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How To Make The Most Of Your Work Trip Downtime In Washington, D.C.

By Bustle Studios

For most, business trips tend to be all work and very little play. But if your job takes you places like Washington, D.C., you’ll want to capitalize (pun intended) on this opportunity. This small-yet-mighty city is rich with U.S. history and culture, incredible free museums, waterfront parks, and so much more. That’s why when you’re on a business trip in D.C., you absolutely must make the most of your downtime.

We've partnered with Hilton Hotels & Resorts to enable you to do just that. Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall is perfectly situated in the heart of the action, making it the ideal place to stay. Within just minutes, there are museums on nearly every subject imaginable, statues and memorials that honor the country’s history, and local dishes to taste.

Whether you have just a couple of hours in between meetings, or an entire day to explore after your work duties end, it couldn’t be easier to make the most of your time in D.C. With the help of a local expert, here are some ways to fill your work trip downtime, whether that’s two, four, six, or even eight free hours.

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If you only have a couple of free hours in D.C., The Wharf is an absolute must. This mile-long stretch along the Potomac River is full of shops, restaurants, live music, and is only a seven minute walk from Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall. D.C. has a bustling restaurant scene, and The Wharf is on its cutting edge.

To really zen out and forget about work, grab a blanket and visit one of The Wharf’s many picturesque parks. Waterfront Park, for example, features 3.5 acres of lush grass, rows of willow trees to nap under, and river views as far as the eye can see. It’s the ideal location to forget all about why you’re visiting D.C. in the first place. Of course, when you get hungry, you don’t even need to leave. The Wharf is home to a whopping 30-plus restaurants — with even more on the way. And, much like the city it’s in, The Wharf’s eatery selections reflect countless cultures including Caribbean, Asian, and Mexican to name a few.

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With a few more hours in between meetings, you might want to consider checking out D.C.’s rich U.S. history — especially if it’s your first time there.

From Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall you can stroll out your front door and take a walking tour of the Mall and D.C.’s many famous national sites. Start at the Washington Monument (just a 20 minute walk from the hotel), then continue on to the Constitution Gardens, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which will end at the Lincoln Memorial. To ensure you’re taking a break mentally from your work, queue up a podcast to keep you company.

From there, you're right by one of the under-the-radar historical sights in D.C. “My favorite, lesser-known site and a great place to start is the Albert Einstein Memorial,” says Steven Marcus, a nonprofit fundraiser and D.C. resident going on 13 years. Located just outside of the National Academy of Sciences and conveniently next to the National Mall, this 12-foot bronze statue depicts Einstein holding a paper with his most impactful mathematical equations on it: the photoelectric effect, the theory of general relativity, and the equivalence of energy and matter.

To complete the scenic day, return to your home base at Hilton Washington D.C., National Mall to reflect on it all. After all, you can select a room with any of the the following views when you book: the city, pool, or river.

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In DC, dinner and a show isn’t just a burger and a concert. No, it’s authentic Ethiopian cuisine like you’ve never had and an unforgettable evening at The Kennedy Center. And yes, it takes a little planning, but planning can make all the difference when you want to make the most of your time.

“DC and the surrounding areas are home to the most Ethiopians immigrants in the U.S.,” Marcus says. “The food is incredible and available in many areas of the city.” Since taking refuge in DC in the 1970s and 80s, many Ethiopians have worked hard to keep their culture and cuisine alive in the US. That’s exactly true for Das Ethiopian Restaurant in Georgetown — just a 13-minute cab ride, or a 30 minute metro ride (from L'Enfant Plaza to Foggy Bottom) from Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall. Every dish on the menu is served with injera (Ethiopian bread) which also serves as your utensil. Whether you order a classic like Chicken Doro Wat — or an elevated take on tradition like Steak Tartare Kitfo — you can taste the classic spices in each bite.

If you’re looking for a little more excitement, we've got you covered. Return to The Wharf, which has seven stages and venues for live performances, including The Anthem, where epic rock bands and pop stars perform daily. Just check the calendar ahead of you visit.

Cap off the night back at your place with a cocktail in the hotel bar L'Enfant Bar at Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall. Their curated cocktail menu boasts a series of new spins on old classics. They also have a great happy hour, full of drinks and bites like short rib sliders, the L'Enfant Burger, and Hanger steak... just for a little snack.

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Did we mention some of the best things to do in D.C. are free? Marcus says it’s one of the many perks of living in D.C., and something that makes the city so unique. “D.C. is home to amazing and free museums. They operate through private contributions as well as federal funding or taxpayer dollars. There's really something for everyone,” he says. Luckily, the Smithsonian and other federally-funded museums are a mere 10-minute walk from Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall.

A personal favorite for Marcus is the Calder Exhibit in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. There you can see what’s arguably the most famous work done by American sculptor Alexander Calder. His 1976 mobile, Untitled, floats under natural light in the East Building’s Central Court. It’s made of aluminum and steel, weighs a whopping 920 pounds, and has a wingspan of 85 feet.

And with a full day free, you can begin exploring the Smithsonian collections as well. Walk just two minutes and you’ll find the beloved National Air and Space Museum, which Marcus calls “great for little ones and the young at heart.” Its gift shop is the perfect place to grab a souvenir for kids waiting patiently back home. All in all, there are 17 museums and galleries (all free!) within the Smithsonian Institution — which means there’s something for everyone. Plus, even if you frequent DC for business often, chances are you haven’t seen the newest addition: the African American Museum of History and Culture.

Now, only when you work up a big appetite is it time to visit DC’s landmark eatery, Ben’s Chili Bowl. Located just 15 minutes away via metro from the museums and the Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall, Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street has been serving up half-smokes since 1958. Half-smokes are local sausages composed of half-pork, half-beef. They’re larger, spicier, and usually topped with onions and chili. This cultural experience can only be had in DC, so make some time for it on your busy work trip.

For more content on making the most out of your business trip, visit our "Doing The Most" hub.

This post is sponsored by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.