Taryn McKinnon's Washington, DC

Taryn was one of WR's heroic Editorial Interns.  We we're lucky to host her on secondment from her university in the states, and just one of her many contributions to the site were her reviews of all the places she visited and loved while she was adventuring round Europe - on her weekends off!  

Hailing from the American University in Washington DC, she's sadly now gone home - but she's sent back her recommendations for how to see Washington in case any of us want to visit, contributing to our Questionnaire for Experts, Bloggers and other Travel Knowledgeables:

Where's your home town, and what's the main reason people visit?

Washington, DC, USA. People usually visit to see the monuments and learn more about American History.

What's the main reason you think people SHOULD be visiting?

While we do have some great museums about American History, DC was not the capital city when the US was founded, so really you're better off coming round for the amazing architecture, free museums, four star restaurants and to rub elbows with the some of the most powerful people in America (and their staffers).

If you had to recommend to the friend of a friend one unmissable thing to do in your home town what would it be?

A nighttime walk around the mall to see the monuments, including a stroll around the tidal basin to see the Jefferson and the FDR memorial.

If they had a whole day in town what would you recommend they do?

I would go to the White House and then walk over to the National Mall to see classic views of Congress, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and pop in to any of the free Smithsonian museums. In particular, the newly reopened American History Museum, the Museum of the American Indian and the National Botanical Gardens would all be at the top of my list. I'd finish up my day with dinner in Dupont Circle.

What if they had three days?

If you have time to do more than the staples located on the National Mall, I would head out to Arlington Cemetery, a beautiful location in its own right, with panoramic views of the city. Another great place off the beaten trail is Eastern Market which features local produce, flowers and baked goods along with artisan jewelry and other handmade goods from local artists.

See a show at the Kennedy Center (not the space one the performing arts one) - and if you're lucky get a tour of the facilities. Go shopping in Georgetown and have lunch on the canal.

Also, the Smithsonian Zoo is a great place to walk around (and see the iconic DC pandas) and then hit up the Adams Morgan neighborhood for bar hopping.

What will you never catch a local doing?

Riding an obnoxious British rip-off double-decker bus with a tour guide shouting out the sights. Standing on the left hand side of the escalator in the metro. Gawking at politicians.

What WILL you catch a local doing?

Wandering around Kramer Books, having lunch in the atrium of the American Art Museum, heading to 80s night at the Black Cat, going to see a baseball game at National's Stadium or a hockey game at the Verizon Center, listening to Jazz in the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden, playing sports on the National Mall, going to happy hour in Dupont.

And what local delicacies would visitors be fools not to try while they're there?

One of Georgetown Cupcake's original flavors and a chili half-smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl on U St.

In 140 characters, how would you sum up your home town as a great destination?

It's not just a place to wax poetic about the American Dream. It's a place where powerful people work hard, and play harder.

Thanks Taryn - let us know when you're coming back this side of the pond so we can reciprocate.

Comments, questions and reviews by other travellers

Best time?

What's the best time of year to visit? To see, but not gawp at, I promise, the most politicians and staffers?

Also, I'm a student, so can you recommend any student-type bars? Thanx.

4 Replies

I think the best time of year to visit is Sept-Oct. It's always crazy crowded with tourists, but I think it slows down a bit in the fall, and the weather is more mild than in the summer months when the temperature and the humidity rise uncontrollably. Another popular time to visit DC is in late March-early April when the Cherry Blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are in full bloom.

For good student bars, check out the strip down Columbia Road in Adams Morgan. I like Bourbon, The Black Squirrel and Millie & Al's. At the end of the night you can get a giant slice of pizza at Jumbo Slice (to share with a friend). There's a million, but the best one is near the Diner (which is also great for an end of night snack to start sobering up.

Definitely try Jumbo Slice.

Any suggestions for places to stay - cheap, but safe and in a relatively nice locale, something that parents would think acceptable.

Andrew- I don't stay in hotels much, but my parents do when they come to visit so I can just go off of them. The Courtyard Marriott in Dupont Circle was very nice and very centrally located for about $150/night recently. The Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue is not as nice, but I think rooms are about $100 a night and it's in a very safe residential neighborhood in the NW corner of DC. It will take you just a bit longer to get downtown though. Whatever you do- don't try and save money by staying out in Silver Spring, MD. My mother was apparently mortified at the state of the hotel and its surroundings, and you'll be looking at about an hour on the metro just to get downtown. If you are looking to stay in the surrounding area to save a bit of money, I would try Virginia (like Rosslyn or Crystal City). As long as you're an easy walk to Metro it will be very safe and a short ride in to the city (on the same line as the Smithsonian stop on the Mall).

Thanx thats great.

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