Washington, D.C.   Travel Guide

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interesting places to visit in dc

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

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interesting places to visit in dc

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.

interesting places to visit in dc

The White House and the Washington Monument The White House and the Washington Monument free

Even if you're only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marble symbols of the U.S. – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor.

Standing just shy of 555 ½ feet, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world at its completion in 1884. Nowadays, you can ride one of the monument's glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city, which invariably impress visitors. You can explore the attraction's exterior for free 24 hours a day, but National Park Service rangers are only available from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to answer questions. The monument itself is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free timed-entry tickets can be reserved up to 30 days in advance via Recreation.gov . (There is a $1 nonrefundable service charge for each ticket.) Some same-day tickets are distributed daily on a first-come, first served basis. The ticket window opens at 8:45 a.m.; be prepared for a line. The Smithsonian Metro stop is closest to the monument. Visit the National Park Service's Washington Monument page for more information.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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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. 

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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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interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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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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.)

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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National Archives Museum National Archives Museum free

A treasure trove of the United States' founding documents, the National Archives Museum is high on travelers' to-do lists and almost always has long entrance lines. But once you do get inside, you'll see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Other interactive and kid-friendly exhibits fill the museum, which is located off the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station on the Green and Yellow lines. Conveniently, the museum is also a popular stop on many of the city's best bus tours .

If you love history, you'll enjoy visiting this museum. Reservations are not required but are available. Reserving free passes on Recreation.gov's website comes with a service fee of $1.00 per ticket, but travelers say paying for advance tickets will save you from having to wait in a long line to enter. The museum encourages reservations during its peak season from March through Labor Day. Also, be aware that photography is not permitted anywhere inside the building.

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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.

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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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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The Mansion on O Street The Mansion on O Street

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interesting places to visit in dc

United States Botanic Garden United States Botanic Garden free

interesting places to visit in dc

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interesting places to visit in dc

International Spy Museum International Spy Museum

interesting places to visit in dc

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68 Best & Fun Things To Do In Washington, DC

By: Author Jerric Chong

Posted on Published: September 23, 2020  - Last updated: October 15, 2023

Things To Do In Washington, DC

You’re probably familiar with Washington, DC as the capital of the United States, and it’s true that you can find all sorts of historically and culturally significant sights within it.

From museums to war memorials to government buildings, it’s definitely the headquarters of the nation.

There are other parts to the city, however.

It’s home to everything from quirky little shops and boutiques to sprawling wilderness reserves filled with waterfalls and hundred-year-old oak trees.

It’s much more diverse than you might think!

Are you wondering what to do in Washington, DC?

Are you hoping to explore all of your options and not just the ones most commonly featured in travel guides?

Here are 68 of the best things to do in DC.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking through these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

1. National Mall

National Mall

National Mall

The first stop that you’ll want to make in Washington, DC is the National Mall .

You’ve already seen it depicted in hundreds of films, shows, plays, postcards and art prints, so it’s time to gaze at its majesty in real life.

The long, grassy slopes are home to dozens of iconic U.S. institutions.

The White House is the most famous, but the Washington Monument is the tallest, and the Smithsonian Museums are the largest in terms of square footage.

The domed top of the U.S. Capitol Building can be seen in the hazy distance of the east.

The Lincoln Memorial is at the opposite end on the west.

Other attractions include statues, museums, memorials, art galleries, botanical gardens and more.

In the summer, cherry blossom trees bloom over ponds and reflecting pools.

In the winter, snow piles up on the lawns.

The National Mall is one of the major points of interest in the United States.

Forget the boundaries of the District of Columbia; it’s iconic for the entire country as a whole.

You’ll definitely want to cross it off your bucket list when you’re in the area!

Check details, prices and reviews here.

Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, United States

2. Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

With more than 167 million items, the Library of Congress is the second-largest library in the world.

Its shelves hold everything from rare, fragile books to contemporary recordings for popular music.

It also boasts maps, manuscripts, photographs, paintings, murals, news reels, sheet music and just about everything else that a seeker of knowledge could want.

The library has three buildings in total, and each one showcases breathtaking architecture that’s just as incredible as the materials within.

The most famous is probably the Thomas Jefferson Building with its ornate, golden-toned central reading room, but all of them are worth a visit.

Special events are often held at the library as well.

For example, one of the buildings has a performance theater; another has an auditorium for live musical performances; another has television and motion picture rooms.

Did we mention that everything is free?

Not only is the Library of Congress one of the best things to do in Washington, DC, but it’s also budget-friendly.

You could entertain yourself for hours without paying a dime.

In terms of tourist attractions, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Address:  10 First St SE, Washington, DC 20540, United States

3. Eastern Market

Eastern Market

Eastern Market

The fruits are fresh. The flowers are fragrant.

The jewelry stands glitter in the sun; the woodworking stalls are always abuzz with the sounds of power tools.

Welcome to the Eastern Market !

Spilling out of an old brick building as a hybrid indoor/outdoor shopping space, the Eastern Market is one of the oldest of its kind in Washington, DC.

It’s open every day of the week except Monday, and it offers a constant rotation of farmers, florists, artists, butchers, blacksmiths, jewelers, booksellers and more.

If you’re feeling hungry, you can grab everything from warm flatbreads to shaved ice cups topped with homemade syrups and candies.

If you want to support small businesses, you can shop for shawls, necklaces, quilts, picture frames, seaglass gems and other goodies.

There are even specialty services available for things like leather working and shoe making!

The Eastern Market is one of the most fun things to do in Washington, DC.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find it here, and it’ll probably be cheaper than a retail outlet.

Bring your bag and get ready to shop!

Address:  225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

4. Ford’s Theatre

Ford's Theatre

Ford’s Theatre

The show must go on.

Despite being the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Ford’s Theatre is still open today, and it’s still bringing plays, musicals, speeches, comedy shows and other live events to the residents of Washington, DC.

The venue is small and cozy.

It retains a lot of its original decor from the 1800s, including red carpets and golden railings in front of the balcony seats.

It has a kind of throwback atmosphere that’ll make you feel like you’re stepping back in time to the days of top hats and narrow-waisted gowns.

If you’re a history buff, you should also know about the museum located beneath the theater.

It’s the best place in the city to learn about Lincoln, and it’s home to one-of-a-kind relics like the bloodstained pillow used during Lincoln’s final moments.

There’s no shortage of famous places in Washington, DC, but Ford’s Theatre manages to stand out from the rest with both its vintage charm and its utterly unique backstory.

Quite literally, you can’t get this experience anywhere else.

Address:  511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

5. Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour

Shop in the spring. Boat in the summer.

Bike in the fall. Ice skate in the winter.

Washington Harbour offers activities for every season, so in addition to being a fun, lively place in general, it’s also a destination that will welcome vacationers at any time of year.

The views of the river are phenomenal, and you can enjoy them in many ways, including a rented canoe or jet ski right there on the water.

If you’d prefer to stay on solid ground, you can take a walking, biking or eating tour of the local hot spots, or you can simply wander on your own until the sizzle of fresh catfish tempts you into a seafood joint.

There’s shopping. There’s dining.

Hotels are all along the shoreline if you need accommodation.

Theaters, galleries, lounges and performance venues are always close at hand for entertainment.

Considered the “premiere waterfront destination of DC,” Washington Harbour is one of the best places to visit for travelers who want a fun and exciting time in the area.

Come here after you’ve had your fill of quiet museums and memorials.

Let loose and have a blast!

Address:  3000-3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

6. Heurich House Museum

Heurich House Museum

Heurich House Museum

You can be forgiven for assuming that the Heurich House Museum is some grand palace built for long-forgotten aristocracy.

Its Victorian-style architecture includes stone archways, wide windows, spire-topped towers and all of the stairs and alcoves that you’d expect from a gothic building.

The truth, however, is that the Heurich House Museum was built by a European immigrant in the 1890s.

He ran a successful brewery a few miles away, and he wanted a taste of home in Washington, DC.

The brewery went out of business after the man died, but thanks to careful preservation by his descendants, the house survived.

It stands today as a tribute to turn-of-the-century living in Washington, DC.

Its first few floors have all of their original rooms and furnishings, including boudoirs, parlors, fireplaces, spiral staircases, servant’s quarters and more.

Tours are available every weekday.

Consider a trip to the Heurich House Museum if you’re looking for fun and unusual things to do in Washington, DC.

You’d never expect a piece of centuries-old gothic architecture to be sitting in the middle of a busy metropolis, but that’s exactly why it’s a must visit!

Address:  1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

7. National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

Hailed as “the nation’s museum,” the National Gallery of Art is considered one of the best in the United States, and it’s located right in the heart of Washington, DC.

It’s actually comprised of two buildings: East and West.

The East Building is made with pink marble and a sharp, almost geometric flair that includes things like open rooftop terraces and sky-lit atrium galleries.

By contrast, the West Building has white columns in a neoclassical architectural style reminiscent of ancient Greece, so it harks back to the past even as its cousin looks to the future.

The interiors are just as impressive as the exteriors.

Dozens of art collections include paintings, portraits, sculptures and busts from all around the world.

The works of many famous artists can be found here.

A trip to the National Gallery of Art is one of the top things to do in Washington, DC.

Not only will you be stunned by the scale and scope of its exhibitions, but you’ll also be moved by the immerse amount of meaning that the gallery holds for the United States of America.

Address:  Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565, United States

8. Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park

You haven’t truly lived until you’ve hurled yourself down a mountain while strapped to a narrow cord strung between two trees.

Fortunately, this is just one of the experiences that you can have at Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park , so you can cross it off your bucket list as soon as you visit Washington, DC!

Activities include everything from ziplining to clambering across rope bridges and airborne obstacle courses.

You can test your nerves on the Tarzan Swings; you can goof around with the kids on a Treetop Discovery Journey.

There’s even something called a “Monkey Drop” if you’re really feeling brave.

It’s okay if you’re a beginner.

There are instructors who will walk you through the basics and show you how to have fun while staying safe.

Youngsters are also welcome as long as they meet certain guidelines, so this can be a family outing.

You won’t find a lot of ziplining opportunities in Washington, DC, but if you’re willing to leave the city, Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park isn’t that far.

You could be there in less than an hour if the traffic is light.

Sign up for an adventure today, and you could be flying through the treetops as early as this weekend!

Address:  7550 Reservation Dr, Springfield, VA 22153, United States

9. Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Bookstores are nothing new in Washington, DC, which might just be one of the most well-read cities in the world.

However, Capitol Hill Books is unique in a number of ways.

For starters, it’s completely unpretentious.

It sells used and battered books in a cluttered space with little direction but lots of wobbly stacks, and most of the goods have been so deeply discounted that they’re practically free.

The store’s founder is a retired WWII veteran who barks at millennials for using words like “totally” and “whatever.”

Despite this, he’s actually quite fond of his good-for-nothing customers, and he sold the store to four of his favorite regulars in 2016.

The new owners have been faithful to the spirit of the original store, so they haven’t changed much.

You can still find handwritten signs banning smartphones and the foreign language section stacked up in the bathroom.

One thing that’s changed has been the upgrade to electronic cash registers after years of the founder writing receipts by hand and complaining about it the entire time.

Are you looking for quirky, off-beat ways to have fun in DC?

Hit up Capitol Hill Books.

Just make sure that you don’t use any dang slang!

Address:  657 C St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

10. Thip Khao

Thip Khao

If you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll be absolutely dazzled by Washington, DC.

Its streets are packed with dining options that range from Michelin-star restaurants to cheap food trucks and hole-in-the-wall grub hubs.

The hard part won’t be finding a place to eat; it’ll be choosing between all of the places to eat!

Thip Khao is just one of the city’s many restaurants, but it stands out from the crowd for its daringly unique menu.

It’s dedicated to Lao cuisine, and dishes include things like goat curry and fried duck head.

There are also blood sausages, fire ant eggs, cured pork bellies and alligator tails served with mint and green apple.

These dishes might sound extreme to a first-timer, but there’s a reason why locals and tourists both go crazy for Thip Khao.

If you’re willing to expand your horizons, you can have an amazingly exotic culinary experience without even leaving the streets of DC.

Take a deep breath.

Get over your fear of fermented fish chili rice.

It’s time to push yourself out of your comfort zone with Thip Khao, one of the coolest, boldest and tastiest restaurants in the city.

Address:  3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010, United States

11. Old Town Trolley Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour

There are so many tourist attractions in Washington, DC, that it can feel like an impossible task to visit them all.

Your best chance at success is utilizing an Old Town Trolley Tour .

As a “hop-on, hop-off” tour, the Old Town Trolley Tour will allow you to explore the city at your leisure even as you enjoy the convenience of having informative guides and chauffeurs.

If you see a store, restaurant or landmark that interests you, just disembark at one of the tour’s 17 designated bus stops around DC.

When you’re ready to resume the trip, hop on the next bus and keep going.

The tour will take you to all of the best places to go in the city, including the world-famous National Mall.

You’ll also have the opportunity to experience a water taxi on the Potomac River.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Washington DC, consider a hop-on, hop-off experience with an Old Town Trolley Tour.

It can be a great way to kick off your trip and see the bounty spread before you as a visitor.

Address:  50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

12. National Arboretum

National Arboretum

National Arboretum

With flowers, ferns, trees, shrubs, succulents and as far as the eye can see, the National Arboretum is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US .

It’s also one of the most colorful.

From the tidy, well-trimmed bonsai collections to the overgrown willow trees hanging over fields of wildflowers, every inch of this arboretum will dazzle the eye.

Walking trails will lead you through gardens and groves.

Art collections will greet you in between statues, fountains and reflecting pools.

Tourist attractions include everything from arbor houses to nature museums.

There are other things to see, too, that don’t involve the natural world.

For example, the National Capitol Columns stand in an open field as a tribute to American history.

Are you looking to escape the grind of Washington, DC?

Are you a fan of nature, culture, beauty, history or all of the above?

The National Arboretum is a must see destination, so you’ll definitely want to make time for it when you’re near the capital.

Address:  3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

13. CityCenterDC



Covering more than five blocks, CityCenterDC is a “mixed-use development” located in the heart of downtown.

In simple terms, this means that it’s a gigantic commercial and retail space where you can find shops, parks, restaurants, hotels, offices and condos all contained within a single area.

If this sounds like a busy place, you’re absolutely right!

While CityCenterDC is a must see for folks who enjoy the thrumming energy of a modern urban landscape, it isn’t for the faint of heart.

There are always crowds, and there are always miles and miles of traffic.

If the bustle is part of the appeal, however, you’ll love the liveliness of CityCenterDC.

You can’t walk two steps without seeing another shop or another cafe.

You could spend hours within these five blocks alone; you don’t even need to venture further into downtown to have a good time.

If you aren’t afraid of bumping elbows with strangers, CityCenterDC is among the top tourist places of Washington, DC.

It’ll put you right on top of the beating pulse of the city, and you can’t ask for more from a vacation destination.

Address:  825 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

14. The Pentagon

The Pentagon

The Pentagon

You might be surprised to learn that the Pentagon allows visitors, but it’s actually one of the biggest Washington DC attractions for political-minded folks who want to see where the action happens.

Guided tours are available on weekdays from 10 AM – 4 PM.

They’ll take you through some of the front rooms and offices as well as the Hall of Heroes where you can view Medal of Honor recipients.

There are also informative displays about all four branches of the military along with photos, relics and memorabilia from the conflicts of the past.

Keep in mind that tours have to be scheduled at least two weeks in advance, and you’ll need a government-issued photo ID to enter.

They don’t let just anyone pass through the front doors.

As long as you meet the criteria, however, it can be a rare and exciting treat to visit the Pentagon.

It can also make for a great story back home.

You can honestly tell your friends that you’ve walked the same halls as presidents, princes, dignitaries and more!

Address:  Washington, DC 22202, United States

15. National Zoo

National Zoo

National Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The National Zoo is a staple of Washington, DC for more reasons than one, so if you’re an animal or nature lover spending time in the city, it’s definitely a place to put on your to-do list.

The first reason to visit is because of the sheer range of animals within the zoo.

More than 2,000 animals call it home, including a family of giant pandas.

If it jumps, flies, crawls, stalks, slithers or rolls around in bamboo, it can probably be found here.

Another great thing about the zoo is that it hosts a wide variety of events and activities for visitors.

From “Woo at the Zoo” on Valentine’s Day to “Boo at the Zoo” during Halloween, there’s always something fun to do.

Last but not least, the zoo is free.

Yes, you read that right!

You can stroll right up to the gates tomorrow morning and gain entry without paying a dime.

It’s open every day of the year except Christmas, and it never charges admission.

Are you tempted by the National Zoo yet?

Are you ready to see all of the amazing creatures and enjoy all of the fun activities?

It’s located right on the National Mall of Washington, DC, so you can’t miss it!

Address:  3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

16. International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is a mix of fun and factual.

As its name suggests, it’s dedicated to the art of espionage, and many exhibits revolve around real-life spies and their history, technology and methodology.

On the flip side, a lot of stuff to do at the International Spy Museum is just plain cool.

There are trivia games and movie nights; there are interactive spy missions where the whole family can play at being James Bond.

Speaking of James Bond, he gets some attention, too.

Fictional spies aren’t overlooked.

The museum recognizes the role that they’ve played in public interest about the field.

If you’re looking for fun and unique things to do in Washington, DC, consider a stop by the International Spy Museum.

It’s one of the only museums of its kind in the entire world, so in addition to being a DC standout, it’s also a rare treat for those who like their martinis shaken and not stirred.

Address:  700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

17. Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

If you’re a fan of the funky, you won’t want to miss Adams Morgan .

This vibrant neighborhood has colorful houses lined up like ducks in a row alongside shops, cafes, bars, bistros, lounges, clubs and many other entertainment venues.

You can sing karaoke until 3 AM; you can follow trails of graffiti to community art projects.

Every weekend, this neighborhood transforms into a mini-city of its very own.

Another great thing about Adams Morgan is its diversity.

Just walking down the street can take you on a journey around the world, especially if you’re a foodie.

You can dine on all kinds of pizzas, noodles, pastas, empanadas and gyros.

Go shopping at the thrift stores.

Take in live music at the pubs and taverns.

Eat until you’re stuffed at the outdoor restaurants of every flavor.

Adams Morgan is one of the best places for entertainment in Washington, DC.

It’s a must do if you like the nightlife scene, but even if you’re an older or calmer kind of traveler, you can find ample ways to have fun in a neighborhood like this.

18. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Located in Arlington, Virginia, Arlington National Cemetery is a few minutes south of Washington, DC, but it’s worth the side trip.

You’ve probably heard of it before.

It’s one of the oldest and most esteemed military cemeteries in the world.

The land was originally owned by George Washington’s grandson.

It passed through various hands, including Robert E. Lee’s wife, until it became the property of the U.S. government.

Today, it’s used as the final resting place for soldiers dating all of the way back to the Civil War.

The grounds are beautiful, especially when the leaves change colors in the fall.

Elaborate statues, fountains, headstones and memorial buildings are dotted across the hills.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most popular places to visit in the cemetery, but there are many others.

If you’re wondering what to do in Washington DC, put some gas in the car and hop across state lines to Virginia.

Arlington National Cemetery is a must do.

Address: Entrance at Arlington Memorial Bridge, Arlington, VA 22211, United States

19. Capital One Arena

Capital One Arena

Capital One Arena

The Capital One Arena is one of the major points of interest of Washington, DC.

It’s even been credited with the revitalization of its neighborhood.

You don’t have to sit through a history lesson to enjoy the arena for what it is, however.

It’s an awesome place!

Home to everyone from the Washington Wizards to the Washington Capitals, it hosts sporting events of all kinds, including basketball, hockey and even wrestling.

It’s also been used for concerts, festivals, horse shows, family events and ice skating performances.

If you want to see Disney on Ice while in DC, this is where you’ll go.

Amenities include a lounge, salon, food court and commercial retail space.

You’ll find lots of well-known shopping brands here.

To put it simply, everything that you need for a good vacation is right here in the Capital One Arena.

There’s entertainment; there’s food and drink; there’s a place to get your hair cut or your nails clipped.

What more could you ask for from an arena?

Address:  601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

20. Odyssey Dinner Cruise

Odyssey Dinner Cruise

Odyssey Dinner Cruise

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase a three-hour tour?

Thankfully, this isn’t Gilligan’s Island.

It’s the Odyssey Dinner Cruise .

Setting off from the Potomac River, the Odyssey Dinner Cruise will take you on a journey through some of the top travel destinations of Washington, DC.

You’ll pass by towering monuments and memorials; you’ll drift along shorelines dotted with fountains, statues, museums, naval piers and other points of interest.

Befitting a dinner cruise, a three-course meal is served with every trip.

You’ll enjoy tableside service along with classical music in a sophisticated setting.

When you’re done with your food, you’ll have the option of cutting a rug on the dance hall.

If you’re wondering what to do in DC, you don’t have to limit yourself to a small list of attractions.

See everything at once through an Odyssey Dinner Cruise, and enjoy some buttered scallops in citrus sauce while you’re at it!

Address:  580 Water St SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

21. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

If you’re looking for unusual tourist spots in Washington, DC, consider the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens .

They’re captivatingly beautiful, but they’re definitely not your average park!

What sets them apart is their water-based plant life.

They offer several species that are quite rare for the region, including waterlilies, lotus blossoms and water hyacinths.

Some of these plants are located within Kenilworth Marsh, the only remaining tidal marsh in DC.

Another source of entertainment is the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival.

It’s a two-day event held at the park, and it offers games, tours, dances, cultural lessons, fashion shows, wildlife experiences and more.

If you’ve ever admired the beauty of a floating heart or the hidden meaning of a lotus flower, you’ll definitely want to check out the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

It’s a must do for nature enthusiasts in general, but it’s particularly special for folks who like to explore little-known places and find hidden gems during their vacations.

Address:  1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019, United States

22. Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is a small and beautiful sanctuary located off the coast of Washington, DC.

It’s only accessible through a pedestrian bridge, and cars and bikes aren’t allowed.

You have to explore with nothing but your own two feet.

If you’re up for the walking, however, it’s a top 10 destination in terms of scenery.

There are hills and fields; there are shaded tree canopies; there are babbling brooks.

It’s a great place to relieve some stress by lying back on the grass and staring at the beautiful blue sky.

There are also wilder, denser places where serious hikers can test their mettle.

If you venture deeply enough into the trees, you might hear the call of Washington’s birds or the slither of its snakes.

Do you want to go off the grid for awhile?

Check out Theodore Roosevelt Island.

It isn’t one of the glamorous tourist places of the region, but it’s one of the best things to do in DC if you don’t mind loping it on foot.

Address: George Washington Memorial Parkway, Arlington, VA 22211, United States

23. National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

The National Museum of Natural History is another place that you’ve probably seen in a lot of movies, but we’re here to tell you that reality is even better than fiction.

Its amazing collections have to be seen to be believed!

The first thing that you’ll notice is a gigantic elephant roaring at the center of a large, open-air rotunda.

From there, you can choose a direction and explore art galleries, fossil halls, meteorite collections, butterfly gardens and more.

There’s a Hall of Bones. There’s an Insect Zoo. The Hope Diamond is here.

Whether you’re into astronomy, oceanography, paleontology, meteorology or any other type of natural history, you can probably find some kind of display for it.

Run by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History lives up to its reputation and then some.

It’s one of those rare places to visit that manages to combine education and entertainment, so even as you’re having fun, you’ll be trying new things and learning new facts.

Address:  10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, United States

24. Argentta Spa at the Watergate

Argentta Spa

Argentta Spa

If bottomless mimosas are your thing, you’ll love a luxurious afternoon at the Argentta Spa .

It’s found within the Watergate Hotel, but you don’t have to be a guest to sign up for a massage, manicure or mud mask.

Feel free to pamper yourself regardless of where you’re staying in the city.

Amenities include a pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steamroom.

Beauty services range from basic facials to elaborate Icelandic moonflower scrubs.

If you’re over 21, you can enjoy drinks with just about everything, including cocktails during cuticle treatments and wine after rooftop yoga classes.

If you’re looking to treat yourself while in Washington, DC, it’s hard to beat the “luxe living” of the Argentta Spa.

You’ll feel like a whole new person when you step out of a lavender-infused saltwater bath.

Additionally, if you get too lazy and relaxed to move, you can just book a room at the hotel and extend your stay!

Address:  2650 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037, United States

25. DC Improv Comedy Club

DC Improv Comedy Club

DC Improv Comedy Club

This subterranean comedy club has an awesome atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else in Washington, DC.

As you might expect from an underground building, it features a lot of dark walls and dimly-lit alcoves, but it gets filled with so much laughter that it never feels gloomy.

Instead, there’s a warm, almost cozy atmosphere as the comedians take the stage.

They’re close enough to reach out and touch.

As a member of the audience, you’ll be able to eat and drink while they perform, so everything has a very casual feeling.

Shows are hosted every week.

Special events include classes in improv, sketch and stand-up comedy.

If you’re traveling for work, you can even rent the venue for fun and unique team-building exercises.

Maybe you’re spending time with colleagues.

Maybe you need a cool place for a date tonight.

No matter what the occasion, the DC Improv Comedy Club will be a side-splitting spot!

Address:  1140 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

26. Culture House

Culture House

Culture House

You can’t miss the Culture House .

Literally, you can’t miss it.

Its bright colors can be seen from miles away, especially since most of the surrounding neighborhood was demolished years ago.

The Culture House was only spared from the bulldozer because it used to belong to the Friendship Baptist Congregation, an African-American institution that supported low-income families and provided them with fun, creative ways to express themselves.

The Culture House has gone through various owners since then, but its mission remains the same.

Every inch of the place has been hand-painted or graffiti-sprayed with various types of artistry.

From cartoons to abstract swirls to elaborate “in memoriam” murals, it’s basically a living, ever-evolving work of art.

There are other reasons to visit the Culture House besides gawking at the walls, too.

Many artists use the space for showings and exhibitions.

Its psychedelic interior is also popular with musicians.

If you want some non-touristy things to do in Washington, DC, the Culture House is decidedly off the beaten path.

It’s a wonderfully unique place, and it’ll make for a wonderfully unique visit as well.

Address:  700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

27. Cascading Waterfall

Cascading Waterfall

Cascading Waterfall

You’ve never seen a waterfall quite like this.

Located within Meridian Hill Park , it’s a man-made art installation that sends water flowing down a series of 13 stone steps.

Like its name suggests, it’s a beautiful cascade, and many people think that it represents the perfect harmony between man and nature.

When you’re done with the waterfall, there are other cool places to see in the park as well.

There are statues and fountains; there are monuments for war heroes.

One of the most famous is a heavy bronze recreation of Joan of Arc on a horse.

The sword in her hand has been stolen and re-stolen multiple times over the years; sometimes, the thieves leave flowers or other tokens behind.

When visiting the statue, you never know if you’re going to see the sword or not.

Do you want to experience the great outdoors without having to leave the urban terrain of Washington, DC?

Stop by the Cascading Waterfall at Meridian Hill Park.

It’s a nice place to get a respite from the city while still being conveniently cocooned within it.

Address:  16th St NW &, W St NW, Washington, DC 20009, United States

28. The Chocolate House DC

The Chocolate House

The Chocolate House

If you just felt a little shiver of excitement at the name “ Chocolate House ,” this is the tourist attraction for you!

Offering hundreds of bars, breads, truffles, crisps and bites made by world-class artisans, the Chocolate House DC is a luxury boutique and tasting room for chocoholics of all types.

You can munch on everything from chocolate peanut brittle squares to orange-infused dark chocolate fudge bombs.

You can also indulge yourself with wines, soaps, blankets and other care package goods to complement the cocoa.

As for activities, you’ll have your choice of classes, workshops and cooking events.

You can learn how to roll truffles; you can sample various types of gourmet chocolate under the tutelage of an expert.

The schedule varies.

Your sweet tooth will definitely get a workout at the Chocolate House DC.

Are you ready to treat yourself to some amazing desserts made by high-quality chocolatiers?

Get your taste buds to the Chocolate House!

Address:  1904 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, United States

29. United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

With all of its vintage theaters and gleaming government buildings, you might not expect Washington, DC to have a lot of greenery.

However, the United States Botanic Garden would prove you wrong.

It’s a natural oasis in the middle of an urban landscape, and it’s hands-down one of the best places to visit in the city.

Flowers bloom in every shape and shade that you can imagine.

Gardens are arranged by theme, so one might have rare and endangered species while another is focused on jungle, desert or tropical plants.

There’s a canopy for looking at the trees and flowers from a top view.

There are trails and courtyards if you want to walk, talk, sit or just breathe deeply among the orchids.

You don’t have to be a botanist to appreciate a large and impressive house of botany.

If you want to escape the high-rise buildings of Washington, DC for awhile, stop by the tranquil spring that is the United States Botanic Garden.

Address:  100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

30. Monumental Helicopters

Monumental Helicopters

Monumental Helicopters

It’s always fun to see a city from the sky.

It can get a little complicated in DC, however, because of the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) imposed on all of those important government buildings.

If you want to experience aerial views, you’ll need to book a helicopter tour with a company that has been approved for FRZ flights.

Monumental Helicopters is that company.

They have FRZ access, and while they can’t exactly fly you over the White House, they can get you closer than many of their competitors.

They can also take you on show-stopping journeys to other Washington DC attractions.

They offer a variety of tours out of Baltimore and Annapolis that also incorporate some of DC’s nearby hot spots.

If you’ve always wanted to fly alongside the seagulls in Chesapeake Bay, this is your chance!

It’s unfortunate that you can’t take a real helicopter tour of Washington, DC, but with companies like Monumental Helicopters, at least you can experience something close to one.

Just make sure to call ahead and book early.

They provide such an in-demand service that they’re often swamped with requests.

Address:  7505 General Aviation Dr #100, Fort Meade, MD 20755, United States

31. Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

Don’t be fooled by the name “ Smithsonian Institution Building .”

While it might sound like a boring collection of offices and cubicles, it’s actually a medieval-style castle!

It was built with red sandstone over the course of 1849 – 1855 in a combination of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture.

The architects picked this style deliberately because they wanted it to stand out from the white marble and granite of other DC buildings.

The towers rise to a staggering 145 feet.

The windows are curved and arched alongside turrets and other medieval staples.

Inside, there are parlors, galleries, libraries, chapels and great halls.

There’s even a crypt for the tomb of James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian Intuition.

Washington, DC might be full of cool buildings, but the Smithsonian Institution Building is one of the top choices to visit.

How many chances will you get to see a genuine castle?

Rather than backpacking through Europe or Asia, just hop on over to DC.

Address:  1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, United States

32. Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill is another vintage building in the DC area, though it isn’t quite as vintage as a medieval castle.

However, it does date back to the mid-1850s, and it went through several lives as a boarding house and a saloon before finally settling on its identity as a tavern.

The dining room shines with polished woods and red, brown and gold accents.

The menu offers old classics like steak and eggs as well as more contemporary dishes like oysters and scallops.

For dessert, you can try some of the famous peach cobbler or the mouthwatering brown butter chocolate chip cookies; for a drink, you can sip white wines, bourbon whiskies, rum cocktails and tequilas with salty glasses.

The service is impeccable. The menu is delicious. The decor is fun and retro.

Why wouldn’t you stop at Old Ebbitt Grill when you’re feeling peckish in Washington, DC?

Address:  675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, United States

33. The Mansion on O Street

The Mansion on O Street

The Mansion on O Street / Rain0975 / flickr

The Mansion on O Street isn’t actually a mansion.

It’s a series of brownstones connected by cluttered rooms, creaky staircases, secret doors, winding passageways and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with everything from rare books to antique dining sets.

It’s partly a museum, partly a junk shop and wholly a place where you can have fun in Washington DC.

With more than 100 rooms in total, you’ll have your work cut out for you when it comes to exploring the labyrinth.

You might enter this weekend and not emerge until next weekend.

It’s that complex.

Once you embrace a perpetual feeling of being lost, however, you’ll have a blast.

There are all kinds of odds and ends to appreciate as you wander from room to room, and special events include tours, treasure hunts, musical performances, book readings and more.

A lot of the goods are on sale, too, so you can take home some of the world’s weirdest souvenirs.

Consider a trip to the Mansion on O Street if you’re looking for fun things to do that aren’t in your typical travel guide.

It might be one of the lesser-known options for Washington DC attractions, but considering its strange, secretive nature, that’s rather fitting!

Address:  2020 O St NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

34. U Street

U Street

Once hailed as the “Black Broadway,” U Street spent years as a cultural hub for African-Americans in Washington, DC.

It’s become more gentrified as of late, but you can still find important works of art, music, fashion and culture preserved here, and you can still grab an awesome slice of Ethiopian dessert.

Attractions include the work of notable black architects like the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and the Thurgood Marshall Center.

There’s also the Lincoln Theatre, a historic performance venue for legends like Duke Ellington, and the Bohemian Caverns, a jazz club that dates all of the way back to the 1920s.

After you’ve enjoyed a show, grab some dinner at Ben Chili’s Bowl or smoke a cigarette at the U Street Music Hall.

If you’re in the area in the spring, see if you can catch the annual Washington DC Funk Parade.

U Street is an important touchstone for the African-American community in the District of Columbia.

It’s also a place of good vibes, great festivities and as much soul food as you can eat.

If you’re looking for fun vacation spots, make sure to mark U Street on your map!

Check out this mouth-watering U Street food tour.

35. The Capital Wheel

The Capital Wheel

The Capital Wheel

Have you noticed that Washington, DC doesn’t have a lot of skyscrapers?

It’s deliberate on the part of city officials.

It also means that attractions like the Capital Wheel really stand out.

Rising more than 170 feet from the land and water below, the Capital Wheel is a gigantic Ferris wheel that overlooks everything from the Washington Monument to the Potomac River.

It has such amazing views, in fact, that you can see Virginia and Maryland from the very top gondola.

As for the gondolas themselves, they’re both enclosed and climate-controlled, so you’ll never have to worry about bad weather ruining your visit.

You can just sit back and watch the raindrops streaking across the glass as you slowly ascend into the clouds.

If you’re traveling to the city in winter, you can also catch spectacular light shows that transform each gondola into an LED extravaganza.

You aren’t afraid of heights, right?

So climb aboard the Capital Wheel and look at Washington, DC the way that few tourists ever do.

You’ll treasure the memory for the rest of your life.

Address:  141 American Way, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, United States

36. Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Take a deep breath in crisp, clear air when you visit Rock Creek Park .

It’s one of the most beautiful places to go in Washington, DC, and thanks to careful conservation efforts by the community, it’s also one of the best sites for escaping the smog of the city.

Water glides over the rocks in cold, clear streams.

Ferns and flowers hide all kinds of wildlife, including several species that aren’t commonly found in other parts of the state.

Nature trails are everywhere, and they’ll take you over hills, through trees, across foot bridges and down inlaid steps.

Available activities include everything from horseback riding to sightseeing at old-fashioned grist mills.

Do you need a break from the lights and noises of the big city?

Rejuvenate yourself by spending some time at Rock Creek Park.

Whether you’re going for an all-day hike or just an afternoon picnic in the park, it’ll soothe your soul to be surrounded by natural beauty on all sides.

Address: 3545 Williamsburg Ln NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

37. Georgetown


You can’t talk about Washington, DC without mentioning Georgetown .

It’s one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the city, and if you play your cards right, it can also be one of the most fun.

The secret lies in making a game plan.

Georgetown is a lively neighborhood filled with colorful houses dotting cobblestone roads and shopfronts, so there are lots of things to see and do.

If you don’t want to miss out on anything awesome, you’ll need to know where to go and what to visit.

Are you hungry?

Take a food tour of the many cafes, bistros, bakeries and restaurants.

Do you enjoy nightlife?

Hit up the bars, pubs and taverns with their live music and never-ending taps.

Sightseeing is another popular activity in Georgetown.

The architecture is very Instagram-worthy, so whether you’re looking at snow-topped patios or fall foliage scattered on the streets, you’ll definitely want to whip out your camera and document it.

Georgetown is one of the major places of interest in Washington, DC.

If nothing else, it’s worth exploring just to say that you’ve been there!

Explore Georgetown with this walking food tour.

38. Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Located within the National Museum of the American Indian, this cafe is one of the only ones in the country that serves exclusively Native American food.

It’s a great place to expand your culinary horizons while also supporting the indigenous populations of Washington, DC!

Menu items range from “bison burgers” to “yellow corn tacos served with goat meat and plantains.”

An open kitchen will allow you to watch your meal being prepared over fire pits and cedar-covered grills.

There’s a bit of a food court atmosphere to the cafe since it offers dishes from multiple Native American tribes.

You can even order a sample platter if you want to try different ones.

On slow days, the cooks will chat with you about the history of their skills and dishes.

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe is one of the best ways to spend your money in Washington, DC.

It gets its ingredients from tribal co-ops; it supports a museum dedicated to its people.

Most importantly, it serves Native American food that’s awesome and authentic, so you can feel good about your lunchtime choices when you eat here.

Address:  Independence Ave SW & 4th Street Southwest, Washington, DC 20024, United States

39. Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

Part of the National Gallery of Art, the Sculpture Garden has an amazing collection of outdoor artwork that ranges from the aesthetically pleasing to the mind-bendingly weird.

You could spend a whole day just wandering the trails and looking at all of the goods.

Graft is a tree made entirely out of silver.

Spider is a gigantic, eight-legged bronze piece that looms over visitors.

Thinker on a Rock is a quirky take on the old classic with a ponderous rabbit in place of a human.

Chair Transformation Number 20B is a series of melted blue chairs that have been stacked on top of one another.

When you’re finished with the sculptures, venture into the gallery and look at the paintings, or hop on the ice skating rink that opens every year from December to March.

You can also grab a bite to eat at the pavilion cafe or shop for souvenirs at the museum gift shop.

For fun times with crazy, creative artwork, check out the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art.

You won’t regret it!

Address:  Constitution Ave NW &, 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States

40. National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

Another museum in the Smithsonian collection, the National Postal Museum is dedicated to the long and surprisingly interesting history of the U.S. postal system.

There’s a lot more to know about the Pony Express than you might think!

Exhibitions include letters, stamps, uniforms, decals, flags and vintage postal tools like printing presses and perforation machines.

Displays include multiple recreations of life-sized, turn-of-the-century transportation.

Wagons and stagecoaches line the floor; an “air mail” plane hangs from the ceiling.

You can even climb inside postal rail cars on a gigantic train.

Another cool thing about the museum is that it’s located at the former site of Washington’s central post office.

From 1914 to 1986, it was genuinely in use by the locals.

If you’re visiting Washington, DC to learn more about its historical significance to the United States, you’ll want to make time for the National Postal Museum.

It’s a unique destination for a unique time in the past, so it’s a must see for history buffs everywhere.

Address:  2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

41. Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter

Do you have some free time tonight?

Hit up Penn Quarter .

It’s a neighborhood that never sleeps, so it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for midday shopping or late-night drinking; you’ll always find open doors here.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company puts on the best shows from the Bard.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum shares space with the National Portrait Gallery and the Marian Koshland Science Museum.

The Capital One Arena is close by for sports fans, and the J. Edgar Hoover Building is just a stone’s throw away for the politically minded.

There are other, lesser-known attractions as well.

For example, there are many bars and restaurants to cater to the frequent foot traffic of tourists, and there are a number of stores for shopaholics.

With its endless variety of events and activities, Penn Quarter is one of the most fun things to do in DC.

It’s especially nice for night owls who are looking for a good time.

You don’t have to retreat to your hotel just because the sun goes down!

Visit Penn Quarter instead and enjoy yourself until the sun rises again.

42. Catacombs of Washington, DC

Catacombs of Washington, DC

Catacombs of Washington, DC / Lawrence OP / flickr

Hidden beneath the city of Washington, DC is a series of underground tunnels that are designed to mimic the religious catacombs of the Middle Ages.

They’re only 100 years old, so they’re quite young by catacomb standards, but their cracked stone walls and curving, dimly-lit passageways will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook of some kind.

Holy artwork covers the walls.

Shrines, tombs, altars and chapels can be explored at your leisure.

The skeleton of an eight-year-old martyr will watch over you as you venture from room to room.

Tour guides are available if you’re worried about getting lost forever among the ghostly graves of religious icons.

Otherwise, you can explore this subterranean complex on your own; it’s located beneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America .

The Catacombs of Washington DC are one of the coolest sites to see in the city.

They aren’t as well-known as other tourist attractions in the city, but that just means that you won’t have to battle large crowds underground.

You can creep through the tombs in a hushed silence that befits the setting.

Address:  1400 Quincy St NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States

43. Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park

Though it’s located in Maryland, Greenbelt Park is just a half-hour from downtown DC, so it isn’t a chore to take a drive there.

In fact, the drive itself can become a tourist attraction when the weather is nice.

The leaves turn gold in the fall; the tulips and dandelions blossom in the spring.

It’s quite scenic!

The main attraction, however, is definitely Greenbelt Park.

This woodsy wilderness is one of the top spots in Washington for hikers, campers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

There are off-grid locations if you like to get rugged, or you can stick to the reserved camping areas to enjoy amenities like picnic grounds and public bathrooms.

There are also a variety of trails for folks of every skill level, so whether you’re an experienced backpacker looking for a challenging route or a complete beginner who just wants to take a leisurely stroll through nature, there’s a pathway that will suit you.

Are you looking for fun places to go in Washington, DC?

Greenbelt Park doesn’t technically fit the bill, but if you’re willing to cheat on the District of Columbia with the state of Maryland, your sneakiness will be rewarded.

Address:  6565 Greenbelt Rd, Greenbelt, MD 20770, United States

44. Nationals Park

Nationals Park

Nationals Park

Home of the Washington Nationals, this ballpark mixes a classic, old-school stadium aesthetic with contemporary features and amenities.

For example, while it has grandstand seats surrounding a nostalgic green diamond, it’s also the first eco-friendly, LEED-certified stadium in the nation.

While it sells hotdogs and peanuts, it also offers ribs, lobster rolls, kielbasa, bao bao and Korean fried chicken.

Baseball is the biggest sport for Nationals Park , but if your trip coincides with hockey season, you might also be able to catch a NHL game.

You can also keep your eyes peeled for concerts, papal masses, political rallies and other big events.

Tours are available with and without appointments, so that’s another possibility for killing some time while you’re on vacation.

If you’re headed to DC this week, check out the schedule for Nationals Park.

You never know when something cool will be going on, and with any luck, you’ll get the chance to take your family out to a ballgame in true American style.

Address:  1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

45. Madame Tussauds Washington DC

Madame Tussauds Washington DC

Madame Tussauds Washington DC

The wax statues of Madame Tussauds are known throughout the world.

However, it must be said that the Washington DC location is even better than the ones found in Hollywood or Las Vegas.

You won’t believe some of the famous faces on display here!

The Presidents Gallery has wax figures of all 45 U.S. presidents.

The Glamour Room has everyone from Beyonce to Michael Jackson.

The Civil Rights Room gets serious with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sports Gallery goes right back to the humor with its renditions of Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods and Evander Holyfield.

If you’re curious about the creation process of these wax dolls, there’s also a “Behind the Scenes” room where you can learn some of the secrets of the trade.

Otherwise, feel free to explore the museum at your leisure and poke at all of the frozen celebrity smiles.

Unlike other museums, visitors at Madame Tussauds are allowed to freely interact with the exhibits, and funny selfies are both accepted and encouraged.

Are you tired of the usual Washington DC attractions?

Do you want something that’s totally weird and off-the-wall?

Madame Tussauds has you covered.

Just make sure that your camera roll is ready!

Address:  1001 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

46. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden / Ron Cogswell / flickr

Put together by a rich heiress with a taste for high art and culture, the Hillwood Estate is filled with things like tapestries, portraits, ornaments, flowers, tea sets and porcelain goods.

It’s a collection that spans the globe, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Washington, DC if you enjoy delicate beauty.

The Hillwood Estate is technically known as a “decorative arts museum.”

However, it’ll offer a much different experience than your standard museum.

You’ll start with a trip through a Japanese zen garden.

A set of sliding doors will open into the estate, and a tour guide will escort you through everything from the French Porcelain Room to Russian Sacred Arts Room.

If you like the House of Romanov, they have an entire suite dedicated to them; items on display include a stunning collection of Faberge eggs.

There’s also an entire exhibit dedicated to the jewelry and fashion of pre-industrial England.

When you’re done with the exhibitions, hit up the on-site cafe for tea and sandwiches, or check out the souvenir shop filled with books, artwork, stationery and other delicately charming goods.

There’s a lot to see at the Hillwood Estate.

You’ll wish that you had more than one pair of eyes.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Washington, DC, however, you won’t want to miss it!

Address:  4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

47. Union Station

Union Station

Union Station

This Union Station is one of the oldest railway stations in the world, and for a long time, it was also one of the biggest.

Millions of people visited it every year to take trains and buses to Boston , Baltimore , New York and more.

Today, Union Station is still a thriving hub for transportation, but it’s also been modernized for the convenience of the contemporary traveler.

There are shops and food courts; there are beauty services and bike repairers; there are tour guide companies of every possible type.

Previous businesses have included bookstores, barber shops, post offices and even a mortuary.

Union Station is the kind of place that you’ll want to visit at least once.

It might not be what immediately comes to mind when you think about Washington DC attractions, but it’s worth putting on your itinerary.

Visiting DC without a trip to Union Station is like visiting NYC without a trip to Fifth Avenue.

48. Chinatown


In its heyday, the Chinatown of Washington, DC was one of the most prominent in the United States.

It’s suffered a lot of gentrification since then, and only a fraction of its original population remains, but it’s still a great place to get some dumplings.

Many of the businesses in the area are family-owned by Chinese immigrants.

There are restaurants, clothing shops, laundromats, video stores, general stores and more.

If you don’t know where to start, try the Washington DC Chinatown Community Cultural Center.

In addition to offering practical things like maps, they also host a variety of classes and festivities that celebrate China, so they can help gain a deeper understanding of the culture even as you partake in its food and festivities.

DC’s Chinatown might lack its original glory, but it’s still one of the best places to visit in the region.

Grab your chopsticks and loosen your belt!

The orange chicken is waiting!

Address: Bounded by G H, 5th, and 8th Sts., Washington, DC, United States

49. Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Are you looking for romantic places to visit in Washington, DC?

Take your sweetheart to the Tidal Basin .

It’s such a gentle, beautiful location that it isn’t at all uncommon to see lovers picnicking along the shore, renting out a paddleboat for two or just holding hands as they walk under shaded tree groves.

The most popular time to visit is during March – April when the cherry blossom trees come into bloom.

They provide rare and spectacular sightseeing opportunities that only last a couple of weeks before they’re gone, so they’re quite special.

If you miss the blossoms, however, don’t fret!

There are other places of interest throughout the basin.

For example, it’s located near the National Mall, so you can hit up all of the major monuments and memorials of DC with your special someone by your side.

Another option is to rent the aforementioned paddleboats and spend an afternoon on the water; they’re available every season except winter.

Put on some nice clothes. Spritz yourself with your favorite fragrance.

It’s time for date night in Washington, DC, and the Tidal Basin is waiting.

Address: E Basin Drive NW Ohio Drive NW, Washington, DC 20003, United States

50. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this basilica.

Its towering domes look like something out of a renaissance painting from the 1800s, and the height of its bell tower puts it among the largest Catholic churches in the world.

The interior is just as grandiose as the exterior.

There are almost 100 shrines to the Virgin Mary alone, and they’re complemented by murals, mosaics, statues, roses and other beautiful and meaningful ornaments.

Elaborate altars are available for praying.

A crypt holds valuable relics like Pope Paul VI’s coronation tiara.

Surprisingly, the basilica is still open for everyday worship.

While other basilicas might be jealously-guarded historical sites, this one is free and open to the public, and it welcomes visitors of every age, gender, race and faith.

If you find yourself near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception while visiting Washington, DC, consider going inside for awhile.

It’s okay if you’re a sinner. Mary won’t judge.

Address:  400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States

51. East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park is one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

It’s also one of the lesser-known tourist attractions.

When you put these two facts together, you’ll realize that you have the opportunity to experience a great place in the city without the usual crowds.

Outdoor amenities include a golf course, a public swimming pool and an entire series of athletic fields for tennis, soccer, rugby and football.

You can also go walking, jogging, driving, biking, skating and fishing along the various trails and piers.

In the spring, the cherry blossoms scatter pink petals on the sidewalks.

In the winter, snow covers the ground and turns everything into a winter wonderland.

Swing by East Potomac Park if you want to experience natural beauty in Washington, DC.

It isn’t all condos and traffic!

There are sedate, serene places as well, and they’re worth a stroll under the trees.

Address:  Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

52. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Holding more than 2,200 events each year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of the top destinations for art and culture in Washington DC.

It’s home to multiple venues, including theaters, concert halls and opera houses, and they’ve collectively welcomed millions of visitors since their foundation.

Do you like ballet?

Buy a ticket for the Nutcracker.

Are you a fan of classical music?

Check out shows by the National Symphony Orchestra or the Washington National Opera; they both call this location home.

Other events include plays, musicals, chamber concerts and more.

There are lectures and workshops for adults; there are educational games and activities for the little ones.

Many of these things are free, so if you’re wondering what to do in the city when you’re on a budget, it might behoove you to get a little culture.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a place that truly lives up to its name.

It’s a multicultural, multidisciplinary hub where there’s always something new and exciting going on.

Whether you’re visiting this weekend or next year, you can just look at the schedule and pick an event!

Address:  2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, United States

53. Oki Bowl

OKI bowl at Georgetown

OKI bowl at Georgetown

Do you dream of sushi? Do you live for late-night ramen?

Oki Bowl serves authentic Japanese cuisine in the heart of Washington, DC, and the only thing that outdoes the menu is the decor.

Dozens of mismatched lanterns hang from the ceiling.

The floor has black-and-white squares while the walls are covered in rainbow posters and oddly-shaped shelves crammed with toys and trinkets.

Even the bathrooms have eye-popping designs.

They’re painted with glowing blacklit landscapes that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a neon nightclub or maybe a futuristic anime.

They’re so cool that their lines are always a mile long because people take so many pictures during their potty breaks!

Oki Bowl is a fun place to grab a bite to eat in Washington, DC.

If you find yourself craving some miso soup while you’re in the city, make the trek here.

It’s worth it.

Address:  1608 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

54. Rockefeller Mansion

Rockefeller Mansion

Rockefeller Mansion

Located in a remote wilderness preserve and surrounded on all sides by leafy, privacy-giving hardwood trees, the Rockefeller Mansion is such a large and grandiose estate that it actually has two separate mailing addresses.

It was built in the 1920s and purchased a few decades later by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

It’s a real house, so it isn’t a tourist attraction that you can just walk up to and admire.

You’ll have to keep your distance.

If you love architecture, however, or if you enjoy finding treasures at the end of long hikes, it might be worth a side trip to see the Rockefeller Mansion.

You can snap a few photos from afar, and you can marvel at the fresh air and natural woodlands that surround the estate.

Washington, DC has very charming landscapes when you’re willing to venture out of downtown, and the Rockefeller Mansion is proof of that.

55. National Geographic Museum

National Geographic Museum

National Geographic Museum

You know National Geographic.

Everyone knows National Geographic.

But were you aware that it’s also a museum in Washington, DC?

Filled with fun things to see and do, this interactive educational center will be a treat for the whole family.

Kids will love the games and activities that range from fossil digs to 3D movies about volcanoes and supernovas.

Teens will appreciate the scattered remains of shipwrecks and the larger-than-life taxidermy models of forgotten beasts.

Adults will enjoy learning something new about ancient civilizations from Peru, Greece and Machu Picchu.

There are special events hosted by the museum as well.

Whether it’s attending a class or exploring an exhibit after-hours, you can find plenty of neat things on the schedule.

The National Geographic Museum is one of the top things to do in Washington DC.

If you’ve ever flipped through the magazine at the dentist’s office, do yourself a favor and check out what it can really do with your undivided attention.

Address:  1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

56. Victura Park

Victura Park

Victura Park

Another great place to get away from it all in Washington, DC, Victura Park is a lovely little landscape that overlooks both Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Potomac River.

It’s located on the back lawns of the Kennedy Center, but you don’t have to be a patron to enjoy the park.

You can just waltz in, spread your picnic blanket on the grass and enjoy the scenery.

Another option is buying your lunch from the outdoor pop-up and wine garden.

In true “pop-up” style, the menu is ever-changing, so this week’s dishes might not be next week’s dishes.

There are occasionally guest chefs who host events and classes.

If you do want to check out the Kennedy Center, it’s just a few steps away in a large, geometrically-cut building.

It isn’t free like the park, so you’ll need to buy a ticket, but it’s worth it.

If the lights and crowds of Washington, DC are starting to get to you, consider slowing down for awhile with Victura Park.

It’s one of those lovely, low-key places to see that can recharge your batteries for the rest of your vacation.

Address: 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20566, United States

57. Skydive Capitol City

Skydive Capitol City

Skydive Capitol City

Did you know that you can cross “skydiving” off your bucket list when you visit DC?

You can’t jump off the Washington Monument or anything, but if you’re willing to take a short drive outside of the city, you can go nuts in the wide open fields of Virginia.

Skydive Capitol City is one of the best companies for it.

The owners actually hold Guinness World Records for their tandem skydiving, and all together, the staff has jumped out of planes more than 10,000 times.

You can take lessons or go tandem with an instructor if you’re a beginner.

You can also sign up for a freefall if you’re a licensed skydiver just looking to get your fix while you’re away from home.

All things considered, Skydive Capitol City can provide unforgettable memories while you’re in the area.

You’ll never feel more alive than when you’re risking death, so if you have the nerve, sign up for a skydiving session and get to work on that bucket list!

Address: Warrenton Airpark, 9272 Green Meadows Rd., Warrenton, VA 20187, United States

58. Lucky Strike

Lucky Strike Entertainment

Lucky Strike Entertainment

Rainy days are a bummer during vacations.

Fortunately, when you’re visiting Washington, DC, you don’t have to let them stop you from having a grand old time!

Lucky Strike is just one indoor attraction in the DC area, but it’s so cool and creative that it deserves special attention.

As you might have guessed from the name, it’s primarily a bowling alley, and it offers more than a dozen state-of-the-art lanes equipped with lights, chimes and digital scoreboards.

But the fun doesn’t stop there.

You can play arcade games; you can sign up for a game of laser tag; you can hit the dance floor.

There are special events like Silent Disco Night.

There are exotic foods and tasty cocktails.

All in all, Lucky Strikes is one of the better attractions in Washington, DC, and it can be visited anytime.

It isn’t dependent on good weather.

If you’re wondering what to see in the city on a rainy day, put on your bowling shoes and come here!

Address:  701 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

59. Tudor Place

Tudor Place

Tudor Place / DC Gardens / flickr

Six generations of George Washington’s family lived and died within Tudor Place .

Originally built in the 1700s by the same architect who created the Capitol Building, it spent more than 100 years as the estate where the Washingtons lived, married, worked, retired and died.

Today, Tudor Place has been converted into a museum, and visitors can explore the property like they’re a long-lost relative.

The inside of the house has charmingly vintage furnishings; the outside has everything from gardens to carriage houses to elaborate, labyrinth-style hedges.

There’s even a bomb shelter!

It was built during the Cold War, and it’s open to the public as a fascinating relic that peeks into the past of an emotionally-charged era.

Tudor Place is one of the last remaining estates from the colonial period of Washington, DC.

If you’re a history buff, it’s a top 5 destination within the city.

It doesn’t get more historical than the silverware that was actually used by George Washington’s kin.

Address:  1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

60. J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building

You might know the J. Edgar Hoover Building as the headquarters of the FBI.

It’s another place that you wouldn’t expect to welcome visitors, but as long as you’re a U.S. citizen who books an advanced tour and complies with the “restricted items” list, you can indeed walk the halls of this venerable institution.

The tours are self-guided, so you’ll need to be comfortable on your own.

You can look at different articles, artifacts and multimedia exhibits as you move along the permitted areas.

All of the materials that you’ll see are dedicated to the history and legacy of the FBI.

It’s done some important work for the country, and those efforts are on full display here.

If you’ll be traveling to Washington, DC, make time for the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

It’s a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain of a powerful organization, and with all of its stories and mementos, it’s also one of the best places to visit to learn about U.S. history.

Address:  935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20535, United States

61. Gadsby’s



There are two locations called “ Gadsby’s .”

They’re at the same place and operated by the same people, but to avoid confusion, let’s look at them separately.

The first location is Gadsby’s Tavern.

It’s a complete throwback to the 18th century right down the period costumes worn by the waiters, so if you want dinner and a show, this is a fine place to get it.

The second location is Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

Operating out of a restored version of the original building, it offers exhibits, workshops, classes and other educational events and activities for those who are interested in the colonial era.

The two Gadsby’s can make for quite the evening, so be sure to leave yourself enough time to visit both.

The original businesses were favorites of a whole host of important people, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, so you won’t want to miss a chance to walk in their presidential footsteps.

Address:  134 N Royal St, Alexandria, VA 22314, United States

62. DC Dragon Boat Club

DC Dragon Boat Club

DC Dragon Boat Club

The DC Dragon Boat Club creates a weekly spectacle on the Potomac River, and after you’ve seen them splashing around for awhile, you’ll be itching to join the fun.

Practice sessions are for developing their rowing and paddling skills.

Races are for getting their adrenaline going as they compete against each other for bragging rights and the occasional cash prize.

Annual events include the DC Dragon Boat Festival, the Independence Dragon Boat Regatta and the Baltimore Dragon Boat Challenge.

One of the nicest things about the Dragon Boat Club is that they’re always open to newbies.

Even if you’re just a curious first-timer who’s never paddled a day in your life, they’ll welcome you to their practice sessions.

They’ll even provide the lifejacket!

Maybe you want to try something new.

Maybe you’re a pro racer looking to get back into the game.

Either way, the DC Dragon Boat Club can provide an exhilarating afternoon on the water, so don’t hesitate to hop down the riverbank and join them.

Address:  975 Wharf St SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

63. National Museum of Health and Medicine

National Museum of Health and Medicine

National Museum of Health and Medicine

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is run by the U.S. government, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at its exhibitions.

Rather than being the dull, drone-like museum of school field trips, it’s a fun and dynamic place that disguises its lessons so cleverly that your kids will be begging to come back.

Organs are displayed in glass jars.

Hairballs are behind glass cases after being pulled from human stomachs.

Rare and vintage medical tool are everywhere; some are replicas, and others are rusted originals.

You can also see one-of-a-kind relics like the bullet that was pulled from Abraham Lincoln’s skull.

It still has trace amounts of brain matter on it.

If you’re seeking Washington DC attractions that offer something a little different than usual, try the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

It’s a nice mix of informative and educational, and whether you’re traveling with kids, colleagues, dates, spouses or no one at all, you can have a great time here.

Address:  2500 Linden Ln, Silver Spring, MD 20910, United States

64. Adventure Park

Adventure Park USA

Adventure Park USA

The wind whips through your hair.

The straps dig into your chest.

You’re moving so fast that your cheeks are wobbling on your face, and you’re pretty sure that you left your stomach several stories beneath you.

Say hello to Adventure Park !

Located about an hour north of Washington, DC, Adventure Park is an outdoor recreation area that offers ziplines, roller coasters, rope courses, archery ranges, laser shows, hay rides, arcade games, mini-golf courses and much, much more.

There’s so much to see and do that your legs won’t be able to carry you to it all.

They’ll give out before you can finish.

Other amenities include a smokehouse restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat and an outdoor activity center where you can play with everything from excavators to genuine tomahawks.

Adventure Park is one of the most fun things to do in DC.

Technically speaking, it might fall outside of city limits, but it’s still close enough for a side trip.

The whole family can pack into the car and make a day of it!

Address:  11113 W Baldwin Rd, Monrovia, MD 21770, United States

65. National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

Are you a bookworm? Are you a history buff?

Do you love pouring over handwritten papers and sepia-toned scrolls in the pursuit of historical knowledge?

Maybe you just enjoy the smell of old books.

No matter why you’re considering a visit to the National Archives Museum , you should know that it’s worth the trip.

More than three billion records call it home.

That’s billions with a “B.”

Its most famous documents are the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but there are plenty of others, including the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation.

When your eyes get tired from all of the reading, you can take a stroll through the large, neoclassical building and soak in the details of its artwork and architecture.

There are also various educational rooms filled with things like telegrams and video recordings for further review.

The National Archives Museum is more than just a museum.

It’s a piece of history that can be explored at will.

If you’re at all interested in the foundation of the United States, you won’t want to miss this place when you’re visiting Washington, DC.

Address:  701 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States

66. Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in DC.

It’s also one of the most centrally located if you’re looking to pack a lot of tourist attractions into a busy schedule.

Like the name suggests, the Capitol Building is less than a mile away.

The Senate, the House of Congress and the Supreme Court Building are all within walking distance.

You can also find lesser-known locales like the Washington Navy Yard and the Congressional Cemetery nearby.

Flea markets and farmer’s markets crop up every weekend.

In the summer, musicians play in the parks; in the winter, there’s sledding down the actual Capitol Hill.

You can also enjoy yourself just by taking a scenic stroll around the rowhouses.

Capitol Hill looks exactly like what you’d expect from a neighborhood in Washington, DC, and it can be oddly satisfying to realize that.

No matter how you choose to spend your time on Capitol Hill, you’re sure to love it.

There’s a reason why it’s such an enduring community in the city.

Once you’ve seen what it has to offer, it’ll be hard to say goodbye.

67. Haunted Halcyon House

Haunted Halcyon House

Haunted Halcyon House / AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA

At first glance, the Haunted Halcyon House looks like any other stately building located in the upper-class regions of Georgetown.

It isn’t until you learn about its sordid past that you realize the twisted depths of its legacy.

For starters, the Haunted Halcyon House has gone through dozens of owners since 1787, and nearly all of them have reported strange tidings around the house.

There are also grisly rumors about runaway slaves that have perished in the basement and widows who have gone mad with grief and hung themselves from the rafters.

One confirmable fact is that the Haunted Halcyon House was owned by the death-obsessed Albert Clemens in the 19th century.

A cousin to Mark Twain, Clemens believed that he could somehow stave off the Grim Reaper by making a series of bizarre, inexplicable changes to the home, including stairs that lead to nowhere and trap doors that are just waiting for unsuspecting victims.

You can view the Haunted Halcyon House as part of many “ghost tours” in Washington, DC, or you can simply visit it as a one-time attraction.

The choice is yours. The spookiness will always be there.

Address: 3400 Prospect Street NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

68. Monuments by Moonlight DC Night Tour

End your vacation with the Monuments by Moonlight DC Night Tour .

It’ll provide a beautiful and slightly surreal look at some of the most unforgettable sights in the city, so if you want to leave a lasting impression of Washington, DC in your memory, this is the way to do it.

Like its name suggests, the Monuments by Moonlight tour is done entirely at night.

The “moon” part may or may not happen depending on the weather, but even if it stays hidden behind the clouds, you can still enjoy the tour.

Since so much of the city is made with white marble, including the dome of the Capitol Building, it has a natural nighttime glow.

Other stops on the tour include the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to fun and interesting stories from a local tour guide; it’s the kind of stuff that you would never get from a travel brochure.

It’s hard to say goodbye to an amazing city like Washington, DC, but this tour can give you one last hurrah before you go.

It’ll be an amazing experience that you’ll remember long after you’ve returned home.

Start Planning Your Trip To Washington, DC

These are a few of the most fun things to do in Washington, DC.

Whether you’re interested in art, food, history, culture, government or just beautiful views of cherry blossom trees over the water, this is a city that you won’t want to miss!


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.

Official site: http://www.nps.gov/whho/index.htm

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.

Official site: www.nasm.si.edu

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.

Official site: www.nga.gov

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.

Official site: https://www.ushmm.org

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.

Official site: https://www.aoc.gov/

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.

Official site: http://www.si.edu/Museums/natural-history-museum

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.

Official site: http://americanhistory.si.edu

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

Official site: https://nmaahc.si.edu/

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.

Official site: www.kennedy-center.org

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.

Official site: http://nationalzoo.si.edu

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.

Official site: https://museum.archives.gov

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.

Official site: www.spymuseum.org

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.

Official site: https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil

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.

Official site: www.cathedral.org

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.

Official sites:

  • https://americanart.si.edu/art
  • https://npg.si.edu/

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.

Official site: https://www.usbg.gov/

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.

Official site: https://www.wharfdc.com/

Sightseeing by Day:

  • Washington, D.C. has so many famous sites that it's difficult to keep track of all there is to see and do. One of the best ways to explore this city is on a classic Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tour , seeing the sites from an open-top red bus and getting on and off wherever you choose.

Sightseeing by Night:

  • At night, Washington is transformed as the floodlights are beamed up the monuments, giving them a completely different look from their daytime appearance. The Washington, D.C. Monuments by Moonlight Night Trolley Tour is a 2.5- hour guided tour that provides an easy way to see the city at night.

Sightseeing by Bicycle:

  • Active travelers will enjoy the Washington D.C. Monuments Bike Tour to visit the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial on a three-hour ride. Hybrid bikes and the relatively level terrain make this suitable even for those who are not avid cyclists. As many places to visit have security checkpoints and do not allow backpacks, it is wise to carry as little as possible while touring.

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.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com


Places to Visit Close to Washington: If you have time to explore outside the city, there are many easy Day Trips from Washington, D.C ., and our page on Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Washington D.C. can give you plenty of ideas for longer excursions.


Exploring Maryland : There are a number of tourist attractions in Maryland , including those in historic Annapolis and Baltimore with its lively harbor area. The state is also famous for its beaches and oceanfront resorts, many of which are within easy weekend reach from Washington. You can learn more about these on our page Top-Rated Resorts in Maryland.


Discovering Virginia : The District of Columbia lies between two states, and to its south, you can visit attractions in Virginia , including those in the capital city of Richmond . Or you could spend a weekend immersed in colonial history with the help of our page Top Tourist Attractions in Williamsburg & Easy Day Trips .

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14 Best Things to Do in Washington, DC

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

Ben’s Chili Bowl Arrow

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

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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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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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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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Things to Do

Discover endless things to see & do in Washington, DC

You can find all the best things to do right here in DC, from concerts and cultural events to American history, free attractions and so much more.

It’s easy to ride the Metro or hop on a bike and explore all that the nation’s capital has to offer. Walk the halls of free Smithsonian museums, paddle on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers or sit back on a double-decker tour bus and soak up some history. Local shops, funky marketplaces and people-watching hot spots beckon by midday, as nighttime gives way to multi-course dinners and drinks from local breweries. However you spend your time here, make it count.


All Things to Do

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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.

interesting places to visit in dc

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

Things to Do in Washington DC, DC - Washington DC Attractions

Things to do in washington dc.

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  • Upper Northwest
  • Dupont Circle
  • National Mall
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  • Adams Morgan
  • Mount Vernon Square
  • Columbia Heights
  • Foggy Bottom - GWU - West End
  • Connecticut Ave/ K Street
  • Logan Circle/ Shaw
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good for a Rainy Day
  • Good for Couples
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  • Hidden Gems
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  • Things to do ranked using Tripadvisor data including reviews, ratings, photos, and popularity.

interesting places to visit in dc

1. Lincoln Memorial

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2. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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3. National Air and Space Museum

interesting places to visit in dc

4. National Gallery of Art

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5. Library of Congress

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6. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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8. Korean War Veterans Memorial

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9. National Mall

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10. U.S. Capitol

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11. National World War II Memorial

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12. Washington Monument

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13. National Museum of African American History and Culture

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14. National Portrait Gallery

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15. Ford's Theatre

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16. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

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17. Jefferson Memorial

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18. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

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19. Washington National Cathedral

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20. National Museum of American History

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21. White House

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22. United States Botanic Garden

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23. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

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24. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

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25. International Spy Museum

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26. Georgetown

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27. The National Archives Museum

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28. Capitol Hill

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29. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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30. Museum of the Bible

What travelers are saying.


interesting places to visit in dc

From Monuments to Museums: 14 Essential Stops in Washington, DC

A mong the destinations I love to travel to is Washington, DC. I adore the city's spirit and mindset. Every few years, I try to make it over there. I'll outline 14 things to do in Washington, DC, in this post.

1. Monuments

You can't go to Washington, DC, without seeing the numerous monuments that are there. Some of the monuments I saw were the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The atmosphere near the memorial was very calm and peaceful. Everyone should check out the Dr. King Memorial if they get a chance. He did so much for many people and gave the ultimate sacrifice so that citizens could have equality.

2. The White House

You can't go to Washington, DC, and not see the White House. The White House is the residence and workplace of the President of the USA. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I've had the opportunity to see the White House from a distance a couple of times. I haven't been able to take a tour yet. It takes months for your tour request to be approved or denied.

3. Washington Nationals Game

If you're an MLB fan, you must check out a Washington Nationals game. Nationals Park is a beautiful stadium. They are a team that plays in the National League East. There are a lot of good seats in Nationals Park that provide excellent views. Every ballpark isn't like that. They also have an area outside the stadium called Fairgrounds, with a bar and food vendors. It's a must-see if you like baseball.

4. U Street

This one is one of my favorite things to do in Washington, DC. U Street is one of the best places to go in the city for nightlife. There are several bars and restaurants to go to. Ben's Chili Bowl is a must-visit if you're ever in DC. They have great chili dogs and half-smokes. I try to go there every time I'm in DC. You may even see the owner, Virginia Ali, still doing some work.

5. Howard University

Howard University is one of the best HBCUs out there. The school was established in 1867. It is commonly referred to as the "Mecca" because of its success and diverse group of students. Also, five of the "Divine Nine" fraternities and sororities were founded there. If you are a fan of HBCUs, this should be on your list of things to do in Washington, DC.

6. Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials

One of the most moving war memorials is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or "The Wall."  It is one of the sites where it is hard not to feel emotional while reading the names on the wall of more than 58,000 soldiers who laid their lives in our nation's service during the Vietnam War. It is recommended to visit the site during the day with ample sunlight.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington, DC.'s West Potomac Park, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. It pays tribute to 1.5 million who served in the Korean War. It is a privately funded site displaying 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers in combat.

You can explore both memorials 24 hours a day; however, the site is only staffed by National Park Service rangers from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

7. The Tidal Basin

This is another one of my favorite Washington, DC, sights. If you visit Washington, DC, try to spend some time along the Tidal Basin. It is a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River and regarded as the backdrop to some of DC's best-loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin bursts with color as cherry blossom trees (gifted to DC from Tokyo) bloom into cotton candy-colored tufts and attract hordes of visitors. You can follow the path around the basin, but many recent visitors recommended testing the waters in a paddleboat.

8. Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral is designed in a gothic style; it is the 6 th largest in the world. The construction of this massive structure started in 1907 and was completed in 1990. It is surrounded by gardens, creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors. Take a stroll around the cathedral, peer at its high vaults and flying buttresses, or step inside to admire its intricate glass-stained windows.

The cathedral's grand architecture and colorful stained-glass windows will leave you in awe. If you're religious, consider attending one of the free worship services offered every Sunday at 8, 9, and 11:15 a.m. Evening prayers led by the choir are available on Sundays at 4 p.m.

9. Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Library preserves and provides access to a rich, diverse, and enduring source of knowledge to inform, inspire, and engage you in your intellectual and creative endeavors. Whether you are new to the Library of Congress or an experienced researcher, we have a world-class staff ready to assist you online and in person. The Library of Congress comprises of three buildings and is open to the public Monday through Saturday, though each building maintains different visiting hours. There are no entrance fees for this attraction.

10. Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery. It serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate families from the fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the Cold War, and America’s Civil War.

The grounds honor those who have served our nation and provide our guests with a sense of beauty and peace. Rolling green hills are dotted with trees that are hundreds of years in age, complementing the gardens found throughout the cemetery's 639 acres. This impressive landscape is a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within these hallowed grounds. The cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funerals every weekday. The site is open to the public 365 days a year, with free admission for those who wish to tour the site and pay their respects.

11. Visit the Smithsonian Museum Air & Space Museum

If you are a lover of arts, culture, science, and some of the greatest inventions of the human race, then visiting the Smithsonian Museum is one thing you'd want to do while in Washington. The museum contains national treasures and is visited by millions of people annually. The Smithsonian is a national air and space museum containing some of the oldest aircraft ever made. It has a huge catalog which includes the Wright flyer made in 1903. If you want to go there with your kids, there is also a gift shop with huge antiques you can get for them while visiting.

It’s always best to visit the museum in the morning when it's less crowded, as it can get a little busy in the evenings, especially in the summer. The museum is free to visit, but you might have to pay for some services like the IMAX theater and the planetarium, but it just costs 9 dollars for adults and 7 dollars for kids. 

12. Cherry Blossom Festival

Next on the list of things to do in Washington, DC, is to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival. Trust me, this is something you’ll want to experience, and it takes place in spring, around March. The four-week-long festival typically starts on the 20 th of March and ends on the 28 th of April. It is held to commemorate the gifting of the Japanese Cherry tree to the city of Washington DC by the Mayor of Tokyo city in 1912, Mayor Ozaki.

The festival features a huge display of colorful balloons, music, marching bands, shows, parades, and Japanese arts and culture. The cherry tree also blooms this season, covering parts of the city with its precious pink flowers. If you visit Washington, DC, in March, you will have a great time at the Cherry Blossom Festival.

13. Visit Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan is a neighborhood in Washington, DC, well known for its multiculturalism and vibrant nightlife. If you want to find Adams Morgan, take a walk by 18 th street at night, and you’ll find this neighborhood of nightly wonders. It’s hard to miss. It's got colorful houses lined up on its streets alongside cafes, lounges, clubs, and even shops open all night long for your entertainment. There is so much you can do at Adams Morgan if you're a night owl. It would be a shame not to visit it.

14. See the United States Capitol

Visiting the U.S capitol should also be on your list while you are in Washington. It is not just a place where laws are made but is also a wonderful display of architectural genius. It was built in the 1800s and houses both the house of reps and the senate.  The building also holds a part of history as it was destroyed by the British and rebuilt later.

The U.S. capital allows visitors to its several exhibits and gift shop. You could also get a tour of the building every day of the week except Sundays. You book a visit online or a tour on the premises.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Washington, DC?

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73 Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Washington DC

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The food in Washington DC is exquisite, it’s rich in history, and it’s home to some of the finest national parks and museums in the world.

The White House and the Pentagon both stand ready waiting to be toured, as do a number of other high-profile domiciles in the area… and some of them are famously haunted!

If you want to take a deep dive straight into American history, culture and politics, you’ve landed in exactly the right city! There’s no better place to uncover iconic monuments, statues and memorials than the capital of the United States of America!

Not only about the affairs of state, enjoy a romantic dinner cruise on the river, or bring your little ones to watch a live baseball match!

Let your creative side run loose during clay classes at a local cafe, unravel the world of art at prime galleries or hunt down caves and waterfalls!

There are so many amazing things to do in Washington DC that to do it all in one visit would be simply impossible. Here’s just a selection!

Want to dive straight in? Browse our catalog now!

  • Washington DC tours

1 – Bone up on history at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress, Washington DC

There’s no better way to indulge in American politics than with a private tour of the Library of Congress , Capitol Hill, and the Supreme Court.

As one of the world’s largest libraries, its shelves are home to not only books on the political front, but millions of films, videos, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts.

Established in 1800, the different areas of the library (housing the General, International and Special format collections) are visually stunning!

Take a leisurely stroll through the library’s main reading room as you discuss all things politics past, present, and future, and check famous artifacts and landmarks like the Gutenburg Bible and the Thomas Jefferson Library off of your bucket list.

  • Library of Congress tours

2 – Check out all the monuments and memorials on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill, Washington DC

If you’re a fan of American history and you’re looking for things to do in Washington DC, then you’ll want to visit Capitol Hill ASAP to see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Visit the Supreme Court and take a tour of the places where bills and ideas are debated into law. The picturesque National Mall is the perfect spot to snap some vacation memories!

Stop by the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center to become more knowledgeable about the house of Congress and American politics since its earliest days, and see the architectural development of the U.S. Capitol since it was first constructed between 1793 and 1800.

Arriving at the center, investigate interactive exhibits and storytelling displays within the Exhibition Hall, or join some of the activities. Try out a hands-on learning experience in the Democracy Lab or pretend to “pass legislation”.

There are a few specialty tours to join, lasting between 30 minutes to one hour. These include the Halls Of The Senate, Votes For Women, Indigenous Peoples In Capitol Art and Heroes Of Civil Rights tours.

  • Capitol Hill tours

Hot tip: Don’t miss our selection of the best Capitol Hill tours and read more about the best Washington DC Monuments Tours

3 – Pay tribute to the 300,000 fallen heroes buried at the Arlington Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC

The Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most famous cemeteries in all of the United States, and a visit here gives you the opportunity to pay respects to more than 300,000 of the military’s fallen heroes.

Both public and private tours are guided by passionate experts, and sites include the Tomb of the Unknowns, Memorials to the Columbia and the Challenger space shuttles, and the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy himself.

Right near the cemetery, this time honor marine soldiers, and comrades, who have lost their lives during battles at the US Marine Corps War Memorial — accessible through Arlington National Cemetery and located on Arlington Ridge.

An impressive bronze statue reaching nearly 10 meters high depicts an iconic scene of marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima in 1945 during the war against Japan for Iwo Jima.

In the summertime, arrive around Golden Hour, just in time to witness the one-hour Sunset Parades, and the performance includes the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps musical procession.

When crowds dissipate in the evenings, the memorial takes on a completely new light.

  • Arlington Cemetery tours

4 – Watch the Washington Wizards play at the Capital One Arena

Capital One Arena in Washington

There’s always something awesome going on at the Capital One Arena : NBA and NHL games, and also spectacular concerts, even sometimes Monster Jam car rallies! On average, the arena hosts about 220 events per year.

At the time of writing, the front page of the events calendar boasts no less than The Eagles, Harry Styles, and Marc Anthony. That’s just an example of the types of events you’ll find advertised here year round!

But it’s not just limited to sports and music, and expect some of the biggest stand-up comedians and celebs taking the stage — hello, Adam Sandler!

Opening in 1997, today, the stadium is home to the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NCAA’s Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team.

  • Capital One Arena tickets

5 – Bring the kids to the National Children’s Museum

National Children’s Museum, Washington DC

Interactive, educational and captivating, the National Children’s Museum is a great way for kids to kill a few hours having all the fun thanks to science, technology, engineering, art and math (known as STEAM).

Join the Dance Party Pod and shake it off to different genres of music that inspire varying movements through the power of sound when arriving at the entry hall. Then, move on to the exciting exhibitions.

“Climb” into the clouds at the dream machine exhibit, investigate the data science alley, stop by the tinkers studio or meet your favorite characters from Nickelodeon at the art + tech exhibition space.

The museum also has a bunch of programs (which change every few months) to get involved in during a visit.

6 – Spend a day walking through the National Mall

National Mall, Washington DC

Be it by night or by day, there are more than 10 iconic tour stops waiting to be seen on a guided tour of the National Mall. Learn the fascinating history behind the Smithsonian museums and Potomac River, and check out memorials to Lincoln, FDR, and MLK.

There are both public and private options available, and some packages even offer pick up from your accommodation. Not to mention, these tours are amenable to all budgets!

Opening in 1966, the national park in downtown Washington is one of the best places to see a collaboration of museums, memorials, galleries, statues and gardens, with views of the White House in the background.

The National Gallery of Art is here too where you can see originals by masters like Van Gogh and Da Vinci. Peek into the Sculpture Garden next door afterward.

Located within the park is the peaceful Constitution Gardens; a great spot to rest your feet around the lake after you’re done exploring American history.

As a tribute to the U.S. Constitution, the gardens opened their doors in 1976 and also contain a few dedicated memorials within.

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Hot tip: Our selection of the best walking tours in Washington DC is perfect for history buffs and curious travelers.

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Go on a Journey through Time at Titanic: The Exhibition

interesting places to visit in dc

Imagine stepping back in time and reliving the glory days of the Titanic. Explore carefully recreated environments, listen to testimonies from survivors, and take the opportunity to admire over 300 historical artifacts in this immersive exhibition. Take a journey into the past as the history of the world’s most famous ship is brought to life.

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7 – Pay respects at the Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Memorials

memorials in Washington DC

With a past sweeping centuries of politics, social justice and key moments in history, you’re in the right place when it comes to extensive memorial tours , and many are located near the National Mall.

Nicknamed the ‘Stone of Hope’ after an excerpt from the civil rights leader’s most famous speech, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a nine-meter tall white granite monument in his honor.

Take a moment to reflect at the National World War II Memorial: a solemn reminder of the horrors of war, a tribute to those soldiers who fought for peace, and a great photo opportunity.

There are 58,318 names etched into the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, every one of them belonging to an American soldier who lost his/her life in the devastating Vietnam War.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, which includes the Pool of Remembrance, is a tribute to the soldiers who fell during the real Korean War.

As the man in charge of the United States all throughout the Great Depression as well as World War II, FDR was one of the country’s most consequential presidents. Learn about the man who led the USA through the dark at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

The men of the U.S. navy have been fighting and laying down their lives for hundreds of years, and the U.S. Navy Memorial showcases that rich history.

8 – Work against the clock with your friends in an escape room

escape game in Wahsington DC

Escape rooms are guaranteed to be a fun time in any city. If you love solving puzzles, then spend some time in a locked room with your friends and family as you work against the clock to find as many clues as possible and solve the mysteries laid out before you.

Or, if you’re looking for something a little more primal, why not try the Smash Room? Forget all your problems in a safe environment as you release tension by smashing everything you see. It’s therapeutic!

Discover different themed rooms, each designed to suit different ages or playing levels. Go on ‘A Pirate’s Adventure,’ escape the ‘Curse of the Mummy’ or find secret potions with ‘Dr. Whack’s Elixir of Life.’

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9 – Treat your honey to Candlelight Concerts

Candlelight Concerts in Washington DC

Hey couples, if you’re traveling to Washington and are in search of a romantic date night idea, candlelight concerts might be the answer you’re looking for — especially if you share an infinity for performance art.

Picture this… As you and your darling enter the room ready to watch a spectacular concert, the entire space is lit up in soft dreamy warm lighting thanks to the hundreds of candles all around you.

The venue is carefully selected, and there is a variety of different types of shows to watch by twinkling lights. For example, watch a tribute to Radiohead at the Miracle Theatre, or a show dedicated to Hans Zimmer at St. Francis Hall.

You can attend these mesmerizing shows around the world, from Paris to Seoul as well as in Washington DC.

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Discover A Sensational Valentine’s Day Experience

interesting places to visit in dc

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an unforgettable twist at Dining in the Dark, where a blindfolded dinner elevates your senses of taste and smell. Perfect for couples, families, and friends looking for a distinctive dining experience, this event invites you to explore flavors and aromas in a completely new way.

10 – Come during springtime and check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Every spring, between the months of March and April, the cherry blossoms in DC bloom and create one of the most beautiful natural sights this side of the Pacific Ocean. The cherry blossoms were a gift from Japan in the early 1900s.

The festival that comes along with the yearly natural occurrence is one for the books and includes street art, food, parades, and so much more.

This spring festival is one of the very best things to do in Washington DC. The event specifically runs between March and April when the Sakuras are out in full bloom. 

Around this time of year, there are also Cherry Blossom tours in Washington DC showing you the top places for cherry blossom spotting (and photographs).

11 – Immerse yourself in America’s favorite pastime at Nationals Park

baseball game at Nationals Park

Nationals Park is the official home of the Washington Nationals, Washington’s Major League Baseball team. Going to see a ball game in the U.S. capital is probably one of the most American things a person can do, and there aren’t many better places to do it.

Nationals Park was completed in 2008, making it relatively new compared to other stadiums around the country, and it was the first one to be LEED green certified. When the baseball team isn’t playing match day or it’s out of season, the stadium hosts a wide variety of events, from beer festivals to concerts featuring famous bands, musos and singers.

Stadium tours are available; get your autographs in on Signature Sundays; and there’s a Nationals Park Kids Zone for little ones.

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12 – See exotic animals from all over the world at the National Zoological Park

National Zoological Park, Washington DC

The National Zoological Park is yet another attraction in DC that’s completely free of charge. It houses more than 2,700 individual animals! Exotic lizards, gorgeous birds, beasts of all shapes and sizes, you name it, you’ll find it here.

The fully fleshed-out animal habitats within the zoo’s impressive 163 acres were designed with conservation in mind and the team here is dedicated to making sure the species housed here continue to thrive.

Animals are divided into different zones, such as the Africa Trail, Bird House, Reptile Discovery Center, Kids’ Farm, Primates, Great Cats, Asia Trail and more! Little ones especially love the Me and the Bee Playground, the water-fun Squirt Zone and riding the Speedwell Conservation Carousel.

13 – See George Washington’s final resting place at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon is famous for being one of America’s oldest and most beloved plantations. It was owned by George and Martha Washington, and they are buried right near the mansion that is maintained to look exactly as it did back then.

The experience at this gorgeous piece of Americana is so immersive that there are even actors on-hand to make sure it’s as authentic as possible.

Apart from the Washington’s mansion, there are other areas to explore at the Mount Vernon estate: the gardens, tombs, farm, distillery and gristmill, two museums and the wharf. The mansion forms part of the historic area, and there are outbuildings here to tour, like the stables and blacksmith shop, among others.

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14 – Learn what life was like for a Civil War soldier at the Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield

The Battle of Gettysburg (1 July to 3 July 1863) changed the course of American history, and for history buffs looking to get acquainted with the most famous Civil War locations, this major landmark is a must see.

This very location is where the three-day battle between Union and Confederate forces took place, and it’s located just over an hour away from Washington (in Pennsylvania). The Battlefield forms part of the larger Gettysburg National Military Park (established in 1895).

Live one day as a soldier in the Civil War and take in a one of a kind 360-degree painting of the infamous battle, then get transported right back to Washington at the end of the day!

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Dopamine Land: A Multisensory Adventure Awaits

interesting places to visit in dc

Indulge all of your senses – especially your sense of wonder! – at the visually stunning Dopamine Land. This vibrant event boasts 10 interactive rooms, each designed to delight your senses and unleash your inner child’s imagination. Whether it’s meditating, mixing music, drawing on walls, or engaging in a spirited pillow fight, Dopamine Land offers an array of activities that promise to stimulate the happiness hormone.

15 – Find the freshest produce and ingredients at the Eastern Market

Eastern Market, Washington DC

If you have a taste for farm-fresh products, you need to check out DC’s Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Not only that, it’s a historical institute, to say the very least. Its first vendors popped up in 1873 — and it’s been running ever since!

The vendors here offer everything from fresh food to hand-made arts and crafts. The Eastern Market also regularly puts on local gatherings and events.

A space for communities: it is split by the indoor South Hall Market, the Weekend Outdoor Market, Fresh Tuesdays Farmers Market (12 PM to 4 PM), the Weekend Farmers’ (Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM) and the North Hall Event Space.

16 – Grab brunch on a sightseeing cruise

sightseeing cruise in Washington DC

There are so many ways to take in the numerous historical sites around Washington, and one of the most pleasurable has to be by taking a sightseeing day cruise on the Potomac River. Boarding the three-tier Spirit of Washington cruiser, enjoy a buffet lunch or brunch on one of the interior decks or the rooftop lounge, with DJs lifting the mood.

If you’d prefer, there are evening dinner sightseeing cruises, topped with a three-course meal and bottomless mimosas! Both options range from two to three hours guaranteed on the water.

Whether it be during a sunlit brunch cruise or a moonlit dinner cruise, there are definitely worse ways to see the White House, Admiral’s Row, and so many more!

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17 – Stay in shape while you take a bike tour around DC

bike tour in Washington DC

Of all the ways to take a tour around the United States capital, few will help you stay in shape like taking a ride on a bike customized to your specifications. Set aside a couple of hours for navigating your way through a list of iconic monuments and attractions.

Get up close and personal with historical landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, all while learning the incredible stories behind them from expert local guides.

Veer past the likes of the Smithsonian Institution Building, National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, The National Archives Museum, the FBI Headquarters and much more!

Certain bike tours focus on the sites around the United States Capitol,or there are family-friendly options to peak the interests of all ages in your tour group.

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Read more: Best City Tours in Washington DC

18 – Go sightseeing through the capital on a double-decker bus or trolley tour

trolley tour in Washington DC

There are few things more magical than a moonlight tour of some of DC’s most famous historical monuments (all fully illuminated) by open-air trolley, and few better things to do in Washington DC in general.

There are also tours available during the day! And best of all, there are multiple spots available to hop on one of these guided and narrated tours at your convenience!

During the daytime, the hop-on hop-off open-top bus tours are valid for the entire day. With over 15 stops included on the itinerary, you have the freedom to jump on and off the bus at your own leisure.

Or, if your heart is set on a trolley tour guided by the moon and the city lights, these range from 1.5 to 2.5 evening excursions.

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Hot tip: When deciding between hop on hop off Washington DC bus tours vs trolley tours , check which routes cover more landmarks across the city.

19 – See Washington DC from 10,000 feet in the air when you go skydiving

skydiving in Washington DC

Another great way to see the capital is on the way down from a 10,000-foot jump. You’ll also get a great view of the scenic Chesapeake bay.

All that’s required is a 30-minute training course prior to taking a heart-pounding 60-second free fall. Then, Once the parachute opens, it’s a gentle 5-7 minute trip to the ground.

The D.C. Skydiving Center offers both tandem jumps and solo dives for serious adrenaline junkies.

Traveling at speeds of nearly 200 kilometers per hour, freefall for 45 seconds (whilst harnessed and attached to one of the center’s certified skydive instructors), and then the rest of the parachute ride lasts from four to seven minutes.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, opt for epic skyboarding, vertical flying or belly flying sessions, or if you haven’t yet been certified to solo skydive, the center offers courses to get you prepared for your first solo adventure!

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Walk inside a Monet masterpiece

interesting places to visit in dc

At Monet: The Immersive Experience, you can become a part of the master’s artwork thanks to incredible 360-degree projections. Learn about Monet’s life story, the inspiration behind some of his most famous paintings, for an intimate moment with the artist, as if he was telling you his stories. Get up close to every brush stroke, or enjoy a VR experience. This is art like you’ve never seen it before!

20 – See how indoor skydiving is just as exhilarating

indoor skydiving in Washington DC

As of just recently, DC is now home to an indoor skydiving facility in addition to the outdoor option! They offer an experience that uses wall-to-wall wind tunnels to simulate an 11,000-foot drop.

The activity comes complete with a personal instructor and flight gear, plus a nifty certificate upon completion.

21 – See the 36,000 artifacts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Established by the United States Congress in 2003, the NMAAHC is the only museum in the entire country dedicated to the documentation of African American history and culture, and it finally opened as an official extension of the Smithsonian in 2016.

It currently houses over 36,000 artifacts. Divided into history, community and culture, investigate topics like ‘Slavery and Freedom’, ‘Sports’, ‘Musical Crossroads’ and ‘Visual Art and the American Experience’.

Home to special and permanent exhibits, the collections comprise categories highlighting (and displaying) clothing and dress, education, literature, Black Lives Matter, religion, politics and much more.

Not only interesting but a true eye-opener, African American tours in Washingto n are a fantastic opportunity to learn about the past from centuries back up until the civil rights movement.

These expeditions always make a stop over the Smithsonian, as well as pivotal monuments and sites around the city such as the Emancipation Statue, the Martin Luther King Memorial, LeDroit Park and the Mary McLeod Bethune Statue.

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22 – Explore other Smithsonian museums, like the National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian museums in Washington DC

Did you know that the world’s largest museum and research site is home to a whopping 21 museums and nine research centers? Set aside time to investigate the other Smithsonian museums and the rest of the Smithsonian complex.

Learn about our place in nature at the National Museum of Natural History , offering exhibits dedicated to ecology, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and of course, butterflies.

If you’re a fan of aviation and engineering, then you must check out the National Museum of Air and Space .

See the most complete collection of American art in the world at the American Art Museum ! Check out the latest in contemporary decorative art at the Renwick Gallery (forming part of this Museum).

Have you ever wondered where exactly the star-spangled banner came from? Or how it was that baseball became America’s favorite pastime? The answers to these questions and more await you within the halls of the National Museum of American History .

Pay respects to (and become better educated on) those who called America home first at the National Museum of the American Indian .

The National Postal Museum is actually housed in the building that served as the Washington Post Office for over 50 years! It hosts all kinds of activities, including self-guided tours and wine & design evenings.

The National Museum of Asian Art is actually two Smithsonian museums merged into one: the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Together, they house more than 40,000 unique objects from the Orient dating all the way back to the neolithic period.

23 – See masterpieces from the world’s greatest artists at the National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Considered as one of the best museums in Washington DC , the DC National Art Gallery is so vast and full of unique pieces of art that you’ll probably want to go back more than once, especially if you want to make sure to catch as many masterpieces as possible from Renaissance artists, French Impressionists, and of course, legendary American painters.

Founded in 1937, its extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, photos, prints and drawings accumulate to 150,000 treasured pieces! A few out of many highlights include da Vinci’s ‘Ginevra de’ Benci’ and Van Gogh’s ‘Self Portrait.’

Themed guided tours of the museum are available, join an event like Artist Talks or a workshop, and there’s the Ice Rink at the Sculpture Garden outside.

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24 – Investigate the country’s foundations at the National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum, Washington DC

American history aficionados, did you know that you can see the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights documents in person at the National Archives Museum ?!

Entering the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, these three preserved artifacts are on display inside, and you can’t help but feel the shivers down your spine looking at the original pieces of paper, now faded yellow and licked in diminishing ink.

You also can’t help but notice the Faulkner Murals, painted between 1935 to 1936 by artist Barry Faulkner. It shows an imagined scene from the days of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The Public Vaults, Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery and the David M. Rubenstein Gallery (containing the Records of Rights) are other exhibits at the museum and are available to take a tour through.

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See also: best tourist attractions in Washington DC .

Revealing royal secrets: Tutankhamun arrives in Washington DC!

interesting places to visit in dc

Unveiling the mysteries of Ancient Egypt in Washington DC, Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures is the exhibition of a lifetime! Delve into the fascinating life of the young pharaoh through an impressive collection of recreated objects, fascinating decorations and intriguing ideas. Don’t miss this golden chance; it’s history like you’ve never seen before.

25 – Step back in time at the National Building Museum

National Building Museum, Washington DC

From government headquarters to inaugural balls, the National Building Museum has certainly seen its fair share of important people in history walk through its doors.

Originally built between 1882 and 1887, today, presidents and congress still utilize the space for events. This is fitting as the building was designed in grand architecture, taking inspiration from Roman palaces.

A standout feature is the Great Hall, separated into three courts and with a fountain in the center. Marvel at the architecture in person and then move on to exploring the museum’s permanent collections.

Through architectural prints, drawings, photographic images (including negatives) documents, material items and other artifacts, gain a greater understanding of the architectural styles and construction techniques of the historic building.

If you’re here with the little ones, bring them to the ‘ PLAY, WORK, and BUILD’ exhibition. The hands-on block play area, interactive displays and the museum’s Architectural Toy Collection capture the minds of children in an instant.

26 – Get acquainted with DC’s best food on a food tour

food tours in Washington DC

DC is famous for a lot of things, most of them having to do with history and politics. What a lot of people tend to overlook is how rich the area’s food culture is, especially in the neighborhood of Georgetown, but not exclusively.

Some of the other areas to take your pick from include Old Town Alexandria, Little Ethiopia, Capitol Hill and U Street. A food tour is one of the best things to do in Washington DC. Find world-class pizza, cheese, chili, and more as you learn the fascinating history behind this incredibly varied gastronomic hub.

Food-centric excursions are usually around three hours (giving you enough time to get your full fix of local restaurants, cafes and dishes).

  • food tours in Washington DC

27 – Tour the delights of Virginia Wine Country

wine tastings in Washington DC

Speaking of gastronomic pleasures, it doesn’t get more pleasurable than wine and cheese in the nation’s capital. Throw in a delicious local beer for good measure, and you’ve got all the makings for a great tour of the wineries in Virginia Wine Country .

The region is famed for its Virginia wine, growing in the surroundings since the 17th century. There are plenty of wine tours to take your pick, stopping off at multiple wineries to tour the cellars, sample the different reds and whites, and even get to explore the vineyards.

Some examples of the wineries and vineyards to visit are the Philip Carter Winery, Blue Valley Vineyard, Doukenie Winery, Casanel Vineyards & Winery, Bluemont Vineyard and Fabbioli Cellars. Obviously, these activities are 21+.

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28 – Crazy rollercoasters, 100 attractions and live shows, visit Six Flags America

Six Flags America, Maryland

If the name seems familiar, it’s because Six Flags America has 27 parks across the USA (including Canada and Mexico)! The one in DC is the tenth park to open under the brand.

Themed around the six nations that have governed Texas (Texas was the playground’s very first location), the park is split into various zones such as Cutthroat Creek, the Grand Theatre and Main Street 1776.

Although it is a classic amusement park, Six Flags is famed for its array of belly-dropping roller coasters! There are a whopping 10 here!

Whether you’ve visited the amusement theme park in another city or state before, or it’s your first time, there’s no doubt about it, visitors love it time and time again!

29 – See ancient Torah Scrolls and thousand-year-old papyrus texts at the Museum of the Bible

Museum of the Bible

The Museum of the Bible is an immersive visual and auditory experience that is unlike any other museum dedicated to the study of religion. You’ll learn how this one book has impacted music, literature, fashion, and culture as well as get to see other priceless treasures from the Vatican.

For a proper, in-depth investigation, consider one of the museum’s guided tours. For example, the ‘Museum of the Bible Highlights Tour’ or ‘The World of Jesus of Nazareth Tour.’ Set up across eight floors, its permanent collections, such as ‘The History of the Bible,’ are spread throughout.

Whether you’re a religious person or not, this is guaranteed to be one far out experience.

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The Drunk Shakespeare Society: where cocktails and classics meet

interesting places to visit in dc

Mix cocktails and classics for an unforgettable evening at the Drunk Shakespeare Society. A hidden gem behind the Sage Theater, D.C. sets the stage for five fearless actors. While sipping on a variety of alcoholic beverages, the Shakespearean show will be played in a funny way, creating a unique way every time.

30 – Learn what life is like for a real spy at the International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum, Washington DC

Is the Pink Panther theme playing in your head yet? The International Spy Museum has everything you could ever possibly want to know about the real men and women who made James Bond and Mission Impossible, er, possible.

Learn all about the fascinating (and sometimes embarrassing) history of the CIA, MI6, and what really goes on between the world’s superpowers.

What’s been declassified, anyway. The museum explores global secret services, and not just the USA’s agency. Its interactive exhibits (where you can test your spy skills) are epically designed and themed accordingly.

These sections include the Briefing Center, Stealing Secrets exhibit, Making Sense of Secrets, Covert Action, Spying that Shaped History, an Uncertain World and the Debriefing Center.

31 – Visit the famous ARTECHOUSE


The DC ARTECHOUSE is a modern art gallery experience that comes for all of your senses. Cameras aren’t allowed for this one, as it is meant to be experienced whole-heartedly in the moment.

Popular in the 21st century, it brings digital and state-of-the-art technology, advanced design tools and unique architectural spaces. If you’re expecting to find your conventional abstract art, look elsewhere, and artists work hand-in-hand with scientists and digital experts to bring their progressive ideas to life.

At the time of writing, the featured exhibition is a trip through a cyberpunk landscape complete with market, alleyways, and abandoned rooftop. If you’ve ever wanted to spend a day living in a Blade Runner fantasy world, here’s your chance.

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32 – Snap a couple of pictures at the Washington Monument

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument may look like a simple giant obelisk, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a meeting spot, a photo opportunity, and it’s surrounded by other historical monuments as well as the scenic Potomac Canal.

A day tour through the gorgeous, history-soaked capital with the Washington Monument as the centerpiece is the perfect way to introduce yourself to DC.

The landmark was erected in honor of the Founding Father (George Washington), and its construction began in 1848! The Egyptian obelisk-shaped tower was built in two phases during the 19th century.

Catch an elevator ride up to the top of this 169-meter-tall stone structure (made from a mixture of marble, granite, and bluestone) for incredible views from the observation point.

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See also: 100 Top Tourist Attractions in the US

33 – From Pilsners to Pale Ales to Hazy IPAs, go on a brewery tour with beer tastings

beer tasting in Washington DC

For all craft beer connoisseurs: don’t miss out on testing the local brews while you’re in the capital with a delicious brewery tour and beer tasting! Visiting three breweries, going behind the scenes at each, getting a feel for what goes into manufacturing the perfect ale.

You’ll even learn more about the various tasting notes – favored especially in craft beers. The beer tasting includes sampling 12 different types.

Examples of breweries visited during the tour are Hellbender Brewing Company, Port City Brewing Company and Right Proper Brewing Company, but tour-dependent, these are subject to change.

Beer-tasting experiences last 3.5 hours.

  • beer tastings in Washington DC

34 – Take a day trip down into the 64 acres of the Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Another ideal spot for history buffs as well as nature fans, there are over 64 acres of caves and waterfalls to explore deep within the Luray Caverns of Shenandoah Moutains. Officially the largest cavern system in the eastern USA, meandering through the dimly lit caves and stone formations is goosebump-inducing!

It feels like you’re on another planet in the rooms as big as cathedrals, and with ceilings as tall as ten stories. Lookout for the natural illusion: Dream Lake. With a shallow depth of just 50 centimeters, the large waterbody appears much deeper than it is because of the mirrored reflections off of its surface.

As far as day trips go, there are tonnes of activities available (inclusive of your ticket price to the Caverns) including visiting the Luray Valley Museum, Toy Town Junction, and a still-working Mercedes dating all the way back to 1897.

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Sip and paint in the dark at this unique workshop!

interesting places to visit in dc

This retro-futuristic experience combines the thrill of painting with a fluorescent twist, offering a brush in one hand and a choice of drink in the other. The musical backdrop adds to the atmosphere, making it a perfect outing for friends. By the end of the night, not only will you have had an unforgettable experience, but you’ll also leave with a personal masterpiece to proudly display at home.

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35 – See history’s most influential figures immortalized at the National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Artists, politicians, scientists, inventors, activists, and performers – at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, those faces that helped shape the face of America are on full display.

With over a dozen exhibits highlighting everything from unique photographs of Presidents at work to exquisite paintings of the supreme court justices, the gallery is now fully open both online and in person.

When it was first founded back in 1962, its sole focus was on individuals working for the State, but today, it extends far beyond this, including portraits of those that have made contributions to the history, development and culture of the United States, like poets, actors and sometimes, even antagonists.

Check out their calendar of special events for additional learning opportunities and activities for the whole family.

36 – Relive Lincoln’s final hours on a Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour

Lincoln assassination walking tour in Washignton DC

For history fans with more morose sensibilities, some walking tours around DC offer a trip through the President Lincoln’s final day, complete with a final stop at the infamous Ford Theater where he was fatally shot.

Travel back in time to the tragic event that took place on 14 April 1865 (the 16th President of the US passed away the following morning), taking a deep dive into the incident, and with plenty of backstories and history tossed into the mix.

The tour also includes looks at old photographs from that time period that will help set the mood. Intrigue and mystery await! Guided expeditions typically are two hours, but if you’d prefer to do this one without a guide, there are self-guided audio tours, too.

  • Lincoln’s assassination tours

37 – Learn pottery at The Clay Cafe

The Clay Cafe

DC may have once had a less than stellar reputation, but today it’s actually gotten pretty bourgeois. So much so that it currently houses an adorable little pottery studio called The Clay Cafe .

They offer classes for one or two people at a time, and compared to other pottery classes they cost practically nothing. Try your hand at the Potter’s Wheel and mold your own creation (there are adult, multi-age and hand-building classes), or, pick out an unglazed item already shaped, and paint, hand-dip glaze and fire up your art in the oven.

You’re shown techniques like how to sculpt, creating whatever your mind can imagine, from vases to treasure troves to mirrors — it’s all up to you! There are other art classes available here too: Canvas or Glass Fusing Classes.

38 – Feel enthralled wandering the National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Where would the world be without women? Seriously … As the first of its kind across the entire globe, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is as empowering as it is educational (and mega insightful!).

Celebrating the femme through its temporary and permanent collections, exhibitions, gallery shows and programs, the aim is to shine a light on the world of women in art (past and present) through expos that also address ‘the gender imbalance in the presentation of art.’

Opening its doors in its current location in 1987, the NMWA houses art across mixed mediums from oil paintings to sculptural works. Guided tours are available and offer informative background titbits and history as you move through the artwork.

39 – Take a boat tour of the National Harbor

self drive boat tour in Washington DC

The Potomac River in DC is as scenic a body of water as they come and it offers an excellent view of some of Washington’s most important landmarks including National Harbor, Jones Point Lighthouse, Mount Vernon, Fort Washington, and Little Hunting Creek.

Take a self-guided boat tour past all of these locations and more, and enjoy the additional benefit of the local wildlife, which includes bald eagles. It doesn’t get much more U.S.A. than that!

There are City Cruises, as well as water taxis that operate around the National Harbor, for example, from the Harbor’s Marina to Alexandria. Other tour operators embark from the Gangplank Marina at the DC Wharf.

Ranging from two to three hours, there are evening excursions too.

40 – Find everything you’re looking for and more at DC’s Union Market

DC's Union Market

DC’s Union Market is home to dozens of specialty shops tailored to just about any need, but it’s so much more than that. It also plays host to daily concerts, exercise classes, art exhibitions, and has a full host of venues ready for dinner parties, weddings, business gatherings, etc.

These are split between various venues within the DC Union district: Balcón (a second-floor gallery space), the Autoshop, Dock5, the Galería open-format kitchen and Estudio media lab. The market is open daily: Monday to Saturday from 8 AM to 9 PM, and Sundays from 8 AM to 8 PM, with the occasional pop-up Freshfarm Farmer’s Market on Sundays.

Don’t forget to check out the Union Market rooftop, which is one of DC’s premier spots for socializing in a relaxed environment.

41 – Get down and spooky on a haunted ghost tour

ghost tour in Washington DC

With centuries of history beneath its streets and sidewalks, it should come as no surprise that Washington DC is home to scores of spooky hauntings (allegedly). Tales of intrigue, deception, and murder most foul will keep you at rapt attention, right up until something invisible knocks over the table next to you and makes you jump.

Some tours focus on the eerie side of Capitol Hill, visiting sites like Treasury Annex, Dolley Madison House and Lafayette Square. Hear ghost stories like the one about the ghoul who scared Winston Churchill at the White House.

Other tours explore the darkside of Georgetown, showing you the very steps that feature in The Exorcist. This is one of the spookier things to do in Washington DC, so calm your nerves with a local brew at one of the city’s many pubs after you’re done!

  • ghost tours in Washington

42 – Tour the White House

White House, Washington DC

The White House has housed some of the most notorious figures in the history of the world, whether for good or for ill.

It is possible to score a tour, but because it’s still such an important location, guided tours are highly coveted, so be prepared to start the booking process well in advance. Like, months.

It won’t cost you anything to tour the White House, but security is high and tours are subject to cancellation at no notice for just about any reason.

Fun Fact: The White House forms part of The President’s Park and is just one of the few national treasures to visit inside the complex.

Lafayette Square, The Ellipse (the iconic grass patch in front of the presidential building), the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the Treasury Building (first opening in 1836) and the White House Visitor Center are also located within the grounds.

At the Visitor Center, mosey around the exhibition for a personal glimpse inside the U.S. President’s home over the years through 90 artifacts. You can also take a digital, virtual tour through the White House here.

Lastly, lucky visitors traveling here in spring or autumn (fall) can book a tour of the White House gardens, including the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and the Rose Garden.

43 – Learn about the holocaust so that it never happens again at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The best way to prevent one of the worst moments in human history from ever happening again is but learning about it. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC displays photos, films, and artifacts all linked to the Holocaust (1933 to 1945), as well as offering academic research and resources to get involved.

It’s a harrowing yet super insightful and educational experience, and the museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions so visitors can get a visual understanding of the victims, survivors, rescuers and liberators.

Spread out across three floors, the main exhibit is titled ‘The Holocaust’ and also contains personal objects and eyewitness testimonies. There are also ways to connect with survivors and days of remembrance are offered to pay respect to the dead.

44 – Take a magical nighttime tour of the DC monuments

DC monuments nighttime tour

There are plenty of iconic historical monuments to check out during the day in DC, but landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the White House look even more impressive when illuminated at night.

This type of tour is also a fabulous option if your days are already jam-packed with activities but your heart is still set on seeing the most famous landmarks in the capital city. Typically, the evening excursion is three hours.

Whether it be by bus, electric car, or bike, you’ll come away from one of these city tours in Washington DC with a lot more knowledge about American history and some gorgeous photos to show off to your friends.

  • Washington DC monuments night tours

Hot tip: Don’t miss our selection of the 15 best night tours in Washington DC .

45 – Stop and sketch some plants at the United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden, Washington DC

Another national treasure born out of the mind of President George Washington, the U.S. Botanic Garden is dedicated to spreading knowledge about cultivating, conserving, and sustaining plant life.

While commercial photography is strictly forbidden within its walls, visitors are encouraged to take photos for themselves, and it is well worth it, as the gorgeous plant exhibits found within are second to none.

Discover the indoor gardens and floral galleries within the Conservatory, from its collection of orchids to medicinal plants, those from the Mediterranean, World Deserts, Hawaii and the Tropics, as well as hosting the Primeval Garden and Children’s Garden.

The gorgeous outdoor spaces are spread between the Rose, Regional, Pollinator, Bartholdi and First Ladies Water Gardens. Sketching is also welcome, and there are tables and chairs available for extended enjoyment.

46 – Catch a play in the same theater where Lincoln saw his final one at Ford’s Theatre

Ford's Theatre, Washington DC

The theater where President Lincoln saw his final play is still open for business. It still looks pretty much the same as it did on the night of his assassination, and the actual booth where it happened is completely closed off to outsiders in order to keep it preserved.

Established as a premier theater in 1961, the showhouse shut down after the president’s assassination in 1965, reopening as a theater in 1968 for the first time since.

Ford’s Theatre offers educational tours and presentations about its history as well as full performances of classic plays like “A Christmas Carol”. Presented by the theater, its 90-minute ‘History on Foot-Investigation: Detective McDevitt’ walking tour is one of the most authentic activities to get involved in here.

  • Ford’s Theatre tickets

47 – Check out the Washington National Cathedral, the 6th largest Gothic cathedral in the world

Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest Gothic cathedral in the world! Its conception and design date all the way back to George Washington, and its gorgeous architecture is an ongoing labor of love designed to make you look to the sky and consider all that is above.

Countless world leaders and people of influence have walked through the halls of this cathedral, and it houses memorials to some of history’s most important figures. Officially known as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, it is part of the Episcopal Church.

Join for its grand concert season, one of the guided tours, or take a meander through the Bishop’s Garden, the Olmsted Woods and along the Prayer Pathway outside.

48 – Enjoy the lively atmosphere at The Wharf DC

The Wharf DC, Washington DC

When it comes to waterfront destinations, Washington, DC isn’t usually the first in mind, but The Wharf , one of the country’s most innovative and vibrant waterfront neighborhoods, has established the city as a true waterfront city.

Piers and waterside promenades at The Wharf offer more than just leisurely riverfront walks; it provides access to water recreation and even transportation.

The Wharf transforms the Potomac into a water lover’s paradise with Waterfront yoga classes, Ice-skate on DC’s only over-water ice rink, a state-of-the-art marina, live concerts on the Transit Pier Floating Stage, and much more. Lap up the waterfront dining with plenty of restaurant and bar options, as well as a bunch of stores lining the waterways.

49 – See the beautiful cherry blossom trees that surround the Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most important people in American history and, arguably, the face of democracy as we know it.

His memorial is surrounded by gorgeous cherry blossom trees, which were a gift from Japan all the way back in 1912. Spring is the optimal time to visit the memorial as the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and there are few sights more breathtaking.

Whilst your historical momentum is running high, consider a trip to Monticello, the former home of America’s third president, and spend a few hours exploring the plantation established by Thomas Jefferson.

Take a tour inside the house and different rooms, wander the farm, the flower and fruit gardens (with produce and florals blooming seasonally) and visit the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.

Located two hours out of town, a day trip to Monticello is recommended. Combine the two iconic sites into one, and there are many Thomas Jefferson-focused tours that travel to both the memorial and home of the former leader.

50 – Step inside the world of Assassin’s Creed at VR ZONE DC


From escape rooms to arcades, VR ZONE DC is the ultimate playing field for all things virtual reality! When you’re bored with the mundane, flip the switch and fall into new realms and fantasy worlds with more than 30 games to choose from!

If you’re keen to test out the VR escape rooms, take your pick from themed options like Escape The Lost Pyramid or Beyond Medusa’s Gate (both set in the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins), The Dagger Of Time (set in the world of Prince of Persia) and plenty more!

Playing in VR arcade mode, you have the choice to switch games at any time. These range from multi-player games (like Elven Assassin) to kid-friendly options such as Job Simulator to action games like Pistol Whip.

51 – Dine under the stars or enjoy a glass of wine with a view from the best rooftops

Whiskey Charlie

Why dine out at an ordinary restaurant when you have the option of a rooftop setting with views? Here are some of the best rooftop restaurants and bars.

Open til real late on weekends (2 AM), Vue Rooftop is hard to beat with its seasonal craft cocktails, plates of food bursting with color, and direct-facing vistas of the White House.

Inspired by all things nautical (go figure with its waterfront location), Whiskey Charlie is an amazing cocktail lounge on the 10th floor of the Canopy Hotel. Another cocktail bar option down at the wharf (and two minutes away) is 12 Stories atop the InterContinental Hotel.

Stylish and elegant CUT Above is a great option for couples (with al fresco dining) and TAKODA beer garden always has 16 crafts on top AND 11 draft cocktails!

52 – Tour the beautifully preserved mansion and gardens of the Hillwood Estate

Hillwood Estate, Washington DC

Famous socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post purchased the Hillwood Estate in 1955 and it quickly became one of the hottest spots for the country’s wealthy. A philanthropist by nature, Marjorie decided to dedicate her life to transforming the estate into a museum that would carry on her passion for educating others about world culture.

Walking through the museum is like dancing back in time, its impressive 20,000-piece collection acting as a living museum. Walking from room to room, see Russian imperial art, French 18th century decorative art, and personal items of Merriweather’s, including clothing and jewelry.

The mansion and gardens are beautifully preserved, and the estate continues to support the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and numerous other notable causes.

53 – Learn about all the ghosts of Georgetown, and try the delicious food while you’re there

Georgetown tour

If America is known for one thing around the world, it’s the decadent food culture. Georgetown in DC is one of the best neighborhoods in the country to experience this rich food culture firsthand.

Of course, Americana isn’t just about food, it’s also about history, architecture, and ghost stories! This gem of a town has a rich supply of all of the above, and the local experts are more than happy to show you everything you need to see.

The former tobacco port town dazzles with its quaint cobbled streets and hipster boutiques, and you’re also in luck when it comes to wining and dining out in this area! Don’t miss exploring its C&O Canal and Towpath, with boat tours available.

  • Georgetown tours

54 – Couples, choose a romantic dinner cruise

dinner cruises in Washington DC

Why dine the ordinary way in the capital city of America when you can experience a magical dinner cruise on the Potomac River aboard a luxury boat?

Under the night sky and shimmering stars, sit back, relax and delight in a three-course meal as you cruise along the waters, with sightseeing in between as you pass by famed monuments and attractions with unique views from the river.

The stylish boat has different dining spaces for you to choose from. Dine inside a glass atrium dining room or on the open-air observation deck. Lasting between two to three hours, there are some dinner cruises with a buffet option over set courses, followed by a bit of dancing with live DJs.

Landmarks to look out for include the Jefferson Memorial, Georgetown Waterfront, Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

  • dinner cruises in Washington DC

55 – Visit the immense Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Calling it the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception can be a bit of a mouthful, so it’s a good thing the largest Catholic church in the United States is also affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church.

At more than 77,500 square feet, the basilica also houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art. Stand in awe, admiring the mosaics, stained glass windows and stone carvings.

If you’re a fan of record breaking architecture that also happens to be breathtaking and holy, America’s Catholic Church is a must see. Although its first foundations were set in 1920, it was styled in the classic European cathedral design of Romanesque-Byzantine architecture.

56 – Check out the contemporary art at the Hirshhorn Museum

Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC

For almost fifty years, the Hirshhorn Museum has served as a primary hotspot for American contemporary art. It’s one of the many landmarks that make up the National Mall, and it’s completely free to visit. It’s set up across four levels.

The breathtaking outdoor sculpture garden is one of a kind, and there’s almost always something new on display inside. Spend a good hour or three investigating its ever-changing exhibitions showcasing its collection of over 12,000 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, performance art, installations and digital media.

Notable artists whose work to see here include Princess of Polka Dots: Yayoi Kusama, Auguste Rodin, Willem de Kooning, Picasso, Jackson Pollock and many more!

57 – Appreciate the nature of the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Escape the city hustle and bustle and come to Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens to witness Lotus flowers in bloom and nature at its finest.

Not only a relaxing day out, but this park has a mount of historic significance and was the place where the Nacotchtan (the first indigenous Algonquian tribe) first settled, and only centuries later did the first European explorers arrive on the scene.

In the 1600s, much of the original protected landscape, consisting mostly of wetlands, was removed where farms were built. Then, 200 years later in the 1800s, a man named Walter Shaw discovered parts of the wetlands still in existence and decided to build a magnificent water garden through it.

Interweaving pathways were constructed separating the ponds, and it’s around them you can appreciate the original, native marshland beauty of Washington.

Spot beavers and turtles, dragonflies whizz by and more than 250 different species of birds call the park home. Every Tuesday morning, there are dedicated bird-spotting walks to join.

58 – Take a segway tour around the city

segway tour in Washington DC

Let’s face it, there’s a lot to see in America’s capital, and walking from site to site can quickly tire you out.

That’s not a problem on a segway tour of the city! Plus, you’ll be able to see double the attractions you would normally be able to see on a walking tour , including the White House, The Lincoln Memorial, and the FBI building.

The whole activity is 2.5 hours, but this also includes a mandatory safety briefing, instructions on how to ride the two-wheeler (so no need to worry if you haven’t driven a Segway before), and getting you kitted with your helmet, etc. Don’t forget to snap a few photos along the way!

  • segway tours in Washington DC

59 – Regale yourself with history in Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria tour

The rich history of Old Town in Alexandria dates all the way back to the Founding Fathers. Located in the city’s downtown area; it’s considered the heart and soul of Alexandria; built around the Potomac River waterfront, it’s as picturesque as ever!

Cue the cobbled roadsides, colorful shopfronts and smart old-worldly redbrick and pastel homes. The most famous part is the King Street Mile where you could spend forever photographing the centuries-old architecture or dining curbside at a lovely cafe or bar.

One of the most famous draws is, of course, Mount Vernon, but there’s so much more to see and do around Alexandria, so it’s worth checking out the rest of the city and surroundings.

  • Old Town Alexandria tours

60 – See JFK’s beautiful legacy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of the premier entertainment venues in the country. Baptized a mere two months after the President’s assassination, the center is dedicated to showcasing the very best in classical and contemporary music, opera, drama, and dance, and it rarely disappoints.

From symphony orchestras to world-famous comedians and everything in between, there’s always something good on! Plus, there are three FREE daily guided tour options for a more personal encounter: the Main Kennedy Center Building, the REACH or the KC Campus Highlights Tour.

Throughout, learn about how the center came to be, then pop into the JFK Gallery and check out its permanent expo, Arts & Ideals: President John F. Kennedy.

61 – Get an in-depth look into how the National Geographic Museum team operates

National Geographic Museum, Washington DC

The name “National Geographic” is synonymous with natural exploration at this point, and anyone looking for an in-depth glimpse into how the National Geographic Society operates should consider taking a trip to their headquarters in DC.

The museum hosts a rotating selection of exhibitions all year round, each one dedicated to the very best conservationists, photographers, and scientists. The five primary focus areas are ocean, land, wildlife, histories and culture, and the expos center around these.

A deeper understanding of the natural world awaits!

62 – See the headquarters of one of the worlds largest museum complexes when you visit The Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle, Washington DC

The Smithsonian boasts a large number of collaborating museums dedicated to a wide variety of subjects, but the Smithsonian Castle is their headquarters and a great starting point for anyone looking to explore their halls.

The castle itself, built in 1855, is an architectural marvel. Within its walls, you’ll find a selection of the very best exhibits from across the other Smithsonian museums. An official Historic Landmark since 1977, the building was designed by the architect James Renwick Jr.. It was modeled in the Norman style and made from red sandstone, giving its facade its glorious grand appearance.

They also offer specialty dining options! Also on the grounds are its Enid A. Haupt Garden and Katherine Dulin Folger Rose Garden.

63 – Catch an NFL game or arena show at FedExField

FedExField, Maryland

There is nothing quite like attending a football game and when visiting Washington DC, the FedExField should be on your radar. As the home stadium of the Washington Commanders, you are guaranteed a day of excitement in the stands as the NFL stars duke it out on the pitch.

Feel like a total VIP when booking one of the themed suites for gameday. These include the Arcade Suite, Legends Suite and Military Suite. There are also regular, fully-equipped suites to rent.

If you want to break out your dancing shoes in the evening, look out for the many touring pop and rock acts that regularly pack out the arena.

  • FedExField tickets

64 – Check out the 6,000 pieces of modern art in The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection

Calling all art aficionados, find yourself in seventh heaven at The Phillips Collection! In 1921, art collector and philanthropist Phillip Duncan founded America’s first modern and contemporary art museum . It’s still there today, and is currently home to almost 6,000 unique pieces of modern art.

Some of the most famous works to see here include ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, ‘The Blue Room’ by Pablo Picasso, ‘The Road Menders’ by Van Gogh, ‘Garden at Les Lauves’ by Paul Cezanne and ‘Dancers at the Barre’ by Degas.

Not only is there a consistent rotation of exhibitions and special events, but the museum can also be rented out as a hall for weddings, dances, fundraisers, and other major events.

65 – Visit the home of Robert E. Lee, Arlington House Memorial

interesting places to visit in dc

Considered to be one of the most brilliant military tacticians of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee is memorialized at his old family home, Arlington House. The exhibits tell the story of the Lee and Custis families that lived here but also of the generations of enslaved people who lived and labored at the house and its grounds.

(For newbies to American history, Robert E. Lee was the Confederate Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia (then also the Southern armies) during the American Civil War in the 19th century.)

The story of Lee and his allegiance to his Virginia homeland is complicated. The Arlington House memorial takes a wide look into the whole story and uncovers the truth about this revered general and his complex legacy.

66 – Walk through curated gardens from all over the world at the United States National Arboretum

United States National Arboretum, Washington DC

The United States National Arboretum houses dozens of unique, curated gardens from all over the world. Gorgeous Asian flowers, exotic firs and spruces, you name it, they’ve got it. More of its collections comprise the Azalea, Dogwood, Gotelli Conifer, Holly and Magnolia, National Boxwood and Perennial Collections.

Gardens are spaced out categorically: spend a couple of hours meandering through the Fern Valley, Friendship Garden, Grove of State Trees, National Herb Garden, Washington Youth Garden and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

The arboretum is open from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays and is free to visit. Make sure to check out the event calendar on their website for special events!

67 – See where John Quincy Adams went to live after his presidency in Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park, Washington DC

The fountains in Meridian Hill Park are truly a sight to behold. Atop the hill sits the mansion where John Quincy Adams moved after his presidency, repurposed numerous times over the years, bringing it to its current state as a public walkthrough attraction.

Construction of the grand villa began in 1819, and the former US president moved in in 1829. It was used as an outdoor recreational space after his passing, and then during the Civil War, Union troops encamped here. It wasn’t until 1936 that Meridian Hill became a fully-fledged formal public park!

Its new landscapers modeled the grounds after the classic Italian-style gardens (hence the fountains), and it comprises the lower and upper-level plazas.

68 – Join in on a scavenger hunt

scavenger games in Washington, D.C

Sure, you could go to DC and take in the gorgeous historical monuments of the capital during a traditional site-seeing tour…Or you could embark on an exciting scavenger hunt that will not only take you through the historical sites, but also classic film locations and local hot spots.

Test your mystery-solving skills on dozens of puzzles and games. And don’t worry about availability, you book your own start time! It typically takes two to three hours to get through the game.

The hunt is powered by a mobile app, and even better if you’re on vacation as a large group because you can play (and race) against your friends to see who makes it through the riddles first!

  • scavenger games in Washington DC

69 – Brave the tough vetting process and take a walking tour of The Pentagon

The Pentagon, Virginia

The Pentagon is extremely strict about how they handle their tour bookings, and they only offer them during very specific time windows, but they still manage to bring in over 106,000 people annually, and they even offer self-guided tours.

See where some of the most important – and most difficult – decisions in history have been made as you stroll past the office of the Secretary of Defense and a number of military displays.

Just outside of the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense is the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, built in remembrance of those who lost their lives during the tragic 9/11 event.

Constructed in a timeline format, the memorial was designed to honor the 184 people who were on board American Airlines flight 77, as well as the 125 lives lost inside the Pentagon at the time of the attack.

Listening to a 24-minute audio tour whilst here; learn about the event that changed history, and information covers both the Pentagon as well as the World Trade Center at the time that it happened.

70 – Behold the gorgeous Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C

From a former rock quarry utilized by Native Americans to tobacco plantations during the 1700 and 1800s, Rock Creek Park is one of Washington’s most scenic national parks. A federal recreational park since 1890, there’s loads to do, see and explore! It’s home to the Peirce Mill (now a Visitor Center), which, at 200 years old, is Washington’s only remaining gristmill.

Also here is the Nature Center for all hiking information with a few exhibits on, as well as a Planetarium. Explore the colonial houses, working mills and Civil War fortifications. Speaking of, there are over 15 Civil War sites to investigate, like Fort DeRussy and the Battleground National Cemetery.

Go for horseback rides, play a round of golf, go fishing, hiking, biking and picnicking, or enjoy a boat ride along the river.

71 – Stop in for a bite at one of DC’s numerous fancy eateries

Le Diplomate

Washington DC is famous for a lot of things, but the city’s food culture cannot be overlooked. You could spend weeks here and still not manage to stop at every mouthwatering restaurant.

Some varied highlights include the Old Ebbitt Grill , Rose’s Luxury , Le Diplomate , Ben’s Chili Bowl , and Compass Rose .

For foodies who take their dining out seriously, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the Michelin-star options! There is currently only one restaurant with a three-star status: The Inn at Little Washington (one hour outside the capital, it’s totally worth it).

Two-star options include Pineapple and Pearls, minibar by José Andrés and Jônt . And there are 20 restaurants sporting a one-star, from the likes of Fiola to Cranes to Sushi Nakazawa .

72 – Grab drinks at the best bars in the city

Round Robin Bar

After all the historic and cultural endeavors to investigate during your DC vacay, end off the day with a cold one at the city’s best bars.

Decked in rich interiors that ooze old-world charm, grab fine cocktails from one of the city’s oldest drinking jaunts at the Round Robin Bar — established in 1847! For a boozy-filled experience like none other around, Barmini by José Andrés is an ‘avant-garde’ cocktail lab that’s as trendy as ever!

Travelers with an affinity for delicious brews, head to ChurchKey — an award-winning craft beer bar with a super ambient setup. The beer menu is extensive, from bold, herbal and citric IPAs to Belgian Blond Ale.

From adult juice boxes to hot cocktails, Calico is super funky … from the menu to the space to the vibes. You’ll want to snap a million pics here of everything!

Overlooking the waters on the wharf, Tiki TNT is favored for its incredible setting, views and colorful drinks, food and interiors. With an on-site rum distillery, choose between three levels of seating options.

Want to make new friends while being shown all the local hotspots and drinking holes? Join one of the fun pub crawls in Washington DC .

73 – Catch a show at the 9:30 Club

9_30 Club in Washington DC

For over 40 years, DC’s 9:30 Club has played host to some of the most legendary musical acts of all time, including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Tony Bennett himself.

Both Rolling Stone and Billboard have named it the #1 nightclub in the world.

Make sure to check the event calendar often if you’re planning a visit, as tickets sell out fast and often!

  • 9:30 Club tickets

How to get to Washington DC?

Before you arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport, consider pre-organizing airport transfers in Washington DC before traveling.

This means that when you touch down in the capital and you’re ready to leave the airport, your private driver awaits you to transport you directly to your accommodation. Alleviate some of the stress with this preplanned option, saving you time and effort.

Where to stay in Washington DC?

From hotels housed inside historic buildings to ultra-hip stays, here are some of the best accommodation options in town. Renowned for its exceptional service, the rooms at the Riggs Washington DC are super plush and each one follows a different color scheme.

Feel like the rich and famous when checking into the iconic Waldorf Astoria Washington DC . You’ll feel right at home and may never want to leave — the extra dreamy and expensive finishes certainly help add to the feeling.

For travelers who prefer a contemporary touch, the bright, warm and over-the-top comfortable rooms and suites at the Conrad Washington DC are a treat. The floor-to-ceiling windows with views don’t hurt either!

Loved for its location nearby iconic landmarks and monuments, The Jefferson Hotel is another five-star stay that epitomizes classic elegance and old-school sophistication.

With all of the on-site facilities, a rooftop pool, excellent locale and art in all the bedrooms, the Viceroy Washington DC boutique hotel is stylish and funky.

  • best hotels in Washington DC

Visiting Washington DC on a budget?

If you’re visiting more than just one city or state in the USA, there are ways to save where you can, for example, with a Washington DC Sightseeing Pass . There are a few different passes available, depending on your tour style and preference.

The usual is a one, two or three-day city sightseeing pass which grants you technically, “free” entry (as you’ve already paid) to more than 15 sites, activities or select tours.

Other passes are for traveling around the city. Hopping onto a double-decker bus, ride the red, blue, yellow or green loop and feel free to hop back on and off the bus at one of the designated bus stops at your leisure. There are even whiskey-tasting passes gaining you access to some of the city’s major distilleries.

Where to go next?

Just over an hour’s drive from Washington DC, Baltimore is great for a day trip full of true culture, and home of sporting legends. Don’t miss out on the things to do in Baltimore , like food tours through Little Italy or sunset sails.

Head East and visit Gettysburg. Tour the scenic battlefields and learn more about the Civil War, and its National Military Park is one of the best things to do in Gettysburg .

Traveling further north, discover all the things to do in Philadelphia . The city has a banging food scene, nightlife for adults, epic playgrounds for kids and plenty of historic monuments. Over a 2.5-hour drive from the country’s capital city, it’s great for a day trip or an overnight venture.

Iconic NYC is easily reachable within a four-hour drive by car, or two hours and 50 minutes via train. Top things to do in New York City include exploring the Upper East Side, Brooklyn, Times Square and Soho!

If you’re keen on exploring the deep south, maneuver your way to Richmond — Virginia’s capital. Under two hours away, it’s good for a day trip as well or as your next travel destination. Its Virginia State Capitol building and Maymont Estate are examples of the amazing things to do in Richmond , spending hours at each.

Both Norfolk and Virginia Beach are roughly a 3.5-hour drive from Washington, heading deeper south as you move from one town to the next. The things to do in Norfolk range from amusement parks to botanical gardens to aquariums to beaches. Sitting at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, check out the things to do in Virginia Beach next (20 minutes from Norfolk).

Final thoughts

From some of the most important monuments in American history to famous buildings and structures to outdoor activities to world-class museums, the capital offers travelers an abundance of things to do in Washington DC.

What are your favorite places to visit in Washington? Share with us your thoughts in the comments, we’d love to hear your travel tales!

As always, happy and safe travels!

Jefferson Memorial, day trip from nyc to washington dc

35 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. – Best Places to Visit in D.C.

Home | Travel | North America | United States | Washington, D.C. | 35 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. – Best Places to Visit in D.C.

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There are a lot of things to do in Washington, D.C. , the capital of the United States. District of Columbia , as it’s officially called, is a federal district located between Virginia and Maryland that has nothing to do with the state of Washington, which is located at the other end of the country.

Washington, D.C. is a city that was planned to be the capital of the United States . It was carefully designed to be a beautiful city with infinite attractions for tourists. With small buildings, large gardens, and tons of tourist attractions to visit, Washington, D.C. is nothing like other cities in the United States.

I know this because I live barely two hours away from the city, which is why I have visited D.C. countless times. I know almost all of its monuments and museums, most of which are free, making them the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C.  Many people decide to visit DC from NYC, since it’s one of the closest cities to NY .

Now, let’s get into the 35 best things to do in Washington, D.C. However, if you are going to be in the city for a short time, focus on the first top 10 tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. I also recommend this 4-hour guided tour to start your visit if you want to learn about the history of the city and get a ride to all the important places.

1. The US Capitol, an important building to visit in Washington, D.C.

The Capitol building is one of the essential places to visit in Washington, D.C. It is a symbol, not only of the city, but also of the United States, so you cannot miss it. It hosts the two legislative bodies of the United States Congress , the Senate (in the north wing), and the House of Representatives (in the south wing).

Designed in a clean, white neoclassical style, it was one of the first buildings to be built in the city. George Washington, the first president of the United States, laid the first stone in 1793. It stands out, above all, for the majesty of its dome, which reaches 289 feet high, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city and practically visible from any point.

United States Capitol, Washington DC tourist attractions

In addition to the building having tons of political and historical symbolism, and being one of the top sights in Washington, D.C. , it has free guided tours every day, Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, which depart from the Visitor Center. Although it is not necessary to book them, it’s highly recommended, and you can do it from here.

During the tour, you will visit the Rotunda , an incredible circular room under the dome where works of art are exhibited. You will be able to see the imposing fresco, The Apotheosis of Washington, painted inside it. You will also visit the Crypt and the National Statuary Hall. Congress sessions are also open to the public, but you will need a special pass that you can get here.

The Capitol is located at the eastern end of the National Mall, the area with the main tourist attractions in D.C.

2. Lincoln Memorial, one of the main attractions of Washington, D.C.

At the other end of the National Mall, with the Potomac River behind it, you’ll find the Lincoln Memorial , one of the main monuments in Washington, D.C.

Its construction began in 1914 in a style reminiscent of the Doric temples of ancient Greece. It has 36 columns that are 32 feet high. Limestone and marble were used to maintain the same opulent, white appearance of the rest of the city’s official buildings. Inside, a 20 foot-high sculpture depicts Abraham Lincoln in a seated position.

Lincoln Memorial, things to see in Washington DC

The monument has witnessed numerous historical moments. Perhaps the most striking one was Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” civil rights speech. It’s also been on the big screen numerous times, including the scene where Forrest Gump is reunited with Jenny by the Reflecting Pool, the large pond that stands in front of the monument.

Visiting is, without a doubt, one of the best free things to do in Washington. D.C. Since it is open 24 hours a day, I recommend visiting it first thing in the morning if you don’t want to see hundreds of other tourists.

If you visit it while it’s still quiet, I advise sitting on its marble staircase so you can see beautiful views of both the Capitol and the Washington Monument, the next point we will talk about in our list of interesting places to visit in D.C.

3. Washington Monument, something you must visit in D.C.

The Washington Monument is in the National Mall, located between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial and in front of the White House. This 555 foot-high white obelisk was the tallest structure in the world between 1884 and 1889. It is mainly made of marble, granite, and sandstone, and today, it can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

Although its construction was planned 10 days after the death of former President George Washington, in his honor, it took almost 40 years to complete the monument due to lack of funds caused by the Civil War.

Washington Monument, places to visit in Washington DC, USA

Unfortunately, I still haven’t had the chance to go up to its viewpoint at 492 feet, where you get views of the entire city, since despite being one of the main places to visit in Washington, D.C , it was closed for elevator renovation for years. However, it is now open to the public again. The price of admission is $1, and although it isn’t necessary, if you want to secure your spot, it’s highly recommended that you book it here.

There is also a museum at the top. Back at ground level, the elevator will stop at different points so you can read some of the inscriptions on the 193 memorial stones found inside the obelisk. It is undoubtedly one of the main monuments in Washington, D.C.

4. National Mall, one of the most important places to go in Washington, D.C.

National Mall is the name of the large garden area surrounded by museums and monuments that stretches from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. However, after the construction of the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall was considered everything from that monument to the Capitol, including West Potomac Park.

As you can see, the three main points already mentioned in this article are within the National Mall, so there is no doubt that this is the most important place to visit in Washington, D.C. Besides the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument, you will find other important places in the National Mall such as the Smithsonian, the largest research and museum complex in the world; the Botanical Garden; and different war memorials.

National Mall, best things to do in DC

If you are only going to visit Washington, D.C. for one day, everything you have to see is located in the National Mall. It takes approximately 30 minutes to walk between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, with the Washington Monument located 10 minutes from the Lincoln Memorial and 20 minutes from the Capitol (here is a map of the National Mall in Washington DC that will help you locate yourself).

As I mentioned, the best way to visit the National Mall in depth is by booking this 4-hour guided tour . You will see the main tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. , and most importantly, you will learn about its history.

5. Visit the White House, an unmissable thing to do in Washington, D.C.

The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States.

Among the places to visit in Washington, D.C. , the White House requires a little more planning, since you will need to make a visit request between 3 months and 21 days before the date of your visit.

If you are an American citizen, you should contact your member of Congress here. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, request a visit at your country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (you can find them here ). In any case, you must send the following information by email of everyone visiting the White House with you: full name, date of birth, residence address, gender, citizenship, the date on which you want to visit the White House, and passport number. If you are an American citizen, you must also give your Social Security number. If you aren’t, you must provide the address where you are staying in Washington, D.C. You can check our recommended places to stay in Washington D.C.

White House, one of the best places to visit in Washington DC, USA

There are a limited number of visits per day, so the sooner you request your visit, the easier it will be to get a spot. Visiting hours are from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM on Tuesday to Thursday and from 7:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Friday and Saturday. If they approve your request, they will give you a specific visiting time. Make sure you arrive at least half an hour early, as you will need to go through security. Many items, such as cameras and backpacks, cannot enter the White House. Here is a complete list so you know what to leave at the hotel.

Although it may seem difficult to plan a trip to the White House, it receives more than 5,000 visitors every day, so visiting the White House is the best thing to do in Washington, D.C for free.

6. The Pentagon, the safest building in the world

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense and one of the safest buildings in the world. It is just across the Potomac River in Virginia, just a 6-minute drive from the National Mall.

It was inaugurated during the Second World War to bring together the different armed forces that, until then, had been distributed in different locations. Its pentagonal base design was thought to be the most efficient office building in the world. Although there are 17.5 miles of corridors, spread out over 5 floors, it only takes a maximum of 7 minutes to get anywhere on foot.

The Pentagon, Washington DC points of interest

Visiting the Pentagon is one of the best free things to do in Washington, D.C. , but you will have to book a visit in advance here, between 14 and 90 days before the tour. Visiting hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Thursday, and from 12 PM to 4 PM on Friday. When you book, you will be assigned a visit time. You must arrive an hour before to register at the Pentagon tour window, and you must follow the security measures described here .

Part of the structure of the building is secret, so, during the tour, you will only visit certain areas. But don’t worry – you will learn the history of the four branches of the armed forces (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force), and you will visit the Memorial Chapel, the Hall of Heroes, and the memorial next to the facade where, on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed, among other exhibits.

For me, it’s one of the unmissable places to see in Washington, D.C. if it’s your first time in the city.

7. Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the country

When we think about what to do in Washington, D.C., we may not think of visiting a cemetery. But the Arlington National Cemetery is not just another place. Veterans of all United States wars since the Civil War, as well as some former US presidents and astronauts, are buried here. The cemetery has appeared on television on numerous occasions and is recognizable by its more than 300,000 lined white headstones.

Visit the Arlington National Cemetery, things to do in Washington DC

It’s also on the other side of the Potomac River, in Virginia, and next to the Pentagon. Getting there takes just 10 minutes by car from the National Mall, but if you don’t have a way to get there, I recommend the same 4-hour guided tour that I recommended to visit the National Mall. In addition to all the sights in downtown D.C., you’ll visit Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon.

The most popular area of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , a curious place to visit in Washington, D.C . This tomb is dedicated to soldiers who died in combat but remain unidentified. It has a permanent guard 24 hours a day, and the changing of the guard ceremony, which is quite popular among visitors, takes place every hour from October 1 to March 31, and every half hour from April 1 to September 30.

President Kennedy was also buried in this cemetery, next to whose plaque you can find “ The Eternal Flame, ” which burns continuously.

8. Smithsonian Institution Building, an interesting place to go in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Institution, also known as the “Castle,” is the headquarters of the largest research and museum complex in the world, with 19 museums, 9 research centers, and a zoo.

Smithsonian Institution Building, museums to visit in DC

Although some of the museums are in New York, Virginia, or even Panama, most are in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The most interesting ones (or at the least the ones I like the most) are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Museum of American History. Best of all, admission is free. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of museums, there are so many here that there’s something for absolutely everyone. You can check a list of all the museums here.

Visiting museums is definitely the most popular thing to do in Washington, D.C.

9. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the best museum in Washington

The National Air and Space Museum is the best museum in Washington, D.C. to entertain visitors of all ages. It’s probably one of the best places to visit in Washington, D.C. with kids .

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

In it, you will find the largest collection of planes and spaceships in the world, many of which were part of important moments in history. You will see everything from the Wright brothers’ historic Flyer, the first motorized airplane, to the Spirit of St. Louis, which completed the first non-stop transatlantic flight. You’ll also find the Apollo 11 command module, a model of the International Space Station, and other temporary exhibits.

If you’re passionate about aerospace history and would like to have a guide for the visit, you can book one here , although, for the general public, it isn’t necessary. The museum is free and on the National Mall, so I think visiting it is a must-do in D.C.

10. National Museum of Natural History, a great museum to visit in Washington

The National Museum of Natural History , also on the National Mall, is another of the most popular museums to visit in Washington, D.C . If you want to visit it, go before it opens, since long lines to enter are relatively normal.

Although it is free, it is very controversial, and after visiting it several times, I don’t know if it’s one of the best places to visit in Washington, D.C. or the worst. In it, you will see an impressive collection of taxidermies, usually on a stage that simulates the natural habitat where that species is found. A part of me is in favor of this museum, since it educates people who may not have the opportunity to go to remote places to learn about the planet’s great biodiversity; it also serves as a substitute for cruel zoos.

National Museum of Natural History, things to do in DC with kids

However, it is inevitable to think that it was not worth taking the lives of all those animals. Many species shown are in danger of extinction, and, although many “pieces in the collection” are donated by zoos when the animals die, many others are hunting trophies. The museum itself doesn’t hunt and kill animals, but it does receive and display them.

In addition to the different taxidermy sections, you can find other sections on plants, fossils, and minerals (my favorite), in addition to various temporary exhibitions.

If you still have doubts on if it’s a place you want to see in Washington, D.C., I recommend taking a look at this article.

11. Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Museum of American Art is not one of the most popular museums in Washington, D.C. However, it’s probably one of our favorites. We love landscape photography and often seek inspiration from other arts such as painting. In this museum, among works that cover all regions and artistic movements in the history of the United States, there are several creations of the painters of the Hudson River School ; a generation of painters who captured the magic of American landscapes in the 19th century. Seeing the works of Albert Bierstadt among others is, without a doubt, one of the things to do in D.C. that we enjoy the most.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, museums to visit in DC

The museum is free, and although it is not on the National Mall, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to walk from the National Museum of Natural History to the American Art Museum. It occupies a swanky neo-Greek-style building that was previously the Patent Office, which it shares with the National Portrait Gallery , also a Smithsonian museum.

12. National Museum of American History, another museum to go to in D.C.

The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. is without a doubt one of the best museums in Washington . In it, you will find everything you can imagine related to the history of the United States, with many rooms that make you understand why, until 1980, it was known as the Museum of History and Technology.

National Museum of American History, places to go in DC

You will find a room dedicated to the history of transportation in the United States, with famous locomotives and cars that are truly amazing, First Ladies’ dresses, and an exhibition on objects and curiosities of the presidents of the United States. Here you can see all the topics covered.

I particularly found the exhibit on LGBTQ history in the United States very interesting, as well as the one that shows the evolution of Apple from the seventies until now. It’s certainly an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C. Since it’s also on the National Mall and admission is free, it’s highly recommended that you visit it.

13. Jefferson Memorial, another presidential memorial to visit in Washington

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is another of the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C . This monument dedicated to the third president of the United States and one of the Founding Fathers of the nation is in a neoclassical style, in keeping with the rest of the monuments in Washington, D.C., where pristine white prevails. It stands out for its marble steps and its 128 foot-high dome that can be seen from the National Mall on the banks of the Tidal Basin. It’s near the Washington Monument and the White House.

Jefferson Memorial, places of interest in Washington DC

Inside is a 20 foot-high statue of Jefferson and different engravings on the walls with fragments of the ex-president’s writings. If you visit the city in spring, enjoying a stroll to the Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by hundreds of cherry blossoms, is one of the best things to do in Washington, D.C.

14. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, another visit you can’t miss in Washington, D.C.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is one of the few National Mall monuments that is not dedicated to a president. It is located in West Potomac Park, very close to the Lincoln Memorial, the place where he gave his much-acclaimed “I Have a Dream ” speech in 1963.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, historical things to do in Washington DC, USA

14. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, another visit you can’t miss in Washington

It’s definitely one of the essential places to visit in D.C., since this activist carried out crucial work in the American civil rights movement.

His famous speech coincided with the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Abraham Lincoln signed the document that freed all slaves in the Confederate States of America.

15. Ford’s Theatre and Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

The Ford Theater has been offering performances since 1860. However, it has become one of the main places to visit in Washington, D.C. since it was the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, towards the end of the American Civil War.

Ford’s Theatre, DC places to visit

He was killed in cold blood with a shot to the head by John Wilkes Booth. To get to know these and other details in-depth, you can book a guided tour of the Ford Theater , an incredible way to learn more about the history of this country.

16. National Gallery of Art, an important art museum in Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art , on the National Mall, is another of the free museums in Washington, D.C. that belongs to the Smithsonian.

The main building resembles other monuments found in Washington, D.C. , with a marble neoclassical design and a spectacular dome that reveals that the architect in charge of the gallery was also the one who designed the Jefferson Memorial.

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC tourist spots

Some of the most important works that you will find here belong to Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, and Gauguin, among others. You can visit on your own or attend a free guided tour that you must book in advance.

The gallery also has a sculpture garden that offers the possibility of enjoying art outdoors, which is where concerts, conferences, and temporary exhibitions are held on certain dates. If you like art, it’s, without a doubt, an essential place to visit in Washington, D.C.

17. US Botanic Garden, a great thing to do in D.C.

The US Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful and pleasant places to visit in Washington, D.C. It has 26,000 plants spread over different collections and habitats: oasis, desert, orchids, rare plants, jungle, etc.

United States Botanic Garden, Washington things to do

It sits off the side of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the grounds of the US Capitol, so visiting it is something you can do in Washington in one day . In addition, admission is free, and they run both 45-minute guided tours and audio guides that you can download on your phone here.

18. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a poignant tourist attraction in Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the United States armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975. The monument is in Constitution Gardens, north of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and it is made up of three parts: The Three Soldiers, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where to visit in Washington DC

This last part is the most popular and is where the names of those who died or disappeared during the war were inscribed, indicated with a diamond or a cross respectively. Near the wall, there is a directory so that family members can find where the names of their loved ones are.

19. Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial faces the Vietnam Memorial and is south of the Reflecting Pool. It is a tribute to veterans who fought in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953 and is shaped like a triangle intersecting a circle. Inside the triangle lie 19 stainless steel statues over 7 feet high that show a platoon on patrol.

Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., USA

On the south side is a 164-foot black granite wall with engravings showing photographs of the war. Around the Pool of Remembrance, the dead, wounded, disappeared, and prisoners are named.

20. The World War II Memorial, a visit to do in Washington, D.C.

The World War II National Monument is also on the National Mall, between the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument, so you will pass through it almost unintentionally.

For me, apart from the meaning that this monument has, dedicated to the Americans who died in the Second World War, it’s one of the most beautiful monuments to visit in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial, places to go in DC

It was inaugurated in 2004, and that same year, it was declared a National Park . It stands out for consisting of 56 17-foot granite pillars arranged in two facing semicircles and separated by an oval pool. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 50 main states, territories, and associated free states that make up the United States.

In the middle of each semicircle, you’ll find a triumphal arch of 43 feet, which reads “Atlantic” in the north and “Pacific” in the south.

My favorite part is the Freedom Wall, which is west of the plaza overlooking the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. Embedded in this wall are 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died during the war. Definitely, an emotional place to visit in Washington, D.C.

21. Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It houses more than 158 million documents: books, maps, photographs, films, prints, sheet music, audio, and others. You can find a copy of the 15th-century Gütenberg Bible and a draft of the United States Declaration of Independence here.

Library of Congress, Washington DC free things to do

In addition to being one of the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C. , it’s the oldest federal cultural institution in the country and serves as a research section of Congress. It is in the Thomas Jefferson Building, behind the Capitol, and offers free guided tours Monday through Saturday in different languages. You can see the schedule here.

22. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States

Visiting the United States Supreme Court , the highest court in the country, is another thing to do in Washington, D.C. It’s behind the Capitol and next to the National Library in the Temple of Justice, which has been the permanent and exclusive residence of the Supreme Court since 1790.

Supreme Court, things to do in Washington DC, USA

The building is beautiful. It’s reminiscent of a Greek temple, where almost everything has been built in white marble. It’s open to visitors Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, although you can check on its website for the few days and hours it’s closed during the year.

23. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a must-visit in Washington, D.C.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is located on the banks of the Tidal Basin, not far from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument. It was built not only in memory of the president but also of the time he represented. It is made up of 4 zones, each of which represents Roosevelt’s four mandates through inscriptions, sculptures, waterfalls, and illustrative panels.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, historical things to do in Washington DC

The most popular area is the large sculpture of the President with his faithful dog Fala. A sculpture of Roosevelt in a wheelchair was also added after the monument’s inauguration, since different groups asked to represent his disability. Furthermore, due to Roosevelt’s disability, the designers of the monument made sure that it was accessible, including, for example, inscriptions in Braille.

It is certainly one of the most curious places to visit in Washington, D.C., especially if you visit it in spring, since it will be surrounded by cherry blossoms.

24. International Spy Museum, the most curious museum in Washington, D.C.

Although it’s one of the few museums in Washington, D.C. where admission is not free, visiting the International Spy Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Washington, D.C. The entrance fee is not expensive, so I do think it’s worth it.

International Spy Museum, cool places in Washington DC, USA

It contains the largest collection of objects related to the world history of espionage that has ever been exhibited. The museum reviews the crucial role in history that intelligence services have played (and still play), from the Second World War to the Cold War to international terrorism.

The most controversial area is the exhibit on torture and illegal eavesdropping, as well as the questionable interrogation techniques that have been used throughout history.

25. Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful sight to visit in Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Washington National Cathedral is another of the things you can do in Washington, D.C. However, keep in mind that it is only free on Sundays. The rest of the week, you will have to pay an entrance fee that includes a guided tour. You can check the price here.

Washington National Cathedral, places to go in DC

25. Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful sight to visit in Washington D.C.

It’s the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest one in the country. Different official ceremonies have been held in the impressive neo-Gothic building, which is also known as the “National House of Prayer”. Some of the most important were the funerals of presidents of the United States such as Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

Keep in mind that the cathedral is not near the city center, so I only recommend visiting it if you are going to be in the city for more than 3 or 4 days. However, as it’s beautiful, I wanted to include it on our list of things to do in Washington, D.C.

26. Georgetown, the most popular neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city, north of the Lincoln Memorial on the banks of the Potomac River. It gained tremendous popularity in the 1960s, as the Kennedy family gave it a tremendous boost. President John Kennedy and Jacqueline met here, and she returned to the neighborhood after becoming a widow.

If Washington, D.C. looks too “serious” to you, I recommend taking a walk around this neighborhood, since it is full of life and is one of the best things to do in Washington for free.

Georgetown, things to do in Washington DC at night

Its main street, the M, has a lot of local food specialties; you can find pastry shops, cupcakes shops, eco cafes, cheese shops, steak houses, greengrocers, sandwich bars, and more, plus a lot of small clothing boutiques.

The prestigious Georgetown University is located here, so you will see many young people and bars where you can have a drink. If you prefer something quieter, I recommend taking a walk along the Potomac River in Georgetown Waterfront Park .

27. Tidal Basin, the setting of the most important memorials in Washington

I have already mentioned the Tidal Basin, an artificial inlet adjacent to the Potomac River that is part of West Potomac Park and where the monuments to Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are, several times throughout this article.

Tidal Basin, things to do in D.C.

However, I think it deserves to be one of the tourist places to visit in Washington, D.C. since its beauty is extraordinary. It has 3,750 Japanese cherry trees that bloom between the last week of March and the first week of April, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

If you plan to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival , I recommend booking your accommodation in Washington months in advance, since the city receives the most visitors during the festival.

28. Adams Morgan, a neighborhood with more things to do in Washington, D.C.

If you are wondering what to do in Washington, D.C. at night , you have to visit the Adams Morgan neighborhood. It’s multicultural and picturesque and has great nightlife thanks to its bars, concert halls, international restaurants, and pubs.

Adams Morgan, things to do in Washington DC

However, by day, it doesn’t lose its charm, as it’s a very active commercial area, with vintage clothing stores and second-hand bookshops installed in picturesque buildings from the late 19th century. It’s definitely the coolest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., although since it is somewhat isolated, I only recommend visiting it if you have enough time or want to go partying.

29. United States National Arboretum, a beautiful garden to visit in Washington

The United States National Arboretum is a botanical garden that is dedicated, above all, to woody plants and trees. It extends over 180 hectares in which there are 22 Corinthian columns that used to belong to the Capitol.

United States National Arboretum, Washington DC, USA

Inside it you can find the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, along with a large collection of azaleas, dogwoods, and ferns. If you are a nature lover, you cannot miss it. Admission is free, and they also offer guided tours that you can book here .

30. Theodore Roosevelt Island, a perfect place to hike in Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is a nature reserve that serves as a memorial to President Roosevelt. It’s on the Potomac River, a little north of the Lincoln Memorial.

Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt Island, something to do in Washington DC

In the center of the island is a huge statue of the President with two fountains and four granite plates with phrases about the conservation philosophy of Roosevelt, who promoted a unique system that protected all the national parks in the country.

This space is perfect for hiking, as it offers three trails where you can discover the flora and fauna of the place. If you like nature, it is the best thing to do in Washington, D.C.

31. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most important shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the United States. It is the largest church in the country and the eighth largest in the world. It has a capacity of 6,000 people and is 460 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 237 feet tall at its highest point.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, USA

A visit to this sanctuary, which mixes different Romanesque and Byzantine styles, is free. Although it isn’t near the city center, it receives a million tourists a year. Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, among others, have visited it.

I consider it an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C. whether you are a believer or not.

32. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, a lovely place to go in D.C.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is on the border between Washington, D.C. and Maryland, on the banks of the river Anacostia.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, places to go in Washington DC

In it, you’ll find the Kenilworth swamp and water gardens with beautiful water lilies and lotus flowers. Although it’s somewhat removed from the city center, near the Arboretum, I think it is one of the best places to rest and relax. Visiting it is one of th e best things to do in Washington, D.C. Also, entrance is free. You can check the opening hours here.

33. Old Post Office Pavilion, a historical building to visit in Washington, D.C.

The Old Post Office Pavilion is a Richardsonian Romanesque-style building, noted for its huge clock tower that is almost 315 feet tall. It was used as a post office and served various different functions until Donald Trump transformed it into a luxury hotel, the Trump International Washington D.C .

Old Post Office Pavilion, places to see in Washington DC

It has an observatory upstairs where you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the city of Washington for free, even if you are not staying at the hotel, so it’s one of the essential things to do in Washington, D.C .

34. Rock Creek Park, one of the best things to do in D.C.

Rock Creek Park is the oldest natural urban park in the National Park System. It extends 3 mi² along the Rock Creek stream valley.

Walk-in Rock Creek Park, things to do in Washington DC

If you’re going to be in the city for a few days and you don’t know what to do in Washington, D.C. with kids , I recommend it. In addition to being perfect for hiking, cycling, and skating, it has playgrounds, a planetarium, a concert hall, and picnic areas.

35. Meridian Hill Park, an amazing urban park to go to in Washington D.C.

Meridian Hill Park is considered part of Rock Creek Park administratively. However, they aren’t close to each other. Let’s say it’s the city center version of Rock Creek.

Some curiosities of the park are that it contains the only female statue on horseback in Washington, that of Joan of Arc and that its cascading fountain is the largest in North America. It is undoubtedly the favorite green area for Washington locals, who flee from the masses of tourists in the National Mall.

Meridian Hill Park, best places to go in Washington DC, USA

35. Meridian Hill Park, an amazing urban park to go in Washington

It is especially popular on summer Sundays, as a “Drum Circle” takes place where percussion artists gather to have fun. The tradition dates back to the 1960s when drummers came together to celebrate black liberation. Other weekly events include swing classes and impromptu jazz concerts. No wonder it’s the locals’ favorite park and an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C.

That’s all I recommend you see in Washington, D.C. I have also created this map of Washington D.C. that you can download to have all the places of interest on hand and help you plan your visit.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy your visit to Washington, D.C.!

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interesting places to visit in dc

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A woman in a white dress with long hair walking in the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery, one of the best things to do in Washington DC. There are trees, shrubs, a wavy glass ceiling, and building facades.

25 Best Things To Do In Washington DC: The Ultimate Bucket List

October 20, 2021 //  by  Southern Trippers

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Washington DC then you’ve come to the right place. The United States of America’s capital city is full of amazing activities and sites. Because it is the nation’s capital, you can expect it to be fairly busy, no matter what time of year you decide to visit.

Planning your trip to Washington DC last minute?

Hotels and tours sell out fast! Make sure to book in advance to ensure availability. Here are our top picks for Washington DC:

Top Experiences And Tours To Book In Advance:

  • Monuments By Moonlight Tour (Our pick!)
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (Easy to get around)
  • Gourmet Dining Cruise (Can choose brunch or dinner)
  • Capital Wheel Entry Ticket (Save time in line)

Best Places To Stay In Washington DC:

  • The Architec t (Our choice for location)
  • Citizen M Washington DC Capito l (Hip and modern)
  • Glover Park Hotel Georgetown (four stars)
  • Hotel Washington (Panoramic views!)

All throughout the year politicians live in the city, tourists come to see the many Washington DC attractions, and of course, people live there year-round. If you go in the fall, you’ll get to see the fall foliage surrounding the monuments. In the spring, people come from all over the world to see the Cherry Blossom Festival. In the winter, the city comes alive with twinkling lights and holiday spirit. The summer months are probably the busiest months to explore activities in Washington DC, even though it can be pretty hot.

Some of the best things to do in Washington DC are the many museums. Most of the museums in DC are free and part of the Smithsonian group of museums. There are also monuments, memorials, historic homes and buildings, and so much more. No matter what you are interested in, there are definitely fun things to do in DC that you’ll love. So, let’s take a look at 25 of the best things to do in Washington DC to make the ultimate bucket list! Don’t forget to check out our list of the best boutique hotels in Washington DC to plan your visit!

A woman in a white dress with long hair walking in the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery, one of the best things to do in Washington DC. There are trees, shrubs, a wavy glass ceiling, and building facades.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

If you want to see as much of the city as possible, then you absolutely need to do a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour . The great thing about a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is that you can use it as public transportation almost. The bus follows a loop around the city, and as long as you have a pass, you can catch the bus at any point along its route. You can also stop at any point on the route as well.

As you drive around the city, you’ll see all the sites. You’ll also have an experienced tour guide accompanying you. They’ll make sure to tell you about the different stopping points, major sites, and more as you pass by. They are also typically DC locals, so they’re great resources for pretty much any question you might have about Washington DC. You won’t regret getting passes for the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours through DC.

Book Here: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

A woman in a dark floral dress sitting on the side of a reflecting pool in front of the United States Capitol Building.

Go Inside The Washington Monument

Not many people know that you can actually go inside the Washington Monument. The tall obelisk is actually hollow inside. When you walk into the lobby of the monument you’ll see beautiful stone walls and a statue of George Washington. You can choose to take the elevator or walk the 897 steps to the top. On the 490 foot level of the monument, there is a small museum.

Inside the small museum, you’ll see information about the building of the monument. The top floor and observation deck is located at 500 feet, just above the museum. From the observation deck, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland. It is free to go to the observation deck, but you’ll need to reserve timed-entry tickets ahead of time. So if this is something you’re interested in doing, make sure to plan ahead.

This is one of our favorite Fun Kids Activities In DC!

A view of the Washington Monument, one of the best things to do in Washington DC. There is a large reflecting pond, cherry blossom trees in bloom, and the sun is starting to set.

Walk Around The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool At Sunset

There are several reflecting pools in Washington DC, but the largest is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. One of the best things to do in Washington DC is to walk around the reflecting pool as the sunsets. The pool is located on the National Mall and is by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pool has been an iconic part of the National Mall since it was installed in 1923.

We like to experience the reflecting pool at sunset for a few different reasons. Typically most of the tourists have left the area for the day by then. So you’ll often find that at sunset it is much quieter and very peaceful. The way the reflecting pool is positioned also means that as the sunsets you get a real show. You can see the sunset in the reflection of the pool and set behind the Washington Monument. Sunset at the reflecting pool is one of the must-do things in Washington DC.

A woman in a white dress with long hair sitting at a reflecting pool looking towards the Washington Monument. The sun is setting so there is an orangey haze to the sky.

The National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is one of our absolute favorite free things to do in Washington DC. It is part of the Smithsonian collection of museums in DC. The Smithsonian museums are all free to visit daily, and the National Portrait Gallery is one of the best ones. One of the things we love about it is the stunning courtyard. It features a stunning glass ceiling, a cafe with tables and chairs, art, and live trees and plants. It’s a great place to relax after looking at all of the amazing art on display in the museum.

Throughout the rest of the gallery, you’ll see some beautiful pieces of art. They are all portraits, many of them of famous Americans. In fact, you’ll find a portrait uniquely painted of each President and First lady. They are all done in different art styles, and most of the artists are personally chosen by the President and First Lady. You’ll also see classic examples of portraiture throughout art history. From classic portraits, early photographs, and more. It’s a really cool way to see how different time periods have captured the human spirit.

A woman in a white dress with long hair walking in the courtyard of the National  Portrait Gallery. There are tall trees, shrubs, bistro tables, building facades, and a wavy glass ceiling.

Visit Ford’s Theater

One of the most interesting places to visit in Washington DC is Ford’s Theater. The theater is a historic site, known for the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated . The President’s Box, where the assassination happened, is closed to the public to protect it from damage. But you can view the box when you tour the theater. There is also a museum that focuses on the history of the theater and gives more details on the assassination of President Lincoln.

Depending on when you visit, you can enjoy a historic talk by a National Park Ranger in the theater. They are offered year-round, along with self-guided tours. In the spring and summer months, there is also a 30-minute play that is performed on the theater’s stage. It tells the story of the assassination through the eyes of the theater workers that night. It’s one of the best things to do in Washington DC, especially if you are interested in the history of President Lincoln.

Book Here: Ford Theater and Lincoln Assassination Tour

The front exterior of the historic Ford Theater. It is a brick building with rows of arched windows and doors. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

Go On A Tour Of The Monuments At Night

If you’re looking for things to do in DC at night, then we suggest going on a guided tour of the monuments at night. There are several companies that offer trolley tours and bus tours of the monuments at night . The tours typically last about two and a half hours. You’ll meet the trolley or bus at a designated spot and from there you’ll see some of the most famous monuments all lit up at night.

Some of the stops included on the tour are FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. Along the way, you’ll have an experienced tour guide who will tell you about the history of each of the monuments. There are even tours where you can learn about the ghost stories and some of the creepier aspects of the cities history. It’s one of the best activities in Washington DC.

Book Here: Monuments at Night Tour

The Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and other buildings lit up at night. The view is of the monuments from across a large body of water.

Stroll The Streets Of Georgetown

There are tons of free things to do in Washington DC, like walking the streets of Georgetown . The beautiful cobblestone streets are full of charming shops, restaurants, some of the most luxurious hotels in the city.

You’ll find a mixture of high-end shops, local boutiques, and more mainstream popular shops to peruse. If you’re looking for restaurants in Washington DC to try, this is one of the best areas in the city to find some amazing restaurants . This is truly one of the best places to stay in Washington DC!

When you step off of the main street that runs through Georgetown , there is a charming historic neighborhood. There are cobblestone sidewalks and streets, colorful row homes and brownstones, and even a river. It’s an incredibly charming area of Washington DC that not many people think to explore off of the main street. That’s what makes it one of the best

Book Here: Georgetown Tour

A woman in a white dress standing in front of a historic bright pink building in Georgetown. The building has bright blue trim. Georgetown is one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

See The White House

You can’t go to Washington DC without seeing the White House. The White House is known as America’s Home and is where the President of the United States lives. You’ll be able to easily see the White House from the street on NW Pennsylvania Avenue. The view will be from behind the black wrought iron fence and you’ll also see the expansive lawn in front of the house.

If you want to tour the inside of the White House, you’ll need some advance planning. To tour the inside, you need to send a request for a public tour through your congressman. The request needs to be made at least three months in advance and be warned that spots for the public tours fill up fast. The tours themselves are free and run daily but at various times.

A view of the White House from across the White House Lawn. There is a large green lawn, lots of trees, shrubs, and some red flowers.

Jefferson Memorial And Tidal Basin

One of the most popular monuments in DC is the Jefferson Memorial. The large open-air structure is designed in a Greek Pantheon style, which was a favorite architectural style of Jefferson. Inside the memorial, there is a domed room with tall ceilings. The inside is made entirely of marble and has carved images and quotes famously attributed to Jefferson. There is also a large bronze statue of Jefferson in the middle.

Outside, all around the memorial is a beautifully landscaped area. It sits on the south side of the Tidal Basin and there is a park area that has a green lawn and shady trees. The Jefferson Memorial is also where many of the famous Washington DC Cherry Blossoms are planted. During the Cherry Blossom Festival that is held yearly, the pink blooms of the trees create a beautiful view all around the white marble memorial building.

Book Here: Cherry Blossom Tour

Looking at the Jefferson Memorial building from across the Tidal Basin. The cherry blossoms are blooming and the sky is bright blue. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

National Museum Of African American History And Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the newest Smithsonian museums to open in Washington DC. It opened in September of 2016 and since has been one of the most popular museums in Washington DC to visit. Because it is so popular, you’ll need to plan your trip in advance. Because it is a Smithsonian museum, it is free to enter. However, you’ll need to get reserve timed-entry tickets well in advance. You can get the tickets up to 30 days in advance or through a third party, go on a walking tour and see the museum as well.

Inside the museum, you’ll follow a path that leads you through the history of black people in the United States. It starts with the honest history of the transatlantic slave trade and how that shaped the history of America and black people. From there, you’ll learn about the history of black people during the 1800s and the Civil War and into the Civil Rights Movement of the early 20th century.

Towards the end of the museum tour, there are exhibits on the culture of black people in America. You’ll learn about famous black musicians, artists, authors, actors, and more. It’s one of the best things to do in Washington DC and is a great way to learn about black history in America.

Book Here: National Museum of African American History and Culture Tour

The exterior of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is a unique building that is very angular and is copper in color.

Museum Of Natural History

Another incredibly popular Smithsonian museum in Washington DC is the Museum of Natural History . The massive museum is one of the best free things to do in Washington DC. You can easily spend hours looking at the thousands of items on display from the museum’s over 145 million specimen collection. There are three floors of exhibits all detailing the natural history of the world.

You’ll get to see dinosaur skeletons, million-year-old fossils, and life-size replicas of long-extinct animals. There is also a permanent exhibit detailing the practices and rituals of ancient Egypt. Another permanent exhibit that is super popular is the museum’s collection of gemstones and minerals. There you’ll see huge rubies, examples of volcanic rock, and even pieces of meteorites from outer space. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Washington DC.

Book Here: Museum of Natural History Tour

A woman in a black shirt and black and white pants looking up at a taxidermy elephant on a large platform in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

National Botanical Gardens

The National Botanical Gardens is the oldest continuously operating botanic garden in the US. It was originally established in 1820 and is technically a garden. The main purpose of the museum is to show the importance of plant life to all mankind. The gardens are free to enter and there is also a large conservatory on the property. It is also open daily from dawn until dusk, even on weekends and holidays.

As you walk around the grounds you’ll find several different types of gardens. There is a Rose Garden, a Pollinator Garden, and even a Kitchen Garden. The grounds also feature the First Ladies Water Garden, which is dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States. Inside the conservatory, there are exotic plants and plants that only grow in warm environments like cacti.

A woman in a white dress standing on a wooden walkway. She is surrounded by different plants and trees. You can see a conservatory building in the background.

Tudor Place Historic House

One of the best things to do in Washington DC is a visit to the Tudor Place Historic House. Tudor Place was the home of the granddaughter of Martha Washington, and step-grandaughter of George Washington, Martha Curtis Peter. The house is a classic Federal-style, which was an incredibly popular architectural design in early America. It is actually the only home in Washington DC that still has direct links to the country’s first President and First Lady.

The historic home was built in 1805 and until 1983 was the private family home for generations of Peters. The final private owner of the home wanted it to become a house museum on his passing, and in 1988 it opened to the public as just that. Now you can tour the home and see how it would have looked throughout its over 200-year life. You’ll learn about the Peter family, the enslaved people that once worked and lived there, and see how the lives of the people who called it home changed along with the rest of the country.

A traditional tudor knot garden like the one that can be seen at the Tudor Place Historic House. There are box shrubs making different shapes and small topiary trees.

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is easily one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids. The museum is massive and features five floors of permanent and temporary exhibits. When you first enter the museum, you’ll be given a brief to participate in a top-secret mission. As you walk through the exhibits, you’ll encounter interactive areas that help you complete your mission. These different interactive areas coincide with the different aspects of the field of espionage.

In the museum, you’ll learn about early espionage and what that looked like all the way up to more modern ideas of what a spy does. You’ll get to see examples of spy technology throughout history and learn why espionage is an important part of every country’s defense system. It’s one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids because the interactive exhibits are super fun. They’ll love going from exhibit to exhibit, where they’ll learn cool stuff while also pretending to be spies.

Book Here: International Spy Museum Tour

The exterior of the international Spy Museum. It is a large building that is very angular. It is mostly black but there are vertical red stripes going up it. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is actually in Virginia, but it’s still one of the best things to do near Washington DC. It’s not very far away, however. In fact, it’s just across the Potomac River from DC and you can see the city from the cemetery. The cemetery was land that was originally owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. However, the US government bought it during the Civil War to serve as a burial place for fallen soldiers.

Ever since the cemetery has served as the cemetery for soldiers who have died in war and other conflicts. There are even several Revolutionary Soldiers who were later reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery. To many, being buried in the cemetery is a great honor and it has become a place for people to pay their respects to all fallen soldiers. It is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is actually a crypt that holds the remains of unidentified soldiers who died in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Every year, the President and First Lady come to the tomb on Veteran’s Day where a memorial service is held to honor all the servicemen and women who have died protecting the nation. It is a solemn and beautiful place and it’s one of the best things to do near Washington DC.

Book Here: Arlington National Cemetery Tour

Looking down the rows of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. There is a large tree on the hill in between the rows. The leaves on the tree are yellow and there are fallen yellow trees on the grass around the tombstones.

Dumbarton Oaks

If you’re in Georgetown, we highly suggest stopping to spend some time at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks was once a private estate. The historic estate is now the home of a research library, beautiful gardens, and an extensive art collection. The museum is open daily, but the schedule can vary. There is a small fee to enter and you’ll need to reserve timed-entry tickets in advance if you plan to visit.

Throughout the month, on certain days of the week, they offer guided tours based on one of the aspects of the museum. You can take a tour of the estate’s most prominent architectural features, tour the gardens, or get a guided tour of the museum’s highlights. The estate has a permanent and extensive collection of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. There are also still pieces of the owner of the home’s original art collection. It’s one of the coolest Washington DC attractions.

The exterior of Dumbarton Oaks, one of the best things to do in Washington DC. It is an old historic home that once belonged to family of George Washington. It is a brick building with rows of windows and multiple levels.

U.S. National Arboretum

The U.S. National Arboretum is one of the coolest places to visit in Washington DC. It’s been open since 1927 and aims to teach people about the native plant life that is found in the United States. The park is over 400 acres and there are also over 9 miles of winding roads and trails throughout the park.

On the grounds, there are tons of different gardens, planned forests, educational buildings. If you want a bit of break from city activities or are looking for fun things to do in Washington DC with kids, the National Arboretum is a great option. You could easily spend hours exploring the quiet and beautiful scenery.

Large Roman pillars on a hill with steps going up to them. They are in front of a large basin. In the basin you can see the reflection of the pillars. It is in the National Arboretum, one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

Stroll The Gardens Of The Smithsonian Castle

The Smithsonian Castle is actually named the Smithsonian Institution Building and is where you’ll find the Smithsonian Visitor Center. The castle was built in 1855 and is one of the prettiest historic buildings in DC. Outside of the castle, there is an extensive garden area that is free to explore and walk through. The garden is located between the castle and Independence Avenue. It’s actually a newer feature of the castle grounds as it was opened in 1987.

The pathway through the garden is made of beautiful brick that is wide enough for several people to walk down. Along the pathway, there are also benches where you can sit and admire the beauty of the garden. The centerpiece of the garden is the Parterre, which is a French-style decorative garden. It features bright and colorful foliage that the landscapers change out seasonally. So no matter what time of year you visit, the gardens of the Smithsonian Castle are one of the most romantic things to do in Washington DC.

A woman in a white dress with long hair walking through the gate towards a garden. The garden has a brick pathway and there are yellow flowers. You can also see part of a large brick castle. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

Go On A Segway Tour

One way to see all the best Washington DC attractions in a short amount of time is to go on a segway tour through the city. If you’ve never ridden a segway before, don’t worry. Before you begin your tour through the city, you’ll spend 30 minutes learning how to ride a segway and practicing. Once you feel comfortable navigating around on your segway, you’ll start your tour of Washington DC.

The tour typically lasts about two hours and you’ll see almost every major site in the city. Your first stop is the White House, and from there you’ll see sites like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol. It’s also one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids. They’ll love riding around on the segways and seeing the city.

Book Here: Washington DC Segway Tour

A group of people riding segways in Washington DC. In the background you can see the US Capitol Building.

United States Holocaust Museum

The United States Holocaust Museum opened in 1993 and has been a poignant and popular museum ever since. It’s one of the best things to do in Washington DC. The museum is free to enter, but you’ll need to plan your visit in advance. You can get a timed entry ticket up to 30 days in advance, and time slots fill up quickly.

At the entrance to the museum, you’ll be given a card with the name of a real-life holocaust victim. As you go through the museum, you’ll follow in the footsteps of the victims. From the rise of Hitler, the start of the ghettos, and the journey to the concentration camps. At the end of your journey through the museum, you’ll learn the fate of the person whose card you were given when you first entered. It’s a sad museum, but it’s an incredibly important piece of history to learn about and honor.

The exterior of the United States Holocaust Museum. It is a brick and sandstone building. The museum is one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

National Air And Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is one of the coolest Washington DC attractions. It is part of the Smithsonian collection of museums, so it’s free to enter. The museum has been open since 1976 and is in one of the Smithsonian flagship buildings. There are two floors of activities, all centered around America’s flight and space history.

It’s also one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids. There is a virtual reality interactive exhibit where you can experience a real-life flight simulation and feel what it’s like to do a 360-degree barrel roll. The museum also has different planes throughout history, the Hubble telescope, and a timeline of the space race. At different times during the day, there are also science experiments and other hands-on activities that are great for kids.

The exterior of the National Air and Space Museum. In front of it there is a large pyramid sculpture with triangular  pieces of glass that are reflecting the sunset. Its one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

The Lincoln Memorial

Just two years after Lincoln’s assassination, Congress incorporated the Lincoln Monument Association to plan the building of the memorial building. However, it took several decades for construction to start on the memorial and it wasn’t finished in 1920. It was not dedicated until 1922. Despite the enormous amount of time it took to be completed, it’s one of the most iconic monuments in Washington DC.

The memorial was modeled after the Pantheon in Greece and is 190 feet long and 99 feet tall. It is made of beautiful Colorado Yule marble. Inside the memorial, there is a large marble statue of Lincoln seated, placed high above visitors in the center of the chamber. There are murals painted on the wall depicting various stages of Lincoln’s life and carved quotes attributed to Lincoln.

Looking down the corridor of the Lincoln Memorial. At the end of the corridor there is a woman wearing a white dress with long hair standing facing the Washington Monument in the distance.

The Renwick Gallery

If you’re looking for one of the coolest places to visit in Washington DC, you should go to the Renwick Gallery. The gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In this branch, you’ll be able to see a large collection of contemporary and decorative arts. Because it is a Smithsonian museum, it is free to enter.

Inside the museum, there are a few permanent exhibits and they also have revolving exhibits as well. On the first floor of the gallery is where the revolving exhibits are typically placed. They change about twice a year and are usually from up-and-coming artists. On the second floor, the gallery usually has works by more famous artists on display. All of the artwork is by American artists. The Renwick Gallery is easily one of the best free things to do in Washington DC.

The exterior of the Renwick Gallery, one of the Smithsonian art galleries. It is a large brick building with columns, multiple windows, and ornate decorations.

National Museum Of The American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of the best things to do in Washington DC. It is another amazing museum in the Smithsonian museum’s complex, which means it is free to enter. It’s truly one of the best free things to do in Washington DC. In the museum, there are several floors that feature a wide range of both permanent and temporary exhibits.

While you explore the museum, you’ll learn about the honest history of Native Americans in America. You’ll see how they lived before European settlers arrived, learn the devastating impacts European settlers had on the Native American nations, and more. The museum also highlights the different cultures and beliefs of the various Native American nations. Depending on when you visit, you may also be able to see a live performance of a dance, song, or other culturally significant performance on one of the museum’s many stages.

A woman in a dark floral dress standing in front of the water feature that is in front of the National Museum of the American Indian. It is a large sandstone building.

The National Archives Museum

One of the must-do things in Washington DC is the National Archives Museum. The National Archives Museum is where some of the most important documents in American history are held and displayed. You might recognize the museum from National Treasure . Nicholas Cage and his crew of mystery solvers steal the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives Museum where it is on display.

In the rotunda of the museum, you’ll be able to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. All three documents are locked in glass cases to protect them from damage, and of course rogue treasure hunters like Nicholas Cage. Throughout the museum, you’ll also get to see other important documents and historical records that pertain to the United States of America. It’s easily one of the coolest activities in Washington DC.

The exterior of the National Archives Museum. It is a large Greek revival style building that has large Roman columns and intricate carvings.

Where To Eat In Washington DC

Founding farmers.

If you are looking for a great restaurant in Washington DC, we highly suggest trying Founding Farmers. It is just three blocks away from the White House, which means it’s in a perfect location. Stop by and enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner while you sightsee. They have Bourbon Battered French Toast, Avocado Toast, Salmon Bites, and other burgers and sandwiches.

For a more fine dining experience in DC, head to The Dabney. The Dabney uses high-quality ingredients in its seasonal menu. Reservations aren’t required, but this is a popular restaurant, so they are highly suggested. Sit down for dinner and try menu items like their Maryland Blue Crab, Chesapeake Rockfish, and a dessert of Toasted Benne Ice Cream. While you are in town, consider checking out some of the best Black-Owned Restaurants In DC!

Zaytinya is a popular Mediterranean restaurant near the Smithsonian museums that is delicious and reasonably priced. They serve lunch and dinner and a wide variety of Mediterranean dishes. Start your meal with a plate of Hommus or an Artisinal Cheese Pikilia. For your entree, you may like the Kebab Platter, Octopus Santorini, Spanakorizo, or Falafel Durum. Finish your meal with coffee and Greek Cheesecake or Turkish Coffee Chocolate Cake.

This is truly one of the best things to do in Washington DC at night!

A large spread of Mediterranean food. There is hummus, grape leaves, pita, kabobs, nuts, roasted vegetables, pomegranates, olives, couscous, and tons of other things.

Where To Stay In Washington DC

Moxy washington dc.

The Moxy Washington DC is a relatively new hotel in DC. It is located near several major Metro Stations, Chinatown, Logan Circle, and the White House. You’ll be centrally located in this trendy but reasonably priced hotel.

They have a variety of different room options to fit every budget. It’s an especially popular hotel stay for young solo travelers and couples. It comes with fewer frills than many nearby hotels, but it is a fresh and fun hotel that is near some of the best Washington DC activities.

Click Here To Check Rates: Booking.com

The Eaton DC is a great option for travelers with a more eco-friendly frame of mind. The hotel is eco-certified, which means it uses all-natural and organic products. From the sheets to the snacks and beverages in the mini-bar, everything is chosen with eco-consciousness in mind.

On top of that, the rooms are designed to feel like home away from home. They are full of curated furniture and decor that feels cozy and not so much like a hotel room. They even come with personal record players and a selection of vinyl records. It is also centrally located near the White House, the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Museums.

The St. Regis Washington DC

For a more luxurious stay in Washington DC, we love the St. Regis Hotel. The St. Regis is definitely higher in price, but it is truly a beautiful hotel. It has been welcoming guests to Washington DC for over a century. World leaders, Hollywood icons, foreign dignitaries, and everyone in between have spent some time at the St. Regis.

There are luxury suites, smaller guest rooms, fine dining restaurants, and luxurious amenities as well. Because it is a luxury experience, you can expect to spend, at the least, about $400 a night. However, if you are celebrating or simply wanting to enjoy Washington DC like a Hollywood starlet, you can’t go wrong staying at the St. Regis.

A woman in a white dress with long hair standing next to a bicycle. She is standing in front of the St. Regis Hotel in Washington DC. It is a ornately decorated and large hotel made of sandstone.

Washington DC is one of our favorite cities to visit. Because it’s the nation’s capital, you’ll find tons of things to do in Washington DC. From the amazing museums, beautiful monuments, and fun tours, DC is a fun place to visit! Have you ever been to Washington DC? If so, what was your favorite Washington DC activity? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

A row in a vineyard labelled number 13

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Home » North America » Washington DC

18 BEST Places to Visit in Washington DC (2024)

The vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of the USA, Washington DC is a political powerhouse that is also crammed with exciting things to see and do. There’s a wealth of cultural sites, including beautiful buildings and world-class museums (many of which are free!), along with terrific shopping opportunities, a global dining scene, and a thriving nightlife.

While many people know the highlights of Washington DC—seeing the White House, visiting the Smithsonian, and strolling along the National Mall, for example—there is much, much more to the capital city than may at first meet the eye. Many people skip over some of the city’s true treasures, which is a real shame!

Our expert team of travel writers has compiled a list of the best places to visit in Washington DC to help you to plan a diverse trip that really lets you get under the skin of the American capital city. From well-known hotspots to local secrets and hidden gems, we’ve covered all bases.

Add these fabulous places to your Washington DC itinerary and have a ball!

Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Washington DC:

These are the best places to visit in washington dc, faq on the best places to visit in washington dc, more fantastic places to visit in washington dc.

Logan Circle, Washington DC

Logan Circle

Logan Circle is characterized by its Victoria home and colourful storefronts. Although it is mainly residential, this neighbourhood enjoys a central location and is within walking distance of Washington, D.C.’s most popular tourist attractions.

  • Tease your taste buds at Compass Rose, a restaurant whose dishes are inspired by the owner’s exotic travels.
  • Catch a show at the Black Cat, a two-level music hall with pinball, pool tables, and a fantastic menu.
  • Marvel at the detail of the National City Christian Church.

If Logan Circle isn’t quite your vibe, we’ve got more where that came from. There’s even a neighbourhood called Foggy Bottom if that strikes your fancy! Be sure to check out where to stay in Washington DC before you start your exploration below.

interesting places to visit in dc

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#1 – The National Mall – One of the most amazing places in Washington DC!

The National Mall

  • Diverse monuments and memorials
  • Lesson in US history
  • Various events
  • Many incredible museums

Why it’s awesome: A Washington DC must-do, the National Mall is one of the most-visited places in the USA. Stretching around three kilometres (two miles) between the impressive Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial, there are tons of monuments, museums, memorials, and statues that teach visitors more about the nation’s history and honour significant figures from the past.

There are regular events at the National Mall too, along with wide, leafy boulevards. Part of the National Park Service, the aims of the National Mall include to provide an elegant space for official monuments and structures, and maintain a historic landscape as well as a public park,

What to do there: Take a leisurely stroll along the National Mall and see the many historic monuments. Admire the Greek-style 1914 Lincoln Memorial and the incredible views of the striking monument from across the large reflecting pool. Remember those who served in conflicts at the large Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Three Soldiers Statue, and the District of Columbia War Memorial.

Walk through pretty gardens, like the Constitution Gardens, the Butterfly Habitat Gardens, the Mary Livingston Ripley Gardens, and the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rosa Garden. Gaze up at the soaring Washington Monument. Visit the many museums (most of which are part of the Smithsonian group and almost all of which are free!), including the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Pay a return visit in the evening time to see the setting beautifully illuminated.

#2 – The Capitol – One of the most incredible free places to go to in Washington DC

The Capitol

  • Stunning piece of architecture
  • Symbol of democracy and iconic landmark
  • No admission fees or charges for tours
  • Various programs and activities

Why it’s awesome: The United States Capitol is one of the most famous landmarks in Washington DC. Containing the US Congress and the government legislature, the iconic neoclassical building was constructed in 1800. Later changes included the addition of the grand and eye-catching dome. Flags fly proudly above the building. Inside, there is an impressive art collection, which includes statues, sculptures, paintings, and carvings.

It is a National Historic Landmark, a strong symbol of democracy, and a source of national pride. Visitors can register for free tours, learn more about the building and its functions at the Visitor Center, get a pass to watch senate in session, and visit various parts of the magnificent building.

What to do there: Join a free 45-minute tour of the Capitol, exploring the Greek Revival National Statutory Hall with its marble floor and columns, sculptures, large chandelier, sandstone relief, and other sublime details, the Crypt with its replica of the Magna Carta and distance-marker star, and the lavish dome-topped Rotunda. If they are sitting you can obtain a pass to watch Congress. Peek inside the beautiful Halls of the Senate, complete with gorgeous Italian art, hear historic tales in the Old Senate Chamber, and admire the overall beauty of the building both inside and out.

There are also special activities aimed at younger visitors; the Family Program details Congress’s support of space exploration missions. Remember to act respectfully inside the Capitol as it is, after all, still a place of work for many people, and don’t forget to take ID on your visit.

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#3 – Rock Creek Park – A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Washington DC

Rock Creek Park

  • Popular place for leisure and relaxation
  • Diverse outdoor activities
  • Lots of wildlife
  • Pretty views

Why it’s awesome: The large and attractive Rock Creek Park is one of the best outdoor attractions in Washington DC. Established in 1890, it was the USA third national park to be established. Covering 1,754 acres (710 hectares), the expansive park follows Rock Creek across the border with neighbouring Maryland. As well as walking trails, nature, and open areas, the park also has an equestrian centre, a golf course, sporting facilities, a small museum, play areas, a planetarium, and monuments. It’s a top place for walking, jogging, cycling, and skating, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

What to do there: Visit Rock Creek Park Horse Center where you can take riding classes and go out to explore trails on horseback. There are also trails that are great for strolling, running and biking. Play a round of golf, cross the various bridges that span the creek, and learn more about the area’s history at the museum inside Pierce Mill. Examine the skies at the planetarium and get to know the native wildlife at the Nature Center. Let kids cut loose in the play areas and take a picnic for a delightful outdoor lunch surrounded by nature.

#4 – Arlington National Cemetery – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Washington DC

Arlington National Cemetery

  • Biggest military burial ground in the USA
  • Moving memorials
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Scene of solemn ceremonies

Why it’s awesome: Although not strictly in the capital (it’s a short distance away in neighbouring Virginia), taking a trip to Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Washington DC . Founded during the Civil War, the military cemetery is the final resting place for people who lost their lives while serving the country in various conflicts. There are 70 sections, one of which is dedicated to former slaves. The well-ordered cemetery also has a number of memorials and monuments as well as the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier, which is always guarded by military personnel. There is no admission cost to enter the cemetery.

What to do there: Honour more than 400,000 veterans, with the graves of people who served in the Civil War, the Cold War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more. You can walk around the cemetery independently or join an informative tour. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes in any case as the complex is vast. Visit the hilltop Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee and a building that has served as a memorial to George Washington, a plantation, a slave home, a burial site, and a home for freed slaves.

You can take a tour of the historic home and learn more about its past. See the large white Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, constantly guarded by members of the infantry. If you visit in the summer months you can watch the official Changing of the Guard ceremony. Other memorials throughout the cemetery include the USS Maine Mast Memorial, the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, the Cross of Sacrifice, the Laos Memorial, the eternal flame to deceased president John F. Kennedy, and the Lockerbie Cairn.

#5 – United States Botanic Garden – One of the most underrated places to see in Washington DC

United States Botanic Garden Washington

  • One of North America’s oldest botanic gardens
  • Located in the National Mall
  • No admission fee
  • Informative, educational, and beautiful

Why it’s awesome: The United States Botanic Garden is frequently overlooked by visitors to the National Mall. One of the oldest botanic gardens in North America, it can trace its roots back to the 1820s. There are various sections to the pretty complex, including a large conservatory, the serene Bartholdi Park, and the National Garden. The botanic garden is home to a huge selection of plant life from across the world and from different terrains and climates.

Some species are rare or endangered. It aims to showcase the diversity and importance of flora in addition to teaching people about the ecological, cultural, therapeutic, and economic benefits of various plants. Open every day of the year, there’s no charge to enjoy the beautiful gardens.

What to do there: Invoke different senses as you walk to explore the United States Botanic Garden, with eye-catching colours and forms and subtle and heady scents. Relax in the tranquil Bartholdi Park as you enjoy the different species and rest on one of the many secluded benches for a few moments of contemplation. Don’t miss seeing the striking Bartholdi Fountain, created by the same man who gave the world the Statue of Liberty.

Learn more about plants from the Mid-Atlantic region in the National Garden, which includes a garden that honours the nation’s First Ladies, a butterfly garden, and a rose garden. The large Conservatory is a show-stealer, with its diverse rooms that lead you through ancient terrains, the desert, the jungle, and more. You can join a free tour of the Conservatory each afternoon too. If you’re visiting with younger members of the family don’t miss the enchanting Children’s Garden. Kids can get hands-on as they use various gardening tools and smell and touch a selection of plants, and there’s also active play equipment.

#6 – Washington National Cathedral – One of the most religious places to see in Washington DC

Washington National Cathedral

  • Glorious architecture
  • Unusual features
  • Active place of worship
  • Stunning interiors

Why it’s awesome: Officially named The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, the stunning religious building is commonly referred to as simply Washington National Cathedral. Although its sublime designs and architecture may lead people to believe the church is very old, construction only began in the early 1900s—and, it took many years until it was completed in 1990! Details are continually being added too.

One of the biggest churches in the USA, the spectacular church was designed to resemble the English Gothic style from the Middle Ages. From exquisite and colourful stained glass windows to detailed carvings and sacred chapels, there are many fine details to admire both inside and out. Attractive gardens surround the cathedral. It is an active place of worship, with regular religious services,

What to do there: Admire the magnificent cathedral from the outside, with its soaring Gothic spires, 112 grotesque gargoyles, bell tower, flying buttresses, ornate windows, carvings, and other fine details. Don’t miss seeing the unusual Darth Vader gargoyle! Stroll through the pleasant 59-acre (24-hectare) grounds, which include delightful gardens, places for reflection, a Norman archway from the 13 th century, and walking trails through wildlife-rich woodland.

Enter the church and be dazzled by the grand designs, with a sweeping nave, side chapels, a grand altar, elegant arches, carved pulpit, vaulted ceilings, numerous pieces of art, stunning stained glass windows, wrought iron features, crosses, statues, and more. Of particular interest are the stones set in the ground in front of the altar; brought from the Chapel of Moses at Mount Sinai, the rocks symbolise the Ten Commandments.

As you view the spectacular stained glass windows look out for the fantastic rose window and the unusual Space Window—one of the most unusual things to do in Washington DC, the window commemorates the moon landings and is said to have an actual piece of lunar rock embedded within the glass. Descend into the Crypt where you’ll find several graves of prominent people, including Woodrow Wilson and Hellen Keller. You can also buy tickets to climb the soaring bell tower to admire terrific city views and get closer to some of the gorgeous windows and interesting gargoyles.

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#7 – National Zoological Park – Awesome place to visit in Washington DC with kids!

National Zoological Park

  • Part of the Smithsonian group
  • Home to diverse creatures from around the world
  • Free admission
  • Centre for research and conservation

Why it’s awesome: Established in 1889, the National Zoological Park contains more than 1,500 animals from some 300 diverse species. Creatures come from across the globe, with a large number of rare and/or endangered species among the zoo’s inhabitants. Spread across 163 acres (66 hectares), the expansive zoo is divided into several cool zones. Part of the Smithsonian group of museums, the zoo isn’t just a place for people to see animals; it’s also a major conservation and research centre.

Visitors can meet keepers to learn more about specific species and their care, attend diverse presentations, and take part in a variety of activities and programs. The zoo also hosts child-friendly and adult-focused events throughout the year. There’s a good selection of places to eat and drink throughout the zoo. Open every day of the year (except Christmas Day), there is no charge to visit the impressive zoo. It’s one of the best attractions in Washington DC for families.

What to do there: Observe an array of animals from all corners of the globe in large, clean, and comfortable habitats. The giant pandas are incredibly popular and, if they are hidden from sight, there are cameras that let you still see the cute Chinese creatures. Other animals include elephants, lions, giraffes, tigers, kiwi, orangutans, sea lions, cheetahs, snakes, monkeys, and many, many more. Watch various species being fed, attend the informative and fun meet-the-mammal demonstrations, learn more at the Conservation Station, and book a guided tour with a zookeeper. Children (and adults!) can get up close and personal with tame creatures at the Kids’ Farm. Plan to spend several hours discovering the zoo’s many highlights and don’t forget to wear comfortable footwear.

#8 – Fort DeRussy – One of Washington DC’s coolest historical sites!

  • Old Civil War fortress
  • Secluded and off the beaten track
  • Great hiking opportunities
  • Wild, rugged, and overgrown ambience

Why it’s awesome: Located within Rock Creek Park, the hidden-away Fort DeRussy dates back to 1861 when it was one of 60-plus fortresses built to protect Washington DC from attacks. Unlike many of the city’s other old fortifications, Fort DeRussy did see some action during the Civil War. Quiet for most of the time, in 1864 Confederate troops made their only attack on Washington DC, causing the fort’s guns to roar into life. Today, the ruins are in a good state of repair. Nature has, however, reclaimed its territory, with the surrounding area now an overgrown woodland filled with wildlife. The setting enhances the atmosphere and the area is great for keen hikers.

What to do there: Follow the short dirt track to reach the fortress remains and read information boards to glean greater insights into the area’s past. See the old dry moat, the remains of magazine storage areas, old trenches, mounds, earth walls, and the well-preserved parapet. Although the views are now obscured by woodland it is easy to see how the hilltop location was once a great vantage point. After soaking up the history, take a walk through the woods to spot an array of flora and fauna. If you’re hiking, cross the creek and you’ll find a small tucked-away log cabin that was previously owned by a 19 th -century poet.

#9 – Eden Center – A must-see for foodies!

  • Vietnamese-American strip mall
  • Delicious Asian cuisine
  • A major tourist attraction in Washington DC
  • Wide variety of shops

Why it’s awesome: The Eden Center is one of the hotspots in Washington DC for food lovers. Although located in nearby Falls Church, Virginia, the strip mall is easy to reach from the capital and attracts many people, both locals and tourists, from the city. It’s the biggest Asian mall on the USA’s East Coast. There are more than 120 shops and dining establishments targeted at the large Asian American population and fans of Asian cuisine and goods.

In particular, there’s a strong Vietnamese flavour. In addition to shops and eateries, the mall has a gym, nightclub, travel agencies, and supermarkets. Popular since the mid-1980s, the centre hosts a variety of interesting cultural events too.

What to do there: Satisfy your hunger and let your taste buds lead you to some of the best places to eat in Washington DC! Get your fill of steaming hot bowls of pho, the tasty sandwich-like snack of banh mi, Vietnamese baked goods, spring rolls, stir-fried dishes, and more. Don’t miss trying a glass of tasty bubble tea too.

Whether you want something quick and easy to grab to eat on the go or somewhere a little fancier where you can sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal in a great setting, the Eden Center has something to suit all preferences. You can also enjoy great shopping, with shops that sell things like clothes, accessories, souvenirs, and traditional herbal remedies, and buy tasty treats and Asian ingredients to take home with you in the supermarkets and delicatessens.

#10 – Tregaron Conservancy – A nice non-touristy place to visit in Washington DC

Tregaron Conservancy

  • Peaceful and scenic
  • Home to many birds and other wildlife
  • Historic building
  • Free to enjoy

Why it’s awesome: Located in Northwest, the Tregaron Conservancy is part of the larger Tregaron Estate. The estate was constructed in the first quarter of the 1900s and is today a national landmark. Covering a little over 20 acres (eight hectares), the country estate has a historic mansion, a Russian-style summer house (dacha), a greenhouse, a farmhouse, a school, and a carriage house. The estate is celebrated for its gorgeous and well-planned landscape architecture, with stone walls, bridges, old woodlands, walking trails, fields, ponds, gardens, and gaping ravines. The estate has featured in a couple of movies. There is no admission charge for visitors.

What to do there: Escape the busy city streets and enjoy quiet time in nature in the lovely Tregaron Conservancy. Explore the different landscapes, following various rugged trails, and spot an assortment of wildlife. Keen bird spotters are sure to be impressed; the estate is home to numerous bird species including robins, wrens, warblers, owls, sparrows, hawks, flycatchers, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, herons, and doves. Listen to the soothing sounds of twittering and bird song as you explore the natural areas. You can also see a variety of flowers in the wild gardens and meadows.

#11 – International Spy Museum – Cool place to see in Washington DC with friends!

International Spy Museum

  • Terrific place to learn more about subterfuge and secrets
  • Fascinating exhibits
  • Interactive spy program
  • Family friendly

Why it’s awesome: Open since 2002 and since moved to a different location, the International Spy Museum is a Washington DC must-do for fans of espionage and things that are a bit different to the norm. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Washington DC for friends and families with older kids. The cool museum contains a large assortment of objects (both historic and modern) related to the spy industry, many of which are sure to surprise you! It contains the biggest collection of publically displayed spy memorabilia in the world. There are various immersive activities that take people right into the mysterious world of spies as well as a rooftop terrace and event spaces with great city views.

What to do there: Delve into the world of secret missions, espionage, and spies as you marvel at the museum’s wide collection of exhibits, some fairly well known (like hidden cameras) and others that defy belief! Items include tiny pistols designed to look like lipsticks, cameras hidden in the most obscure of places, ingenious listening devices, vehicles, code-cracking devices, transmitters, and much more. You can learn more about famous spies from throughout history and hear captivating real-life stories from former spies.

Discover how spies have helped in war efforts, to gather intelligence, and to overthrow mighty leaders, and travel back in time as you learn more about espionage in the Roman and Greek times, the Medieval Era, the Renaissance, the British Empire, the Civil War, the Cold War, World Wars I and II, and other epochs. Old documents, photographs, and films take you even further into the secret world and you can try your hand at being a spy at the fun interactive stations and via RFID experiences.

#12 – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – A great place to see in Washington DC if you love architecture

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

  • Stunning building
  • Striking interiors
  • Spiritual atmosphere
  • Biggest Catholic place of worship in North America

Why it’s awesome: The beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the biggest Catholic church in North America. It’s also among the biggest churches in the world. A Washington DC must-see for fans of religious architecture (and architecture in general), the foundation stone of the impressive building was blessed and laid in the year 1920. Construction took place over many years, with the church finally completed in 1959, though there were further internal additions with the last architectural element finished in 2017.

Inside, there are many chapels in honour of the Virgin Mary, striking mosaics, and many religious images. Outside, the appearance is like that of a medieval church, complete with a huge cross-topped dome and a tall tower. There have been several papal visits to the basilica and it’s a pilgrimage destination. It is an active place of worship as well as a popular landmark.

What to do there: Join an hour-long tour to learn more about the basilica, its significance, its art, its history, and religious details. Tours lead visitors through the main body of the basilica (the Great Upper Church) and into the smaller shrines. You can also visit independently. Admire the gorgeous facades and details of the Romanesque-Byzantine structure and appreciate the rich religious art inside.

Indeed, the church contains the biggest collection of modern ecclesiastical art in the world. Feast your eyes on ornate archways, intricately crafted sculptures, dazzling mosaics, delicately carved reliefs, marble cladding, and fabulous stained glass windows. Go down into the Crypt and you can follow the 14 Stations of the Cross.

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#13 – Theodore Roosevelt Island – One of the nicer places in Washington DC to sightsee!


  • Pedestrianised island in the Potomac River
  • Dedicated to a former US president
  • Walking trails and outdoor activities
  • Nature and wildlife

Why it’s awesome: Covering 88.5 acres (35.8 hectares), Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the Potomac River and connected to the mainland by a bridge. Previously known by other names, the river island is a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26 th president of the USA and a keen lover of nature and conservation. Once wild and overgrown, it is today a popular place for outdoor activities and sports. No motorised vehicles or bicycles are allowed on the island. It’s also a top place for enjoying peace and quiet, admiring lovely views, and spotting an assortment of wildlife.

What to do there: Enjoy pleasant walks on the various nature trails, passing through patches of diverse vegetation and terrain, and stroll along the boardwalks for different perspectives. There are forests, woods, marshes, and swamps. Local plant life includes both native and non-native species and if you visit in the springtime you can see many colourful and pretty wildflowers in bloom. The island is also home to a large number of bird species, many of which are easy to spot as you explore.

Take part in various outdoor activities, including running, kayaking, and canoeing. Soak up nice views that include Georgetown, Key Bridge, the Kennedy Center, and the Potomac Gorge. See the memorial to the former president, complete with ornamental fountains, a statue of the previous leader, and large standing stones engraved by quotes made by the late president.

#14 – Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land – One of the more unique places to visit in Washington DC!

Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land

  • Hilltop Franciscan complex
  • Eerie catacombs
  • Beautiful church
  • Interesting religious artefacts

Why it’s awesome: Built between the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land is located at the top of Mount Saint Sepulcher in the Washington DC neighbourhood of Northeast. The complex, which was once home to friars, has a church (The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher) that was built to resemble the famous church of the same name in Jerusalem and with neo-Byzantine elements that are reminiscent of the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

There are also charming gardens, chapels, a grotto, and replicas of shrines from the Holy Land. One of the most unusual features, however, is the creepy catacombs that lie hidden beneath the ground. Built to replicate the holy catacombs in Rome, many of the graves are fake, though there are still some skeletal remains to enhance the eerie atmosphere. There is no fee to visit the complex.

What to do there: Book a free guided tour down into the spooky catacombs, where you can see replicated graves, statues of saints, and the bones of a Roman soldier (the head of the deceased soldier is still in Rome). There are also the remains of a child martyr. Experience the eerie vibe along the quiet and dark underground passageways and learn more about sacred saints.

Visit the 15 chapels of the Rosary Portico, built like a Roman site, and see the Hail Mary in various global languages. Step into the Lourdes Grotto, see various religious items in the Library, hear the soothing sounds of the organ, stroll through the pretty gardens, and enjoy the peaceful and spiritual air.

#15 – Madame Tussauds – Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Washington DC

Madame Tussauds

  • Family-friendly attraction
  • Many wax models
  • Great photo opportunities
  • Learn how wax figures are made

Why it’s awesome: Open since 2007, Madame Tussauds in Washington DC was the franchise’s 12 th wax museum to open. There are hundreds of realistic wax models in various themed rooms, with famous figures from the past and present. There are models of former US presidents and other political figures, famous faces from the civil rights movement, sports stars, actors and actresses, singers and bands, TV personalities, and other celebrities.  The Behind the Scenes area shows visitors how wax models are crafted and gives the history of Madame Tussauds. There are many great photo opportunities and a visit is heaps of fun for old and young alike.

What to do there: Step into the Presidents Gallery to pose for selfies with life-like models of all of the USA’s former presidents, from George Washington up to Donald Trump, all in cool settings. You can also snap pictures with the nation’s poised and elegant First Ladies. Mingle with Hollywood stars, past and present, in the A-List Party room, with models of people like Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt, and rub shoulders with big names from the big screen in the Media and Entertainment area. Figures include Tyra Banks, Larry King, Jimmy Fallon, and Washington DC-born Stephen Colbert.

Travel back in time in the Cultural Icons room, home to waxworks that include the Founding Fathers and people who were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement. Figures include Martin Luther King Jnr., Uncle Sam, Rosa Parks, Lord Baden Powell, and Frederick Douglass. In the Music area, you can get down with the likes of Beyonce, Marvin Gaye, Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift, while in the Sports section you’ll come face to face with models of people like Tiger Woods and Babe Ruth. Be sure to charge your camera before visiting as you’re bound to want to take lots of cool pictures!

#16 – Pentagon – A perfect place to visit in Washington DC if you are on a budget!


  • Headquarters of the US Department of Defense
  • Opportunity to visit somewhere mysterious and unique

Why it’s awesome: The Pentagon is the name given to the iconic five-sided building that houses the headquarters of the US Department of Defense. The biggest office building in the world, it is a strong symbol of American military might. A National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places, construction began on the building in the 1940s. Today, it is one of the most major landmarks in Washington DC. While there is certainly lots of red tape and advance planning, it is possible to take a free tour of the highly guarded building. The onsite gift shop sells unique mementoes.

What to do there: Complete the application process for a free tour of the Pentagon well in advance of your visit to Washington DC. Applications need to be made a minimum of two weeks beforehand. Domestic visitors can arrange their free tour through the Pentagon, whereas international visitors should do so through their national embassy. If you know someone who works at the Pentagon, however, they are allowed to take family and friends on a building tour. You will need ID to check in for your tour.

Don’t try and move away from the guide at any point on your tour—they will be keeping a careful eye on the group at all times! Starting from the Visitor Center, you can use this time to purchase souvenirs from the gift shop. See the replica of the Press Briefing Room podium, learn more about all parts of the US military, see the indoor memorial remembering the September 11 th tragedy, visit the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, and see the Hall of Heroes, which is dedicated to the 3,400-plus people who received the honorific Medal of Honor. When your tour of the building concludes, don’t miss seeing the outdoor National September 11 th Pentagon Memorial.

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#17 – Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens – Great place to visit in Washington DC for couples!

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens Washington

  • Lesser-visited attraction
  • Diverse flora and fauna

Why it’s awesome: Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is located near the Anacostia River and close to the border with neighbouring Maryland. The area boasts the capital’s last remaining tidal marsh along with a pleasant area for recreation. There are also artificial ponds, water gardens, wetlands, and walking trails. Numerous plant and animal species call the area home. It’s among the lesser-visited points of interest in Washington DC, though the natural beauty and peaceful ambience make it a great place for couples and anyone who loves spending time in nature. Even better, there is no admission fee to enjoy the lovely gardens.

What to do there: Discover the delicate balance between nature and man-made beauty as you explore the picturesque Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Take a stroll along the boardwalk and follow the River Trail to admire the views of the flower-filled ponds and eco-diversity of the marshes. Look out for various fauna too, including numerous types of birds, otters, foxes, reptiles, and minks. Do note that while summer is the best time to see flowers in their full glory the winter months are better for catching glimpses of wildlife.

#18 – Dupont Circle – An awesome place to visit in Washington DC for half a day!

Dupont Circle

  • Varied landmarks and architecture
  • Great shopping opportunities
  • Lively nightlife
  • Vibrant events

Why it’s awesome: The historic neighbourhood of Dupont Circle is one of the best places to visit in Washington DC for anyone interested in landmarks and architecture, shopping, dining, and nightlife. The fountain at the heart of the traffic circle dates back to the 1920s and the surrounding park is a popular spot for leisure and relaxation. Other landmarks include the Brewmaster’s Castle, Anderson House, Dumbarton Bridge, Paterson Mansion, the whimsical Mansion on O Street hotel, and the International Temple. There are stylish residential areas, with grand mansions and pre-1900 townhouses, several embassy buildings, and museums. The area hosts the yearly Pride Festival and the fun High Heel Race that sees glamorous drag queens racing through the streets.

What to do there: Take a walk around the neighbourhood, pausing to appreciate the many fine buildings. Don’t miss visiting the so-called Strivers’ Section, a small residential area that was once home to highly regarded and upper-class African Americans. Take a self-guided walking tour past many lavish embassy buildings, visit the USA’s first modern art museum at the Phillips Collection, peek inside the former home of previous US president Woodrow Wilson, sit on the charming hidden treasure of the Spanish Steps, and see the 1924 Nuns of the Battlefield sculpture.

Relax in the park on the traffic island, tour the Brewmaster’s Castle, and visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. You’ll also find one of the collect attractions in Washington DC in Dupont Circle—The Mansion on O Street and O Street Museum. The historic hotel has hidden doorways, weird and wonderful antiques, curious memorabilia, artworks, and many interesting exhibits. Indulge in some retail therapy along the bustling Connecticut Avenue, visit one of the many eateries for a delicious feed, and party the night away in a pulsating nightclub.

Get insured for your trip to Washington DC!

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They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

interesting places to visit in dc

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Find out what people want to know about the best places to visit in Washington DC

What is the most visited site in Washington DC?

The Lincoln Memorial National Mall is the most visited attraction in Washington DC.

What is a free place to visit in Washington DC?

National Zoological Park is free to visit and a great place to visit in Washington DC with the kids.

What is the most interesting place to visit in Washington DC?

The Smithsonian Museum is one of the best museums in the world, not only Washington DC.

What is the best place to visit in Washington DC for couples?

The Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is a great place to visit as a couple.

There are plenty of excellent museums to add to your Washington DC itinerary , including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Newseum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art, the quirky Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. And, of course, no trip to Washington DC is complete without seeing the iconic White House!

Fans of nature and the outdoors won’t be disappointed by the large number of leafy parks in Washington DC, with highlights that include the off-the-beaten-track Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden, the United States National Arboretum, Meridian Hill Park, and the hidden gem of Crispus Attucks Park. If you’re into places that are a bit different to typical tourist sights, pay a visit to Culture House (previously known as Blind Whino). Among the most unusual things to do in Washington DC, the building is a brightly and whimsically painted former church that now contains a cool artistic and cultural space.

Stroll through the historic area of Georgetown, visit Anderson House, step into the National Archives, see Fords Theater, and admire tons of cool art at The Fridge. Shop till you drop at places like Eastern Market, Union Market, Gallery Place, and Wisconsin Place.

Whatever your age or interests, there are many excellent places to visit in Washington DC!

interesting places to visit in dc

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

Aiden Freeborn

Aiden Freeborn

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My husband and I have never been to Washington DC and since lockdown is being lifted, we are planning to visit. Thanks for this comprehensive guide on where to go such as the United States Botanic Garden which has been actually around since the 1820s. There are plenty of interesting places to go and I wonder if there are group tours we can join.

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37 Non-Touristy Things To Do in Washington DC Besides Museums and Monuments

If you are looking for things to do in Washington, DC, images of monuments, museums, and government buildings probably come to mind.

But what you may not realize as a visitor is that there is SO. MUCH. MORE. to this city than meets the eye.

Cute neighborhoods, obscurely-themed pop-up bars, and underground art exhibits are all part of the mix. Intrigued yet? I hope so!

To help you plan your trip to Washington, DC, I’ve written this guide, packed with 37 different non-touristy things to do in DC that aren’t museums, monuments, or memorials. This list spans from art installations, embassy parties, outdoors activities and restaurants. I should know, I used to live in DC after all. 

Take your pick to avoid the tourist crowds in DC!

Non-Touristy Things to Do in Washington, DC Besides Museums and Monuments

Check out some local art at culture house dc (formerly blind whino).

Blind Whino

Hidden away from all the tourists in the streets of Southwest DC is a formerly abandoned church that fell into a vat of neon pixie dust, and opened its doors to the art community.

Now known as Culture House DC (Formerly Blind Whino), this construction has become an iconic part of DC’s culture, hosting live talks and shows, and exhibits from local artists. There’s also work space for artists to come and learn from each other.

It’s a crucible of creativity housed in what used to be the Friendship Baptist Church that was built in 1886. 

The events and exhibition space is spread out over 15,000 square feet and is used to house an ever-changing rotation of exhibitions – currently “The Body and Infinite Excess by Stephen Benedicto who explores his theme through paintings, sculptures, photography and installation. 

Opening hours differ from exhibition to exhibition. Check out their website for upcoming events and times.

Visit The Dupont Underground

Dupont Underground is another art space, located near Dupont Circle, that welcomes local artist exhibitions and is a key part of the city’s cultural scene. 

It’s literally an underground tunnel created from repurposed urban infrastructural space (a long-abandoned streetcar station) that hosts art exhibitions and live events. These events include the bi-weekly (and deliciously raucous) Drag Underground, which features some of D.C’s best drag queens. If you are looking for fun things to do in DC for adults, look no further.

From street art to photography, light shows to paintings, anything goes here, and most of the exhibits are absolutely fascinating. This is one of the best undiscovered gems in the city. 

For their current exhibit offerings, check their website .

See DC’s Street Art Hotspots

Street Art Washington

All around Washington DC, you can find awesome, colorful, sometimes politically-infused street art. From watermelon houses to psychedelic murals, this city has a lot of street art to offer.

Some, like Adams Morgan’s Madam’s Organ Mural have been around so long they’ve become local icons (that mural was completed in 1997 and has been drawing in admirers ever since). The same can be said of Mural Un Pueblo Sin Murales, a work that was created in 1977 by Felipe Martinez, Carlos Salozar, Carlos Arrien, and Juan Pineda on Adams Mill Road. 

There are much newer pieces to explore too. Blagden Alley in particular, thrives with pieces from local artists including Lisa Marie Thalhammer and Cita Sadeli Chelove.

The best way to find street art in DC is simply to wander through the streets. But, if you need some guidance, you can use this map to help.

Run in a Scenic Road Race

Running is a huge activity in Washington DC, and you can find people running almost all hours of the day on the city’s sidewalks. 

If you’re a runner yourself, you can get to know the city by joining a road race! Races in DC (and in the DC area) happen very regularly, so you can almost always find one if you really want to.

Some of the most popular races are the Army 10 Miler , the Marine Corps Marathon , the Rock and Roll Marathon and Half Marathon , and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler . Even if you don’t like running, it’s worth heading to the races to spectate if your visit happens to coincide with one of them!

Head to a Show or Concert

Washington Concert

Washington DC’s arts scene is always popping off with a diverse and vibrant range of experiences that cater to pretty much every taste. 

Because Washington DC is so centrally located, many artists (big and small) that are making the rounds in the US stop here. As a result, you can see basically any artist you love at some point in this city.

Venues range from giant stadiums, like the Capital One Arena  or the 9:30 Club, to smaller, more intimate spaces like Black Cat and U Street Music Hall .  

If fine arts is more your thing, check out the listings for touring Broadway plays, National Symphony concerts, or ballet shows. Many of these take place at the iconic Kennedy Center , right on the river. Others are hosted around the city at various venues.

Explore the City By Night

Washington at Night

One of the most beautiful times of day to see Washington, DC is at night, when the monuments are all lit up amidst the night sky.

I know, I know, I promised there wouldn’t be any monuments on this list, but seeing the monuments via the city’s main thoroughfares is a different thing altogether, and you can avoid the hoards of tourists by going at this time.

One of my favorite places to visit at night is the area near the Washington Monument – here, you can see the monument itself as well as the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol building all lit up.

There’s a really awesome night bike tour of DC you can take to see some of the city’s most beautiful areas in the most tranquil time of day.

Party it Up at an Embassy

Yes, really!

Occasionally,  DC’s embassies from a variety of countries will open their doors to the public for a night of cocktails and events. For example, Mexico’s embassy did a Day of the Dead celebration in November of last year to celebrate this important holiday in their culture.

Some of these events are even free to the public. This is a great way to see DC and avoid the tourists.

Typically you have to buy a ticket in advance for these parties, but it depends on the event. 

If you want to know more about the embassy and cultural events going on here, check out this list.

Visit the National Harbor

National Harbor

DC doesn’t really have a Coney Island, but the closest thing is our National Harbor . Home to different things and sights such as casinos, fantastic dining options, and bustling walking areas, the National Harbor is a great place to spend an evening.

One of the most well-known sights on the National Harbor is the ferris wheel, also known as the Capital Wheel.

Riding the wheel boasts some views of the Potomac River and is a fun way to spend a little while when you’re at the National Harbor.

You can learn more about pricing and tickets on the Capital Wheel website .

Admire The Cherry Blossoms Around The Tidal Basin

Cherry Blossoms Tidal Basin

In early April, one of DC’s most iconic sights is the cherry blossoms , whose pastel pink blossoms can be found across the city. However, the most famous place to view these gorgeous blooms is at the Tidal Basin.

Grab a jacket and take a walk, admiring how the pink colors reflect off the water. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, enter the lottery for the Cherry Blossoms 10 miler and go for a run through these beautiful, flowered streets. It is an excellent complement to a museum day in late March/early April.

Hit Up Jazz in The Garden

In the summer, the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden opens its gates for live jazz music and pitchers of sangria .

On Fridays from June to August, you can see DC’s young professionals flocking there in high numbers to lay down picnic blankets and snack on wine and cheese, catching up about their busy weeks and enjoying the sometimes quaint, but always quality jazz music that fills the air.

When I first moved to DC, this was one of the first events I ever went to! It’s so fun to sit back and unwind with friends amidst the towering sculptures in the garden.

Or Go Ice Skating in That Same Garden

In the winter, the sculpture garden’s fountain area turns into an ice skating rink! For a small fee, you can rent skates and go ice skating there.

Families, hockey players, and young professionals alike swirl around the rink during the day. It’s definitely a fun way to spend some time outdoors in the chill of the winter.

Hop on a Boat Ride in Georgetown

Boat ride georgetown

Summertime is the perfect time to go boating, and Georgetown offers plenty of options. From boozy boats to elegant dinner cruises by the DC skyline, or simple tourist water taxis, there’s something for every kind of visitor here. There are many tour companies that offer boat tours in DC.

Head to The Downtown Holiday Market

During the holiday season, DC steals some of the traditional Christmas market flair from Europe and brings it to its own streets.

What results is rows of street stalls selling artisan items, baked goods, condiments, and more. Of course, along with any holiday market, there are traditional drinks like mulled wine, as well as non-alcoholic delights like hot chocolate.

In the wintertime, bundle up and head to the Downtown Holiday Market to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season.

Explore The Historic Fish Market

The fish market in DC is a strange attraction to see. Filled with a handful of floating stalls on the waterfront, it looks like it hasn’t changed much in a while, boasting decades-old facades and peeling paint. But the charm of the fish market is just how unpretentious it feels – vendors are there to sell fish, and sell fish alone.

Established in 1805 – it’s actually the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the US!

Each vendor has ice boxes showcasing their catches of the day, and lines here often get very long to buy the cream of the crop. In addition to buying several varieties of fish and shellfish here, there are also stalls that sell meals like gumbo, fried shrimp, etc.

For seafood lovers, this is a unique place in DC that’s definitely worth a visit, if even just to see where the magic happens.

The market is open from 8am to 8pm.

Wander Through a Farmer’s Market

Except for the winter time, there are farmer’s markets all over the city of Washington DC. Two of the largest ones are Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights, but there are many others you can peruse as well.

Farmer’s markets offer fresh produce, artisan food items, prepared food, live music, and often, the best part…FREE SAMPLES. My favorite farmer’s market is the Dupont Circle market, because it spans a few blocks and seemingly has everything. These are a great place to people-watch, too!

Peruse The Stalls at Union Market

Located in the up-and-coming NoMa neighborhood, Union Market is a newer warehouse-like establishment featuring many indoor food vendors and boutique shops.

This is definitely the most upscale of the markets here, designed to be a place for young professionals and families alike to hang out, sip on a glass of wine, and eat finger foods while catching up with friends.

Or Wander Through the Streets of Eastern Market

Eastern Market is a neighborhood in DC, but it’s also an interesting weekend street market that I didn’t group into the “farmer’s market” category because it is so unique.

During the weekend, street stalls here sell a variety of oddities, from maps to clothing to soaps and more. The weekend flea market is my absolute favourite as it’s a mishmash of old treasures and small, made in DC businesses selling local produce. 

On top of that, there’s a market building that houses meat items, fresh local vegetables, and other foods.

In addition, there are several coffee shops and brunch spots lining the streets, opening their doors to hungry market-goers who need some refreshments. It’s worth spending a whole morning here just wandering around and checking out what’s for sale.

Duck into The Charming Blagden Alley

I mentioned Blagden Alley in the street art entry but it’s such a cool spot that it deserves an entry of its own. 

Tucked behind some unassuming buildings in Shaw is a peculiar alleyway that doesn’t look like much from the street. However, this alley houses a coffee shop and a few restaurants and bars, as well as a street mosaic and strange cobblestone streets. Then there’s the street art – bold and wonderful – a mini-open air art gallery for all to see. 

It’s one of those weird things I would have never known about if a friend of mine hadn’t taken me there and shown it to me. If you’re hanging out in the Shaw area, Blagden Alley is definitely a cool thing to see.

Wander Around The Wharf

Anthem Washington

One of DC’s newer constructions is a waterfront area in Southwest DC, near Navy Yard, called The Wharf.

Accessible from the metro, this waterfront boasts shops, restaurants, and a brand new performance venue called the Anthem. There are also lots of bars in this up-and-coming area, perfect for a night on the town with friends.

Visit A Historic Home

OK, OK, I know these are ~ kind of ~ museums, but they never get mentioned anywhere in museum posts, so I thought I’d include them here.  Historic homes are an often neglected attraction in Washington. Because it has been a city critical to the formation of the United States, DC has a lot of historic old homes you can tour.

In Georgetown, the Old Stone House is the oldest house in DC and the only pre-Revolutionary colonial building left in the city. Built in 1765 – more than 85% of the house still dates back to the 18th-century original. Crazy right? There are guided tours throughout the day.

Or, head to the Heurich House, which is a historic home that boasts some odd decor and architecture inside its four walls. Also known as the Brewmaster’s Castle, it was built in the 1890s for German brewer Christian Heurich and showcases many technological advancements at the time including (wait for it…) electric lighting. 

You can tour the museum from Thursday to Saturday with pre-registration or just hang out in the lovely Biergarten which is open from Wednesday to Saturday. 

For a list of historic homes in DC, check out this site.

People Watch at the National Mall

People Watch National Mall Washington

The National Mall is full of museums and monuments, but some of the prime viewing here is of the people around you. Grab a bench, pick up a bag of popcorn and watch the world go by – it can often lead to some pretty funny or interesting insights about the humans of DC.

Food and Drink

Check out the latest pop-up bars.

Washington DC Bar

Remember the Game of Thrones bar? Or the Cherry Blossom bar? DC is home to some weird and wonderful pop up bars all over the city that rotate throughout the year. One minute, it’s a terrifying Halloween-themed bar, the next, it’s Christmas!

The most well-known pop up bar is located in the neighborhood of Shaw, and it’s worth going there any time of year to see what the new theme is. 

It’s coming up to Christmas now – my current favourites include Miracle at Death Punch Bar, Ciel Chalet at Ciel Social Club, Krampus at Side Door and Sippin’ Santa at Archipelago – catch ‘em quick before they’re gone. 

Think of it as a different adventure every couple of weeks!

Hit Up The Hottest Happy Hours

DC young professionals LOVE happy hour. For many of us (myself included) happy hour is the new dinner. Typically occurring from 4-7 PM, people flock to some of the best bars in Washington, DC for discounted food, drink, and social time.

There are happy hours all over the city, but some of the most popular areas to go are Dupont Circle/Adams Morgan, 14th Street, U Street, Shaw, and Gallery Place.

Visit a Speakeasy

Hidden behind closed doors of seemingly abandoned buildings lie a set of super unique underground bars called speakeasies. Much like the Prohibition era, these bars are difficult to find, but when you stumble upon a good one, it’s a strangely amazing experience.

My favorite speakeasy in DC is called The Gibson – it’s in the U Street area, but I’ll leave it up to you to find its exact location. There are many other speakeasies in DC – for a complete list, visit this site .

Wine and Dine at a Historic Institution

Martin’s Tavern…Old Ebbitt Grill…what do they have in common? They’re all historic dining institutions in DC, where the likes of US presidents would hang out and discuss important political matters.

When you step inside one of these fascinating places, you step into a world of history and grandeur, with wood-paneled bars and tables, and furnishings that look like they’ve been around a century. If you go to Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, you can even request to sit at the table where JFK and Jackie got engaged.

While Away The Afternoon at a Brewery

Washington Brewery

Breweries and beer gardens are extremely popular hangouts in Washington DC, especially in the summer months. 

Wunder Garten in NoMa is a standout, offering a mix of local brews, German and Austrian beers and food on its large patio. 

The Red Bear Brewing Co is a cool 100% gay-owned brewery with excellent craft beers, while if you love sour beers, you need to head to Right Proper Brewing Co which specialises in the very same. 

Many allow you to bring your own food, sit back with friends, and sip on some local brews in open air. 

Go To One of DC’s Michelin Starred Delights

If you prefer high-class restaurants, the fine dining options in DC are competitive with most major cities in the world. Ranging in type from new American fare to sushi, there’s plenty of variety in the Michelin-star world of DC.

Some of the hottest restaurants on the Michelin list are Plume, Rose’s Luxury, Blue Duck Tavern, and Pineapple & Pearls.

For a complete list of the 2023 Michelin star rankings, check out this post.

Sit back at a Locally-Owned Coffee Shop (or a Teahouse!)

DC’s coffee scene is fabulous, and this is coming from someone who spends a LOT of time in coffee shops working on…ahem…this site.

You can head to a city favorite like Compass, Peregrine, or La Colombe, or go to a one-off tea shop like Calabash in Shaw.

If you don’t want to decide between your coffee brews and your cocktails, check out Tryst in Adams Morgan, which serves coffee, tea, AND cocktails behind their bar. Why choose if you can have both?

Go Out For a Night Out on The Town

While it’s not Las Vegas, the nightlife scene in DC can be super fun, if you know where to go. Some of the hotspots for night time activity include Adams Morgan and U Street, but there are bars all over the city, from Navy Yard to Columbia Heights.

Some restaurants even turn into clubs at night – the one that always makes me laugh is the club on the third floor of a quaint Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna, in downtown DC.

Sample International Cuisine

Because of the presence of so many embassies and international organizations, DC hosts incredibly diverse and delicious cuisine.

You can find traditional foods ranging from Japanese to Swiss to Senegalese to Georgian, or you can sample fusion foods like Peruvian-Chinese.

One of my favorite fusion restaurants is called Compass Rose, which offers tapas-style shared plates from all over the word, including more obscure places like Georgia and Central Asia.

Outdoors Activities in Washington D.C

Meander through the national arboretum.

National Arboretum

If you’re looking for a unique outdoor experience, head to the National Arboretum .

This large park is a little bit removed from the bustle of downtown, and for good reason – it houses beautiful old columns form the capital, lovely wildflowers, and winding walking paths for you and your dog (or your imaginary dog…it’s cool, I have one too).

Go To A Dog Park

If there’s one thing about DC that’s true all the time, it’s that it’s a dog city. Everyone and their mother seems to own a dog. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can head to a dog park and watch the dogs sprinting around, barking at each other, and having fun.

It’s always a lift in spirits to be around pups, and even more when they’re running freely in the open air.

Paddle Through the City on the Potomac River

Sometimes people forget that the Potomac River runs right through some of the city’s most spectacular sights, and that you can see a completely different perspective of the US capital from the water.

If you love being outdoors, or are looking for a unique, romantic thing to do in the city, go kayaking in DC and explore the city from the water. You can rent a kayak! Exploring the city from the water will give you a unique perspective that not many visitors get to see.

Join a Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park

In my opinion, this is one of the wackiest things to do in DC. On Sundays at 3 PM, there’s a large, ongoing drum circle at Meridian Hill Park.

Anyone can join or watch the drum circle, and it’s fascinating to see people just drumming along with complete strangers, nodding their heads with grins on their faces.

You might think it sounds like a bunch of drums beating out of rhythm, but it actually stays pretty in sync. This is definitely something to experience if you’re looking for a unique thing to do in DC.

Go For a Walk in Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is one of DC’s outdoor gems. With 1,700+ acres of forested park area in the middle of Washington DC, it’s perfect for the outdoor enthusiast or people who enjoy exploring urban green spaces.

There are trails here that go on for miles and miles, and it’s worth spending a whole day here if you enjoy fresh air and walking through nature to the chaos of the city.

Or Do Some Hiking at Great Falls

If you have a car (or access to one), you can’t miss Great Falls. Although it’s located a little bit out of the city on the Virginia-Maryland border, I’ve included it on this list because it is an absolutely spectacular sight.

Here, the Potomac cascades and crashes over sharp rocks in a canyon-like area, causing a mesmerizing set of waterfalls. It’s truly like being in another world there. There are several miles of hiking trails here, ranging from flat, easy hikes to tricky rock scrambles. You can take your pick.

Explore the City on Wheels

There’s really no better way to get around Washington DC than by bike. Because it’s a fairly small city, it’s easy to get around from place to place on a bike. You can get to the main landmarks while still being able to see some interesting sights along the way.

DC boasts a popular bike tour that takes you through some of the city’s iconic areas and through charming neighborhoods, too.

If you’re on a budget, companies like Capital Bikeshare offer rental bikes by the hour for reasonable prices – you grab one and hit the road to explore this weird and wonderful city at your own pace.

Read More Washington DC Guides 

  • A Weekend in Washington DC: Step-by-Step Itinerary
  • Brilliant Day Trips from Washington D.C
  • Where to Stay in Washington DC
  • How to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC 
  • The Ultimate USA Bucket List

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37 Non-Touristy Things To Do in Washington DC Besides Museums and Monuments

I’m Kay. I’m originally from small town Virginia, but have moved all around the East Coast and the United States for basically my entire life. I spent my childhood days blissfully wandering through the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling in leaves, playing in creeks…you know, the usual overly adventurous 5-year-old stuff.

But those early years spent outside gave me a real problem: I’m now an adventure addict. Basically, if I’m not at my computer banging out articles or photos, I’m probably out hiking, biking, or camping somewhere beautiful.

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Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The best museums in Washington, D.C. to visit year round

Art, sculptures, spy mobiles and famous slippers—the world's history and treasures are on display at the best museums in D.C.

History buffs, art enthusiasts and people simply interested in America's past need to look no further than the best museums in D.C. The nation's capital has much to offer in the way of cultural institutions, many of which are free to enjoy, we might add. You'll find most of them within walking distance to one another, if not a short ride or drive away. Washington, D.C.'s best museums are housed in some of the country's most remarkable buildings. So, if what's inside doesn't pique your interest, marveling at the architecture will keep you busy for many hours.

Visiting the best museums in D.C. can get a bit overwhelming, but we're here to guide you to the galleries and spaces you can't miss—whether you're into modern art, pop culture, African American history or old nuclear missiles. Trust us, there's something for you. 

RECOMMENDED: 📍 The best  things to do in Washington, D.C. 🏛️ The best  Washington, D.C. attractions 🍴 The best  restaurants in D.C. right now 🏘️ The best  Airbnbs in Washington, D.C .

This guide was written by Washington, D.C . locals.   At Time Out, all of our  travel guides  are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our  editorial guidelines . 

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Best museums in D.C.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

1.  National Museum of African American History and Culture

  • Things to do

The most iconic museum in D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has eight floors of fascinating historical exhibits. Here, you’ll find tributes to historical figures, moments, and events that have shaped America’s past and present day. You’d actually need a number of days to fully explore everything here, but you can still get a mighty lot done in a few hours (with a stop at the lovely Sweet Home Café for lunch). 

National Museum of Asian Art

2.  National Museum of Asian Art

The National Museum of Asian Art is an incredibly thoughtfully put together group of exhibits to help visitors learn about Asian history in the US and beyond. From Chinese and Japanese contemporary art to artifacts from Ancient Egypt, this museum is a central hub for the Asian community and more in D.C. You can book self-guided visits, virtual tours or onsite tours, and there are kid-friendly days and tours too. 

National Museum of the American Indian

3.  National Museum of the American Indian

Dedicated to America’s colonized and historically abused Indigenous people, the National Museum of the American Indian joined the Mall in 2004, bringing with it significant Native American artifacts and a renowned cafeteria. (The Mitsitam Native Foods Café offers a stunning collection of dishes inspired by Indigenous cuisines.)

The building is as much a part of the message as the exhibits. The details are extraordinary: dramatic, Kasota limestone-clad undulating walls resemble a wind-carved mesa. The museum’s main entrance plaza plots the star configurations on November 28, 1989, when federal legislation was introduced to create the museum. The museum is also curated with art in various mediums from a diverse assortment of Indigenous American nations. Artwork includes film, photography, pottery, textiles, woodworking, and much more. 

Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

4.  Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

  • Art and design

This spectacular, aggressively modern cylindrical building enlivens the predominantly neoclassical architecture lining the Mall. The structure, which was completed in 1974, was meant to house self-made Wall Street millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection of 20th-century paintings and sculptures. The museum now presents art in a range of media, including works on paper, painting, installation, photography, sculpture, digital and video art. The museum has housed some of the most-hyped visiting exhibitions on earth, from Ai Weiwei’s "Trace" to Kusama’s "Infinity Mirrors."   

National Museum of African Art

5.  National Museum of African Art

This museum ’s entrance pavilion lies across the amazing Enid Haupt Garden, directly across from its twin, the Sackler. The museum opened in 1987, and its primary focus is ancient and contemporary work from sub-Saharan Africa. The museum draws visitors into different aspects of African art and culture. The rich ceremonial garb and textiles, including blankets made in Mali and embroidered hunters’ shirts, are a must-see.  

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

6.  Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Renwick's informal motto might be "go big or go home." The museum is popular for its interactive exhibits and large-scale modern art pieces. Perhaps best known for its blockbuster, much-Instagrammed exhibits, 2015's "Wonder" and 2018's "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man," this Smithsonian museum celebrates craft and design in the digital age. Other notable exhibits have included the quirky “Murder Is Her Hobby,” a collection of gruesome doll houses used to help detectives solve crime scenes. 

National Air and Space Museum

7.  National Air and Space Museum

Air and Space tops visitors’ to-do list, year in, year out. In the central Milestones of Flight Hall, towering U.S. Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can see a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The 1903 Wright Flyer—the first piloted craft to maintain controlled, sustained flight (if only for a few seconds)—and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis are both suspended here. Carve out three to four hours and don't miss the test model of the Hubble Space Telescope, which is currently orbiting in space, taking snapshots of the universe. 

National Museum of Natural History

8.  National Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History is iconic on the Mall. The museum boasts longtime favorites like the Hope Diamond, which has drawn crowds for over sixty years, and state-of-the-art exhibits like the Hall of North American Mammals. The recently renovated Hall of Fossils is a must-see— visitors may feel as if they've traveled back in time. But don't worry, these dinosaurs don't bite.  Dinosaur fossils are posed interacting with each other, even engaged in life-and-death battles.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

9.  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

This three-floor museum contains more than 900 artifacts and four theaters showing archival footage and survivor testimony from the Holocaust. Themes such as the murder of the disabled, Nazi eugenics and resistance, and Jewish resistance all present a chronological history of the event.

The objects and symbols make powerful impressions: thousands of camp victims’ shoes piled in a heap personalize the losses. While the main exhibition is suitable for children of 11 and over only, a specially designed children’s exhibition, “Daniel’s Story,” at ground level, is presented to children of eight and over and teaches about the Holocaust through the story of one boy. Guests should consider reserving their tickets beforehand since wait lines can be long. 

Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery

10.  Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum take up two sides of the same interconnected building. Among the most notable portraits are Gilbert Stuart’s seminal “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington and Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn. The Portrait Gallery houses the only complete collection of U.S. Presidents' portraits, while the American Art Museum houses prominent works by American artists, including Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe.

Unlike many other museums in the area, the dual museums also include an open, airy courtyard—the perfect place to rest, eat lunch, read a book, or splash your feet in the flowing water fountains.

National Gallery of Art

11.  National Gallery of Art

  • National Mall

Comprising two separate buildings connected by a trippy underground moving walkway, the National Gallery of Art is a world-class museum with artwork from around the globe.

The West Building highlights European and American art from the 13th to the early 20th centuries, as well as Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, French and German works from the 17th century. Don't miss Leonardo da Vinci’s almond-eyed portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, the artist's only work in the Western Hemisphere.

The East Building represents more current work, including a skylit atrium that houses a 32-foot-long still mobile by Alexander Calder. Stroll through the sculpture garden, a six-acre square across 7th Street that includes a Louise Bourgeois 10-foot bronze spider and a pyramid by Sol LeWitt. Free timed entry passes are required.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

12.  National Museum of Women in the Arts

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) houses a collection of more than 4,500 works by more than 1,000 women from the 16th century to the present. Highlights of the permanent exhibit include Frida Kahlo’s defiant 1937 Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky , as well as works by Elisabetta Sirani, Alma Woodsey Thomas and Barbara Hepworth. There are also special collections of 17th-century botanical prints by Maria Sibylla Merian and works by British and Irish women silversmiths from the 17th to 19th centuries. The museum hosts free community days every other week, on the first Sunday and second Wednesday of every month.

Postal Museum

13.  Postal Museum

The Postal Museum is perhaps the most obscure of the Smithsonian’s offerings. A museum devoted to postal history and philately (stamp collecting) may sound like a hard sell, but there’s a trove of interactive and entertaining exhibits housed within the skeleton of what was once the enormous D.C. City Post Office. Check out the permanent exhibit “Systems at Work,” which recreates the journey of letters, magazines, parcels and other mail from sender to recipient. Pick out stamps from around the globe to start your own stamp collection. Write and ship a postcard directly from the museum. And go to the downstairs level of the museum to explore how mail has traveled across the country on trains, planes, and carriages.

National Museum of American History

14.  National Museum of American History

The continuing transformation of the National Museum of American History has led to several renovations that highlight some of America's most beloved artifacts. Floors are organized around loose themes, allowing a huge diversity of exhibits to tell American stories in an entertaining and informative manner. We love the First Ladies' dresses and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. Oh! And there’s Julia Child’s actual kitchen. 

National Building Museum

15.  National Building Museum

  • Judiciary Square

A privately run collection, the National Building Museum produces smart, noteworthy exhibits focusing on architects and the built environment, both contemporary and historical. Among the exhibitions, "House & Home" discovers the history and many meanings of 'home,' both physical and cultural, with an array of all things household, from household goods and decorations (including a poster of Farrah Fawcett and a fondue set), to building materials to mortgage papers. Fittingly, the building itself is gorgeous: an Italian Renaissance-style Great Hall features eight colossal 75-foot Corinthian columns that lead to a ceiling 15 stories above. 

International Spy Museum

16.  International Spy Museum

  • Penn Quarter

The world of D.C.’s prestige paid-entry museums was shaken up dramatically in 2019, with the Newseum closing indefinitely and the International Spy Museum moving to sleek new digs in L’Enfant Plaza. In its larger space, the museum boasts many exhibits that lean so hard into “infotainment” that a trip can feel less like learning about spies and more like a game of pretending to be one. Test your sleuthing abilities and gawk at an array of spy gadgets, including KGB-issued poison pellet shooting umbrellas and Germany’s Steineck ABC wristwatch camera. James Bond junkies will be in heaven—the groovy silver Aston Martin from 1964’s Goldfinger assumes a central spot in the museum. 

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The best things in Washington, DC with kids

Apr 9, 2024 • 6 min read

interesting places to visit in dc

From the national narrative to splashing about in fountains, Washington, DC is a great destination for families © Marc Dufresne / Getty Images

America's capital city is a fantastic destination to visit with children in tow. It's filled with kid-friendly museums, has an abundance of parks in which younger visitors can burn off excess energy, and a logical, pedestrian-friendly layout (let's not forget that DC was designed to showcase urban planning at its very best). 

Here are our top tips for exploring the city with children.

A woman and a child at the National Gallery of Art East Building, Washington DC

Is Washington, DC, good for kids?

As America's first purpose-built city, Washington, DC, is, in many ways, a dream to explore with younger visitors. It's flat with very few hills, and roads and sidewalks are wide, smooth and well-maintained, perfect for parents pushing strollers. 

Almost all of DC's top attractions are refreshingly accessible – every Smithsonian Museum has ramps, for example, and most museums and major landmarks will have family-friendly restrooms. Generally, you'll almost always be able to enter with strollers, although the White House , which has some of the tightest restrictions, is one of the few places where strollers are on the banned list. 

The large number of gardens and parks means there are endless places for kids to burn off excess energy – the National Mall , for example, has over 20,000 trees and numerous dedicated picnic areas with benches and tables. Thirsty kids (and their parents) are also in luck – most businesses, including restaurants, museums and galleries, will happily top up water bottles, and you'll find public water fountains throughout the city, including 47 on the National Mall alone.

A tactical approach to timing can transform your holiday. If you're visiting during August and September (the hottest months of the year), you'll want to avoid spending too much time outside in the late morning and early afternoon. Take advantage of the extended opening times offered by many museums – crowds tend to thin out after 5pm, and the Library of Congress , the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art are just a few of the institutions that run so-called "late nights."

Catching public transport

Public transport in Washington, DC, is also incredibly accessible, and all train stations have ramps, elevators and extra-wide ticket gates designed with strollers and wheelchairs in mind. All Metro trains have priority seating, usually next to the train's doors. Almost all public buses have ramps, although if you're traveling with a stroller, check the size – most buses, including the DC Circulator buses, won't allow strollers more than 48" long and 24" wide. 

Getting around DC is easier than you think –  here's how

Hiking path in Rock Creek Park during Spring time in Washington DC

Best things to do in Washington, DC, with babies and toddlers

National museum of american history.

At the National Museum of American History , parents can take some time out at the Wegmans Wonderplace in the museum's west wing. This baby and toddler-friendly hangout has a playroom, family restroom and nursing area (complete with nursing pillows).

Rock Creek Park

The beautiful Rock Creek Park north of the city center has 1754 acres to explore and plenty of fantastic picnic spots (including several next to waterfalls). Toddlers will love the park's Discovery Room, filled with hands-on exhibits and children's books about wildlife, and many of the trails – including the Edge of the Woods Trail – have been designed with strollers and wheelchairs in mind.

Best things to do in Washington, DC with children

Us botanic garden.

The US Botanic Garden , which is free to visit, has a dedicated Children's Garden where younger visitors can help staff care for the various plants, along with a scavenger trail lined with rare plants – kids who spot certain species can get a passport book stamped.

A boat tour along the Potomac 

A riverboat tour is a great activity for kids, who can tick off the city's famous landmarks as they float along the Potomac. Capitol River Cruises offers a range of sailings, although their 45-minute scenic sightseeing cruise hits all the highlights. Tickets are priced around $25 for adults and $15 for children between three and 12. Kids under three are free.

Paddle boats in the Tidal Basin at Washington D. C. with cherry blossoms.

Best things to do in Washington, DC with teenagers and tweenagers

Mount vernon.

Let's face it: teenagers and tweenagers are prone to occasional protestations of boredom, but we've got the perfect solution for anyone who starts to moan about being "museumed out." 

For a change of scenery, head across the water to the Mount Vernon estate, the former home of George and Martha Washington. You can explore the main house on guided tours, watch sparks fly in the blacksmith's shop and stop by the estate's working farm (activities here include sheep-shearing lessons and the chance to pet the ridiculously cute Hog Island Sheep). Not only will you learn about the Washington family – you'll also gain insights into the lives of people enslaved on the estate. The estate is 15 miles south of Washington, DC. To get there, take the metro's Yellow Line to Huntington Station before hopping on the Fairfax Connector bus to Mount Vernon.

The International Spy Museum

Wannabe James Bonds will love L'Enfant Plaza's International Spy Museum , which is filled with interactive exhibits, including ones that encourage them to take part in their very own undercover mission. Our only gripe is that this is one of the few museums that isn't admission-free. Entry fees vary according to the time of year, but children's tickets start at around $19, while adults' tickets start at around $29. Children aged under six visit for free.

Paddle across the Tidal Basin

This is a two-mile-long reservoir wedged between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Teens and tweens can hire a paddle boat (from $38 per hour) and admire landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial from the water.

Planning tips

  • Don't underestimate how accessible DC's transport network is – the city's bus and metro system is refreshingly easy to navigate.
  • If you're visiting a museum or gallery, always ask what kid-friendly programs and events are taking place.
  • DC has plenty of places to cool off, including lots of splash parks, such as The Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront area. There's a large splash pool and brightly lit dancing fountains after dark. Another notable destination is Canal Park Fountains (also in the Capitol Riverfront area), which has numerous fountains and splash pools with stepping-stone crossings.
  • Always ask what kid-friendly freebies are available. For example, staff at the US Capitol's visitor center have stashes of police badges to hand out to children.
  • Whether it's a museum, gallery or landmark, always book in advance if tickets are required, even if tickets are free – you won't just get guaranteed entry but will also cut queuing times.

Keep planning your trip to Washington, DC:

These experiences  should be on your DC itinerary  And these incredible experiences  won't cost you a thing Get up close with nature and more history on  these day trips Get to know DC like a local in  these top neighborhoods 

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