Visiting Washington DC can be both very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. There is so much to see and do in the city, so it can be difficult to fit it all in during your trip. My brother has lived in Washington DC for over 6 years now, and I have visited him many times while he has lived there. I have put together a list of the Top 20 things to do in Washington, D.C. I am hopeful that this list will help you put together a list of priorities and help make sure you see and do everything that you want to while you are in the city.
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The National Mall is a long, grassy area that is home to many national monuments including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Many people take their daily jogs through the mall and sit down for a weekend picnic on the grassy area. You will often find school groups stopped here to eat their packed lunches during their tours of the monuments. You can see the U.S. Capitol to the East of the National Mall, while the White House sits to the North. Check out my two favorite activities that I like to do when visiting the National Mall in Washington D.C. below.
Guided Sightseeing Tours
Taking a guided tour in Washington DC is a great way to see many things on your list in a short period of time. It is also neat to hear everything that the guides have to say about what you are seeing. They typically offer information about monuments and structures in Washington DC that you have never heard before.
The Full-Day Guided tour that I recommend is below. It even offers a Scenic River Cruise which is an added bonus and not typical in Monumental Tours.
Attend a Washington Nationals Baseball Game
Whether you are a sports fan or not, seeing a Washington Nationals Baseball Game is a very cool experience. Depending on the time of year you are visiting, you could even attend one of their “unique” events that they hold during specific games. A few of these include “Pups in the Park”, “US Space Force Day”, and “Military Appreciation Day”.
United States Capitol Tour
The United States Capitol is unique because it is a working office building, but it is also a place where visitors from all over the world come to learn about American Democracy.
*INSIDERS TIP: Sometimes you are able to obtain a Gallery pass from the office of your senator or representative. This pass would allow you to watch congress while they are in session. If congress is not in session, the pass would allow you to visit the top deck of the gallery and see the area where the senators and/or representatives meet while in session.
Here is a great walking tour that includes a visit to Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court Building, and the Congressional Offices.
Dinner Cruise on the Odyssey
The Odyssey is a unique, luxury boat designed to provide the ultimate viewing of Washington DC. Depending on when you are on the boat, they provide a gourmet brunch or a 3-course dinner for you to enjoy while cruising on the Potomac River.
Monuments & Memorials Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
This open-air double-decker bus will immerse you into the beauty of Washington DC and all it has to offer. Since this is a Hop-On Hop-Off tour, you have the freedom to explore and hop-on or hop-off at any stop on two routes around the city. You have unlimited access to 2 city loops and a 1-hour free bike rental by booking this tour. You will visit famous sights such as The White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and more.
Visit the Holocaust Museum
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is located in Washington DC. The museum presents a chronological history of the Holocaust using artifacts, films, photographs, and eyewitness testimonies. Since the nature of the museum is directed toward a mature audience, they recommend visitors to be at least 11 years old. This museum is free to the public, but reserving tickets in advance is required. You can reserve tickets online before your visit to the museum up to 2 months in advance. Check out more about the museum and reserve tickets online here.
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History surrounds you with the fascinating story of our planet, from its beginnings through billions of years of transformation. The museum allows you to explore life on Earth through exhibitions, activities, and research that happens in the lab and in the field. Some of the exhibits that the museum currently offer are the African Bush Elephant, African Voices, Butterfly Pavilion, and Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World. This museum is open 7 days a week, and visitors are usually inside for an average of 2 hours. Get more details and visitors tips by clicking this link.
Kick Axe Throwing
Experience the rush of Axe throwing at Kick Axe Throwing in Washington DC. This is a thrilling experience that I loved taking part in for the first time with my family. Kick Axe even has a bar area where you can hang out and watch sporting events before or after your time in the range area (if you are 21+). Take a look at the pricing and other information regarding scheduling a time to hang out with your friends at Kick Axe Throwing here!
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is a United States Military Cemetery that is considered the Nation’s “Most hollow ground”. The Cemetery is 639 acres and is very hilly, which requires moderate physical exertion. There are over 400,000 veterans and their eligible dependents buried at Arlington Cemetery. Some of the well-known gravesites that are at this cemetery include John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and William Howard Taft. Arlington is an active cemetery, so they ask that people speak quietly, enjoy the space appropriately, and show respect to the flag while they are visiting.
- Changing of the Guard:
- The tomb of the unknown soldier is Arlington National Cemetery’s most iconic memorial. The military guard at the tomb is changed in an elaborate ceremony which happens every hour, on the hour. I would highly recommend watching this ceremony while visiting Arlington.
White House Tour
Public tour requests to visit the White House are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. The requests must be submitted through a Member of Congress a minimum of 21 days in advance, and no more than 90 days in advance of the requested tour date. All tours are free of charge and, if accepted, you will be given a specific tour time.
Visit the National Gallery of Art
According to its website, “The National Gallery of Art serves the nation by welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity.” This Gallery serves as a center of visual art, education, and culture. They currently have a collection of more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings that showcase some of the triumphs of human creativity.
Take a look at their website for more information regarding visiting the National Gallery of Art.
The National Zoo is one of the oldest Zoos in the United States and it does not charge admission. The National Zoo is known for their seven Giant Pandas, and even have a “Panda Cam” where you can watch the Giant Pandas from wherever you are. This is a great activity to take part in if you have children visiting Washington D.C. with you.
Visit the Eastern Market
The Eastern Market has a variety of offerings, depending on the time of year and the day of the week. The market includes indoor merchants who offer fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, meats, poultry, and deli products. They also have a Farmers Market on Tuesdays, where farmers sell their local produce, meat and cheese. On the weekends, the Eastern Market offers an open-air venue where local farmers sell fresh local produce year round. The indoor market is open Tuesday through Sunday, while the weekends offer a bit more excitement with live music and local flair.
Ford’s Theatre first opened in August of 1863 and is still open today. It is infamous for being the site of where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. This theatre now offers museum exhibits, live theatre performances, and immersive learning. Take an on site tour or catch a live performance while you are visiting Washington DC.
Ghosts of the Capital Haunted Walking Tour
According to GetYourGuide.com, this tour offers the ability to “Discover 200 years of history, tragic events, murder, drama, and intrigue on a walking tour of Washington’s most haunted locations.” The tour lasts 1.5 hours and you will visit 8 locations located near the White House.
DC Brew Tour with Tastings and Meal
This guided tour gives you the opportunity to learn about Washington, D.C.’s thriving brewpub scene and also taste a variety of award-winning beverages. The guide will give you an inside look at how beer is made and give you the opportunity to talk to brewery owners about their operations. Transportation by bus is included.
Click HERE to learn more and to check for availability!
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a Smithsonian museum located on the National Mall. Although it was established in 2003, it opened in its permanent home in September 2016. Although the museum is free, you must reserve a timed-entry pass online to enter the museum. This museum has a 4.8 star rating on google and there are more than 22,000 reviews.
Taste of Georgetown Walking Food tour
During this walking tour, your guide will take you through Washington DC’s oldest and most iconic neighborhood, Georgetown. You will be able to enjoy a selection of delicious food tastings while you learn about the History of Georgetown and how food has played a role over the years there. This is a 3 hour long tour and is limited to 8 people.
Eat Gelato at Dolcezza
While in Washington DC I love to get gelato from Dolcezza Gelato and Coffee. Although this is a great spot for Gelato, the city has many other amazing places as well. I highly recommend you try some sort of Gelato while you are taking part in some of the activities that are in this Top 20 things to do in Washington D.C.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Top 20 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Visiting Washington D.C. is an amazing experience, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many things to see and do, and many of the museums and monuments are somber. Don’t forget to mix in some fun while you are there, or your emotions from everything you have seen can take over your mood. When my husband and I visited during Thanksgiving we participated in a “Turkey Trot” around the National Mall. I am pretty proud of the trophy I earned after running the entire 5k in my turkey suit (the onesie subsequently went directly in the trash as my sweat mixed with the “feathers” wasn’t the best mix).
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