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Washington, District of Columbia

Washington D.C., See Top Museums, Neighborhoods in 3 Days

By Jess Moss

With three days in Washington, D.C., you can see both the top tourist sites and experience some of the city's most popular neighborhoods. Be prepared to cover a lot of ground on foot — comfortable shoes are a must.

Day 1: Museums & Monuments

The best intro to Washington is a trip to the National Mall. Start early at the tranquil Tidal Basin, where you will find the Jefferson MemorialFranklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Plan on spending about two hours here — more in spring or summer, when you can rent a paddleboat and float by the blooming cherry trees.

Walk north to the center of the Mall to see the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument. Continue west through Constitution Gardens until you reach the black wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the columned Lincoln Memorial and the solemn Korean War Memorial.

By now you'll have worked up an appetite, so break for lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill, a historic oyster bar and tavern a few blocks north of the Mall.

Afterward, walk over to the White House. You can take a tour of the president's home by making arrangements through your embassy.

From the White House, museums are next on your list. All 19 of the city's Smithsonian Institution museums are free, and cover everything from modern art to Native American cultures. It would be impossible to visit all of them in a day, or even week. Particularly popular are the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History.

When the sun goes down, take a taxi, bus or the Metro (D.C.´s rapid transit system) to the U Street Corridor. Chow down on an inexpensive D.C. classic: the chili-topped, smoked sausage at Ben's Chili Bowl. Then check out the neighborhood's hip bar scene or see live music at the9:30 Club.

Day 2: Exploring the Neighborhoods 

Start your day off in Georgetown with a cupcake from Baked & Wired or pastries from any of the other delicious bakeries in this charming neighborhood that dates back to 1751. Amid distinctive brick buildings, you'll find everything from top U.S. designer stores to small boutiques and antique shops.

Be sure to stroll along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal or spend some time at the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue — Martin's Tavern is a neighborhood standby and a favorite of many U.S. presidents.

Next take a bus or cab to Dupont Circle, where you may spot your country's flag on Embassy Row. Spend the afternoon touring the historic Anderson House, galleries and shops, then break for dinner at Nora, billed as the first restaurant in the United States to be certified organic. 

Keep the night going by hopping on the Metro one stop or walking to Adams Morgan, a popular nightlife district with plenty of bars, live music venues, nightclubs and late-night food spots.

Day 3: U.S. Government at Work 

Start your day at the Library of Congress. The world's largest library offers free hour-long tours about its art and architecture.

Then head to the U.S. Capitol. Stop by the Capitol Visitor Center to learn more about the country's government and the building itself. You can also take a free tour if you book a reservation in advance.

Next, walk 15 minutes to the Eastern Market neighborhood for lunch and more shopping. Browse the stalls at this historic market — on weekends it features outdoor vendors with local artisan goods, antiques and collectibles. Down the street, Barracks Row is home to many top-rated restaurants and buildings with unique architecture.

Head north by taxi or bus to end the day at Union Market. The indoor, warehouse-style food market houses a range of restaurants, with everything from oysters and empanadas to tacos and gelato. Some stands offer wine, local beers and craft cocktails, making Union Market the perfect last stop to sip and reflect on your time in D.C.

Discover more activities in region of the U.S. capital here.

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