Highlights from 20 Hours in Washington, D.C.

Highlights from 20 Hours in Washington, D.C.

During our recent short getaway to Virginia, Jave and I decided to squeeze in a night in Washington, D.C. While planning our trip, we knew that we’d be pressed for time (as usual), but we decided that the 200-mile drive from Hampton Roads to D.C. would be totally worth it since Jave has never been. I had been to D.C. a few times before – once as a child and again for President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Still, I wanted to visit Washington DC to see some sites that I either missed out on or didn’t recall seeing the first few times around.

Here’s an overview of how we spent our short, twenty hours in our nation’s capital…

Late Dinner at Nando’s

En route to D.C., we stopped for a late afternoon tour of colonial Williamsburg, VA. As a result, we didn’t make it to D.C. until close to 7p.m., and despite an otherwise traffic-free drive, we were immediately greeted with a traffic jam upon exiting the freeway in D.C. Our busy itinerary, the snail-paced traffic, and our growling bellies quickly started to wear on our nerves. We needed to eat, and fast! So finding a good restaurant was our first line of business upon arrival to the city.

Adhis, better known as Chef Afrik, first hipped me to Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken, an eatery serving a blend of African and Portuguese (Mozambican?) cuisine that centers around the African Bird’s Eye Chili, also known as Peri-Peri. At Nando’s fresh chickens are marinated for 24 hours, trimmed of all their fat, and then consistently basted with the restaurant’s own Peri-Peri sauce while being grilled on an open flame. You can then top your chicken with extra sauce – we chose the hot sauce. The sauce was so good that our lips were still pleasantly burning long after eating. We rounded out our meal with fresh corn, a salad, and Portuguese rice. You can also order desserts, wine, and sangria, but the draw is definitely the chicken. Let me tell you, Nando’s chicken is a revelation, and if I lived in D.C., I’m sure that I’d find myself eating there at least once a week.

Visit Nando’s website for more details on the restaurant’s locations and to take a look at the menu.

Let Them Eat Cupcakes!

After dinner, although we were tired, I really wanted to go check out Georgetown. My first taste of Georgetown was back in 2009 when I was in town for the inauguration, and it struck me as such a charming, vibrant historic neighborhood full of bars, restaurants, and boutiques. And of course it’s home to Georgetown University.

While I really wanted to park our rental and take a leisurely stroll around, Jave was exhausted and wasn’t really up for it. Instead, I convinced him to at least let me run into Georgetown Cupcakes to satiate my sweet tooth. At $2.75 a pop, I decided not to go overboard and settled for two – a chocolate birthday and a red velvet. They were so light and moist, and the icing was perfectly sweet. My only regret is that I didn’t get two more!

Call It an Early Night

Since Jave was so tired, I gave up on our plans to visit the U Street Corridor, and instead, we headed to Wardman Park to check into our hotel – Marriott Wardman Park. I discovered just how pricey D.C. hotels are while planning this trip as we couldn’t seem to find a hotel that matched our comfort level for less than $200 per night. I decided to take our chances with Priceline’s tool that allows customers to name their own price. The nightly price we chose – $135 for a 3.5-star hotel in DuPont Circle.

We lucked up when we were awarded this particular Marriott. Although we had a rental car, it’s close to public transportation, it’s about a 15-minute drive from the National Mall and most popular monuments, and the customer service is stellar. For no particular reason, we were upgraded to a suite at no additional cost, and it did not disappoint. The only downside is the cost of overnight parking which is $36. But this cost is typical of most overnight parking lots and garages in D.C.

Check out the hotel’s website for rate information or click here to book your reservation.

Moments at the Monuments

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and skipped breakfast in an effort to knock out some sightseeing since we knew that we’d have to start heading to the airport no later than 2:30pm. With the government shutdown recently over, we wanted to take full advantage of seeing some of D.C.’s monuments and memorials. Originally, we’d planned on taking public transportation, but since we were so pushed for time, Jave made the wise call to drive our rental which allowed us to move around much more quickly.

While I was concerned that finding parking would be a problem, with the exception of trying to find someplace to park near the White House, parking hassles were a non-issue. Unfortunately, we were only able to get a glimpse of the White House from a distance since all of the surrounding roads were blocked off by the Secret Service. But fortunately, we were able to visit every other monument and site that we planned on seeing in D.C.

Jefferson Memorial


jefferson 2


Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial



Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


Lincoln Memorial




U.S. Capitol Building



U.S. Supreme Court


Pre-Flight Lunch

Our memorial hunt left us famished and the clock was steadily ticking. The original plan was to go get a bite to eat in the hipster Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. And just when we were about five miles away, we ran into heavy traffic congestion that only allowed us to inch forward a few blocks within a 45-minute span – no exaggeration! So we gave up on our Adams Morgan plan, consulted Yelp, and headed back to Georgetown for lunch at Luke’s Lobster.

Cute homes in Georgetown
Picturesque street in Georgetown

Despite the positive Yelp reviews, we were a bit disappointed with our meal. We each ordered cups of New England Clam Chowder which was delicious, but my lobster roll and Jave’s crab roll were amiss. Not only were our sandwiches teeny tiny, but we found ourselves drenching them in Sriracha sauce since they were lacking flavor. We should’ve just stuck with our soup. Plus, the entire meal was over $50 which would’ve been justifiable if the food had been excellent and the service had been somewhat friendlier. Nevertheless it filled us up in time for our flight back to L.A.

Our trip to D.C. was definitely a whirlwind, but I’m glad that we were able to see and do most of the things we’d planned on while there. And I definitely foresee more trips back to D.C. in our future travels.



Have you been to D.C.? If so, what were the highlights of your visit?

  • A

    You did quite a lot in your time. Next time you are in DC be sure to look me up 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Will do, A!

  • Wow, it looks like you were able to do quite a lot for only having 20 hours there. We were just in London for a stop over and had about the same amount of time. I wish london had the chicken and corn dish- that looks like a reason enough to go to DC!

    • Dana Carmel

      I hope that you were able to make the most of your time in London. It’s always hard when you’re working with such a short amount of time. And Nando’s is definitely reason enough to go to DC! 😉

  • I have never been to DC yet, but I definitely will visit one day. WoW awesome how many things you can do and see in just one day. Bookmarked for my future visit to DC.

    • Dana Carmel

      Glad this post offered some inspiration for your future visit to DC!

  • Wow, I’m surprised by the fact how many great and interesting things you can do in less than one day in Washington. I would definitely have the same lunch as you had (wow, that looks yummy and I miss Nandos a lot) and visit the park nearby the White House :).

    • Dana Carmel

      The good thing about DC as that most of the memorials and sites of interest are near each other so it’s possible to see a lot within a short amount of time.

  • The capitol hill, supreme court and the monuments – a must if and when I ever get a chance of visiting DC.

    Nandos – their is a south African fast food company by the same name with franchises all over different African countries, could the Nandos you visited part of the franchise?

    • Dana Carmel

      I don’t think it’s the same Nando’s that’s in South Africa. The Nando’s we went to has several locations around the DC/Virginia area, but I don’t think it’s a franchise.

  • I will say that those were well spent 20 hrs. Haven’t been to DC but it is on my list.

    • Dana Carmel

      You definitely have to visit, Raymond. It’s so worth it!

  • Oh my gosh this is absolutely phenomenal, Dana! I have yet to make it to D.C. One of the classes my father taught during his long high school career was Government and told me that Washington D.C. was an absolute must see place sometime in my life. Of course I loved all the food pictures and descriptions. Lobster and crab rolls, yummy!! The picture of F.D.R. and Fala as you can well imagine. The picture of you and Jave and the one of you both brought big smiles to my face! What a wonderful post 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      I hope you make it to DC, Mike. I agree with your dad that it’s definitely a place that everyone should see – especially every American. I kind of feel like we all have a personal claim to DC. And the lobster roll was just okay – not worth the money really. If you go to Luke’s, go for the clam chowder! Thanks for reading, Mike!

  • Georgetown Cupcake was the one place on my list that I didn’t make on my last trip to DC – they had a line several blocks long. I guess that’s what I get for going on a Saturday afternoon. I did find a delightful pie shop down the street, so all was not lost.

    • Dana Carmel

      I can always count on you to relate to my addiction to sweets. 😉 Georgetown Cupcakes was good but there were so many other bakeries that I’d read about that I wanted to try as well but just didn’t have the time. Next time!

  • DC is such a great city to tour with all the wonderful architecture. We did a whirlwind weekend last year too. I’d love to go back during the Spring to see the cherry blossoms. Totally agree on the Georgetown cupcakes. Thanks for the tips on the other eateries. Bookmarking them for a future visit. Love that first picture!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Mary. I agree that DC is so beautiful with all of its monuments. And it’s relatively clean too which is surprising. Next time I hope to try more restaurants and to visit some of the local spots/neighborhoods around the city.

  • Haven’t been to Washington so great to hear some tips for when I do finally make it!

    • Dana Carmel

      Hope you make it there soon!

  • I’m exhausted reading about what you accomplished in 24 hours. Traffic is such a downer when you have things planned and it sure adds to the stress level. I’m impressed by what good foot you ate – I’m salivating over the chicken right now – and just how much you were able to squeeze in, in just one day.

    • Dana Carmel

      Nando’s is so good, Leigh! And yes we were able to squeeze in a lot.

  • I love me some DC, a ton of great food there, beyond chili smokes .. although chili smokes are friggin delicious!

    • Dana Carmel

      I know – I wish that we’d been there longer so that we could’ve tried more good eats!


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