2017 U.S. Presidential Inauguration: Things to do in Washington, D.C.

Whether you’re heading to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, the Women’s March or simply a winter or spring jaunt, there’s always loads to see and do. But if you only have a few days, how should you fill your itinerary? Below is a list that includes some of my favorite spots, which I discovered when I lived in D.C. for a year, as well as suggestions from friends who still call the nation’s capital home.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian Institution Holds Press Preview For New National Museum Of African American History And Culture
Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks’ dress is on display in the concourse galleries at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and culture. credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This museum, which opened in September and is the “only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture,” is the hottest ticket in town right now, and, like all Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., is free. Unfortunately, reserving your free spot can be a challenge. A batch of same-day timed-entry passes are released each morning — you can reserve up to four — until they run out, but they run out quickly. On weekdays only, there are also a limited number of walk-up passes (one per person) made available starting at 1 p.m. Get them on the Madison Drive side of the building. Advance timed passes are released monthly and are sold out through April; May passes will become available Feb. 1. You may reserve up to six passes in advance. Learn more at nmaahc.si.edu.

More museums of note: The National Portrait Gallery (npg.si.edu), the National Air and Space Museum and its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (airandspace.si.edu/udvar-hazy-center) are highly recommended, and free. The National Museum of Women in the Arts (nmwa.org) is free Jan. 21-22 ($10 admission otherwise). The Newseum (newseum.org) and the International Spy Museum (spymuseum.org) are worth a visit, too, although getting in will cost you.

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This Sikorsky JRS-1 flying boat sits in the restoration hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. credit: Jahi Chikwendiu/Washington Post

Make history

Washington, D.C., is a history- and architecture-lover’s paradise. First, go for a stroll through the stunning National Cathedral (cathedral.org), where you’ll be awestruck by its incredible Rose Window, which was installed in 1976, is 26 feet tall and contains more than 10,000 pieces of glass. Next, visit important landmarks at Arlington National Cemetery (arlingtoncemetery.mil), including President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with Arlington National Cemetery Tours (arlingtoncemetery.mil/Visit/Tours-and-Groups), which offers tours daily. President Lincoln’s Cottage (lincolncottage.org), where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked for over a quarter of his presidency, is another fascinating stop.

On the outskirts

If you can make the time, you have to squeeze in an afternoon at Mount Vernon (mountvernon.org), which, despite being just 15 miles from Washington, D.C., feels a world away. Highlights include George and Martha Washington’s mansion, a working distillery and gristmill and stunning garden. In spring, you can even get there via a sightseeing cruise up the Potomac. Learn more here. Old Town Alexandria (visitalexandriava.com/old-town-alexandria) is another historic and picturesque place to explore, especially on a mild day where you can take your time along the red-brick sidewalks flanking cobblestone streets.

Food and drink

Eastern Market (easternmarket-dc.org) and Union Market (unionmarketdc.com) are both fun places to grab a bite and do some people-watching. Mitsitam Cafe inside the National Museum of the American Indian (nmai.si.edu/visit/washington/mitsitam-cafe) also comes highly recommended. And the buzzy bar and restaurant district these days lies on 14th Street between V and M, I’m told.

If you go

D.C. has three main airports: Dulles, Reagan and Baltimore-Washington, and many airlines offer nonstop service from Austin. Because lodging in the district can get pricey, it is often a good idea to explore options in Virginia and Maryland as well. Learn more at washington.org.

Man knits sweaters of landmarks, takes pictures at landmarks wearing sweaters

Why buy a postcard when you could knit a sweater? That’s the motto of Sam Barsky, a Baltimore artist who specializes in “knitting sweaters and other items with pictorial designs,” according to his website.

Sam Barsky at Palo Duro Canyon. Photo via Facebook.
Sam Barsky at Palo Duro Canyon. Photo via Facebook.

He became a viral sensation this week after the website imgur.com featured a gallery of his creations, which included Barksy proudly showing off his themed sweaters in front of famous travel landmarks including Times Square, the U.S. Capitol, Niagara Falls, the Shedd Aquarium and, my personal favorite, Stonehenge.

Barksy has already received interview requests from Jimmy Kimmel and the BBC, but judging by his Facebook page, he’s handling his 15 minutes of fame with grace.

“Just to let everyone know, I really love all my fans,” he wrote this week. “In the past day, as most of you know, my publicity has exploded exponentially worldwide. I have a flood of messages and requests for interviews that I have received. I want to answer each one personally. It is just so many that I can’t get to them all in one day.”

Check out his Facebook page for more photos of his “sweaters in places” as well as updates on his dinner (gluten-free vegetable lo mein with imitation shrimp) and the occasional joke (ex: “How do animal rescues determine which animals are safe and healthy enough to be pets?… They ‘vet’ them.”).

Looks like Barsky has been to Texas before — here he is in his Palo Duro Canyon sweater:

Here’s hoping Barsky has an Austin visit in the works — we think he would look fantastic in a bat-, Longhorn- or taco-themed creation. Regardless, thank you, sir, for making the world a brighter place with your amazing sweaters.

The new place you have to stay in the Hill Country, and ideas for things to do

When my husband and I started planning a one-night getaway to celebrate our 10-year anniversary in October, Fredericksburg was the natural choice.

A morning hike at Enchanted Rock followed by an afternoon of wine tasting and an evening strolling Main Street and two-stepping at Hondo’s is my idea of a perfect day.

The only problem for two people who are not exactly fans of traditional bed and breakfasts or anonymous hotel chains? Finding a great place to stay.

Cue Starry’s Studio, a new guest house two blocks off of Fredericksburg’s Main Street that combines unique, modern design with Hill Country touches.

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Starry’s Studio in Fredericksburg features work from Hill Country artists. credit: Chuck Wehner

“We want them to feel comfortable — they’re in Fredericksburg,” said Sarah Starry, who grew up in Fredericksburg and runs Starry’s Studio with her mom, Melissa Starry, and other family members. “We try to surround them with Fredericksburg things, but at the same time (make them think) ‘I can’t believe I’m in Fredericksburg.’”

The family has a long history in the Hill Country town. In 1951, Melissa Starry’s father, Walter Hayden, built what is now Starry’s Studio as a workshop and smokehouse behind the family home, which was built in 1906. Here, he smoked meats from his family’s ranch, tanned leather, made furniture and crafted homemade wines from mustang grapes, agarita berries and local peaches. Melissa Starry took over the property in 1989 with her husband, Ron Starry, living in the main home with daughter Sarah and turning the workshop first into a hair salon (the client roster included Lady Bird Johnson) and later an art studio.

In 2015, the family decided the studio’s next incarnation would be the guest house. It opened for overnight stays in September.

Inside you’ll find a 900-square-foot apartment-style suite decorated with pieces from local artists that range from a twisting deer antler chandelier by Del Benedict of Hill Country Antler Art to a striking mixed media piece that incorporates the words “All passes — art alone endures” by Melissa Starry. Like a piece? You can buy it.

The studio also features a private outdoor shower, a wide back deck overlooking Barons Creek, high-thread-count linens and a private gated entrance.

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The back deck at Starry’s Studio in Fredericksburg. credit: Chuck Wehner

Sarah Starry said the studio’s design was inspired in part by hotelier Liz Lambert’s properties in Austin.

“It’s easy to get lost in Austin because there’s so many great places, but her places still shine and always will. She took something old and made it fabulous and different from the things that were around it,” Sarah Starry said. “Really we’re just trying to help, if we can, move along this idea that we can mix luxury and travel in Fredericksburg.”

Treats from area businesses such as Segner’s Pecans, Chocolat and local wineries also contribute to the modern-yet-homespun vibe.

They’re touches that seem to make an impression on guests. The on-site guest book is brimming with glowing reviews, and the property currently enjoys five stars on Airbnb. After spending an evening there, I can’t help but agree. We couldn’t have had a better visit.

“It’s really cool to just see it and walk in and say, ‘This is exactly what I pictured,'” Sarah Starry said. “The positive feedback is just a cherry on top.”

Starry’s Studio is located at 205 E. Creek Street in Fredericksburg. Rates are $249 weekdays, $299 weekends. Capacity is two people. Learn more or make a reservation at starrysstudio.com/#thestudio.

Oh, and if you go, here are four things you should make sure to do while you’re in town:

1. Hike Enchanted. There’s nothing better than a hike up the massive granite dome that is Enchanted Rock, and if you stay in Fredericksburg, it’s just a 15-minute drive away. Arrive early (the park opens at 8 a.m.) and you can have it practically to yourself for a few hours. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/enchanted-rock

2. Brunch bunch. Yes, there might be a line at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant. Yes, it’s worth the wait. This Fredericksburg favorite is home to a number of standout dishes including German pancakes, Opa’s sausage and eggs and country fried steak. Don’t have time to stay? Grab coffee and a pastry at the counter. oldgermanbakeryandrestaurant.com

3. Wine time. There’s a reason Fredericksburg has become one of the best-known wine regions in the country, and with more than 45 wineries and vineyards in the area, you’ve got plenty to choose from. We enjoyed 4.0 Cellars, Baron’s Creek and Kuhlman Cellars during our trip, but you can find a complete list at visitfredericksburgtx.com/attractions-categories/wineries.

4. Go to Luckenbach, Texas. Located 10 miles from Fredericksburg, Luckenbach is a must-do for any Hill Country traveler. Take a spin around the dancehall, enjoy a beer at an outside picnic table or grab a bite at the Feed Lot. Here, everybody’s somebody. luckenbachtexas.com