Monday was our last day in DC, and with a flight that left at 7:00 PM we had a good chunk of the day to continue exploring. The only downside was that it was raining...there are only so many activities you can do with a dog in the rain. Plus, we had to check out of our AirBNB by 11:00, which was also limiting.
After a quick Google search, we settled on visiting the National Arboretum, which was just a half hour drive away or so. I'd never even heard of it, but was marvelously impressed! It's essentially a huge park curated with different collections of trees and plants. One collection has a tree from every state in the US!
There are also an arrangement of columns from the Capitol Building that were present for a number of presidential inaugurations, including Abraham Lincoln's. When they renovated the Capitol, the columns were no longer strong enough to be used structurally, so they were moved here and set up for display. Another bonus: the Arboretum is free to visit!
Also on site you will find a beautiful herb garden, bonzai museum, lovely visitor center, and vast grounds you can tour with a variety of different plant collections. We spent some time walking around the Asian Collection, which eventually led down to a picnic area by a river. This would be a really lovely spot on a sunnier day. As it was, the tree canopy protected us from most of the rain and the temperature was still warm enough to enjoy a casual stroll.
We stopped in Virginia on the way to the airport and picked up some burritos for lunch, which we ate in the car because it was raining and we have a dog, so patio seating wasn't an option. Let me tell you, Virginia certainly doesn't do Mexican food the way California does. A bit of a sad last meal to end an otherwise excellent vacation.
My Overall Impressions
DC is a great place to go visit! There are so many options of things to do for all ages and interests, and it can be a really affordable vacation since so many of the attractions are free. The activities that did cost money were generally reasonably priced. You can easily spend a week here and never run out of options of things to do, but you can also just focus in on key points of interest and have a fulfilling visit without feeling like you missed out.
The drivers are terrible, so if you don't need to drive I'd stick to the Metro and Ubers. Driving here can be pretty stressful, so save yourself the headache. If you do decide to have a car, make sure you are good at parallel parking or are prepared to pay $$$ for a parking garage. Getting early starts to your day will help you avoid crowds and heat, and there is still a lot to do after the sun sets so go ahead and spend the afternoon relaxing in air conditioning, by a pool, or having a picnic in the shade. Bring lots of sunscreen and bug spray. If you are a bicycling person, they have a bike share where you can pick up and drop off bicycles at various locations that would be a great option for visiting the different memorials and getting around the National Mall, which is huge. The city overall seems to be very dog friendly, so don't hesitate to bring your pooch with you on your visit. Great food, nice people, and a very pleasant experience all around. I will definitely add this to my list of places I could return to for another visit.