Finals week of my last semester of college had quickly approached at full force. I had a dreadful semester, so my friends and I decided to take an impulsive trip to Washington, DC to see the Cherry Blossom Festival. Although the trip was “impulsive,” we’ve been planning elaborate photoshoots in front of these trees for months now. Despite it being finals week, we finally booked that Megabus ticket from NYC to DC.
Our Megabus left NYC at 6 am, so we arrived in DC at 10 am after a 4-hour ride of cramped legroom and 7/11 snacks. Once we stretched our legs and set foot off of the bus, we noticed that clusters of cherry blossom petals were washed up near the DC sewers. I contained my panic when I saw the reason for our trip crumbled up near the sewage drain. I tried to ignore this moment of internal conflict.
When we got into our first Uber ride, one of my friends blurted out, “Yes, gurl! Who is ready for these cherry blossoms?” Our Uber driver tilted his head, looked at us, and said, “Oh no, you’re about three weeks late.”
Okay, so the cherry blossoms were dead and we had to come up with a Plan B. Fortunately, there’s so much going on in DC that is was extremely easy to create a backup plan. The one thing I’ve learned from my years of traveling is to be flexible and to go with the flow. So, that’s what we did!
11:00 am – SNACK TIME!
Bon Matcha is where it’s at! A swirl of fresh matcha and cherry blossom ice cream satisfied my tastebuds for the entirety of the trip. Plenty of places have subpar ice cream, but Bon Matcha brings their ice cream game to the next level with their vibrant aesthetics and flavors.
1:30 pm – FOOD TIME!
DC is covered with Thai restaurants. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there’s probably a Thai restaurant within every mile of the city. Imm Thai on 9th was our first restaurant stop! The inside is super cute, and the brick background is wonderful for a photoshoot. When it comes to food, this restaurant was good, but (not going going to lie) nothing amazing! I ordered Thai fried rice, and the rice was an in-between of overcooked and undercooked, so it was basically mushy. That said, the service was amazing, and our waitress was super sweet.
We decided not to write off Thai food in DC altogether, so we checked out another place a bit later (Yes, our favorite pastime is eating). We quickly learned that if you want mouth-watering Thai food in DC, Royal Thai is a must!
3:00 pm – WHAT ABOUT THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS?
Since the cherry blossoms were dead, we had to find another place that was hosting a floral extravaganza. Luckily, The United States Botanic Garden is open year-round in DC, and they put a massive amount of energy into preserving and displaying the beauty of U.S. plants.
The entrance to the gardens set the mood for the entire tour: charming and diverse. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a decorative faucet that is covered in hydrangeas (Well, I think they’re hydrangeas. But don’t quote me… I’m no flower expert).
As you move from room to room, each one adapts its setting and climate in order to fit the plants that it’s hosting. The rooms vary from desert to jungle, which gave me that travel feeling without even breaking out a plane ticket. The U.S. Botanic Garden beautifully captures the biodiversity of the U.S. (SUPER UNDERRATED). It was quite an exciting way to spend the day.
If the beauty of the gardens hasn’t convinced you, then the (always) FREE entry to the gardens will.
6:00 pm – ROOFTOP AND DINNER TIME!
I’m a sucker for a good rooftop bar. All I ever want is to suck a Californian sparkling wine from a straw while the sun bakes my melanin on top of a hotel’s roof. Hotel Hive gave me so much life with their monochromatic color scheme. With only four or five drinks on the menu, the bar truly was not diverse in its offerings, but it served its purpose!
Also, the drinks were only $7, so my college-student budget was super happy! This was a much-needed getaway. In addition to the cheap drinks, feel free to grab an appetizer or a dish so that you don’t get too boozy… well, depending on your mood!
7:00 pm – SIGHTSEEING!
If you think of DC as being the home of dusty monuments… you’re kind of right! Luckily, most of them are in a central area of the city, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to knock them all off of your bucket list. My favorite part of exploring monuments is reading the bottom of the statues. We often think we know about a historical event, but we truly don’t. And, honestly, after visiting some of these monuments, I still don’t.
But hey, let’s just take in the beauty!
11:30 am – COFFEE AND SNACK TIME!
One of DC’s local coffee chains is Compass Coffee. They thrive off of their minimalist vibe. They’re not just for show – they are actually committed to minimalism; they won’t give you lids unless you ask for them. Save the environment… it’s great! I enjoy Compass Coffee joints because they’re spacious enough for me to bust out my laptop and get comfortable as if I were paying rent. Also, their seasonal drinks are hand-painted on the menu. Right when you walk in, you’ll see an assortment of odd-sounding coffee mixtures. Odd often equals good.
Mint cold brew, anyone? Or, cherry blossom cold brew? The cherry blossoms may be gone, but the taste sure isn’t.
3:00 pm – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE!
Whatever you do, do not leave the District of Columbia without visiting this museum; it’s iconic and underrated, ’cause shit, I didn’t even know it was a “thing.” Technically you are supposed to register (online) in advance for tickets, but I guess my smile charmed the door lady because she let us right in without preregistering. All I did was greet her with a huge smile, and the door attendant said, “Go on, baby. But next time, make sure that you have tickets.”
YES. We scammed our way in. #MissionAccomplished
This experience was surreal. The museum does a brilliant job of not only displaying African American culture but showing how our culture is nuanced and engrained into the entirety of “American” culture. In the age of having a president who openly calls Black people thugs, it is refreshing to see how resilient we have been throughout centuries of oppression.
Overall, the museum shows the massive influence that African American culture has had on plenty of subcultures throughout the world (Grime music, the European vogue scene, etc). As a black guy living in the U.S.A, I felt a moment of raw enlightenment. We are often taught that there is no “African American culture,” when in reality, our culture is infused into this society… it is this society.
My “wow” moment was exploring the room in the museum that displays all of the decades through fashion and music. This exhibit showed outfits and performances of super talented black folk putting their souls and blood into rock n’ roll in the 40s and 50s. All I could think about is how Elvis did the same musical act a few years later and made millions off of the talent of these black artists… but the originators of the musical movement were left with a half of an applause. Like damn, give them back their coins ($$$).
It was a deep experience to see the social, political, and artistic contributions that we’ve made and continue to make. I felt proud. You should feel proud too.
5:30 pm – FOOD TIME!
Before catching that bus back to New York, I had to do myself a favor. I needed to get Nandos. It’s an Afro-Portuguese joint that offers the best chicken, in-season corn, and tummy-warming mashed potatoes. I first discovered Nandos two years ago when I visited Ireland. I’ve fantasized about it ever since. All I wanted was to taste their Perri Perri sauce on the tip of my tongue. The rich flavor and mild sauces are simply orgasmic.
It’s so good that my Scottish friend, who now lives in The States, once realized that there was a Nandos in DC, so we drove 4 1/2 hours for their food. Yes boo, it’s just that damn serious.
If you’re ever feeling sadness, this food will knock that right out of you. So, what better way to prepare for my bus ride home than to enjoy this food and to enjoy the beautiful artwork in this establishment?
7:00 pm – TEA TIME!
Before leaving any place, I always make it my goal to visit a locally-owned coffee shop or teashop – support local businesses so the charm in cities doesn’t die! I was scrolling through Yelp, and I happened to stumble upon Sidamo Coffee and Tea. Although a variety of teas are offered, this shop specializes in Ethiopian coffee and pastries (also, its Ethiopian-owned).
The inside is spacious yet narrow. The walls are decorated with various teas and coffees from all over the world. The world of tea is literally right in front of you! Honestly, I was overwhelmed by all of the options, but I ended up going with the South African Ginger Vanilla Rooibos.
The true attention-catching aspect of this shop is the patio-seating in the back. The patio has three trees that offer a bit of shade on sunny days. In addition, there are umbrellas that provide a sense of coziness while you sip and spill tea with your friends.
The presentation was on-point! The tea was served in a French press, and I controlled the steeping time and pouring process. Although there was a grumpy man working the front counter (I understand, this heat is getting the best of us), I highly recommend Sidamo for a relaxed coffee break or a chill blogging session.
8:00 pm – CATCH THAT BUS AND FINISH MY HOMEWORK DURING THE RIDE!
WHERE CAN I CRASH?: FINDING CHEAP ACCOMMODATION!
Between me and of my friends, we split an Airbnb near the Northwest part of DC, and it was fairly cheap. But, if you’re traveling solo and looking for super cheap accommodation, you should check out HostelWorld. They’ll give you the low-down on all things good and inexpensive.
HOW TO ARRIVE TO THE FUNCTION: GETTING THERE!
I took a Megabus from NYC that cost around $42 roundtrip! Megabus or Greyhound are both great ways to get to DC if you live within driving distance of the city. If not, booking a flight can be cheap depending on for when you book it and how far in advance.
I LOVE DC!
I truly do! Before visiting, I thought “business and government people are bland.” Then I realized that after work, business and government workers have fun too! So, it’s all about figuring out what the locals do and where the locals go!
DC has great restaurants, a chill bar scene, and it’s a huge college town! I go everywhere with my main girls, but if I had to take a quick solo vacation away from NYC, DC would definitely be a top pick. There’s a bit of everything for everyone.
So, when’s your next trip to DC?