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SAVORY Explores: Where to Eat, Sleep and Play in Washington, D.C. on a Budget

Shelby Burns headshot

Shelby Burns

Mar 15 2024
Cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin and Washington DC Monument

Adventure awaits in Washington, D.C.– find out where to eat, sleep, and play on a budget. 

national mall, washington dc, fireworks on 4th of july
The National Mall on the 4th of July

Washington, D.C., is the perfect weekend getaway for budget-conscious travelers. From free museums and monuments to global cuisine and local handmade goods, the nation’s capital has it all. It’s also an easy city to both travel to and navigate within. You will not need a car to explore the city. It is extremely walkable, and both public transit and ride-sharing are readily available. 

Start off your weekend trip by arriving in D.C., by plane, train, or automobile! The larger D.C. area has three great airports to fly into: Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Dulles International (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI). The closest airport to the city center is DCA and is accessible by the city’s public transit system via the metro train. IAD is a bit further from DC but is also accessible by metro train. BWI is connected to D.C., via the MARC train that will bring you to D.C.’s historic Union Station. 

D.C., is also easily accessible from other East Coast cities like New York or Philadelphia via Amtrak train. These trains also arrive at Union Station, which is conveniently close to the capitol building, so you’ll be ready to explore upon arrival. 

Of course, you can always drive into the city by car and go directly to your hotel for check-in. 

Where to Stay in Washington, D.C. 

Two great affordable hotels are Hotel Hive and Yours Truly DC. Both hotels are close to the city’s top sights and unique eateries.  

Micro-hotel in Foggy Bottom at Hotel Hive

Hotel Hive is a micro-hotel in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of D.C. This modern but no-frills hotel is the perfect location for solo travelers or couples seeking to stay as close as possible to the National Mall. After a long day of exploring, head back to the Hive Rooftop, a bar with a view of the Lincoln Memorial! 

Bohemian-Inspired Stay at Yours Truly DC

Yours Truly DC is a unique bohemian-inspired hotel in D.C.’s West End neighborhood. It is just a 20-minute walk to Georgetown in one direction or the White House in the other! Yours Truly is a bit further from the typical tourist attractions of D.C., but closer to delectable dining options. 

Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.

Ready for breakfast on your first morning? Look no further than Call Your Mother a “jew-ish” Deli. Their West End location is located right inside the Yours Truly DC hotel, but they boast several locations around the city. This home-grown bagel shop serves up unique breakfast sandwiches, classic lunch favorites, and fresh baked goods. I recommend the Sun City bagel and a babka muffin. 

Western Market Foodhall Showcasing Local D.C. Eateries and Shops

A good lunch is essential to refueling after a long morning of sightseeing! Located close to the National Mall in the Foggy Bottom Neighborhood is Western Market Foodhall. This food hall is comprised of favorite local eateries with a casual style. Some of my favorites are Arepa Zone, Falafel Inc. (order the za’atar fries!), and Roaming Rooster. These three restaurants offer reasonably priced, incredibly high-quality, and diverse foods. These restaurants help to represent the cultural mixing bowl that D.C. is.  

Try Compass Coffee’s Cherry Blossom Cream Cold Brew

Compass Coffee is a wonderful mid-day pick-me-up for tourists. This coffee shop has locations around the city and offers DC-inspired drinks like the bright pink, ready-for-Instagram Cherry Blossom Cream Cold Brew. Check out my full review of Compass Coffee! 

Legendary Pop Tarts at Ted’s Bulletin

If you’re looking for a more sit-down meal, I recommend checking out Ted’s Bulletin. This local restaurant is legendary for its homemade pop tarts, all-day breakfast, and American classics. You can’t go wrong visiting a Ted’s Bulletin location, but I recommend the original, located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. This will set you up perfectly to continue viewing the sights. 

capitol building, washington dc
Capitol Building

Where to Play in Washington, D.C.

Starting in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, everyone should take tours of the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress. These historic buildings have beautiful architecture and are a wonderful opportunity to learn about our country’s history.

Savory Traveler Tip: If you are visiting during a peak travel season, be sure to reserve timed entry tickets in advance.

Eastern Market is the Premier Food and Arts Market in D.C.

If you’re visiting on the weekend, you should stroll along D.C.’s Eastern Market. This is the best local place to shop for souvenirs, art, and food. Vendors sell everything from paintings of the city to handcrafted jewelry. This is a local gem and worth the visit!

World-renowned Smithsonian Institution Museums  

Next up are the Smithsonian Institution Museums. These Museums are world-renowned for their large collections of art and artifacts and free entry. The National Mall is home to 11 of the 20 Smithsonian Institution museums. From the Air and Space Museum to the National Gallery of Art and the American History Museum to the Museum of Natural History, there is a museum for everyone’s interests! 

Walk the National Mall and the Tidal Basin for Memorable Views

The National Mall is an open-area national park that runs from the Lincoln Memorial to the United States Capitol. Many monuments and memorials are located in this beautiful green area. While exploring the National Mall, you can find the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials. Each one is worth a visit, and I highly recommend visiting them by night. Many tour companies offer moonlight tours to see the monuments lit up at night, or you can walk them by yourself to save some money and see them in this special way. 

Next to the National Mall is the Tidal Basin, home to D.C.’s famous cherry trees! The Cherry Blossom Festival is held each spring to celebrate the blooming of the historic trees, which were given as a gift of friendship from the People of Japan in 1912. While you’re visiting the Tidal Basin, don’t miss the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. 

Book Your Trip to Washington, D.C.!

Whether it’s your first visit to the Nation’s Capital or a repeat trip, there is always something new to see! The city is very welcoming to tourists and is built to teach you about our country’s history and show you a good time. D.C., is an incredible city for anyone to visit, especially if you’re on a budget.