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Our Weekend in Washington, DC

Updated: Jan 24

As soon as we landed at Dulles airport, after our flight from Austin, we were ready to get our vacation started. One of my friends from college lives in the city and picked us up at the airport. From there, we headed down the road to Alexandria for lunch.

We parked in a nearby garage and walked down to the waterfront. There were two restaurants down on the pier, Chart House and Blackwall Hitch. My college buddy recommended Blackwall Hitch so off we went.

There was no wait on Friday at noon and we were seated immediately. Everything on the menu looked delicious and we started with some flamed crab dip. For our mains, I had the shrimp and scallop risotto while Mrs. ATX had the daily special. Both were very good and we left the restaurant stuffed.

After lunch, we took a stroll along the waterfront before heading back to the car. From there, we headed off to The Westin Washington, DC Downtown to check into our room for the weekend.

We recharged in the room for an hour or so and then headed back out to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Admission was free and, since it was late in the day, we walked right in without having to wait in line.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Exterior
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

This was my first time at the Museum of National History and the exhibits were definitely geared towards kids, but it was fascinating nonetheless. As we entered, a large African elephant was there to greet us.

Elephant in the Rotunda of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Rotunda

The first floor was split into two wings, with five different zones. The primary ones are the Mammal Hall and Fossil Hall. The Mammal Hall had a wide variety of stuffed animals in all shapes and sizes while the Fossil Hall had a large, mostly complete, T. Rex fossil.

Upstairs, there were many smaller rooms with a variety of exhibits. We worked our way through these pretty quickly. The Hope Diamond was on display and I told Mrs. ATX not to get any ideas. Also, there was an overlook down to the Fossil Hall below which provided a unique perspective.

We left the National Museum of Natural History through the rear and walked across the National Mall towards the Air and Space Museum. There was a chill in the air but the skies were clear and many people were out enjoying the start of their weekend. We got a great look at the United States Capitol and Washington Monument.

The Air and Space Museum was much busier than the Museum of Natural History and required a ticket to enter. Tickets were free but were only valid for entry at a certain time. We were able to get tickets within 15 minutes of our arrival and soon headed into the building.

Entrance to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Entrance to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Unfortunately for us, half of the museum was closed for renovations during our visit. However, there were still plenty of interesting aircraft on display, including the Spirit of Columbus which was used for the first solo circumnavigation of the world by a woman, Geraldine "Jerrie" Fredritz Mock.

The Spirit of Columbus Cessna 180 Skywagon
The Spirit of Columbus Cessna 180

Out in the main atrium, a collection of old airliners hung from the rafters. While all of them were fascinating, my favorite was the Huff-Daland Duster. Huff-Daland was the predecessor to Delta Air Lines and, as a north Louisiana guy, seeing my home state represented was a treat.

Mounted on the wall was the front section of a Northwest 747 and a walkway had been added allowing visitors to access the cockpit.

Northwest Boeing 747-400 Cockpit Interior
Northwest Boeing 747-400 Cockpit

While it is called the Air and Space Museum, they also had a exhibit dedicated to going fast on the ground. In addition to some motorcycles and other cars, they had a beautiful 1959 Chevy Corvette and one of Richard Petty's stock cars.

We spent around an hour in the museum and dusk was upon us by the time we were finished. Instead of walking we decided to call an Uber down to The Wharf to catch happy hour. Our car picked us up right in front of the museum and dropped us off at The Wharf a few minutes later.

The entire area was decorated for the holidays and there were stalls set up along the water selling things like s'mores and drinks. We also caught the tail end of a gorgeous sunset along the water.

It was too chilly to have a drink outside, so we headed into the Thrasher's Rum Tiki Bar, Tiki TNT.

The entrance to Tiki TNT at The Wharf in Washington, DC
Tiki TNT at The Wharf

The inside was decorated in a combination of tiki and holiday decor. We were taken to a seat by the window overlooking the water however, the windows were the roll up plastic kind used for outdoor patios and were kind of difficult to see out of. I ordered a drink while Mrs. ATX had a mocktail.

Thawed out from the cold and with some fresh antifreeze on board, we called an Uber and headed over to the Lincoln Memorial. There was some construction going on which partially blocked the view, but it was impressive nonetheless.

The wind died had died down and the evening had actually become very pleasant. We decided to walk from the Lincoln Memorial back towards the hotel to get dinner. It was a long walk but we would get to see some more of the sights along the way. We started off towards the Washington Monument along the edge of the reflecting pool.

At the monument, we took a left and headed over towards The White House. We passed across The Ellipse and walked right past the National Christmas Tree. In addition to the National Tree, smaller trees decorated for each state and territory surrounded the walkway around the tree.

From there, we headed over to Chinatown to get some dinner at Daikaya Ramen Shop. There was a 20-30 minute wait for a table so they directed us upstairs to their sister cocktail bar, Izakaya. We ordered drinks and our table was called just as we were finishing them up.

The ramen shop was very small inside and only had a handful of tables. We were seated at one of the communal tables with two other groups and quickly ordered. The food came out fast and a big, warm bowl of ramen was just what we needed after walking around in the cold.

Bowl of Ramen from Daikaya Ramen Shop in Chinatown Washington, DC
Bowl of Ramen from Daikaya Ramen Shop

After dinner, our long travel day was finally catching up with us. We headed back to the hotel, passing the entry gate to Chinatown, and called it a night.

The entry gate to Chinatown in Washington DC
Chinatown Gate Washington, DC

We slept in a bit on Saturday morning and didn't leave the hotel until 11:45a. We had a 12:00p reservation a few blocks away at The Smith and Mrs. ATX decided to use the time to stroll through CityCenter and do some window shopping. Thankfully that was all that we had time for.

The Smith is located on the corner of 9th Street and F Street NW and thankfully we had called ahead since the place was packed. We were seated immediately and got right into ordering since we were starving. Brunch came and it was good, and I enjoyed my shrimp and grits, but it wasn't memorable.

Across the street from the restaurant a holiday market was underway and we made a quick lap to check out the merchandise. The place was packed but we stopped long enough to pick up a souvenir ornament to remember our trip.

Our shopping for the time completed, we started off towards the Metro station to take the train out to Arlington National Cemetery. Along the way we happened to pass directly in front of Ford Theatre. For those that may not be familiar, this is where President Lincoln was assassinated. We didn't take the tour but it was cool seeing a piece of history, which in DC is around every corner.

Exterior view of Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC
Ford's Theatre is where President Lincoln was Assasinated

The Metro Center Station was just around the corner so we headed there to catch the train out to Virginia. At the station it took us a while to figure out payment as you have to download an app and then load cash onto the app. As someone that spends 95% of their subway time on the New York City Subway, I've become spoiled by the OMNY tap to pay and hate that more of their peers haven't upgraded.

Since it took a while for us to figure out the payment, we missed the first train and had to wait about 10 minutes for the next one to arrive.

From the time we stepped on the train to the time we walked through the gates of Arlington National Cemetery took less than 25 minutes. While I've only been here once before, I've been moved both times as the sheer size and uniformity make it an extremely somber place.

Mrs. ATX had never been to the cemetery before so we headed up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guard. The tomb has been guarded 24/7/365 since July 2nd, 1937. If you have the opportunity to go and see it, I encourage you to.

On my prior visit, this was all I had the chance to see. However, on this trip, we had some extra time and decided to take the long way back to the entrance with stops at Arlington House, The John F. Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg gravesites.

Our tour of Arlington complete, we called an Uber and headed down to meet my college buddy in National Harbor. The ride took about 30 minutes and we arrived to a packed National Harbor with many people there to see the Christmas tree lighting.

It was about 4:30p by this point and we wanted to grab a quick snack and a drink. We headed over to Bond 45 and managed to get in even though there were a few large parties waiting at the door. From the moment we sat down the service was horrible. They said they couldn't do any sort of mocktail and only pointed to the sodas on offer. Our waiter took our drink and appetizer order and proceeded to disappear for the remainder of our visit, and the appetizer made it out before our drinks ever showed up. We decided to cut our losses and I had to go and track down a waiter to get our check paid.

By cutting our visit to Bond 45 short, we managed to catch the tree lighting on the way to the car just as the sun was setting and darkness was creeping up the Potomac.

Christmas Tree at Washington National Harbor
Washington National Harbor Christmas Tree

MGM opened a new resort and casino next to National Harbor so we decided to stop there on the way back into town and do a little bit of gambling.

Exterior of the MGM Casino at Washington National Harbor
MGM Casino Washington National Harbor

The lobby was open and had large Christmas decorations throughout along with some statues that were more permanent additions to the lobby.

The casino floor itself was quite expansive and it was broken up into different areas. In addition to a number of gaming tables and slot machines, they had multiple bars as well as a sportsbook. I tried to place a bet on the Heisman Trophy winner a few hours before the announcement but they had already pulled betting so I settled on playing some blackjack.

MGM Washington National Harbor Casino Floor
MGM National Harbor Casino Floor

Sometimes you win and sometimes the casino wins. On this visit, the casino got the best of us and after playing for a couple of hours we decided to head back towards the hotel to get dinner. The front desk staff recommended Founding Farmers and Distillers which was located just around the corner from the hotel. We all ordered quickly, Mrs. ATX had a noodle dish, I had the fish and chips, and my college buddy had the chicken and doughnut, all of which we enjoyed.

By the time dinner finished it was after 10:30p. We headed back to the hotel and Mrs. ATX headed upstairs to get some sleep. My college buddy and I headed to the bar for a nightcap where we caught the Heisman Trophy presentation and celebrated another Heisman winner from our alma mater. After that, it was off to bed for me as Mrs. ATX and I had 7:00a flights out of Washington Dulles the next morning.

Thanks for coming along on our quick weekend visit to Washington, DC!

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