This American City’s World-Class Museums are FREE

And super convenient to visit on a short trip.

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

** Originally published in 2017 at **

I arrived in Washington, D.C. at one of the most controversial times in its city’s history.

The new president-elect, Donald Trump, poised to take over the most powerful position in the world. In under two weeks after my arrival.

While I’m not a political writer, it made it more interesting to be in the nation’s capital at such an important time.

Before I could even exit the Ronald Regan Airport, I overheard a conversation about the Obama administration. I knew it was going to be a hot topic.

First impressions

My first impressions of Washington, D.C. were nothing short of exemplary.

The downtown neighborhoods were not as I expected. Small shops, restaurants, bars, and anything in-between. All being within walking distance made me reminisce about my times in Europe.

As this was my first time on the East coast of the United States, I couldn’t believe the neighborhood layouts. It’s unlike anything you will find in the Midwest and the Western United States.

Washington D.C. Hostel

Surprisingly, as far as hostel conversations go, there was no political talk. Not in my interactions with other guests.

Usually, in hostels, I encounter hard-hitting conversations such as politics. That’s part of the reason I enjoy the backpacking community so much. But in HighRoad Hostel D.C., which deserves my best review, there was no such political talk.

This place was affordable and well-located in a wonderful neighborhood. And, in my experience, it had very happy and outgoing guests. Definitely stay here when coming to D.C.!

Transportation in D.C.

Public transit is not cheap but is very convenient in D.C. It will take you to about anything you want to see in the city. With that being said, the city itself is very walkable for tourists. Especially for sight-seeing.

Impatient drivers in D.C. are in no way an accurate representation of the locals that I encountered in the city.

It seems there is constantly someone holding down the horn. Even as I was lying in my hostel bed, all I heard were the sounds of police sirens and overdone, annoying honks.

I never quite understood who was responsible for the ruckus in the streets. Real angry people. But I never had one poor interaction with locals.


I arrived later in the evening, so I immediately looked for some bar-goers. We went for a beer at Songbyrds which was down the street from HighRoad Hostel on 14th Street.

Songbyrds, alike most bars in D.C., isn’t your typical college bar. It’s a tad bit expensive and is more laid back than you’d expect to find in a capital city. Expect a pint of beer to be $7 or more at about every place you can find downtown.

U-Street is the place to be on a weekend night. That’s what I was told. However, I was sorely disappointed to find out it wasn’t quite up to snuff. I preferred 14th Street.

With expensive beer and low-key atmospheres, D.C. failed to impress me as far as nightlife goes.

What to do in Washington D.C.

As for tourist attractions, the nation’s capital city is full of them — and it’s hard not to bite the bait.

Almost all governmental attractions are free to experience:

The White House (from a million miles away). The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and WWII Memorial. One of my favorites, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And, of course, the MLK Memorial, and many more.

All these are in what is known as the National Mall of D.C. which is a part of the National Parks Service.

~Inauguration disruption~

As I mentioned, Inauguration preparations were underway during my time in D.C.

I wasn’t able to see the front side of the White House due to setup.

The setup also obstructed my view of the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool in front of it. I didn’t mind, though, because I remembered what an important time in American history this was. I got to witness at least a small bit of it in person.

Free walking tours

Free walking tours are always my favorite part of capital cities. D.C.’s tour of the National Mall through Free Tours by Foot did not disappoint.

They also offer a pretty informative tour of Lincoln’s assassination. Both of these tours are free and meet downtown.

You can do both tours in one day. Expect each to take about two hours. While you’re at it, check out their site to see what other tours they offer. Let me know if any are worth joining next time I’m in D.C.!

The Smithsonian

One of the best things about D.C. is the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian consists of 19 world-class museums and a zoo. The best part? It’s all FREE!

I had time for the Natural History and Air and Space Museums. Both were recommendations from locals and fellow hostel mates.

Generally, I’m not a museum-type, but these were great. I also checked out a bit of the International Spy Museum which I wish I would have spent more time in.

I highly recommend reserving at least a full day for Smithsonian museums.

Other attractions, bars, and restaurants. . .

  • United States Capitol Building — I never made it there, but it can be seen from a distance at Washington Monument.
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — Not a part of the Smithsonian set, but I’ve been told it is worth the cost of admission.
  • Diner & Tryst — 24-hour breakfast joints and cafes on 18th Street ran by same the owner.
  • Lapis — modern Afghan restaurant with best ethnic food in D.C. (Columbus Street)
  • Federalist City BBQ — was told this is the best BBQ found in D.C.
  • Sweetgreen — good place for vegetarians

D.C. was a pleasant surprise. I’m genuinely shocked I never made it to the capital before this trip. Don’t sleep on D.C.

Museums and monuments may not be your cup of tea, as it isn’t mine either, but there’s enough to satisfy all types of sight-seekers!

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** This article was originally published at **

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