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Your Guide to Visiting Washington, DC, During ONS Congress®

April 12, 2024
Audrey Hopper, BSN, RN, BMTCN®
Planning Team Member
Image of the Washington Monument in front of a blue sky. In the foreground are pink, blooming cherry blossom tree branches


Washington, DC, is a city full of inspiration and opportunities to ignite the extraordinary. That is why I am excited to share tips and tricks of how to explore this vibrant and historic city while attending the 2024 ONS Congress. Make sure to fit in time between sessions to explore with all the new friends you meet at ONS Congress! 

Getting Around and What to See 

You will find that grabbing a taxi, Uber, or Lyft is one of the easiest ways to navigate DC if you need to go a longer distance or if you have your hands full. Try to place yourself near an easy to identify landmark for an easier pick-up. Plan accordingly around rush hour because a trip that takes 15 minutes at midday can take an hour during rush hour. Otherwise, the best way to experience Washington, DC, is on foot. My best memories were meandering around the National Mall, grabbing a bite from a local restaurant or food truck, and relaxing in the green spaces while people-watching.

Image of Audrey Hopper in front of a painting, smiling toward camera

The walk from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to the National Portrait Gallery is eight minutes. Stop in and look for the portrait of Lillian Wald (south gallery 322) a nursing pioneer of public health nursing. She founded the Henry Street Settlement, was an advocate for the poor, and was an activist for the rights of women and minorities. 

Continuing to explore, it will only take you 15 minutes to walk from the National Portrait Gallery to the National Mall and Memorial parks. From here you can scope out many of the historical landmarks and free Smithsonian Museums. If you do not feel up to all the walking, hop-on and hop-off tours are a great option, especially if you will be in DC a few days before or after ONS Congress with extra time during the day to travel more distant sites, like Arlington National Cemetery. If you only have time for one tour, I highly recommend a moonlight tour of the monuments and memorials. This is my favorite way to see the city. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is especially haunting at night. Be sure to check out the Vietnam Women’s Memorial—a bronze statue of three women attending to a wounded soldier. This memorial commemorates the women who served in the Vietnam war, many of whom were nurses. It is located just south of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Image of the Lincoln Memorial at night, lit with white lights

Many do not know of the “nurse section” of Arlington National Cemetery located in section 21. I had the privilege to spend time on this hallowed ground where hundreds of nurses who served in the U.S. armed forces are resting with the statue “The Spirit of Nursing” watching over them “to commemorate devoted service to country and humanity by Army, Navy and Air Force nurses.” There is also a beautiful Spanish-American War Nurses monument in this area, and I highly suggest reading more about it and the experiences of nurses during this time on the Arlington National Cemetery website. To find section 21, it is near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, across Memorial Drive.

Image of rows of white tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery

When I attend conferences without my family, I often take time to immerse myself in deep experiences that require time for solace and contemplation. I suggest spending time at Smithsonian Museums. In the National Museum of African American History, you can celebrate the contributions of African Americans and the difficult road many were forced to travel. I suggest starting from the basement and working your way up. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a living memorial and an education of how society should confront those who stand in the way of freedom and human dignity. Don’t forget to reserve your free timed pass in advance at or for entry. These often sell out prior, so don’t wait. If you don’t get the free timed-entry pass in advance, check early in the morning for same-day passes that are released daily. 

Image of "The Spirit of Nursing" statue in Arlington National Cemetery

Packing Essentials for Work and Play 

Don’t forget to bring your mobile device with the ONS Congress app downloaded and ready to go with your personalized itinerary and registration email confirmation to check in faster. Other items that will make your experience smoother would be a water bottle, a notebook for jotting down ideas, business cards to stay in touch, and chargers for all your devices. Most of all, I have learned over my years of “walking the hill” in DC is to wear comfortable shoes! You may want to wear stylish shoes, but. pack your backup pair because you will need to switch. Business casual clothes with layers will be helpful for those chilly conference rooms and rooftop happy hour networking. The temperature will range from 40°F to 70°F, so be prepared. 

Dining and Cuisine 

If you are not sure where to eat around the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, The Best Places to Eat in DC's Shaw Neighborhood is a great guide of the best restaurants. Or try looking south of the convention center in Chinatown and Penn Quarter.  

For less expensive options, check out Bites on a Budget: The Best Affordable, Cheap Eats in Washington, DC. Some highlights include: 

  • Rasa has sure-to-please Indian cuisine and is only a three-minute walk from the convention center.  
  • José Andrés' Beefsteak offers healthy bowls with seasonal ingredients. 
  • Old Ebbitt Gril is the oldest restaurant in DC, with Oyster Happy Hour twice daily.  

If you want to go out with your new friends from ONS Congress for drinks and a rooftop view, some exciting options are listed at The Best Rooftop Bars and Restaurants in DC. Some highlights include: 

  • Lucha Rosa offers a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights to add to the colorful and upscale Southern Mexican food and cocktail vibes and is just a two-minute walk from the convention center.  
  • Summit at Conrad is a three-minute walk from the convention center, with a reasonable and yummy menu and a fun mix of cocktails, drafts, beer, cider, wines, and even nonalcoholic “crafties”.  
  • El Techo is located north of the convention center, and it is a great spot for spicy margaritas amidst an “adult treehouse.” 


For entertainment and culturally diverse experiences, Washington DC, is full of things to do. For some ideas you can start at this page on arts and culture. I also compiled a list of events that coincide with ONS Congress: 

I hope you enjoyed this quick guide and can use it to make the most of your time at ONS Congress! If you haven’t registered to join us yet, there’s still time. We hope to see you there.

All photos included are personal images from Audrey Hopper and with used with permission. 

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