Washington, D.C. Travel Guide
Courtesy of Kevin Voelker Photography/Getty Images
29 Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
Not surprisingly, many of Washington D.C.'s main attractions relate to its principal enterprise: politics. These include the White House and the U.S. Capitol , of course, as well as monuments and historic sites dedicated to notable figures who
- All Things To Do
- 1-Day Itinerary
- 2-Day Itinerary
- 3-Day Itinerary
The Tidal Basin The Tidal Basin free
If you've never been to Washington, D.C. before, plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, an approximately 107-acre pond encircled by a 2.1-mile loop trail. Constructed to use the strong tides of the Potomac River to clear silt from the Washington Channel and to maintain steady water levels in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pools , it now also serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.'s best-loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin bursts with color as cherry blossom trees (gifted to the city from Tokyo ) bloom into cotton candy-colored tufts, and they attract hordes of visitors. You can follow the path that leads around the basin, but recent visitors recommended testing the waters in a paddleboat. Paddleboats are available to rent from spring until fall for $32 per hour for a four-passenger boat. You can pick up a paddle boat every day starting at 10 a.m. from the boat dock near Maine Avenue. Hours of operation end between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. depending on the time of year.
Even if you don't make it to town for the cherry blossoms, you won't want to miss the three major memorials that can be found along the Tidal Basin's shores: the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial . A memorial to Virginia Declaration of Rights author George Mason, also stands nearby.
The White House and the Washington Monument The White House and the Washington Monument free
Even if you're only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marble symbols of the U.S. – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor.
Standing just shy of 555 ½ feet, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world at its completion in 1884. Nowadays, you can ride one of the monument's glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city, which invariably impress visitors. You can explore the attraction's exterior for free 24 hours a day, but National Park Service rangers are only available from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to answer questions. The monument itself is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free timed-entry tickets can be reserved up to 30 days in advance via Recreation.gov . (There is a $1 nonrefundable service charge for each ticket.) Some same-day tickets are distributed daily on a first-come, first served basis. The ticket window opens at 8:45 a.m.; be prepared for a line. The Smithsonian Metro stop is closest to the monument. Visit the National Park Service's Washington Monument page for more information.
Lincoln Memorial Lincoln Memorial free
U.S. News Insider Tip: The best time to see this monument is after dark when it's illuminated. You'll still contend with crowds, but it will be worth it. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor
Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy reading Lincoln's two famous speeches – the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address – which are both etched into the memorial's north and south walls, respectively. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.
Washington DC Signature Scenic Lunch Cruise
from $ 69.05
Washington DC Premier Dinner Cruise
from $ 116.92
DC Monuments and Memorials Night Tour
from $ 64.00
World War II Memorial World War II Memorial free
U.S. News Insider Tip: While it's pretty during the day, the memorial is incomparable at night. Visit after sunset. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor
The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to the 16 million American military members who served during World War II, including the thousands of individuals who lost their lives during the fight. A circle of 56 columns (representing the U.S. states and territories from the era) looks over the Rainbow Pool. At night, with lights shining, this memorial can be quite ethereal. The structure also has a wall of more than 4,000 gold stars – one for every 100 Americans who died in the conflict.
Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials free
One of the most moving war memorials, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – or "the Wall," as it's commonly referred to – is a long black granite wall with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who perished during the Vietnam War emblazoned on its surface. Recent travelers said their visits to the site were heartbreaking but thought-provoking and powerful, adding that even the toughest of individuals will find it hard to not become emotional while reading the wall's names. If you're looking for a specific person, keep in mind that the soldiers' names are ordered by the date they died, not alphabetically. Also, reviewers recommend using the attraction's name books and visiting during the day when there's ample sunlight.
When you're wandering along the eastern side of the Mall, venture to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Paying tribute to the 1.5 million who served in "The Forgotten War," this privately funded site contains 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers in combat. In a triangular area known as the Field of Service, soldier statues march toward an American flag. Next to the soldiers is a 164-foot-long granite wall that pays homage to the unnamed troops that fought in the Korean War. Another highlight of the memorial is the Pool of Remembrance, a tranquil place for reflection. However, some past travelers cautioned that the memorial lacks signage, so younger visitors may not understand as much as those who lived through the war.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial free
Located on the northwest rim of the Tidal Basin , this 30-foot granite memorial pays homage to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everything from its address at 1964 Independence Ave. (a reference to the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress) to its design (which shows King emerging from a "mountain of despair," a reference to his "I Have a Dream" speech) are meant to reflect King's significant contribution to American history. What's more, this towering sculpture opened to the public in 2011, making it one of the newest memorials to open in the District. It is also the National Mall's first memorial dedicated to an African American.
Previous visitors raved about this memorial, adding that its powerful symbolism and beautiful design will give you chills. Plus, the sculpture's proximity to other memorials and monuments like the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial make it convenient to reach. However, some reviewers wished there was more information on King's life, legacy and commitment to nonviolence around the statue.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum free
Note: Beginning in 2018, the museum embarked on an ambitious, multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to renovate and reimagine all of its exhibits and put 1,400 new objects on display. It's reopening galleries in stages, but the IMAX theater is closed. Check the website to see what's on display before you go.
Attracting millions of people each year, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum contains a trove of celebrated aircraft, including Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B, the Apollo 11 Command Module, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Wilbur and Orville Wright's 1903 Wright Flyer, among others. Exhibits include flight simulators, an IMAX theater and the Einstein Planetarium. And parents beware: The gift shop is huge, so get ready for pleas from your kids.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture free
U.S. News Insider Tip: When hunger strikes, don't miss the Southern comfort offerings at Sweet Home Cafe, including fried chicken, collard greens and fish po'boys. The food is surprisingly delicious for a museum eatery. – Nicola Wood, Senior Editor
Designed to replicate the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art from West Africa, with bronze-colored latticework accents that honor the ironwork of enslaved African Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture opened on the National Mall in 2016. More than 40,000 artifacts are displayed inside, including photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, boxing headgear and a robe used by Muhammad Ali, and a fedora once worn by Michael Jackson.
DC in a Day: 10+ Monument Stops & Seasonal Potomac River Cruise
from $ 80.00
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum United States Holocaust Memorial Museum free
You need to be in the right frame of mind to visit this sobering museum that focuses on the atrocities of the Holocaust. Through film footage, photographs and historical artifacts, it confronts subjects such as Hitler's rise to power, anti-Semitic propaganda and the horrors of the Final Solution. In addition to its permanent exhibition, "The Holocaust," the museum mounts several special exhibits. The facility also has a Hall of Witness, a three-story chamber beneath skylights; a Hall of Remembrance, a space with an eternal flame intended for individual reflection as well as public ceremonies; the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center; a library and a reading room.
Past travelers felt moved by this powerful museum but cautioned that its graphic collection is not ideal for younger children. (Indeed, the museum itself has age recommendations for its exhibits, signaling that some material may not be suitable for kids.) Many were especially impressed with its informative, thorough and respectful displays, adding that you can easily spend a few hours perusing its halls.
National Gallery of Art National Gallery of Art free
U.S. News Insider Tip: There are two things you won't want to miss here: the rooftop terrace, which affords panoramic views of the city and a photo op with a giant blue rooster, and the only Leonardo da Vinci oil painting on permanent exhibition in the U.S. – Catriona Kendall, Associate Editor
If you're any kind of art connoisseur, you should make a stop at the National Gallery of Art. Composed of the East Building, which houses the gallery's more modern works (think: Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko), and the West Building, which contains the collection's older works (from Sandro Botticelli to Claude Monet), this museum has enough to fill an entire afternoon. Visitors often remark on the museum's large size and expansive collection. Pace yourself and maybe order a coffee, gelato or lunch at one of the gallery's five bars and cafes.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
U.S. News Insider Tip: Even if you don't have time to catch a performance, head to the rooftop of the Kennedy Center to grab a drink and see an incredible sunset from the terrace. The on-site REACH art gallery and sculpture garden (free) are also fun to wander around. – Erin Evans
Many travelers highly recommend a visit to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, built and named for America's beloved Camelot president. The Kennedy Center houses the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera and hosts numerous other dance, theater and musical performances throughout the year. Although ticket prices can run a bit high, you can take in a performance for free on the Millennium Stage. The Kennedy Center debuted a new permanent exhibit in 2022: Visitors can explore the free "Art and Ideals: President John F. Kennedy" immersive exhibit to learn about the relationship between Kennedy's presidency and the arts. The facility also includes the REACH, an indoor/outdoor complex comprising an art gallery, sculpture garden, classrooms and studios, lecture halls, a video wall and more interactive spaces.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History free
With a collection of more than 147 million items, this robust Smithsonian museum on the National Mall attracts millions of visitors each year. Some of the museum's highlights include replicas of giant whales and other marine life in the Sant Ocean Hall. There's also a 2,000-pound, 52-foot model of a mega-tooth shark suspended above a dining area. In addition, you can venture to the Butterfly Pavilion for some fluttery fun with multicolored bugs. No stop at this museum would be complete without stopping by the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – "Deep Time" exhibit features approximately 700 specimens, including Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops dinosaurs. Other permanent exhibits explore human evolution, ancient Egypt and geology, among other topics.
Although this museum is especially appealing to families, past visitors said there's something for everyone here. However, the property can get quite crowded on weekends, holidays and during the busy summer season, so consider arriving on a weekday or in the offseason to avoid crowds. Recent museumgoers also suggested saving some time for the Hope Diamond, which is on display in the geology exhibit.
Washington National Cathedral Washington National Cathedral
U.S. News Insider Tip: Opt for a tour instead of exploring on your own, especially if you want to spot some of the cathedral's weirder gargoyles (like the famous Darth Vader). – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor
Construction first began on this massive cathedral – the sixth largest in the world – in 1907, but it wasn't actually completed until 1990. (Though work on the building continues, including extensive and ongoing repairs after an earthquake damaged the structure in 2011.) Designed in the Gothic style, the Washington National Cathedral sits surrounded by gardens, creating a pleasant atmosphere for visitors. Take a stroll around the cathedral and peer at its high vaults and flying buttresses, keeping a close eye out for gargoyles (there's one of Darth Vader!). Step inside to admire the building's intricate stained-glass windows.
Art & Culture
Washington DC in One Day: Guided Sightseeing Tour
from $ 89.00
Small-Group Guided Tour inside US Capitol & Library of Congress
Arlington National Cemetery Arlington National Cemetery free
Arlington National Cemetery sits in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The cemetery spans about 1 square mile and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their families. Visitors should be sure to spend some time viewing the Memorial Amphitheater, the John F. Kennedy Gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Additionally, finding the grave of a notable veteran, family member or friend proves to be a powerful experience, according to visitors. The cemetery also has a downloadable app available to help you pinpoint the location of a grave.
Previous travelers appreciate the trolley tour from Arlington National Cemetery Tours, but they warn that the excursion is a bit pricey at $19.50 for adults, $10.75 for children ages 4 to 12 and $15 for seniors ages 65 and older. (There are discounted prices for service members, veterans and their families.)
Planet Word Planet Word
The world's first voice-activated museum, Planet Word strives to provide an immersive language experience through multiple exhibits and interactive galleries. Its word-centric exhibits span three floors and explore such topics as how people learn to speak, words’ origins, the world’s diversity of languages, famous speeches (which visitors can recreate using teleprompters), songs (which you can deliver karaoke style), jokes and how advertising uses language to persuade consumers. It also has a library, of course, as well as recording booths for listening to others reflect on the power of words and for preserving your story. Its Lexicon Lane contains multiple "puzzle cases" with themed word puzzles that can be solved using various clues deposited around the room. The museum, which opened in 2020, also has a restaurant and a gift shop.
Visitors frequently enthuse about this museum with adjectives like "clever," "creative," "fascinating" and "innovative." Many say its well-executed interactive activities make it an especially engaging place for families. Plan on spending at least a couple hours here.
U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress free
Arguably the most magnificent building in Washington, the U.S. Capitol is where visitors go to witness politics in action. Inside, members of both houses of Congress debate and create national policy and law, while visitors explore the building's north and south wings and circular centerpiece: the Rotunda. This iconic hall houses paintings, frescoes and sculptures depicting famous scenes from American history, not to mention an iconic cast-iron dome added to the structure in 1868.
Touring the Capitol is free of charge, but you'll need to make your reservation well in advance to ensure you get a tour slot (you cannot see the Capitol without booking a tour). The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center welcomes visitors Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Inauguration Day). The tour does not include the Senate and House of Representatives galleries. Though some travelers express mixed reviews on whether the U.S. Capitol warrants the time and effort spent (both making reservations and going on the actual tour), most agree the site is well worth a visit.
National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum free
The National Portrait Gallery most notably houses images of every previous president, allowing visitors to reminisce about each political figure as they progress through the hall of portraits. The presidential portraits aren't alone, though, as the National Portrait Gallery also houses artistic renderings of notable American citizens ranging from sports figures to civil rights leaders. Moreover, the National Portrait Gallery only takes up half of the building and shares the space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This museum showcases rotating exhibits, which have previously exposed visitors to work created in response to the Vietnam War, glasswork, native women artists and more. The Smithsonian American Art Museum also operates a separate branch, the Renwick Gallery, devoted to contemporary craft and decorative arts.
Previous travelers insist that you take a few minutes to enjoy the shared Kogod Courtyard; its glass-paneled roof protects visitors from the elements while maintaining an abundance of natural light. These visitors also recommend that you take a few hours to explore both the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as there are a variety of interesting, small exhibits that are easy to miss if you're in a rush.
Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute free
More than 1,800 animals reside at the Smithsonian's 163-acre National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, from Asian elephants to cheetahs to sea lions. Look up every now and then as you stroll beneath the Orangutan Transport System (called the O Line): You may spot orangutans swinging along cables between steel towers. Or, if you're more intrigued by animals native to South America, head over to the Amazonia exhibit, home to creatures like titi monkeys and multiple frog species. The Great Cats exhibit features Sumatran tigers and African lions, among other feline predators. The zoo also has a playground and other attractions geared toward kids. If you time your visit for the holidays, swing by the zoo after dark for its ZooLights exhibition, when animal lanterns and lights bedazzle the park.
Recent visitors praised the zoo's pleasant surroundings and broad selection of species. Others warn future travelers to temper expectations: It's popular during the spring and summer seasons and there are long lines for (somewhat overpriced) food. Though some said the zoo could be more exciting and have a broader array of animals, keep in mind the more than 360 species are free to visit.
Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria Day Trip from Washington DC
from $ 99.00
Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon Tour
from $ 84.00
Spirited Tours Washington D.C. Virginia Group Winery Tour
from $ 185.00
U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum free
Note: Due to the discovery of boxwood blight, the arboretum temporarily closed its Boxwood Collection and adjacent Perennials Collection in order to prevent spread of the disease. It is expected to remain closed through late 2023.
Located northeast of downtown Washington, D.C., the United States National Arboretum rewards its visitors with beautiful outdoor spaces. The arboretum's outdoor collections range from dogwoods to azaleas to magnolias, but none of the plants are the area's primary attraction. Instead, most travelers make the trek here for the National Capitol Columns and the bonsai collection. The National Capitol Columns were built in 1828, decorated the Capitol building until 1958 and found their way to the arboretum in the 1980s. Now, the columns serve as an excellent place to snap photos or enjoy a picnic. The area's bonsai trees sit in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, which boasts an astounding 300 miniature trees that staff members rotate through the museum's three pavilions and special exhibits gallery.
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery free
The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery combine to comprise the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. Opened in 1923, the Freer Gallery showcases American paintings from the late 19th century aesthetic movement, plus art from China, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The Sackler Gallery opened in 1987 in the adjacent building, and it displays Thai earthenware, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine, Iranian artifacts and a host of rotating exhibits.
Past visitors particularly appreciated the Peacock Room, a gilded blue and gold room filled with frescoes of peacocks and pottery. The Sackler Gallery's underground exhibits also serve as a boon for sweltering tourists during the District’s hot summer months, which delighted recent travelers. The general consensus is that there are some remarkable works of art here.
Rock Creek Park Rock Creek Park free
A large urban park extending from the Washington, D.C.-Maryland border to the Potomac River, Rock Creek Park is a destination for an expansive array of outdoor activities. It has more than 32 miles of hiking trails and 13 miles of horseback riding trails while bicyclists can use its paved trails and roads. It has a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts. Fishing and paddleboating on the Potomac River are additional options. The park also boasts plenty of built things to see, such as scenic bridges, fountains and statues.
In addition to its more than 1,750 acres of outdoor space, the park encompasses multiple noteworthy structures. The Nature Center features a book- and game-filled children's Discovery Room, displays of live turtles and snakes and an observation deck. It provides hiking information and serves as the starting point of the half-mile Woodland Trail. The Peirce Mill operated as a grist mill from 1829 to 1897, making the historical building the last one of its kind in the area. The Old Stone House, constructed around 1766, ranks as the oldest building on its original foundation in Washington D.C. Its former kitchen contains historical exhibits.
National Archives Museum National Archives Museum free
A treasure trove of the United States' founding documents, the National Archives Museum is high on travelers' to-do lists and almost always has long entrance lines. But once you do get inside, you'll see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Other interactive and kid-friendly exhibits fill the museum, which is located off the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station on the Green and Yellow lines. Conveniently, the museum is also a popular stop on many of the city's best bus tours .
If you love history, you'll enjoy visiting this museum. Reservations are not required but are available. Reserving free passes on Recreation.gov's website comes with a service fee of $1.00 per ticket, but travelers say paying for advance tickets will save you from having to wait in a long line to enter. The museum encourages reservations during its peak season from March through Labor Day. Also, be aware that photography is not permitted anywhere inside the building.
9:30 Club 9:30 Club
U.S. News Insider Tip: If you're attending a concert at this venue, plan to arrive early, as the line can stretch around the block for popular artists. And if possible, avoid using the coat check (unless you want to be stuck waiting in line for hours after the show). – Alissa Grisler, Associate Editor
The 9:30 Club has often been heralded as one of the best live music venues in America. The iconic club began earning its accolades around the time it opened in 1980, though, and has hosted groups like Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fugazi and Public Enemy, among others. While the 9:30 Club relocated and expanded over time, the club is still small enough to feel intimate. Its location near the bustling U Street corridor means that travelers will have no shortage of options for a pre-show dinner or a post-show drink (the staple Ben's Chili Bowl is just a few blocks away). Alternatively, the 9:30 Club offers a small menu of quesadillas, nachos and tacos if you want to eat there.
Food & Drink
Washington DC Premier Brunch Cruise
from $ 113.12
Heurich House Museum Heurich House Museum
German-American immigrant and brewing entrepreneur Christian Heurich built the mansion that now bears his name in the late 19th century. Now, its stands as both an example of Richardsonian Romanesque residential architecture as well a testament to the business-owner's legacy. (It also, appropriately enough, serves as the headquarters of the District of Columbia Brewers Guild, a nonprofit trade organization serving the city's craft brewing industry.) The museum aims to preserve the building, its grounds and its collections while demonstrating the relevance of Heurich's version of the American dream to the modern day.
Visitors typically find the tour guides highly knowledgeable and enjoy seeing the fine period furniture and the well-preserved, intricately decorated structure.
National Building Museum National Building Museum
U.S. News Insider Tip: The permanent exhibits are a bit technical, but special exhibits are accessible (and often hands-on!) for everyone, regardless of their knowledge of architecture. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor
Washington boasts countless examples of iconic architecture, but the National Building Museum fittingly stands out from the rest. The gargantuan former Pension Building, which completed construction in 1887, once housed the United States Pension Bureau as well as a variety of political events like inaugural balls. In 1985, the building completed its transition into a museum, and it was officially renamed the National Building Museum in 1997. Currently, the museum showcases various interesting intersections of architecture and design throughout American history and culture via approximately 100,000 photos, 130,000 architectural drawing and prints, and more than 20,000 objects ranging from building materials to toys.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Frederick Douglass National Historic Site free
Like other parts of the South, the Washington metropolitan area – which includes Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. – was once home to numerous plantations that profited off the labor of enslaved African Americans. To learn more about one of the region's most famous former slaves, visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the district's Anacostia neighborhood.
At this historical site, you'll learn all about Frederick Douglass, who had been born into slavery in 1818 who fled from Maryland to New York City in 1838. After becoming a free man, Douglass devoted his life to speaking against slavery, producing abolitionist newspapers and writing about his experience as a slave. In 1872, Douglass and his then wife, Anna, moved to Washington, D.C. The couple moved into the house known as Cedar Hill in 1878. After the death of his first wife in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts in 1884 and continued to live in the house until his death in 1895.
The Mansion on O Street The Mansion on O Street
Read More »
United States Botanic Garden United States Botanic Garden free
Washington DC Holiday Lights Tour
from $ 69.00
Small-Group History Tour Pub Crawl of Washington, D.C.
from $ 59.00
Winter City Lights Experience Washington DC
from $ 31.20
International Spy Museum International Spy Museum
Explore More of Washington, D.C.
When To Visit
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.
The 26 Best Zoos in the U.S.
Rachael Hood November 16, 2023
44 Cheap Tropical Vacations That Feel Expensive
Holly Johnson|Alissa Grisler November 10, 2023
18 Fall Family Vacation Ideas
Amanda Norcross September 11, 2023
30 Fun Fall Weekend Getaways for 2023
Holly Johnson July 18, 2023
The 32 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in the U.S.
Gwen Pratesi July 14, 2023
The 21 Top Ecolodges Around the World
Mackenzie Roche|Amanda Norcross June 30, 2023
The 26 Best Fall Festivals in the U.S. for 2023
Katie Hearsum|Timothy J. Forster June 28, 2023
27 Amazon Prime Day Luggage Deals You Can Shop Now
Amanda Norcross June 27, 2023
The 34 Best Couples Vacations
Gwen Pratesi June 26, 2023
Carry-on Luggage Sizes by Airline
Amanda Norcross June 26, 2023
22 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Washington, D.C.
Written by Becca Blond and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers Updated Sep 26, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )
Whether you are marveling at its white marble monuments and memorials, learning about history in one of its free museums, or getting a feel for how locals live in one of its vibrant neighborhoods, Washington, D.C. emits a pulsating energy not found anywhere else in the U.S. The District of Colombia is a city you can explore dozens of times and have a completely different experience with each visit.
Designed by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant at the request of George Washington, America's capital city sits on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. It is located on land specifically set aside after the Revolutionary War to keep the federal government from being in a single state.
L'Enfant planned D.C. to feel larger than life with its wide avenues, inspirational marble buildings, public squares, and a magnificent "public walk" that is the National Mall. The city is split into four quadrants: NW, NE, SW, and SE and its layout is a street grid intersected by avenues.
First-time visitors flock to its list of must-see attractions like the White House, Capitol Building, and museums, monuments, and memorials, perfectly spaced along its park-style National Mall. But beyond these famed attractions, you will find another DC. One ruled by locals and influenced by the host of long-term international residents, that is filled with eclectic neighborhoods including U Street , Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown.
This is a city where you can eat your way across the world's food scene in the space of a few miles. It is also a city that boasts a world-class arts scene and outdoor experiences from paddleboarding on the Potomac River to walking or biking along the C&O Canal towpath.
If you can avoid visiting DC in the summer, do so. Besides being unpleasantly hot and humid, summers are when you'll see the biggest crowds. The best times to visit Washington are spring and autumn.
Plan your trip to the nation's capital with our list of the top attractions in Washington, D.C.
1. United States Capitol and Capitol Hill
2. the lincoln memorial, 3. national mall and veterans memorials, 4. the white house, 5. the washington monument, 6. national air and space museum, 7. national gallery of art, 8. united states holocaust memorial museum, 9. library of congress, 10. national museum of natural history, 11. national museum of american history, 12. national museum of african american history and culture, 13. jefferson memorial and tidal basin, 14. the john f. kennedy center for the performing arts, 15. national zoological park, 16. national archives, 17. international spy museum, 18. arlington national cemetery, 19. washington national cathedral, 20. georgetown historic district, 21. smithsonian american art museum and national portrait gallery, 22. u.s. botanic garden, 23. u street corridor, 24. the wharf, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to washington, d.c., washington, dc - climate chart.
Recognized around the world as a symbol of the United States, the Capitol is the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The huge dome, based on the dome of St. Peter's in Rome, stands out above all other Washington buildings.
Like Washington itself, the building has grown over the years since the central portion was built between 1793 and 1812. The last addition, in 1958-62, enlarged the main façade where presidents take the oath. On the other side, a marble terrace offers beautiful views over the mall and the city.
The interior is resplendent with frescoes, reliefs, and paintings, especially the rotunda under the great cast-iron dome with a ceiling painting by Constantino Brumidi and huge paintings of scenes from American history on the walls. Beside it is the former Chamber of the House of Representatives, with statues of leading historical figures. The small Senate Rotunda leads into the beautifully restored Old Senate Chamber, where the Senate met until 1859, and the Supreme Court until 1935.
When free tours resume, they can be reserved online and begin at the visitor center on the lower floor, where there is an interesting exhibition on the building's history. Free tours on weekday afternoons explore the ornate paintings on the walls and ceilings of the corridors in the Senate wing, designed by Brumidi between 1857 and 1859. To visit the Senate or House in session, you need to contact your Senator or Representative for a pass; foreign visitors can arrange visits through the visitor center.
East of the Capitol are the Supreme Court Building; the Library of Congress; and Folger Shakespeare Library, home of the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare .
The Capitol Hill neighborhood extends southeast, with the lively Eastern Market, a farmers market with craft vendors, as well.
The best-loved of all Washington's memorials, the Lincoln Memorial stands at the far end of the mall, separated from the Washington Monument by the Reflecting Pool. At its center is a 19-foot marble statue of a seated and pensive President Abraham Lincoln surrounded by 36 columns, one for each of the states that existed at the time of Lincoln's death. This is the most famous work designed by noted sculptor Daniel Chester French. Jules Guerin painted the murals on the inside walls, showing important events in Lincoln's life.
Since its completion in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial has been the scene of a number of historic events. In 1939, when the all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to let celebrated African American singer Marian Anderson perform at a concert in nearby Constitution Hall, President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for her to give an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, attended by 75,000 people and broadcast to millions of radio listeners.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream..." speech from the memorial steps in 1963, again making history here.
Visiting this and other Mall monuments is one of the favorite things to do in Washington, D.C. at night. The monuments are all lighted, and many, like the Lincoln Memorial, are open 24 hours. The statue of Lincoln is especially powerful lighted at night inside the darkened interior of the temple and framed by the floodlit white columns.
The spacious swath of lawns and pools that form a wide greenbelt from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial is also the site of many of Washington's landmark buildings and monuments. Most prominent at its center point is the Washington Monument , and war memorials include those to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial , a poignant wall inscribed with the names of all American servicemen and women who lost their lives or are missing, is one of Washington's most visited memorials. The nearby Vietnam Women's Memorial has a bronze sculpture of three servicewomen helping a wounded soldier. The Korean War Veterans Memorial contains 19 steel sculptures of soldiers. The newest, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in 2014.
If you look at a Washington, D.C. attractions map, you'll notice that many of them line the National Mall, so you're likely to spend a lot of time here. Along with providing a park for walking, running, and picnicking, the Mall is a place for celebrations and festivals. Best known of these is the annual Independence Day celebration with fireworks around the Washington Monument.
Also in July, the Smithsonian American Folk Life Festival fills the Mall with music, crafts, performances, storytelling, cultural programs, and food from various regions around the country. The Smithsonian Kite Festival is held here in late March or early April.
On summer evenings, you can often find military bands performing at venues along the Mall. The US Navy Band has concerts at the Capitol steps overlooking the Mall on Mondays and on Tuesdays at Navy Memorial. The US Air Force Band performs on the capitol steps on Tuesdays and at the Air Force Memorial on Fridays.
Location: Between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, Washington, D.C.
The White House is the official residence of the President of the United States. The home of every president except George Washington, it was originally built by James Hoban in 1792, and after being burned down by British forces in 1814 was rebuilt in 1818.
Although tours of the interior that include the East, Blue, Green, and Red Rooms; the Ballroom; and the State Dining Room must be reserved well in advance through your Congressional office or embassy, every tourist to Washington will want to see this iconic building, at least from the outside.
The free White House Visitor Center , a short distance away, has excellent interactive exhibits, which show details about the White House and the presidential families. It includes furniture of past presidents, a model of the residence, historical changes, and videos with insights from presidents about their time living there.
The Ellipse , a 54-acre stretch of lawn stretching to Constitution Avenue, hosts summer concerts by the US Army Band. Next door to the White House are the elaborate 1833 Greek Revival Treasury Building and the 1871 Executive Office Building , one of the most striking old government buildings in Washington. From Lafayette Square, one of the city's best-known, statues of Lafayette and others overlook the White House.
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: http://www.nps.gov/whho/index.htm
The 555-foot white shaft of the Washington Monument is a familiar icon of the National Mall, and a beautiful sight, especially when mirrored in the long Reflecting Pool at its foot. Construction of the obelisk to honor the nation's first president did not proceed smoothly. The plan was approved by Congress in 1783, but ground wasn't broken until 1848.
When the tower reached 156 feet in height in 1854, political wrangling and lack of funds stopped the project for several years, and the Civil War caused further interruption so that the tower was not capped until 1885, when it was finally completed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
You can still see the separate stages of its building by three changes in the color of its facing stones; inside are engraved stones from states, cities, foreign countries, individuals, and civic groups, many of them donors who helped in its private funding stages. You can take an elevator to the very top for aerial views over the mall and much of Washington. The base of the monument is surrounded by a circle of 50 American Flags.
Address: 15th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
The National Air and Space Museum is one of the world's most popular museums, with a collection of history-making air and spacecraft that includes the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis , the first plane to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
More recent flight history is represented here by the Apollo 11 command module , part of the first manned lunar landing mission. Permanent and changing exhibitions illustrate the science, history, and technology of aviation and space flight, covering topics like the use of air power in both world wars, the space race, flight pioneers, and up-to-the-minute flight and space technology.
Many of the exhibits are interactive, and all contain actual historical objects, such as a moon rock you can touch. Not only do permanent exhibits illustrate the history, they show the how and why of flight and space science, explaining how things fly, how jet engines work, and what keeps the International Space Station in orbit.
In addition to the exhibits, there is the Albert Einstein Planetarium , an IMAX theater, and the Public Observatory on the east terrace, where you can examine lunar craters and see planets and other astronomical features through telescopes. Flight simulators (fee charged) allow kids and adults to fly combat missions with aerial maneuvers like 360-degree barrel rolls or experience naval aviation in an F-18 Super Hornet.
The museum is also the home of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, adjacent to Dulles Airport, and has even more historic aircraft and space exploration artifacts, including a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery . You can watch from observation walkways through the hangars where experts are restoring historic aircraft.
The Air and Space Museum is currently undergoing a seven-year makeover that will transform not only the arrangement of 23 galleries, but the way it interprets the history and science of flight. During renovations, a number of the exhibits will be closed, so if particular exhibits are of special interest, you can consult the museum's website to find out if they are open.
Address: 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: www.nasm.si.edu
Housed in two separate buildings connected by a tunnel, the National Gallery of Art is one of the world's premier art museums and one of the most popular in the U.S. Based on the sizable collection of financier and later Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, its large and diverse collection includes masterpieces of European and American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts.
Frequent temporary exhibitions add to this outstanding permanent collection to highlight arts from cultures around the world. Among the highlights is Ginevra de Benci, the only Da Vinci painting in any American museum. Others include works by major French Impressionists - Monet, Degas, and Renoir -- and other masterpieces by Rembrandt, El Greco, and Vermeer.
The newer East Wing features sculptures by Henry Moore, a mobile by Alexander Calder, and other modern works. Free concerts are held at the National Gallery on Sunday evenings from fall through spring.
Also part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the mall are the two museums that comprise the National Museum of Asian Art. These are the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery , which houses more than 1,000 pieces, principally Chinese jade and bronze, Chinese paintings and lacquerware, and ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware.
The Freer collection includes nearly 30,000 pieces of Asian artworks, including Buddhist sculptures and Persian manuscripts, one of the most extensive collections in the world. The Freer also features 19th-century and early 20th-century American art, most notably a large collection of work by James McNeill Whistler.
The drum-shaped Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden traces the history of modern art from the mid-1800s, through more than 12,000 pieces of art and sculpture. One of the highlights of the garden is Rodin's Burghers of Calais .
The National Museum of African Art displays thousands of objects representing diverse artistic styles throughout the African continent, including sculptures, masks, costumes, household objects, and ceramics. All of these Smithsonian museums are among the many free things to do in Washington, D.C.
Address: 600 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: www.nga.gov
Near the Smithsonian museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum documents, studies, and interprets the history of the Holocaust with the dual purpose of memorializing the victims and helping the world to confront hatred and prevent genocide.
Permanent exhibits examine the rise of the Nazis and the Aryan ideology, the ghettos, key events such as Kristallnacht, the concentration camps, and the Nazi atrocities. An exhibit on Americans and the Holocaust examines US reaction to Nazis, the war, and genocide, while another features personal accounts by US soldiers and citizens who witnessed the evidence of Nazi atrocities.
The presentations draw on the enormous collections of more than 12,750 artifacts, 85,000 historical photographs, 9,000 oral history testimonies, as well as archival footage and records of survivors and their families. A visit to the museum is a sobering experience.
Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: https://www.ushmm.org
An underground passage with historical exhibits leads from the Capitol Building to one of Washington's little-known places to visit, the Library of Congress. It's the world's largest library, modeled on the Opera House in Paris. You can visit portions on your own, but free tours disclose even more of its beautiful interior.
Displayed here are one of the three surviving complete Gutenberg Bibles, an earlier hand-printed Bible, Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's personal library, and galleries filled with exhibits focusing on topics as varied as the musical careers of the Gershwin brothers and the work of editorial cartoonists and graphic artists.
Address: Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Official site: https://www.aoc.gov/
One of the most popular things to do with children in Washington, the Museum of Natural History explores the natural world with permanent and changing exhibits to interest all ages. Favorite exhibits include the renowned Hope Diamond and the dazzling collection of gems and minerals around it, and Ocean Hall with its stunning underwater photography and replica of a 45-foot North Atlantic Right Whale.
The Hall of Human Origins follows human evolution over six million years in response to a changing world. Children will especially like the dinosaur exhibits and the interactive Discovery Room where they can touch and play with various artifacts.
Address: Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: http://www.si.edu/Museums/natural-history-museum
One of the most popular of the Smithsonian's many museums that line the mall, The National Museum of American History traces the political, cultural, scientific, and technological history of the U.S. since the Revolution. It displays important pieces of Americana, including Thomas Jefferson's desk, one of Edison's light bulbs, and the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to The Star Spangled Banner .
But beyond these treasured national artifacts, exhibits also examine how people lived, what they ate, where they worked, how they played, what they wore, how they traveled, how they worshiped, and how they governed themselves.
Illustrating these multiple themes are artifacts that include everything from gowns, work by First Ladies, and Julia Child's complete kitchen to the Muppets and the actual ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the film Wizard of Oz . With all the historical things to do in Washington D.C., you might think your family has had enough history. But this engaging museum houses some fascinating exhibits and artifacts of our collective past that will appeal to all ages.
Address: 14th Street NW at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: http://americanhistory.si.edu
Focusing on themes of history, culture, and community, the newest of the Smithsonian museums explores changing definitions of American citizenship and equality, at the same time highlighting African American culture and that of the entire African diaspora.
Various themes are covered in changing exhibits, which center on themes such as African American food traditions and chefs, the influence of African American sports stars on the breakdown of segregation, and African craftsmanship.
Historic artifacts on display include a section of the original Woolworth lunch counter that was the scene of the Greensboro, N.C. sit-in in 1960, and the aircraft known as the "Spirit of Tuskegee." In World War II, it was used to train African American airmen in the Army Air Forces, men whose work helped trigger the desegregation of the military.
Address: National Mall at Constitution Avenue, N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets
Official site: https://nmaahc.si.edu/
The design for the domed white memorial to Thomas Jefferson, the third US president, is based on the Roman Pantheon, its low dome supported by 54 Ionic columns. Inside, appearing in a dramatic silhouette through the columns, is a 19-foot statue of a standing Jefferson, and around are engraved excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and other writings.
The monument stands alone at the far end of the Tidal Pool, which reflects the monument in its surface, and all around the edge of the water are cherry trees, a gift from Japan. These are one of Washington's greatest attractions when they bloom each spring, surrounding the basin with a cloud of pink flowers and celebrated with the Cherry Blossom Festival .
Along the Cherry Tree Walk around the Tidal Basin, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial reflects twelve years of American History through four outdoor rooms. Each one is devoted to one of FDR's terms of office as he guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II. Unveiled in 2011, the 30-foot-high Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the newest along the Tidal Basin.
Address: 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, D.C.
Opened in 1971 and named in memory of President John F. Kennedy, the National Cultural Center overlooks the Potomac River in a state-of-the-art building designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. It is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, which hosts some of the world's greatest guest artists each year, and the Washington National Opera , one of the nation's leading opera companies.
Its three main stages and several smaller stages present over 2,200 performing arts shows and events each year, about 400 of which are free. These represent all types of music and theater, both classical and contemporary.
Joining the Los Angeles Music Center and Lincoln Center in New York as one of the three most important venues in the United States, the Kennedy Center is a major stop for visiting overseas opera, dance, and drama companies on tour.
Address: 2700 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: www.kennedy-center.org
The National Zoo is another part of the Smithsonian, where nearly 2,000 different animals, birds, and reptiles live in habitats replicating as closely as possible their natural environments. Of the several hundred species represented here, about a quarter are endangered. This is one of the world's best zoos, not only for the quality of the visitor experience, but for its leadership in areas of animal care and sustainability.
By far the most popular animals here are the giant pandas, part of a major initiative that began in 1972 with the arrival of Hsing Hsing from the People's Republic of China. Other zoo highlights are red pandas, Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas, Asian elephants, cheetahs, white-naped cranes, and North Island brown kiwis.
In the Amazonia exhibit, you can glimpse the colorful underwater life of the Amazon, where one of the world's largest freshwater fish swims beneath a living tropical forest.
Along with the cheetahs at the Cheetah Conservation Station, you can see Grevy's zebras, dama gazelles, vultures, and red river hogs, and at the highly popular Elephant Trails, you can see the multigenerational herd and learn about the elephants' life at the zoo and in the wild.
Check the day's schedule for feeding times, demonstrations, educational games, and talks. As you might expect, this is one of Washington's favorite places to visit for children.
Address: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: http://nationalzoo.si.edu
The National Archives holds permanent records of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, District of Columbia courts, and some federal agencies, as well as pre-World War I military service records for U.S. Army and Confederate veterans, and pre-1940 vessel and station logbooks for the U.S. Navy.
The records are open to researchers, and in the Rotunda, you can see the Declaration of Independence , Constitution , and Bill of Rights . Exhibition galleries feature a 1297 Magna Carta and a changing group of other historically significant documents. An exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, includes documents from the suffrage movement, and in other areas are interactive exhibits and hands-on activities for all ages.
Address: 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: https://museum.archives.gov
The place for 007 wannabes, the museum covers the techniques, technology, history, and contemporary role of espionage. Many of the exhibits are interactive, and throughout the building are actual examples of real espionage equipment (including a poison dart umbrella designed by the KGB), from declassified hardware and captured equipment to movie props used in the James Bond series.
Photographs, audio-visual programs, and special effects combine to give a picture of strategies and methods behind secret espionage missions. The collections include historic spy artifacts from the Revolution and Civil War, along with a wealth of ingeniously concealed and disguised cameras and weapons, even the famous Enigma cipher machine that broke the Nazi codes in World War II.
The top floor is dedicated to real-life spies Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanson, and John Walker, detailing the actual methods and tools they used to spy on the United States, with videos describing how spies were caught. The lower floor moves from fact to fiction, filled with information and actual props used in James Bond movies.
Highlighting these is the Aston Martin DB5 that first appeared in the 1964 film Goldfinger , equipped with machine guns, oil jets, a dashboard radar screen, an ejector seat, tire slashers, a bulletproof shield, and a rotating license plate. The car actually inspired intelligence agencies to add similar features to their own vehicles.
Address: 700 L'Enfant Plaza, SW; Washington, D.C.
Official site: www.spymuseum.org
On a hillside overlooking the city from across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery is filled with memorials to American history and the men and women who were part of it. Its best-known landmarks are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , President John F. Kennedy's gravesite, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. The Welcome Center has maps, information (including the locations of specific graves), and exhibits telling the story of Arlington National Cemetery and its monuments.
Among these are memorials to nurses, Iran Rescue Mission casualties, and various battles and groups, including one at the graves of Lt. Cmdr. Roger B. Chaffee and Lt. Col. Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, who were killed in a fire aboard their Apollo spacecraft. Another commemorates the seven Challenger astronauts.
In a solemn and impressive ceremony, the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed every hour on the hour October 1 to March 31, and every half hour from April 1 through September 30. Although the cemetery is not right in the city, both the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Metrorail system and Metrobus have stops close to the gate.
Official site: https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil
The English-style, Neo-Gothic National Cathedral, one of the world's largest cathedrals, took 83 years to build, from 1907 to 1990. It follows the Gothic building style and techniques, with flying buttresses and solid masonry construction of Indiana limestone. Throughout the cathedral are artistic details to see, from its stained-glass windows to the hand-embroidered kneelers that commemorate war heroes and historic events.
Special tours, reserved in advance, explore hidden parts of the building and its art; families should ask for the brochure Explore the Cathedral with Children for a scavenger hunt to find wrought-iron animals, tiny carvings, and gargoyles. Be sure to look for the gargoyle of Darth Vader high up on the northwest tower.
The cathedral is the burial place of President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller, and state funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford took place here. The top of the 300-foot central tower is the highest point in Washington.
The Bishop's Garden, on the south side of the cathedral, includes plants found in medieval gardens, plants mentioned in the Bible, and others native to the area, along with a fish pond. The 59-acre Cathedral Close, designed by the eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr in the early 20th century, is an urban oasis modeled on the walled grounds of medieval cathedrals.
Carillon recitals are held each Saturday at 12:30pm, and the peal bells are rung on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9pm and after Sunday services. On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30pm, a cathedral organist discusses the Great Organ here, followed by a mini-recital.
Address: Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: www.cathedral.org
The neighborhood from 27th to 37th Streets, between Rock Creek Park and K Street NW, is the city's oldest, with origins in the early 1700s, before Washington itself. Georgetown University , the nation's oldest Roman Catholic and Jesuit College, is located here.
Today, Georgetown's tidy streets of historic homes and its boutique shops, cafés, restaurants, and small museums make it a popular respite from lines at the mall attractions. The C&O Canal , the 184-mile waterway paralleling the Potomac River, begins here, and its towpath is a favorite place for walking and cycling.
Dumbarton Oaks is a 16-acre estate with formal gardens and a valuable Byzantine and Christian art collection. Federal period Dumbarton House features Federal-style furniture, paintings, textiles, silver, and ceramics, and is home to one of five original known copies of the Articles of Confederation.
Tudor Place is an early 19th-century mansion built by Martha Washington's granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter, and her husband. Items from George and Martha Washington's Mount Vernon home are shown here, and the Federal-period gardens contain plants and trees from the early 19th century. The Kreeger Museum displays a wide collection of art from the 1850s to the 1970s including paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Chagall, Gauguin, and Picasso.
If you're looking for places to eat in Washington or things to do at night, this is one of the places to visit. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants and cafes, along with live music venues.
Sharing the historic Old Patent Office Building with the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of American art, representing more than 7,000 artists from the colonial era to the present.
The collections record the wonder of artists capturing the beauty of American landscapes as the nation expanded westward, and the changing face of American cities and towns. Special collections represent works by more than 200 African American artists, collections of Latinex works, an outstanding array of contemporary American craft and folk arts.
The National Portrait Gallery focuses on famous Americans, from the time of the first colonies to present day leaders and important public figures, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House.
Address: 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, D.C.
At the foot of Capitol Hill, the U.S. Botanic Garden is an oasis of tropical gardens in the center of the city. Surrounded by outdoor gardens, the huge glasshouse is the hub of a museum of living plants. Permanent interior exhibits create environments for plants at home everywhere from the desert to rainforests, while outside is a showcase of plants that thrive in the Middle Atlantic states.
The greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms, and the outside displays include a pollinator garden, rose garden, kitchen garden, and water garden. There's always something in bloom, and benches in the vast conservatory invite a stop to enjoy the fragrances and the lush green surroundings.
Address: 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C.
Official site: https://www.usbg.gov/
D.C.'s U Street Corridor is one of the city's top historic neighborhoods and served as the epicenter of Black culture in America between 1862 and 1948. Designated a historic district in 1998, this neighborhood is filled with colorful buildings housing plenty of shops, restaurants, and theaters.
It is anchored by 14 th Street on its west side and the recently renovated Howard Theatre on its east end at the edge of the Shaw neighborhood. Constructed in 1910, this was the center of Black Broadway for the first half of the 20 th Century. It fell into decline but underwent a magnificent renovation and reopened a decade ago.
Duke Ellington was born in this neighborhood and a sculpture honoring the famed jazz musician can be seen at the intersection of Florida Ave and T Street. Also check out a concert at Lincoln Theatre , built in 1922, where Ellington and other jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Nat King, Cole, and Louis Armstrong all used to play.
U Street is known for its delicious food scene. Here you'll find the acclaimed Ben's Chili Bowl , which has served everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Barack Obama. Its restaurants span the globe, however. If you are craving authentic Ethiopian fare, head to "Little Ethiopia" on the east end of U Street.
With its second phase only completed in 2002, The Wharf is D.C.'s hottest new waterfront neighborhood, home to more than 80 restaurants and shops, an iconic fish market, four hotels, and a popular live music venue. Running along the Potomac River for one mile, the neighborhood was created as part of a larger development plan for what had been a neglected portion of the SW quadrant.
Just about a 10-minute walk from the National Mall, The Wharf's waterfront location provides a totally different vibe than the memorial and museum area. The Municipal Fish Market is the country's oldest continuously operating open-air fish market, originally opened in 1805. Until the redevelopment of The Wharf, it wasn't really on the tourist map anymore. Today it is buzzing with hungry travelers and locals alike, who come here to dine al fresco on fresh fish.
If you want to get out on the Potomac River yourself, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore. There are also seasonal water taxis running from The Wharf to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, across the river. Alexandria is known for its stately 18 th - and 19th-century buildings and brick streets. It's a great place to wander around for an afternoon. Water taxis also run to Georgetown.
Come evening, book a luxe riverboat dinner cruise on Potomac. These offer a wonderful way to relax after an action-packed day, and river sunsets can be phenomenal.
Official site: https://www.wharfdc.com/
Sightseeing by Day:
- Washington, D.C. has so many famous sites that it's difficult to keep track of all there is to see and do. One of the best ways to explore this city is on a classic Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tour , seeing the sites from an open-top red bus and getting on and off wherever you choose.
Sightseeing by Night:
- At night, Washington is transformed as the floodlights are beamed up the monuments, giving them a completely different look from their daytime appearance. The Washington, D.C. Monuments by Moonlight Night Trolley Tour is a 2.5- hour guided tour that provides an easy way to see the city at night.
Sightseeing by Bicycle:
- Active travelers will enjoy the Washington D.C. Monuments Bike Tour to visit the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial on a three-hour ride. Hybrid bikes and the relatively level terrain make this suitable even for those who are not avid cyclists. As many places to visit have security checkpoints and do not allow backpacks, it is wise to carry as little as possible while touring.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Places to Visit Close to Washington: If you have time to explore outside the city, there are many easy Day Trips from Washington, D.C ., and our page on Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Washington D.C. can give you plenty of ideas for longer excursions.
Exploring Maryland : There are a number of tourist attractions in Maryland , including those in historic Annapolis and Baltimore with its lively harbor area. The state is also famous for its beaches and oceanfront resorts, many of which are within easy weekend reach from Washington. You can learn more about these on our page Top-Rated Resorts in Maryland .
Discovering Virginia : The District of Columbia lies between two states, and to its south, you can visit attractions in Virginia , including those in the capital city of Richmond . Or you could spend a weekend immersed in colonial history with the help of our page Top Tourist Attractions in Williamsburg & Easy Day Trips .
More on District of Columbia
- United States
- Washington, D.C.
60 Best Tourist Attractions in Washington DC
Home to powerhouse politics and a history that goes back hundreds of years, Washington DC offers an incredible chance to learn about how the US was born. A trip to the city just isn’t complete without a stop at some of its great museums (many of them free), amazing monuments , and iconic historical landmarks .
But there’s also much more to Washington DC than history and politics. Just ask the more than 24 million visitors that stop by the nation’s capital every year. The city is well-known for its sizzling foodie scene, world-class art, and the many green spaces to walk, explore, and relax in.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip with our list of the best tourist attractions in Washington DC .
1 – The White House
At the top of the list of tourist attractions in Washington DC is, without doubt, the White House . Most visitors stopping by just take a picture of the outside. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll get the best views from either Pennsylvania Avenue NW at Lafayette Square or The Ellipse Park .
If you want to actually tour the White House , things are a little more complicated. You’ll have to request a tour either through your congressional representative (if you’re American) or your own embassy in Washington, DC. Either way, approval can take up to three months and tours fill up fast, so apply early.
Tours of the White House include the three parlors (known as the Blue, Red, and Green rooms) used to entertain guests, as well as the State Dining Room.
Want to know more about the presidential home? The White House Visitor Center has a large exhibit area showcasing photographs and videos, artifacts , and interactive tours.
2 – Lincoln Memorial
Built to honor America’s 16th president, the 30-meter-tall Lincoln Memorial building is a beauty constructed of Yule marble. The structure’s most famous part is the statue of Lincoln sitting on a chair – including the base of the chair, the statue is just over 9 meters tall and weighs 170 tons.
Because of its weight, it had to be constructed in sections – 28 blocks of white marble, to be exact – so it could be moved and put together at the memorial.
The building itself has two other chambers in addition to the area holding the statue. Those chambers feature wall inscriptions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address from March 1865. The memorial is free to visit and no reservations are needed.
3 – Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The fifth most visited museum in the world houses a collection of over 60,000 items covering everything related to air and space. Some of the highlights here include the Apollo 11 Command Module , Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane , and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis .
You can also see the l unar spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong and touch a lunar rock sample. In addition to aircraft and spacecraft, the museum also holds many other objects, including rockets, balloons, equipment, satellites, and engines.
There’s plenty of historical photography to explore, as well as documents and models. You’ll need at least two hours – but four is better – to truly discover this museum.
In addition to all the exhibits at eye level, there’s plenty to see when you look up. Airplanes, modules, satellites and much more are often hanging from the ceiling.
If the size of the museum feels a bit overwhelming, consider booking a tour so you don’t miss out on any of the highlights.
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum tickets
4 – National Portrait Gallery
Its most popular exhibit is the Hall of Presidents, which features portraits of American presidents and, since the year 2000, also of First Ladies. Presidential portraits come in all forms and styles – from colorful modern styles to the 1796 famous life-size portrait of George Washington.
The museum also features a number of other exhibits dedicated to poets, scientists, inventors, and activists that have made an impact in American history. The Bravo! Gallery is dedicated to the performing arts and features portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Duke Ellington, and Elvis Presley.
There’s also a gallery dedicated to sports champions and one featuring 20th-century Americans like Douglas MacArthur. Albert Einstein and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams.
The building housing the National Portrait Gallery is a National Historic Landmark and once served as a Civil War hospital.
5 – George Washington’s Mount Vernon
America’s first president, George Washington, was an accomplished farmer. Mount Vernon , Washington’s former plantation , was also his and his wife’s home between 1759 and 1775.
Today, the magnificent property – located about 20 km from Washington DC in nearby Virginia – is a major tourist attraction.
The grounds include the main house, which was originally built in 1734 but expanded over the following decades. There are also a number of other buildings to explore , including a smokehouse, laundry building, and stables .
The property also has four gardens , fisheries along the Potomac River, and the family crypt where the couple has their final resting place.
In addition to the original property, visitors can also see a reconstruction of George Washington’s own whiskey distillery as well as the accompanying gristmill.
6 – Hop on hop off bus
If you’re only visiting for a short time, there’s no easier way to experience the city than on a hop-on hop-off bus – one of the best things to do in Washington DC for first-time visitors.
These tours offer l oops around the city so you can get to all the most iconic tourist attractions in Washington DC without having to worry about coordinating transportation.
Stay on board to take photographs from the open-top , double-decker buses or get off at any of the designated stops. Walk around, take as many selfies as you want, then catch the next bus that comes around to continue the journey.
Deluxe tickets also allow you to ride at night , so you can photograph the illuminated monuments in all their splendor.
- bus tours in Washington DC
7 – Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
This contemporary and modern art museum was born in 1966. Back then, entrepreneur and art collector Joseph Herman Hirshhorn donated his massive collection – which included over 6,000 paintings and sculptures – to the US government.
This led to the Smithsonian Institution establishing the museum, a massive structure including 5,600 square meters of inside space plus four acres of garden space for sculpture exhibits . Hirshhorn left an additional 6.000 works of art to the museum in his will.
Since then, the museum’s collection has continued to grow, mainly keeping its focus on the art of the second half of the 20th-century . They know hold not only paintings and sculptures but also digital media, paper, and performance items in their collection.
8 – Washington Monument
The Washington Monument obelisk is one of the best-known sights in Washington DC . Located in the National Mall park and near the Reflecting Pool , it opened in 1888 to honor the first President of the United States.
Built of marble and granite, the monument is 169 meters tall , making it the tallest obelisk in the world . And while most people visiting are content with just taking photos of it from afar, it is possible to go inside the obelisk and take an elevator to the observation and museum deck near the top .
Tickets to enter the Washington Monument are limited to a certain number of people per day, so arrive early.
9 – Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds museums have been around since London-based wax sculptor Marie Tussaud founded the first one in the 1800s.
Although all museums feature famous names in the entertainment , A-listers, and sports arena – think Taylor Swift, Marilyn Monroe, and Babe Ruth – each city also adds a local touch.
In Washington, DC, this naturally means US presidents and people who helped shape the nation . In fact, the local museum has two special galleries, one dedicated to all 45 U.S Presidents and one dedicated to those who have fought for civil rights , such as Martin Luther King Jr. and activist Rosa Parks.
The museum also has a gallery dedicated to the magic “behind the scenes.” Here, you can learn the history behind the museums and how the statues are made .
- Madame Tussauds tickets
10 – United States Botanic Garden
As the country’s oldest continually-operating botanic garden (it opened in 1820), the USBG is a must-visit. The United States Botanic Garden actually consists of three spaces: the Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park .
The three-acre National Garden is an outdoor space featuring a rose garden , a butterfly garden , a lawn area for outdoor events , and a significant collection of Mid-Atlantic native plants.
Bartholdi Park, located across the street from the Botanical Garden, is a manicured park with benches , a nine-meter-tall cast-iron fountain , and a large mix of evergreens, shrubs, perennials, and ground covers that guarantees beautiful greenery all year long.
The Conservatory holds the most impressive part of the collection , including an orchid house, rare and endangered species , desert plants, medicinal plants, and a tropical rainforest .
The Botanical Gardens organize a number of special programs and exhibits throughout the year, including a Christmas event.
11 – Smithsonian Castle
With a nickname like “ the Castle ” , you’d be right to expect an impressive building when you stop by here. Don’t worry, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
Designed by the same architect who came up with NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the castle is built of red sandstone using Gothic and Romanesque details .
When built in the mid-19th century , this was the first building the Smithsonian Institution ever owned . Today, it houses the Institution’s main offices , as well as the information center.
Here, visitors can find out more about the Smithsonian itself, the collections it holds, see what’s happening at the different museums, and check out interactive displays.
12 – Six Flags America
With over 100 thrill rides and attractions , Six Flags America is a favorite among tourist attractions in Washington DC. The park is divided into six areas : Main Street 1776, Chesapeake Bay, Looney Tunes Movie Town, Mardi Gras, Gotham City, and Coyote Creek.
Each area is decorated and offers rides related to the theme. Chesapeake Bay is home to one of the park’s most popular roller coasters , the floorless Firebird, while Gotham City features SUPERMAN: Ride of Steel, a hyper-coaster that’s 60 meters tall.
During September and October , the park organizes Fright Fest , a Halloween-themed extravaganza with plenty of scares. Waterpark Hurricane Harbor is right next door, offers over 25 water slides, and is included with park admission.
13 – River cruise
The Potomac River is the heart of Washington DC . Many important monuments and historical settings, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon home sit right by it. The river also travels right into Maryland and Virginia, offering amazing views of riverfront mansions, parks and landmarks .
When in Washington DC, catching a river cruise can give you a great new perspective of the city. Scenic river cruises regularly depart from Washington DC towards Mount Vernon , where you can jump off to tour the grounds of the estate.
There are also plenty of shorter scenic lunch cruises , where you can enjoy a buffet lunch and a live DJ while drifting under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and past the Washington Monument.
Dinner cruises , on the other hand, tend to be more elegant , requiring smart-casual attire for a relaxed cruise to catch the lights of the city.
- boat tours in Washington DC
14 – United States National Arboretum
The United States National Arboretum occupies almost two square kilometers and is home to many plants and trees from all types of climate . The Grove, a favorite area within the gardens, displays trees representing every state.
Major gardens within the Arboretum include large Asian collections , ferns, a prairie and coastal plain area, and a stunning bonsai collection.
There’s also the National Herb Garden and a garden of historic roses. The arboretum is home to a number of interesting art and garden features as well. These include Corinthian columns once part of the Capitol, a large iron sculpture representing tools, and a koi pond.
Make sure you download the Arboretum’s own app before visiting. It comes packed with maps, plant identifiers, and self-guided tours of the gardens.
15 – Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
After escaping from slavery, Frederick Douglass became an abolitionist and social reformer , and was eventually appointed US Marshal for the District of Columbia – the first Black man ever to take on such a role.
This job allowed him to eventually buy Cedar Hill – which will later become the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site – in 1877, where he lived the rest of his life.
After the purchase, Douglass added a library to the home, which you can tour today to see his original desk and book collection.
The rest of the home – including the parlors, bedrooms, and kitchen wings – can also be visited. Much of Douglass’ original property remains here , including his violin, a coal stove (a rarity for homes at the time), and furniture.
The museum runs educational programs and activities throughout the year, and the grounds of the property are also open for visitors to explore.
16 – Smithsonian American Art Museum
Dedicated to American art in all its forms , this museum holds pieces dating back to Colonial times , as well as a significant collection of 19th and 20th–Century Art .
There’s a significant contribution by both realist and abstract painters – including Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Joseph Stella – as well as a print and photography collection that includes very early daguerreotypes.
A large number of artworks by African American, Asian American, and Latino artists are also on display, and include not only paintings and sculptures but also photography and textiles.
The museum’s Time-Based Media Art Initiative is a unique addition that tracks the power of film, video, and interactive media. Works exhibited include single-channel videos, digital animations, video installations, computer-driven cinema, and even video games.
- American Art Museum tickets
17 – Washington National Cathedral
The world’s sixth-largest Cathedral took over 80 years to build starting in 1907. New carvings and statuary are still being added to complement the building’s Gothic architectural style .
There are presently 112 gargoyles and fantastic animals on the outside of the cathedral. As one of the major cathedrals in the city, it is often used for presidential funerals and memorial services .
Experiencing the cathedral can take many forms. Visitors can just walk around on their own, admiring the vaulted ceilings and colorful stained glass windows , a number of smaller chapels , a High Altar featuring 110 carved figures , and a two-meter statue of President George Washington.
The cathedral offers a rich musical program, which includes organ recitals, choral presentations, and piano concerts.
18 – Capitol Hill
The historic neighborhood of Capitol Hill is home to the U.S. Congress as well as the Library of Congress and the Congressional Cemetery . A stroll down its streets is a great way to see famous landmarks and colorful architecture .
As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington DC , the US Capitol is certainly worth a visit. The Capitol is open for guided tours , which take you to the main rooms, including the Rotunda and the Crypt.
During a tour, you’ll also visit the National Statuary Hall , which holds 35 of the Capitol’s 100 statues collection representing all states. The Senate and House Galleries can also be visited , but they’re not part of the standard tour.
Stop by the Visitor Center to check out temporary exhibits and grab a souvenir after your tour.
- Capitol Hill tours
19 – The Pentagon
Despite being the headquarters of the Department of Defense and one of the most secured buildings in the country, visitors are allowed to tour The Pentagon .
While tours are free , you must request a ticket at least 14 days in advance. As you can expect, there’s high-level security everywhere in the Pentagon so tours only last 60 minutes and are restricted to only certain rooms a guide will take you to.
These include the 9/11 memorial crash site and chapel, as well as the Hall of Heroes. The tour starts at the Visitors Center , which features a gift shop and a copy of the Press Briefing Room podium, where you’re allowed to climb on and take pictures.
If you were hoping for some souvenirs, make sure you grab them here before the tour starts – you won’t be able to return to the starting point later.
20 – Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
Home to the Kenilworth Marsh and a large number of aquatic plants , the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens have also become an attractive refuge for birds, fish, and reptiles . Beavers, deer, and foxes can also be spotted here.
The main attraction here, however, are the water lilies and lotuses that bloom for most of the year except winter, when the ponds are frozen. The park’s historic ponds are home to plants that are over 500 years old .
Visitors can take the trails that cut through the park or reach the Anacostia River for a bigger adventure. In addition to birdwatching, there are also ranger programs and special events held at the park throughout the year.
21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
West Potomac Park is home to many national monuments and landmarks , including the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Because of its location near the Washington Monument, it also benefits from the beauty of the cherry trees lining up the Tidal Basin.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial consists of the Stone of Hope, a 9-meter-tall pink granite statue , as well as two additional pieces of stone behind it.
An additional 140-meter-long feature quotes from some of King’s most memorable speeches and writings. The Stone of Hope itself has an inscription from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech .
22 – National Museum of American History
This Smithsonian Museum offers three floors of exhibit space dedicated to chronicling American history through a massive collection of more than 3 million objects . This includes historical things like Abraham Lincoln’s top hat , Washington’s uniform , and the original 15-stars Star-Spangled Banner flag .
There are also plenty of treasures connected to the country’s cultural and social legacy , including the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and the original Kermit the Frog puppet from The Muppet Show. Other unique holdings include Edison’s first electric incandescent lightbulb and Benjamin Franklin’s original book press.
In addition to the exhibits, visitors to the museum have access to a large number of events , including the History Alive theater program, film screenings, festivals, and special lectures throughout the year.
- National Museum of American History tickets
23 – National Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park ’s main attraction has always been its giant pandas – the first two arrived in 1972. The Asian habitats , where the giant pandas live , also house cloud leopards, otters, red pandas, and sloth bears. All of them live in environments that mimic the animals’ wild habitats .
Other popular exhibits include Amazonia , the American Bison area. And Elephant Trails, which is not only home to Asian elephants but also part of a conservation effort .
Visitors can also check out a gallery of photos and information about the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and its work with endangered species or visit the Smokey Bear exhibit to learn more about wildfires and the story of the real Smokey Bear that once lived at the zoo.
There’s also a carousel, a playground, gift shops, and several food stops around the zoo.
24 – Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Travel through time to experience the story of our planet through the world’s largest natural history collection . The museum’s 145 million specimens cover plant and animal life, human remains, and an important collection of rocks (including meteorites).
Impressive highlights of the collection include one of the largest sapphires in the world (330 carats), 45,000 pieces of meteorites , an 85% complete T. rex fossil skeleton , and human remains that are over 200,000 years old . There’s also a live butterfly pavilion, a hall dedicated to the giants to the ocean, and a Bone Hall featuring thousands of skeletons.
The museum’s newest permanent exhibit is Q?rius , an interactive area where visitors can use microscopes to see unique specimens . There’s also an augmented reality experience available, as well as lectures, workshops, and special events.
- Smithsonian Natural History Museum tickets
25 – Tudor Place Historic House & Garden
The beautiful Tudor Place Historic House & Garden once belonged to Martha Washington’s granddaughter . The house remained in the family for 178 years, until the final owner decided it should become a museum, and by 1960, it had been declared a National Historic Landmark.
The collection now includes many objects that once belonged to Martha and George Washington , including Sèvres porcelain, a camp stool Washington used during the Revolutionary War, silk clothing, and plenty of elegant furniture pieces.
There are also lots of letters in the collection , including one George wrote to Martha to tell her he’d been appointed to lead the Army. The museum also holds over 3,000 textile items , such as dresses, quilts, and rugs.
The grounds around the property feature beautiful European-style formal gardens that visitors can explore.
26 – National Geographic Museum
National Geographic has long been known for supporting scientists and explorers in discovering and protecting the wonders of the world. Their museum in Washington DC has become the perfect showcase for all that research , a place to awaken your curiosity and inspire you.
While there are artifacts and photographs showcased at the National Geographic Museum , the heart of the museum is its interactive learning stations and rotating exhibits .
From first-person narratives of people who have climbed Everest to the world’s best wildlife photographers , and a presentation on the life and work of Jane Goodall, the museum’s ever-changing exhibits focus on the best National Geographic has to offer.
27 – National Gallery of Art & Sculpture Garden
This massive art gallery holds an impressive collection of paintings and drawings, as well as photographs, sculptures, and other types of decorative arts. Some of the work showcased here dates back to the Middle Ages .
The gallery is particularly famous for owning the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the US . Visitors can also see paintings by Raphael, El Greco, Auguste Rodin, and Rembrandt .
The museum is made up of two buildings connected by a moving walkway set in an underground passage.
In 1999, the museum added an outdoor Sculpture Garden to its space to showcase modern works of art. The most stunning examples include a 4.5-meter-tall bronze spider , a set of abstract chair-like structures piled up on top of each other, and Puellae (Girls), a number of headless statues symbolizing totalitarianism.
- National Gallery of Art tickets
28 – John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Dedicated as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy after his assassination , the center offers three main venues (an Opera House, a Concert Hall, and the Eisenhower Theater), as well as a number of smaller spaces and stages. From theater and dance to musicals, ballet, and concerts , the Kennedy Center has something for everybody.
In addition to rotating performances, there are also exhibits, film presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and lectures . The center also has an open-air rooftop terrace with a 360-degrees view over the city and skyline. The terrace is free to access, even for people not attending any performance.
29 – Museum of the Bible
Of the museum’s six floors , three are dedicated to the permanent collection, which includes over 1,500 objects and artifacts . These include biblical papyri, archaeological discoveries from Biblical lands, rare printed Bibles, and many paintings.
The museum also displays many objects on loan from the Vatican, the Israel Antiquities Authority, or other museums .
Stained glass walls containing Bible inscriptions , visual effects using LED lights, and multimedia presentations are used to the narrative to life.
The museum also houses a performing arts theater and a separate gallery space for temporary exhibits.
Visitors can get great views of the US Capitol from the rooftop, as well as visit a Biblical Garden. Here, they’ll find plants mentioned in the Bible, including a Hyssop bush and the Roses of Sharon.
- Museum of the Bible tickets
30 – Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
With over 95 acres of native plant collections , ponds, and over 30 special gardens to discover, the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens has plenty to offer to everybody. It’s easy to get lost here and forget you’re in the city.
Take on the walking trails , stop by to photograph some wildlife , or take a break in one of the garden’s picturesque gazebos . Don’t miss a stroll through the Korean Bell Garden, where a hand-crafted, three-ton bell sits under an ornate pavilion.
There are plenty of things to do here, including discovering the unique Virginia Native Wetland area , filled with aquatic plants and local trees. The garden hosts a special winter walk, where the garden is covered with Christmas-themed lights . There’s also a birding program for birdwatchers and guided nature walks .
31 – National Museum of the American Indian
This Smithsonian Museum is focused on the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas . This includes not only Native Americans from the northern part of the continent, but also Central and South American populations.
The National Museum of the American Indian ‘s collection includes over 800,000 artifacts as well as a large photography archive . Much of that was gathered by American collector George Gustav Heye at the beginning of the 19th century and is now curated with support from tribal communities .
The collection is divided into areas, such as North America, Mexican and Guatemalan Mayan collections, Amazon basin and Brazil , Andes , and more. Because of the large area covered, the collections are extremely varied , including everything from dolls, bags and clothing to household goods, dance costumes, and gold and metal objects.
Temporary exhibits at the museum offer insight into special topics and communities . In the past, they have included a look into treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations , worldviews and philosophies of indigenous peoples, and works from modern time artists.
32 – Washington Union Station
Washington Union Station is both a major transportation hub for trains and a shopping destination . The station opened in 1908 and within a few decades, it was moving over 200,000 passengers a day.
As planes and cars became more popular, the station suffered and at one point closed to the public. When it reopened in 2016 , the Grand Hall – with its magnificent white granite, marble, and gold leaf details – had been restored to all its glory.
The shopping galleries at Washington Union Station offer access to famous brands like Victoria’s Secret and The Body Shop , but also smaller boutique shops. The food court offers quick-meal options such as Subway and Chipotle, but also Chicago-style pizza, great cakes, and gourmet coffee.
33 – Library of Congress
Established in the year 1800, the Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world . It contains over 170 million items in 450 languages in its collection. Impressive examples include a Gutenberg Bible .
The library also holds maps, sound recordings, drawings , over 14 million photos and prints , and even two Stradivarius violins.
While visitors will not be able to touch much of the collection, significant objects like the Gutenberg Bible and a Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map are showcased throughout the Library.
You can also explore the different halls and floors of the library to admire mosaic murals and paintings . The library also organizes concerts, lectures, and other events throughout the year.
- Library of Congress tours
34 – Arts + Industries Building
One of the Smithsonian’s oldest buildings , Arts + Industries Building was also the first one to provide display space for the museum’s collections.
In the late 1800s, it already included many items related to geology, zoology, anthropology, art, and history . Inventions like Edison’s lightbulb and the first telephone were once showcased here as well.
Although the building fell into disrepair over the years, it was eventually reborn as a short-term exhibit space . Renovations and reconstruction are ongoing but the beauty of the red castle-like structure remains very much alive.
Recent exhibits have featured immersive experiences focused on what the future will bring in terms of art and technology, as well as presentations on photography, paintings, and outdoor sculpture.
35 – Thomas Jefferson Memorial
This half-circle neoclassical building officially “opened” in 1943. It was originally the source of much controversy regarding its cost, design, and even its location near the White House.
It was eventually built using white Imperial Danby marble and granite and designed so it’s completely open to the elements and accessible at any time from different directions .
The focal point of the memorial is the almost six-meter-tall statue of Jefferson standing inside the circular colonnade . The walls around it feature quotes from letters, his autobiography, and the Declaration of Independence,
The monument sits right on the Potomac River Tidal Basin. If you visit in early April , the monument is likely to be surrounded by blooming Japanese cherry trees , creating stunning photo opportunities.
36 – Chinatown
Compared to other Chinatowns around the country, this one is relatively small , occupying just about three blocks . Less than 300 Chinese immigrants now live in the area, down from thousands a few decades ago.
At the top of the list of things to do here are photographing the Friendship Archway , which stands 14.5 meters tall and features 284 dragons , trying out the many restaurants (over 20), and visiting the Chinatown Community Cultural Center for Kung Fu, Tai Chi or Chinese lessons.
Although there are many shops, a movie theater, and plenty of nightlife options here, most places aren’t necessarily connected to the original Chinatown and many are part of a chain.
Still worth taking a walk for the great signs and the older buildings, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
37 – Museum of African American
This Smithsonian museum documents African-American history and culture through a massive collection of over 40,000 objects . Notable examples include items from a sunken slave ship , a linen and silk shawl that once belonged to Harriet Tubman, and an original slave cabin from South Carolina rebuilt inside the museum.
The museum also has a railroad car from the Segregation Era (when African-Americans had to ride in separate vehicles). Over the past decade, the collection has expanded to also include more contemporary objects, such as Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and Kobe Bryant’s NBA uniform .
Rotating exhibits explore issues that affect the African-American community, while lectures, presentations, and readings offer insight into history and culture.
The museum’s Sweet Home Café serves food and drinks that have a connection with the culture and history of African-Americans.
- Museum of African American tickets
38 – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The largest Roman Catholic church in the US is 100 meters tall and 140 meters long. Construction on the Basilica of the National Shrine started in 1920 mixing Byzantine and Romanesque elements and finished almost a century later in 2017.
As a result, the building features a number of architectural elements rarely combined into one single church, including Venetian glass, mosaics, iridescent tile, and polished stone carvings .
The church is open 365 days a year for service and for visitors just wanting to stop by. It also offers one-hour guided tours for those wanting to learn more about the art, history, and architecture of the place and to visit the Crypt Level .
39 – National Mall
As Washington DC’s most famous urban park , the National Mall receives millions of visitors every day . The Mall (as affectionately known) is home to some of the most famous museums and monuments in Washington DC.
The National Museum of American History , the National Museum of the American Indian , the National Air and Space Museum , and the Smithsonian Institution Building (“The Castle”) are all located within the park space.
Just outside the National Mall you’ll find the United States Capitol , the Lincoln Memorial , and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial , among many other landmarks.
The park is used as a gathering place during presidential inaugurations , as well as a place for rallies and protests. It was here that Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech .
40 – Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Just steps away from the National Mall, the memorial is a 75-meter long wall constructed using reflective black granite. The name of every service member who lost their lives because of the war is engraved here.
The wall was purposedly built into the ground at uneven heights, and visitors can follow a path along it to read the over 58,000 names on it . The wall is also known as The Wall That Heals, as visitors often come here to grieve for people they’ve lost.
A bronze statue called The Three Servicemen as well as a second 4.5-meter-tall memoria l dedicated to women who served in the war (mostly as nurses) sits nearby.
41 – The Capital Wheel
With a height of 55 meters , Washington DC’s most impressive Ferris wheel offers incomparable views over the city (including the Washington Monument) and nearby Maryland and Virginia.
The Capital Wheel s its at National Harbor, on a pier over the Potomac River, since 2014. It offers 42 climate-controlled passenger gondolas and is decorated with over 1.5 million LED lights , offering a stunning contrast of colors against the sky at night.
There’s even a VIP gondola available that offers luxurious seats, a glass floor, and a photo package.
The pier also offers a carousel and picnic areas for families who want to stay around and enjoy the views after the ride is over.
- The Capital Wheel tickets
42 – Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America
With a floor plan that resembles the Jerusalem cross , the stunning Franciscan Monastery and its manicured gardens are an oasis of peace in hectic Washington DC.
In addition to the Monastery itself, the grounds include 15 chapels and replicas of important shrines and monuments found in the Holy Land. Visitors can attend monthly recitals played in the large Lively-Fulcher organ.
Although you can enjoy the gardens on your own, there are also free tours available between April and September . The tours offer a great opportunity to learn about the plants here, the bee apiaries, the architecture of the monastery, and how the formal gardens came to be.
There are also indoor tours available to discover the Marian chapel and its artwork , as well as the replica of the Lourdes grotto in the garden.
43 – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
As a research and documentation center, the Holocaust Memorial Museum ’s largest collection is its archival documents (over 49 million pages). But the museum also has over 12,000 artifacts and a large number of photographs and hours of footage .
The collections document Nazi-occupied Europe, concentration camps, and the Holocaust , as well as the war crime trials that came after. There are also extensive filmed and written testimonials from survivors and documentation about modern-day Holocaust deniers.
Objects include personal effects, a concentration camp uniform, handwritten diaries, a replica of a Holocaust train boxcar. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits related to genocide in modern times , antisemitic propaganda, and the Nazi’s deadly medicine plan.
44 – Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
American businesswoman and philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post was also a passionate art collector .
During her lifetime, she had a fascination with Russian Imperial Art, especially items belonging to the royal Romanov family. After her death in 1973, her Hillwood Estate home in Washington DC was transformed into a decorative arts museum .
The entire home has been preserved and visitors can tour bedrooms, the library, the breakfast room, and even the kitchen , filled with state-of-the-art appliances. Much of Post’s collection is spread throughout the different rooms.
This includes her large collection of Fabergé eggs, furniture designed by the official cabinetmaker of Marie Antoinette, and plenty of tapestries, large portraits, and Russian Orthodox Church icons.
The grounds of the mansion are also beautiful and worth touring . Her rose garden was created by the same designer who worked on the White House rose garden. There’s also a Japanese garden , a wooden summer house , a greenhouse , and Post’s own pet cemetery.
45 – International Spy Museum
If you’ve ever wondered what’s myth vs reality in the world of espionage, this great museum will both surprise you and educate you.
With about 1,000 objects on display at any given time , the museum tracks the history of spies as far back as the Greek and Roman empires, and through the different wars – f rom the American Revolutionary War to the Cold War .
The galleries throughout the museum showcase the story of some of the most famous spies in history , code-cracking, gadgets and technology used to spy, and information on 21st-century cyber warfare.
Among the highlights of the collection are the Aston Martin DB5 car used in the James Bond movie Goldfinger (1964), a letter written by General George Washington to a potential spy, a 1960s shoe that hides a microphone and transmitter in its heel, and a miniature glove pistol.
The museum also offers interactive stations where visitors can play spies games.
- International Spy Museum tickets
46 – Rock Creek Park
While the National Mall is a well-groomed park in the heart of the city, Rock Creek Park embraces a more “natural” look. There are creeks, trails (for hiking, cycling, and horses) and a nature center here. Visitors can enjoy picnic facilities , an outdoor concert venue , and a gold course .
The 1,754-acre park is also home to the historical Peirce Mill , built in 1829 to grind wheat. It now serves as a museum and visitors can see the mill operating as it once did twice a month during the spring and summer .
The park’s Nature Center and Planetarium serve as a visitors center and also offer a children’s Discovery Room and a bird observation deck . A self-guided, family-friendly interpretive trail leaves from the center as well.
47 – The Phillips Collection
Art collector and critic Duncan Phillips and his wife, Impressionist painter Marjorie Acker Phillips are the reason the Phillips Memorial Gallery came to life.
The over 3,000 collected works were eventually renamed as The Phillips Collection and became the first museum of modern art in the country .
Today, the museum holds paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh . Phillips was a big fan of El Greco and Bonnard , and both are well represented in the collection.
To better honor the works in the collection, the museum often prepares themed exhibits , focusing on things like Picasso’s blue period or the work of a modern artist and its connection to a master like Renoir.
The museum also has a Music Room , in which intimate musical performances and concerts are held every Sunday.
48 – Ford’s Theatre
Ford’s Theatre is infamous for being the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 . He was attending a play when he was shot as part of a conspiracy to kill three important politicians. The other two potential victims, the Secretary of State and the Vice President, didn’t die.
After the assassination, the theater closed and was used as a warehouse for some time. It was eventually renovated –more than once- and since 2009 it works as a theater again , offering plays and musicals.
There’s also a small museum on-site , where visitors can learn more about the assassination conspiracy and Lincoln’s life and work. The presidential box, where Lincoln once sat, is always empty.
49 – Arlington Cemetery
Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring tourist attractions in Washington DC , Arlington Cemetery is dedicated to the memory of more than 400,000 men and women who have served in the US military as far back as the Civil War in the 1860s.
The cemetery now covers 625 acres of rolling green hills and is divided into sections, such as a nurses section and a section for personnel who died fighting the “war on terror” since 2001.
President John F. Kennedy and his family , George Washington , and Army General Abner Doubleday are all buried here.
One of the most important structures within the cemetery is the Tomb on the Unknown Soldier , where unidentified remains of soldiers from different wars are laid to rest. The very large space is guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day .
- Arlington Cemetery tours
50 – National Museum of the Marine Corps
Dedicated to the history of the US Marines , the National Museum of the Marine Corps covers their impact and involvement in different conflicts, from their creation during the American Revolution to the Vietnam war to WWII .
The major wars get their own gallery, where visitors can see aircraft, tanks, and weapons from that time . There are also dioramas, photographs, and documents explaining the combat operations and the Marines involved in some of them.
There’s also a Making Marines gallery showcasing how new recruits become elite warriors , and a Global Expeditionary Force exploring the Marines’ work overseas.
Multi-media exhibits cover topics like the POWs’ experience and listening to a speech from a Drill Instructor. It’s also possible to test your aim using an M-16 laser rifle range.
51 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
While other presidential memorials in Washington DC consist of large buildings and structures, the Roosevelt Memorial consists of four outdoor rooms (to represent his four terms in office) with natural elements.
Located in West Potomac Park , the structures consist of red South Dakota granite, water features including a waterfall and ten bronze sculptures.
The sculptures that are part of the memorial were created to represent the difficult times the country was going through (such as WWII). A number of inscriptions and quotes (some in braille writing) from Roosevelt’s speeches are engraved on the stones .
This is the only presidential memorial that is wheelchair accessible , and it was designed that way because of Roosevelt’s own difficulties walking.
52 – Eastern Market
One of Washington DC’s favorite marketplaces is also one of the oldest – the first version of it opened in 1805 in a different location and it was very active until the Civil War affected the delivery of supplies and the market had to close.
The current Eastern Market opened in 1873 and despite a major fire in 2007, it’s still operating in the same location.
Today, the Eastern Market is particularly popular because of its farmers’ market and it’s a great place to pick up fresh produce, baked goods, and ready-to-eat meals . Plenty of artisans , independent designers , and other arts and craft vendors also set up space here on weekends.
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir , you’ll find everything from crackled stained glass to aromatherapy soaps, photography, and up-cycled art. During the summer, there are often live music and theater performances as well .
53 – Old Town Trolley
Forget buses. The best way to experience Washington DC is to hop aboard an Old Town Trolley for a tour of the city’s best sights . Narrated by experienced live guides, the tour offers insight into the history and culture of the country’s capital.
Regular tours make one stop at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial so you can explore on your own , while other tours bring you to Arlington Cemetery and a number of memorials around the city .
There are also moonlight tours available so you can catch the stunning lights of major landmarks like the Washington Monument and the White House. During summer, some rides are offered in an open-air trolley .
- trolley tour in Washington DC
54 – Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Better known as “the place where dollars are printed,” the Bureau of Engraving and Printing also produces other financial products for the government, including treasure securities , special security documents , and, until very recently in 2011, even postal stamps .
Visitors taking a tour here will be able to walk along a glass gallery and look down into the production floor , where money is always being printed.
The tour also explains the meaning of all the numbers and codes printed on dollars, plus the science used to avoid counterfeiting . You’ll even get to see how money is destroyed when removed from circulation.
Small exhibits along the way show you how currency has changed in the past 100 years . The museum’s gift shop offers fun money-inspired souvenirs.
55 – The Mansion on O Street
The Mansion on O Street is part hotel, part event venue, part museum . It was originally created in 1892 by connecting three-row houses and eventually expanded to include two additional properties. The result is a massive 2800-square-meter historical building with over 100 rooms and 30 spaces for special events.
In addition, annexing the properties resulted in a number of hidden doors and secret passages that visitors can discover through the many special tours available .
For the ultimate experience, nothing beats their special Night at the Museum tour , which includes an overnight stay , a chance to explore all the hidden spaces of the mansion, and access to the private outdoor gardens .
Other tours take you to special hotel rooms where everything you see is for sale, treasure hunts, champagne tours, and family fun nights.
The mansion also functions as a museum, with over 15,000 pieces of art showcased throughout the different rooms. There is a large collection of signed Gibson guitars, original drawings by John Lennon, Mexican indigenous arts and crafts, and rare books and manuscripts.
56 – Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Located on a massive 117 acres, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts actually consists of several venues . The main space – which can sit about 7,000 people – is the Filene Center, a stunning indoor/outdoor space that offers performances every day between May and September .
Major acts like Riverdance and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra have performed here , but the stage also hosts jazz, country music, and other performances.
The park is also home to the Children’s Theatre in the Woods , which focuses on family-friendly shows – including musicals, puppetry, and dance – all summer.
The park also offers two trails – 2.5 and 4km – that cut through woodland and wetland areas and offer learning stations along the way.
57 – National Archives Museum
The National Archives Museum is the depository of the most important American historical documents . The three more important ones – all displayed to the public – are the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights .
Visitors can also see Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and many historical photographs connected to the events around these documents.
One-hour docent-led guided tours to see these and other documents are possible once a day. You can also reserve a ticket for a self-guided tour of the five exhibition galleries , including the Rubenstein Gallery (which holds a 1297 Magna Carta) and a permanent exhibit on the women’s right to vote in the O’Brien Gallery.
The National Archives Museum also organizes special events and exhibits throughout the year .
- National Archives Museum tickets
58 – President Lincoln’s Cottage
President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument once served as Lincoln’s second home , where he would escape to when he needed time to make nation-changing decisions. Built in 1842, the cottage sits on 251 acres and is open to visitors all year long .
A replica of the desk Lincoln used when writing the Gettysburg Address is located here (the original is in the White House). Visitors will also be able to see Lincoln’s “carpet slippers” (which he usually wore at home instead of shoes) as well as historical photographs of the property.
Special tours of the gardens, featured exhibits on grief and loss (Lincoln lost a young son), and many special events are held here throughout the year .
59 – National Museum of Women in the Arts
Housed in an old Masonic Temple , the National Museum of Women in the Arts is dedicated to celebrating the artistic work of women from past and present .
Paintings constitute the larger part of the collection, including works by Frida Kahlo and 18th-century French portrait painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.
The museum also holds a collection of limited-edition artists’ books, photography, botanical prints, and decorative art . There are plenty of temporary exhibits too celebrating mixed-media sculptors, textile artists, and even food as a creative medium.
Much of the current focus, including programs and online content, is on contemporary women artists and their impact on the world around them.
60 – Torpedo Factory Art Center
The artists at the Center include painters, photographers, printmakers, and sculptors . There are also artists working with enamel, stained glass, and original fiber art.
Visitors can stop by the studios or attend ongoing exhibits , all of which offer opportunities to take home an original piece of art. Every March, the Center also hosts its annual Special Exhibition and Art Sale , where you’ll have access to unique items at discounted prices.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best tourist attractions in Washington DC. If you need help finding the perfect accommodation, check out the best hotels in Washington DC and pick your favorite one. Make sure you also book an airport transfer in advance so you can avoid the taxi lines.
As always, happy travels!
Must-See Attractions in Washington DC
The number of historic buildings and monuments in Washington DC can be overwhelming, with the US Capitol and the Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials just three of many classic places to see in the US capital city. Worried you might miss something? Here’s our guide to the must-see attractions in Washington DC.
View all trips.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips , compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips .
Looking for an expert's perspective.
Back to map, southamerica.
Seductive Southern Italy
Edinburgh And The Scottish Highlands By Train
Complete Portugal By Train
Soulful South Korea
1. south korea.
Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam
Secrets Of Sri Lanka By Train
3. sri lanka.
Washington monument and the national mall.
The National Mall is the most recognizable area of the city, highlighted by the 555ft (169m) tall Washington Monument in the center. Take the elevator and whizz up to the observation deck at 500ft in just over a minute for the best views in the city. Then, as you make your way down the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, stop at the Lockkeeper’s House, which dates from 1833 and was picked up and moved to its current location as part of renovations in 2017.
Become a Culture Tripper!
Sign up to our newsletter to save up to 800$ on our unique trips..
Take a guided tour of the legendary building that houses the American legislature. The US Capitol Visitor Center has a ton of information about the operations and history of this house of government . You can see the suffrage banners used in the fight for women’s right to vote on display in Emancipation Hall, along with an iron table used in President Lincoln’s second inauguration, made with metal left over from the construction of the Capitol Dome. Head to the visitor center to see how each state is represented by a statue of a notable person.
Library of Congress
Library The largest library in the world, the Library of Congress houses more than 170m items. It is also the oldest federal cultural institution in the US and is spread across three buildings, the Thomas Jefferson Building and neighboring James Madison Memorial and John Adams buildings, on the library’s Capitol Hill campus. Regular events explore the vast collection, including the National Book Festival, which features everything from author readings and debates to cookbook demonstrations.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Memorial, Museum Adjacent to the National Mall, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum provides somber and deep documentation and interpretation of the Holocaust in Europe. There is a permanent exhibition providing a narrative history, including personal stories and objects, plus footage from the period. The museum also examines the American responses to Nazism and puts the genocide in the context of the civil rights struggle in America at that time.
Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court decisions impact the lives of people both in the US and around the world. See the judges in action when the courthouse is open from Monday to Wednesday between October and April, when you can get a free spot to watch a case being argued (arrive early). Visitors can also attend a free lecture about the history of the building and the proceedings of the court.
Georgetown and the Waterfront
The Georgetown neighborhood, founded in 1751, has the oldest European-style home in DC – the appropriately named The Old Stone House built in 1765 – and Georgetown University. Movie fans can get a picture with The Exorcist steps at the corner of Prospect Street and 36th Street NW, used to film the death of the character Father Damien Karras in the 1973 horror. Once you’ve relived the gory scene, stroll through the Georgetown streets, filled with shopping destinations and restaurants, then head to the Georgetown Waterfront to enjoy a meal at one of the dining venues overlooking the Potomac River. Wander off the main area to see some of the most expensive real estate in the city, or take a hike along the leafy Capital Crescent Trail, which follows the river.
The neoclassical Lincoln Memorial is a tribute to the 16th American president; it’s best seen at night, when the columns and Abraham Lincoln statue are lit up. Lincoln led the US through the American Civil War, keeping the north and south states together and eventually abolishing slavery. His statue was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French to represent its subject’s leadership qualities – one hand is in a fist, representing strength and determination, and the other is more open, representing compassion. Found at the western end of the National Mall, the views from the memorial alone make it one of the most spectacular places to visit in Washington DC. Walk around all sides to get the perfect shot.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Building, Memorial With marble steps and iconic columns, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a smaller version of the Roman Pantheon, and its interior walls contain inscriptions from the Declaration of Independence, of which Jefferson was the main author. Like many historical figures, the third president of the US is complicated, having owned enslaved people while also advocating for their gradual emancipation during the 1700s. It’s perhaps best to visit the memorial during the cherry blossom season in spring, but still a worthy stop any other time.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Take a look at historic aircraft and space vehicles including the Apollo Space Module at the most out-of-this-world attraction in Washington DC. As well as the big-ticket exhibits (a Space Shuttle Discovery model, a Mercury Capsule, the Lunar Module LM-2, rockets and space suits) you can see how a space toilet looks and peer through a giant telescope.
National Gallery of Art
Art Gallery, Building Browse through the National Gallery of Art exhibits, featuring pieces from numerous countries, artists and eras. There is also a sculpture garden with 21 contemporary pieces – handy if you have little ones who need to let off some steam outside. Go to the rooftop for a fabulous view of the Capitol, and take the tunnel between the East and West Buildings, which is lit up with Leo Villareal’s moving light show installation.
The Kennedy Center
Visit The Kennedy Center, a performance arts space, to see a free show (daily at 6pm) or another current performance, and stop by the rooftop terrace for DC views. Inside the rather formidable building on the Potomac River are several stages include an opera house and a concert hall, which present the best in music, dance, theater, international and children’s programs. The center was opened as a memorial to President John F Kennedy in 1971.
World War II Memorial
Memorial Flanked by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial pays tribute to the 16m people who served in the US Armed Forces during the war, including those who were killed and those who served at home. It also recognizes the victory of the Allies. One of the newer memorials in the city, it opened in 2004 and is designed around an oval plaza. Scenes from the war are rendered in bronze, including the physical exams undergone by servicemen and members of the American and Russian armies shaking hands at the end of the conflict.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial pays tribute to the best-known civil rights movement leader. The stone sculpture of the social activist and Baptist minister includes a number of his quotes engraved in the memorial, including: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Find the sculpture at 1964 Independence Avenue SW – a reference to the year the Civil Rights Act became law.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Diner, American, $$
No trip to DC is complete without the renowned half-smoke at the original location of Ben’s Chili Bowl. Founded in 1958, the restaurant is a celebrity favorite, and was the place DC mayor Adrian Fenty took president-elect Barack Obama in 2009 to welcome him to the city. To add extra oomph to your half-smoke, order it as a “chili half-smoke” and it will be smothered in chili and topped with onions and mustard. Before founders Ben Ali and Virginia Rollins opened the restaurant, it was the first silent movie theater in DC, the Minnehaha.
US National Arboretum
Park Commune with nature at the US National Arboretum, which houses multiple gardens, a gorgeous bonsai exhibit, a koi pond and original columns from the Capitol building. Bald eagles have been known to nest at the park – the pair that set up home there in 2014 were known as Mr President and The First Lady. Away from the tourist crowds, this is on many a local’s list of what to do in Washington DC – pack a picnic if it’s a lovely day outside.
Cathedral This gothic-style cathedral is a majestic building decorated with more than 200 gargoyles and grotesques – look out for the Darth Vader sculpture, which was carved following a competition for kids in the 1980s. The cathedral also features more than 200 stained-glass windows, mosaics, artistic metal work, wood carvings and more. This is where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final Sunday sermon in 1968, a few days before his assassination on April 4.
Arlington National Cemetery
The final resting place for thousands of service men and women, the Arlington National Cemetery is home to the graves of President Kennedy; the astronauts on board the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded just after take-off in 1986; and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which has had an uninterrupted guard since 1937. The white headstones that seem to stretch to the horizon are a striking and somber tribute. Part of the cemetery was formerly Freedman’s Village, a community of previously enslaved people, and one of its oldest sections contains the remains of thousands of African-Americans, including freed people and those who served in the United States Colored Troops.
Where to Stay
Looking for a place to stay in Washington DC? Check out our guide to where to book a stay in Washington DC for a local experience.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
Meet our local insider.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
What do you love about your job, it's the personal contact, the personal experiences. i love meeting people from all over the world... i really like getting to know everyone and feeling like i'm traveling with a group of friends., what destination is on your travel bucket-list, i have so many places on my list, but i would really lobe to go to africa. i consider myself an “adventure girl” and africa feels like the ultimate adventure.
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
See Our Culture Trips
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.
Places to Stay
The best hotels to book near the smithsonian museums.
The Best Hotels to Book Near the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington DC
The Best Hotels to Book Near the National Mall
The Best Hotels to Book Near the White House
The Best Hotels to Book Near the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Best Hotels to Book Near the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
The Best Hotels to Book near Washington Union Station
The Best Hotels With a Balcony in Washington DC
The Best Hotels with a Pool in Washington DC
Hip Rental Apartments in Washington DC, USA, You'll Want to Call Home
The Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in Washington DC
The Most Famous & Historic Hotels to Book in Washington DC, USA
Black Friday Offers on Our Trips
- Post ID: 1286547
- Sponsored? No
- View Payload
All Things to Do
Find the best things to do in Washington, DC
100+ Free Things to Do
Take advantage of Washington, DC’s numerous free events, museums, to...
70+ Things to Do This November in Washington, DC
Enjoy the winter wonderland that is DC with events like the Double E...
Things to Do This Weekend in Washington, DC
Our end-of-the-week picks for Nov. 24-26
Where to Find the Most Colorful Street Murals in Washington, DC
Vibrant street art adds color to DC in any season.
Arlington National Cemetery Tours
Arlington National Cemetery is an enduring tribute to those who have dedicated their lives to defending the ideals of our nation
National Children's Museum
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps: Enter and experience what it means to be a Marine.
National Museum of the American Indian
Visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
National Postal Museum
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum is devoted to the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcases the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world
Old Town Trolley Tours
SEE THE BEST FIRST
Planet Word Museum
Language is what makes us human.
Ronald Reagan Building and International...
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Penn Quarter & Chinatown
VIDA Fitness Gallery Place
Located in the heart of the Chinatown/ Penn Quarter and includes over 25,000 square feet, the Fuel Bar, Bang Salon, and full-service locker rooms.
U.S. Navy Memorial
The United States Navy Memorial
Tom's Watch Bar Navy Yard
Tom’s Watch Bar defines the ultimate sports watching entertainment experience. Promising “All the Sports, all the Time”
Allegory @ Eaton Hotel
Inspired by timeless salons and press clubs, this moody speakeasy offers clever cocktails.
DC's highest rated walking tour company - plus the tours are free to join! DC by Foot presents pay-what-you-like walking tours of Washington, DC - also offering food, bike and bus tours
Visit Howard County
A feast for foodies awaits at trendy farm-2-table bistros, elegant restaurant restaurants, cozy taverns and stylish wine bars
L'Enfant Plaza is a newly renovated and expanded restaurant and shopping destination conveniently located just two blocks south of the National Mall's Smithsonian Castle in Southwest Washington, D.C.
National Museum of Asian Art
The National Museum of Asian Art is dedicated to advancing public knowledge about the arts and cultures of Asia through exhibitions, publications, research and education.
Touropia Travel Experts
Tours & Top Tens
25 Top Tourist Attractions in Washington D.C.
Last updated on November 3, 2023 by Carl Austin and Alex Schultz - Leave a Comment
The capital city of the United States, Washington D.C. is fittingly packed with incredible things for you to see and do. Aside from being home to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government, it has dozens of world-class museums, while countless marble-clad monuments and memorials are situated along the National Mall.
A federal district of its own, the vibrant metropolis lies along the east bank of the Potomac River, sandwiched in between Virginia and Maryland. While the rest of the city is well worth a look due to its thriving dining and nightlife scenes, most people simply head straight to the National Mall, which is where almost all its top tourist attractions in Washington D.C. can be found.
This is because the lush, green parkland is not only bordered by both the White House and Capitol Building but contains the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and numerous Smithsonian museums too.
In this post, we'll cover:
25. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Not far from both the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial you can find the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. One of the best places in all of D.C. to watch a show, the state-of-the-art venue hosts more than 2000 performances each year, ranging from ballet and opera to concerts, plays and dance shows.
First opened in 1971, the huge cultural center is named after the former president and lies alongside the Potomac River. Besides an elegant Opera House and Concert Hall, the campus encompasses the refined Eisenhower Theater, as well as several other smaller venues. In addition, there are also some brilliant restaurants and rooftop terraces to try out.
24. International Spy Museum
One of the most fun things to do in Washington D.C., the International Spy Museum unveils the techniques and technologies used by spies throughout the ages. Set just south of the Smithsonian Castle, its galleries are packed with interactive exhibits, artifacts and even equipment that cover thousands of years of espionage’s hidden history.
A firm favorite with both adults and children alike, the museum was founded in 2002 and is now located at L’Enfant Plaza. While exploring the world’s largest collection of international espionage artifacts you’ll not only see concealed cameras and weapons but ingenious gadgets and disguises too. Guests can also crack codes and try out their spying skills, while fantastic photos and displays teach you all about important spies, scientists and covert missions.
23. Arlington National Cemetery
Another of the most popular and picturesque places to explore around DC is the atmospheric Arlington National Cemetery . Established during the American Civil War, it is now the final resting place for many of the most revered military veterans and influential figures from throughout the United States’ past.
Situated just across the Potomac River, the lush, green graveyard and its amazing monuments and memorials overlook the city from a prominent hillside. While many go to pay their respects at JFK’s grave, other people instead head to the moving Iwo Jima Memorial or grand Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Aside from ambling past rows and rows of well-maintained graves, you can also stop by the attractive Arlington House or peek into the Pentagon next door.
22. Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Boasting an incredible selection of exotic animals, birds and reptiles, the superb Smithsonian’s National Zoo can be found just fifteen minutes’ drive north of downtown. Sprawled across a huge area, its spacious enclosures and exhibits are home to everything from orangutans and elephants to gorillas, giant pandas and komodo dragons.
One of the oldest and most prestigious zoos in the States, it was founded in 1889 and is very highly thought of for its excellent research and conservation work. In total, it now impressively contains over 2,700 animals that represent more than 390 species from as far afield as Africa, Asia and South America. On top of this, interesting talks and live demonstrations constantly take place in the zoo.
21. United States Botanic Garden
Right next to the majestic Capitol Building is another very pleasant outdoor space for you to enjoy: the United States Botanic Garden. Lovingly landscaped, its gorgeous grounds and gleaming glass conservatory are a treat to stroll around with pretty plants, flowers, trees and shrubs wherever you look.
The oldest continually-operating botanic garden in the country, it was first established in 1820 with exquisitely manicured lawns and colorful flower beds found next to lovely water features and fountains. Inside the conservatory are scenic sections dedicated to desert plants and orchids, jungle species and primeval trees with marvelous Mediterranean and medicinal areas also on show.
20. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
One of the many must-see monuments in D.C. is the striking statue that makes up the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Dedicated to the inspirational leader of the Civil Rights Movement, it lies at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin, just off of the National Mall.
Only erected in 2011, the 30-foot memorial is inscribed with motivational and moving quotes from King’s speeches and sermons. Thanks to its powerful symbolism, beautiful design and the profound impact that he had on the country, the magnificent monument is now a popular spot to visit and photo with countless other memorials also lying nearby.
19. National Archives Museum
Situated on the north side of the National Mall you can find the National Archives Museum which is home to some of the nation’s most important documents. Sure to delight history aficionados, it contains not only the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution but the Bill of Rights too.
Built in 1933, the imposing building features exquisite architecture with a fantastic facade fronting the renowned and resplendent rotunda within. Here you can examine the Charters of Freedom before moving on to other equally interesting chambers that display the Emancipation Proclamation, Louisiana Purchase Treaty and an original Magna Carta dating to 1297.
18. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Set on the southwestern side of the Tidal Basin is yet another monument that is well worth checking out when in town: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Dedicated to the 32nd President of the United States, its four outdoor ‘rooms’ represent each of Roosevelt’s terms in office, highlighting the considerable challenges both he and the country faced in the thirties and forties.
Water features prominently throughout the various outdoor areas of the memorial with a single large drop and cascading waterfalls symbolizing the Great Depression and World War II. Dotted about the tranquil gardens are stones engraved with his speeches and sayings and stunning sculptures of the President in his wheelchair, the First Lady and their dog Fala.
17. World War II Memorial
One of the most prominent and popular parts of the National Mall after the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is the massive and impressive World War II Memorial. Located at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, it commemorates the Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII and the civilians who supported them on the homefront.
Surrounding an oval plaza and fountain are granite pillars that represent each state and US overseas territory and two triumphal arches for the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In addition to snapping some photos of iconic scenes of the war experience etched on bas reliefs you can also pay your respects at the Freedom Wall, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives during the war.
16. National Portrait Gallery
While it is most known for hosting images of every previous president, the National Portrait Gallery also contains countless other portraits, paintings and photos of notable American citizens. Housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building, its enticing exhibits and artworks can be found just a short walk north of the National Mall.
Established in 1962, the exceptional art museum now boasts a large collection of some 23,000 items including drawings, statues and engravings. While wandering around its light and airy galleries you can see amazing depictions of everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama to Frida Kahlo, Benjamin Franklin and Pocahontas with temporary exhibitions and talks also regularly taking place.
15. National Museum of African American History & Culture
The latest addition to the Smithsonian’s many institutions is the superb National Museum of African American History & Culture. Opened in 2016 on the National Mall, its extensive array of artifacts, artworks and audio installations shine a light on the cultures and communities of African-Americans in the country and the colossal challenges they have faced over the centuries.
The only national museum of its kind in the US, its interesting and interactive exhibitions focus on diverse themes like African craftsmanship, the breakdown of segregation and the fight for equality. Aside from seeing items owned by famous figures such as Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner, you can also enjoy the astonishing architecture of the building which is based on the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art.
14. National Gallery of Art
As it is widely considered to be one of the best museums in the States, the National Gallery of Art is definitely not to be missed when in D.C. Packed with incredible paintings and photos, sculptures and prints, it showcases masterpieces by everyone from Raphael and Rembrandt to Monet, Picasso and van Gogh.
Founded in 1937 on the National Mall, the museum consists of the neoclassical West Building, the strikingly modern East Building and a gorgeous outdoor sculpture garden. Each focuses on various artistic mediums and epochs covering not only modern and contemporary artworks but the medieval period too with astounding pieces by European masters and American artists featuring throughout.
13. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
A very sobering yet important place to visit, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is set just south of the National Mall. Home to thousands of historic artifacts, photos and oral testimonies, it educates people on the atrocities committed during WWII, confronts genocide and antisemitism and remembers the survivors and victims of the Holocaust.
As soon as you enter the museum you are immediately confronted by the past as you are handed an identification card of an actual person who experienced the Holocaust. While wandering through its well-designed galleries full of shocking images and original artifacts, visitors learn about everything from Hitler’s rise to power and Aryan ideology to the horrors of Kristallnacht, ghettos and the Final Solution. Particularly moving parts are its Tower of Faces and candle-lit Hall of Remembrance.
12. Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials
Yet further thought-provoking and powerful spots for visitors to stop by are the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials. Located not far from one another, their striking statues, plaques and memorial walls can be found towards the western end of the National Mall.
One of the most visited monuments in DC, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a black granite wall emblazoned with the names of the fallen for you to walk along, as well as a Women’s Memorial and a bronze sculpture called The Three Servicemen. Equally impressive and emotive is the memorial to the Korean War Veterans that features stunning statues of a platoon on patrol and a peaceful Pool of Remembrance where you can pay your respects.
11. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Another of the biggest and best museums in not just D.C. and the States but the world is the excellent Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Lying along the National Mall, its almost endless galleries are crammed with awe-inspiring artifacts, exhibits and specimens that look at everything from Ancient Egypt and Korean culture to dinosaurs, epidemics and meteorites.
A firm favorite with families, the massive museum is a delight to explore with its collection now numbering a whopping 145 million items in total. Asides from seeing replicas of giant whales and skeletons of triceratops, you can also watch tarantulas be fed in the Insect Zoo, wander through the colorful butterfly pavilion or catch a show in its IMAX theater.
10. Washington National Cathedral
The U.S. government likes to separate church and state, so it doesn’t have a formal national cathedral, but if it had one, it would have to be the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, which is considered the spiritual home of this nation.
More commonly known as Washington National Cathedral, this Neo-Gothic structure is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford were held here. Worship services are free, but admission is charged to tour the rest of the cathedral.
9. Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is today the largest library in the world. But it had more humble beginnings, being founded in 1800 to house early documents of the United States that were transferred from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. For the first 100 years, it was mainly a reference library for Congress, but today is home to 158 million items that include 36 million books in 460 languages and 69 million manuscripts.
It has the largest collection of rare books in North America. The library is open to the public, but potential users are asked to check the library’s list of holdings on online before they come to make research materials more easily findable when they arrive. The main reading room is known as the Sacred Room, and is absolutely stunning.
8. Georgetown Neighborhood
Georgetown is an historic district that was established in Maryland decades before the U.S. government was established in Washington, D.C. It became part of the nation’s capital when Congress created the District of Columbia in 1871. Today Georgetown is a trendy place to live, work and play. It is home to a top university, several embassies and the Old Stone House, the oldest unchanged building in D.C.
Located in northwest Washington, D.C., the area has served as home to such notables as Thomas Jefferson, when he was vice president of the United States; Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner following a War of 1812 battle; and John F. Kennedy, who left his home there to move into the White House.
7. National Air and Space Museum
Visitors don’t have to be kids to be fascinated by the National Air and Space Museum. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Air and Space Museum offers plenty of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, from eight to 80. The museum is a treasure trove about America’s air and space programs.
Exhibits include everything from the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Apollo 11 moon-landing expedition to exhibits on how scientists are exploring space today. The best part? Admission to the basic museum is free, though fees charged may be charged for features such as IMAX.
6. Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to the US’ third president, Thomas Jefferson, and incorporates many of his thoughts on architecture. Its formal style resembles the Pantheon in Rome. This design created a controversy because some felt it looked too much like the Lincoln Memorial. The debate was settled by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone in 1939.
Located on the National Mall, it features a statue of Jefferson looking toward the White House, and is intended to memorialize Jefferson’s views as a statesman and philosopher. Because Japanese cherry trees had to be torn down for the memorial, it now hosts Washington’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
5. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is a stunning tribute to the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated as he attended a theatre performance. A mammoth statue of the seated president is surrounded by a Greek Doric style temple. The memorial was dedicated in 1922, with Lincoln’s last surviving son, Robert Todd, in attendance.
Located at the west end of the National Mall, the memorial is where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. It also has been featured in several movies ranging from 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Nixon to an episode of the Simpsons. The memorial is open 24 hours a day, with National Park rangers on hand from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
4. Washington Monument
One of the most distinctive and defining landmarks in DC, the brilliantly bright white Washington Monument rises dramatically above the National Mall below. Towering 555 feet in height, the enormous obelisk commemorates the First President of the United States and his significant military achievements during the American Revolutionary War.
The tallest monument column in the world, it makes for a stupendous sight as it looms above the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. Besides taking photos of the majestic marble structure, you can also take a trip up to its lofty observation deck. From here you can enjoy simply phenomenal views over many of the city’s most important and impressive monuments, museums and memorials.
3. United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is where Congress meets. Sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives are open to the public when the bodies are in session. Visitors need free passes, which can be obtained from their congressmen’s office. At the same time, they can also get passes to tour the Capitol building, as guided tours do not include visiting legislators in action.
The Capitol was one of the first buildings constructed by the fledgling U.S. government following the Revolutionary War. Construction began in 1793, with legislators meeting there for the first time in 1800. Central to the Capitol building is the rotunda, which lies under the dome. This is where honored citizens, such as presidents, lie in state.
2. White House
The White House serves many purposes. It is where the President works and lives with his family. It is also the symbol of the United States to the rest of the world. It is where the President officially meets with leaders of foreign nations and hosts them at state dinners.
The site for the White House was selected by George Washington, first president of this new nation, but President John Adams was the first to live in it. It was burned by the British during the War of 1812, but later reconstructed. Self-guided tours are available for visitors who plan ahead. They must request a tour through their congressman’s office 21 days to six months in advance.
1. National Mall
Visitors to Washington, D.C., won’t want to miss a stroll on the National Mall, a greenway that will take them past many of the capital’s important sites. Located downtown, the National Mall stretches on the west from the US Capitol building to the Potomac River and on the east from the Jefferson Memorial to Constitution Avenue.
Across the streets from the mall, but still considered part of it, are a variety of Smithsonian museums and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To the east, nearby attractions include memorials to Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James Garfield, and the Reflecting Pool. With about 24 million visitors a year, it is the top tourist attraction in Washington.
Map of Tourist Attractions in Washington DC
Share this post:
25 Best Places to Visit in the USA
25 Top Tourist Attractions in the USA
5 Beautiful Southwest States
25 Most Beautiful Places in America
7 Beautiful Mid-Atlantic States
10 Best States to Visit in the USA
12 Beautiful Midwest States
23 Most Beautiful Islands in the US
12 Most Beautiful Regions of the United States
6 Beautiful New England States
Reader interactions, leave a reply cancel reply.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Awesome, you're subscribed!
Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!
The best things in life are free.
Sign up for our email to enjoy your city without spending a thing (as well as some options when you’re feeling flush).
Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?
Love the mag?
Our newsletter hand-delivers the best bits to your inbox. Sign up to unlock our digital magazines and also receive the latest news, events, offers and partner promotions.
- Things to Do
- Los Angeles
Get us in your inbox
🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!
The 40 best things to do in Washington, D.C.
The best things to do in Washington, D.C. range from amazing art and historic museums to a free zoo and outdoor activities
Ah, Washington , D.C. is known for its politics, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, visiting the White House is a worthy trip in itself, but Washington, D.C. has so much to offer, you’d be crazy not to check it all out. Visitors flock to the capital to see cherry blossom at Tidal Basin, and to celebrate July 4th at the National Mall, but there’s a ton of great things to do all year round.
Washington is home to some great museums , from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to the National Geographic, and it's rich with great parks and art. Oh, and you won’t be stuck for a snack, as Washington’s food offerings are second to none, from street food markets to wine bars and small plates. And if all you want to do is see the Great Outdoors, it’s got that too, by the bucketload. Here are the top things to do in Washington, D.C. this year.
RECOMMENDED: 👪 The best things to do in Washington D.C. with kids 🌿 The best cannabis dispensaries in D.C. 🧳 The best day trips from D.C. to get away from it all 🍺 The best bars in D.C ., from dive bars to craft beer 🍽️ The best restaurants in D.C. right now 🏘️ The best Airbnbs in Washington D.C .
An email you’ll actually love
Best things to do in Washington, DC
1. Rock Creek Park
- Things to do
What is it? Rock Creek Park is a 1,754 acre green space at the heart of Washington, which has been around since the 1800s. A little slice of peace in the buzzing capital.
Why go? The park is home to a ton of biking and walking trails (over 32 miles of them, in fact), and there’s a lot of history to be discovered through its colonial houses and working mills. Plus you can book onto a ranger-led history, nature, or stars and planets program.
2. Rose's Luxury
- Capitol Hill
What is it? An iconic restaurant Aaron Silverman on Barracks Row with a Michelin star. Think small plates, pastas and cocktails you’ll remember forever.
Why go? Always five stars from us at Time Out, Rose’s Luxury has been serving up some of the best food and coolest vibes in Washington since 2013, and has since become a staple for tourists and locals alike. The queue is so long, you can order a drink while you wait. But it’s all part of the experience.
3. Le Diplomate
- Logan Circle
What is it? This hopping French restaurant cost over $6 million to build, and it shows.
Why go? Le Diplomate both looks and feels like you’re in Europe: The floors have the perfect squeak, the bread baskets overflow and the burger comes with a miniature French flag staked on top. If you want to be the envy of all your dinner mates (and you’ve got money to burn), order a signature seafood tower which comes filled to the brim with glistening crustaceans of all sorts. All in all, it's a homage to arguably one of the best cuisines in the world. Bon appetit .
4. Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
- Art and design
What is it? A brutal beauty on Indepndence Avenue, boasting a wealth of modern art.
Why go? This spectacular cylindrical building by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was completed in 1974 to house self-made Wall Street millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture. Today it still aoperates as such, but it's open to all and new pieces continue to be added. There is an impressive selection of Giacometti pieces to see, as well as a pair of Willem de Kooning’s rare 'door paintings'. A particular highlight is Yoko Ono's 'A Wish Tree for Washington, D.C.', the branches of which you're encouraged to whisper your secrets and desires to.
Explore the National Mall.
5. Eastern Market
- Markets and fairs
What is it? Although it's been a bustling commercial district for centuries, today this area is one of the most popular places in the city to go out for a drink or a bite to eat.
Why go? Also known as Barracks Row for its proximity to the Marine Barracks, Eighth Street SE in the Eastern Market neighborhood boasts plenty of restaurants. Winners include nostalgic diner Ted's Bulletin , pizza joint Matchbox and Mediterranean restaurant/wine bar Cava Mezze .
6. Smithsonian's National Zoo
- Zoo and aquariums
- Woodley Park
What is it? A free zoo that's open all year round.
Why go? Affordable outings that are fun for all the family don't get much better than the National Zoo. Exhibits include 1,500 animals, ranging from rare pandas to giant salamanders via elephant trails and lounging lions. Currently, free entry passes are required.
7. National Gallery of Art
- National Mall
What is it? Now is a better time than ever to visit the National Gallery of Art, the gargantuan museum located smack-dab on the National Mall.
Why go? Following an extensive renovation to the East Building, the museum showcases an impressive collection of modern art, including Katharina Fritsch’s playful Hahn/Cock —a gigantic royal blue rooster perched on the roof. There are countless other notable works of art, including a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh from 1889. The gallery is also home to various special installations, some permanent, some touring.
Take a DC trolley tour.
8. National Cherry Blossom Festival
What is it? The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival , which was first celebrated in 1935, celebrates the change of seasons and the beauty of the cherry blossoms (not to mention Japanese-American friendship).
Why go? Nothing says spring in DC like the appearance of the cherry blossoms along the Potomac. The trees, which were planted in 1912 as a gift from the people of Japan to those of the United States, are virtually venerated by DC visitors and residents alike as a symbol of spring’s imminent arrival. You can also enjoy cherry blossom tours – some of which give you a beautiful view of the blossoms from the relaxing luxury of a cruiseship.
9. Meridian Hill Park
- Parks and gardens
What is it? Head to Columbia Heights to find this 12-acre park positioned due north of the White House along the longitudinal meridian of D.C.
Why go? The Park is filled with sculptures and memorials, including statues of Joan of Arc, Dante and James Buchanan, the 15th US President. Pack a picnic and hang out in front of the Cascading Waterfall in the formal garden, or visit the upper mall area, where concerts and events are often staged.
10. Compass Rose
What is it? This woman-owned and run restaurant off 14th Street is known for its worldly dishes, including khachapuri.
Why go? Though you might not be able to pronounce it, you’ll be glad you tried this Georgian (the country) delicacy made from bread, melted cheese, butter and a raw egg. Inspired by her travels, owner Rose Previte cherry picked her favorite meals abroad and serves them in one place. Sunday brunch promises shakshuka, a can’t-miss dish made from tomato sauce, onions, egg and cheese.
11. Busboys & Poets
- U Street Corridor
What is it? Busboys & Poets is more than just a place to get lunch or have a coffee—it's a gathering place for the community.
Why go? Owner Anas "Andy" Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and restaurateur, opened the flagship venue in 2005 and it swiftly became a hub for DC progressives, including many anti-Iraq War activists. Today, Busboys & Poets has expanded to six DC locations, all of which host events such as open mic nights and exhibit art by local, national and international artists.
12. Mansion on O Street
- Dupont Circle
What is it? One of DC's quirkiest luxury boutique hotels, the Mansion on O Street stands out for its eccentric decor and interior layout, which includes 32 secret doors.
Why go? The Mansion has a storied history, including a period during the 1930s in which it was used as rooming houses for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's G-men. Today, the Mansion is open to the public for tours, dining and shopping.
13. Toki Underground
- H Street Corridor
- price 1 of 4
What is it? Set in the heart of the H St. Corridor, this is one of the few trendy restaurants that actually delivers good grub.
Why go? You get a cool scene, sure, but you also get really good food. The menu is simple, focused on Taiwanese-style ramen, dumplings and sides (including kimchi and steamed buns).
14. Art Enables
What is it? The community-focused art center provides gallery walls and workspace for artists with disabilities to create.
Why go? Though it’s a bit off the beaten track (read: not on the National Mall), Art Enables is worth a visit. Works are available for purchase, with a lion’s share of the profit going directly to the artist. Art ranges from quirky (there’s one artist in resident who focuses on painting shoes) to the abstract. They also offer commissions.
15. Eden Center
What is it? A giant Falls Church, VA strip mall that includes more than 125 Vietnamese shops and restaurants, Eden Center is the area's version of Little Saigon.
Why go? Eden Center is a must-stop for those who can't live without pho or bun cha. The chaotic parking lot, which is legendary among patrons both for the hassle and for its enchanting aroma of barbequed pork, is an essential part of the experience. Some of the best restaurants include Huong Viet , Thanh Truc and Hai Duong .
16. Union Market
What is it? Union Market is an upscale food- and drink-focused "artisanal marketplace," with shops that sell both local and imported goods.
Why go? Unlike your typical farmer's market, Union Market is open every day, so if you have a midweek hankering for locally made cheese or extra virgin olive oil, you can come here to satisfy your urge. The space houses more than 30 artisans peddling everything from acai bowls to Korean tacos; you'll also find coffee, home goods, flowers and spices.
17. Cotton & Reed
What is it? Tucked away in Northeast DC by Union Market, the distillery slash bar is serving some of DC’s most inventive drinks.
Why go? You can thank Reed Walker and Jordan Cotton for the tasty cocktails at Cotton & Reed , the city’s first rum distillery . Don't miss the rum tasting flights, which feature half-ounce pours of booze made right on-site.
18. Key Bridge Boathouse
- Sports and fitness
- Kayaking & canoeing
What is it? Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown is D.C.'s gateway to all things involving water, oars and paddles.
Why go? Key Bridge Boathouse offers canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard (SUP) rentals and classes, as well as twilight tours of the Potomac via kayak. On the tour, you'll pass various DC landmarks, including Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Watergate Hotel, the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center .
19. Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
- Movie theaters
- Pentagon City
What is it? Dinner, drinks and live entertainment from the comfort of your theater seat.
Why go? This imposing '30s Art Deco building is home to one of the quirkiest cinemas you're ever likely to attend. Within the theater are tables and plump, comfy armchairs – from here you can enjoy table service, as well as a movie or live comedy show. The menu comprises convenient finger foods like wraps, burgers, nachos and doughnut holes, while the drinks menu features a satisfying range of cocktails, draft beers and non-alcoholic options. Don't turn up expecting to catch the latest flicks, however, as this is a second-run cinema—with ticket prices to match.
- Cocktail bars
- price 2 of 4
What is it? This swinging tiki bar in DC’s bumping U Street neighborhood serves delicious drinks with cheeky names.
Why go? With names like "This Is the Best Drink Here!" and Misunderstood Vitamin Swizzle, Archipelago's whimsical tiki drinks are hard to choose between. The food is just as festive—think kung pao wings and crab rangoon dip. If it’s not too busy, ask your bartender for the key to the Tom Selleck shrine (yes, really) which sits behind closed doors on your way to the bathroom.
What is it? A day spent on the water in Maryland's charming capital, followed by an epic crab feast, is practically a D.C. rite of passage.
Why go? You haven't really lived in the DC area if you haven't gone sailing in Annapolis. Opt for a two-hour cruise in the Chesapeake Bay from local companies like Schooner Woodwind and Classic Sail Charters . Make sure you leave time before or after your sail to wander around the picturesque home of the US Naval Academy and St. John's College.
22. Ivy & Coney
What is it? This bar from the owners of the now-closed Kangaroo Boxing Club, Josh Saltzman and Chris Powers, celebrates their respective hometowns, Chicago and Detroit.
Why go? Ivy & Coney is the best place in D.C. to get Chicago-style hot dogs and Detroit-style coneys (hot dogs covered in chili, mustard and onions), as well as peanuts and crackerjacks. Don't expect to get upscale cocktails here: the bar only has a few bottles, and nothing too schmancy.
23. United States National Arboretum
What is it? Technically a research division of the Agriculture Department, this 446-acre haven always has many more trees than people, even on its busiest days during the spring azalea season.
Why go? Highlights include a boxwood collection, dwarf conifers, an Asian collection, a herb garden and “herbarium” of dried plants, as well as the National Bonsai Collection, which contains more than 300 trees. Also on display, somewhat incongruously, are 22 columns removed from the Capitol’s East Front during its 1958 expansion.
24. Tregaron Conservancy
What is it? Even though it spans 20 acres, this nature conservancy, situated between Cleveland Park and Woodley Park remains a hidden wonder in the heart of D.C.
Why go? The non-profit Tregaron Conservancy owns and protects the site of a century-old, neo-Georgian estate formerly known as The Causeway (and now as Tregaron Estate) and its surroundings. Visitors can roam the grounds of the conservancy for no charge, seven days a week (but donations are welcome).
25. The Wonderland Ballroom
What is it? This incredibly sought-after establishment offers something for everyone: a chill downstairs bar, an upstairs dance party and some of the best trivia in the District.
Why go? Hardcore trivia nerds head to The Wonderland Ballroom's trivia night for its mix of joviality and seriousness. There's no entry fee or charge to play, but trivia-goers are expected to buy a beer or a snack at the bar. Fellow teams take turns hosting and writing the questions, which are often hard and always quirky. Need something to munch on while you're quizzing? There's a whole load of edibles on offer from bar snacks to full meals, including a super sumptuous veggie burger.
26. Cork Wine Bar
What is it? With at least 50 wines available by the glass and 150 bottles, every palate is sure to be satisfied at Cork.
Why go? It's hard to beat Cork Wine Bar's cozy, romantic atmosphere, and even harder to beat the voluminous wine selection. Try a wine flight or a wine and food pairing, in which Cork matches some of its small plates with various selections of wine. The venue's food menu is solid: try the charcuterie board, cheese plate and avocado on grilled bread.
27. Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden
What is it? Relax with a picnic lunch or just take in the green surrounds at this Kahlil Gibran Memorial.
Why go? Designed by Gordon Kray and erected at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue in 1983, this bronze sculpture honours the late Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran. Lines from his work are also engraved around the piece.
28. Pizzeria Paradiso
What is it? Pizzeria (and Birreria) Paradiso has found a way to combine the best of both worlds at its four locations.
Why go? Head to the friendly Georgetown outpost of this pizza chain to experience the full Paradiso experience. Upstairs, in the homey, cheerful restaurant, you can chow down on fresh, hearty pizza (plus antipasti and salads) complemented by a beer menu spanning an impressive 20 on tap and some 168 more in bottles and cans. Phew. Once you've had your fill of pizza and booze, make a beeline for the games room where you can try your hand at everything from pinball to shuffleboard and classic arcade video games. Nostalgia, incoming.
29. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
- Penn Quarter
What is it? The Company's mission focuses on promoting edgy, challenging plays in order to engage the D.C. community.
Why go? Your coolest, artsiest friends have probably been to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company a bunch of times since its founding in 1980, but it's not too late to jump on the bandwagon. The small size of the theater allows every theatergoer to get a clear, unobstructed view of the stage, leading to an intimate, enhtralling communal experience.
30. Tabard Inn
- Contemporary American
- price 3 of 4
What is it? This D.C. institution since 1922 has a shabby-chic vibe and great grub.
Why go? There's never a bad time to drop in at the Tabard Inn, whether you feel like having a meal or just sipping a drink. Patrons can relax on Victorian sofas in front of a log fireplace that might have come straight from the pages of Wuthering Heights .
31. Cantler’s Riverside Inn
What is it? Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis is one of the best-loved crab establishments in the area.
Why go? After a day on the water in Annapolis, it's de rigueur upon disembarking to head straight to a crab feast. For the uninitiated, eating Maryland crabs involves putting on a bib, sitting down at a table covered with brown paper, picking up a mallet, and going to town on fresh steamed crabs covered in Old Bay spice mix, which are dumped on the table in front of you.
What is it? For delicious ramen in a non-pretentious setting, head to Adams Morgan's Sakuramen, a favorite among DC noodle fans.
Why go? The surroundings aren't flashy, but this place delivers some of the best ramen in D.C., and quickly. The owners of Sakuramen take a broad and inclusive approach to their dishes, blending flavors from Japan, Hong Kong and America's east and west coasts. Our advice? Try ordering the Tonkotsu Red (pork broth with pork belly) or the meaty Shoki Bowl.
33. Sun’s Day Spa
What is it? When stressed-out D.C. folks need to unplug, they had to this Korean Spa in Annandale.
Why go? You'll be doing your relaxation in the nude, but you would be surprised by how quickly you become comfortable in your birthday suit. (And don't fret— Sun's Day Spa is gender-segregated). Start off with a relaxing soak or sauna session, then indulge in some of the spa's excellent full body treatments. The scrubs are legendary for removing every last bit of dead skin from your body.
34. Virginia's Horse Country
What is it? This scenic area is renowned for starting the American Quarter Horse breed and hosting the oldest horse show in the country.
Why go? Though Virginia's horse country is only 50 miles south of D.C., it might as well be on another planet. You can take a drive through the peaceful green foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stop at a vineyard or two to taste wine or go riding on one of many public access horse trails.
35. National Air & Space Museum
What is it? Where else but in DC's Air & Space Museum can you see missiles, aircraft and space stations, all without stepping outside the city limits?
Why go? In the museum's central Milestones of Flight hall, towering US Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can touch a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. Permanent exhibitions in the museum detail the history of jet aviation, space travel and satellite communications. For a closer look (and to improve your knowledge of the universe) head to the public observatory for inspiring views of the sky. If the weather isn't permitting you to star-study, make a beeline for the Albert Einstein planetarium instead, where you'll be launched into a journey through space regardless of the outside elements.
36. National Museum of Natural History
What is it ? There's so much to see at this museum—featuring everything from 274 stuffed animals to a sparkling gem and mineral collection—that it can seem a bit daunting.
Why go? Adults will want to spend time in the Kenneth E Behring Hall of Mammals and explore the David H Koch Hall of Human Origins for an in-depth look at human evolution. The museum is also a real magnet for children—especially the Insect Zoo, where little hands can pet tarantulas and other live arthropods. Fancy a closer look at creatures of the fluttering variety? The butterfly pavilion (aka a tropical oasis) is home to several species of the winged wonders. You can also enjoy talks about the integral relationship that butterflies and plants share, named "Partners in Evolution".
37. 9:30 Club
What is it? Once a tiny, art-scene dive renowned for its heat (and smell), the 9:30 Club now boasts state-of-the-art sound (and ventilation).
Why go? The club features an eclectic mix of artists and a few long-lived (or reunited) punk and post-punk bands have played here, among them Wire, the Feelies and Mission of Burma. Make sure to arrive early and scope out the best vantage point to ensure a good view. All that headbanging giving you hunger pangs? No worries: whip out your wallet and buy some of the tasty tidbits on offer, from salads and pizzas to burgers and cupcakes.
38. National Archives
- Libraries, archives and foundations
- Federal Triangle
What is it? The vast collection represents the physical record of the birth and growth of a nation in original documents, maps, photos, recordings, films and a miscellany of artifacts.
Why go? This is your one and only chance to see some of the country's most prized artifacts, including maps of Lewis and Clark’s explorations, the gun that shot JFK and the Charters of Freedom (the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence). Just search the catalogue and you'll be exploring thousands of years of history in no time.
39. Arlington National Cemetery
- Historic buildings and sites
What is it? It is the right of anyone killed in action in any branch of military service, or who served for 20 years, to be buried at Arlington, along with their spouse.
Why go? Time has worked its healing magic and transformed Arlington into a place of honor and memory. There's much to see here, so start by paying your respects to the imposing marble amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The changing of the guard on the hour remains moving in its reverent precision.
40. Dumbarton Oaks
What is it ? Located at the highest point in Georgetown, this offshoot of Harvard University is more than just a library.
Why go? Dumbarton Oaks also has lovely historic gardens, an art museum and a music room, which is the site of frequent lectures and concerts. The Research Library focuses on Byzantine, Pre-Columbian and Garden & Landscape Studies, and includes a rare book collection. Strolling among the many enclosed gardens, paths and terraces would make for an enchanting afternoon.
Discover Time Out original video
- Press office
- Investor relations
- Work for Time Out
- Editorial guidelines
- Privacy notice
- Do not sell my information
- Accessibility statement
- Copyright agent
- Manage cookies
- Time Out Market
Time Out products
- Time Out Worldwide
- Meet the Team
- Talk to The Broke Backpacker
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Budget Travel
- Work & Travel
- The Broke Backpacker Manifesto
- Travel Resources
- How to Travel on $10/day
Home » North America » Washington DC
18 BEST Places to Visit in Washington DC (2023)
The vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of the USA, Washington DC is a political powerhouse that is also crammed with exciting things to see and do. There’s a wealth of cultural sites, including beautiful buildings and world-class museums (many of which are free!), along with terrific shopping opportunities, a global dining scene, and a thriving nightlife.
While many people know the highlights of Washington DC—seeing the White House, visiting the Smithsonian, and strolling along the National Mall, for example—there is much, much more to the capital city than may at first meet the eye. Many people skip over some of the city’s true treasures, which is a real shame!
Our expert team of travel writers has compiled a list of the best places to visit in Washington DC to help you to plan a diverse trip that really lets you get under the skin of the American capital city. From well-known hotspots to local secrets and hidden gems, we’ve covered all bases.
Add these fabulous places to your Washington DC itinerary and have a ball!
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Washington DC:
These are the best places to visit in washington dc, faq on the best places to visit in washington dc, more fantastic places to visit in washington dc.
Logan Circle is characterized by its Victoria home and colourful storefronts. Although it is mainly residential, this neighbourhood enjoys a central location and is within walking distance of Washington, D.C.’s most popular tourist attractions.
- Tease your taste buds at Compass Rose, a restaurant whose dishes are inspired by the owner’s exotic travels.
- Catch a show at the Black Cat, a two-level music hall with pinball, pool tables, and a fantastic menu.
- Marvel at the detail of the National City Christian Church.
If Logan Circle isn’t quite your vibe, we’ve got more where that came from. There’s even a neighbourhood called Foggy Bottom if that strikes your fancy! Be sure to check out where to stay in Washington DC before you start your exploration below.
Unlock Our GREATEST Travel Secrets!
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best travel tips delivered right to your inbox.
#1 – The National Mall – One of the most amazing places in Washington DC!
- Diverse monuments and memorials
- Lesson in US history
- Various events
- Many incredible museums
Why it’s awesome: A Washington DC must-do, the National Mall is one of the most-visited places in the USA. Stretching around three kilometres (two miles) between the impressive Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial, there are tons of monuments, museums, memorials, and statues that teach visitors more about the nation’s history and honour significant figures from the past.
There are regular events at the National Mall too, along with wide, leafy boulevards. Part of the National Park Service, the aims of the National Mall include to provide an elegant space for official monuments and structures, and maintain a historic landscape as well as a public park,
What to do there: Take a leisurely stroll along the National Mall and see the many historic monuments. Admire the Greek-style 1914 Lincoln Memorial and the incredible views of the striking monument from across the large reflecting pool. Remember those who served in conflicts at the large Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Three Soldiers Statue, and the District of Columbia War Memorial.
Walk through pretty gardens, like the Constitution Gardens, the Butterfly Habitat Gardens, the Mary Livingston Ripley Gardens, and the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rosa Garden. Gaze up at the soaring Washington Monument. Visit the many museums (most of which are part of the Smithsonian group and almost all of which are free!), including the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Pay a return visit in the evening time to see the setting beautifully illuminated.
#2 – The Capitol – One of the most incredible free places to go to in Washington DC
- Stunning piece of architecture
- Symbol of democracy and iconic landmark
- No admission fees or charges for tours
- Various programs and activities
Why it’s awesome: The United States Capitol is one of the most famous landmarks in Washington DC. Containing the US Congress and the government legislature, the iconic neoclassical building was constructed in 1800. Later changes included the addition of the grand and eye-catching dome. Flags fly proudly above the building. Inside, there is an impressive art collection, which includes statues, sculptures, paintings, and carvings.
It is a National Historic Landmark, a strong symbol of democracy, and a source of national pride. Visitors can register for free tours, learn more about the building and its functions at the Visitor Center, get a pass to watch senate in session, and visit various parts of the magnificent building.
What to do there: Join a free 45-minute tour of the Capitol, exploring the Greek Revival National Statutory Hall with its marble floor and columns, sculptures, large chandelier, sandstone relief, and other sublime details, the Crypt with its replica of the Magna Carta and distance-marker star, and the lavish dome-topped Rotunda. If they are sitting you can obtain a pass to watch Congress. Peek inside the beautiful Halls of the Senate, complete with gorgeous Italian art, hear historic tales in the Old Senate Chamber, and admire the overall beauty of the building both inside and out.
There are also special activities aimed at younger visitors; the Family Program details Congress’s support of space exploration missions. Remember to act respectfully inside the Capitol as it is, after all, still a place of work for many people, and don’t forget to take ID on your visit.
With a Washington City Pass , you can experience the best of Washington at the CHEAPEST prices. Discounts, attractions, tickets, and even public transport are all standards in any good city pass – be sure invest now and save them $$$ when you arrive!
#3 – Rock Creek Park – A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Washington DC
- Popular place for leisure and relaxation
- Diverse outdoor activities
- Lots of wildlife
- Pretty views
Why it’s awesome: The large and attractive Rock Creek Park is one of the best outdoor attractions in Washington DC. Established in 1890, it was the USA third national park to be established. Covering 1,754 acres (710 hectares), the expansive park follows Rock Creek across the border with neighbouring Maryland. As well as walking trails, nature, and open areas, the park also has an equestrian centre, a golf course, sporting facilities, a small museum, play areas, a planetarium, and monuments. It’s a top place for walking, jogging, cycling, and skating, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
What to do there: Visit Rock Creek Park Horse Center where you can take riding classes and go out to explore trails on horseback. There are also trails that are great for strolling, running and biking. Play a round of golf, cross the various bridges that span the creek, and learn more about the area’s history at the museum inside Pierce Mill. Examine the skies at the planetarium and get to know the native wildlife at the Nature Center. Let kids cut loose in the play areas and take a picnic for a delightful outdoor lunch surrounded by nature.
#4 – Arlington National Cemetery – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Washington DC
- Biggest military burial ground in the USA
- Moving memorials
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
- Scene of solemn ceremonies
Why it’s awesome: Although not strictly in the capital (it’s a short distance away in neighbouring Virginia), taking a trip to Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Washington DC . Founded during the Civil War, the military cemetery is the final resting place for people who lost their lives while serving the country in various conflicts. There are 70 sections, one of which is dedicated to former slaves. The well-ordered cemetery also has a number of memorials and monuments as well as the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier, which is always guarded by military personnel. There is no admission cost to enter the cemetery.
What to do there: Honour more than 400,000 veterans, with the graves of people who served in the Civil War, the Cold War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more. You can walk around the cemetery independently or join an informative tour. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes in any case as the complex is vast. Visit the hilltop Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee and a building that has served as a memorial to George Washington, a plantation, a slave home, a burial site, and a home for freed slaves.
You can take a tour of the historic home and learn more about its past. See the large white Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, constantly guarded by members of the infantry. If you visit in the summer months you can watch the official Changing of the Guard ceremony. Other memorials throughout the cemetery include the USS Maine Mast Memorial, the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, the Cross of Sacrifice, the Laos Memorial, the eternal flame to deceased president John F. Kennedy, and the Lockerbie Cairn.
#5 – United States Botanic Garden – One of the most underrated places to see in Washington DC
- One of North America’s oldest botanic gardens
- Located in the National Mall
- No admission fee
- Informative, educational, and beautiful
Why it’s awesome: The United States Botanic Garden is frequently overlooked by visitors to the National Mall. One of the oldest botanic gardens in North America, it can trace its roots back to the 1820s. There are various sections to the pretty complex, including a large conservatory, the serene Bartholdi Park, and the National Garden. The botanic garden is home to a huge selection of plant life from across the world and from different terrains and climates.
Some species are rare or endangered. It aims to showcase the diversity and importance of flora in addition to teaching people about the ecological, cultural, therapeutic, and economic benefits of various plants. Open every day of the year, there’s no charge to enjoy the beautiful gardens.
What to do there: Invoke different senses as you walk to explore the United States Botanic Garden, with eye-catching colours and forms and subtle and heady scents. Relax in the tranquil Bartholdi Park as you enjoy the different species and rest on one of the many secluded benches for a few moments of contemplation. Don’t miss seeing the striking Bartholdi Fountain, created by the same man who gave the world the Statue of Liberty.
Learn more about plants from the Mid-Atlantic region in the National Garden, which includes a garden that honours the nation’s First Ladies, a butterfly garden, and a rose garden. The large Conservatory is a show-stealer, with its diverse rooms that lead you through ancient terrains, the desert, the jungle, and more. You can join a free tour of the Conservatory each afternoon too. If you’re visiting with younger members of the family don’t miss the enchanting Children’s Garden. Kids can get hands-on as they use various gardening tools and smell and touch a selection of plants, and there’s also active play equipment.
#6 – Washington National Cathedral – One of the most religious places to see in Washington DC
- Glorious architecture
- Unusual features
- Active place of worship
- Stunning interiors
Why it’s awesome: Officially named The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, the stunning religious building is commonly referred to as simply Washington National Cathedral. Although its sublime designs and architecture may lead people to believe the church is very old, construction only began in the early 1900s—and, it took many years until it was completed in 1990! Details are continually being added too.
One of the biggest churches in the USA, the spectacular church was designed to resemble the English Gothic style from the Middle Ages. From exquisite and colourful stained glass windows to detailed carvings and sacred chapels, there are many fine details to admire both inside and out. Attractive gardens surround the cathedral. It is an active place of worship, with regular religious services,
What to do there: Admire the magnificent cathedral from the outside, with its soaring Gothic spires, 112 grotesque gargoyles, bell tower, flying buttresses, ornate windows, carvings, and other fine details. Don’t miss seeing the unusual Darth Vader gargoyle! Stroll through the pleasant 59-acre (24-hectare) grounds, which include delightful gardens, places for reflection, a Norman archway from the 13 th century, and walking trails through wildlife-rich woodland.
Enter the church and be dazzled by the grand designs, with a sweeping nave, side chapels, a grand altar, elegant arches, carved pulpit, vaulted ceilings, numerous pieces of art, stunning stained glass windows, wrought iron features, crosses, statues, and more. Of particular interest are the stones set in the ground in front of the altar; brought from the Chapel of Moses at Mount Sinai, the rocks symbolise the Ten Commandments.
As you view the spectacular stained glass windows look out for the fantastic rose window and the unusual Space Window—one of the most unusual things to do in Washington DC, the window commemorates the moon landings and is said to have an actual piece of lunar rock embedded within the glass. Descend into the Crypt where you’ll find several graves of prominent people, including Woodrow Wilson and Hellen Keller. You can also buy tickets to climb the soaring bell tower to admire terrific city views and get closer to some of the gorgeous windows and interesting gargoyles.
#7 – National Zoological Park – Awesome place to visit in Washington DC with kids!
- Part of the Smithsonian group
- Home to diverse creatures from around the world
- Free admission
- Centre for research and conservation
Why it’s awesome: Established in 1889, the National Zoological Park contains more than 1,500 animals from some 300 diverse species. Creatures come from across the globe, with a large number of rare and/or endangered species among the zoo’s inhabitants. Spread across 163 acres (66 hectares), the expansive zoo is divided into several cool zones. Part of the Smithsonian group of museums, the zoo isn’t just a place for people to see animals; it’s also a major conservation and research centre.
Visitors can meet keepers to learn more about specific species and their care, attend diverse presentations, and take part in a variety of activities and programs. The zoo also hosts child-friendly and adult-focused events throughout the year. There’s a good selection of places to eat and drink throughout the zoo. Open every day of the year (except Christmas Day), there is no charge to visit the impressive zoo. It’s one of the best attractions in Washington DC for families.
What to do there: Observe an array of animals from all corners of the globe in large, clean, and comfortable habitats. The giant pandas are incredibly popular and, if they are hidden from sight, there are cameras that let you still see the cute Chinese creatures. Other animals include elephants, lions, giraffes, tigers, kiwi, orangutans, sea lions, cheetahs, snakes, monkeys, and many, many more. Watch various species being fed, attend the informative and fun meet-the-mammal demonstrations, learn more at the Conservation Station, and book a guided tour with a zookeeper. Children (and adults!) can get up close and personal with tame creatures at the Kids’ Farm. Plan to spend several hours discovering the zoo’s many highlights and don’t forget to wear comfortable footwear.
#8 – Fort DeRussy – One of Washington DC’s coolest historical sites!
- Old Civil War fortress
- Secluded and off the beaten track
- Great hiking opportunities
- Wild, rugged, and overgrown ambience
Why it’s awesome: Located within Rock Creek Park, the hidden-away Fort DeRussy dates back to 1861 when it was one of 60-plus fortresses built to protect Washington DC from attacks. Unlike many of the city’s other old fortifications, Fort DeRussy did see some action during the Civil War. Quiet for most of the time, in 1864 Confederate troops made their only attack on Washington DC, causing the fort’s guns to roar into life. Today, the ruins are in a good state of repair. Nature has, however, reclaimed its territory, with the surrounding area now an overgrown woodland filled with wildlife. The setting enhances the atmosphere and the area is great for keen hikers.
What to do there: Follow the short dirt track to reach the fortress remains and read information boards to glean greater insights into the area’s past. See the old dry moat, the remains of magazine storage areas, old trenches, mounds, earth walls, and the well-preserved parapet. Although the views are now obscured by woodland it is easy to see how the hilltop location was once a great vantage point. After soaking up the history, take a walk through the woods to spot an array of flora and fauna. If you’re hiking, cross the creek and you’ll find a small tucked-away log cabin that was previously owned by a 19 th -century poet.
#9 – Eden Center – A must-see for foodies!
- Vietnamese-American strip mall
- Delicious Asian cuisine
- A major tourist attraction in Washington DC
- Wide variety of shops
Why it’s awesome: The Eden Center is one of the hotspots in Washington DC for food lovers. Although located in nearby Falls Church, Virginia, the strip mall is easy to reach from the capital and attracts many people, both locals and tourists, from the city. It’s the biggest Asian mall on the USA’s East Coast. There are more than 120 shops and dining establishments targeted at the large Asian American population and fans of Asian cuisine and goods.
In particular, there’s a strong Vietnamese flavour. In addition to shops and eateries, the mall has a gym, nightclub, travel agencies, and supermarkets. Popular since the mid-1980s, the centre hosts a variety of interesting cultural events too.
What to do there: Satisfy your hunger and let your taste buds lead you to some of the best places to eat in Washington DC! Get your fill of steaming hot bowls of pho, the tasty sandwich-like snack of banh mi, Vietnamese baked goods, spring rolls, stir-fried dishes, and more. Don’t miss trying a glass of tasty bubble tea too.
Whether you want something quick and easy to grab to eat on the go or somewhere a little fancier where you can sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal in a great setting, the Eden Center has something to suit all preferences. You can also enjoy great shopping, with shops that sell things like clothes, accessories, souvenirs, and traditional herbal remedies, and buy tasty treats and Asian ingredients to take home with you in the supermarkets and delicatessens.
We’ve tested countless day packs over the years, and now we’ve found our absolute favourite: the traveller-approved Osprey Daylite Plus .
Want more deetz on why we love it so damn much? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!
#10 – Tregaron Conservancy – A nice non-touristy place to visit in Washington DC
- Peaceful and scenic
- Home to many birds and other wildlife
- Historic building
- Free to enjoy
Why it’s awesome: Located in Northwest, the Tregaron Conservancy is part of the larger Tregaron Estate. The estate was constructed in the first quarter of the 1900s and is today a national landmark. Covering a little over 20 acres (eight hectares), the country estate has a historic mansion, a Russian-style summer house (dacha), a greenhouse, a farmhouse, a school, and a carriage house. The estate is celebrated for its gorgeous and well-planned landscape architecture, with stone walls, bridges, old woodlands, walking trails, fields, ponds, gardens, and gaping ravines. The estate has featured in a couple of movies. There is no admission charge for visitors.
What to do there: Escape the busy city streets and enjoy quiet time in nature in the lovely Tregaron Conservancy. Explore the different landscapes, following various rugged trails, and spot an assortment of wildlife. Keen bird spotters are sure to be impressed; the estate is home to numerous bird species including robins, wrens, warblers, owls, sparrows, hawks, flycatchers, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, herons, and doves. Listen to the soothing sounds of twittering and bird song as you explore the natural areas. You can also see a variety of flowers in the wild gardens and meadows.
#11 – International Spy Museum – Cool place to see in Washington DC with friends!
- Terrific place to learn more about subterfuge and secrets
- Fascinating exhibits
- Interactive spy program
- Family friendly
Why it’s awesome: Open since 2002 and since moved to a different location, the International Spy Museum is a Washington DC must-do for fans of espionage and things that are a bit different to the norm. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Washington DC for friends and families with older kids. The cool museum contains a large assortment of objects (both historic and modern) related to the spy industry, many of which are sure to surprise you! It contains the biggest collection of publically displayed spy memorabilia in the world. There are various immersive activities that take people right into the mysterious world of spies as well as a rooftop terrace and event spaces with great city views.
What to do there: Delve into the world of secret missions, espionage, and spies as you marvel at the museum’s wide collection of exhibits, some fairly well known (like hidden cameras) and others that defy belief! Items include tiny pistols designed to look like lipsticks, cameras hidden in the most obscure of places, ingenious listening devices, vehicles, code-cracking devices, transmitters, and much more. You can learn more about famous spies from throughout history and hear captivating real-life stories from former spies.
Discover how spies have helped in war efforts, to gather intelligence, and to overthrow mighty leaders, and travel back in time as you learn more about espionage in the Roman and Greek times, the Medieval Era, the Renaissance, the British Empire, the Civil War, the Cold War, World Wars I and II, and other epochs. Old documents, photographs, and films take you even further into the secret world and you can try your hand at being a spy at the fun interactive stations and via RFID experiences.
#12 – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – A great place to see in Washington DC if you love architecture
- Stunning building
- Striking interiors
- Spiritual atmosphere
- Biggest Catholic place of worship in North America
Why it’s awesome: The beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the biggest Catholic church in North America. It’s also among the biggest churches in the world. A Washington DC must-see for fans of religious architecture (and architecture in general), the foundation stone of the impressive building was blessed and laid in the year 1920. Construction took place over many years, with the church finally completed in 1959, though there were further internal additions with the last architectural element finished in 2017.
Inside, there are many chapels in honour of the Virgin Mary, striking mosaics, and many religious images. Outside, the appearance is like that of a medieval church, complete with a huge cross-topped dome and a tall tower. There have been several papal visits to the basilica and it’s a pilgrimage destination. It is an active place of worship as well as a popular landmark.
What to do there: Join an hour-long tour to learn more about the basilica, its significance, its art, its history, and religious details. Tours lead visitors through the main body of the basilica (the Great Upper Church) and into the smaller shrines. You can also visit independently. Admire the gorgeous facades and details of the Romanesque-Byzantine structure and appreciate the rich religious art inside.
Indeed, the church contains the biggest collection of modern ecclesiastical art in the world. Feast your eyes on ornate archways, intricately crafted sculptures, dazzling mosaics, delicately carved reliefs, marble cladding, and fabulous stained glass windows. Go down into the Crypt and you can follow the 14 Stations of the Cross.
Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….
These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.
Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…
#13 – Theodore Roosevelt Island – One of the nicer places in Washington DC to sightsee!
- Pedestrianised island in the Potomac River
- Dedicated to a former US president
- Walking trails and outdoor activities
- Nature and wildlife
Why it’s awesome: Covering 88.5 acres (35.8 hectares), Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the Potomac River and connected to the mainland by a bridge. Previously known by other names, the river island is a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26 th president of the USA and a keen lover of nature and conservation. Once wild and overgrown, it is today a popular place for outdoor activities and sports. No motorised vehicles or bicycles are allowed on the island. It’s also a top place for enjoying peace and quiet, admiring lovely views, and spotting an assortment of wildlife.
What to do there: Enjoy pleasant walks on the various nature trails, passing through patches of diverse vegetation and terrain, and stroll along the boardwalks for different perspectives. There are forests, woods, marshes, and swamps. Local plant life includes both native and non-native species and if you visit in the springtime you can see many colourful and pretty wildflowers in bloom. The island is also home to a large number of bird species, many of which are easy to spot as you explore.
Take part in various outdoor activities, including running, kayaking, and canoeing. Soak up nice views that include Georgetown, Key Bridge, the Kennedy Center, and the Potomac Gorge. See the memorial to the former president, complete with ornamental fountains, a statue of the previous leader, and large standing stones engraved by quotes made by the late president.
#14 – Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land – One of the more unique places to visit in Washington DC!
- Hilltop Franciscan complex
- Eerie catacombs
- Beautiful church
- Interesting religious artefacts
Why it’s awesome: Built between the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land is located at the top of Mount Saint Sepulcher in the Washington DC neighbourhood of Northeast. The complex, which was once home to friars, has a church (The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher) that was built to resemble the famous church of the same name in Jerusalem and with neo-Byzantine elements that are reminiscent of the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
There are also charming gardens, chapels, a grotto, and replicas of shrines from the Holy Land. One of the most unusual features, however, is the creepy catacombs that lie hidden beneath the ground. Built to replicate the holy catacombs in Rome, many of the graves are fake, though there are still some skeletal remains to enhance the eerie atmosphere. There is no fee to visit the complex.
What to do there: Book a free guided tour down into the spooky catacombs, where you can see replicated graves, statues of saints, and the bones of a Roman soldier (the head of the deceased soldier is still in Rome). There are also the remains of a child martyr. Experience the eerie vibe along the quiet and dark underground passageways and learn more about sacred saints.
Visit the 15 chapels of the Rosary Portico, built like a Roman site, and see the Hail Mary in various global languages. Step into the Lourdes Grotto, see various religious items in the Library, hear the soothing sounds of the organ, stroll through the pretty gardens, and enjoy the peaceful and spiritual air.
#15 – Madame Tussauds – Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Washington DC
- Family-friendly attraction
- Many wax models
- Great photo opportunities
- Learn how wax figures are made
Why it’s awesome: Open since 2007, Madame Tussauds in Washington DC was the franchise’s 12 th wax museum to open. There are hundreds of realistic wax models in various themed rooms, with famous figures from the past and present. There are models of former US presidents and other political figures, famous faces from the civil rights movement, sports stars, actors and actresses, singers and bands, TV personalities, and other celebrities. The Behind the Scenes area shows visitors how wax models are crafted and gives the history of Madame Tussauds. There are many great photo opportunities and a visit is heaps of fun for old and young alike.
What to do there: Step into the Presidents Gallery to pose for selfies with life-like models of all of the USA’s former presidents, from George Washington up to Donald Trump, all in cool settings. You can also snap pictures with the nation’s poised and elegant First Ladies. Mingle with Hollywood stars, past and present, in the A-List Party room, with models of people like Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt, and rub shoulders with big names from the big screen in the Media and Entertainment area. Figures include Tyra Banks, Larry King, Jimmy Fallon, and Washington DC-born Stephen Colbert.
Travel back in time in the Cultural Icons room, home to waxworks that include the Founding Fathers and people who were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement. Figures include Martin Luther King Jnr., Uncle Sam, Rosa Parks, Lord Baden Powell, and Frederick Douglass. In the Music area, you can get down with the likes of Beyonce, Marvin Gaye, Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift, while in the Sports section you’ll come face to face with models of people like Tiger Woods and Babe Ruth. Be sure to charge your camera before visiting as you’re bound to want to take lots of cool pictures!
#16 – Pentagon – A perfect place to visit in Washington DC if you are on a budget!
- Headquarters of the US Department of Defense
- Opportunity to visit somewhere mysterious and unique
Why it’s awesome: The Pentagon is the name given to the iconic five-sided building that houses the headquarters of the US Department of Defense. The biggest office building in the world, it is a strong symbol of American military might. A National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places, construction began on the building in the 1940s. Today, it is one of the most major landmarks in Washington DC. While there is certainly lots of red tape and advance planning, it is possible to take a free tour of the highly guarded building. The onsite gift shop sells unique mementoes.
What to do there: Complete the application process for a free tour of the Pentagon well in advance of your visit to Washington DC. Applications need to be made a minimum of two weeks beforehand. Domestic visitors can arrange their free tour through the Pentagon, whereas international visitors should do so through their national embassy. If you know someone who works at the Pentagon, however, they are allowed to take family and friends on a building tour. You will need ID to check in for your tour.
Don’t try and move away from the guide at any point on your tour—they will be keeping a careful eye on the group at all times! Starting from the Visitor Center, you can use this time to purchase souvenirs from the gift shop. See the replica of the Press Briefing Room podium, learn more about all parts of the US military, see the indoor memorial remembering the September 11 th tragedy, visit the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, and see the Hall of Heroes, which is dedicated to the 3,400-plus people who received the honorific Medal of Honor. When your tour of the building concludes, don’t miss seeing the outdoor National September 11 th Pentagon Memorial.
If budget travel is your thing, why not check out some of Washington DC’s best hostels in the area!
Our GREATEST Travel Secrets…
Pop your email here & get the original Broke Backpacker Bible for FREE.
#17 – Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens – Great place to visit in Washington DC for couples!
- Lesser-visited attraction
- Diverse flora and fauna
Why it’s awesome: Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is located near the Anacostia River and close to the border with neighbouring Maryland. The area boasts the capital’s last remaining tidal marsh along with a pleasant area for recreation. There are also artificial ponds, water gardens, wetlands, and walking trails. Numerous plant and animal species call the area home. It’s among the lesser-visited points of interest in Washington DC, though the natural beauty and peaceful ambience make it a great place for couples and anyone who loves spending time in nature. Even better, there is no admission fee to enjoy the lovely gardens.
What to do there: Discover the delicate balance between nature and man-made beauty as you explore the picturesque Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Take a stroll along the boardwalk and follow the River Trail to admire the views of the flower-filled ponds and eco-diversity of the marshes. Look out for various fauna too, including numerous types of birds, otters, foxes, reptiles, and minks. Do note that while summer is the best time to see flowers in their full glory the winter months are better for catching glimpses of wildlife.
#18 – Dupont Circle – An awesome place to visit in Washington DC for half a day!
- Varied landmarks and architecture
- Great shopping opportunities
- Lively nightlife
- Vibrant events
Why it’s awesome: The historic neighbourhood of Dupont Circle is one of the best places to visit in Washington DC for anyone interested in landmarks and architecture, shopping, dining, and nightlife. The fountain at the heart of the traffic circle dates back to the 1920s and the surrounding park is a popular spot for leisure and relaxation. Other landmarks include the Brewmaster’s Castle, Anderson House, Dumbarton Bridge, Paterson Mansion, the whimsical Mansion on O Street hotel, and the International Temple. There are stylish residential areas, with grand mansions and pre-1900 townhouses, several embassy buildings, and museums. The area hosts the yearly Pride Festival and the fun High Heel Race that sees glamorous drag queens racing through the streets.
What to do there: Take a walk around the neighbourhood, pausing to appreciate the many fine buildings. Don’t miss visiting the so-called Strivers’ Section, a small residential area that was once home to highly regarded and upper-class African Americans. Take a self-guided walking tour past many lavish embassy buildings, visit the USA’s first modern art museum at the Phillips Collection, peek inside the former home of previous US president Woodrow Wilson, sit on the charming hidden treasure of the Spanish Steps, and see the 1924 Nuns of the Battlefield sculpture.
Relax in the park on the traffic island, tour the Brewmaster’s Castle, and visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. You’ll also find one of the collect attractions in Washington DC in Dupont Circle—The Mansion on O Street and O Street Museum. The historic hotel has hidden doorways, weird and wonderful antiques, curious memorabilia, artworks, and many interesting exhibits. Indulge in some retail therapy along the bustling Connecticut Avenue, visit one of the many eateries for a delicious feed, and party the night away in a pulsating nightclub.
Get insured for your trip to Washington DC!
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
Find out what people want to know about the best places to visit in Washington DC
What is the most visited site in Washington DC?
The Lincoln Memorial National Mall is the most visited attraction in Washington DC.
What is a free place to visit in Washington DC?
National Zoological Park is free to visit and a great place to visit in Washington DC with the kids.
What is the most interesting place to visit in Washington DC?
The Smithsonian Museum is one of the best museums in the world, not only Washington DC.
What is the best place to visit in Washington DC for couples?
The Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a great place to visit as a couple.
There are plenty of excellent museums to add to your Washington DC itinerary , including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Newseum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art, the quirky Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. And, of course, no trip to Washington DC is complete without seeing the iconic White House!
Fans of nature and the outdoors won’t be disappointed by the large number of leafy parks in Washington DC, with highlights that include the off-the-beaten-track Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden, the United States National Arboretum, Meridian Hill Park, and the hidden gem of Crispus Attucks Park. If you’re into places that are a bit different to typical tourist sights, pay a visit to Culture House (previously known as Blind Whino). Among the most unusual things to do in Washington DC, the building is a brightly and whimsically painted former church that now contains a cool artistic and cultural space.
Stroll through the historic area of Georgetown, visit Anderson House, step into the National Archives, see Fords Theater, and admire tons of cool art at The Fridge. Shop till you drop at places like Eastern Market, Union Market, Gallery Place, and Wisconsin Place.
Whatever your age or interests, there are many excellent places to visit in Washington DC!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
Share or save this post
- Group Enquiry? NEW
Places to Visit in Washington D.C.
- Washington D.C.
- Places To Visit
Washington D. C. Tourist Places
Here are some of the best places to visit in washington d.c.:, united states capitol.
The Lincoln Memorial
The Washington Monument
National Air And Space Museum
National Gallery Of Art
National Museum Of Natural History
National Zoological Park
National Museum Of American History
Arlington National Cemetery
International Spy Museum
National Museum Of African American History And Culture
Washington National Cathedral
Georgetown Historic District
Library Of Congress
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Kennedy Center
Best of USA
World War Ii Memorial
Best of Ireland
U.S. National Arboretum
Best of Dublin
Best of London
National Museum Of Women In The Arts
Best of Las Vegas
Mount Vernon Estate
Best of Los Angeles
People Also Ask About Washington D.C.
Which are the best places to visit in washington d.c for couples, what is the best month to visit washington dc, how much would a trip to dc cost, how many days should you spend in washington dc.
Popular Related Destinations
Best Domestic Packages
Best international packages, domestic honeymoon packages, international honeymoon packages, places to visit in india, international places to visit, things to do in india, international things to do, popular on thrillophilia.
- We assure the privacy of your contact data.
- This data will only be used by our team to contact you and no other purposes.
Your enquiry has been received successfully. Our destination expert will reach out to you soon!
The 36 best things to do in D.C. this weekend and next week
This is the week when holidays collide: As soon as the Thanksgiving gatherings are done, it is time for holiday shopping, glowing lights, festive music and Christmas trees. But there are other things to do: karaoke and happy hours the night before Thanksgiving, ice skating at outdoor rinks, special cocktails at ever 85 bars during D.C. Cocktail Week, and even a “Divorced Dad Rock Dance Party.”
Wednesday, Nov. 22
Live Band Karaoke at Hill Country
From Taylor Swift to Hank Williams Jr. and Olivia Rodrigo to the Violent Femmes, the Hari Karaoke Band plays decades worth of hits in the basement of Hill Country while audience members take the stage and belt out the lyrics. With more than 500 songs in their repertoire, there is something for everyone to love, which is why the signup list fills very quickly. Buy tickets in advance, and put your name and song down before getting in line for the bar. 8:30 p.m. $6.
Friendsgiving Event at Shelter Beer
The bar at the Roost food hall is giving beer lovers something to be thankful for: a dozen beers available for $5 all day. Among the breweries participating are Creature Comforts, Fast Fashion, Suarez Family, Halfway Crooks, Other Half and the Veil. We will happily take seconds. Noon. Free.
‘The Last Waltz’ at Boundary Stone
The Band recorded “The Last Waltz” at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 1976. At Boundary Stone, the welcoming pub in Brookland, it has become a tradition to watch that concert film on Thanksgiving Eve. The film plays with full sound throughout the restaurant and bar. Reservations are available, or hang at the bar and sing along. 8 p.m. Free.
‘The Night Before’ at the Black Cat
From 2000 until the early 2010s, Mousetrap was a staple at the Black Cat: a dance party playing Blur, the Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, the Stone Roses and other classic Britpop and indie rock classics that you could sing along to while spinning around with your friends. Founder Mark Zimin and DJ Steven Faith bring the nostalgia and, we bet, “Common People” back to the Red Room bar. 8 p.m. Free.
Turkey Dance Bowl at Public Bar
The Turkey Dance Bowl, organized by the groups behind the popular Bachata Brunch and Salsa Con Candela dance parties at Public Bar, kicks off with classes in bachata at 7 p.m. then salsa at 8 p.m. before a live performance by Ferocity and three DJs spinning until 4 a.m. 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. $10.
Happy Hour at the Runaway
Rocking Brookland hangout the Runaway cuts draft prices in half every weeknight from 5 to 7 p.m., but the night before Thanksgiving, the special is extended all night. Also promised is “a movie!!” 5 to 10 p.m. Free.
Wingsgiving at Union Pub
Union Pub expands its usual Wing Wednesday happy hour to run for eight hours. Buy two drinks, and you unlock 40 cent wings. Your first order has to have a minimum of 10 wings. Subsequent rounds can be in multiples of five. 1 to 9 p.m. Free.
Thursday, Nov. 23
‘Seasons Greenings’ at U.S. Botanic Garden
The beloved holiday train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden is again running in its gated outdoor gardens as part of the “Season’s Greenings” celebrations. This year, the model locomotives and boxcars chug over trestles and past models of pollinators such as giant bees, butterflies and flowers, and scenes that include a lemur pollinating a flower. Inside, the conservatory is full of models of the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Library of Congress and other Washington landmarks made from plant material, as well as almost 2,000 colorful poinsettias. Visit the pop-up store to find gifts for the plant lover in your life. Through Jan. 1 except Christmas Day. Free.
Museums and Tourist Attractions on Thanksgiving
While many D.C. restaurants are closed Thursday, the same cannot be said of tourist attractions. Smithsonian museums , the National Zoo , the National Gallery of Art , the Washington Monument , the Holocaust Museum and the Old Post Office Tower are all operating as usual, and are an excellent way to keep visitors occupied. (The Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Air and Space Museum and the Zoo require timed entry tickets.) Exceptions include the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Library of Congress, which are both shuttered.
Ice Skate at Outdoor Rinks Around Town
Need to get the kids out of the house? Or burn some calories before the big meal? The Wharf has a waterside ice rink, which opened earlier this week, with extended hours for the holiday. ( Noon to 8 p.m. $10 to $13. $8 skate rental. ) The National Gallery of Art boasts the most scenic rink setting inside the Beltway, surrounded by sculptures, the National Archives and the National Mall, and it also just opened for the season this week. ( 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. $10 to $12. $8 skate rental. ) Finally, the rink at Washington Harbor in Georgetown is also up and running, with special hours through Thanksgiving week. ( 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. $9 to $11. $7 skate rental. $10 penguin rental. )
Grab Free Thanksgiving Dinner Meals
It can be tough to be alone at the holidays, but some bars and restaurants encourage community on Thanksgiving, welcoming all comers with free food. Busboys and Poets is moving its annual community Thanksgiving Lunch to its Anacostia location, where there is live music from Bliss the Violinist to go with the turkey. More than 250 people took part in 2022. Food is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., no reservations needed. Lyman’s Tavern is hosting a potluck with turkey, as well as vegetarian and vegan options, according to owner Kevin Perone. You are welcome to bring a dish to the 16th Street Heights bar, but it is not required. Doors open at 5 p.m., and supper is served around 7 p.m.. On H Street NE, The Pug traditionally offers a full Thanksgiving feast with turkey and all the trimmings starting at 9 p.m. There were a dozen or so chafing dishes full of food last year, but staff is encouraging guests to bring a side if they can.
Friday, Nov. 24
Bay State Blissfest at Montgomery County Agricultural Center
The immersive Lumino City Festival debuted in New York in 2019 and made its debut in the area at Roer’s Zoofari in Vienna two years later. This season, the light show is coming to the Montgomery County fairgrounds, promising more than two dozen experiences, including a tunnel of doughnuts and a bamboo forest filled with lifesize animals. Through Jan. 15. $24 to $49. Free for children 3 and under.
Tree Lighting and Santa Parade at Mosaic District
Santa rides by on a firetruck at the first celebration of the holiday season at the Fairfax retail and entertainment space, soon followed by a tree lighting. After the parade, meet Saint Nick in the Target lobby and snap a photo for the holiday card. There are also live performances by composer and cellist Benjamin Gates , the Metropolitan School of the Arts, and salsa music from Izis de La Enfermera. 6 to 9 p.m. Free.
Gingerbread House Contest and Show
Darnall’s Chance, a historic home in Upper Marlboro, is closed for restoration but is making an exception for its Gingerbread House Contest and Show. The annual display features whimsical structures made from completely edible materials (you will find no lollipop sticks) dreamed up by adults, children and families working together. Entries last year included a wedding scene, a retro camper and even a miniature size Darnell’s Chance. Cast your vote in a viewer’s choice competition, but remember, no sampling. Times vary by date. $2 for adults. Free for children 4 and under.
Black Friday Specials at ChurchKey
Black Friday is a big deal for lovers of big and burly stouts. ChurchKey in the District is opening early at noon (think of it as a beer lover’s doorbuster) and putting 10 stouts on draft, including rarities like the Prairie and Perennial collaboration called Bombraxas, an imperial stout with coffee, chocolate, ancho chile and cinnamon, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Great Lakes Blackout Stout. Bartenders are also pouring 15 more stouts from bottles, including rare selections from Anchorage, De Struise and the Veil. If you want to categorize a trip to the bar as “holiday shopping,” there is a 10 percent discount on bottles to go. And both drafts and select bottles are available in 4 ounce samples, so you can avoid going overboard. Noon. Beer prices vary.
White Ford Bronco at 9:30 Club
Gather up high school friends who are back home for Thanksgiving for an evening of singing “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind at the top of your lungs during White Ford Bronco’s upcoming 9:30 Club gig. On the Friday after the holiday, the most popular cover band in the District will play all the ’90s hits, from Ace of Base to Weezer. This is a significant time for the band, marking its 15th year of getting audiences dancing to the hits of 1998. 8 p.m. $25.
‘A Christmas Carol’ at Olney Theatre Center
This classic telling of the Charles Dickens ghost story is maybe the most traditional of the bunch, performed the way Dickens himself recited the story on his world tour, as a solo show. About 99 percent of the text is drawn from the original novella, and Paul Morella plays 51 separate characters. In a show celebrating 14 seasons, new features are design elements like dry ice, shadows and fog, plus richer lighting design. It is a “pop-up book come to life,” Morella writes. Select days through Dec. 31. 3 and 7:45 p.m. $40 to $55.
35th Annual Nutcracker at Puppet Company
A combination of marionettes, oversize costumed dancers and fairy tale friends are the secret to this festive holiday production in Glen Echo Park, which has been delighting families for over three decades. To make everyone feel welcome at the event, there is a sensory-friendly production on Dec. 3, and a “mask required” week starting on Dec. 14. Through Dec. 31. $15. Free for children under 2.
Crafting for the Holidays at Library of Congress
Join the staff of the Library of Congress to learn about items related to the holidays in its collection, then take part in a family crafting activity in the Great Hall to make holiday items related to Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Time registration tickets required. Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free.
Plaid Friday Promotion at Old Town Alexandria
This is a big weekend for holiday shopping in Alexandria. On Friday, the Plaid Friday promotion brings deals at more than 50 boutiques and shops, including Hooray for Books, yarn and fibers at Fibre Space, fashionwear at Shoe Hive and American in Paris, and artists throughout the Torpedo Factory, with some opening at 6 a.m. The bargains continue on Small Business Saturday. Hours vary by store. Free.
Black Friday Holiday Market at Right Proper Brewing
Right Proper Brewing hosts a selection of local makers, including bags and wallets by Stitch and Rivet and watercolor prints by Marcella Kriebel, at its Shaw location. The event includes brunch dishes and live music by Laquavia Alston. Noon to 4 p.m. Free.
Barrel Aged Blending Class at Atlas Brew Works
The Ivy City taproom is offering an event for beer enthusiasts where you can learn how to barrel-age brews from its quality assurance expert and find out how different flavors develop during the aging process. The blend created in class will be bottled and available for pickup once it is ready. 3 to 6 p.m. $60.
“Donna Versus Diana” Disco Party at DC9
Grab your platforms and bellbottoms for a dance party celebrating the music of Donna Summer and Diana Ross. The Queens of Disco are mixed by DJ Phoenix on the second level of DC9. 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Free in advance. $5 at the door.
Saturday, Nov. 25
Liz Phair Concert at the Anthem
Of all the iconic albums celebrating a 30th anniversary this year, “Exile in Guyville” by Liz Phair may have the largest imprint on contemporary music, in the songs of everyone from megastars Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo to indie darlings like Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail. Phair marks the moment by playing the album for a seated audience at the Anthem. 8 p.m. $55 to $95.
‘Swept Away’ Musical at Arena Stage
The folk-rock group the Avett Brothers ventures into theatrical waters with this original musical, inspired by their 2004 album “Mignonette” about a shipwreck off the coast of Africa in 1884. With financial assistance from outside producers, Arena Stage is putting on the East Coast premiere in impressive fashion: The book is by playwrigh John Logan (“Red”) and the director is Broadway veteran Michael Mayer (“Funny Girl”). The cast is being assembled, headed by John Gallagher Jr., a Tony winner for “Spring Awakening,” and Stark Sands of “& Juliet.” Through Dec. 30. $41 to $150.
Made in ALX Holiday Market at Port City Brewing
Local makers group Made in ALX brings almost 30 crafters and makers to Port City for this Small Business Saturday event, which features caroling by the Alexandria City High School Choir, food trucks and chances to win flights of Port City beer. Kids and dogs are welcome, and the first 100 visitors get coupons for 30 percent off. Noon to 5 p.m. Free.
Holiday Shop at Salt & Sundry in the District
If you have lived through a few holiday seasons here, you have probably found yourself browsing Salt & Sundry for presents and hostess gifts. This year, the store has a special destination for holiday shopping: the Holiday Shop, a pop-up located in the former Little Leaf space at 14th and R streets NW, stocked with ornaments, glassware, gift wrap and exclusive items not at other Salt & Sundry locations. Nov. 25 through Jan. 1. Free.
10th Anniversary Holiday Tree Lighting at City Center
The downtown shopping district turns on its 75-foot tree with help from NBC4 anchor Eun Yang, live pop covers by the Revels band, face painters and balloon artists for kids, and photo ops. City Center plans to add more trees, decorated by local artists Maggie O’Neill, Annie Broderick and No Kings Collective, in early December. 5 to 7 p.m. Free.
Divorced Dad Rock Dance Party at Pie Shop
Videos spoofing “Divorced Dad Rock,” a term mocking nu-metal and hard rock bands like Linkin Park and Nickleback, have proliferated on TikTok in recent years, but this is one chance to rock out to the sound of the late ’90s and early 2000s in public, alongside tunes by Korn, Creed and Rage Against the Machine. (“We don’t judge,” the Pie Shop website says. Duly noted.) 7:30 p.m. $15 to $20.
Sunday, Nov. 26
‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at the Hamilton
The Eric Byrd Trio is bringing to life the jazz-infused soundtrack of the 1965 “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special with several sets of live performances, including two near the District. Catch the performance at the Hamilton Live over dinner (or a late lunch) and drinks. 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. $15 to $40.
Monday, Nov. 27
‘Will’s World’ at the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art library participates in the citywide Shakespeare Everywhere festival by displaying a few of the books that helped spark the imagination of William Shakespeare. Old and rare books from the collection will be on view during “Will’s World: European Literature in Shakespeare’s Time.” Plus, every Friday in December, special collections librarian Yuri Long and guests from the Shakespeare Everywhere festival will host discussions in person in the library at 1 p.m. about how the literature that influenced Shakespeare reverberates through plays today. Through Dec. 29. Free.
Tuesday, Nov. 28
D.C. Cocktail Week
More than 85 restaurants and bars across the area are taking part in D.C. Cocktail Week from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington where you can order special menu offerings that combine cocktails and mocktails with appetizers for one price. For example, the Japanese-Spanish fusion restaurant Cranes located downtown is pairing mushroom and mustard green gyoza with a cocktail called an Apurikotto Sour, which mixes Suntory Toki Apricot, lemon and absinthe, for $18, while in Columbia Heights, Makan is whipping up a lemongrass and ginger Malaysian Gimlet to go with chicken sate for $25. In addition to deals, restaurants will also host events such as cocktail classes and happy hours. Participants include Middle Eastern cocktail spot the Green Zone in Adams Morgan, South American hot spot Amazonia in Blagden Alley, the retro cocktail bar Jane Jane on 14th Street and Capitol Hill gin hideaway the Wells. See the website for a full list of participants and events. Through Dec. 5. Prices vary by location.
Hanukkah Market at Jewish Community Center
Makers and artists are bringing pottery, jewelry and other giftable items to the D.C. Jewish Community Center for its annual holiday bazaar, an event featuring live music, food vendors, a hot chocolate bar, and classes in making olive oil cakes and arranging dried flowers. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $7.
Family Ties Trivia at the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is putting together a trivia night themed around famous families featured in its collection, so take a spin through the museum beforehand and then test your knowledge with questions from local trivia company New Columbia Pub Quiz. You can play individually or along with up to five friends or family members. The Courtyard Cafe at the National Portrait Gallery will be open with snacks and drinks for purchase if you want to make this a happy hour trivia session. You can reserve a spot online. 5 to 6:45 p.m. Free.
Wednesday, Nov. 29
Queer Cornhole Tournament at As You Are
Indoor cornhole? With beers? Sold. As You Are will be hosting its first Queer Cornhole Tournament, which is open to beginners and ringers alike. Join with friends to make a team of two to four people, or register solo and the As You Are matchmakers will pair you up with some new friends. There are prizes to be won and drinks to enjoy. Early registration is recommended. 6 to 11:30 p.m. $10 per player.
Clothing Swap Event at Sixth & I
Instead of spending money at major retailers on Black Friday, consider waiting for the sustainable clothing swap at Sixth & I. Bring clothes, shoes and accessories to trade with other visitors. No sweat if you bring too much, since all excess items will be donated to a local charity. 7 p.m. $5 admission.
- Australia & Oceania
- Middle East
- North America
- Family Travel
- Food & Drink
- Luxury Travel
- Picture This
- Sports & Recreation
- Travel Tips
- IHG Rewards Club
- Book your getaway
20 things to do near Washington D.C.
There’s so much to see and do in our nation’s capital it’s really easy to forget the sights and attractions just outside the city. You can stay in Washington, D.C ., and then take a day traveling to a few of these places and still be back in time to get a good night’s rest in your hotel room so you’re ready for your adventures the next day.
Here’s your guide of 20 places to visit within one hour of Washington, D.C.:
1. Arlington National Cemetery
Image Source: Ron Cogswell
Arlington, Virginia 2.9 miles from Washington, D.C.
This 624 acres worth of cemetery is a place to remember and pay tribute to soldiers who have fallen on duty. Explore through other parts of the cemetery to find and see the various monuments and memorials, as well as a chance to see the Changing of the Guard ritual at the Arlington National Cemetery .
2. U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Image Source: NCinDC
Arlington, Virginia 4.2 miles from Washington, D.C.
A statue of six soldiers putting up the U.S. flag, depicting a prominent moment from World War II, stands in honor of all U.S. marines who have fought and given their lives to their country. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial , also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial , is located nearby the Arlington National Cemetery so you can admire and pay your compliments to the two without traveling too far.
An insider’s guide to Washington D.C.’s hidden gems Let's go
3. National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Image Source: DVIDSHUB
Arlington, Virginia 4.4 miles from Washington, D.C.
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial was built to remember those men, women and children who passed away on Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. To honor those who fell, 184 steel and granite benches were made and placed on the west side of the Pentagon for people to come and view and pay their respects to.
4. DEA Museum & Visitors Center
Image Source: Joe Loong
Arlington, Virginia 5.1 miles from Washington, D.C.
Visitors aren’t openly welcomed to tour FBI or CIA headquarters, but you can stop by for free between Tuesday and Friday to tour the DEA Museum & Visitors Center . Through tour guides, videos and exhibits, you learn just what the Drug Enforcement Administration does and about the impact of drug addiction.
5. Netherlands Carillon
Image Source: kalacaw
Arlington, Virginia 4.0 miles from Washington, D.C.
The Netherlands Carillon is symbolic of the friendship between the Netherlands and the United States. The U.S. received this gift after aiding the Dutch people during WWII, and today many visit it to listen to the music of the 50 bells hanging in the tower, take in the views of Washington, D.C., and sit in peace while being surrounded by blooming flowers.
6. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
Image Source: James Davison
Arlington, Virginia 4.6 miles from Washington, D.C.
The trail network making up the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail follows paths explored by former President George Washington. It’s a great outdoor activity allowing you to walk, run or bike these trails, as well as take them by boat or horse.
7. George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Image Source: Kyle Rush
Alexandria, Virginia 18.0 miles from Washington, D.C.
American history lovers or just those who admired George Washington should travel to Mount Vernon where George and Martha lived. Guests get to visit the Mansion and Washington’s Tomb and feel what it was like to spend the day on about 50 acres of his stunning plantation.
8. George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Image Source: Jim Larrison
Alexandria, Virginia 9.4 miles from Washington, D.C.
On any of the seven days of the week, you can see this tourist attraction, which is also a library, research center, performing arts center, concert hall and meeting site. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial stands open to the public thanks to generous contributions from Freemasons and a few other donors.
9. Torpedo Factory Art Center
Alexandria, Virginia 8.7 miles from Washington, D.C.
Located on the waterfront of the Potomac River is a former torpedo factory (hence the cool name) that’s been turned into an art center. Torpedo Factory Art Center is three floors of open galleries and studios filled with beautiful original artwork by various artists.
54 blockbuster movies filmed in Washington D.C. Can you name 5?
10. Great Falls Park
McLean, Virginia 16.5 miles from Washington, D.C.
A chance to be outdoors enjoying nature and history all in one place is at Great Falls Park . This 800 acres worth of gorgeous, clean park is in northern Fairfax County with plenty to do and explore, including hiking along Mather Gorge’s cliff tops.
11. National Colonial Farm
Image Source: baldeaglebluff
Accokeek, Maryland 23.9 miles from Washington, D.C.
At National Colonial Farm visitors can hike through winding trails, see Mount Vernon off a boat dock and travel to there by passenger boat. Bring good walking shoes and your camera to fully enjoy this farm any time during the year.
12. U.S. Naval Academy
Image Source: sneakerdog
Annapolis, Maryland 32.1 miles from Washington, D.C.
See what the Yard is all about on a guided walking tour of the U.S. Naval Academy . The public guided walking tours are offered year round, with times varying depending on day of the week and month. You might get to see the noon formation if touring then and partake in tax-free shopping if you do the tour, dine at Drydock and shop in their gif shop.
13. Annapolis Maritime Museum
Image Source: Maryland GovPics
Annapolis, Maryland 33.3 miles from Washington, D.C.
If you can’t take the smell of anything fishy, the Annapolis Maritime Museum isn’t for you. Those who welcome seafood can learn all about oysters, try out oyster tonging and fish from their dock and pier.
14. National Harbor
Image Source: Forsaken Fotos
Fort Washington, Maryland 11.7 miles from Washington, D.C.
National Harbor is a place to shop, dine and have a total waterfront experience. There are always events happening or you can get involved with the many shops and restaurants and then end your night on a bench overlooking the waterfront with its pretty views.
15. Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park
Image Source: Acroterion
Leesburg, Virginia 42.4 miles from Washington, D.C.
At Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park visitors can learn about this early Civil War battle, see the cemetery that sits in the center of the 223-acre park or venture along some of their hiking trails.
5 locals you must meet on every trip Get the inside scoop
16. Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
Image Source: lcm1863
Leesburg, Virginia 44.2 miles from Washington, D.C.
Established back in the early 19th century, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens is an elegant mansion, colorful gardens and rolling farmland. This area is full of nearly 200 years worth of American culture and history and has different activities available every season of the year.
Experience Leesburg from Holiday Inn Washington-Dulles Intl Airport
17. Inner Harbor
Baltimore, Maryland 39.3 miles from Washington, D.C.
Inner Harbor has been a seaport since the 1700s and stands as a city landmark and the center of tourism for Baltimore today. Tourists shop, eat and visit other attractions, like the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center, while visiting this famous eastern spot.
Make the most of your Inner Harbor visit at Crowne Plaza Baltimore - Inner Harbor
18. Fort McHenry
Image Source: greyloch
Baltimore, Maryland 39.6 miles from Washington, D.C.
This fort, shaped like a star, is an American national monument and historic shrine. The defense of Fort McHenry back in the 1800s during the Battle of Baltimore helped inspire Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
19. Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum
Image Source: Jim, the Photographer
Baltimore, Maryland 38.2 miles from Washington, D.C.
Baseball fans know this name well, as George Herman “Babe” Ruth was a baseball player and America’s very first sports celebrity. At the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum , guests can see and hear about the life and baseball career of this Baltimore native.
20. Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave
Image Source: Amy Meredith
Baltimore, Maryland 38.1 miles from Washington, D.C.
Edgar Allan Poe had a very unique way with words, which earned him the nickname of “America’s Shakespeare”. He wrote various types of short stories, lyric poetry and darker horror stories. His literature is still read today, so anyone who’s a fan can take the short drive from Washington, D.C. to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave .
Washington, D.C., keeps tourists busy with all its governmental and historical sites, but make the time to venture outside the city to see what other historical, cultural and fun attractions are nearby. It’ll make your trip to the capital an even better experience.
Washington D.C. tours, attractions and more
Explore choices for your next Washington D.C. trip, including an African-American history tour of the city. Book through IHG and earn 1,000 points.
- Six of the Hottest Miami Happy Hours Under the Sun September 23, 2021
- Dream Destination Wedding Locations in the Southeast August 5, 2021
- City Lights Series: Best Foodie Cities February 24, 2020
- City Lights Series: Best Sports Cities in the U.S. February 24, 2020
- City Lights Series: Best Culture Cities in the U.S. February 21, 2020
Previous Post 11 must-see Atlanta attractions (Graphic)
Next post learn, play and travel with your family from connecticut to maine, you may also like, six of the hottest miami happy hours under the sun, dream destination wedding locations in the southeast, fujairah: a history lover’s guide to forts and mosques, search ihg hotels.
© 2020 IHG. All rights reserved. Most hotels are independently owned and operated. AdChoices
Visit Washington DC
If you have any questions or concerns about visiting D.C., please call our D.C. office at 202-225-3976 or email [email protected].
Due to the large number of visitors, all tickets are provided to constituents on a first-come, first-served basis. For information on sightseeing and attractions in Washington, D.C., please visit the Washington, D.C. Tourism Information page.
The White House is open for guided tours. Please be advised that due to high demand and limited spaces my office is unable to accommodate all requests. All guest passes must be reserved at least one month in advance ; however, I recommend requesting a tour at least three months in advance of your visit to D.C. To request a tour of the White House, please complete the form below. For more information, please click here .
The U.S. Capitol is open for guided tours, and requests can be submitted up to 3 months in advance . To reserve passes, please click here to visit the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) website. The Library of Congress recently reopened for self-guided tours. To book timed-entry passes, please click here .
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is open to visitors. Click here to see what shows are on now, and click here to schedule a free guided tour of the indoor and outdoor grounds.
The Supreme Court is open for self-guided tours on days when the court is not in session. Click here for more information.
The FBI Experience is open for guided tours Monday-Friday from 9am to 2pm. All guest passes must be reserved at least one month in advance and tour groups are limited to ten visitors. To reserve a space, please email the below information to [email protected] :
- Group Phone
- Group Email
- Available Dates
- # of Visitors
- Middle Name
- Social Security Number (if 16 and above)
- Country of Birth
- Green Card Number (if applicable)
- Passport (if applicable)
- Any physical disabilities
U.S. House of Representatives Galleries If you would like to see the legislative branch in action, please visit our office during normal business hours to request House Gallery tickets. The House Galleries will be open from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday when the House is not in session and will open to visitors 30 minutes prior to the start of each session and remain open until adjournment when the House is in session. The House Galleries are closed on federal holidays. Our office is located at 2454 Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C. 20515.
The Department of the Treasury offers tours of the historic Treasury Building every other Saturday, save holiday weekends. Tours are offered at 9 AM and 10:30 AM, with the duration being about an hour. If you would like to request a tour of the Department of the Treasury, please email the following information to [email protected] : the date you are requesting; the first, middle, and last name of each party member; and each person’s email address. Please note that tours do not include the U.S. Mint or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is currently open to visitors. A limited number of tours are available Monday through Friday at the following times (ET): 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. Tours are approximately 45 minutes. Admission is free. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at 8 a.m. at the Tour and Visitor Center entrance on 14th Street. There is a limit of four tickets per person. The BEP is closed on federal holidays and during their Year-end Shutdown from December 22, 2023 through January 1, 2024. If you are interested in an early-morning tour, please email your first and last name, address, the number of individuals in your group, the date range in which your group is available, and any special requests to [email protected] . Please be aware that requests for early-morning tours must be made greater than 14 days in advance.
White House Tour Request Form
Please choose up to three dates everyone in your party is available to tour the White House. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, and times are automatically assigned to each group. The tours are self-guided and must be submitted greater than 21 days beforehand. Each person in your tour party must submit security information to the White House using a link they provide to the given email.
What are these options?
Constituents who are hard of hearing or use a video phone have the option to choose TDD or VP based on the type of device they are using. This allows our office to respond to them accordingly. The default option 'Voice' is a standard audible telephone.
Eager beavers: Furry buck-toothed visitors have been munching on Tidal Basin’s famous cherry trees
Neal Augenstein | [email protected]
November 22, 2023, 1:17 PM
- Share This:
- share on facebook
- share on twitter
- share via email
Share This Gallery:
A pre-Thanksgiving feast has put a dent in one of the prized attractions in the nation’s capital — the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin in D.C. near the Jefferson Memorial.
“Over the past week, we’ve been noticing evidence of beaver activity along the Tidal Basin,” said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks for the National Park Service. “Bark that’s been chewed through, teeth marks and general indications of gnawing by the beavers.”
While it’s not clear whether the chewing is by one beaver or several, the damage is “probably upward of a dozen, maybe 15 or 16 trees in all,” Litterst said.
Litterst said it doesn’t appear the eager beavers are trying to fell the trees to use them, for example, to dam the Tidal Basin. In 1999, a beaver killed nine trees, trying to build a dam before the park service interceded.
Instead, he believes the beavers are transient, “passing through, getting a snack from the bark or the woody tissue of the tree, which is where they get their nutrients from.”
Litterst said the park service sees beaver activity fairly frequently.
“There are certain kinds of trees that beavers prefer and, unfortunately, cherry trees are on that list,” he said. “Beaver activity tends to increase in the spring and fall, as the beavers are leaving the nest for the first time, traveling and trying to find a place to establish their own habitat.”
The National Park Service will continue to monitor the beaver activity.
“Right now, we’re not doing anything to try to get rid of the beavers. This is, of course, the natural process, and beavers are just doing what they naturally do,” Litterst said.
However, the park service can try to dissuade the largest living rodents in North America.
“Our tree crews can put mesh or wire around the bottom of the trees to make them less appealing and more difficult to get to,” Litterst said. “Again, in hopes of having the beavers move on, to another area.”
Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.
DC-area veterinarians puzzled by respiratory illness in dogs
Planes and automobiles: DC-area travelers make their way to their Thanksgiving destinations
Festival brings dazzling lights to Prince George’s County
1 person dead, US Park Police officer wounded after exchange of gunfire in Northwest DC
We talked to the Butterball Turkey Talk Line so you don’t have to
Tips to make sure you give with your heart — and your head — this holiday season