Everything to See During Cherry Blossom Season in Washington D.C.
City Guide: Washington D.C.
Happy spring everyone! Even though the weather may still be a little chilly, I am starting to spy a few flowers popping out of the ground. As flora around the Northern Hemisphere are in full bloom, so are the poppy pink cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. As a way to kick off the season, I made my way down to the capital for the weekend to admire the cherry blossoms in person for the first time while exploring some historical monuments, museums and cute neighborhoods.
This past Saturday, I woke up early to road trip 5 hours south to D.C. My cousin Sophie goes to college in the city, so my mom, brother, his girlfriend Maria and myself all went together. It has been five years since I was last in D.C., so it felt good to finally be back and explore all of the places I hadn’t seen or experienced yet. I even got to meet up with some college friends too, which was a plus!
Even though I had an amazing weekend in the district, I definitely felt that I could’ve spent more than just two full days in the city, as there is so much to see and do. In the meantime, check out my travel diary below and read all about the places I visited and ate at as well!
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Whenever I would venture to D.C. during my college years, it was usually because of a career organization that I was part of during my junior and senior year. I would come to D.C. to visit corporations and agencies and then meet up with alumni at Elephant and Castle bar afterwards (which, by the way, is a fun Irish pub). Even though these opportunities were amazing, I never had the advantage to fully tour the city and do the typical “touristy” stuff, so this was my opportunity!
Prior to heading to D.C., I was told that I HAD to visit the Georgetown area; so that was the first place we visited. Georgetown is a charming area that offers high-end restaurants, cute cafés, great shopping and adorable Federal-style architecture. Even though this area tends to get a bit crowded with tourists, I still loved walking through the neighborhood.
After a 5-hour drive, we were all starving, so we stopped at a great saloon called J. Paul’s. Since the DC/Baltimore area is known for crabs and Old Bay, I obviously enjoyed a crab cake sandwich with Old Bay fries. It was delicious! This great American restaurant has a nice weekend brunch and is a fun bar at night.
When we were finished eating our lunch, we obviously had to grab dessert at the famous Georgetown Cupcake! Before we made our way over to get these delicious cupcakes, I met up with my college friends Meaghan and Dorothy. It was so great to see them!
Georgetown Cupcake is a staple in D.C., so it was extremely important that I try one! This adorable cupcake shop is co-owned by sisters Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne. These two power sisters were the stars of Cupcake Cam LIVE and DC Cupcakes on TLC and they are best-selling authors of The Cupcake Diaries and Sweet Celebrations. Inspired by their grandmother, both Katherine and Sophie traded in their then careers to follow their passion for baking. In 2008, Georgetown Cupcake opened! This thriving cupcake store and coffee shop expanded to Bethesda, MD, New York, NY, Boston, MA, Los Angeles, CA and Atlanta, GA.
When we first got to Georgetown Cupcake, the line was out the door, but it luckily went quick! Only Sophie, Maria and I got a cupcake and they all had salted caramel in it (um, flavor of the season?). The only difference was that Sophie just got the plain salted caramel, while Maria and I got the chocolate chips inside (added bonus). They were so good! In fact, the cupcake I had was probably one of the best cupcakes I’ve enjoyed in my life.
National Mall and Tidal Basin:
After our lovely time exploring Georgetown, we made our way over to the heart of D.C., where all of the historical and national monuments are located as well as the famous cherry blossoms! The first place we visited was the National Mall, where we got to see good ole Abe himself at the Lincoln Memorial. After that, we walked around to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the World War II Museum, National Monument and the United States Capitol. I have to admit, that it was kind of cool playing tourist in my country’s own capital and seeing all of these great places in person!
When we were finished playing tourist, we made our way over to the Tidal Basin where we FINALLY got to see the cherry blossoms! Even though it was a bit chilly out and overcast, the blossoms were still in full bloom and they were just as beautiful as what I’ve seen in photographs. Before I road tripped down to D.C., I was originally coming down to visit my cousin to do the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival with her. (Unfortunately, it got canceled due to the weather.) Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 3,000 cherry blossom trees that were gifted to the United States from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting and continued friendship between the United States and Japan.
Overall, these beautiful pink trees stand out and they are absolutely breathtaking in front of the Tidal Basin. On a beautiful sunny day, you can catch views of the pink cherry blossoms with the beautiful blue water and Thomas Jefferson Memorial in the background. In addition, you could even rent paddleboats if you are feeling adventurous!
As amazing as it was to see the D.C. cherry blossoms, we were FREEZING afterwards! We all agreed that the best way to warm up was to grab drinks and guess what?! D.C. had a great Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar located in the Logan Circle/Shaw area of the city. This pop-up bar hosts several pop-up themes throughout the year. Some of the famous ones are the Cherry Blossoms, Harry Potter and the Christmas bar.
When we finally arrived in the area, the line was down the block! Since it would’ve taken us hours to get in, we decided to skip it and just look in the windows. It looked awesome, but we found another great bar in the area that was also great.
The place we ended up going to was called Right Proper Brewing Company and it is a brewpub that offers crafted beers and Southern-influenced bites. At this bar, I met up with my other JMU friends, Brando and Poon (I hadn’t seen Poon since college, so it was awesome catching up.) Since I don’t get to see my college friends often, we had such a great time! It is times like these that I truly cherish.
I love the little areas in D.C.! Each one offers a different culture (similar to NYC) as well as different architecture. One thing I learned during my time in D.C. was that the city doesn’t have a signature skyline like some of the other big cities in the U.S. because no building could be taller than the National Monument. I think that is pretty cool since the monument stands out!
Dupont Circle was the area that our hotel was located in. I loved all of the unique houses and buildings. There is so much character and charm in this neighborhood! For dinner, we ate at a quaint and eclectic Mexican restaurant called Mission. I love the outside of the building. The food was also good and much healthier than the Mexican food I’m used to consuming.
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:
D.C. is known for its many art museums. Even though the Smithsonian is D.C.’s biggest museum, there are numerous other great museums within their network. I honestly wasn’t in the mood to visit a history museum and neither was my brother, so we opted to go see one of D.C.’s amazing art museums.
In the beginning, I was undecided between the Hirschhorn Museum and Renwick Gallery, but we ended up just going to the Hirshhorn instead. (I will definitely be going to Renwick Gallery when I come back!)
The Hirschhorn Museum is a fifth-decade leading voice for contemporary art and culture. It is one of the most visited modern art museums in the country, which offers meaningful and personal experiences that encompasses important works from 21st century artists. I loved all of the exhibits and found them to be so interesting!
My First D.C. Brunch:
As one of the leading cities to “brunch” in, I couldn’t wait to experience my first one. After spending a few hours at the museum, I couldn’t wait to get some food in me. I LOVE brunch and feel like I don’t go enough (which is probably a good thing, since I’m working on my summer bod), but something about sweet waffles or French toast with eggs and bacon with orange juice and champagne is just spot on.
My cousin found a great brunch spot near the White House called Founding Farmers. This great place is a farm-to-table restaurant that offers high-quality food that is delicious and grown with care. If you are planning to eat at Founding Farmers, definitely call way ahead for reservations because it is definitely a popular brunch spot in D.C. Even with a reservation, we still had to wait 15 minutes to be seated.
When we finally got seated, we all ordered mimosas and Bellini’s for drinks and for the main meal I just HAD to get the chicken and waffles. I’ve only had chicken and waffles once before and I remember the combination being one of my favorites, especially with maple syrup dripped over both! If you are planning on going to D.C. anytime soon or are currently living in or around the district, I definitely recommend Founding Farmers!
The White House:
It wouldn’t be a trip to D.C. without seeing the White House for the first time! Around the corner from Founding Farmers is the beautiful white home of our current and past presidents. As you can imagine, this area is very crowded because people from all over the globe come to see the infamous building. Regardless of what your political views are, it is so cool to see the White House in person because every single U.S. president lived there dating back to the 18th century.
Even though the White House is highly guarded and gated off, you could still get great pictures as you maneuver your way through the crowds. I really liked the tulip garden and fountain in front!
Back when I was a senior in college, I interned for JMU’s College of Business (COB) as a Public Relations Intern. One of my projects was to interview two JMU alumni on their successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Sandra Tran and Gilbert (Gil) Welsford combined their skills and love for ice cream and created pop-up shops, called Nicecream, all throughout D.C. The use of pop-up shops made their business mobile and convenient for all ice cream lovers! After many successes and continued growth, the two business partners opened up their retail stores in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. Nicecream has been thriving since 2013. Click here to read my full article.
Since I interviewed and worked with both Gil and Sandra during that time period to create the article for the COB, I had to make my way over to Arlington to check it out! When I walked through the door, not only did I love how cute and welcoming the store was, but I also was excited to see my article printed and framed on the wall! It was such a great feeling.
In regards to the actual “Nicecream”, it was out of this world! I opted for the chocolate flavor and it literally melted in my mouth. In addition, it was so cool to see the liquid nitrogen being poured into the mixers along with all of their locally sourced ingredients. I highly recommend making your way out to Arlington to try this amazing place! You certainly won’t be disappointed.
In addition to Nicecream, Arlington, Virginia is a thriving city across from D.C. This area offers great restaurants, bars, boutiques, historical sites and so much more! It is only 15 minutes from D.C.’s downtown area and is easily accessible through the district’s popular metro.
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