What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Washington, DC?”

For many, it’s the federal government, monuments, and not much else. But on our recent trip to the nation’s capital, we were able to experience firsthand just how much DC has to offer—from staying at a hotel that celebrates the contributions and courage of women to visiting several women- and BIPOC-owned restaurants and businesses to attending a community event to honor and pay homage to the impact and worldwide influence of hip-hop. During our three days in Washington, DC, we really had the opportunity to discover what makes the city such a special and unique place.

We hope you enjoy this travel itinerary as much as we did!

Where to stay in Washington, DC

Let’s start off with where to stay during your three-day trip to Washington, DC. If you’re looking for a truly unique place, look no further than Hotel Zena: part hotel, part art gallery, where women’s empowerment and inclusivity are celebrated. The hotel features a powerful art collection titled “Her,” where pieces created by DC artists are on display for all to enjoy and be inspired by. Some notable art includes the hotel’s exterior mural featuring a pair of fierce yet curious warrior women by local artist MISS CHELOVE, a pegboard portrait of RBG made of nearly 20,000 hand-painted tampons, and a powerful collection of over 12,000 women’s rights protest pins by Andrea Sheehan and Julie Coyle.

3 Days in Washington, DC: Day 1 (Friday)

A morning in Georgetown

Head to Georgetown for a morning filled with strolls down beautiful tree-lined streets, colorful cafes, and waterfront views.

A great place to grab breakfast is the women-owned self-proclaimed Jew-ish deli, Call Your Mother. The Georgetown location boasts a bright pink facade making it one of the most colorful places we visited on our trip. The bagel sandwiches are delicious!

After breakfast, carve out some time to shop! Make sure to check out Shop Made in DC, where you can shop over 5,000 products from DC’s best makers. Also add Take Care, a women-owned beauty and wellness store just down the street, and its pop-up crystal shop District Mineral, to your shopping list.

An afternoon on the Potomac

Want to experience DC from a different perspective? How about from the water!

Sea Suite Cruises brings locals and visitors alike two unique options for those looking to experience DC from the water. The first is the Potomac Paddle Club, which is the original pedal boat bar on the Potomac that sets sail out of Washington Harbour in Georgetown. The cruise is 90 minutes, and you’ll pass some of DC’s most iconic attractions like the Watergate Hotel, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and even the Pentagon in Arlington. Your seat will actually be a bike seat with pedals, so get ready to get your pedal on!

Their second offering is the Potomac Tiki Club, an 18-passenger teal blue floating tiki bar also sailing out of Washington Harbour. This boat operates with an engine, unlike the Potomac Paddle Club boats, so you won’t be doing any pedaling on this one. But you will have the option to enjoy some adult beverages at their onboard semicircular bar while cruising past the Kennedy Center, Georgetown University, Key Bridge, Twin Sisters, and other noteworthy landmarks.

After your Potomac River cruise, head to lunch at Fava Pot, a women- and BIPOC-owned small business known as the first and only authentic Egyptian restaurant in the DC area. When owner Dina Daniel went searching for uniquely Egyptian favorites like koshary and ta’amiya but couldn’t find them in her new home of DC, she decided to open Fava Pot to introduce her beloved cuisine to her new community. Fava Pot makes every dish 100% from scratch and sources as many organic and local ingredients as possible. It’s also a vegan/vegetarian hotspot—approximately half of its dishes have no animal products. These days, Fava Pot estimates that 80% of its clientele are non-Egyptians!

For an opportunity to try more local flavors, you can’t miss a visit to Union Market District. Union Market is the epicenter of culinary creativity in DC, with over 40 local vendors located in its NoMa neighborhood. There are dozens of women- and BIPOC-owned food stalls, like Puddin’ by Chef Toyin Alli, which specializes in divine comfort food including chicken ‘n beef sausage gumbo, shrimp ‘n grits, etouffee, red beans ‘n rice, Rappahannock oyster, and wild blue catfish po’boys, and, of course, her signature dish and the company’s namesake, brown butter bourbon bread puddin’. Fava Pot also has a location in Union Market!

If you have extra time, you can also check out some of the local street art in NoMa. We recommend murals 20, 21, 22, 34, and 35 on this map, as they were the easiest to access and not blocked off or under construction like some of the others on this list.

Enjoy a monumental evening

Although monuments and Capitol Hill weren’t the main reason for our visit, we’d be remiss to not include them in our itinerary! A fun way to discover the sights of Washington, DC, is to see them illuminated in the evening on a 90-minute panoramic Night Tour.

End your evening with a nightcap at VUE Rooftop located on the 11th floor of Hotel Washington. VUE offers unparalleled views of the White House and Washington Monument and is the perfect place to sip on some delicious seasonal craft cocktails while taking in one of the most stunning views in the city.

3 Days in Washington, DC: Day 2 (Saturday)

An impactful morning 

Fuel your morning with an Indonesian coffee at DUA DC Coffee, a woman- and BIPOC-owned coffee shop recognized as the first Indonesian cafe in the city.

Just down the street is Black Lives Matter Plaza, a two-block section of street displaying BLACK LIVES MATTER in 50-foot-tall yellow letters, one of DC’s many sights rooted in the fight for racial equality.

You’ll pass the White House and the Washington Monument on your way to day two’s most important stop, the NMAAHC! The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting, and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history.

We had the opportunity to tour all four levels of the NMAAHC and were blown away by the interactive exhibits, galleries, and collections on each and every floor. Make sure to dedicate at least three to five hours to this museum—it is extensive and you won’t want to miss a detail.

In addition to visiting the museum, we had the chance to attend the NMAAHC’s inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party to celebrate the first anniversary of the release of the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. The event featured main stage performances by local and national talent, presentations and activities that explored hip-hop music’s origins and cultural influence, hip-hop dance workshops with the nonprofit dance troupe Culture Shock DC in the museum’s Heritage Hall, as well as book talks and panel discussions featuring some of hip-hop’s formative figures. The event was awesome, so definitely see if you can plan a trip to DC in alignment with the Hip-Hop Block Party happening next year!

While you’re at NMAAHC, make sure to stop by Sweet Home Café, a BIPOC-owned food court and Southern soul food restaurant located on the Concourse level of the Museum.

Enjoy an afternoon of greenery

If you need a break from museums, visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden for a dose of greenery is a must! USBG is a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humans and to Earth’s fragile ecosystems.

A unique night out

When dinnertime approaches, make your way to China Chilcano, a Peruvian restaurant that celebrates the rich culinary diversity of Peru, including its criollo, chifa and Nikkei cuisines. China Chilcano was awarded a Bib Gourmand in the 2017-2020 Michelin Guides to Washington, DC, and Chef Will Fung was just nominated for Rising Culinary Star at the Rammys. China Chilcano is the brainchild of celebrity Chef José Andrés, a Michelin-starred, James Beard Award-winning chef and founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK), the NGO behind many global initiatives including #ChefsForPuertoRico, where Andrés and his team cooked for hundreds of thousands of hungry locals in Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. WCK continues to respond to natural disasters, man-made crises, and humanitarian emergencies around the world as a team of food first responders.

But the night doesn’t stop here. If you’re looking for a fun and unique night out in DC, spending an evening at Hook Hall is an absolute must. This women-owned entertainment venue is designed to transform and transition, with epic pop-up experiences changing themes with the seasons. The Safari is the current summer 2022 theme that cannot be missed.

We visited Hook Hall for a two-part experience. Part one included a 90-minute one-of-a-kind cocktail experience in the exclusive Cocktail Club at Hook Hall, hosted by master Mixologist Mick Perrigo. We entered through a secret door in the main hall and were surprised to find a beautiful craft cocktail parlor for our very own private cocktail party! Part two was the Safari Experience, which included a private tent, a welcome bottle of house bubbly, lounge seating, a coffee table, themed decor, air conditioning, outlets, and mood lighting. If you’re looking to nibble on a snack (or get round two of dinner), you can order from Cocolita, a woman- and BIPOC-owned authentic Mexican restaurant that has a pop-up dining option at Hook Hall right now. Around 11 p.m., move the party into the main hall to play yard games and dance to music from a live DJ.

3 Days in Washington, DC: Day 3 (Sunday)

Sunday Brunch

A weekend trip to DC isn’t complete without Sunday brunch. Round out your weekend with a visit to Yardbird. With accolades from James Beard and Bon Appétit, Yardbird pays tribute to the American classics that bring people together. The dishes—like buttermilk biscuits, Lewellyn’s fine fried chicken, and shrimp and grits—are unapologetically indulgent, using farm-fresh ingredients. It’s no wonder they’ve garnered global fanfare.

An afternoon of FREE museums

Just a few minutes walk from Yardbird, stop by Planet Word, a language arts museum offering an immersive language experience for visitors of all ages. The museum features interactive exhibits dedicated to topics like how children learn words and languages around the world.

Fifteen more minutes of walking will bring you to the Renwick Gallery, where you can see the current exhibit, “This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World.” This exhibit marks the 50th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery as the nation’s preeminent center for the enjoyment of American craft. Be prepared to be wowed and moved by this impressive collection of work.

If time allows, pass through the National Mall and stop by one of DC’s many free museums like the National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden or the National Museum of the American Indian.

Oh, and did we mention that all of the museums featured in this post are FREE? DC is an incredible destination for free learning and entertainment!

An evening full of flavor

For dinner (or lunch, if you need to head out early to catch a train or plane), head to MI VIDA for authentic Mexican fare by Chef Roberto Santibañez. “Mi vida,” which translates to “my life,” is a term of endearment bestowed on close family and friends to signify love, care, and importance in Mexico and many other Latin countries. Make sure to swing by the 14th Street location, where you’ll find the most colorful restaurant facade you may have ever seen.

Have time for one more meal? We highly recommend stopping by Oohhs and Aahhs, an award-winning soul food restaurant that’s preserving Black culture.

Got something else to add? We’d love to hear about your favorite women- and BIPOC-owned businesses in DC. Share them in the comments!

This post was published in partnership with Visit Washington, DC and its partners. Click here to read Wanderful’s disclosure statement.