Tips for Planning a DC Staycation


Have you considered a DC staycation? I’m sure many of you can relate to this: my husband and I were in desperate need of a change of scenery. But compared to what seemed like everyone else, the thought of doing any actual travel seemed exhausting. Plus, maybe this is a little selfish of us, but after a year of lockdown and no dates or outings, we really were in need of a getaway that was just the two of us.

DC Staycation
The Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf

So instead of planning a vacation, we had one set of grandparents come in to babysit for two nights and planned a staycation right here in DC – and it was so much fun. If you can get away from work and the kids, here’s what we did, along with other options we considered.

Where we stayed for our DC Staycation

We chose to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf. We chose this hotel for a few reasons: it had a rooftop pool (a “must” on our list since there was a major heatwave when we did our staycation), it was in an area where we could walk to a lot of entertainment, and it wasn’t too hard for us to get to. We did consider some backup hotel options, too: Hotel Zena is a new hotel in downtown DC right next to Mt Vernon Square, which also has a rooftop pool, and The Ven on Embassy Row in Dupont Circle is also a swanky hotel with a rooftop pool. We ultimately felt we’d enjoy the Wharf area the best.

Where we played/hung out

We booked our DC staycation during the week (Monday-Wednesday) to save money and avoid a majority of the crowds, but since it’s the summer, and vaccinations and COVID fatigue has everyone out, there were still a fair amount of crowds. We spent most of our day at the hotel pool, and in the evening we walked around the Wharf along the water. We went to dinner in Logan Circle one night and also attempted to barhop up there before our dinner reservation, but amazingly, we couldn’t even find any seats or space at any of the bars. COVID fatigue is real!

Where we snacked/drank

We chose the Wharf because there were so many happy hours walking distance from our hotel: La Vie and Cantina Bambina were frequented for drinks and apps, as well as Shake Shack for fries and shakes.

Where we ate

The morning we spent the day at the pool, we walked around the corner to Chopsmith and ate two hearty breakfast bowls – my husband made his own and I opted for the steak and egg bowl – and we also split granola and fruit. We ate two dinners at night – after the pool, we went to a happy hour dinner and drinks at Mi Vida, and a later dinner at Le Diplomate.

DC Staycation
Drinks at Mi Vida

Both were delicious. Mi Vida had some great beer options (bottles and draft), four wine options and three cocktail options on their happy hour menu – my husband stuck to Pacifico, and I had a margarita and a Ponche de Lola (mango-infused vodka and champagne with strawberry, ginger, guava and mint). We ate chips and salsa and two orders of carne tacos and crispy chicken tacos. The whole experience was delicious.

DC Staycation
Posing with our cheese board and wine at Le Diplomate.

We had heard great things about Le Diplomate, so we decided to take a Via there from the Wharf for dinner. Our reservation for Le Diplomate was at 9:15 pm, and we weren’t even able to be seated earlier at 8:50 – it was packed! Once we were seated, the restaurant stayed relatively full until about 10:45, and it seemed to start clearing out close to 11, when the restaurant closed. We had a cheese board with three cheeses (you ask the waiter for three, six or nine cheeses, tell them what you like and they choose the cheese for you), shared a carafe of wine and opted for the cheeseburger (husband) and duck l’orange (me). Everything was really good.

Our return

We missed our son when we were gone, but I think a break from us was good for him, too. He got to spend extended alone time with his Grammy and Grandpa, and when we came home, he was actually talking more and saying some new words. Sometimes a change of scenery has multiple benefits, even for your children.

Tips for booking a DC staycation

  • To avoid excessive Ubering and getting stuck in traffic, try to plan your staycation in a neighborhood you’ll be spending most of your time.
  • Ask about discounts – the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf, as well as many others, have discounts for government employees.
  • Look at hotel amenities and make sure the hotel you plan to book has what you want, like free breakfast, a pool and/or a fitness center.
  • Make reservations for meals well in advance – things book up fast now that everyone wants to go out! Our options for Le Diplomate on a Tuesday were either 4:15 and 9:15, and we booked that about two weeks out. For happy hours, make sure to get there close to the start time since a lot of happy hours are only valid at the bar/high-top tables, which can fill up fast.
  • Have contingency plans and things you might want to do inside for rainy days, just in case.

Happy staycationing!

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Stephanie and her husband moved to the DC area from St. Pete, Florida (but hail from the Midwest) with their French Bulldog Reggie in 2018 for her husband's job. A few weeks after arriving, she discovered she was pregnant. Carson was born later that year, and with no family around, had to create her own village of mom friends. The family of four live in Mclean, Virginia. A former journalist, she recently rejoined the client success industry after being laid off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She enjoys activities with both Carson and Reggie, including walks around the neighborhood and visiting dog-friendly parks and monuments in the DMV area.