10 Best Things To Do In Washington, DC
The District of Columbia on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia has been designated the country’s capital so that the federal government does not fall into one state. George Washington commissioned Pierre-Charles L’Enfant to plan the city, and the L’Enfant project of a network of streets crisscrossed by wide avenues is clearly visible.
The most important of these is Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects two iconic buildings: the White House and the imposing Capitol with a dome. Parallel to and supporting L’Enfant’s vision of an open and spacious city, lies the vast National Mall with museums and monuments.
Visitors can access national symbols such as the Capitol and the White House, as well as dozens of other tourist attractions, including world-class museums and important monuments.
Many of the most important things to see and do are in the northwest quadrant along the National Mall and are best seen on foot. Summers can be uncomfortably hot and humid, so spring and fall are the best times to visit Washington.
Plan your trip to the nation’s capital using our list of Washington’s top attractions.
1. United States Capitol and Capitol Hill
Recognized worldwide as a symbol of the United States, the Capitol is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The massive dome, modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, stands out from all other buildings in Washington.
Like Washington itself, the building has grown since the central section was built between 1793-1812. In 1958-62, the most recent addition widened the main facade in which the presidents are sworn in. On the other side, the marble terrace offers beautiful views of the mall and the city.
The interior is dazzling with frescoes, bas-reliefs, and paintings, especially the rotunda under a large cast-iron dome with a picture by Constantino Brumidi on the ceiling and huge murals depicting scenes from American history on the walls. Next to it, there is the old House of Representatives with monuments of outstanding historical figures. The Little Senate Rotunda leads to the beautifully restored Old Senate House, where the Senate held until 1859 and the Supreme Court until 1935.
Once the free tours have resumed, they can be booked online and started at the visitor’s center on the lower floor, where there is an exciting exhibition on the history of the building. Free weekday afternoon tours visit ornate paintings on the walls and ceilings of corridors in the Senate Wing, designed by Brumidi between 1857 and 1859. To see the Senate or House during a session, you must contact your senator or representative for a pass; foreign visitors can arrange visits through the visitor center.
An underground walkway with historical exhibits leads the Capitol to one of Washington’s little-known places to visit, the Library of Congress. It is the most extensive library globally, inspired by the Paris Opera. You can explore parts of it on your own, but free tours reveal even more of its beautiful interior.
Shown here are one of three surviving complete Gutenberg Bibles, an earlier hand-printed Bible, a draft of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s library, and a gallery full of exhibits that focus on such diverse topics. Like the musical careers of the Gershwin brothers. And the work of editorial drafting technicians and graphic designers.
Address: Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C
2. The Lincoln Memorial
The most beloved Washington monument, the Lincoln Memorial, is at the far end of the mall, separated from the Washington Monument by a reflecting pool.
At its center is a 19-meter-high marble statue of seated and thoughtful President Abraham Lincoln, flanked 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 the eminent sculptor Daniel Chester French. Jules Guerin painted murals on the inner walls depicting important events in Lincoln’s life.
Since its completion in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial has been the scene of several historical events. In 1939, when the all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow famous African-American singer Marian Anderson to perform at a concert at the nearby Constitution Hall, President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made arrangements.
To give an opening concert aired on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, attended by 75,000 people and broadcast to millions of listeners. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech “I have a dream …” from the stages of memory in 1963, re-creating history here.
Visiting this and other landmarks in the mall is a favorite thing to do on a Washington DC evening. All the monuments are illuminated, and many, such as the Lincoln Memorial, are open 24 hours a day. The Lincoln statue is especially brightly lit at night in the temple’s dark interior and framed by white-list columns.
3. National Mall and Veterans Memorials
The wide strip of lawns and swimming pools that make up the broad green belt from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial is also home to many of Washington’s iconic buildings and monuments. The most prominent at its focal point is the Washington Monument, and the war memorials include veterans of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a movable wall with the names of all Americans lost or missing, is one of Washington’s most visited landmarks. A nearby Vietnamese Women’s Monument has a bronze sculpture depicting the three servants helping a wounded soldier. The Korean War Veterans Memorial contains 19 steel sculptures of soldiers. The newest Lifetime Disabled American Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2014.
If you look at the map of Washington’s attractions you’ll notice that many of them are along the National Mall, so you’ll likely spend a lot of time here. In addition to providing a park for walking, running, and picnicking, the mall is a venue for celebrations and festivals. The most famous 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 different regions of the country. The Smithsonian Kite Festival takes place here in late March or early April.
On summer nights, you can often find military bands performing at venues along the mall. The US Navy Band performs on the Capitol steps overlooking the Mall on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Navy Memorial. The United States Air Force Orchestra performs on Tuesdays on the steps of the Capitol and on Fridays at the Monument to the Air Force.
Address: Between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, Washington, D.C
4. The White House
The White House is the official residence of the President of the United States. James Hoban originally built the house of all presidents except George Washington in 1792, and after being burned down by British forces in 1814, it was rebuilt in 1818.
Although interior tours that include eastern, blue, green, and red rooms; dance club; A State Dining Room must be booked well in advance through the congress office or embassy, all tourists visiting Washington DC will want to see this iconic building least from the outside.
The Free White House Visitor Center, within walking distance, has excellent interactive exhibits showing details about the White House and the presidential families. It includes furniture from former presidents, a mock-up of the residence, historical changes, and films about how long they lived there.
The US Army Band’s summer concerts are held at Ellipse, a 54-acre strip of grass that runs to Constitution Avenue. Adjacent to the White House is the elaborate 1833 Greek Renaissance Treasury Building and the 1871 Executive Bureau Building, one of Washington’s most striking old government buildings. From Lafayette Square, one of the city’s most famous Lafayette statues, and the others overlook the White House.
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C
5. The Washington Monument
The 555-meter-long white core of the Washington Monument is a famous icon of the National Mall and a beautiful sight, mainly as it is reflected in the long reflective pool at its feet. The construction of the obelisk in honor of the country’s first president did not go smoothly. Congress approved the plan in 1783, but the ground was not broken until 1848.
When the tower reached 156 feet in 1854, political disputes and lack of funding put the project on hold for several years. The civil war caused further disruption, so the tower was not crowned until 1885, when the Army Corps finally completed it. Engineers.
The different stages of its construction can still be seen through the three color changes of the cladding; Inside is engraved stones from states, cities, overseas, individuals, and social groups, many of the donors who helped with their private funding stages.
You can take the elevator up to get bird’s-eye views of the mall and much of Washington DC. A circle of 50 American flags surrounds the monument’s base.
Address: 15th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C
6. National Air and Space Museum
The National Aviation and Space Museum is one of the most famous museums globally, with a collection of history-making aircraft and spacecraft, including the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and the Spirit of St. Louis Charles Lindbergh, the first solo plane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
The latest flight history is represented by the Apollo 11 command module, which is part of the first human-crewed moon landing mission. Permanent and changing exhibits illustrate the science, history, and technology of aviation and space flight, covering topics such as the use of the air force in two world wars, the space race, the pioneers of space and flight technology, and the next-generation aviation deck.
Many of the exhibits are interactive, and all contain natural, historical objects such as a lunar rock that can be touched. The permanent exhibits illustrate the history and show how and why aviation and space science explain how they 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 cinema, and the Public Observatory on the East Terrace, where you can study lunar craters and view planets and other astronomical objects through telescopes. Flight simulators (for a fee) allow children and adults to fly combat missions with aerial maneuvers such as a 360-degree barrel rotation or experience naval aviation in the F-18 Super Hornet.
The museum also houses the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, adjacent to Dulles Airport. It has even more vintage aircraft and space exploration artifacts, including the Concorde and the Discovery space shuttle. You can watch walkways through the hangars where experts restore vintage planes from observation.
The Aviation and Space Museum is undergoing a seven-year metamorphosis that will change the layout of the 23 galleries and the way it interprets the history and science of aviation. Several exhibits will be closed during renovations, so if any particular displays are of particular interest, you can check on the museum’s website to see if they are open.
Address: 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C
7. National Gallery of Art
Housed in two separate buildings connected by a tunnel, the National Gallery of Art is one of the world’s leading art museums and most popular in the US. Based on the substantial collection of the financier and later treasury secretary Andrew Mellon, it is large and varied. The collection includes European and American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts masterpieces.
Frequent temporary exhibitions complement this unique permanent collection to highlight the art of cultures worldwide. Among the highlights is Ginevra de Benci, the only Da Vinci painting in any American museum. Others include leading French Impressionists (Monet, Degas, and Renoir) and other masterpieces by Rembrandt, El Greco, and Vermeer.
The newer east wing houses sculptures by Henry Moore, a cell phone by Alexander Calder, and other modern works. Free concerts are held at the National Gallery on Sunday evenings from autumn to spring.
They are also part of the Smithsonian Institution, and several other art museums are located in the mall. The Freer Art Gallery contains nearly 30,000 works of Asian art, including Buddhist sculptures and Persian manuscripts, one of the most extensive collections in the world. Freer also features American art from the 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably an extensive collection by James McNeill Whistler.
The combined Arthur M. Sackler Gallery houses over 1,000 exhibits, mainly Chinese jade and bronze, Chinese paintings and varnishes, and ancient pottery and metal from the Middle East.
The Hirshhorn drum museum and sculpture garden trace the history of modern art from the mid-19th century through more than 12,000 works of art and sculptures. One of the garden’s main attractions is Rodin’s Calais Burghers.
The National Museum of African Art displays thousands of items representing a variety of artistic styles across the African continent, including sculptures, masks, costumes, household items, and ceramics. All of these Smithsonian museums are among the many free classes in Washington.
Address: 600 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C
8. National Museum of Natural History
One of Washington’s most popular children’s attractions, the Natural History Museum explores the natural world with constant and changing exhibits that appeal to all ages.
Favorite exhibits include the famous Diamond of Hope and the dazzling collection of gems and minerals that surround it and the Ocean Hall with stunning underwater photography and a 45-meter replica of a North Atlantic whale.
Hall of Human Origins tracks human evolution for six million years in response to a changing world. Children will especially love the dinosaur exhibits and the interactive discovery room to touch and play with various artifacts.
Address: Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C
9. Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin
The design of the white dome monument to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is based on the Roman Pantheon, the low dome of which is supported by 54 Ionic columns. Inside, appearing dramatically through the columns, is a 19-meter tall statue of Jefferson standing, with fragments of the Declaration of Independence and other writings carved around it.
The monument stands only at the tidal pool’s end, reflecting the memorial on its surface, and cherry trees grow on the water’s edge, a gift from Japan. They are one of Washington’s most significant attractions as they bloom each spring, surrounding the pool with a cloud of pink flowers and celebrating at the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Along the Cherry Trail around the Tidal Basin, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument reflects twelve years of American history through four open-air halls. Each one is devoted to one of the terms of FDR as he led the country through the Great Depression and World War II.
Address: 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, D.C
10. National Zoological Park
The National Zoo is another part of the Smithsonian where nearly 2,000 different animals, birds, and reptiles live in habitats that best reflect their natural habitat. About a quarter of the several hundred species represented here is threatened with extinction. It is one of the best zoos globally, not only because of the quality of the visitor experience but also because of its leadership in animal care and sustainability.
The most popular animals here are by far the giant pandas, which are part of a significant initiative that began in 1972 with the arrival of Hsing Hsing from the People’s Republic of China. Other zoo attractions include red pandas, Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas, Asian elephants, cheetahs, white-headed cranes, and North Island brown kiwi.
At the Amazonia exhibition, you can get a glimpse of the colorful underwater life of the Amazon, where one of the world’s largest freshwater fish swims under a lively tropical forest.
Along with the cheetahs at Cheetah Conservation Station, you can see Grevy’s zebras, gazelles, vultures, and river red pigs. On the popular Elephant Trails, you can see the multi-generation herd and learn about the life of elephants in the zoo. And in nature.
Check the daily feeding hours, demonstrations, educational games, and talks. No wonder it’s one of Washington’s favorite places for kids.
Address: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things To Do In Washington, DC
Is Washington DC worth visiting?
Yes, Washington DC is definitely worth visiting. There is so much culture and beautiful neighborhoods to explore. Most of the popular museums and attractions are free to check out, which can make it a budget-friendly vacation that the whole family will enjoy.
Is 1 day enough for Washington DC?
One day in Washington DC is actually enough time to see and do a lot. This one day itinerary for visiting Washington DC includes the best sightseeing around the US capitol, best things to do in DC, and an overall plan for an easy day trip to Washington DC.
Do I need a car in DC?
If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., forget the hassle of renting a car – you won’t need one to see the sites. While we’re there, we never feel the need to rent a car – which is great, because not only are car rentals expensive, but parking in a big city is often a hassle and garages are pricey.
Where should I stay in Washington DC for the first time?
Most people who are visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time are going for the National Mall and Smithsonian Musesums. In that case the best places to stay when visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time is to stay south of the National Mall near the L’Enfant or Federal Center Metro Metro stations.
How much does each tourist spend on average in Washington DC?
Cost of a Trip to Washington, DC, US & the Cheapest Time to Visit Washington. The average price of a 7-day trip to Washington is $1,716 for a solo traveler, $3,082 for a couple, and $5,778 for a family of 4.
What do you wear to dinner in DC?
If you want to fit in with the locals, consider wearing a collared shirt, nice top, jeans/dress pants, and nice sneakers. Jean jackets and sweaters are the perfect layers. In the winter, wear a heavy parka, especially if you want to dine outdoors.
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