Usually when I travel to a new place, I have to abide by 3 unspoken unofficial holy rules of travel. In no particular order, you must: Eat their food; Visit their precious monuments/facilities and experience some sort of celebration. All of these are important because they force you to interact with people and essentially guarantees a new fun experience. So this post is dedicated to the practice of using these tips to explain in fact how to officially absorb the culture, by way of our nation’s capitol: Washington, D.C.
Of the few times I’ve visited, each trip grew into a deeper and deeper exploration of this historic city. Having come back from my last trip in July (2017), I think it’s time to dish out how I put these unofficial rules to test.
Eat Their Food
About this rule: I LOVE food. I love it so much that I also love the cook who takes the time to create each meal. I make it a point to NEVER visit a restaurant that I can always visit back home or visited in some other city. I want to experience each style of food in a unique way. So in this case, I recommend visiting diners, cafes and locally owned spots to make each food run worth it. I don’t think I really need to say anything else here. It’s just a rule that I abide by and it has never steered me wrong.
P.S. Shout out to all of the food bloggers and Yelp reviewers out there because you are the reason that I make my final choice on where to dine.
Visit their Monuments
In this case, you may insert any of the following words in place of ‘monuments’ and the advice would still apply:
- Museums, Embassies, Stages/Theaters – for my art & history appreciators, you’ll be slapped silly if you don’t visit any of these. While visiting DC, I’ve made time to visit a few museums and even an embassy once. Hopefully I can return next year to experience a few more, because there’s just so many!
- Hotels, Shopping Centers and Business Districts – Because you’ll probably by something as a souvenir, right?
- Sporting Facilities – the most prized and precious buildings in most U.S. cities. Right next to….
- Churches – even if you don’t follow the practices of certain religious groups, their monuments are still precious in somebody’s eyes and usually carry some of the best architectural design you will find in the city. Also, they are often the oldest buildings. I guarantee you that great photos can be taken here.
- College Campuses – sometimes a college has significance to a particular industry along with a noteworthy historic element. Campuses are also considered public spaces in most cities so festivals and outdoor events tend to take place here in addition to….
- Public parks or Landmarks – When they are not hosting a festival, these places are important for the simple fact that everybody travels through them to get somewhere and they usually provide background on the creators and history of the city. Parks are usually named after wealthy folk or former government officials. So there’s an easy dive into history for ya, if you’re into that sort of thing. Landmarks also have an interesting story and are protected by city dollars. You can still get a photo opp here and a good historian is usually around to tell you a story or two about how it was built.
- Murals, reservoirs, trails, and bridges – These are the types of structures that are man-made yet peaceful and intriguing. If you need to be inspired, visiting these places will often create that emotion.
- Examples of these places I visited below:
- Kennedy’s Office
- Senate Building
- George Washington University
- Abe Lincoln Memorial
- Veteran’s Memorial
- Howard University
Experiencing a local celebration has all three perks wrapped into one. It usually involves food. (Always a win.) It may happen at a unique venue or a common public space, plus there is a prearranged purpose for getting together to dance and be merry. This last experience should automatically include music, dance, or an exploration of the creative side. For me, this is what seals the deal because the joy that is created from these experiences often come with a special recipe that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. It’s a unique experience privy only to the region you are visiting and once-in-a-lifetime memories almost always are bound to happen. So what types of events do these celebrations happen at and how do you find them? Well this is a category I think I can definitely help you in.
To find a worthy party, festival or pop up event (like the one I stumbled upon) that truly tells the story of the people of each place, I’ve been visiting 4 websites and then doing backup research on the venues via Yelp or Google reviews. Here’s the breakdown of each site/app and why I use them:
- I Don’t Do Clubs – Currently a blog that houses unique events centered around Black experiences. The name speaks for itself in my opinion. If you are tired of the club but still want to mingle late into the night or day, this is the place to start. They feature a search engine that lets you search by city or theme. I went to a fashion show to support breast cancer awareness in DC once (the video is below). The soundtrack for the event was played by a hip hop violinist. Trill.
- Eventbrite.com – Both website and mobile app, I use this to search for worthy events and filter by either interest or fee. Once I went to a day party, and fashion show in one day because of Eventbrite postings. Then another day I went to a popup neo rock & soul concert from a recommendation from a stranger the last time I visited DC. I bought some good music and met some really cool musicians and vocalists. It was held in a private co-working office after hours and I met the owner so I thought that was pretty cool too.
- Meetup.com – Also to be used via its app, this is the hub for niche experiences centered around interests.
- Ticket Leap.com – The bigger the city is, the more events you will find listed on here but it is essentially focused on events by the more creative and entrepreneurial minded folk.