22 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Washington, D.C.

Written by Becca Blond and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers Updated Mar 21, 2024 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.

Sunrise at behind Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial

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., best time to visit washington, d.c..

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

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.

United States Capitol - Floor plan map

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.

The Lincoln Memorial

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.

World War II Memorial

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.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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

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.

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The Washington Monument

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.

National Air and Space Museum

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.

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The West Building of the National Gallery of Art

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.

East Wing of the National Gallery of Art

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.

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

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.

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The Library of Congress

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.

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Dinosaur skull outside the National Museum of Natural History

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.

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National Museum of American History

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.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

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

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Jefferson Memorial with spring cherry blossoms

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.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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.

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Red Panda at the National Zoological Park

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.

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National Archives

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.

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International Spy Museum

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.

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Arlington National Cemetery in the fall

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.

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Washington National Cathedral

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

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.

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Georgetown Historic District

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.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery

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.

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U.S. Botanic Garden

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.

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Row houses near U Street

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.

The Wharf

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.

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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.

Weather wise, the best time of year to travel to Washington, D.C. is between the months of March and May and September to November . You'll hit cherry blossom season (usually from late March to early April), ogle spectacular fall foliage (especially in October through November), and enjoy a long stretch of great weather free from frigid and sweltering temps.

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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 .

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washington dc state tourist attractions

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
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washington dc state tourist attractions

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. The cherry blossoms typically hit peak bloom (defined as when 70% of the cherry blossoms are open) in March or April. The National Park Service website makes "bloom watch" updates on its website , where you can check the progress of the trees and see when peak bloom is expected for the year. 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 $28 to $40 per hour (depending on the day) for a four-passenger boat. You can pick up a paddle boat every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from the boat dock near Maine Avenue.

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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 . (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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

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washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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. 

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

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washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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 dc state tourist attractions

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.

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washington dc state tourist attractions

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.)

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

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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 has closed its Boxwood Collection and adjacent Perennials Collection in order to prevent spread of the disease. It is closed until further notice.

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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'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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

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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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

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.

washington dc state tourist attractions

The Mansion on O Street The Mansion on O Street

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washington dc state tourist attractions

United States Botanic Garden United States Botanic Garden free

African American History Tour with Museum Admission

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Small Group National Mall Night Tour with 10 Top Attractions

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Guided Capitol Hill Walk with US Capitol & Library of Congress

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International Spy Museum International Spy Museum

washington dc state tourist attractions

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By Adele Chapin

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There's the DC you see on C-SPAN footage and blaring cable news clips. Then there's DC that residents know, the livable city where you can spend a Saturday exploring indie boutiques, cool restaurants and breweries, and amazing concert venues. Your visit to America's capital city can include both sides of town, seeing awe-inspiring museums and memorials—or trying to find a presidential motorcade if you're a "West Wing" super fan. Next up, see a free concert at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, hear the birds chirp in one of The District's many parks (both wild and manicured), or even see the sights from the Potomac River on a water taxi. Need more ideas? Here's our list of the best things to do in Washington, DC, both on and off the beaten path.

Read our complete Washington, DC, destination guide here .

Every review on this list has been written by a Condé Nast Traveler journalist who knows the destination and has visited that activity. When choosing things to do, our editors consider landmarks and experiences that offer an insider’s view of a destination, keeping authenticity, location, service, and sustainability credentials top of mind. This gallery has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Main entry canopy view of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture NMAAHC

National Museum of African American History and Culture Arrow

It’s hard to imagine improving upon the grandeur of the historic National Mall , miles of greenery surrounded by world-class monuments and museums. But in September 2016, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture did just that. This relatively new addition to an iconic landscape houses artifacts, photography, and other media that reflect African American culture and experiences. Here you’ll find Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal and silk lace and linen shawl, a bill of a sale for a young enslaved girl, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, photos capturing the participation of Black women during the Civil Rights Movement, and a collection of costumes from ‘The Wiz’. Given the scope and size of the space (85,000 square feet), this is best saved for a day when you have plenty of time to devote.

Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DC

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You can’t miss Ben’s Chili Bowl. The restaurant’s bright red and yellow facade on the U Street Corridor proudly broadcasts itself as a Washington landmark. The institution is best known for its chili dogs and half-smokes—half-beef, half-pork smoked sausage smothered in chili—and has presided over U Street since it opened in 1958. Much has changed in 60 years: U Street has become a hipster hotspot and Ben’s has expanded to five other locations, including one inside Washington Reagan National Airport and another at Nationals Park . Former President Obama has been known to dine at Ben’s; his likeness graces a mural on the side of the building. Prepare yourself for an animated, if not downright rowdy, crowd. By day, the restaurant is a popular tourist destination—everyone is here to try a half-smoke—and by night it’s a perfect late-night spot to recover from an evening at one of U Street’s many bars.

Union Market Washington D.C. Things To Do

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Washingtonians love spending their weekends at Union Market, in the industrial NoMa neighborhood, a sweeping space filled with local food vendors, restaurants, and shops. Union Market offers more than enough to meet anyone’s needs. Get fish and chips from The District Fishwife, eat Venezuelan at Arepa Zone, or go for Southern comfort food like étouffée from Puddin'. For a sit-down meal, try the Michelin-starred Masseria or St. Anselm, a perfect steakhouse from restaurateur Stephen Starr. For drinks, head up to Hi-Lawn, a rooftop bar and open-air eatery. Or hit mixologist Gina Chersevani's two outposts: the New York soda shop–inspired Buffalo & Bergen and carefree dive bar Last Call. And if you’re in the mood to explore Latin American culture, you’re in luck, thanks to the nearby 20,000-square-foot Latin market, La Cosecha.

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Old Post Office Tower Arrow

This massive Romanesque Revival building completed in 1899 is covered with arches and turrets. It's a formidable presence on Pennsylvania Avenue, nicknamed America's Main Street. The building is now the grand home of the Waldorf Astoria Washington D.C. (the tower entrance is at the back of the hotel next to Sushi Nakazawa). This is also DC's second tallest structure, according to the GSA, second only to the nation capital's most recognizable building: the Washington Monument. But the Old Post Office Tower is much lower-profile for the tourist hordes, which makes a visit here a cheat code for taking in a sweeping view of the Washington skyline. No tickets or reservations are needed for a trip to the 270-foot observation deck within the clock tower.

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Washington DC Phillips Collection art artwork museum exhibit

Phillips Collection Arrow

In a town full of museum after-hours parties, the Phillips Collection's monthly "Phillips After 5" is one of the longest-running events of its kind and still hits it out of the park. For example, a party celebrating an exhibit with French post-Impressionist artist Pierre Bonnard partners up with the Embassy of France to bring in a live band, snacks like spring vegetable galettes with edible flowers, and a floral arranging workshop.

Busboys  Poets Washington D.C.

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It’s hard not to be taken with Busboys and Poets, particularly if you have an affinity for cozying up with a compelling book and a steaming cup of coffee. Part restaurant, bookstore, and hub for driving social change, the establishment is eclectic and comfortable, outfitted with murals and art depicting activists and progressive movements. The crowd varies, based on time of day, event lineup, and what’s going on in the world when you visit. Weekend mornings can be lively, with folks tucking into a DC favorite brunch .

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The Yards Park Arrow

If you're looking to hike and disappear into nature within the city limits, head to Rock Creek Park . But for an outdoor escape that combines showy landscape architecture with DC's peaceful Anacostia riverfront, check out the Yards Park. This very modern urban park is an anchor of the redeveloped Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, turning a former industrial space into a slice of greenery for residents and visitors to enjoy amidst the office towers—with amenities like a dog park and water features that little ones can splash around in during the summer. The futuristic Yards Park Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with striking, swirling steel supports that glows at night, tempts photographers to capture a unique angle. The bridge is located near the park's Canal Basin and Waterwall, a unique water feature where kids are invited to wade and play in the 11-inch deep water on hot days.

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Eastern Market Arrow

Open since 1873, Eastern Market is a National Historic Landmark and a beloved local institution. Long before farmers markets cropped up in every neighborhood across the city, Eastern Market was the go-to place for fresh produce, meat, cheese, and baked goods—and still is. One can easily spend an afternoon wandering the stalls, which are packed with fresh produce, cheeses, meats, poultry, and flowers, as well as items like shaved ice snowballs, canned pickles, and Filipino food. If you’re really hungry, sit down for a meal at Market Lunch, a 46-year-old institution famous for its blueberry-buckwheat pancakes. On weekends, local artists sell handmade wood carvings, letterpress prints, soaps, and the like. A community staple for more than 140 years, Eastern Market offers a fascinating look into local life DC—beyond the buzzy new restaurants and the politics.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Performance Venue Washington D.C.

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The John F. Kennedy Center is a sight to behold, inside and out. Set on the banks of the Potomac River—between the Watergate Hotel and the Lincoln Memorial —this performing arts center is stately and iconic; it's the true monument to J.F.K. Edward Durrell Stone designed the modern marvel, whose halls are decorated with plush red carpets, enormous crystal chandeliers, and a bevy of state flags; its rooftop restaurant is a favorite place for Washingtonians to watch the sunset with a cocktail or coffee. The National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera both call The Kennedy Center home. In September 2019, the Kennedy Center doubled down on its commitment to the arts with the opening of The REACH. Filled with intimate performance spaces and lecture halls, the expansion aims to create deeper connections between performers and audiences.

National Mall Landmark Washington D.C.

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Each year, millions of people come to see the monuments and memorials that dot the more than 1,000 acres of the National Mall, which is flanked at one end by the U.S. Capitol Building and at the other end by the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 (his own memorial is a half-mile away). At the center of the park, dubbed “America’s Front Yard," the Washington Monument honors the first U.S. president and the founding of American democracy. Though the National Mall stars in myriad movies and TV shows, it's far more awe-inspiring in real life. From the solemnity at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the stirring energy at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, you’ll find that each monument or memorial has its own atmosphere. In other words: Prepare to feel all the feels.

Nationals Park Stadium Washington D.C.

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Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals, is one of the finest baseball stadiums in America; from the upper decks, you just might spy the top of the U.S. Capitol Building . While you’re cheering on the Nats, you can enjoy a burger from Shake Shack, brews from more than a dozen local breweries, or a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl , a local institution. Since it opened in 2008, the ballpark has become the glittering centerpiece of a revitalized Southeast Waterfront—so don't forget to check out the neighborhood while you're here.

Shop Made in DC Washington DC

Shop Made in DC Arrow

Shop Made is stocked with the work of the best artisans and makers from across Washington, DC, including prints, photography, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, toys, kitchen goods, clothing, and food. The boutique bursts with local pride, making it a perfect way to get to know the city while wandering around Georgetown. It also hosts regular events—like pottery painting sessions and calligraphy workshops—so be sure to check the website before your visit. The shop has been so successful, there are now six other locations throughout DC.

Rock Creek Park Park Washington D.C.

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Sprawling out across a whopping and wild 1,754 acres of public land, Rock Creek Park is one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in DC Officially authorized in 1890, it was the third national park to be designated by the federal government. It has something for everyone: a Nature Center for explorers; running, biking, and hiking trails for fitness enthusiasts; equestrian, golf, and tennis centers for sports lovers; and picnic spots, historic forts, a 19th-century gristmill, and concert venues for everyone else. While the verdant grounds are a peaceful escape from urban life, it also offers a planetarium—the only planetarium in the National Park Service, in fact—and the Smithsonian National Zoo . Both are free.

Spice Suite Washington D.C.

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This Takoma-area specialty shop is as eclectic, warm, and creative as its entrepreneurial founder, Angel Gregorio. Step in, and you might feel like you’re in the self-taught cook, mother, and activist’s own kitchen. At any given time, you’ll be able to select from more than 75 different food products and 23 kitchen accessories to outfit your own cooking space. The store is filled with glass jars whose labels read of interesting blends, including black cardamom, as well as red curry from Zanzibar.

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Attucks Adams: “U Street: The Art & Soul of Black Broadway” Arrow

Tim Wright, the owner of Attucks Adams, is the host of this tour that dives into why U Street earned its nickname of Black Broadway, complete with a 40-song playlist you'll hear as you walk. It's an inside look at this vibrant neighborhood: the story begins back in 1867 with the founding of Howard University and covers up until the go-go music scene of today. The tour often spans small groups, and you'll definitely want to reserve a spot. Howard Theatre, the grand, circa-1910 building where jazz great Duke Ellington once played, is a fitting starting point. The overarching theme of the U Street tour hits home how Black people had to recreate the institutions they were locked out due to racism and segregation, be that musical institutions or legal institutions and beyond. Tour stops include the site of Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression, Ben's Chili Bowl, the site of the Waxie Maxie Record Store, and the section of the neighborhood known as Little Ethiopia.

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Potomac Water Taxi Arrow

Why get stuck in gridlock or Metro delays when you could glide serenely along DC's Potomac River to your next vacation stop, with gorgeous views along the way? The Potomac Water Taxi connects Washington's bustling new Wharf development to three different locations: Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria in Virginia, and National Harbor in Maryland. These bright yellow boats depart throughout the day and are an easy, non-committal way to drift along seeing the sights (instead of booking a dinner cruise, for example). Two routes (Alexandria to Georgetown and the Wharf to Georgetown) offer an accompanying audio tour if you download the City Experiences App. Otherwise, relax and enjoy the ride.

Hotel Zena, A Viceroy Urban Retreat

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Must-see attractions in Washington, DC

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

Washington, DC

The legendary exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum include the Wright brothers' flyer, Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St…

National Gallery of Art on the National Mall during spring in Washington D.C.

National Gallery of Art

Two buildings. Hundreds of masterpieces. Infinite enjoyment. It's easy to spend a full day at the National Gallery of Art, which showcases a whole range…

500px Photo ID: 100166741 - Pre-dawn at the Lincoln Memorial. "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."

Lincoln Memorial

Anchoring the National Mall's west end is the hallowed shrine to Abraham Lincoln, who gazes across the Reflecting Pool beneath his neoclassical, Doric…

National Museum of African American History and Culture, facade

National Museum of African American History & Culture

Located in Washington, DC, the sensational National Museum of African American History & Culture is devoted exclusively to the documentation of African…

The Capitol, Washington, DC

Since 1800, this is where the legislative branch of American government (ie Congress) has met to write the country's laws.

White House

White House

White House Area & Foggy Bottom

Play image association with the words “Washington, DC,” and chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the White House. The president’s pad is…

Holocaust Memorial. Shooting Location: Washington, DC

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

In a city of classic, white-marble monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands out on the National Mall for its stark modernism. Designed by 21-year…

500px Photo ID: 94157925 - The National Cathedral in Washington, DC is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.

Washington National Cathedral

Upper Northwest DC

Constructed between 1907 and 1990, this huge neo-Gothic cathedral blends the spiritual with the profane in its architecture. Most of its richly colored…

Satyr statute welcomes visitor to Hillwood Gardens, Washington, DC.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

The former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post of Post cereal fame, this lavishly decorated 1920s mansion showcases her extraordinary collections of…

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress

Library of Congress

The world's largest library – with 164 million books, manuscripts, maps, photos, films and other items – awes in both scope and design. The centerpiece is…

National Archives facade.

National Archives

It's hard not to feel a little in awe of the big three documents in the Archives: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights…

Washington DC, USA - July 1, 2015: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are both housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building.; Shutterstock ID 330696272; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: Digital Content/Sights

Reynolds Center for American Art & Portraiture

The Reynolds Center is one of DC's finest museums. This Smithsonian venue combines the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum into one…

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 03:  Garden views at Dumbarton Oaks in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Dumbarton Oaks

The mansion's 27 acres of enchanting formal gardens are straight out of a storybook. The springtime blooms – including heaps of cherry blossoms – are…

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi Public Statue Front of Indian Embassy Embassy Row Massachusetts Ave Washington DC.  Gandhi is walking to sea on salt march.  Dedicated September 2000,  Artist Gautam Pal; Shutterstock ID 302137574; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Gillmore; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online-Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: 65050/ Online Design /LaurenGillmore/POI

Embassy Row

Want to take a trip around the world? Stroll northwest along Massachusetts Ave from Dupont Circle (the actual traffic circle) and you pass more than 40…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Phillips Collection

The country's first modern-art museum (opened in 1921) houses a small but exquisite collection of European and American works. Renoir’s Luncheon of the…

Kreeger Museum

One of DC's top attractions for architecture buffs and those with an interest in 20th-century art, this museum is housed in a stunning 1963 International…

Cherry blossom season at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial

Set on the south bank of the Tidal Basin amid the cherry trees, this memorial honors the third US president, political philosopher, drafter of the…

United States National Arboretum Columns in Washington DC, USA; Shutterstock ID 191062433; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Gillmore; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online-Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: 65050/ Online Design /LaurenGillmore/POI

United States National Arboretum

Logan Circle, U Street & Columbia Heights

The greatest green space in Washington unfurls almost 450 acres of meadowland, sylvan theaters and a pastoral setting that feels somewhere between bucolic…

Facade of Supreme Court.

Supreme Court

The highest court in the USA occupies a pseudo-Greek temple protected by 13,000lb bronze doors. Arrive early to watch arguments (periodic Monday through…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Ford’s Theatre

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln here. Free timed-entry tickets provide access to the site, which has four parts: the…

National Museum of Natural History, facade

National Museum of Natural History

Arguably the most popular of the Smithsonian museums, so crowds are pretty much guaranteed. Wave to Henry, the elephant who guards the rotunda, then zip…

Natural Musuem of American History

National Museum of American History

Containing all kinds of artifacts of the American experience, this museum has as its centerpiece the flag that flew over Baltimore's Fort McHenry during…

DC Sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument

Peaking at 555ft (and 5in) and composed of 36,000 blocks of stone, the Washington Monument is the district's tallest structure. Political shenanigans…

National Museum of Asian Art

This is a lovely spot in which to while away a Washington afternoon. Japanese silk scrolls, smiling Buddhas, rare Islamic manuscripts and Chinese jades…

Tian Tian, the male giant panda at the National Zoo.

Smithsonian's National Zoo

Home to more than 2700 animals and more than 390 species in natural habitats, the National Zoo is famed for its giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Bei…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Rock Creek Park

At 1700-plus acres, Rock Creek is twice the size of New York’s Central Park and feels wilder. Terrific trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Union Station

DC's main rail hub, a 1907 beaux-arts beauty designed by Daniel Burnham, is an eye popper. The Grand Concourse is patterned after the Roman Baths of…

The Jefferson Memorial reflected in Tidal Basin with cherry blossoms.

Tidal Basin

The 2-mile stroll around this constructed inlet incorporates the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson memorials as well as the Floral Library…

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 11, 2015: The Watergate Complex in Foggy Bottom. The complex became well known in the wake of the Watergate Scandal which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.; Shutterstock ID 269467838; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; Project no. or GL code: 56530; Network activity no. or Cost Centre: Online-Design; Product or Project: 65050/7529/Josh Vogel/ Destination Galleries

Watergate Complex

Designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti and DC-based landscape architect Boris Timchenko and constructed between 1963 and 1971, this five-building…

National Postal Museum Building, Washington DC, United States; Shutterstock ID 134185841; Your name (First / Last): redownload; GL account no.: redownload; Netsuite department name: redownload; Full Product or Project name including edition: redownload

National Postal Museum

The Smithsonian-run Postal Museum is way cooler than you might think. Level 1 has exhibits on postal history from the Pony Express to modern times, where…

washington dc state tourist attractions

National Museum of Women in the Arts

The only US museum exclusively devoted to women’s artwork fills this Renaissance Revival mansion. Its collection – some 5500 works by 1000 female artists…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Georgetown Waterfront Park

This park is a favorite with couples on first dates, families on an evening stroll and power players showing off their yachts. Benches dot the way, where…

Exterior, U.S. Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

Built to resemble London’s Crystal Palace, this garden's iron-and-glass greenhouse provides a beautiful setting to view orchids, ferns and cacti. When you…

Folger Shakespeare Library

Bard-o-philes will be all aflutter here, as the library holds the world's largest collection of old Billy’s works. Stroll through the Great Hall to see a…

The African-American Civil War Memorial is the first monument to honour coloured soldiers in the Civil War.

African American Civil War Memorial

Standing at the center of a granite plaza, this bronze memorial, Spirit of Freedom, depicting rifle-bearing troops is DC’s first major art piece by black…

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16, 2014:  The statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his dog on the National Mall in autumn is a major tourist attraction.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The 7.5-acre memorial pays tribute to the longest-serving president in US history. Visitors are taken through four red-granite areas that narrate FDR’s…

Martin Luther King Memorial at night

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

Opened in 2011, this was the first Mall memorial to honor an African American. Sculptor Lei Yixin carved the piece, which is reminiscent in concept and…

washington dc state tourist attractions

Meridian Hill Park

This is an incredible bit of urban green space. The grounds are terraced like a hanging garden replete with waterfalls, sandstone terraces and assorted…

Tulips at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, Washington DC, USA.

Dumbarton Oaks Park

Next door to Dumbarton Oaks garden, Dumbarton Oaks Park was once part of the estate but is now a public woodland beloved by joggers and dog walkers…

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32 Best Things to Do in Washington, D.C., From Must-see National Landmarks to Renowned Museums

Here's how locals in hospitality suggest getting to know the U.S. capital.

washington dc state tourist attractions

Victoria Chamberlain/Travel + Leisure

Our nation's capital is a veritable treasure trove of sights and experiences. The city’s always-evolving cultural scene, combined with its historical roots, make it an eclectic destination where centuries-old monuments and landmarks stand alongside sleek new museums and neighborhoods — and a great meal or exciting live performance is never too far away.

“D.C. has vibrant neighborhoods with unique character, such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and Dupont Circle," says Brian Salley, chef concierge at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC . "These areas offer a mix of shopping, dining, nightlife, and cultural experiences." And don't forget about the urban center's myriad parks and green spaces, where nature lovers can relax and unwind.

Planning a trip to this historic city? We polled several concierge teams at some of the best hotels in D.C. on the most exciting things to do and see on your next getaway to Washington, D.C.

Head to the Old Post Office Pavilion's clock tower.

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Occupying prime real estate in downtown D.C., the Old Post Office Tower soars 270 feet above Pennsylvania Avenue, and it offers breathtaking views of some of the capital's most famous landmarks, including the White House, U.S. Congress, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. The beautiful 19th-century building, which also houses the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC , is open for self-guided tours daily.

Climb "The Exorcist" steps in Georgetown.


Tucked between a stone wall and a brick building, this steep climb was made famous by the 1973 horror movie "The Exorcist." The steps connect Canal Road N.W. with Prospect Street N.W. above, where you'll also find MacNeil's house on the 3600 block.

Snap a selfie with Transformers.

In the same area, head to 3614 Prospect St. N.W. to check out life-sized statues of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. The Transformers guard the residence of Georgetown University professor Newton Howard; while the three statues (the third one is on his rooftop, and it's visible from the street) have drawn mixed reactions from Howards' neighbors, visitors and university students seem to like them.

Visit Washington National Cathedral.

Victoria Chamberlain/Travel + Leisure

This imposing gothic building took 83 years to complete, and it boasts 215 stained glass windows and 112 gargoyles, some more famous than others. "See if you can catch a glimpse of the Darth Vader gargoyle," suggests Adrian Renart, assistant director of services at The St. Regis Washington, D.C. You might need binoculars to spot the sculpture of the Star Wars villain; it's set on one of the cathedral's northwest towers. The cathedral is also the final resting place of President Woodrow Wilson.

Explore the Tidal Basin by peddle boat.

SKLA/Getty Images

Once warmer weather arrives in D.C., lots of locals and visitors rent pedal boats at the Tidal Basin, a man-made reservoir that's about 10 feet deep. You can get your heart rate up by pedaling to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Or opt to cruise at a slower pace and simply admire the Basin, which is where the annual Cherry Blossom Festival takes place.

Place an order at Ben's Chili Bowl.

Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images

This has to be D.C.'s most iconic dining spot — it's been a defining part of our capital's culinary (and cultural) scene since 1958, feeding people from all walks of life, including celebrities and presidents. The most popular menu item is the half-smoke grilled sausage, served with spicy chili sauce, onions, and mustard. Don't leave town without trying one.

Catch a show in the garden at the National Gallery of Art.

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"This concert series offers a variety of musical performances, including jazz, Latin fusion, bluegrass, and more," says Tiffany Gary, chef concierge at Riggs Washington D.C. The popular events take place every Friday, from May 19 through August 4, in the serene sculpture garden of the museum. Entry is free but your name must be pulled from a lottery to attend; register on the National Gallery of Art website .

Tour President Lincoln's home.

Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images

"President Lincoln's Cottage, where he lived for more than a quarter of his presidency, is a historic site and museum located in the northwest of the city," Gary explained. Instead of the White House, Lincoln resided in this idyllic two-story home, where the Emancipation Proclamation was born. Visitors can learn more about Lincoln's life and work through guided tours and interactive exhibits.

Visit Ford's Theatre.

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This is the venue where, on the evening of April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot during a performance of the play "Our American Cousin." The historic theater reopened in 1968 and exhibits inside explore the aftermath of the assassination, as well as its impact on U.S. history. Ford's Theatre also produces plays and musicals, and has a seasonal calendar of shows that start in September and continue through May.

Catch an interactive exhibit in Artechouse.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Immersive and mind-bending interactive exhibitions that blend art and technology make the D.C. outpost of Artechouse Studio an absolute must-see for travelers. With no permanent exhibition, but rather a rotating list of fascinating experiences that changes every three or so months, each visit here is sure to be a memorable one.

Enjoy a live concert at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

"Libraries are not usually places one thinks of for parties. However, we guarantee no librarians will 'shh' you during these events," Gary says. Seasonal musical performances at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Penn Quarter feature local bands and some pretty fantastic city views from the lush rooftop garden.

Stroll through Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens.

While most visitors focus on the Smithsonian museums in downtown D.C., travelers looking for an equally impressive venue that's a bit more under the radar should head here . This site features a museum, sprawling gardens, and an estate that was once the home of philanthropist, heiress, and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post. "We suggest spending the day exploring the house, collections, special exhibits, and grounds," says Gary. "We often imagine how lucky former D.C. glitterati were to receive an invitation to one of Ms. Post's legendary garden parties. The Fabergé eggs are a must-see – as is an iced tea enjoyed when strolling the gardens."

Book a spirit tasting at Silver Lyan.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The first American bar of British mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, Silver Lyan is often named one of the world's best bars. Located in the Riggs Hotel, the bar hosts exclusive spirit tastings in a secret bank vault throughout the year. "This is a must for aficionados of whisky and other spirits; expect rare gems, special edition bottles, and a few [things] you won't find anywhere else," Gary says.

Visit the National Portrait Gallery and linger in the courtyard.

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Some people assume this museum isn't for them because of the specific art form found inside — do not make this error. You will view spectacular pieces here , including Barack and Michelle Obama's official portraits, which people line up to see, and you can enjoy the museum's modern courtyard as well, which features a "floating" canopy of glass and steel that was added in 2004. It's the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing and to have lunch or a snack.

Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island.

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One of the most serene and lush places in D.C., Theodore Roosevelt Island is an 88-acre natural retreat on the Potomac River. "Explore the trails, take in the scenic views, and learn about the conservation legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt," suggests Brian Salley, chef concierge at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.

Hike the trails at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

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Located on the banks of the Anacostia River in northeast D.C., this tranquil 700-acre park features 45 ponds and unique habitats bursting with wildlife, including many aquatic species. "Explore the beautiful aquatic gardens with their blooming lotus flowers and water lilies," Salley says. "The park also offers walking trails and birdwatching opportunities."

Spend time at The Wharf.

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D.C.'s newest neighborhood, The Wharf , is located along the Potomac River and offers waterfront dining, boutique shopping, five-star hotels, live entertainment, and activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. The area is also home to The Municipal Fish Market , which opened in 1805 and lays claim to being "the oldest continuously-operating open-air fish market" in the country.

Tour Embassy Row.

Over 170 embassies line the quaint streets of Embassy Row, an area in northwest D.C. between Dupont Circle and Observatory Circle. Book a guided tour to learn all about the stunning Beaux-Arts mansions here — they house some of the world's most influential diplomats — and the stories they hide.

Tour the U.S. Capitol.

Inspired by the grandeur of the buildings in ancient Rome and Greece, the U.S. Capitol is arguably the most iconic building in the country. The structure houses the U.S. Congress, and you can take a free guided tour through its beautiful halls. Tour participants will see the Crypt, a legendary vaulted space with 40 Doric-style columns; the Rotunda, fashioned after the Pantheon and often the site of official ceremonial events; and the National Statuary Hall, a stunning amphitheater with marble columns and towering statues.

Meet the animals at the National Zoo.

John Baggaley/Getty Images

Home to more than 2,100 animals and nearly 400 species, the Smithsonian's National Zoo is a 163-acre property in Rock Creek Park and a favorite of visitors and locals alike. From the always popular Asia Trail to the kid's farm and Africa Trail, it's easy to see what makes this zoo one of the most visited landmarks in D.C. Entry is complimentary, but check the zoo's website for information about timed passes and parking directions.

Explore the National Air and Space Museum.

This venue is still undergoing a multi-year, top-to-bottom renovation (slated for completion in 2026), but it is partially reopened now, with eight new exhibition spaces housing aviation artifacts. If that's not enough, you can head to the affiliated Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (a 40-minute ride from downtown D.C.), to peruse legendary aircraft like the Discovery space shuttle and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Keep in mind that the Air and Space Museum in D.C. needs a timed entry pass, so book yours well in advance, especially if you're visiting on a weekend.

Watch a live show at a local concert venue.

D.C. is an entertainment hub, so save some time for a comedy, theater, or music show. Alejandra Castillo, guest services and client experience manager at Hotel Washington , suggests checking the schedules at local venues like DC Improv and The Anthem for comedy, or taking in a big show at Capital One Arena or Kennedy Center . Recently, Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters (who's a Virginia native) celebrated the opening of his own venue, The Atlantis , a 450-person intimate space for live shows; it's a replica of a popular 1980s venue in D.C.

Peruse the incredible works in the National Gallery of Art.

As one of the top art museums in the world, the halls of the National Gallery of Art are lined with tens of thousands of works of art spanning centuries, including pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Piet Mondrian, Vermeer, and so many more. The striking East Building of the museum, designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, houses the institution's contemporary and modern art collection and a rooftop terrace with views over Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tour the White House.

You could just snap a picture of the most famous address in the country from behind its fence, but what fun is that? Though it requires some advance planning, touring the White House is possible; submit a request through your representative in Congress at least 21 days before the desired tour date. The self-guided tours take approximately 45 minutes, during which you will see the East Room, the State Dining Room, and the Blue Room. Presidents have sometimes surprised visitors on these tours, so you may even meet the President.

See the Lincoln Memorial.

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The Lincoln Memorial is a National Mall highlight. Overlooking the Reflecting Pool, the imposing building where the 19-foot tall statue of seated President Abraham Lincoln is located has been the setting for some of our country's most memorable demonstrations, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Visit the monument at night when it is beautifully illuminated and crowds are much smaller.

Museum hop at the National Mall.

You can't visit the National Mall without taking advantage of all the free museums. The National Museum of Natural History is always a hit with kids, and other highlights include the National Museum of the American Indian (note that there's a playground on the second floor), the National Museum of American History , and the fantastic National Museum of African American History and Culture (timed-entry passes are required here).

Explore the sculpture gardens of the National Mall.

Aside from housing a world-class collection of modern art (including five works by Yayoi Kusama), many visitors come to the Hirshhorn Museum to enjoy its sculpture garden, where more than 30 works are displayed. For more of this art form, head to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden , which is only a few minutes away and features art by the likes of Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Mark di Suvero.

Hike in Rock Creek Park.

When you've had enough of the hustle and bustle of downtown D.C., head to Rock Creek Park, a 1,754-acre haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 32 miles of hiking and biking trails, plus a dozen miles of horseback riding trails, this is a true escape. There are many kid-friendly facilities here, too, including a planetarium and a nature center with age-appropriate exhibitions.

Dine at a José Andrés restaurant.

James Beard Award-winning chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, José Andrés , has six restaurants in D.C., many of which are within walking distance from downtown. From classic Spanish tapas at Jaleo and authentic Mexican flavors at Oyamel Cocina Mexicano to the Mediterranean Zaytinya, Andrés's eateries are excellent dining options. His latest dining concept, The Bazaar by José Andrés , opened to glowing reviews earlier this year at the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.

Take in the views from the Washington Monument.

As the tallest building in D.C., the Washington Monument provides stunning views over the capital. A 70-second elevator ride takes guests 500 feet up to the observation deck and museum, from where visitors enjoy spectacular, unobstructed views of the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian museums. Tickets are free, but advance reservations are required.

Explore D.C.'s murals.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

"Many local artists express their creativity through murals all over D.C.," Castillo explained. "One [tour] that I often recommend is with Jason Bowers, who is behind D.C. Mural Tour ." The tour takes place in the NoMa neighborhood and around Union Market, where you will see more than 20 beautiful murals. This formerly industrial area is quickly becoming one of the trendiest places to hang out in the capital, thanks to its many restaurants and boutiques.

Shop for designer goods at CityCenterDC.

CityCenterDC is a premiere shopping destination, where brands like Louis Vuitton, David Yurman, Dior, and Chanel all have boutiques — and some of these stores have private shopping rooms for the ultimate VIP experience. If you’re staying at the adjacent Conrad Washington, DC , Jeff Morgan, the hotel’s chef concierge and president of the Washington Area Concierge Association (WACA), can book those shopping experiences for you.

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

36 Best Things to Do in Washington DC In 2024

Written By: ThePlanetD Team

United States

Updated On: February 14, 2024

It is no shocking fact that Washington, DC, is one of the  best places to go in the US . When we visited we really were surprised at just how many things there were to see and do. The US’s capital city is a goldmine for history buffs – home to the White House, Library of Congress, and more memorials than you can count. Washington is set along the Potomac River, full of ornate parks and green spaces with water features. It feels like the city was almost entirely created for reflection. Washington symbolizes everything that makes up the US : reflection, power, and history.

Table of Contents

Best Things to Do in Washington DC

Top Things to do in Washington DC

 In this guide, we’ll show you how to make the most of a trip to Washington, DC. As such an impressive city, it goes without saying that your itinerary is something to take seriously. These are the top things to do in Washington DC – guaranteed to spice up your itinerary with all things exciting and mind-broadening.

Planning Your Trip To Washington DC Right Now?

Below are some of the top tours in Washington DC. Don’t forget to plan ahead when  visiting the United States!

Top Day Trips and Tours in Washington DC:

  • Night-time Monuments Tour (Most Popular)
  • DC Walking Tour with Reserved Ticket for the African American Museum (Likely to Sell Out)
  • Small-Group Guided Tour inside US Capitol & Library of Congress (Best for Families)
  • DC Monuments and Capitol Hill Tour by Electric Cart (Our Favorite)

1. Washington Monument

Best things to do in Washington DC George Washington Monument

First up, we’ve got the beautiful Washington Monument. As you already know, there are hundreds of  monuments in Washington DC . The Washington Monument is situated on the National Mall (which we will cover more in-depth later) as an honorary nod to America’s first president, George Washington.

The colossal obelisk is 555 feet tall and cut from eye-catching white marble. The Washington Monument was completed in 1884 and has been a prize attraction for tourists in Washington DC ever since, marking the importance of George Washington and his role in the founding of the US. At its time of building, it’s worth noting that the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world.

George Washington Monument at Dusk

Tourists can book entrance tickets to catch an elevator to the observation deck atop the Washington Monument, from which you can enjoy sweeping views of the National Mall and capital scenery.

  • Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington DC, 200024, US
  • Amount of time needed: 1 hour
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Night-time Monuments Tour

2. National Gallery of Art

Things to do in Washington Dc National Gallery of Art

For art lovers, the National Gallery of Art is an unquestionable addition to your Washington itinerary. The permanent collection of national archives consists of a beautiful medley of American and European, and you can easily spend hours wandering the halls and admiring the pieces. The National Gallery of Art sits split across two buildings and even extends into a beautiful sculpture garden. You can spot Van Gogh’s works from Monet and Rembrandt.

The whole place is spectacular, and the building itself is a complete picture of grandeur. And even better? The National Gallery of Art is free to enter. It is one of the top things to do in Washington, DC, on a rainy day; if you love art, it is the place to be.

  • Address: Constitution Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20565, US
  • Amount of time needed: 2 to 3 hours

3. Smithsonian American Art Museum

Best things to do in Washington DC visit National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the leading  museums in Washington, DC . It is home to the largest collection of American artwork in the world. That’s some serious bragging rights. It is housed in the third-oldest federal building in Washington, and the dramatic columned entrance is worth a visit just in its own architectural value. You can admire artwork that spans from America’s colonial period to the modern day – telling the story of America through artwork.

If you are visiting Washington on a budget, this is one of the best free things to do. Similarly, you should cache it on a wet day. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a winning attraction in Washington, DC, and ideal for anyone interested in art or American history.

  • Address: G Street NW & 8th Street NW, Washington DC, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Private Guided Tour

4. National Mall

Cool things to do in Washington Dc The National Mall

The National Mall and Memorial Parks span over 1,000 acres of beautiful parkland scenery and dotted memorials. It is primarily thanks to the National Mall that Washington DC has such a reputation for memorials. The park is an ode to American history and honor, and you’ll find memorials honoring everyone from Martin Luther King JR to Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Walking the National Mall in Washington DC

While we will cover a couple of these memorials individually, it is also worth looking at the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The park receives more than 25 million visitors a year, and walking its trails to admire the collection of monuments is a brilliant way to spend an inspiring morning.

The National Mall and Memorial Parks are free to enter and an absolute must when visiting Washington. This attraction rates as highly as the White House on a list of iconic things to do in Washington, DC.

Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial

  • Address: Washington DC, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Monuments by Moonlight Tour

5. Lincoln Memorial

Best things to do in Washington DC Lincoln Memorial

Speaking of memorials in the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is one we feel deserves its own feature as a standalone attraction in Washington. The colossal structure was inspired by the Parthenon and stands as a temple with columns in bright white stone, illuminated dramatically with underlighting at night. In front of the Lincoln Memorial is a 19-foot-long reflective pool, plus a marble statue and murals as further decorative storytelling features. 

Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in the morning

The stunning Lincoln Memorial is one of the most visited in Washington thanks to its grandeur and the importance of Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president of the United States is immortalized in the marble sculpture – depicted seated with arms rested in a regal, wise pose. Abraham Lincoln was the president who navigated the tumultuous Civil War and played a notable role in freeing approximately 4 million enslaved people.

  • Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington DC, 20002, US
  • Amount of time needed: 30 minutes
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Monuments and Memorial Tour by Electric Cart

6. Smithsonian National Museum

Things to do in Washington Dc Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is one of the leading Smithsonian museums to visit in Washington. Totally free to enter, this fascinating museum documents everything from gowns to trains and railway memorabilia. The museum aims to portray the complexity of America’s history unabashedly – creating a beautiful and raw record of American existence and all that influenced it.

The museum is located just south of the Penn Quarter and within walking distance of the National Mall. For anyone wanting a morning in a free, engaging museum, it provides a tremendous general insight into American history. For an overview, you can squeeze into 2 hours or so. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is perfect.

  • Address: 1300 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20560, US
  • Amount of time needed: 2 hours

7. International Spy Museum

Things to do in Washington Dc International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is niche and self-explanatory. The private, not-for-profit museum documents every aspect of spying history – from case studies to artifacts and spying gear. We all know the role that spying plays in international history, and this museum is a fantastic way to learn more about this part of society. For something a little different, it is one of the most unusual things to do in Washington, DC.

The International Spy Museum is a little pricier than some other attractions in Washington, costing just under $30 for a standard ticket. However, it is a worthwhile spend if you are interested in the spy industry. And you can easily spend over two hours at the museum, so you’ll quickly get your money’s worth.

  • Address: 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington DC, 20024, US

8. Arlington National Cemetery

Best Things to do in Washington DC Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is one of Washington, DC’s most solemn yet beautiful places to visit. Arlington Cemetery is a military graveyard with a grand Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can also see John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame, a fire constantly lit over his grave and final resting place.

There’s tons of history to unpack at Arlington Cemetery. If you have military ties or just wish to pay your respects, it is a beautiful, thought-provoking addition to your Washington itinerary. It is worth noting that there are significant events there, too, like placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every Veteran’s Day on November 11th.

As well as these points of interest, you can watch official procedures like the Changing of the Guard every half hour or hour, depending on the season. Arlington Cemetery is free to visit, and we’d recommend it as a solemn place to deepen your connection with Washington.

  • Address: Arlington, VA, US
  • Amount of time needed: 1 to 2 hours
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Bus Tour with Arlington Cemetery

9. Capitol Hill

Best Things to do in Washington DC Capitol Hill

The United States Capitol is obviously iconic. The domed, classic-style capitol building on Capitol Hill is where the nation’s capital runs the country. The Capitol is where the US Senate and House of Representatives reside. The building regularly runs tours that visitors can book in advance to access the mysterious areas within. It is an incredible opportunity to get close to such an influential building, and visiting and touring the US Capitol is a must if you are interested in American history or politics.

The Capitol Building in Washington Dc

Even if you don’t go inside, though, we’d recommend just visiting to look at the exterior of Capitol Hill. The building is stunning and set within beautiful parkland grounds. You can enjoy serene walking trails and just admire the architecture from afar.

  • Address: Washington DC, 20004, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: US Capitol and Library Congress

10. Potomac River

Best Things to do in Washington DC Potomac River

The Potomac River cuts through the center of Washington, DC, so it is only natural to consider some river cruises. One of the best ways to see Washington is by water – so start scrolling through all the different cruise options and find one that suits you and your itinerary.

You can take a  quick water taxi  to admire the landmarks from the water, which is ideal for those wanting a budget-friendly and bitesize river cruise just for the scenery. You can also opt for extended tours, like  this 6-hour cruise  with a hop-on, hop-off-style sightseeing experience by water. If you only visit Washington for a few days, this is a time-effective way of utilizing a river cruise.

  • Amount of time needed: 1 hour plus
  • Recommended tour from Viator:  Water taxi

11. Rock Creek Park

Best Things to do in Washington DC Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is a stunning oasis just north of the city center. You can drive from Washington DC’s city center to Rock Creek Park in just 20 minutes or catch public transport in under an hour – making this a feasible urban green space to add to your list. The park is over 1,750 acres in size, which is larger than even Central Park. You can explore independently, making the most of extensive walking and biking paths, or take one of the ranger-guided tours.

Rock Creek Park is free to visit and a beautiful place to connect with nature while visiting Washington, DC. 

12. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Best Things to do in Washington DC Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of Washington, DC’s most important spaces for artists and creatives. Visitors can check out a collection of free exhibits or see what plays, concerts, and speakers are scheduled for their visit dates. You can book tickets online and attend various events – far beyond just performing arts, the JFK Center for the Performing Arts is more of a cultural hub in Washington, DC.

The center was initially whirred into action by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to extend the center’s funding in 1963. After his assassination, the center was declared a living memorial and recognition of JRK’s dedication to the performing arts and this project.

Prices for tickets range depending on the event. Still, even those on a budget can enjoy the plethora of free exhibits.

  • Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington DC 20566, US
  • Amount of time needed: 1 to 3 hours

13. African American History Museum

Things to do in Washington DC National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a fantastic museum to add to your schedule. As the only national museum exclusively focusing on the African-American experience, it is valuable to Washington’s thriving museum scene. It provides spectacular insight into history, culture, and community. There are over 36,000 artifacts for you to get up close to, and the museum is the newest of all the Smithsonian Institution museums.

Displays inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC

Visitors will learn about notable figures like Emmet Till and Oprah, as well as the tragic history of slavery, down to exhibits on slavery ships and segregation. The National Museum of African American History and Culture has plenty of immersive exhibits, including a train set up to recreate the shocking experience of segregation.

  • Address: 1400 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20560, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: African American Tour With Museum Access

14. Washington National Cathedral

Best Things to do in Washington DC Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral is a massive stained-glass cathedral on the outskirts of Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. As the sixth largest cathedral in the world, it certainly holds some bragging rights just for scale and architecture alone. However, the Washington National Cathedral is also famous as the spot of the final Sunday sermon that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered. It is a historic and beautiful spot – easily accessible from the city center.

Visitors can pay a modest entrance fee of around $15 to enter the cathedral and enjoy sweeping views from the top viewpoint. There are numerous tour options, too, including one on the meaning behind the stained glass features.

  • Address: 3101 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Washington DC 20016, US
  • Amount of time needed: 1 hour or less

15. National Air and Space Museum

Fun things to do in Washington DC National Air and Space Museum  entrance

Everyone knows the Smithsonian museums, but what about the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum? This free museum is a highlight for anyone interested in space or aviation, and the museum has exhibits scattered across multiple floors.

Inside the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC

You can learn everything from Apollo 11 and the Moon Landing to the Wright Brothers and early flight history. The whole thing is fascinating. For those passionate about the industry or even the intersection between space and air travel with American history, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a great choice.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is located next to the United States Capitol, so it is a great attraction to combine with a Capitol visit.

  • Address: 600 Independence Ave, SW, Washington DC, 20560, US

16. National Cherry Blossom Festival

Best Things to do in Washington DC National Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the prettiest events in Washington, DC. If you are visiting in spring, it’s an absolute must. There are over 3,000 cherry blossom trees in Washington DC, and visitors flock to admire them between mid-March and mid-April.

The then-Tokyo Mayor, Yukio Ozaki, gifted the cherry blossoms in 1912. Now, the trees are a revered attraction in the US capital. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is when you can see the cherry blossoms bloom independently and visit multiple pop-up events showcasing Japanese culture. 

You don’t have to pay to experience the festival. There are so many free experiences you can have in this month-long festival. It is a beautiful time to visit Washington and an excellent marker of the relationship between Japan and America.

17. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

Things to do in Washington DC visit the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

The Martin Luther King JR Memorial is technically located within the bounds of the aforementioned National Mall and Memorial Gardens. However, it is such a meaningful and revered memorial and attraction that we had to dedicate an entire section to its coverage.

The vast dark grey wall is etched with the words: ‘Darkness cannot drive our darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’. The memorial overlooks the cherry blossoms that bloom each spring. It is a peaceful spot to pay your respects to Martin Luther King and all his positive impact amidst the civil rights movement. It is also near where he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Statue at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC

The Martin Luther King JR Memorial is a must when planning your itinerary in Washington. It is free to visit and only takes 30 minutes to appreciate. Still, it is hugely important and influential in terms of American history.

  • Address: 1964 Independence Ave, SW, Washington DC, 20004, US
  • Amount of time needed: Less than 1 hour
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Monuments Bike Tour

18. Take a Walking Tour

Take a walking tour of Washington DC

There are so many  walking tours  that you can take in Washington DC. After all, this is a city that is best experienced on foot. It is full of green space, memorials, and historic neighborhoods – all best experienced slowly and away from traffic interference.

Walking tours are a brilliant way to get close to fascinating history and explore vibrant neighborhoods better. A prime example is historic Georgetown, which has beautiful Federal architecture and cobbled streets that just tick every aesthetic box you could hope for. It is easy to see why it is such an experience taking a walking tour here, and you can find out the stories behind each street corner and snap as many pictures as you’d like.

Things to do in Washington Dc Walking Tour near the Korean War Veterans Memorial

Tours vary in pricing depending on your choice, but you can find some free walking tours if you are on a budget. If you stay at a hostel, it is also worth seeing whether they run any complimentary walking tours – which doubles up as a great way to meet new people.

  • Recommended tour from Viator:  Georgetown walking tour

19. White House

Best Things to do in Washington DC walk Pennsylvania Avenue at the Whitehouse

You don’t have to be a history or American history expert to know that the White House is a big deal. This historic home is both a symbol of the American presidency and a functional building and part of American politics. It has played home to some of the most famous presidents in US history, including President Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy. Furthermore, you can book a guided tour of the White House for free – you’ll just need to book in advance and be flexible enough to receive an allocated time.

It goes without saying that these spots can be tricky to get hold of, so make sure to book well in advance. You can still see the White House from outside if you don’t snag tickets. The exterior architecture is just as remarkable.

  • Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC, 20500, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: US Capitol and National Archives Entry

20. Union Market

Things to do in Washington DC Union Market

Union Market is impossible not to love and is a destination for all foodies to unite. The huge warehouse-style market opens daily from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. (apart from shutting an hour early on Sundays). It sells everything from charcuterie products to gelato.

You can visit sit-down restaurants or grab takeout artisan products from pop-up stalls. The whole place is a haven of different cuisines and independent businesses. Union Market is  the  place to go if you want to try varied dishes and experience Washington’s culinary scene in a single, condensed space.

Union Market is free to enter, but keep in mind that dishes range in price on a stall-by-stall basis. The market is near the Noma neighborhood, just on the city’s outskirts, next to Gallaudet University.

  • Address: 1309 5th Street NE, Washington DC, 20002, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Food and Drink Tour Union Market

21. National Harbor

Best Things to do in Washington DC National Harbor

National Harbor was a vision of George Washington’s, and it sits south of Washington DC, just opposite his former Mount Vernon estate. George Washington wanted the capital to be a city of trade and to really utilize its river position to complement and attain this goal. The modern-day result of this dream is a community and river-side resort center with its own ferry terminal and collection of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. National Harbor also has a 180-foot Ferris wheel. 

You can easily catch a ferry down to National Harbor, and it is an excellent activity if you want a fun day. It is also well-combined with a river cruise, so check out your options.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront St, Oxon Hill, MD, 20745, US
  • Amount of time needed: 2-3 hours

22. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Things to do in Washington DC visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Most people know – and love – the aesthetic behind natural history museums. And here in Washington DC, the US capital, has a glorious natural history museum for you to get that aesthetic experience. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is free to enter. It boasts hundreds of permanent exhibits that range from rare gems to dinosaur remains and a colossal elephant exhibit.

If you want to dig deeper and embrace the natural history in America, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a brilliant choice. Keep it in mind if you are traveling with children or have a rainy day, too, as it is perfect indoor entertainment.

  • Address: 10th St & Constitution Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20560

23. Ford’s Theatre

Best Things to do in Washington DC Ford's Theater

Ford’s Theatre is an ornate theater with some dark history. You can still attend to see performances, but the most popular are the tours to see the spot of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The president was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre while attending a comedy performance in 1865, and today, the theater welcomes over 650,000 visitors a year to retell the story and its rippling impact on society.

You can also visit the Peterson House, where the president finally died due to his injuries. The story is tragic, but it is essential in American history.

  • Address: 511 10th St NW, Washington DC, 20004, US
  • Recommended tour from Viator: Lincoln Assassination Tour

24. Street Art Spotting

Best Things to do in Washington DC Street art spotting

When visiting Washington, street art spotting might not be your first thought, but it should be up there. The city has some beautiful collections of street art, including at the Brookland Arts Walk. The best way to experience Washington’s street art is by heading to Brookland Arts Walk independently or taking a street art tour. There’s loads to see – you just need to know where to look.

  • Amount of time needed: Approximately an hour
  • Recommended tour from Viator:  Food, history, and street art tour 

25. Meridian Hill Park

Best Things to do in Washington DC Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park is a beautiful inner-city park famous for its manmade waterfall and Sunday drum circle events. Try to join the drum circle experience or observe it in full action, as it is a unique experience in Washington. Otherwise, just enjoy the community atmosphere and gorgeous leafy parkland scenery.

Meridian Hill Park is just a 20-minute walk from the center of Washington – you just follow 16th Street directly, passing the PETA elephant statue and Scottish Rite House of the Temple.

  • Address: 16th St NW, Washington DC, 20009, US

26. Pedal Boat on the Tidal Basin

Things to do in Washington Dc The Tidal Basin at Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Going pedal boating is one of the most laidback ways to admire the scenery from the water – but don’t be fooled; it is also a quad burner. The Tidal Basin is a vast reservoir on the outskirts of the National Mall constructed to harness the power of the Potomac River. And between 10 am and 5 pm, from spring until fall, you can rent pedal boats to explore the tidal Basin from the water. This is one of the most entertaining self-guided water activities in Washington, DC, and a must for anyone wanting a fun sightseeing experience.

  • Address: 1501 Maine Ave, SW, Washington DC, 20004, US

27. National Museum of the American Indian

Best Things to do in Washington DC National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of the most important museums in the US, let alone Washington, DC. This museum helps to preserve and celebrate American Indian history and culture through a range of exhibits, as well as an impressive schedule of events. Its collection of American Indian artifacts is one of the largest in the world. This museum makes up one of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution museums. It is free to enter but also accepts donations, which we recommend leaving if possible.

  • Address: 4th St SW, Washington DC, 20560, US

28. Watermelon House

Best Things to do in Washington DC Watermelon House

Visiting the Watermelon House is one of the quirkiest attractions and things to do in Washington, DC. The house is only accessible from the exterior for photo opportunities, but that’s because the exterior of the home is painted as a giant watermelon. The end-of-terrace property is a super fun place to visit and totally free. It even has some other fruit-themed murals nearby.

  • Address: 1112 Q St NW, Washington DC, 20009, US

29. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Things to do in Washington DC Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

I must admit, that even though we know the names of many U.S. presidents, we didn’t know a lot about each person or their role as leaders.

We had no idea that Roosevelt was a four-term President. But found out quickly at his memorial as there are four different sections honoring his different terms as leader of the country. President Roosevelt served from 1933 until his death in 1945, leading America through the second world war.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial entrance in Washington Dc

It’s a very pretty monument that feels more like a garden and a place for quiet contemplation. Many of his quotes are etched into rocks, scenes from the Great Depression and WWII are depicted and there are statues of FDR, his dog, and Elenor Roosevelt that can be viewed as you walk through the four sections.

30. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Things to do in Washington Dc United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is a tragic but precious memorial and documentation of the tragedies of World War II. The museum houses thousands of artifacts and a mixture of rotating and permanent exhibitions. In a mission to preserve the legacy of survivors and victims alike, the museum is a harrowing place to visit. Pay your respects by learning more about the tragedy of the Holocaust.

inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington Dc

  • Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington DC< 20024, US

32. Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Dumbarton Oaks Park is a scenic spot for green space hunting in Washington, DC. The park was designed by Beatrix Farrand and was created to uphold naturalistic features, resulting in a beautiful network of trails that wind through areas of natural beauty that are just wild enough without being overbearingly overgrown. There are meadows to wander, a creek, and plenty of local flora. And, of course, there are some architectural features to find, too, including an old-world-style brick bridge to cross a low creek. Dumbarton Oaks Park is free to enter and conveniently located just above Georgetown.

  • Address: R St NW, Washington DC, 20008, US

31. The Yards

Thigns to do in Washington DC The Yards

The Yards is a beautiful section of architectural greenspace. If you want a green space to relax that has fancy vibes, the Yards is your best bet. It has everything from a swimming pool to dancing fountains, and bridges lit up beautifully at night. It has a similar vibe to National Harbor but with more of a hipster or alternative vibe than National Harbor’s resort-style of allure. The Yards is free to visit, although we’d suggest budgeting for a trendy cocktail.

  • Address: 1300 First St SE, Washington DC, 20003, US

33. Tudor Place Historic House & Garden

Tudor Place Historic Home & Garden is a grand time capsule that preserves Martha Washington’s and her descendants’ history. The 1816 home is like stepping back in history and has a private collection of items and artifacts from the 1700s until the 2000s. It is a beautiful way to preserve and document history – presenting a more human, homely documentation of local history and societal complexities and wrongdoings. Tudor Place is also situated inside historic Georgetown, a destination and attraction in Washington, DC, in its own right.

  • Address: 1644 31st St NW, Washington DC, 20007, US

34. Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

Best Things to do in Washington DC Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site is partially a protected fort used in the Civil War and partially a modern museum with interactive exhibits. You can explore independently or attend guided tours or lectures, and this attraction is one of the best insights you can get into Civil War action when visiting Washington, DC. Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site is free to enter; it is one of Washington’s best free historical attractions, so history enthusiasts and those on a budget should note it down. It is accessible in under an hour by public transport or 20 minutes by car from Washington’s city center.

  • Address: 4301 W Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA, 22304, US

36. Roosevelt Island Park

Roosevelt Island Park is a beautiful island on the Potomac River with miles of woodland trails, making it the perfect escape for a bit of natural serenity. The island is a living memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt, but most of all, it is the ideal bolt hole and escape from busy Washington’s city center. Roosevelt Island Park is free to visit and, especially on a warm and dry day, a really serene place to bring a takeout coffee and enjoy a stroll. Check out the wetlands section and statues dedicated to the late President.

  • Address: Washington DC, 20037, US

Best Things to Do in Washington DC: FAQs

Best things to do in Washington Dc FAQ Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Washington will never be a city where you struggle to fill an itinerary. This incredible capital city is a hive of activity and history, and you can start getting excited ahead of your visit. Before you head off to begin trip planning, though, check out these FAQs for some ultimate guidelines.

Is 2 days enough for Washington, DC?

Possibly, but you will feel rushed and miss most of the city’s attractions. If you want to check out the White House and National Mall, two days is enough to visit Washington, DC. However, if you want to  really  experience the city, you want to spend three days or more visiting. Two days is more of a tip-of-the-iceberg experience.

Can you do Washington, DC in 3 days?

Yes, it is feasible to enjoyable visit Washington DC in three days. Three days is enough to get in-depth insight into what makes the city tick. You can experience many of the city’s leading attractions in three days. If you stay longer than three days, you can incorporate day trips to nearby cities like Baltimore and Civil War battlefields and more obscure tourist attractions in Washington itself.

What is the most visited sight in Washington, DC?

The White House is easily the most visited sight in Washington DC. This is the home of the President of the United States and the First Lady, attracting millions of tourists a year.

Is there a hop-on hop-off bus in Washington, DC?

Of course. There are plenty of hop-on, hop-off bus tours available in Washington DC. If you only visit for two to three days, these buses are a fantastic way to maximize your time in the city and squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible.

Why We Love Washington DC

Fun things to do in Washington Dc National Zoo

Are you looking forward to hitting the ground running? As you can see, Washington DC is packed with things to do, and these top 36 things to do in Washington DC are just the tip of the iceberg. You can admire permanent modern art exhibits, learn about African American history, or paddle boarding the Potomac River. This city wears its tourist scene on its sleeve, but be prepared for lots of sightseeing; Washington DC has a very long sleeve.

Cool things to do in Washington Dc Pentagon

Consider day trips for more inspiration, especially if you stay in Washington, DC, for longer than a week. You could check out a nearby national park, like First State National Historical Park or Shenandoah National Park. Or you could venture out to the battle sites scattered around Washington’s city limits.

The city is also well connected to neighboring cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia. You can always have an overnight detour to a different city to maximize your experience. Washington, DC, has a brilliant location for day trips and hundreds of things to do – what more could you want? Have a fabulous time.

Plan Your Next Trip to Washington DC With These Resources

  • 16 Best Museums in Washington DC
  • 12 Must-See Washington DC Monuments and Memorials in Photos
  • 25 Best Day Trips from NYC

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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  • United States
  • Washington, D.C.

59 Best Tourist Attractions in Washington DC

best tourist attractions in Washington DC

  • 17 Pinterest

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

White House, Washington DC

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

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

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

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC

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

National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

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

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

bus tours in Washington DC

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

Hot tip: One of the key differences between hop on hop off Washington DC bus tours vs trolley tours is the narrative style. Check our article to help you decide the best tour!

7 – Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC

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

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 – Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Factory Art Center, Washington DC

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.

10 – United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden, Washington DC

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

Smithsonian Castle, Washington DC

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

Six Flags America, Washington DC

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

boat tours in Washington DC

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

United States National Arboretum, Washington DC

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

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington DC

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

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

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

Capitol Hill, Washington DC

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

Travelers choice: 9 Best US Capitol Tours

19 – The Pentagon

The Pentagon, Virginia

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

Kenilworth Park, Washington DC

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington DC

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

National Museum of American History, Washington DC

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

National Zoological Park, Washington DC

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

Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington DC

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

Tudor Place Historic House & Garden, Washington DC

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 Museum, Washington DC

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

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

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

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC

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

Museum of the Bible, Washington DC

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

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Washington DC

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

The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC, USA

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, Washington DC

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

Library of Congress, Washington DC

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

Arts + Industries Building, Washington DC

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

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

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

Chinatown, Washington DC

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

National Museum of African American History and Culture

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

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

National Mall, Washington DC

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 .

Read more: Best Washington DC Monuments Tours

40 – Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington DC

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

The Capital Wheel, Washington DC

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

Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, Washington DC

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

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

Hillwood Estate, Washington DC

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

International Spy Museum, Washington DC

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

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

The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

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, Washington DC

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

Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC

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

National Museum of the Marine Corps, Washington DC

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

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington DC

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

Eastern Market, Washington DC

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

trolley tour in Washington DC

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

Read more: Best City Tours in Washington DC

54 – Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington DC

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, Washington DC

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

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Washington DC

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

National Archives Museum, Washington DC

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’s Cottage, Washington DC

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

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC

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.

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!

washington dc state tourist attractions

Travel and Dish

Traveler, Diner, Photographer @TravelandDish

18 Washington D.C. Attractions that Require or Recommend Advance Tickets (and how to make them)

Before you travel to Washington DC, it’s important to plan your visit by making advance reservations at many popular attractions. It’s important to check out each website for the latest on the hours of operation. Some attractions remain closed. (updated November 29, 2022)

washington dc state tourist attractions

1 National Archives 

Where to get tickets: 

Tour times: Guided, Every 15 minutes beginning 10:30 to 90 mins before close 

Adult cost: $1.00 

Notes: walk-ins allowed, but Fast Pass is recommended  

washington dc state tourist attractions

2. The White House 

Closed. Where to get future tickets:  Must go through member of Congress. 

Tour times: Mon.–Thu., 7:30–11; Fri.–Sat., 7:30–1:30  

Max days ahead: 180 

Min days ahead: 21 

Notes: Background check is required. Tours have resumed.

washington dc state tourist attractions

3. US Holocaust Museum 

Where to get tickets:  

Tour times: 9:45 am – 4:45 pm  

Max days ahead: Same day and advance tickets online  

Notes: Passes required Mar-Aug, not required September – February 

4. Treasury Building 

Closed. Where to get tickets : Must go through member of Congress. Limited to legal American citizens at this time.

Tour times: Every other Saturday morning, 9 am and 10:30 am 

Notes: Background check is required. Visitors must enter through the West building entrance (Bell entrance).  This entrance is located in between the Treasury Building and the White House.  A docent will meet you to escort the group into the building.

washington dc state tourist attractions

5. Washington Monument 

Where to get tickets:  877-444-6777 

Tour times: 9 am – 5 pm 

Adult cost: $1.00 processing fee 

Notes: Some same day passes on first come/first serve available, but best to reserve a ticket in advance. (You can wait around the Monument grounds and often people will have extra tickets and give them out)

6. The Pentagon 

Closed. Where to get tickets: 

Tour times: Mon.–Fri., 9–3 

Max days ahead: 90 

Min days ahead: 14 

Notes: submit request, must show ID (passport, driver’s license, permanent resident card) Public tours have resumed. You will not be allowed to bring any electronics on your tour.

washington dc state tourist attractions

7.  U.S. Capitol 

Where to get tickets: for tickets 

Tour times: 9 am –3 pm weekdays only 

Min days ahead: 1 

Notes: Some same day passes available, Gallery Passes obtained through Congressional representative. But all tours, programs and activities in the visitor-approved areas like the Rotunda, Statuary and the Crypt are free of charge. Visitors enter through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol. 

8. Ford’s Theater National Historic Site 

Where to get tickets:  for Historic Site Visit 

Tour times: Daily, 9–4 

Adult cost: $3 

Notes: Advance reservations strongly encouraged. Limited number of Same Day passes are available for timed-entry every half hour from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday – Sunday. The Theatre is not included in every ticket. 

washington dc state tourist attractions

9. Department of State Diplomatic Reception Rooms 

Where to get tickets: For information call  202-647-3241 

Tour times: Mon.–Fri., 9:30, 10:30, 2:45 

Notes: Fine Arts tour, not appropriate for children. 

Background The State Department building is a secure facility, and visitors will need to check in at the information desk inside the C Street entrance. Be sure to bring photo identification. You must be pre-cleared or cleared in by an employee for a tour.

10.  Frederick Douglass National Historic Site  

Where to get tickets: 

Tour times: Daily, 9, 12:15, 1:15, 3, 3:30 (walk-ins only), 4 (Apr.±Oct.) 

Standard Tours (1 to 10 people)

Space is limited to ten people on the standard tour. Reservations are not required, but they are  strongly encouraged . To make a reservation, visit  or call 1-877-444-6777. There is a $1.00 fee for each reserved ticket. Reservations must be made at least one day in advance. If available, unreserved tickets are otherwise free to the public and may be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are recommended to guarantee your place on a tour.

Adult cost: $1.00 

Notes: Same day passes available.

washington dc state tourist attractions

11. President Lincoln’s Cottage 

Where to get tickets: 

Tour times: Mon.–Sat., 10–3; Sun., 11–3 

Adult cost: $15, Kids $5 (should be 6 or older) 

Min days ahead: 0 

Notes: Advanced tickets suggested. On site tickets are sometimes available. 

washington dc state tourist attractions

12. Bureau of Engraving and Printing 

Where to get tickets: Tickets required on day of visit beginning at 8:30 am.  

Tour times: Mon.–Fri, 8:15–8:45, 4–4:45 

Min days ahead:  

Notes: Tickets only required Mar-Aug; can be picked up at ticket window for other times.  Currently closed .

washington dc state tourist attractions

13. Folger Shakespeare Library 

Where to get tickets: 

Tour times: Saturday at noon 

Max days ahead: 60 

Notes: This is for READING ROOM TOURS; regular tours do not require tickets.  Currently closed for renovations. Opens November 17, 2023.

14. FBI Experience  

Where to get tickets: Security approval required. Must go through member of Congress. 

  • Submission:  Confirms your congressional representative scheduled the correct tour date and time.
  • Security approval:  Verifies your tour time and approval to enter FBI space and provides tour logistics you need to know prior to your visit.

Tour times: Mon.–Fri. 9 am -4:30 pm 

Max days ahead: 35 

Notes: No Federal Holidays, must be 16 or older with government issued ID.

washington dc state tourist attractions

15. National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Where to get tickets: Timed entry passes available online, required on Saturday and Sunday 

Tour times: Mon.–Fri. 10 am -5:30 pm 

Adult cost: free 

Max days ahead: 90 days 

Notes: Walk-in entry on Monday-Friday from 1 pm until close on March-August 

washington dc state tourist attractions

16. International Spy Museum

Where to get tickets:

Adult (13-64) –  $26.95 Youth (7-12) –  $16.95 Child (6 and under) –  FREE (ticket required)

Hours: Thursday through Wednesday 9 am – 7 pm

Location: L’Enfant Plaza Station. Rooftop viewing. Spies under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

washington dc state tourist attractions

17. Planet Word

Where to get tickets:

HOURS Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last entrance time is 3:30 p.m.

LOCATION 925 13th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005 Entrance on K Street

Cost: General admission is free, with a suggested $15 donation to support the museum’s mission-driven programs, exhibits, and educational outreach.

18. Museum of the Bible

washington dc state tourist attractions

Reserve Online for discount tickets:

Hours: Open 7 days a week from 10 am – 5 pm

Cost: Adult Advance tickets $19.99 Walk Up: $24.99

Seniors, Military, First Responders, and Students $19.99

Youth (Ages 5–17) $13.99, Walk up $14.99

Children (Ages 4 and under) Free

washington dc state tourist attractions

Old Post Office Tower

Where: Located at the intersection of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Ave N.W. (part of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel) Information

Cost: Tickets are Free, No reservations needed

Hours: 9 am – 4 pm, tours commence every five minutes

Self-Guided Tours begin from the elevator lobby on the stage level of the Old Post Office Pavilion. Visitors board the glass elevator to the exhibit area, then the elevator rises 270 feet viewing area.

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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Washington, D.C. Maps – Washington Tourist Maps

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Are you looking for a Washington DC map to plan your trip? Look no further because I’ve compiled all the maps you need. The Washington tourist area is relatively small. You can get just about everywhere by walking, so these maps will help you find the main attractions in the city.

Below you’ll find the best 10 maps of Washington DC that you can print out or save on your smartphone so you can check them at any time.

  • Washington DC tourist map
  • Interactive map of Washington DC
  • Washington DC National Mall Map
  • Washington DC street map

Washington DC neighborhood map

  • Washington DC public transport map
  • Washington DC road map
  • High-resolution map of Washington DC

Map of the United States

  • Map of Washington DC for downloading

Washington, DC tourist map

To give you an initial idea of what the capital of the United States is like and what to do in Washington D.C , check out the following tourist map of Washington, DC:

The tourist map of Washington

Interactive Map Of Washington, DC

The following interactive map of Washington, DC will show you where all the attractions are and help you get to know the city in depth. I’ve marked the main memorials to the US presidents, museums, the White House, and much more.

Did I miss a tourist attraction? Leave me a comment and I’ll add it.

At the end of the article, I explain how you can check this map offline so you can always carry it with you and have it on hand .

Washington, DC National Mall Map

Below is a map of the main attractions of Washington, DC, with most of them located in the National Mall. Additionally, it includes a map of the Smithsonian where the main museums in Washington are.

The map of the National Mall of Washington D.C.

Map of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Washington, DC street map

With this Washington, DC street map, you’ll never get lost in this great city!

The street map of Washington D.C.

The following Washington, DC neighborhood map is also very useful. You can quickly and easily locate any point in the city with it. I also recommend you use it to find where to stay in Washington D.C.

Washington neighborhood map

Washington, DC neighborhood map

Washington DC Public Transport Map

Although I think the best way to get to know Washington, DC is by walking, sometimes it’s necessary to use public transport. This metro map of Washington, DC can help you move around the city when you’re short on time.

metro map of Washington D.C.

Washington, DC Public Transport Map

Washington, DC road map

I don’t recommend getting around the city by car, although a Washington, DC road map always comes in handy if you’re going to visit the surroundings or if you’re getting to Washington, DC by car.

The road map of Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C. road map

High-resolution Washington, DC map

On the following high-resolution Washington, DC map, you can zoom in and find any point in the city. It’s perfect so that you don’t miss out on anything in the capital of the United States.

Washington D.C. map

Below is a map of the United States so you can see where Washington, DC is. Thanks to it, you’ll be able to locate the capital within the country.

Washington D.C. map, United States

Washington, DC map for downloading

The Washington, DC map for downloading is the last one. For me, this type of map is a must when I plan any trip.

Washington DC map for downloading

If you’re going to be offline, don’t worry because you can check it any time from your smartphone. Just download the and Dropbox apps. Once installed, search Washington, DC in and download the KML file to save it in Dropbox. Finally, open this file from your phone with the app so that all the tourist attractions are saved on your phone.

And that’s it! Now that you have all the maps of Washington, DC , you can start enjoying your trip.

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washington dc state tourist attractions

washington dc state tourist attractions

9 Trending Destinations For Memorial Day Weekend 2024

  • Get ready to join the crowds in popular US destinations this Memorial Day for sun, fun, and festivities galore.
  • Whether you're into pool parties in Vegas or family fun in Orlando, there's something for everyone this upcoming holiday weekend.
  • With airfare prices down, now is the time to plan your Memorial Day getaway to cities like Seattle, San Diego, and Miami.

With pent-up travel demand and the holiday weekend, top destinations across the United States are expected to see large influxes of tourists celebrating the unofficial start of summer. As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, travelers nationwide are eagerly making plans to explore some of the country's most popular locales, fueled by wanderlust and a desire to create lasting memories.

Americans are set to descend upon cities with world-famous theme parks , electrifying entertainment districts, sun-drenched beaches, renowned cultural institutions, places with idyllic weather, vibrant events, tropical island paradises, pulsating nightlife scenes, patriotic national ceremonies, and rich historical backdrops.

The destinations below include some of the top destinations booked for the upcoming long weekend, according to AAA's Memorial Day travel forecast . The automobile membership organization predicts the weekend to see the second-highest-ever recorded number of travelers in 24 years.

Follow The Celebs To California's Best Summer Beach Town

Las vegas, nevada, vibrant pool parties, exhilarating live shows, and fun feels to kick-start summer.

Las Vegas is a perennially popular destination for Memorial Day, offering an exciting kickoff to the summer season. The city's world-class hotels, casinos, celebrity-chef-led restaurants , and entertainment options attract a diverse crowd looking to indulge and celebrate the long weekend. Young adults and millennials tend to flock to Las Vegas, drawn by its lively pool parties, nightclubs, and endless opportunities for revelry.

Families are also lured by the city's family-friendly attractions, shows, and recreational activities. With its desert heat and nonstop energy, Sin City provides the perfect backdrop for those seeking an unforgettable start to summer's annual arrival.

Orlando, Florida

A perfect blend of family-friendly attractions, thrilling rides, and quintessential florida sunshine.

Orlando emerges as a top Memorial Day destination, catering to diverse interests with its magical theme parks, proximity to sun-drenched beaches , and array of multi-generational attractions. Families flock to the renowned Walt Disney World Resort, immersing themselves in the enchantment of fairytale lands and thrilling rides.

Meanwhile, nearby coastal havens like Cocoa Beach beckon sun-seekers and water enthusiasts. For those without children, Orlando offers a vibrant nightlife scene, world-class dining, and entertainment hubs like Universal CityWalk. As summer's unofficial kickoff, Memorial Day in Orlando promises something for everyone, whether seeking family fun, beach relaxation, or a lively start to the warmest season.

To steer clear of the heaviest traffic, travelers embarking on their Memorial Day weekend journey on Thursday, May 23rd, and Friday, May 24th, are advised to depart before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on Thursday, and after 8 p.m. on Friday, according to AAA.

Chicago, Illinois

Vibrant riverfront activities, fireworks, and rich cultural experiences to welcome summer.

Memorial Day weekend in the Windy City offers an idyllic urban escape to kick off the summer season. Navy Pier dazzles with carnival rides and shows, culminating in brilliant fireworks displays over Lake Michigan. Millennium Park provides a lively backdrop for outdoor festivals and picnics on the sprawling lawns.

The city's 26 miles of lakefront trail beckon cyclists, runners and sunbathers. After working up an appetite, visitors can indulge in legendary Chicago-style deep-dish pizza at renowned originals like Lou Malnati's or Pequod's.

Live music venues like the Chicago Theatre and Park West keep the party going with Memorial Day weekend concerts. From lakeshore fun to cultural delights, Chicago provides the perfect start to summer festivities.

Seattle, Washington

Vibrant culture, stunning scenery, and a plethora of outdoor activities make the emerald city a top destination.

Seattle shines as a coveted Memorial Day getaway in 2024, offering travelers a vibrant urban escape to commence the summer season. Seattle's appeal lies in its seamless blend of outdoor pursuits and metropolitan delights.

Visitors can soak up the emerging sunshine while exploring iconic Pike Place Market, kayak on Lake Union, or hike verdant trails. The city's flourishing food and craft beer scene provides ample fuel, while musical events and festivals awaken Seattle's streets. For those seeking an invigorating kickoff to summer, this evergreen city delivers a refreshing experience.

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Los angeles and disneyland (anaheim), california, la's iconic culture meets anaheim's disneyland magic for memorial day weekend.

Anaheim and Los Angeles shine as quintessential Memorial Day getaways, embodying the best of the Golden State's sunny outdoor lifestyle. Families flock to Anaheim's world-famous Disneyland Resort, where magical lands and thrilling rides kick start summer in grand fashion. Just down the road, Los Angeles beckons with its iconic beaches, offering endless opportunities for sunbathing, volleyball, and ocean adventures.

The region's countless farmers markets, from Santa Monica to Hollywood, allow visitors to indulge in California's vibrant culinary scene. Beyond the urban delights, nearby mountains, deserts, and vineyards entice outdoor enthusiasts seeking nature's embrace. As Memorial Day ushers in summer's warmth, Anaheim and LA provide the ultimate SoCal experience.

According to Hopper , airfare for Memorial Day weekend is averaging $260 per ticket, down 9.5% from last year and 2019 levels.

San Diego, California

Diverse coastal allure, cultural richness, and outdoor adventures converge seamlessly in perfect weather.

San Diego claims its well-deserved spot atop domestic summer travel lists, offering an idyllic Memorial Day escape in its sun-drenched Southern California setting. This laidback seaside city entices visitors with its pristine beaches, allowing ample opportunities to soak up the early summer rays while swimming, surfing, or relaxing on the warm sand.

The historic Gaslamp Quarter and bustling Pacific Beach provide vibrant nightlife and dining scenes to complement the coastal vibe. Families delight in San Diego's world-renowned attractions like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the region's scenic hiking trails, bays, and desert landscapes. As Memorial Day kicks off the summer season, San Diego emerges as the perfect place to embrace California's quintessential endless summer.

Miami And Key West, Florida

Lively culture, electric nightlife, and stunning beaches make south florida a prime memorial day weekend destination.

Miami and Key West beckon travelers seeking to kick start summer with iconic Florida flair over Memorial Day weekend. In Miami, sun-worshippers flock to the white sand beaches of Miami Beach, while the art deco havens of South Beach offer trendy hotels, acclaimed dining, and a lively nightlife scene.

Just a few hours' drive south, the laid-back, tropical allure of the Florida Keys awaits in Key West. This quirky island escape captivates with its colorful Caribbean architecture, outdoor water adventures, and raucous Duval Street celebrations.

From deep-sea fishing excursions to beachfront bars serving frozen cocktails, Miami and the Keys provide a taste of summer's arrival like nowhere else. As Memorial Day hits, these vibrant destinations embody the sunshine state's irresistible appeal.

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Boston, massachusetts, enriching experiences beyond the ordinary makes boston a top memorial day destination.

Boston shines as a classic Memorial Day getaway, offering a quintessential New England experience to kick off the summer season. As temperatures warm, the city's charming neighborhoods come alive with patio dining at renowned local restaurants and beer gardens. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Emerald Necklace park system or take to the waters of the Charles River.

A highlight is the 3-day Boston Calling Music Festival, bringing top acts to the city. But Memorial Day in Boston is also about honoring American heroes, with the powerful Garden of Flags display commemorating Massachusetts service members on the historic Boston Common. From lively urban adventures to somber remembrances, this walking city provides the perfect backdrop for Memorial Day revelry and reflection.

7 Boston Tourist Traps To Skip, Plus Local-Loved Alternatives

Washington, d.c., diverse festivities, honored tributes, and cultural events make dc a vibrant and meaningful start to summer.

Washington, D.C. emerges as a pivotal Memorial Day destination, honoring American heroes while offering unparalleled sights to commence summer. The National Memorial Day Parade along Constitution Avenue and ceremonies at the National World War II Memorial solemnly commemorate the fallen.

The city beckons with world-class museums like the Smithsonian and monuments under springtime's cherry blossom canopy. From the Lincoln Memorial to the newly reopened Washington Monument, these iconic landmarks provide the perfect backdrop for early summer exploration.

9 Trending Destinations For Memorial Day Weekend 2024

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Release: gottheimer amendments to add secondary cockpit barriers to airplanes and tackle flight delays pass in reauthorization of faa , amendment helps safeguard airplane cockpits against terrorists. legislation also makes air travel more affordable for families.

WASHINGTON, DC —  Today, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s provisions to add secondary cockpit barriers and study flight delays in the tri-state area passed the House of Representatives, as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024. The bill, which passed by a vote of 387-26, reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the safety and efficiency of air travel in the United States, for five years. 

Gottheimer’s first bipartisan amendment, co-led by his Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), will require inexpensive, commonsense secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial aircraft. The installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial passenger flights is the only 9/11 Commission recommendation not yet implemented. In 2018, Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick helped pass and sign into law the  Saracini Aviation Safety Act , which required the installation of secondary barriers on new passenger aircraft. Secondary cockpit barriers are key to preventing the hijacking of airplanes. On 9/11, terrorists stormed the cockpit knowing that the doors would be opened early in the flight. And until today, that flight deck remained vulnerable when the cockpit had to open. This amendment will keep terrorists out of the cockpit.

Gottheimer’s second amendment will require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on flight delays in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

“I am proud to have two of my amendments, focused on adding secondary cockpit barriers and tackling flight delays in the tri-state area, included in the bipartisan FAA reauthorization. My amendment on secondary cockpit measures is of special importance to me and all those in North Jersey who saw the plane hijackings on 9/11. This amendment is a critical step to help prevent 9/11 from ever happening again. ”  said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).  “My amendments — and this entire reauthorization — will help keep air travel safe, reliable, and affordable for Jersey families. I’m also glad this legislation strengthens protections for consumers and helps make air travel more affordable for families, which I’ve been fighting for as part of my Clear and Simple Airline Agenda.”

Gottheimer has long advocated for increased airline consumer transparency, as part of his  Clear and Simple Airline Agenda . In April, Gottheimer announced his  ETA Act  to help protect customers from surprise fees when purchasing a ticket, requiring airlines to communicate all fees upfront. The FAA reauthorization includes commonsense provisions to protect consumers and increase transparency, including a right to refunds, a guarantee of fee-free family seating, and better communication with consumers in the case of delays and cancellations.

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WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Thursday, May 16, 2024, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Dan Goldman (NY-10), and Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Victims of Terror Compensation Act, which provides funding for the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, or USVSST Fund. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) […]

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12 Things to See & Do in Downtown DC

Dc’s cosmopolitan downtown neighborhood offers a mix of in-demand restaurant options, high-end shopping and plenty of must-see museums..

Downtown DC is at the center of it all in the nation’s capital. From luxe shopping to fine and fun dining, you can buy your happiness and eat it too. With museums galore, it’s more about how much time you have to explore the varied and grand options in this neighborhood.

Brush up on presidential history at the White House Visitor Center

White House Visitor Center - Downtown - Washington, DC

White House Visitor Center - Downtown - Washington, DC

Before heading over to snap a selfie in front of the White House (or take a tour ), stop in at the White House Visitor Center . Open seven days a week, the center offers up an insider’s view of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with a virtual touchscreen tour of the White House, more than 90 artifacts from the White House collection and a 14 minute film about the president’s residence. The White House Historical Association gift shop also offers great collectibles, including the coveted official White House ornaments.

Explore a world-class art collection at the National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art - Museums in Washington, DC

Famed financier and one-time U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon offered to donate his expansive art collection to launch a national art museum that would rival those of other great cities around the world during then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt agreed and in 1937 the National Gallery of Art was officially established. Today, the museum is home to great works like Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de Benci (the only da Vinci in the Western hemisphere), Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged 14 and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait. The museum consists of an East and West building—connected by a concourse walkway-turned-artwork with Leo Villareal’s mesmerizing Multiverse.

Shop ‘til you drop at CityCenterDC

Fall Installation at Palmer Alley in CityCenterDC - Where to Shop in Washington, DC

Palmer Alley

One of downtown’s hottest destinations is CityCenterDC . The massive, mixed-use development takes up several city blocks and boasts a Rodeo Drive-worthy amount of luxe labels . Window shop or break out your credit card for brands like Gucci, Hermes, Kate Spade, Christian Dior and Allen Edmonds. You’ll be hearing the soundtrack to Pretty Woman in your head the whole time.

Catch a concert at DAR Constitution Hall

Georgetown University

The  Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters doubles as a music venue in Downtown DC. The calendar is usually jam packed with performances by touring musicians, comedians and special events – check it out  here . The first floor of the building also houses a museum (open Monday-Saturday) dedicated to the history of the American Revolution.

Put your pinkies up at the St. Regis Hotel’s afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea - The St. Regis - Washington, DC

The St. Regis

Locals and visitors alike can enjoy St. Regis’ afternoon tea ritual in the hotel’s grand lobby. From 2-5 pm daily, guests dress in their most proper clothes and sip tea and sample finger sandwiches. Teas from Harney & Sons Tea Company are served, while sandwiches like the Scottish smoked salmon with hackleback caviar and creme fraiche are whipped up by the hotel’s Chef de Cuisine, Gyo Santa. If you’re in a celebratory mood, add a Champagne pairing with a glass of Ruinart Rose.

Savor delicious bites at CityCenterDC

Maryland crab roll from Estuary - Voltaggio Brothers restaurant in the luxury Conrad Hotel in Washington, DC


There’s more to CityCenterDC than shopping. It’s also a dining destination with in-demand restaurants like  Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse , Centrolina  and Fig & Olive .There's also the luxurious  Conrad Washington, DC , where  Top Chef  alumni Bryan and Michael Voltaggio are making diners rethink seafood at  Estuary .

Experience the National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts Great Hall - Museums in Downtown Washington, DC

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Downtown DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts is the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to recognizing women’s creative contributions to the art world. The museum houses an impressive collection, including works by Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt and Sarah Bernhardt. The museum also hosts ongoing female-focused programming and lectures related to the gallery’s latest exhibition. Make sure to check out  all of NMWA's events  and the particularly impressive gift shop.

Retire to the VUE Rooftop for cocktails

The VUE Rooftop  in the swanky Hotel  Washington features indoor and outdoor seating, making it a year-round option for an evening appertif. The lounge is not only popular for its DC-themed cool vibe (look for the wall made of “red tape” in a nod to DC’s sometimes bureaucratic ways) and creative cocktails, but for its absolutely spectacular view of the White House. The terrace overlooks 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (it’s so close, you can see the Secret Service posted on the White House roof), giving this popular bar extra cred. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there when the president’s Marine One helicopter lands on the White House lawn.

Mingle with DC's power brokers at Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill - Presidential Dining Experiences in Washington, DC

Old Ebbitt Grill

A historic lunchtime fave,  Old Ebbitt Grill  is an iconic DC spot, which first opened in 1856. Sit at the bar (look up to see an array of stuffed animal heads) and have the bartender help you spot famous DC politicos while you wait for your table.

Make a night of it Downtown

Jazz at The Hamilton Live - Music and Culture in Washington, DC

Jeff Myers

Downtown DC keeps thumping well into the night with hot nightlife options. Head over the  Park at 14th  for four floors of dining, dancing and VIP bottle service, or catch a concert at  The Hamilton Live , where an underground concert hall hosts concerts most nights of the week.

Find urban sophistication at Eaton Washington DC

@shullman - Guests at Kintsugi inside the Eaton Hotel - The best things to do in Downtown Washington, DC


While  Eaton Washington DC  is technically a 200-plus room hotel, it defies the standard definition with a cinema, a progressive-minded coworking space and four unique food and drink establishments. If it’s rooftop vibes you’re looking for, head to  Wild Days  for Asian-inspired tacos (short rib tacos with kimchi and puffed rice, anyone?) best paired with live music. There’s also  Allegory , a sleek, dimly-lit cocktail bar with an extensive drink list.

Get wild at the National Geographic Museum

National Geographic Museum

The headquarters for National Geographic Magazine and TV is located in downtown DC  and the office building is one wild place. The first floor houses a museum dedicated to all things adventurous. Rotating exhibits and a 3D movie screen with special engagements make this under the radar museum worth checking out.

Now that you have seen what there is to do Downtown, read up on other things to do throughout the District.

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The commanders to travel the least amount of miles in 2024, share this article.

When you finish 4-13, you deserve to catch some breaks. The Washington Commanders were the NFL’s second-worst team in 2023, picked up the second overall pick in the NFL draft and entered a complete rebuild in 2024.

It’s been a busy offseason for the Commanders, who hired a new general manager (Adam Peters), head coach (Dan Quinn) and found their franchise quarterback (Jayden Daniels).

Can Washington have a similar turnaround as the Houston Texans did in 2023?

Houston had a phenomenal rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud. The Commanders hope Daniels — also the No. 2 overall pick like Stroud — can engineer a similar turnaround.

Washington will need some help for that to happen. That help may come via the 2024 NFL schedule. According to Bill Speros of , the Commanders will travel fewer miles than any NFL team in 2024. Washington’s only trip to the West Coast is a Week 4 game at Arizona.

The  Washington Commanders  will cover the least amount of distance. They are to travel 10,550 miles and cross 10 time zones. Nearly 40% of their road miles and more than 50% of their time zones will be covered when they travel to State Farm Stadium to play the Arizona Cardinals.

This is excellent news for the Commanders, a team trying to turn around its luck. To put this into perspective, the Los Angeles Chargers will travel the most miles in 2024, 26,803 miles across 36 time zones.

It’s never easy to take over a 4-13 team and expect to win immediately, but Washington’s lighter travel schedule is good news for Quinn.

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Predicting commanders' 2024 record with game-by-game picks, adam peters, commanders continue to shake up the front office, santana moss likes what he sees in two commanders rookies, why jayden daniels fits best with the commanders, ranking every qb the commanders will face in 2024, peyton manning a big fan of jayden daniels and terry mclaurin, nfl offseason grades: pff says commanders hit a home run.

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    Discovery Theater. Discovery Theater. Washington, DC has fun activities and attractions for every kind of visitor. During your visit to the nation's capital, choose from world-class cultural events, a vibrant and delicious dining scene, museums packed with history and so much more.

  17. 59 Best Tourist Attractions in Washington DC

    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.

  18. Places to Visit in Washington DC

    District of Columbia (DC) Washington DC. Places to visit in Washington DC. ... Other Top Attractions around Washington DC. 2023. Arlington National Cemetery. 9,646. 5.3 km away. Arlington. Historic Sites. 2023. George Washington's Mount Vernon. 4,857. 21 km away. Mount Vernon. Speciality Museums.

  19. 18 Washington D.C. Attractions that Require or ...

    The Washington Monument Observation Area requires an advance ticket to ride the elevator to the top. 5. Washington Monument . Where to get tickets: 877-444-6777 . Tour times: 9 am - 5 pm . Adult cost: $1.00 processing fee . Notes: Some same day passes on first come/first serve available, but best to reserve a ticket in advance.

  20. Washington D.C. maps

    Below you'll find the best 10 maps of Washington DC that you can print out or save on your smartphone so you can check them at any time. Washington DC tourist map. Interactive map of Washington DC. Washington DC National Mall Map. Washington DC street map. Washington DC neighborhood map. Washington DC public transport map. Washington DC road map.

  21. 39 Things to Do in the DC Area This Week and Weekend

    May 6-May 12. EU Open House. Take a day trip to Europe. The European Union and its embassies are opening their doors for guests to enjoy music and food from Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, and many more places. You can check out a Czech dog show, taste Danish beer and food, and participate in Greek dance and language workshops (Sat, free ...

  22. The Best Roadside Attraction to Check Out in Every State (and D.C.)

    Money Talks News. The Best Roadside Attraction to Check Out in Every State (and D.C.) Posted: May 18, 2024 | Last updated: May 18, 2024. Slow down long enough to visit the nation's sometimes ...

  23. 9 Trending Destinations For Memorial Day Weekend 2024

    Memorial Day Weekend Activities In Orlando: Walt Disney World Resort, Get Up and Go Kayaking, Kennedy Space Center with Transport from Orlando and Kissimmee. To steer clear of the heaviest traffic ...

  24. THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Washington DC

    Though the Library of Congress doesn't own every book ever published, it sure has most of them, with 532 miles of shelves and 115 million items, with 7,000 added each working day. 5. National Gallery of Art. This national art museum holds over 141,000 works of western art, spanning from the middle ages through today.

  25. DC travel agents planning Taylor Swift Europe trips for Eras Tour

    About 10,000 Americans are expected to attend the Eras Tour shows in Stockholm this weekend alone, per AP. Tickets for Swift's remaining U.S. shows — in Miami, New Orleans and Indianapolis — have skyrocketed since she dropped her latest album "The Tortured Poets Department" last month. The average lowest ticket price is a whopping $2,600 ...

  26. Metro riders love DC's trains when they aren ...

    May 17, 2024 12:11 pm. . Metro riders in Washington, D.C., are as happy with public transit as they've been in a decade, but not all is well in the capital's underground stations. Despite high ...

  27. RELEASE: Gottheimer Amendments to Add Secondary Cockpit Barriers to

    WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer's provisions to add secondary cockpit barriers and study flight delays in the tri-state area passed the House of Representatives, as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024. The bill, which passed by a vote of 387-26, reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees […]

  28. 12 Things to See & Do in Downtown DC

    Mingle with DC's power brokers at Old Ebbitt Grill. Old Ebbitt Grill. A historic lunchtime fave, Old Ebbitt Grill is an iconic DC spot, which first opened in 1856. Sit at the bar (look up to see an array of stuffed animal heads) and have the bartender help you spot famous DC politicos while you wait for your table.

  29. Maryland and West Virginia Senate races could tip power balance in DC

    In West Virginia, the largest metropolitan region in the state, Charleston, tops off at 255,000. Maryland is the most diverse state on the East Coast, according to census data, while West Virginia ...

  30. The Commanders to travel the least amount of miles in 2024

    That help may come via the 2024 NFL schedule. According to Bill Speros of, the Commanders will travel fewer miles than any NFL team in 2024. Washington's only trip to the West Coast is a Week 4 game at Arizona. The Washington Commanders will cover the least amount of distance. They are to travel 10,550 miles and cross 10 time zones.