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One City, Five Hours: Washington D.C

Head for the Hill.

Author Amanda Erickson Illustration Oliver Jeffers

1 Arrive hungry at Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U St. NW; www.benschilibowl.com), a veritable D.C. institution (its owners were inducted into the city’s Hall of Fame) best known for its heavenly chili dogs and french fries drenched in cheese. (0:25)

2 Walk off the calories on 14th Street, an up-and-coming shopping district full of charming storefronts. Grab an off-beat (or perhaps off-color) souvenir at quirky gift shop Pulp, and then poke through the antique housewares at Miss Pixie’s (1626 14th St. NW; www.misspixies.com). Perhaps an Eisenhower-era credenza will catch your eye. (1:10)

3 Visit commanders in chief of years past at the National Portrait Gallery (800 F St. NW; www.npg.si.edu). If you prefer kings to presidents, you’re in luck—there’s an exhibit on Elvis, too. (1:55)

4 Walk down the Mall to the The National Archives (Constitution Ave. between 7th and 9th Sts. NW; www.archives.gov). Run inside and sneak a peek at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Admire their splendor, but don’t strain your eyes; the words may be powerful but the text is downright unreadable. (2:30)

5 Head across the Mall to one of the District’s premier spring offerings: the Cherry Blossom Festival (Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park; www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org). You’ll have to fight the crowds, but seeing these pink and white beauties in full bloom is well worth it. (3:15)

6 Take a quick gander at the elegant World War II Memorial, then stroll past the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; www.whitehouse.gov). If you look hard enough you might spot Bo Obama digging holes in the Rose Garden. (3:45)

7 Take a break from all this history at the ultramodern Point of View bar, situated on the roof of the W Hotel (515 15th St. NW; www.starwoodhotels.com). Sip a fancy cocktail in a cushy chair while taking in the most impressive view of the city and the power players who run it. (4:40)

8 On your way out of town, ask your cabbie to drive past the Lincoln Memorial (Lincoln Memorial Cir SW; www.nps.gov/linc). When the sun is down, this already majestic monument is lit up by floodlights, rendering Honest Abe’s dour mug even more striking than usual. (5:00)

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