There is so much to see and do in Washington, DC, that it can almost seem impossible to do it all in one trip. But local insiders know that the town is actually quite small and easy to navigate, thanks to the metro, buses, and bikes in arm’s reach. As a bonus, many key attractions are also walkable from the hostel. And we want to help you take even greener footprints while enjoying the rich diversity of the District:
Contrary to popular belief, not all Smithsonians are on the National Mall. In fact, the National Portrait Gallery - a local favorite - is just a 15 minute walk from the hostel. Right out front is the metro, and you can jump on the Red Line 3 stops to Dupont Circle for 2 hidden gems: the Phillips Collection and the O Street Mansion. Take a break and fill your belly at nearby eco-friendly and inexpensive fast casual restaurants like Sweet Green. When you’re ready to head back to the hostel, pick up a Capital Bike Share bike and pedal straight down L street in the bike lane until you reach the hostel and dock your bike on the corner.
Pro tip: Visit the Phillips Collection Tuesday-Friday and admission is by donation - your choice how much to pay.
Green fact: Driving a car for 1 mile is equivalent to burning half a pound of coal.
Start your day with a 10-minute walk from the hostel to the Ford Theater to learn the true story of the events that took place the night of President Lincoln’s murder. From there, pick up a Capital Bikeshare bike and pedal a few minutes to the National Mall, where endless options to discover America’s history awaits. From the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the National Postal Museum to the US Capitol Visitors Center, there are a range of history-filled venues that are no more than a healthy walk or quick bike ride apart. And you can become part of history by participating in one of these events held on the National Mall. When your tummy starts growling, enjoy the local gourmet food truck scene that lines the area and you’ll help support local vendors. And with a city-wide ban on styrofoam, you don’t have to worry about evil food packaging. The best place to enjoy your meal? The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden!
Pro tip: Bikes are not allowed through the MLK memorial. Be sure to dock it before you go through the area.
Green fact: It takes 500+ years for styrofoam to biodegrade.
The Great Outdoors
If the sun is shining, grab the $1 Circulator bus just outside the hostel and head to the Georgetown waterfront, making sure to pack some snacks. Take a peaceful stroll down the hidden Capital Crescent Trail that starts under the bridge. Keep walking past the Jack’s Boathouse - a tourist’s favorite - until you get to Fletcher’s Cove, a local favorite for kayak and canoe rentals along the Potomac River. Ambitious rowers can also make their way to Roosevelt Island for a shaded hike. Picnic on the island or back at Fletcher’s Cove’s picnic tables.
Pro tip: Download the TapIt Metro DC app to find all the local venues that will fill up your water bottle for free to ensure you’re hydrated for your day in the sun.
Green fact: The U.S. has over 1.5 million acres of designated parks within city limits.
A Very DC Experience
Jump on the metro to DuPont Circle and walk north to the neighborhood of Adams Morgan. Although a party scene at night, during the day this funky district shows off the diversity and uniqueness of local residents. You’ll find locally-owned boutiques, a variety of ethnic food, and locals hanging out with their dogs. It also places you next to the historic Meridian Hill Park, which has the best views of DC. If you’re still in the mood to walk or shop, head down the hill to U Street, where you’ll find more funky shops with a local flair. If the nearby Yes! Organic Market is too pricey, the Safeway by the hostel also has a large section of organic food to cook for dinner.
Pro tip: DC charges 5 cents for plastic bags at the grocery store, which goes towards helping clean up the polluted Anacostia River. Bring your own bag or use theirs and support the cause - either way you win!
Green tip: Supporting local business can keep more than 50% of revenue in the local economy, versus less than 15% from national chains.
Pack some social good into your stay by engaging in a volunteer project. Transitional Housing Corporation is happy to have 1-day volunteers help achieve its mission to combat homelessness. From volunteering in the garden to tutoring young adults, there are several ways to get involved and make a difference in the local community.
Bonus Activities for HI Washington DC Guests
It’s easy to have a culturally rich, eco-friendly visit to the nation’s capital when you stay at the hostel. Take advantage of free breakfast, then join one of the daily free activities, including neighborhood and monument tours, and outings to public concerts and festivals. Stop by any of DC’s many farmers markets to pick up locally sourced food to cook at the hostel for dinner with the new friends you made on a tour, in your dorm, or hanging out in the kitchen!
Pro tip: Hostellers love free food! If you’re looking to meet more people, cook up a little something extra to share, and you’ll have new friends waiting in line.
This is part of the HI USA Responsible Travel Guide series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Responsible Travel destinations.
You might also like:Free For All: Washington DC
Best Non-Touristy Things to do in Washington DC
5 Awesome Things To Do within Walking Distance of HI Washington DC