Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background.

The cherry blossoms in bloom at the Tidal Basin at the Washington Monument. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend 3 Days With the Top Cultural Destinations in Washington, D.C.

From postcard-worthy riverfront views, sprawling museums with impressive collections and restaurants by acclaimed chefs, Washington, D.C.’s vibrant cultural and culinary scene is a feast for the senses. The District’s many memorial parks and national landmarks provide an excellent opportunity to take a break from museum-hopping and pay tribute to America’s heroes.

Once you’re done soaking in all of the city’s history lessons, theater and music fans can catch a show (or two) and outdoor enthusiasts can rent a boat to enjoy breathtaking city vistas from the river. There’s plenty to fill up a long weekend of adventures.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore the Past

Head to Georgetown, a 250-year-old neighborhood along the Potomac River, home to some of D.C.’s (and the country’s) most notable houses. With past residents including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, the Kennedys and even Elizabeth Taylor, no wonder this historic area holds many of D.C.’s must-see landmarks.

Your first stop is Tudor Place Historic House & Garden. Perched on a hill in the heart of the neighborhood, the 5.5-acre estate holds a museum-quality collection of decorative objects and meticulously manicured gardens with fountains and a Japanese teahouse.

Townhouses in Georgetown neighborhood.
The streets are lined with townhouses in the Georgetown neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images)

Next up, enjoy a walk along the cobblestone streets and take in its colorful houses (don’t miss what’s known as D.C.’s narrowest home, on P Street Northwest). Grab a cup of coffee (Caffè Umbria, Compass Coffee and Crumbs & Whiskers are musts) and head to Georgetown University for a stroll.

Healy Hall, the university’s magnificent brick-and-stone Romanesque building, is a don’t-miss site — the 200-foot spire, arches and towers are wonderful examples of Victorian Gothic architecture.

M Street is the commercial heart of Georgetown, where you’ll find outposts of the trendiest fashion and home design boutiques like Intermix and Fornash. If you’ve worked up an appetite (both for food and good riverfront views), try the upscale Fiola Mare, an Italian seafood restaurant that counts itself among the best in the District.

After dinner, explore Georgetown Waterfront Park, a national park located along the shore of the Potomac River. Get a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. And if you happen to be there during the day, rent a kayak or a canoe from Key Bridge Boathouse and enjoy the beautiful panoramas of one of D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods.

Saturday: Take an Art Tour

Even though the National Mall is one of the most popular destinations in the District, the wide-open grassy expanse usually has plenty of room to roam. Start your day with a visit to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol buildings — two of the country’s most prominent examples of neoclassical architecture.

Then, walk to the National Gallery of Art’s East Building for a master class in contemporary and modern art. On view in the sprawling exhibition space with a rooftop terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue? Five hundred works from artists such as Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian.

Your cultural tour of the capital continues at the National Museum of African American History & Culture, an almost 400,000-square-foot museum with a must-see permanent collection showcasing African American history in the world and America. Don’t miss Sweet Home Café, a food court located in the museum that offers dishes showcasing traditional recipes.

After you’ve satisfied your cultural appetite, it’s time for some fresh air. The Wharf, the District’s buzzy riverfront community, is within walking distance of the National Mall, which makes it a relaxing way to spend your afternoon (and end the day on a high note).

Squeezing lemons over oysters.
You’re never far from an oyster happy hour in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Getty Images)

The next stop takes the energy level up a bit: Indulge in a glass of wine and freshly shucked oysters at Hank’s Oyster Bar. The Wharf is also home to the oldest open-air fish market in the country — a popular spot attracting locals and visitors hungry for crabs, fish and other seafood.

Catch a show at the Anthem — one of the District’s best music venues that welcomes performers such as Bob Dylan, Lorde and Jack White. In the mood for something at a smaller scale? Pearl Street Warehouse is an intimate venue with nightly music acts that run the gamut from rock to folk.

Another great option for live entertainment is Echostage, which was ranked the best in the world by electronic-music magazine DJ Mag.

Sunday: Take in Historic Portraits and Memorable Meals

You’ll start your day just south of the Chinatown neighborhood at the National Portrait Gallery, where you’ll find the official portraits of all past U.S. presidents. Some of them are executed in a more conventional artistic style, while others will have you doing a double-take (we’re looking at you, Bill Clinton). The museum’s calendar is packed with exciting events year-round — from the Día de los Muertos festival to rotating exhibitions of world-famous artists. You’ll also love sipping coffee in the building’s courtyard topped with a spectacular glass ceiling designed by Foster + Partners.

Chinatown arch in Washington DC
A view of the Chinatown Arch on a sunny day. (Photo: Getty Images)

While you’re there, don’t forget to snap a photo of the Friendship Archway in Chinatown on H Street Northwest between Fifth and Seventh streets — one of the largest ceremonial arches outside of China, featuring 7,000 glazed tiles, 272 dragons and seven pagoda roofs. The archway was recently renovated, so it’s looking picture-perfect.

Washington, D.C.’s food scene is as diverse as the city’s population. And while you can have a fantastic meal anywhere in the capital, Penn Quarter is where you’ll find the largest concentration of hip restaurants by chefs like José Andrés and Vikram Sunderam.

The list of must-try places here is long — the fine-dining Indian Rasika, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, the Michelin-starred Minibar, the Spanish Jaleo and, of course, the contemporary Mediterranean Zaytinya, an institution in D.C.

End your weekend with a visit to Ford’s Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Before you catch a performance, tour the theater’s museum, which documents Lincoln’s presidency and assassination conspiracy.