Earlier this month, my partner and I went on a 6-day trip to Washington D.C.. This post contains some brief thoughts on the places we visited (museums, restaurants, etc.) and our recommendations.


All the museums we went to are in the National Mall. There are a few outside of that area that we have considered visiting, but ended up not doing so - there are simply too many of them. Admission is free unless specified otherwise.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

  • time spent: ~3hrs
  • Went there on a weekday morning but it was still rather crowded.
  • We recently visited Carnegie Museum of Natural History (in Pittsburgh, PA), which has quite some overlap with the first floor here. The second floor has more interesting/new stuff, including a section about pandemics in the recent decades.

International Spy Museum

  • time spent: ~2.5hrs
  • It’s better to buy tickets online in advance (around $25 each) - we went in the morning only to realize the closest time slot with tickets left was one hour from now.
  • Interesting exhibition consisting of spying techniques, stories, etc., up till early 21st century (too bad they couldn’t exhibit more recent stuff).
  • Didn’t bother checking out all the interactive devices since they were always occupied by kids and didn’t look that appealing to adults.

Arts and Industries Building

  • time spent: ~1hr
  • A relatively small exhibition - only the first floor was open when we were there.
  • Has a lot of cool, innovative stuff related to technology. Seems to be a futuristic theme.

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

  • time spent: ~0.5hr
  • There is only one area showcasing a small number of the collections (of a wide variety though) they have and introducing the history of the Smithsonian Institution. Nothing too interesting.

United States Botanical Garden

  • time spent: ~0.5hr
  • Unfortunately, the conservatory was closed, so we only got to walk around in the outdoor garden surrounding it. But the outdoor garden was still bare at that time of the year (early March), so there wasn’t really anything special.
  • time spent: ~2hrs
  • East building (the smaller one) was closed under construction. The west building alone is big enough to spend many hours in and is like a labyrinth. But neither of us was very passionate about classical art, so we just randomly walked through some of the rooms for pre-18th century work.

The National Air and Space Museum

  • time spent: ~3hrs
  • We went there on the first day of reopening, and there were a lot of people despite it being a weekday morning. Unfortunately, more than half of the museum was still closed for renovation. One could easily spend a whole day there if everything is open (I heard that it will be by this fall).

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

  • time spent: ~2hrs
  • All about contemporary art. Not very big nor crowded, but the exhibitions were cool and of a great variety. There’s nothing in the sculpture garden though.

National Museum of American History

  • time spent: ~1hr
  • A big museum with relatively few people, covering a wide range of themes. We only had time for a fraction of it - the Girlhood exhibition was cool.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • time spent: ~2hrs
  • One should reserve online in advance since there is limited space for each time slot. Luckily there were some same-day tickets left when we went there on a weekend afternoon.
  • Not a huge museum but has very dense contents, so we kinda ran out of time toward the end. Despite knowing most of the contents already, it was still an impactful experience.


  • My favorites: Spy Museum, National Air and Space Museum, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hirshhorn Museum
  • My boyfriend’s favorites: National Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, National Museum of American History, Holocaust Memorial Museum


I actually collected a long list of restaurant recommendations before the trip, but we ended up not going to many of them because we were too tired to travel far for food especially when it was cold. ☆ are the ones I think are worth trying, all things considered. Our favorites are at the end.

We, The Pizza

  • location: Capitol Hill; multiple in DC and Arlington
  • Good pizza, very large slices which cost only five bucks each. I liked the buffalo chicken one a lot. The butcher’s block, on the other hand, was a bit too salty.

The Capital Burger

  • location: Downtown
  • I got the fried chicken sandwich and it was so juicy and tender, would strongly recommend it. Just thinking about it makes me want to get some fried chicken.
fried chicken sandwich

District Doughnut

  • location: Southwest Waterfront; multiple in DC and Arlington
  • We went there on a cold rainy morning. Decent donuts but “not worth getting frostbite for”, according to my boyfriend - which I agree with.
  • The lemon and blueberry ones were the best. Cherry blossom flavor was a little bit too sweet but still decent. I didn’t quite like the creme brulee one.
six donuts

Rice Bar

  • location: National Mall; multiple in DC
  • It’s fine but nothing impressive, also a bit expensive given how little kalbi (Korean BBQ beef ribs) they gave me. I regretted ordering a signature bowl instead of making my own, since I didn’t quite like the mixed flavor of all the ingredients they put in there.

Founding Farmers

  • location: Downtown
  • Huge portion sizes given the pricing. I got the farmhouse platter and thought it was really worth the price - the pork ribs were the best, the hotdog and baby cheeseburgers were also pretty good.
  • For dessert, we got “death by chocolate” - it was three big scoops of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream, hot fudge and brownies. A great choice if one is a chocolate fan, and it was so big the two of us barely finished it.
farmhouse platter chocolate ice cream

Le Café Market

  • location: Arlington
  • We ordered chicken and waffles online because I just suddenly felt like some fried chicken late at night. Unfortunately both the fried chicken bites and the waffles had got too soggy by the time they were delivered.


  • location: Downtown; multiple in DC and Arlington
  • Decent Italian food but I wouldn’t go there again given how expensive it was and how small the portions were - a sharp contrast with above. The meatballs were fine but a bit salty.
  • We were offered a soft serve (vanilla gelato and cherry blossom sorbetto) for free. The cherry blossom flavor was really interesting.
meatballs and fettuccine


  • location: Downtown (City Center); multiple in DC
  • We got three scoops: banana split, blood orange sherbert, and lemon ricotta cardamom. The blood orange flavor was quite unique, and tasted a lot better when mixed together with the lemon one than alone.
dolcezza gelato

Tivoli Gourmet Deli

  • location: Arlington (Ballston-MU station)
  • Some warm sandwiches for brunch is always a good choice on a freezing snowy day. Nothing fancy, but tasted good. A convenient place to grab a quick bite (it’s right next to the metro station).

Levain Bakery

  • location: Georgetown
  • The chocolate cookies were big and quite thick. It tasted really good when it’s warm, but was actually quite sweet - even I (who rarely find things too sweet) could only have a small bite at a time.

Mercy Me

  • location: Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle
  • Our friend strongly recommended it and took us there. It was a Latin American restaurant with a very unique interior design, slightly expensive (but not as much as Sfoglina because they actually have a decent serving size).
  • We ordered quite some dishes but the mole chicken and churrasco steak impressed me the most. Also got a scoop of mascarpone & berries gelato since a friend recommended it, which was decent (a safe choice of flavor).
side dished at mercy me entrees at mercy me

Soi 38

  • location: Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle
  • Another friend took us there. According to her, it was one of the lesser-known restaurants with great food.
  • Ped Roti (slow-roasted duck) reminded me of Peking duck and was probably my favorite. I also liked the honey roasted duck and pineapple fried rice.
  • For dessert we got mango with sticky rice and banana with fried roti, both were on the sweeter side (which was exactly what I wanted).
Ped Roti
entrees at Soi 38
desserts at Soi 38

Nando’s Peri Peri

  • location: multiple in DC and Arlington
  • We ordered a full chicken platter with lemon and herb flavoring and got it delivered as our last meal in DC. The chicken was so good that I literally devoured my half in no time. I really want to have it again.
full chicken


  • My favorites: Founding Farmers, The Capital Burger, Nando’s Peri Peri
  • My boyfriend’s favorites: Founding Farmers, Sfoglina

Other Places

National Mall

  • On the west end of the National mall, past the Washington Monument, were a lot of memorials, including but not limited to:
    • Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (my favorite)
    • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • It’d be nice to spend an afternoon when the weather is nice to walk around Tidal Basin (most of the memorials are in its vicinity). Unfortunately, when we went there, the cherry blossoms around there hadn’t bloomed at all.
  • On the north and east end were the White House and US Capitol. We didn’t go into either building and just took some photos from afar.

Pentagon City

  • We took a stroll with our friend in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and got dessert there. It’s quite a large shopping mall and pretty crowded.

Old Town Alexandria

  • A small town by Potomac River with a historical vibe and beautiful architecture. There are also many interesting boutiques and eateries there.
  • We went there on a cold rainy day so there weren’t a lot of people, and it was unfortunately not a good weather to chill at the waterfront or take the water taxi (so we didn’t do either).


  • Similar vibe as Alexandria but way busier (we visited both places on the same day). We walked down the main shopping street, but didn’t spent much time there since it was too cold.
  • We also walked past the famous Georgetown Cupcake but didn’t bother getting it, because despite the bad weather there was still a long line that extended to outside the store.