Washington DC may be known for its museums and monuments (oh, and a little establishment called The White House), but DC locals don’t spent their daily lives taking photos on the National Mall or peering through the iron bars in front of the White House. So when I recently visited DC on an impromptu trip, I decided to skip all of the major tourist attractions and instead explore the DC that the locals love. After all, I had visited DC several times in the past, so I already crossed many of the main attractions off my list. This time around, I was going to experience DC like a local.
HotelTonight was integral in planning my spur-of-the-moment trip to Washington DC, as I was able to book a last-minute hotel in DC in minutes through HotelTonight’s app. With my hotel room booked, I quickly packed my bag and headed off to explore the nation’s capital.
Since I wanted to experience DC like a true local on this trip, I stayed at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where many people live and commute into the city. Located just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington is easily accessible by subway, by car or even by bike. Arlington’s best-known attraction is the Arlington National Cemetery, and it’s also home to a number of memorials, such as the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and the Air Force Memorial. For my first activity in Arlington, I decided to join the many locals on the Mount Vernon Trail. This 17-mile path runs parallel to the Potomac, and it’s a popular trail for bikers, runners and cyclists. I rented a bike at a nearby rental shop and headed out on the Mount Vernon Trail so that I could see DC and its surroundings from a different perspective.
I realize that Georgetown isn’t necessarily a hidden gem only locals know about, but this charming DC neighborhood is loved by locals just as much, if not more so, by locals as it is by tourists. I spent the entire afternoon in Georgetown, as I kept stumbling upon new areas I wanted to explore. During my mini Georgetown adventure, I strolled along the C&O Canal, walked past the former homes of famous people like Julia Childs and John F. Kennedy, peaked inside several art galleries and enjoyed a delicious lunch (and cupcakes to satisfy my sweet tooth afterward!).
After my blissful afternoon wandering throughout Georgetown, I headed to Shaw, arguably DC’s “it” neighborhood of the moment. The thriving culture and energy of the neighborhood is palpable, and it’s a hotspot for locals who want to dine, mingle and play after a long workday or workweek. This area is full of great entertainment venues, brewing companies, eateries and bars. During your time in Shaw, you can even check out some of Duke Ellington’s former haunts, as this jazz legend was born in Shaw.
The quirky, colorful streets of Adams Morgan are full of unique restaurants, bars, and shops that set this neighborhood apart from other areas of DC. While tourist attractions are sparse in Adams Morgan, there is plenty to do and experience in this neighborhood if you’re willing to explore it like a local. This eclectic community quickly became one of my favorite areas in DC, and I felt a bit sad that I hadn’t ventured out to Adams Morgan on all of my previous DC trips. For any travelers that want to experience one of DC’s most unique, unforgettable neighborhoods, Adams Morgan should be at the top of your list.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the middle of the Potomac River, and it serves as a public outdoor space as well as a memorial to its namesake president. The island is easily accessible off the George Washington Pkwy, and provides a great outdoor escape for city dwellers. During my time on Theodore Roosevelt Island, I walked through serene woods and along the picturesque banks of the Potomac, and I discovered that this public space provided a great environment for quiet reflection as well as vigorous exercise. Enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful natural surroundings during my outdoor stroll was the perfect way to end my quick DC getaway.
Washington DC offers so much to entertain, excite and entertain visitors, which is why this is a city I’ll never get bored of. The more opportunities I get to explore DC, the more I realize what a fascinating city it truly is. So when I get another opportunity to visit Washington DC in the future, I’ll use HotelTonight to book my last-minute accommodations so that I can explore more of our nation’s capital, which is sure to continue surprising me every time I visit.