Hometown: find the heart of America in Washington DC and Philadelphia
These two great US east coast cities are built on history, politics and a terrific tourist experience. We asked two locals to tell us just why a trip there is essential this autumn/winter
American icons: Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington
The east coast of the USA has a fantastic range of adventures and experiences for travellers to explore and enjoy, with every type of winter break possible. For nature lovers, there is paddle boarding in Miami or you could attempt a spin on the iconic ice-rink at Rockafeller Centre in New York. You could immerse yourself in the history of the country in places like the capital city and home of the White House, Washington DC or discover incredible museums in Philadelphia.
Then there’s the food; delicious bagels, tender barbecue ribs, butter-drenched shrimp, juicy steaks, berry-topped cheesecakes, heavenly pasta and gumbo are just some of the incredible dishes you can enjoy. The east coast has a huge range of options for every type of city break including culture and history, music, sports or even if you just want to relax and soak up some sun with a margarita. We asked locals from two of the east coast’s great cities to tell us why their hometown is perfect for a winter break.
Carol Ann Conlon is from Long Island, New York. She lived in Washington DC for over three years and worked for US Senator Jeanne Shaheen. She now lives and works in Dublin. She and her husband Eddie return to Washington DC regularly when she is home to visit her family in New York.
“Washington DC is definitely one of my favourite cities to visit. I moved there in January 2009 and, like a lot of people at that time, I was moving there for a job in politics. I absolutely loved it.
“Washington DC is a capital city expressly designed as such. It’s a city that centres around politics, the history of its nation, and the best moments of its people. If you’re not into any of that, it’s also a really vibrant city with a cool bar and restaurant scene.
“One thing that is unique about DC is that so many museums are free. All of the Smithsonians, including the National Zoo, are completely free of charge. All of the monuments can also be visited for free. The Air and Space museum, also free, is really cool for all ages. It has space suits, a lunar module and early aircraft. The American History Museum is great for people who don’t particularly like museums. It has an exhibit on food in America, including Julia Child’s kitchen, and an exhibit on all the First Ladies of America, which displays their personal clothes and gowns they would have worn at inauguration balls.
“The Newseum is great, the name kind of gives it away, it’s a museum all about the news, very interactive and has a great view of the Capitol from the top floor. I’d really recommend the Holocaust Museum too. It’s a tough visit, but very powerful.
“One thing I must do every time I go to DC is get Mexican food. There are countless great places to get tacos and a margarita. One of my favourites is Taqueria Nacional. I also love Federalist Pig for great barbecue food. The POV Bar at the top of the W Hotel is always a must for one or two drinks. It’s pricey but the view of the White House and the Washington Monument is worth it. Washington DC should be top of the list for any history or politics enthusiast.”
More local landmarks
Take a selfie at the Technicolour Church
Artist Alex Brewer turned this abandoned chrurch at 700 Delaware Avenue, SW into an incredible canvas, inside and out. The technicolour building is now a centre for the arts and culture.
Have a drink with a view
For sports fans there's no better place to have a drink than DC's Top of the Yard - a rooftop bar at the Hampton Inn and Suites that looks directly into Nationals Park, the city's main baseball arena.
Take a break
The Kogod Courtyard is a beautiful glassed-over courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery and is a fantastic place to catch your breath and rest from all the museum hopping.
[Aer Lingus flies to Washington daily up to January 6, and four times a week from January 7. Book now and look forward to a happy winter]
Emily Tharp has been living in Philadelphia since 2011 where she runs the blog, Her Philly, aimed at young women in the city with “everything lovely, exciting, affordable, and beautiful about my city.” It covers dining, shopping, playing and living.
“Philadelphia is a city filled with history, world-class restaurants, amazing use of public space and an appreciation for the arts. Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States. Our founding fathers planned for, and created, our country on the same streets residents and tourists walk every day.
“On top of preserved historical sights like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross house, there are plenty of museums dedicated to the history of the city like the Constitution Centre and Museum of the American Revolution. Outside of Old City, don't miss the Eastern State Penitentiary tour, one of my absolute favourites.
“In winter, Philly has a ton of awesome things to do. My favourites are the Miracle on 13th Street - residents deck out their block with great light displays, and the holiday light show at Macy's.
“I love the second floor, back bar area of Jose Pistola's. It’s one of my favourite places to hide away in the winter, complete with nachos and margaritas. Suraya is ideal for brunch, WM Mulherin's has a cosy fireplace and incredible Italian food. The Barnes and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are amazing picks for indoor winter museums.
“My ideal weekend in Philly takes place in the fall. After finding some gems on sale at the Anthropologie store, Friday night dinner would be at Double Knot or Zahav, my two favourite restaurants here. Saturday morning I'd do a quick spin class followed by my favourite fall festival, Bloktoberfest. It's filled with craft beers and food trucks on South Street West.
More local landmarks
The Magic Gardens are the work of Philadelphia ceramacist Isaih Zagar. Spanning half a block, the environment he created is a museum to his work, created using found art, ceramics, folk art and thousands of mirrors.
If you want to escape the city streets take a trip to The Woodlands, a 54-acre National Historic District in University City, made up of gardens, cemetaries and mansions.
The Skygarten offers Philadelphia's highest rooftop bar. Fifty-one stories up the German-themed bar offers great seasonal beers and food.
[Aer Lingus flies to Philadelphia daily up to January 6, and four times a week from January 7. Book now and look forward to a happy winter]