Washington DC

The Best Places to Eat and Drink at DC's Reagan National Airport

Airport food doesn't have to be boring.

El Centro, D. F.
El Centro, D. F.
El Centro, D. F.

If vacation starts the moment you set foot in an airport, that means your first vacation meal could be coming from the sea of pre-packaged sandwiches and salads found at newsstands. But at DC’s Reagan National Airport, the smaller of the two airports serving the DMV, that doesn’t have to be the case.

The food options here are relatively concentrated, but if you know what you’re looking for, they can be quite iconic as well. We’ve rounded up the restaurants and quick-service spots in DCA that are worth your time and your money, whether it will be your first taste of the nation’s capital or a farewell meal before you jet across the country for a respite from the city.

Pre-security

Ben's Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl
One of the most famous restaurants in DC has naturally found its way into DCA, which means that you can get your first (or last) taste of the city before leaving the airport. While the original landmark location is in the U Street Corridor, in DCA, it’s located pre-security for easy access so you can get a burger, bowl of chili, or a famous half-smoke before taking off.

Terminal A (Gates 1-9)

Page
At Page, you can find breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all from the creative mind of celebrity chef Carla Hall of Top Chef fame. The menu ranges from snacks like beet hummus and other appetizers to more robust meal options like a local crab cake sandwich.

Reservoir
If you’re looking to have a proper sit-down meal, then Reservoir by Robert Wiedmaier is the place to go. The French restaurant offers dishes like a classic croque madame and brasserie burger, plus steak frites, salmon niçoise, and grilled trout for heartier meals. Plus, if you’re really looking to kill some time, there’s a full beer, wine, and spirits menu complete with wines by the bottle.

Terminal B (Gates 10-22) 

Bracket Room STL
Bracket Room STL
Bracket Room STL

Bracket Room
Somehow, sitting down to drink a beer and watch sports at the airport is more satisfying than that same pairing anywhere else-and one of the best places in DCA to indulge yourself is at the Bracket Room. Chow down on classic American fare like burgers and wings while watching sports highlights on flat screen TVs at the bar.

Terminal B/C (Gates 23-34)

El Centro, D. F.
El Centro, D. F.
El Centro, D. F.

El Centro D.F.
Chef Richard Sandoval has a few well-loved locations of this Mexican restaurant throughout the DMV area, including this option at DCA. If you’re looking for a little slice of Latin America in the capital of America, check out El Centro D.F. for margaritas, tacos, and other Mexican eats.

Lebanese Taverna Restaurant Group
Lebanese Taverna Restaurant Group
Lebanese Taverna Restaurant Group

Lebanese Taverna
For more than four decades, Lebanese Taverna has been serving the DC area classic Lebanese fare like spreads of mezze and all kinds of kabobs. At DCA, Lebanese Taverna’s  Express location offers a quick way for travelers to grab a pita or shawarma bowl before boarding a plane.

Taylor Gourmet
Taylor Gourmet
Taylor Gourmet

Taylor Gourmet
This old favorite DC sandwich shop is slowly reopening spots around the city, but it never left Terminal B/C. Whether you want an order of risotto balls or a hearty Italian sandwich, Taylor Gourmet has portable options that will keep you full throughout your entire flight.

Terminal C (Gates 35-45)

&pizza
&pizza
&pizza

&pizza
DC’s homegrown fast casual chain, &pizza, now has a spot in DCA, making those flying out of Terminal C very lucky. Fliers can get a cooked-to-order oblong pie outfitted with toppings of their choice or opt for one of &pizza’s signatures like the sweet-and-spicy American Honey or a white pizza with parm-romano sauce, mozzarella, truffle ranch, and black pepper.

Photo courtesy of Five Guys
Photo courtesy of Five Guys
Photo courtesy of Five Guys

Five Guys
If what you’re craving is the familiarity of a national chain started right here in Northern Virginia, then head on over to Five Guys where you can get a burger, an order of fries and, most definitely, a milkshake as a reward for making it to the airport on time.

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Elsie Yang is a Thrillist contributor. Follow her on Instagram.

Washington DC

15 Totally Free Things to Do in DC

A full itinerary, completely free of charge.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Washington DC is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and for those of us who call the District home, it’s easy to see why. With dozens of world-class museums, murals that transform streets into galleries, and sites brimming with history, DC offers a full agenda-completely free of charge. Whether you want to try a new farmer’s market, explore a new hike, or polish off your roller skating or canoeing skills, here are some of our favourite free things to do in the District.

Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco

Hike, bike, or stroll along the C&O Canal

The historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is one of the most accessible nature escapes from the District. Thanks to a multi-year restoration project, the first mile of the canal is an idyllic walk that’s easy to access in Georgetown. Stick to a short stroll there, or grab a bike or lace up your hiking shoes for a longer adventure along the 184.5-mile canal.

Jump on the pickleball craze

Pickleball is working its way up the ladder past kickball and softball as one of America’s favourite games. Jump on the craze and practice your paddling at one of the District’s pickleball courts in Takoma Park, the Palisades, and more. Plus, Washington DC Pickleball invites guests to drop in to beginner sessions to try their hand at the sport before signing up for a $30 annual membership.

Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion

Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is incredibly bike-friendly, and luckily that applies to the land immediately outside of the city as well. Start in the city and bike along the Mount Vernon Trail, a scenic route that hugs the water and cuts through the woods. It’s about a 10-mile trip from DC to Mount Vernon, but you can cut the trip slightly short and end at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront-just make sure to factor in time for ice cream before pedalling home.

Explore a sculpture park

While not located in the District proper, Glenstone, an expansive sculpture park in Maryland, is worth the 45-minute drive. Tickets to the park are free (just be sure to reserve several weeks in advance), and the 300-acre space offers stunning art, architecture, and open land. In addition to its indoor gallery spaces, you can spend hours walking on paths that wind through sculptures, meadows, and forests.

Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston

See the monuments at night

When the sun goes down-and the summer humidity somewhat dissipates-head to the National Mall for the rare chance to see the monuments without busloads of tourists. Moonlight will give you a different perspective as you traverse the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial or gaze up at the Washington Monument set aglow with lights.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Museum hop the day away

One of DC’s greatest strengths is its world-class Smithsonian museums that are open to the public free of charge. There is no shortage of options, from the intimate Renwick Gallery, to the sprawling National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonians offer something for everyone. Pro tip: Some of the museums are open late in the evenings, making for an ideal date night.

muralsdc
muralsdc
muralsdc

Explore the city’s murals

Washington is home to hundreds of murals that are becoming as much a part of the city’s landscape as the monuments on the National Mall. Take a self-guided tour of these colourful creations no matter which neighbourhood you happen to be in. MuralsDC, the organization behind 150 of the District’s public artworks, is a great resource for mapping out a route to explore the city’s street art.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Take in a birds-eye view of the city

Washington looks pretty stunning from up high, and there are few spots within the city that make for phenomenal vantage points. Rooftop bars and restaurants offer epic views for the price of a drink or two, but there’s no more iconic sight than seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, which is completely free. Book a ticket ahead of time and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the monument and step out on the 500-foot observation deck.

Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

Wander through a garden

DC is home to some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the country, and many of them are open to the public for free. There is nothing like an afternoon spent strolling through, or picnicking, at the expansive 446-acre United States Arboretum or wandering through the Botanic Garden on the edge of the Mall. For something a bit smaller, explore the grounds at Tudor Place or Dumbarton Oaks (free in the winter), both of which are in Georgetown.

Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

You can catch one of the District’s most popular hiking trails, the Billy Goat Trail, from the C&O canal. The full trail is 4.7 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous, so hike a section in and back or make the full loop for the variety.

Pay your respect at Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans. The cemetery is an expanse of 639 hallowed acres and the ANC Explorer allows visitors to locate graves, notable sites, and take self-guided walking tours to spots including the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

Lace up your roller skates

When was the last time you went roller skating? Chances are it’s been too long. So get back into this nostalgic activity at the Anacostia Park roller skating pavilion. You can rent skates for free, just show proof of a government-issued ID, and the skating pavilion is open from 9 to 5 every day.

Help clean up the Anacostia River

We all know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep our waterways clean. Do your part, and have some fun, by participating in the city’s Green Boat initiative. On select weekends, DCers can join a two-hour guided paddle along the Anacostia River to collect trash and monitor the river’s progress.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

Stroll your local farmer’s market

DC’s close proximity to the farms of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond mean that the city’s farmers’ markets always have something to offer. Check out the year-round markets like Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and the Sunday market in Dupont Circle or head to seasonal markets like the pop-up in front of the White House that draws vendors like Cucina al Volo and Call Your Mother Deli.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress

Play tourist all around the city

It’s easy to forget that all those traditionally touristy activities can be fun for locals too. If you haven’t been on a tour of the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or the Capitol, this is your sign. All are free with advanced reservations. Plus, tucked in the northern quadrant of NW, the Washington National Cathedral is free and open to all. Tour the cathedral’s impressive architecture, 215 stained glass windows, 112 Gothically-inspired gargoyles, and enormous pipe organ. See if you can spot the sculpture of Darth Vader.

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Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.

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