Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!

Today: Imani Bashir shares her top tips for vacationing in Washington, D.C.

As a travel writer, the allure of globetrotting is a constant, but there’s an undeniable beauty to rediscovering the gems within the familiar confines of Washington, D.C., my anchor city. Staycations in D.C. have become my cherished monthly ritual—I can indulge in the joy of getting away without venturing too far from the comforts of home.

Beyond being my residence, the city holds the esteemed title of “The Nation’s Capital,” making it an ideal travel destination for individuals of varying interests and budgets. D.C. is a captivating blend of history, culture, and diversity, offering an array of fine dining experiences, budget-friendly delights, and landmarks that weave the narrative of Black history into the very fabric of the city. Personally, I relish the opportunity to explore the city as a tourist would, deviating from the familiar paths of daily life and uncovering hidden gems that often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of routine living. It’s a refreshing perspective that never fails to reignite my appreciation for the richness that Washington, D.C. has to offer. Here are some of my go-to spots:

Afternoon tea in The Lounge


One of my favorite stays has to be Salamander D.C. because of its location in the Southwest quadrant of the city and the fact that it’s owned by a Black woman, Sheila Johnson, a leader in the hospitality industry. Salamander D.C. offers guests an unparalleled experience that boasts a seamless fusion of modern elegance and timeless charm. Among the hotel’s quality amenities is a full-service spa with a menu of services. I like to take full advantage of this, and always find time to get myself a massage, to make my stay feel more like a vacation. 

During my latest stay, my room instantly transported me to a bygone era; I felt enveloped in an ambiance that echoed the regal opulence of 18th or 19th Century European luxury. The furnishings, adorned with intricate details and rich textures, exuded a sense of grandeur that mirrored the sophistication of European palaces. This includes sumptuous fabrics, antique furnishings, and original artwork that creates an atmosphere of indulgence and refinement.

A highlight of the stay was afternoon tea in The Lounge, which adds to the property’s modest opulence. It’s currently undergoing a transformation that will reopen to guests in Spring 2024. Salamander D.C. will also be welcoming award-winning Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s new Afro-Caribbean restaurant, “Dogon” which will be an ode to D.C.’s strong history.

Bathroom at Salamander D.C.



You can’t visit D.C. and not try chicken with mambo sauce. The taste is a combination of ketchup, sweet and sour, and magic deliciousness. It captures the true essence of D.C., something we’re always slathering on chicken and pairing with french fries or fried rice. Yum’s on 14th and P street in Northwest is a great start if you’re trying mambo sauce for the first time, and if you want to have it like a true D.C. native, add a “half and half” to drink, which is half lemonade, half sweet iced tea.

I also cannot recommend Das Ethiopian in Georgetown enough. I enjoy both the service and the food and recommend trying the most interesting dish you read–if you’re unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine.



One of the most unsuspecting things I did during my staycation was ride around on a LIME scooter, which are abundant outside of the Salamander D.C. and across the city. I got a chance to explore the city in a very different way and rode past the Lincoln Memorial, The MLK Memorial, a couple museums, and the National Mall. When the weather is warm, it’s a really scenic way to see the city and its many monuments without breaking the bank. And if you’re going with a significant other or companion, you can take a pit stop, set up a nice picnic on the mall and enjoy the surroundings. 

D.C. is rich in Black history, and a staycation here wouldn’t be complete without visiting significant landmarks that commemorate the struggles and achievements of the African American community, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You can also delve into the comprehensive exhibits at this Smithsonian museum, which covers the African American experience from slavery to the present day.

FOR A splurge:

The city is a hub for entertainment. I recommend catching a show or some type of event during your stay. Depending on the season, you can catch a jazz show on The Wharf or many other forms of scheduled events like film festivals. D.C. is no stranger to talent and you can find shows, concerts, or sporting events at the Kennedy Center, The Anthem, D.C. Improv, and Capital One Arena.

What To Pack

D.C. is a walkable city, as well as metro accessible, so comfortable shoes are a must for exploring the various neighborhoods and historical sites. I really enjoy the On Running Cloudmaster shoes as a comfortable option to explore the city. 

With taking a staycation to D.C. I also pack much lighter than most trips. I often use a medium-sized Telfar bag as my carry-on, although the larger size can likely accommodate what you need for an entire weekend. Lastly, one of my travel go-tos is my Topicals “Like Butter” moisturizer, which is a skin-hydrating cream. No matter what season, I like for my skin to be nourished, especially if I’m going to spend time outdoors.

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