I originally wrote this up for my friend, but I figure it is officially tourist season now that Memorial Day is upon us, so why not polish this up and let people get some guidance from a local.
Suggested itinerary for Washington, DC from Wednesday-Sunday
Thursday: you spend downtown (Green/Red line Gallery Place/Chinatown). Walk from the metro station to the National Building Museum (make sure you check out the gift shop, it is fantastic), have lunch at Merzi, which is set up like the Chipotle of Indian food. It is a local place though, not a chain. I frequently stop here on the way home for dinner because it is fairly inexpensive. If you are up for more museums, the National Portrait Gallery is right there (where Gallery Place comes from), and is really interesting. You can also hit up one of the other Smithsonians, if portraits don’t interest you. Natural History is awesome of course. Air and Space is a must see, if you’ve never been, just for the lunar lander if nothing else.
*If you drive instead of metro you could also head over to the Arboretum, which has an amazing bonsai collection. Some of them are over 400 years old! If you drive, I cannot stress enough the importance of missing rush hour and leaving after 9:30. Parking will be expensive and I recommend going to a garage because street parking is limited and the meter maids are vultures who can smell an expired meter a block away.
Thursday night dinner: The best 3 course evening (dinner, bar, late night snack, obviously for swanky people like me) can be found around U Street. Options are Dukem Ethiopian Market (did you know DC is full to bursting with Ethiopian restaurants?) or Izakaya Seki (really adorable and delicious Japanese restaurant) and then grab drinks at The Saloon, which is actually a specialty Belgian beer bar. Finish up the night at Ben’s Chili Bowl, where I usually grab a milkshake, but those with heartier appetites can chow down on the famous half smoke.
Friday: Go to Capitol Hill (Blue/Orange Capitol South) and take the Capitol tour (more fun then you think), or head to the Library of Congress, Jefferson building (the pretty one). You have to go inside. LC is probably the prettiest building in all of DC, I’m not just saying it because it’s a library. If you need more nature instead of buildings, go to the Botanical Garden. Afterwards, walk or metro to Eastern Market (Blue/Orange Eastern Market). Dining choices: Ted’s Bulletin (must have homemade pop tarts), Matchbox pizza, Good Stuff Eatery (burgers and shakes), Banana Café (Cuban and Mexican), Cava (Mediterrean). If you have a pressing need to see the monuments, I suggest going to the National Mall (Orange/Blue line Smithsonian or Foggy Bottom) at night, because they are beautiful when they are lit up. *Summer 2013 note: the Washington Monument is covered in scaffolding right now and is not pretty*
Saturday: Devoted to exploring Virginia’s outer burbs by car, with trip to the awesome Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (the huge one), home to the space shuttle Discovery. You need to have cash for both the toll road (it’s about $2 I think) and parking, which is $15. Totally worth it. Then head to Annandale for Korean food. Annandale is the Koreatown of DC as you will see. You can’t really go wrong at any restaurant here, but good ones are Ga Bo Ja Restaurant and To Sok Jip. There’s also Super H Mart, which is the giant Asian grocery store.