Thanks again for all your help. This is a great forum. Here is my trip report. First the brief summary and then the long post.
Brief: Great weather, great city. Clean, comfortable, accessible, and approachable. Beautiful buildings and archicture. Terrific atmosphere. And thanks to the advice on this forum, I got a lot out of our brief stay.
First, the best part of my DC trip was meeting all the people (locals and tourists alike). People were friendly, approachable, and genuine. There was a lot of human contact (hand shakes, laughing patting a shoulder, eye contact, etc) and a lot of laughing and sharing. Very nice.
The other observation for my brief report is that the overwhelming feeling of living in a police state that I felt last year and three years ago is pretty much gone. I didn't see an abnormal amount of police or security or warning notices or snipers or cameras. It was refreshing. I think Boston is more in that paranoid-over-security frame of mind than DC. Yes, there is still all the security on entering buildings, but overall, things felt more "normal" than they have in a while.
Here's the detailed post, if you are interested:
We arrived Friday afternoon, rode the metro from the airport to Dupont Circle (Biggest escalator I've EVER been on!) and walked to our hotel. We loved the Palomar hotel for decor, happy hour (read: free beer, wine, and apps), and the overall service personel. The room was small but very comfortable and quiet. The only slight complaints are that the room was not as uber-clean as I might have wished for upon check-in, and it was not maintained well while we were there (obviously dirty dishes left in the room; waste basket not emptied...stuff like that). The elevators were slow and cranky and small, but I think that it would only be an issue for folks needing plenty of room. But I would absolutely stay there again!
We walked and walked and walked Friday night (U Street, Adams Morgan, Dupont, Embassy Row). A delightful evening and I always felt comfortable and safe, even into the post-midnight times. We met a charming shopkeeper as she was cloing up and had the pleasure of her company for a few minutes. She recommended U-topia. We stopped there, but decided not to stay for dinner as it was still early and we wanted to keep walking and exploring. We had a drink at the Reef and we ate at the Eithopean restaurant next to the Reef (The name escapes me...starts with a M.) I appreciate the tips that the bartenders at the Reef gave us about Eithopean food, it made ordering and consuming much more enjoyable, because it was indeed a new experience for us, one that we will happily try again. We talked with two young women originally from Uganda, now from midwest, and also with a French family visiting the capital and their daughter who is studying English in Iowa. On our other side were local college students having a great time, too.
Saturday was a beautiful day (downright hot by the afternoon). We took the Metro to the Mall and went into the National Gallery of Art, guessing correctly that on such a beautiful day, it would not be too crowded. We took in the Exibit of Paris in Transition. It was wonderful and I only wish there was more of it. We then explored the Dutch and French of the 17th and 18th century. Some absolute treasures there, and that they are so accessible is marvelous.
From there we wandered the mall a bit. We ducked into the Native American Museum for lunch and highly recommend that. Different, tasty, and a real meal (not just burger/fries for $15.)
We popped into the Air & Space museum in the hopes of checking out the Treasures of the American History museum, but the queue was so long that we took a pass (we weren't sure what the exhibits were, and as my husband was more interested in Revolutionary war/Civil war history, we guessed there might not be enough to make it worth the wait). The A/S musuem was so incredibly crowded in the afternoon (2:30 - 4:30 range), that it was not easy to see the smaller exhibits, but what we could see certainly was impressive.
After that we walked to the US Botanical Gardens (I went there last visit but mistakenly thought it was the aboretum). Happy it was easy to get to. We enjoyed strolling through -- they have some great displays and delightful sculptures.
After that we strolled around the Capitol. There was a wedding party getting photos, so we lingered there for a bit a people-watched.
We made our way back to U Street and cooled off on the roof deck of Local 16 -- a terrific place to relax with Paulaner on tap, but it filled up very quickly on such a nice afternoon. After a while, we continued to stoll back to our hotel. We grabbed a small pizza from an award-winning shop right by our hotel (Pizza Paradiso) as a little appetizer and then stolled through the neighborhoods again. We ended up on 17th St for a very late dinner at Floriana's. We had to wait for an outside table, which was fine as we were able to wait in the Little Red Bar and enjoy some well-poured drinks.
Dinner was delicious and after-dinner conversations with the staff (it was very late) was also fun. Some great people doing some great things, planning great things, or just being. All around a fabulous time. We meandered through the charming neighborhoods all the way back to the hotel.
Sunday a.m. we checked out and made our way back to the metro but were happily delayed by an amazing farmer's market right in the circle. Then to Union Station (also a cool place, that I had never been to) to get our rental car. We rode-tripped back to Boston, this time via Gettysburg.
We had a terrific, refreshing, recharging weekend and won't soon forget it.