For years I’ve wanted to visit D.C. during the height of cherry blossom season, and this year I decided to do it. For a couple of weeks before buying my plane ticket, I regularly checked Cherry Blossom Watch, but despite my best efforts, a snowstorm pummeled the mid-Atlantic just a couple days before my flight. I was sad to say the least, and I even considered changing my reservation to the following weekend. You never know what the weather will bring, though, and so I decided to stick to my plan.
The weather in D.C. was beautiful when I arrived—sunny, clear, and cold—but, just as I’d read a day or so before my trip, the blossoms were all but bare. The picture above is as close to a cherry blossom as we’d see. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous day for exploring and we still managed to take in plenty of memorials, monuments, and museums, and a fantastic meal. I spent the weekend with family in Shepherdstown, WV, and we traveled into the city for a single day. It was a whirlwind, but certainly worth it. Here’s how we spent our 12 hours in D.C.
Va Va View!
If you didn’t already know, the Washington Monument is closed indefinitely for repairs to damage that resulted from the 2011 earthquake that hit the city. In the mean time, you can still get a beautiful bird’s eye view from the Old Post Office Tower, which is free to enter and wasn’t at all crowded during our visit. (We visited on a Friday. If you can, I highly recommend exploring D.C. on a weekday, when crowds are more manageable.) There’s practically nothing you can’t see from this spot, and a couple of guards at the top were happy to point out a few points of interest.
Since we had only a single day in D.C., we couldn’t stop inside every museum we wanted to. Still, I was excited to pass by the The National Museum of African American History and Culture (above), which opened on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. The line to enter stretched down the block, but I was happy to stop and marvel at its architecture. I admit that I didn’t love its look at first, but the closer you get to it, the more beautiful detail you can see and appreciate. And speaking of the Smithsonian, we spent some time in the National Museum of American History to check out the First Ladies exhibition. It has an impressive collection of former first ladies’ inauguration gowns (including Michelle Obama’s stunning white Jason Wu creation), plus china used in the White House during their husbands’ administrations, as well as clothes they wore to official functions. The museum also houses part of the lunch counter from F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C., where four black students began a sit-in on February 1, 1960, after they were refused service. I found it surreal to see.
Monuments and Memorials
With time for just one meal in D.C., we had to choose our dinner spot thoughtfully. Recommendations ranged from upscale Indian to artisan organic, but the winner was Jose Andres’s Zaytinya, an airy, two-story restaurant serving Mediterranean food in small plate style. We shared tabbouleh, spanikopita, crispy falafel, flatbread with halloumi cheese and Turkish tomato sauce, Ottoman pilaf with saffron, dates, and pistachios, and roasted cauliflower with tahini, capers, and pine nuts, among other dishes. Warm pita-style bread remained on the table throughout our meal, with servers swapping in a fresh basket each time we finished one off. The restaurant serves Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish wines, and we shared a bottle of crisp, dry white to complement our all-vegetarian meal. If you’re looking for a spot to share excellent food with your friends or family, this is it!
I’ve already vowed to try again on the blossoms next spring, and to spend more time in the city so I can catch the National Portrait Gallery, the Hirshorn Museum (were you lucky enough to get into Yayoi Kusama’s Mirrors exhibion? We weren’t, but it’s coming to the High Museum here in Atlanta next year, and you bet I’ll be there), and the Newseum, among other spots.
Did you catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom this year? What else did you see and do in D.C.?