Washington DC: Where We Stayed, Ate & How We Got Around
We crossed a much anticipated trip to our Nation’s Capital off our bucket list this past June. As with any trip, we experienced highs & lows and learned quite a few do’s & don’ts over the course of our trip. I am excited to share my newfound knowledge with you in the hopes that I can help make planning your trip a little easier. Read more about our itinerary and the sights we visited here.
Where We Stayed: Capitol Hill Hotel
We booked our 4 night stay at the Capitol Hill Hotel through Booking.com Our Superior 2 Bed Suite with a Full Kitchen was $362.40 a night at the time we booked our room.
The Location We were walking distance from the Capitol, Library of Congress, National Mall, Union Station, Eastern Market and much, much more. The Capitol South Metro Station was only a block away and made getting around DC super easy! We felt quite safe walking around the Capitol Hill neighborhood at night. I appreciated the fact that there were many different dining options nearby as well as a Starbucks for a caffeine fix.
Breakfast is Included The hotel offers continental breakfast daily in the East Wing. Breakfast is served from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Monday to Friday, and from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. on weekends. A selection of breakfast items, including cereals, fruits, scrambled eggs, hot oatmeal with toppings, bagels, Danish, and muffins are available. Beverages include juices, teas, coffee and hot chocolate. Guests can also take advantage of the grab-and-go breakfast option in the west wing which includes instant oatmeal, whole fruit, granola bar, bread, coffee, tea and juice.
Daily Wine Hour Complimentary wine and refreshments are served in the library daily from 5 – 6:00 p.m. Kids are welcome!
Complimentary Bikes a dozen bikes were available to check out from the hotel each day at no additional charge. We borrowed the bikes for a fun day exploring the National Mall, Monuments and Memorials. We couldn’t have covered nearly as much ground without the use of bikes. Being able to use the hotels bikes saved us approximately $150 in rental fees.
A Large Room Our large room included two Queen beds, a sitting area, small dining area, kitchenette, and walk-in closet. It was more than enough room for our family of four. We did not take advantage of the kitchenette mainly due to the fact that breakfast was included.
A Small Bathroom The bathroom felt a bit cramped for a family of four. The single sink, toilette and shower were all in the same small space. I would have preferred a separate vanity area so that multiple family members could take advantage of the bathroom area at once.
Tip: Confirm your hotel reservation 24 hours in advance. When we arrived in DC I was greeted with an email from the Capitol Hotel stating that our room reservation had been cancelled. I called the hotel immediately and found out that they had run the credit card we reserved the room with that morning and it had been denied. Unfortunately, my husbands card had been stolen prior to the trip and had to be replaced. I had forgotten that I had reserved the room with the card that had later been deactivated. The hotel emailed us mid-morning asking for a new card within the next 3 hours or face cancellation. Due to the fact that we were already in the air for a cross country flight when they sent the email, we were unable to provide a new credit card in time. Luckily, the hotel was able to rebook our reservation and we had a room waiting for us upon arrival.
Where We Ate:
Good Stuff Eatery (Capitol Hill) This burger chain is a DC favorite known for their handcrafted burgers, handout fries, and hands-on shakes. The fries were a bit too greasy for my taste, but the burgers were juicy and the cookies and cream milk shake boasted such large chunks of cookies that I had to resort to using a spoon.
Hawk N Dove (Capitol Hill) It was difficult to hold a conversation at this boisterous restaurant and bar. We did however enjoy the apple glazed Brussel sprouts and buttermilk soaked fried chicken sandwich. The servings are generous and we enjoyed ordering just a couple entrees and starters for for everyone in the family to sample.
Le Pain Quotidien (Capitol Hill) This was hands down our favorite lunch spot in DC. The toasted ham and cheese croissant with a side of lightly dressed greens and refreshing iced tea lemonade hit the spot. We enjoyed sitting outside watching the hustle and bustle of the Eastern Market’s weekend street market.
Pitango Gelato (Capitol Hill) This gelato and sorbet spot is right next door to Le Pain Quotidien. They churn every batch of gelato and sorbet in the shop to ensure peak freshness. The vanilla dark chocolate chip was a deliciously creamy treat to enjoy while exploring the Eastern Market.
National Park Service Kiosk (National Mall) There are nine food kiosks on and around the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C. They offer an assortment of burgers, hot dogs, pizza, sandwiches, salads, specialty coffees, fresh fruit cups, crudités, hummus and chips. I didn’t have high expectations for the turkey sandwich I ordered, but the bread was fresh and the sandwich sufficient enough to see me through until dinner. It was quick and easy to grab lunch at a kiosk while spending the day bike riding around the National Mall. This would have been a good day to make a more cost efficient lunch, but the kiosk was a good alternative if you don’t have the means to pack your own picnic or want to carry your own food.
Old Ebbitt Grill (Downtown) This restaurant is the oldest dining saloon in DC. It serves American cuisine. The historic building, revolving door, mahogany bar, well appointed dining room, and attentive servers provided a lovely dining experience. The highlight of this meal was the blackened shrimp and grits. My husband claimed it was the best he has ever eaten. This was our “fanciest” dinner out, but we did not feel out of place in the casual attire we arrived in after a long day of sightseeing.
L’Enfant Food Court The L’Enfant Plaza includes a metro station, the International Spy Museum, and is a short walk from both Capitol Hill and the National Mall. The food court has a large variety of food options to please everyone in the family. It was an ideal spot when we needed to squeeze a quick lunch into a very busy day. Jamba Juice, Panda Express and California Tortilla were the spots we chose to buy lunch.
Paul USA (Georgetown) We enjoyed fresh baguettes with pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes at this French bakery. The upstairs dining room offers a respite from the summer humidity and comfortable seating that is overlooks Georgetown’s popular Wisconsin Avenue. Paul is steps away from the Big Bus Tour’s first stop in Georgetown.
Georgetown Cupcake (Georgetown) You can not deny that the cupcakes here are beautiful. The Lily Pulitzer themed treats were especially eye-catching. We were not overly impressed by the cake, but found the frosting to be delicious. It is a fun spot to stop and see what viewers will be watching on TLC’s DC Cupcakes Cupcake Cam LIVE.
All Purpose Shaw (Shaw) When researching our trip I read that All Purpose Shaw was one of the best spots for pizza in DC. The Standard pizza with tomato. mozzarella, Sicilian oregano, and grand padano did not disappoint. It was fun to visit a spot that is popular with the locals and not a common tourist destination.
Buttercream Bake Shop (Shaw) Located next door to All Purpose Shaw, this bakery was a fantastic spot for a little after-dinner dessert. We sampled the cupcakes and bars and agreed that the cupcakes were our favorite. They were extra moist with silky, smooth frosting.
How We Got Around:
Bus Night Tour A twilight bus tour was the one activity that every single person that gave us travel advice recommended. We booked our night tour through Big Bus Tours. Our first night in Washington DC was the perfect time to take a night tour because it allowed us to become acquainted with the layout of the city upon our arrival. Due to the 3 hour time difference we were wide awake and excited to see the sights. The Big Bus night tour is approximately 2 hours long. A guide provides live commentary about the numerous landmarks located along the tour’s route. Towards the end of the tour you will have a chance to disembark and see the Lincoln Memorial. Tickets are typically $46 per adult/ $36 per child, but I spotted them on Trip Advisor for $36 per adult/ $28 per child. Gray Line, DC Trails, and Old Town Trolly Tours also offer twilight tours.
Bike We were fortunate that our hotel provided complimentary bikes for our use on a first come first serve basis. If you don’t have access to bikes where you are staying, Bike and Roll provides bike rentals and tours. It is centrally located at L’Enfant Plaza. A full day comfort hybrid bike rental is $45 and a full day children’s bike rental is $30. A less expensive option is Capital Bike Share. A one day pass is $8 per bike and includes unlimited classic bike trips under 30 minutes. This was my favorite way to see the monuments and memorials because we were able to cover a lot of ground in the course of a day and move at our own pace.
Tip: Our kids packed their own bike helmets for the trip. Washington, DC and Virginia law requires individuals aged 16 and under to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. If you are traveling with kids check that helmets are included with your bike rental if you don’t have the space to pack your own.
Uber Uber was an affordable option that made the most sense when public transportation would have taken twice the amount of time due to multiple metro and/or bus transfers. We used Uber to get to and from dinner on a couple occasions and to travel to the airport. Most of our Uber rides were around $15 with the exception of traveling to the airport. We paid $40 for Premier transportation from our hotel to DCA so that we were guaranteed a larger vehicle that would fit all of our luggage.
Hop On Hop Off Bus We purchased Classic Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour tickets for a day of sightseeing that included stops at Arlington National Cemetery, Georgetown and The Smithsonian Museum of American History. It was pricey, but we thought the hop-on hop-off bus would be the best option because it is one of the only transportation options that has stops in every area that we planned to visit on that day. Both Georgetown and Arlington National Cemetery are too far to ride on bikes or scooters and Georgetown does not have a metro stop. If I had to do this again I would take the metro to Arlington National Cemetery, then Uber to Georgetown. In the long run this would cost less money and we wouldn’t have to wait for up to 30 minutes for our bus to arrive. CitySights DC is the only other hop-on hop-off bus to offer a Georgetown stop that I could find. DC Trails and Old Town Trolley offer fewer stops, but have a hop-on, hop-off option. The best deals for hop on hop-off tours can be found when you book online for multiple days.
Tip: If something on your trip does not meet your expectation, speak up. The audio system was not working on one side of the bus we rode. Although many passengers were grumbling about not being able to hear the recorded commentary, we were the only people to alert the Big Bus employees. they happily gave us complimentary tickets for the following day to make up for the inconvenience.
Note: The DC Circulator is a FREE bus system in Washington DC that travels several popular routes including stops along the National Mall, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, McPherson Square and Eastern Market. I wasn’t familiar with the DC circulator before our trip, but I think it would be worth a try if you are looking for a way to cut costs and can do without a tour guides commentary.
Metro The metro was clean, easy to navigate and cost around $2.00 a ride per person. It has stops quite close to the National Mall, White House and Arlington National Cemetery. It does not go to Georgetown. I would highly recommend taking the metro while visiting Washington DC. I used the transit feature on the Maps app on my iPhone to find nearby metro stations and which color line to take our destination.
Scooter Our kids couldn’t wait to explore our capital on a scooter. Unfortunately, we had a difficult time finding 4 available scooters. We assumed that older children were allowed to ride scooter because we saw many teens and tweens riding around the city. I found out later that riders must be 18+. There are several different companies offering electric scooters including Lyft and Bird. Each rider must possess a personal device with the downloaded app associated with the scooter. This is a great option for getting around if you are an adult traveling by yourself or with a small group. They cost anywhere from $0.15 – $0.30 per minute.
These books were invaluable when planning our trip. They especially helped us narrow down the spots that we wanted to see most. I was especially impressed that the Family Guide Washington, DC included many of the same recommendations that we received from locals and foodies instead of the tourist traps that might typically be recommended in other guide books.
I am incredibly grateful that we were able to experience Washington DC as a family. It was an amazing learning experience and a really awesome place to explore. My son has since said it is his favorite city that we have visited as a family. Bookmark this post if you are planning a trip to this fantastic city in the near future or share it with any friends that are traveling to our Nation’s Capital. I am happy to answer any additional questions that you have. Happy Travels!