Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States and is home to many iconic landmarks and cultural institutions. In this post, I will be looking at the best things to do and see in Washington DC.
Some of the best things to do in Washington DC are visiting the White House, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian museums.
You can also visit the U.S. Capitol building, Lincoln Memorial, National Zoo, National Gallery of Art, and National Museum of American History.
The city is also home to numerous parks, such as Rock Creek Park and the National Arboretum, which provide chances for outdoor recreation.
The 20 Best Things To Do In Washington DC
1. The White House
The White House is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, it is open to the public for tours.
To visit the White House, you must submit a request through your Member of Congress or your embassy in the United States. The White House Visitor Center, located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, is open to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
The Visitor Center offers exhibits and multimedia displays about the White House, as well as a film about the White House and its history.
If you are unable to visit the White House in person, you can still learn about the history and operations of the White House through the White House website, which offers a virtual tour, educational resources, and information about events and public tours.
2. Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an iconic landmark of the capital of the United States. It is a tall, slender obelisk that was built to honor the first President of the United States, George Washington.
Located on the National Mall, the Washington Monument is a large park in the center of Washington, D.C. It stands at the center of the park, near the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool.
The Washington Monument is open to the public and is a popular tourist destination. Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the monument for a panoramic view of the city. The monument is open every day except for Christmas Day, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you are planning a visit to the Washington Monument, it is a good idea to check the website for information on hours of operation, and ticket availability.
3. Capitol Hill and U.S. Capitol
Capitol Hill is a neighborhood in Washington, D.C., home to the United States Capitol building and many other important government buildings and institutions.
The U.S. Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress and is located on Capitol Hill. It is a symbol of the American people and their government, as well as a popular tourist destination.
The U.S. Capitol is open to the public for tours, and visitors can learn about the history and architecture of the building, as well as see the chambers where the Senate and House of Representatives meet.
The Capitol Visitor Center, located underground beneath the East Front of the Capitol, offers tours, exhibits, and other educational resources for visitors.
To visit the U.S. Capitol, you will need to reserve a tour in advance. You can do this online or by contacting your Representative or Senator’s office. There are also a variety of other attractions on Capitol Hill that you can visit, such as the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the National Mall.
4. Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institution is a group of museums and research centers in Washington, D.C. It is the world’s largest museum complex, with 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park.
Some of the most popular museums in the Smithsonian include:
- National Museum of American History – This museum explores the history of the United States and its people, from early colonization to the present day.
- National Air and Space Museum- This museum is dedicated to the history of aviation and space exploration, with exhibits on airplanes, spacecraft, and other related technologies.
- National Museum of Natural History- This museum showcases the natural world, with exhibits on plants, animals, and geology.
- National Gallery of Art-This museum is home to a wide variety of art, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs from around the world.
- National Portrait Gallery-This museum features portraits of notable Americans, including presidents, artists, and other historical figures.
The Smithsonian museums are free to visit and are open every day except Christmas Day. If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., be sure to check out the Smithsonian’s website for more information on the museums and their exhibits.
5. International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to the history and practice of espionage. It is a privately owned museum that opened in 2002. It is the only public museum in the United States that is solely devoted to the subject of espionage.
The museum’s exhibits cover the history of espionage from ancient civilizations to the present day, and they feature a wide range of artifacts, including spy gadgets, weapons, and equipment used by espionage agencies throughout history.
The museum also has interactive exhibits and educational programs that teach visitors about the role of espionage in modern society.
The museum is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and it is a popular tourist destination for those interested in espionage and intelligence. It is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day, and admission is required for entry.
Visitors can also see authentic spy gadgets and learn about famous spies throughout history. The museum is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. It is a great place for those interested in espionage and the world of secret agents.
6. National Mall
The National Mall is a large, open area in Washington, D.C. that is home to many of the city’s most iconic landmarks and attractions.
Located in the heart of the city, the National Mall is bordered by the United States Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.
It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals, and is often crowded with people visiting the many museums, memorials, and other attractions located on the Mall.
Some of the most popular landmarks on the National Mall include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution museums, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
If you’re planning a visit to the National Mall, it’s a good idea to allow plenty of time to explore all of the attractions and to dress comfortably for walking.
7. Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States and the largest library in the world. It is located in Washington, D.C. and was founded in 1800.
The Library of Congress is home to millions of books, photographs, maps, manuscripts, and other materials and serves as a research center for Congress and the American people.
It is open to the public and offers tours, exhibits, and a variety of programs and events. If you would like to visit the Library of Congress, you can find more information on its website, including hours of operation and directions.
8. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is a national memorial in Washington, D.C., dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.
It is located on the National Mall, west of the Washington Monument and east of the Reflecting Pool. The memorial is a beautiful and iconic landmark in the nation’s capital, and it is a popular tourist destination.
The memorial features a 19-foot-tall (5.8-meter) marble statue of Lincoln seated in contemplation, surrounded by 36 columns representing the states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.
Inscribed on the walls of the memorial are some of Lincoln’s most famous speeches and writings, including the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address.
Visitors to the Lincoln Memorial can enter the memorial through the main entrance on the east side, which is accessible via a flight of stairs or a ramp.
The interior of the memorial is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. every day of the year. There is no admission fee to visit the Lincoln Memorial.
9. Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin
The Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. It is located in Washington, D.C., on the south bank of the Tidal Basin, near the Potomac River.
The memorial is a large, neoclassical structure that features a 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson and inscriptions of some of his most famous writings, including the Declaration of Independence.
The Tidal Basin is a man-made lake located in Washington, D.C., between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel.
It is a popular spot for recreational activities such as walking, jogging, and sightseeing, and it is home to a number of important landmarks, including the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
The Tidal Basin is also home to the famous cherry blossom trees, which attract thousands of visitors each year when they are in bloom.
If you are planning to visit the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin, it is easily accessible by public transportation. There are several metro stations nearby, and there is also ample parking available for those who prefer to drive.
When you visit, be sure to allow enough time to explore the area and take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful and historic part of Washington, D.C.
10. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center located in Washington, D.C., named in honor of President John F. Kennedy.
It is the busiest performing arts center in the United States, presenting more than 2,000 performances each year.
The center is where you can find the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Washington National Opera, and National Symphony Orchestra, as well as a variety of other performance groups.
It also hosts touring productions of plays, musicals, and other performances. In addition to its performance spaces, the Kennedy Center also contains educational programs, a theater lab, and several restaurants and gift shops.
The center is located on the banks of the Potomac River and is a major cultural landmark in the city.
Alexandria is a city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. It is located along the western bank of the Potomac River and is part of the Washington metropolitan area.
Founded in 1749, Alexandria is known for its rich history and beautiful architecture. The city is home to a number of historic landmarks, including the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.
Alexandria is also known for its bustling waterfront, which features a number of restaurants, shops, and events throughout the year.
The city is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike and is easily accessible via the Metro system or by car.
12. National Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park, also known as the National Zoo, is a zoological park located in Washington, D.C.. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is home to over 2,000 animals representing more than 400 species.
The National Zoo is open to the public every day of the year, except for December 25.
Visitors to the National Zoo can see a variety of animals, including giant pandas, gorillas, lions, and elephants. The zoo is also home to a number of endangered species, including the red panda and the orangutan.
In addition to the animal exhibits, the National Zoo also offers educational programs and activities for children and families.
To visit the National Zoo, you will need to purchase a ticket or pass. The zoo offers a variety of ticket options, including single-day tickets, multi-day passes, and annual memberships.
You can purchase tickets online or at the zoo’s entrance. If you plan to visit the National Zoo, it is recommended that you check the zoo’s website or call ahead to confirm hours of operation and to learn about any special events or exhibits that may be taking place during your visit.
13. Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. It is the final resting place for many of the nation’s military heroes, including veterans of every U.S. war and conflict, as well as politicians, dignitaries, and other notable figures.
The cemetery is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day of the year, including holidays. It is free to visit and there is no charge for parking. There are several ways to tour the cemetery, including by foot, by bike, or by shuttle. There are also guided tours available.
One popular attraction at Arlington National Cemetery is the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This ceremony takes place every hour on the hour from April 1 to September 30, and every half hour from October 1 to March 31. The ceremony involves the ceremonial guard, known as the Old Guard, changing the guard at the tomb in a solemn and precise ritual.
Other notable sights at Arlington National Cemetery include the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, the graves of President William Howard Taft and President John F. Kennedy, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
It is recommended to allow at least a few hours to tour the cemetery, as there is much to see and experience. Visitors should also be prepared to walk long distances, as the cemetery is quite large.
14. Washington Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is a historic cathedral located in Washington, D.C.. It is the seat of the Episcopal Church in the United States and is considered one of the most significant examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the country.
The cathedral is located on Massachusetts Avenue NW, in the northwest quadrant of the city. It is open to the public and offers guided tours, as well as a variety of events and activities throughout the year.
Some popular things to see and do at the Washington National Cathedral include visiting the cathedral’s chapels, gardens, and exhibits, attending a service or concert, or participating in one of the many educational programs offered by the cathedral.
15. Historic Georgetown District
Georgetown is a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C., known for its charming brick row houses, tree-lined streets, and rich history.
Located in the northwest quadrant of the city, Georgetown was founded in 1751 and was once a separate city before being annexed by Washington, D.C. in 1871.
The Georgetown Historic District is a designated national historic landmark and is home to a number of notable buildings and landmarks.
Some of the must-see sights in Georgetown include the C&O Canal, the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, the Georgetown University campus, and the Old Stone House.
In addition to its historical and architectural significance, Georgetown is also a popular shopping and dining destination, with a number of upscale boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.
The neighborhood is also home to a number of embassies and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. So, it is a must visit place for history and culture enthusiasts.
16. United States Botanic Garden
The United States Botanic Garden is a botanic garden located on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.
It is open to the public and offers a variety of exhibits and displays of plants, including a collection of plants from around the world, a conservatory, and a garden court.
The Garden was established by an act of Congress in 1820 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the United States. It is managed by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol and is open to the public every day of the year, except December 25.
Visitors to the Garden can explore the conservatory, which features a variety of plant exhibits, including a tropical rainforest, desert, and Mediterranean garden. The outdoor gardens feature a variety of plants, including annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables.
The Garden also offers educational programs and events for the public, including workshops, lectures, and tours.
If you are planning a visit to the United States Botanic Garden, it is a good idea to check the Garden’s website for information on hours of operation, admission fees, and any special events or exhibits that may be happening during your visit.
17. Take a Washington DC Food Tour
Washington, D.C. is a diverse and vibrant city with a wide variety of food options. Here are a few ideas for a food tour of the city:
Visit the various international markets and grocery stores in the city to sample and learn about different cuisines from around the world. Some popular options include the Latin American markets in Adams Morgan and the Asian markets in Chinatown.
Take a stroll through the Eastern Market and visit the various food vendors and artisanal producers. Here you can find fresh produce, locally made cheeses, and other specialty items.
Stop by one of the city’s many food trucks, which offer a wide range of cuisine from around the world. Food trucks can be found throughout the city, but there are often clusters of them in popular areas like Dupont Circle and near government buildings.
Visit one of the city’s many farmers markets, where you can find locally grown produce, meats, and other artisanal products. There are farmers markets held throughout the city on different days of the week.
Take a tour of one of the city’s breweries or distilleries to sample locally made craft beers and spirits. Many of these businesses offer tours and tastings, and some even have on-site restaurants or taprooms.
Don’t forget to try some of the city’s famous seafood, particularly Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and oysters. There are plenty of seafood markets and restaurants throughout the city that serve these local specialties.
I hope these suggestions help you plan your food tour of Washington, D.C. Enjoy your trip!
18. Tour Breweries in D.C.
Washington D.C. has a thriving craft beer scene with a number of breweries and brewpubs to visit. Here are a few suggestions for breweries you can check out in D.C.:
DC Brau Brewing Company- DC Brau is a production brewery located in Northeast D.C. that offers tours, tastings, and a taproom. They brew a variety of beers, including IPAs, stouts, and sours.
3 Stars Brewing Company- 3 Stars is a production brewery and taproom located in Northwest D.C. They brew a wide range of beers, including IPAs, saisons, and barrel-aged beers.
Bluejacket-Bluejacket is a brewery and restaurant located in Navy Yard. They offer a range of beers, including lagers, sours, and barrel-aged beers, as well as a menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
Right Proper Brewing Company- Right Proper is a brewery and restaurant with locations in Shaw and Brookland. They offer a range of beers, including lagers, pilsners, and barrel-aged beers, as well as a menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
Atlas Brew Works-Atlas Brew Works is a production brewery and taproom located in Northeast D.C. They offer a range of beers, including IPAs, stouts, and sours, as well as a selection of canned cocktails.
Port City Brewing Company- Port City is a production brewery located in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of D.C. They offer tours, tastings, and a taproom featuring a selection of their beers, including lagers, pilsners, and stouts.
These are just a few of the many breweries and brewpubs in the D.C. area. Many of them offer tours, tastings, and a chance to sample a variety of beers.
19. Tour D.C. Distilleries
There are several distilleries located in Washington D.C. that produce a variety of spirits, including whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and more. Some of the distilleries located in the D.C. area include:
One Eight Distilling – Located in Northeast D.C., One Eight Distilling produces a variety of spirits including vodka, gin, and whiskey.
Cotton & Reed – This distillery, located in Northeast D.C., specializes in producing rum and other tropical-inspired spirits.
New Columbia Distillers- Located in Northeast D.C., New Columbia Distillers produces a variety of spirits including gin, whiskey, and vodka.
Republic Restoratives- This D.C.-based distillery produces a variety of spirits including vodka, whiskey, and gin.
District Distilling-Located in the heart of D.C., District Distilling produces a variety of spirits including whiskey, gin, and vodka.
These distilleries offer tours and tastings, and many of their products are available for purchase at their tasting rooms or at local retailers and restaurants.
20. Cruises and Boat Tours
Washington, D.C. offers a variety of cruises and boat tours that allow visitors to see the city from a different perspective. Here are a few options:
Potomac Riverboat Company-This company offers a variety of cruises, including sightseeing tours, sunset cruises, and dinner cruises. The boats depart from the Georgetown waterfront and offer views of landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Kennedy Center.
Spirit of Washington-This boat offers lunch, dinner, and dance cruises as well as sightseeing tours. The boat departs from the Southwest Waterfront and offers views of the city’s landmarks and monuments.
D.C. Duck Tours-These tours take place on amphibious vehicles that can travel both on land and in water. The tour begins on land and then enters the Potomac River for a tour of the city’s waterfront.
Capital Water Taxi- This company offers water taxi service between popular destinations in the city, including Georgetown, the National Mall, and the Southwest Waterfront. The water taxis offer views of the city’s landmarks as they travel along the Potomac River.
Canoe and kayak rentals- If you want to explore the city’s waterways on your own, you can rent a canoe or kayak from several companies in the area. This is a great way to get up close and personal with the city’s natural beauty.
Overall, these cruises and boat tours provide a unique way to see Washington, D.C. and its landmarks and attractions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best things to do in Washington D.C.?
Best things to do in Washington, D.C include: Visit the White House and the National Mall, tour the Smithsonian museums, see the cherry blossoms in spring, walk through the National Arboretum, visit the National Zoo, explore the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, visit the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, take a tour of the U.S. Capitol, visit the National Gallery of Art, and see a show at the Kennedy Center.
What are things to do in Washington, DC for free?
There are many free things to do in Washington, DC, including visiting the National Mall and its many iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Smithsonian museums. You can also take a stroll through the Tidal Basin and enjoy the cherry blossoms in the springtime. Other free activities include visiting the National Gallery of Art, touring the U.S. Capitol Building, and exploring the many outdoor public art installations throughout the city.
What is Washington, DC best known for?
Washington, DC is best known as the capital city of the United States and the center of the federal government. It is home to numerous iconic landmarks and institutions, including the White House, the US Capitol, the Supreme Court, and numerous museums and memorials.
What is unique about Washington, DC?
Washington, DC is the capital of the United States and home to numerous iconic landmarks and institutions, including the White House, US Capitol, and Supreme Court. It is also home to numerous museums and cultural institutions, such as the National Mall and Smithsonian Institution. The city is known for its rich history and political significance, making it a popular destination for tourists and visitors from around the world.
What are the best things to do in DC for couples?
Visit the National Mall, see the cherry blossoms in spring, tour the White House, dine at a rooftop restaurant, attend a show at the Kennedy Center, explore the National Gallery of Art, visit the Smithsonian museums, take a bike ride along the Potomac, go on a food tour, watch a baseball game at Nationals Park.
What are the best things to do in Washington DC at night?
There are many great things to do in Washington D.C. at night, including: visiting the iconic monuments and landmarks that are beautifully lit up after dark; attending a performance at one of the city’s many theaters; dining at a world-class restaurant; checking out the vibrant nightlife scene at a trendy bar or club; or taking a moonlit stroll through one of the city’s many parks.
What are fun things to do in DC for adults?
Some fun things for adults to do in the city include visiting iconic landmarks like the White House and Lincoln Memorial, exploring the Smithsonian museums, trying local craft beer at a brewery, attending a live performance at the Kennedy Center, and strolling through the beautiful National Mall.
See more: Where to Stay in Washington DC
Washington D.C. is a city filled with history, culture, and plenty of things to do. Some of the best things to do in the city include visiting the National Mall, which is home to iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The Smithsonian museums are also a must-see, with a wide variety of exhibits covering art, science, and history.
Other popular activities include touring the White House, exploring the many parks and green spaces in the city, and visiting local neighborhoods and markets. Additionally, the city is home to a thriving food and drink scene, with many top-rated restaurants and bars to choose from. Overall, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Washington D.C