The Best Way to Spend an Evening in Washington DC


If you’ve followed along with my recent posts, then you have walked with me through my journey of parenthood…with a high school foreign exchange student

She loves to travel (obviously!), finds history fascinating, feels cherished when we spend time together, and had a week off of school for Fall Break. Naturally, we took a vacation to Washington DC! (PsstHere are my best tips for traveling with a teenager!)

If you have ever been or plan to visit our nation’s capital, be prepared to feast your eyes on monuments and walk miles through museums. There are endless options that could take you weeks upon week to visit, so pick and choose what most interests you.

We spent a handful of afternoons in Barnes and Noble browsing their DC travel guides. We crafted a thorough list of our must-visit sites as well as interesting places or tasty restaurants. Once we finally arrived in the city it felt like we had a solid plan with room for flexibility.

If you were to ask me or my “daughter” our favorite thing about the trip, we’d offer you the same answer: the day we grabbed takeout, watched the sunset, and then walked around the monuments after dark.

Step #1: Takeout

We eat very healthy at home, so eating on vacation can be a pain. Especially when you know you will likely be on the toilet more than usual. Our favorite evening in Washington DC began with takeout.

There are loads of fantastic restaurants throughout the city but a friend recommended Cava, a semi-fast-food chain of Green and Mediterranean food. If you like this style of food, you must eat here during your stay in the city! We each had a loaded gyro bursting with flavors (I specifically remember ordering my meal with roasted garlic hummus, spicy lamb meatballs, and red pepper chickpea dressing).

The aromas were captivating and extremely tempting; we ordered our food to-go and then had to wait for the 20 minute commute from the restaurant to our next stop: the Jefferson Memorial..

Step #2: Watch the sunset from the Jefferson Memorial

We arrived at the Jefferson Memorial as the sun was lowering in the sky. We snapped some photos as walked around the outside of the monument, then picked a place to settle in for our dinner and a show.

We seated ourselves so we could watch the colorful sky darken as the sun disappeared. We had views of the lake and of airplanes landing and taking off from the nearby airport. Our food was too tempting; it was finally time to eat! Thankfully Mediterranean food can be eaten at room temperature (plus it allowed extra time for the juices and flavors to meld together into a cohesive goodness).

We peacefully sat in silence, observing the shifting colors in the sky, zooming airplanes on the horizon and foreign tourists doing all sorts of crazy poses for their cameras. It was pure bliss.

By the time we devoured finished our gyros, the sun had dipped below the horizon. We packed up our things and ventured to the next element of our perfect evening in Washington DC: visiting monuments after dark.

Step #3: Walk around the Tidal Basin to see the monuments after dark

The Tidal Basin of the Potomac River is set just beside the city and happens to be what many monuments are centered around. During our research for this vacation, many guides suggested visiting certain monuments at night so that you can use the business hours to see museums.

At first I thought this was an odd suggestion – won’t the lighting be awful? Is it safe? Does anyone go out at night to places besides restaurants? Rest assured, the answers to those questions are sort of, yes, and yes.

We left the Jefferson Memorial and followed a decent footpath to the FDR, MLK Jr., and WWII Memorials, as well as The Lockkeepers House. Each monument was well-lit and there were other tourists at each one. Park Rangers are even stationed here until 10pm to offer security and knowledgeable tidbits to curious travelers.

The end of our favorite evening in Washington, DC

The end of our evening walk took us past the White House and delivered us safely back to our hotel. Our tummies were still content with the amazing dinner, our eyes were satisfied with the stunning sunset and historical sites, and our feet were ready for a break. If/when I return to our nation’s capital, I will certainly relive this wonderful evening!

Have you been to Washington DC? What did you do on your favorite night in the city? I’d love to hear your travel stories in the comments below!