Washington D.C. Travel Guide: What to See, Do, and Eat if You’re Attending or Protesting the Inauguration

Make it an unforgettable trip in lots of ways.

A thick crowd will descend on Washington D.C. later this month, with an estimated 1 million inauguration-goers on January 20 and perhaps 200,000 participants in the largest of the organized protests on January 21. They may have rather different reasons for visiting the nation's capitol, but many will be looking for apolitical diversions too. Here are some of the best things to see and do in D.C. right now.

First of all, the logistics: When everything's overbooked in Washington, visitors' best bets may be surrounding areas such as Alexandria, Virginia. If you're the so-called “Old town,” water taxi transport will be available during the inauguration from Alexandria’s waterfront into the Southwest Waterfront in Washington, D.C. for $40 per person round trip. From there, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the U.S. Capitol.

If you do stay in Alexandria, there’s a lot to see. For example, all five first presidents spent time at Gadsby’s Tavern (Alexandria), which today operates as a restaurant and museum. Jefferson even had his inaugural ball there.

Once you get into D.C., if the weather is nice, Washington is a great city for walking. You can walk around the Tidal Basin (Washington Channel) to see numerous memorials and monuments. Or you can hike up the C&O Canal Towpath (along the Potomac River) to get a bit of nature. As it’ll be pretty cold, you’ll probably want to bundle up, no matter which you choose.

Where to stay

A great bet to stay in the D.C. area is the new MGM casino at National Harbor (National Harbor), the only casino-hotel in the area. Modeled after the epic Vegas property, it’s a city onto itself with gaming, shows, and celebrity restaurants. While at National Harbor, you may want to check out the climate-controlled Ferris wheel.

Photo: The Capitol Wheel

Another fun spot to stay is Kimpton Carlyle Hotel Dupont Circle (Dupont Circle), which just opened in 2015. It has a great free public art exhibition featuring works by the late Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch in the hotel’s living room.

What to do

This time of year, ice skating is a great bet, and it's available in Georgetown and also at the sculpture garden.

The Smithsonian Museum (National Mall) is an oldie but a goodie: Never hurts to imbue oneself with a little history, even if for the first time.

At the National Zoo (Northwest Washington), get away from the zoo that is the inauguration crowds and see the animals at the national zoo. It's free and if it's really cold outside, head down to the Amazonia exhibit at the far end where it's warm and walk through a tropical rainforest.

People attending and protesting the inauguration might equally enjoy checking out the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display at the International Spy Museum (Northwest Washington).

Silent Disco Dance Society and the Embassy Row Hotel (Dupont Circle) have teamed up to host an-all women Silent Disco Dance Party on the night of the Women’s March on Washington. The event is set for January 21 at the Embassy Row Hotel.

Where to eat

The O.G. Ted's Bulletin (Capitol Hill) is probably the most D.C. spots of all and is right on Cap Hill. Don't miss the restaurant's homemade pop tarts. The Michelin-starred restaurant Masseria is one of FLOTUS's favorites, and is a great spot for high-end Italian fare. As well, the First Couple enjoyed a few anniversary dinners at the Bourbon Steak steakhouse inside the Four Seasons (Georgetown).

Located just blocks from the White House, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab is a must-visit whether you're celebrating — or escaping — the Inauguration Day hoopla. It offers a cocktail hour in its beautiful Banking Hall bar daily with half-priced oysters and signature cocktails. D.C.’s first cider bar and licensed winery, Anxo Cidery (Truxton Circle) is a great spot for a drink and people watching.

Where to drink

D.C. also has been having somewhat of a distillery renaissance, a ton have opened recently. Jos. A. Magnus & Co. (Ivy City) for gin and bourbon, One Eight Distilling (Ivy City), and one brand new place that might appeal especially to those coming for the Million Women March is Republic Restoratives (Ivy City) for bourbon and vodka — it was founded and is run by women!

Realistically, whether you are celebrating or protesting, with everything going on, you'll really be ready for that drink. Cheers, America.

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