What It’s Like to Visit Washington, D.C. Right Now

by  Christine Dayao | Sep 30, 2021
Washington, DC
Washington, DC / iStock / Larry McCormick

By the time I took my recent two-night getaway to the nation’s capital earlier in August, it had been exactly 17 months since I’d traveled. My last trip? A weeklong family vacation to Walt Disney World a mere week before the world plunged into a pandemic. Suffice to say, I knew this one – albeit short – would be a lot different from one taken in pre-pandemic times. Here’s what it’s like to visit Washington, D.C. right now.

Traveling to Washington, D.C. During the Pandemic

My friend and I took Amtrak from New York City’s new Moynihan Train Hall. Currently, as required by federal law, passengers must wear a mask or face covering for the duration of their ride. About 24 hours prior to departure, you should receive an email about a pre-trip COVID-19 check that you must fill out; it can also be completed on the Amtrak app or at the station with an agent. Once onboard, I noticed that everyone complied with the mask requirement, though the two trains we took that weekend were completely full.

Note that as of July 31, Washington, D.C. set forth a mandate requiring anyone over the age of 2 must wear a face covering indoors, regardless of vaccination status – even at restaurants when you’re not eating or drinking.

Where to Stay in Washington, D.C. During the Pandemic

We loved our stay at the newly renovated Hotel Madera, located in the super-cool Dupont Circle neighborhood. Our king-bed balcony room was extremely spacious, and the on-site Firefly restaurant has my new favorite chicken and waffles brunch entree. The real standout, though, is the welcoming staff and hospitality. Masks are required here in common areas, and if you need one, you can just ask the front desk.

How to Get Around Washington, D.C. During the Pandemic

Uber was our preferred mode of transportation. The ride-sharing service requires that all passengers and drivers must wear a mask or face covering (you’re asked to confirm that you’ll wear one when you request a ride). We felt completely comfortable, and if it puts you at ease, you can ask the driver to open the windows. If you’re taking public transportation around town, make sure you’re wearing a mask.

What to Do in Washington, D.C.

A trip here is incomplete without visiting at least one of the world-class museums. I really loved my first-ever trip to the Renwick Gallery, which was actually recommended to us by a fellow hotel guest who lived in the neighborhood (Pro tip: Talk to the locals!). Located just a short walk from the White House, the free-to-visit museum is dedicated to contemporary crafts and decorative arts. Janet Echelman’s 1.8 Renwick, a jaw-dropping fiber and lighting installation located in the second-floor Grand Salon, is absolutely breathtaking.

With policies changing often, check here before your trip to see which museums and attractions require you to make timed reservations.

Where to Eat and Drink in Washington, D.C.

As mentioned above, a meal at Firefly is a must-do if you’re in Dupont Circle. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating for brunch and dinner and hosts happy hour Wednesday through Friday. Mains during either seating cost between $16 and $34; the parmesan truffle fries might be addicting, but you’ve been warned.

Another new favorite of mine is Tatte Bakery, which has two outposts in the city. We ate brunch at the West End location, the first of the two to open in 2020 and just a few blocks away from Hotel Madera. The pastries are all mouthwatering, but I’d return on a weekly basis just to have the huge lamb meatball shakshuka, served with three slices of toasted challah bread (I’ve thought of this dish every day since I returned home). This, along with a dirty iced chai latte, cost a little under $24 – so very affordable. The eatery has indoor and outdoor seating.

Taking a trip to Georgetown? Make sure to dine at Guapo’s. Portions here are generous and very reasonable; our beef burrito and fish tacos with rice and beans cost between $12 and $19. The passion fruit margarita is quite refreshing, too. There are tables inside and out, which offer fountain views.

What You Should Know Regarding Vaccination Status

Those traveling to Washington, D.C. from anywhere in the country do not have to quarantine if they’re fully vaccinated unless they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Unvaccinated individuals don’t need a COVID-19 test if they’re from Maryland or Virginia or if you’re in the city for less than 24 hours – other than that, you’ll need a test one to three days before arrival. Read more about the area’s travel status here

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