I’ve lived in Washington for (gulp) 23 years—and something I’ve learned in all that time: This is one great city to visit.

I recently had the honor of writing Nat Geo’s forthcoming book Walking Washington, D.C., and reveled in the chance to traverse the District to rediscover old favorites through the eyes of a tourist and dig up treasures I never even knew existed.

Here’s the recipe for a perfect day in one of the world’s most vibrant capital cities:

Morning

Start your day off with breakfast on Capitol Hill. Hop on the Metro and head for Eastern Market, D.C.’s oldest and continually operated fresh food market. Market Lunch here is famous for its blueberry-buckwheat pancakes, which are best enjoyed at the busy counter or outside at a picnic table. A few blocks away, no-frills Pete’s Diner—a favorite among members of Congress and their staffers—offers visitors an authentic taste of “the Hill.”

Spend the rest of the morning exploring the eastern half of the National Mall. Hop on the Metro at Eastern Market and get off at the Smithsonian stop, which provides easy access to the eight outstanding museums the Institution oversees on the Mall, including its latest addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

You could easily spend a week inside the Museum of American History (highlights include the flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a fascinating exhibit on the American presidency, and Julia Child’s kitchen, brought piece-by-piece from her home in Massachusetts) and the Air and Space Museum (must-sees here are the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Starship Enterprise).

My advice? Pace yourself. Of course, what people love about Washington is that many of the city’s museums (including all of which are under the Smithsonian umbrella)—so really, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking in a few highlights in one (Read more...)

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