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Connections: D.C.—Run, Eat, Explore

By Jennifer Ward, 02/22/23, 6:45PM EST


Upgrade your weekend in the nation's capital with our top picks for history buffs, outdoor adventure seekers, and foodies.

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Cherry blossoms. The National Mall. The White House. Art and architecture. History and cuisine. Washington, D.C. is not only the capital of the US, but a visitor’s paradise. Whether you’re coming to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Washington D.C. Half Marathon and 5K in March (peak cherry blossom season) or contemplating visiting in the future, read on for our favorite things to do in this city where stately meets style. As soon as you de-plane your United flight, grab your carry-on and your favorite running shoes...D.C.’s streets have your name on them.  

Stay in style 

Navigate your time in the District from the comfort of a local Air B&B, or choose from charming boutique hotels such as the centrally located Yours Truly DC in Dupont Circle or The Royal Sonesta in Capitol Hill.  

Put an extra dash of history in your stay by opting for something with a story, such as The Hay-Adams. the legendary hotel named after John Hay, who served as personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State under two presidents, and Henry Adams, a Harvard professor and descendant of Presidents John and John Quincy Adams. The two men and their wives resided near Lafayette Square in the 19th century, their homes serving as popular gathering places for famous guests like Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain.  

Overlooking Rock Creek Park is the Omni Shoreham Hotel (known as “the Omni”) is also a hotel packed with history. The Beatles stayed there for four days during their first trip to the U.S. in February of 1964, and The Rolling Stones shortly thereafter. President John F. Kennedy was known to take Jackie Onasis to the hotel’s Blue Room for dates before the couple married. The Omni also hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural ball in 1933, then held inaugural balls for each subsequent U.S. president of the 20th century. 

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The Museum of Natural History


The most famous residents of the National Zoo.

Meander museums 

Whatever flavor you prefer your history, D.C. will have you coming back for seconds and thirds. There are numerous museums scattered throughout the city, including the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution, which consists of 17 free museums, galleries, and the National Zoo. From humanity’s beginnings at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian museums are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world. The museum collection contains more than 150 million objects, works of art and specimens altogether.  

The National Museum of American History features an endless array of Americana, including the original Star-Spangled Banner. The National Zoo in Woodley Park features hundreds of species and the cutest panda cub around, Bei Bei, and is a must-do for families. 
Take in centuries of important art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and grab lunch at the architecturally riveting Kogod Courtyard. You won’t have to travel far to see the most complete collection of presidential portraits, because the building is also home to the National Portrait Gallery.  Worldly art lovers will want to check out the African Art Museum, which showcases traditional and contemporary art from the continent, as well as a collection of more than 500 African relics. 

Many of the museums are located on the National Mall and are easily accessible by the city’s easy-to-navigate Metro system. There are others scattered throughout downtown, such as the Postal Museum near Union Station. 

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The National Mall, with a view of the Washington Monument.


The Lincoln Memorial

Monuments and more 

Beyond the brick walls of museums, D.C. is a city where history comes alive. The National Mall–dubbed “America’s front door”– is the best place to take in not only the city’s many quintessential museums, but also its most important landmarks, monuments and memorials. As those running the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Washington D.C. Half Marathon will experience on race day, the Mall’s wide, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevards and weaving pathways are perfect for a pre- or post-race shakeout or a day off on foot with the family. 

Make your way from the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Potomac River, you’ll pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the north side and the Korean War Veterans Memorial to the south. As you pass the World War II Memorial at 17th St. NW, you’ll see the iconic Washington Monument rising to the sky before you. Continue past numerous Smithsonian and other museums and galleries to finish your journey at the impressive U.S. Capitol—also the start and finish of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Washington D.C. 5K. There’s always something to see and do in this part of town, as the Mall plays host to events of all sizes almost every week. 


The iconic Ben's Chili Bowl.


A dish from Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.

Food frenzy 

One of the highlights of a visit to D.C. is the city’s food scene. From traditional steakhouses frequented by lawyers, politicians and lobbyists to the Ethiopian food of Shaw and Adams Morgan, D.C. boasts an incredibly diverse culinary landscape. Take your pick from Salvadorian and Southern food, pizza and Mexican, high-end or hole-in-the-wall. (Click here for a list of Tourism D.C.’s top, affordable best restaurants.) 

You can’t visit D.C. without trying a half-smoke—the local take on hot dogs—featuring a combination of ground pork, beef and spices in a natural casing and long been considered the city’s signature food. Served at stands, stadiums, restaurants and bars across the city, no eatery claims half-smokes more than Ben’s Chili Bowl, a U Street institution since 1958. Its traditional toppings? Chili, mustard and onions. 

“Jumbo slice,” DC’s absurdly large and floppy pizza slices became popular back in the 90’s on 18th Street in Adams Morgan thanks to a shop called Pizza Mart. The phenomenon multiplied into six shops on one block alone, and now you can find jumbo slices on 14th Street, U Street, Eastern Market and all over the District. 

You can also try food touring by neighborhood. D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront development, or “The Wharf,” is the city’s latest, rapidly evolving hip hood. In addition to the new Pendry Hotel, a 1.5-acre park, and shopping galore, it’s becoming quite the hub for new restaurants, too. The list includes Philippe Chow’s Beijing-style restaurant, Lucky Buns, Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, Bartaco, Blank Street Coffee, Hell’s Kitchen and Fish & Chips from Gordon Ramsay, Kinfolk Southern Kitchen, Limani, Milk and Honey, Slice of Matchbox and Kilwins Chocolates & Ice Cream. 

Hit up Georgetown for fantastic shopping and sightseeing in a charming historic setting, also the home to Baked and Wired café for a delicious post-race cupcake. If your group is looking for nightlife, head to U Street neighborhood for nightlife hot spots or live jazz music or Adams Morgan to experience D.C.'s eclectic, international scene. D.C.'s up-and-coming nightlife area, the H Street NE features several funky clubs and restaurants. For something more low-key, D.C. boasts some great wine bars as well.  


The Capitol Columns at the U.S. National Arboretum.


Runners in Rock Creek Park.

Hug a tree 

D.C. isn’t all concrete buildings and old white dead guys, it’s also known as the City of Trees. With an abundance of multi-acre parks, flourishing gardens and countless trails for walking and biking, there are ample opportunities to reconnect with nature. Rock Creek Park must be included in any outdoor exploration of the nation’s capital, with its 1,754 acres of woodlands, golf courses, picnic areas, riding stables and of course, trails for running and cycling. In addition to trails, the public park has a planetarium, horseback riding and lovely spots for a picnic. 

Visit the Tidal Basin in March and April to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom or hit the C & O Canal National Historical Park, a 184.5-mile-long park that runs from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. The park offers running and hiking trails, fishing, and boating, as well as a chance to see the beautiful Potomac River and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. 

The U.S. National Arboretum in the Northeast part of the city might be one of the reasons D.C. was voted one of Travel + Leisure’s 20 Most Tranquil Cities. This 446-acre public research facility is dedicated to preserving the environmental and economic importance of landscape and ornamental plants. Walk through the Grove of State Trees, relax and meditate inside the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum or view the original U.S. Capitol Columns. 

Head to the southern side of the National Mall and visit the United States Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in North America. In addition to sharing the importance and value of diversity in plant life, the Botanic Garden offers seasonal exhibits throughout the year. 

However you choose to do D.C., we’re confident you’ll be captivated by one of our favorite cities for running, eating, and exploring.  

United Airlines is the Official Airline of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series. Let United join you on your journey toward the finish line and check out the Rock 'n' Roll Running Series website to find out how you can receive exclusive flight discounts.  

Keep an eye on the Rock 'n' Roll Washington D.C. event page for other local discounts in our Runner Perks section.  

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