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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Rodriguez

Come Experience Washington, DC… In ONLY 1 Day!

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

I stepped off the plane as prepared as a Texan could be in temperatures below 50 degrees. I had on my soft white beanie, my fuzzy green gloves felt cozy against my hands, and my warm oversized blue camping jacket was zipped all the way up to my chin. I probably resembled a big kid version of the little boy in the Christmas Story (I'm sure most people have seen that 24-hour re-run leading up to Christmas). As you read this blog, I imagine each of you raising your eyebrows and scratching your heads. Wondering why I would ever choose to travel to Washington DC in the middle of the freezing cold month of January. I know it's a little crazy, especially when everyone knows that Washington DC is known for its cherry blossoms in March and April. Yes, I'll be honest, I would love to go during that time but is the crowd and the hustle and bustle of all the tourists really worth it? Flights, hotels, and especially air BnB prices skyrocket in March and April; it's truly incredible. It's like looking at the empire state building of price escalations! So, I prefer a little more low-key experience. I like to feel like I have the entire city to myself when I travel. No one is yelling or bumping into you on the sidewalk. No one is shoving past you to get into a mile-long line that has you scratching your head and wondering, "Is this really worth it"? If you know me and have been reading my blogs, you should get the sense that I like to be a little money-conscious. This compels me to take my adventures during the less touristy times of the year. I truly believe you make the experience what you want it to be, no matter what time of the year you travel.

So, getting off the plane, the 20-degree wind chill slaps you in the face; it's like a shot of espresso. I'm wide awake at this point and famished. We flew with Spirit, one of the more inexpensive airlines, which means they don't give you any free snacks, kind of a bummer. JJ and I flew into BWI, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, a more affordable arrival destination than landing in DC. We took the airport shuttle to the Marc, the public transportation line that takes you all the way into DC. The ride was a comfortable 45 to 50 minutes with a few stops, but it felt surprisingly quick. I will caution you, though; we had to wait about 20-30 minutes for the rail that took you to DC because of a delay. So be mentally prepared if you choose to take public transportation. Taking public transit was about half the cost of the $60 Lyft. Once we arrived in DC, we got off at Union Station. Even though it was about 8:30 at night, the station was beautiful, something you would see in the movies. There were grand staircases, restaurants, and shopping centers. We called a Lyft to take us to our hotel, which was about $15, which was worth it because it was frigid outside, and the walk would have taken about 45 minutes. Remember, I am starving at this point. Food is priority.

We arrive at our hotel, Club Quarters at the Whitehouse. This hotel was rated very high for both location and budget. Our trip was Thursday through Monday and cost about $470. The hotel provided self-check-in service, free wifi, a gym, 24-hour access to fresh coffee and tea, and the room was super comfortable. I found this steal on a third-party website called FindHotel. It was safe and reliable and got me this great deal. After we settled in, we headed out for dinner. The front staff recommended Founding Fathers for dinner. The millennial-type atmosphere made you feel right at home. JJ had a version of fried chicken and waffles, a chef specialty. I had a roasted chicken green salad that was refreshing with its avocado-lime vinaigrette dressing. After relaxing there for a while, we walked back to our hotel. Already, I was in love with this city. It was a good start.

Friday morning, we woke up early. JJ had to meet with his client for a training session which I joined in. After that, we headed down to the gym. This gym was tiny, and it felt like you were in a basement, but it had all the necessities, even a peloton bike! After an hour's workout, we headed back up to shower and prepare for the day.

**Here are some clothing tips to help you pack for DC winter**

First, you need thermals; if you're from Texas like me, your blood just isn't used to this cold. Bring your thermals; your legs and arms will thank you.

Second, bring a beanie, scarf, warm jacket, and gloves. Now, I suggest using mittens over gloves. This gives you the option of freeing your fingers, making it much easier to use your phone when walking around the city and navigating. JJ had gloves that covered all his fingers, and the tips were supposedly able to work with his phone. Still, it was not very reliable, so he took his gloves off and on all day.

Third, you need good walking boots. JJ and I used our hiking boots. Since they are comfortable and worn, they were great options for us. Mine are brown leather, so they kept my toes warm and dry from any snow, rain, or ice, and they were stylish with my skinny jeans.

Fourth, bring layers and a warm sweater to wear over the thermals. If you are going to be walking like we were, I promise you will be comfortable.

Fifth, bring warm wool socks. Your toes will thank you!

That should just about cover the necessities. The entire time we were there, I was completely comfortable. When you layer right and have a good jacket, you'll be just fine.

Our first stop was at the White House. I will say the movies make the White House look way more dramatic. I was surprised that it looked much smaller in person. It was still elegant and beautiful. No protesters were there that morning, but one guy was sleeping in his tent. How he managed to stay there all night was beyond me as it got way below freezing Thursday night. The secret service people were out there, too, standing around talking and extremely chill. One of the officers was on his bike, acting like a goofball. You realize then they are just like you, human beings who try to have a little fun on the job. Next, we went to get breakfast at Greenbury café. A little pricey, but the food was hot, delicious, and fresh. The coffee was excellent too. At the café, we planned out our day. It was full to the brim. Our goal was to hit all the main monuments and visit the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I mapped out our course on google maps, eager to immerse myself in the history of this city.

The White House

As you guys are reading this, I realize the post is about exploring and enjoying the most out of DC in one day. We only had one day in DC. I had a continuing education course on Saturday and Sunday at George Washington University. So technically, we only had one day to explore. I already knew this fact while planning my trip. I thought, how much could I accomplish in one day? Friday was the only day we had, so I had to make it count. To make the most of our day, we had to start early. Museums don't open until 10:00 am, so around 8:00 am, we started our trek across the city, and we began our day visiting the Lincoln Memorial.

*Side notes for my readers: JJ and I like to walk everywhere when we travel and drive only as a necessity. It's an excellent way to save money, get to know the city, and of course burn a few extra calories! I'm always surprised when I come home from a vacation where I inevitably walk the whole time, and I don't gain any extra weight! And trust me, I enjoy really good food when I travel!

From the Greenbury café, we walked to Lincoln Memorial, which was a 3 min walk (0.8 miles). As we stood in front of Abraham Lincoln, the emotions evoked were challenging to put into words. As you walk up the steps, it's quiet. A few tourists take pictures and chat about it, but you almost have the entire place to yourself during this time of the year. My mind travels back in time to my high school American History class. I remember seeing a picture of Abraham Lincoln before and after the Civil War. The toll his time in the office took from him was frightening. He was regarded as one of the most influential presidents in our history. President Lincoln's memorial reminds us of the darkness our country endured. Still, hope and light came out of that tragedy and suffering. Today, we are in the midst of our own type of civil war. There is still so much hatred and despair. To stand among the man who fought to preserve American freedom and equality for all people invokes a hard truth. We all need to examine ourselves and remember where there is darkness, there will always be light. I turn around to leave the chamber and walk down a few steps to stand where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr stood to deliver his "I have a dream speech." Another man who brought hope and light to the country, which again fell into a pit of darkness. The Civil Rights movement mirrored the Civil War, fighting again for American equality. I looked out toward the reflecting pool, and beyond, I could see the Washington Memorial. At that moment, I was proud to be an American woman. I was grateful to the strong men and women who came before me to lay down the foundation of our country's values.

The Lincoln Memorial

JJ and I walked reverently across the reflecting pool towards the World War II monument. World War II is known as the most deadly conflict in human history. Many lives were lost on both sides. Sitting between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, this particular memorial made you speechless. The monument is relatively new, constructed from 2001 to 2004. The architect revealed the country's unity, and throughout the memorial are quotations from the great leaders of that time. On the western end of the monument is one of the most haunting yet beautiful reminders of our freedom. Sitting on the west end is the Freedom Wall with 4,000 gold stars. Each star represents 100 American military deaths in that war. A fateful reminder that our freedoms have a cost, but because of their sacrifice, we hold those freedoms today.

The death and sacrifice felt in that memorial are stifling. I felt so moved that I could have cried. The essence and spirit of that place made you want to be a better American so that those who gave their lives for our freedom would not have done so in vain.

We continued forward like good soldiers. Absorbing the moments and holding them close to our hearts to remind us to honor those before us in our thoughts, actions, and words.

Up a small hill sits the 555ft Washington Monument built to honor the first President of the United States, George Washington. Again, the magnitude of sacrifice required by our first president to win the American Revolution was costly but necessary. Our country was founded by great thinkers and political leaders. They were driven to create a free world ruled by the people and for the people. Democracy took root and grew to become the forefront and example of a free world.

The Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

By the end of the day, I felt emotionally spent but in a good way. Every day we can strive to be better humans and represent our American values. I felt honored to have been able to walk that path and remind myself of the sacrifices that built our country.

It was about 11:00 in the morning when we made our way to the Smithsonian. Constitution avenue is lined with museums. You would need several days in DC if you wanted to explore each one. Before heading inside, we grabbed lunch at a little pop-up stand in front of the museum. Food in DC is pricey, so JJ and I shared a chicken sandwich and a hot coffee. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum was impressive and very interactive. The natural history side took you on a trip back in time to discover and learn how the world evolved. You could spend hours lost in time. Every time I visit a museum of natural history I am moved by the evolution of mankind. Throughout the museum, you are reminded how precious life is and that our footprint matters. We are entrusted to take care of our planet for our future generations just as we are entrusted to guard and protect our American values.

The Smithsonian Natural History Exhibit

By the end of the day, it started snowing. Hand in hand, JJ and I walked back to our hotel. We never imagined the impact the memorials would have on us. It was by far our favorite part of the city.

That night we were excited to find a fun restaurant for happy hour drinks and food. We really enjoy a Latin vibe, so JJ found this fantastic place called Cuba Libre. The drink and food specials were good, and we had an entertaining bartender who gave us the scoop about DC's food and party scene. Cuba Libre is known to become a full-blown dance club at 11:00 pm, which we totally would have stayed for if I didn't have class at 8:00 am. Next time DC!

If you haven't been to DC, I highly recommend a trip. It's a clean and walkable city and very easy to navigate. The food and drinks were a little pricey, but everything we had from breakfast to dinner was delicious, healthy, and fresh. It's no wonder this is one of the top healthiest cities in the United States! If you only have one day to visit, I suggest taking the route we created. You get to see the most significant monuments and even catch a museum. I know I missed several things, including Arlington Cemetery, MLK memorial, the Holocaust Museum, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. Those are all things I plan to experience the next time I visit, which will happen. If you have a special place in your heart for history, I encourage you to visit Washington DC. Allow yourself the joy and pleasure to stand before some of the significant political figures who set into place the most fundamental values of our great country.

Cheers and Happy Travels!

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