Washington DC is one of the most visited cities in America, and for good reason! It is not only the capital of our country, but also many iconic landmarks, cultural attractions, educational opportunities, a vibrant culinary scene, and many activities for the whole family.
This is a must-see destination for museum buffs, history buffs, and political enthusiasts. People come here from all over the country and from all over the world to see the places that contain American culture and our spirit of freedom. There are so many important things to see and do in District of Columbia that it is impossible to combine them all into one list, but these are just a few of the top attractions that you just have to include on your itinerary when visiting this amazing city.
Washington DC is home to some of the finest museum collections in the world. There are over a dozen museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution and cover topics such as space exploration, American history, art, natural history, and more. It’s easy to get out of the museum if you try to cram too much into one day or week. Instead, pick just a couple that really interests you and take your time to explore the interactive exhibits.
The National Mall is one of the most iconic sites in DC and is home to many popular landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Go for your morning run through the mall to see the monuments and beat the crowd. Then, notice that after dark at the mall, you will be able to see the monuments lit up at night in all their glory.
You need to book a guided tour to see the inside of the US Capitol, but tickets are free if you book in advance through your Senator or Representative. The best time to visit is early in the day before the crowd gets too large.
The White house
It is unlikely that you will meet members of the First Family when you visit DC, but you can book a tour of the White House ahead of time to find out where so many First Families have founded their homes. You can book a tour in advance through a local member of Congress, or stop by the White House Visitor Center to learn more about the building and its history if you struggle with pre-planning.
When planning your trip, check to see if the Supreme Court will sit while you are in town. If not, you can tour the building to learn about the legendary lawsuits and architecture of the courthouse. As a rule, the court sits from October to April. You can watch the case before the judge, but it is usually a long queue and space is limited.
Arlington national cemetery
Another popular place to visit in DC is Arlington National Cemetery, which sits across the Potomac River. More than 250,000 military personnel are buried here, and a popular attraction is at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is guarded 24/7 and has a changing of the guard ceremony that sends chills down your spine. There are many more other monuments you can check out while you are in the area, including the Space Shuttle Memorial and the Coast Guard Memorial.
The great thing about the National Zoo is that it is free, but it is also one of the best zoos in the world. It is home to thousands of different animals and hundreds of different species, providing hours of fun and entertainment for kids and adults alike. Plan to spend two or three hours here to explore the immense 163 acres that house the downtown zoo.
To get off the beaten path, head to D.S. East Market. It has been a city market since the late 1800s and sells many different types of food, ready-made meals, and crafts ever since. It is located in the vibrant Capitol Hill area and has some great restaurants in the area that are a favorite with locals.
Summer is the busiest time to visit DC, so if you’re not a big fan of the crowd, consider visiting during the off-season. February is a great time to visit because there are so many festivals here. Put on an extra sweater and hat to attend the International Wine and Food Festival, the Presidents’ Day Parade in the Old City of Alexandria, D.S. Fashion Week. and the Independent Film Festival this month.
Located on the city’s waterfront, Georgetown is a beautiful university district with a variety of restaurants, shops and variety. It is a very busy place to visit in the afternoon and it is recommended to book dinner if you plan to stay until the evening. Georgetown is a great place to sample a local bakery, grab a cocktail, or rent a kayak from the Key Bridge Boathouse to explore the area from the water.
The National Cathedral is well worth a visit when you are in DC. Climb to the top of the Pilgrim Observation Gallery for stunning panoramic views of the city. Come and listen to the free organ demonstration on Mondays and Wednesdays, or simply admire the magnificent architecture any day of the week. You can see the impressive arches, marble floors, gargoyles, and the burial site of President Woodrow Wilson.
Tidal Pool Paddle
It is easy to get to the buildings and monuments of D.S., but remember that this is also an area of excellent natural beauty. Head to the two-mile pond known as the Tidal Pool and rent a kayak to relax in the city. If you visit in the spring, this is a great place to view the cherry blossom trees that were donated by Japan to the United States. The Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are all along the shores of the Tidal Basin and are also for you to see and know. For even more outdoor activities, visit the historic Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal, where you can walk, jog, cycle, or ride a boat along the National Park Service canal.
Dupont Circle Arts Scene
Sure, there is a lot of amazing art in the Smithsonian galleries, but the city also has a thriving local art scene. On the first Friday of the month, head to Dupont Circle for art, live music and wine. You will begin your exploration of the art of the neighborhood at Hillyer Art Space, and the celebrations continue until around 9pm.