Washington DC has a bit of a reputation as an early to rise, early to bed kind of city. It is not uncommon to see locals starting their day before sunrise, especially during the work week; but many visitors don’t start their days usually until a little later because sleeping in is one of the best perks of vacation! That said, if you are an early bird, here are four ideas for how to enjoy mornings in DC.

1. Go on a photo safari

Sunrise and sunset are both great times to take photos. However, sunrise is often better because there are fewer people out and about. So if you show up to the Lincoln Memorial at 7:00 in the morning you will have a much better chance of getting a great photo without a thousand people in it compared to the afternoon or evening.

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most popular sights but the other memorials might be even quieter. The Vietnam Memorial feels very peaceful in the morning, compared to later in the day when all the tourists arrive. Now, there is no guarantee that going down to the National Mall first thing in the morning will get you the place to yourself. A lot of locals like to get their morning exercise in before it gets really hot during the summer and before they have to leave for work. So don’t be surprised to find a bunch of fitness enthusiasts out with you.

2. See the animals at the National Zoo

Smithsonian museums on the National Mall open at 10:00 a.m. However, the National Zoo opens a little earlier. The grounds open at 8 a.m. and the exhibits at 9 a.m. Starting at 8 a.m. you can walk around on the pathways. However, the animal exhibits will not open until 9:00 a.m. You can still see many of the animals just from the outside paths. Morning is actually one of the best times to see the animals because in the afternoon, they often settle down for a little nap.

3. Eat at an old-fashioned diner

Diners are becoming fewer and fewer as people stopped going out for breakfast and started preferring brunch. However, the few remaining diners are great places to go to in the mornings in DC.

One of our favorites is Jimmy T’s located on East Capitol Street about a five-minute walk from the Capitol building. Another similar diner is called Pete’s Diner, located on the south side of the Capitol building, just a few minutes walk. Both of these places are no-frills breakfast diners, you’ll find eggs pancakes, potatoes, and more. Be sure to bring cash because they are cash only. Both diners close every day at 3 p.m.

Another spot we really like is Market Lunch, located inside the Eastern Market. The name is a little misleading, however, as the breakfast is what it is worth going for. The signature dish here is called “blue bucks” short for blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Breakfast ends at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 1:30 p.m. on the weekends. So make sure to get here before they cut it off!

4. Get caffeinated on a Coffee Crawl

The coffee shop scene in DC has exploded over the last decade. There are far too many coffee shops to list out here. But, there are a few areas where you can go if you want to hit a bunch of them in a short time. Start up at 14th and U Streets NW. There are at least half a dozen independent or small local coffee chains that you can visit without even walking more than a mile. If you’re staying downtown, the area near Farragut Square is where a lot of the established local coffee shops opened their downtown second locations in the last few years. Make sure to bring a bottle of water with you on your coffee crawl. You are definitely going to want to stay hydrated!

Want to spend one of your mornings in DC touring with us?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.