HomeExchanger JennyLee Molina was able to be part of history after traveling with her family to Washington, DC for the presidential inauguration in January. She shares her story, along with tips for things to do in the city. Follow her HomeExchange adventures around the United States on Instagram.
Washington, DC is a dynamic and historic destination and even more so during a historic presidential inauguration. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and security concerns, the Presidential Inaugural Committee asked that all Americans stay home and celebrate this year's inauguration virtually. However, this didn’t stop us from taking in the celebratory energy of being in our nation’s capital!
Just before our planned family vacation, the District of Columbia Mayor also issued an order that closed all museum operations and indoor dining but we found plenty of socially-distant responsible ways to enjoy the outdoors. While traveling for the first time during this unforeseen pandemic, we focused on limiting our exposure to other people so as to limit the spread of COVID-19. The District is filled with plenty of outdoor adventures that won’t cost you a cent. Explore the best free outdoor activities, from national parks to outdoor monuments.
Although not being able to attend the Inauguration Parade and other planned museum visits we were looking forward to, there was plenty of outdoor dining and fun in nature to be had. I guess this just means we will have to book another HomeExchange stay once it is safer to do so! After all, Washington, DC offers unique access to incredible free museums, monuments, memorials and one-of-a-kind events. When it comes to destinations, DC is in a class all by itself.
For our first HomeExchange experience, we drove from our home in Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. We absolutely loved our Georgia home and host so much. We celebrated the New Year and enjoyed a much needed change of scenery after months of being in quarantine. Our Atlanta home was amazing and so was our host. We have even kept in touch after our stay.
From there we ventured to our final destination of Washington, DC for the presidential inauguration. Our cozy walk-up apartment was in the popular U Street neighborhood which made it incredibly easy to walk everywhere we needed to go including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Yes Organic Market.
When we go on vacation, we always look for hotels with a kitchen but they are never as stocked as a home kitchen. Especially now with the pandemic situation, we like cooking at home as often as possible and fresh ingredients is key. Being able to stock up on some staples while also getting a nice walk in was a fun adventure. Plus, there is nothing like a home cooked meal. If you’re not into cooking, DC offers plenty of outdoor dining options as well.
For the nature seekers, you will have no issue finding free outdoor activities in DC. From hiking and running trails such as the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls Park to awesome places like Rock Creek Park, there are so many things to do outdoors in the nation’s capital, including activities just for kids.
These are some of our most memorable moments in DC during the inauguration.
Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park is a stunning and easy to reach slice of nature just 30 minutes from busy Washington DC. Great Falls is part of the George Washington National Parkway, a scenic drive connecting historic sites from here to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
We thought Great Falls Park was the perfect place to explore nature with 800 acres of scenic parkland that consists of hiking trails, cascading rapids and spectacular waterfalls with three different observation decks. En route to Great Falls Park, there are also great spots to stop and observe the Potomac River. If you’re into hiking also, the trails range from 2-3 miles long and are perfect for beginners who prefer a leisurely walk.
Dacha Beer Garden
Located in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington DC, Dacha Beer Garden is the perfect place to hang like a local. This outdoor beer garden is lauded as the best beer garden in The District. Dacha offered inauguration cocktail specials such as their KAMALA Cocktail and a special menu for the momentous occasion. With over 90% of DC voting for Biden/Harris, it was a cause for celebration. Although we watched the inauguration virtually, being less than 10 minutes away from The Capitol surrounded by locals cheering and clapping in unison was truly moving. Later that evening, we were able to catch the fireworks live from afar which was spectacular.
Black Lives Matter Plaza
We couldn’t leave DC without visiting Black Lives Matter Plaza. On the pavement where police in riot gear deployed tear gas just this last summer as protestors called for justice, a sense of peace and joy overcame Black Lives Matter Plaza. We went to visit the day after the inauguration which was when we were finally able to visit since prior it was blocked off by the National Guard. As you may know, this summer DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser renamed a street in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and had the slogan painted on the asphalt in massive yellow letters. Before the street was renamed, Black Lives Matter Plaza was already a gathering place for activists, largely because of its proximity to the White House. The christening of Black Lives Matter Plaza painted both by local artists and volunteers turned the corridor on 16th Street between H and I streets into a new destination that brings hope and inspiration to those who seek it.
We are so grateful we had the opportunity to travel and live like locals while staying safe during this unprecedented pandemic. Our HomeExchange experience is a total game changer for our future travel adventures and we are looking forward to more fun exchanges with the new friends we meet along the way.