Best Things To Do in Washington DC

Things to do in washington dc

My first Washington DC trip was a bit of a write-off. Arriving in the Capital from New York in July, the first thing that hit me was the humidity. I consequently spent the first day shopping for clothes befitting a tropical island in the Pacific, my second day I hid out in a bar that was deliciously cool, had constant air conditioning and served up strong Bloody Mary’s. On my third and final day, I pulled my hungover body around as many of the sights I could, cursing the heat, swearing off vodka and making a promise to return to Washington DC for a second attempt – at a much more temperate time of year.

December probably wasn’t a much better time weather-wise but the USA’s capital was feeling rather festive and with an icy breeze serving as a good motivation to speed up my sightseeing pace, I once again attempted to see the sights of Washington DC. I sent 3 days in Washington D.C. so you can definitely use this to create a 3 day itinerary for Washington D.C. If you have longer, just go at a slower pace. 

Here’s my guide to the best things to do in DC

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The Best Things to Do in Washington DC

I’ve put this list in broad order of how I recommend you work through the many things to see in Washington DC. I’d highly recommend seeing the most iconic DC attractions early on in your trip because DC is one of those places where time whips by and before you know it, your trip is over.

Washington DC’s Best City Sightseeing Tours

If you have more than one day for your Washington DC trip, I suggest spending the first morning or day taking a sightseeing tour. There are plenty to choose from including hop on and hop off city buses to Segway tours to small group private tours. Here are some of the best Washington DC sightseeing tours to help you explore.

Take a Segway Tour of Washington DC

Things to do in washington dc

I out this first because a) I took a Segway Tour of Washington DC; b) it was one of the most fun things to do in Washington DC; c) without realising it (I was focused on the idea of the Segway rather than the itinerary), we visited most of the major sights in a handy 3-hour route through the city. As Washington DC sightseeing goes, this was efficient and fun.

How to do it: I took the Segway DC tour with Unlimited Biking (Price, $64). Starting at 2pm and lasting for 3 hours, the route took us past: The White House, Capitol Building, National Mall, National Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and National WWII Memorial. Phew! Sounds a lot but I barely moved my legs. Definitely  all of the sights below while the guide punctuated the tour with fun, quirky and historical trivia about each of the stops.

It’s worth noting that the tour I took only zooms past the back of the White House, so I separately spent the morning seeing the White House from the front before my Segway tour.

Take a Washington DC Hop On Hop Off City Tour

Segway not for you? I still recommend taking a city sightseeing tour of some form. Not only are they great for undestanding the layout of Washington DC, the city is vast and sprawling so it’s an efficient way to see the highlights. All tours offer tour commentary and, to be honest, some sights you’ll probably be happy to just see from a quick drive past rather than spending half a day getting across the city just to take a snapshot.

How to do it: 

The two best Washington DC sightseeing tour options are: 

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Open-Top Bus Tour – There are a choice of routes you can take and multi-day tickets are the best choice. What’s great is you can see the outlying parts of the city like Arlington Cemetery using the hop on bus. (Price, $45)
  • Hop-On Hop-Off City Trolley Tour – Taking you to 17 of the best things to do in DC, the Old Town Trolley is a well-loved sightseeing company with a simple 1-day sightseeing itinerary. 
  • Washington DC in One Day Sightseeing Tour – want to take a one-day tour but don’t want to get on and off a public bus or trolley? Book this all day tour with stops at the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Vietnam Memorial and more, as well as a one-hour private boat cruise along the Potomac River.

Tip: I’ve listed the main sights below so you’ll be able to get an idea of which ones you’re happy to sail past on a bus or trolley versus the ones you might want to spend a bit more time visiting. 

Washington DC’s Most Famous Sights & The National Mall

Some of these sights will be included if you take a city tour, some you might want to explore in more detail, taking a tour inside. I’ve also included the main openair sights of the National Mall so you can see all of these sights in one go without zigzagging across the city.

See the White House in real life

Things to do in washington dc

The White House is almost certainly going to be on your list when you visit Washington DC. You’ll probably struggle to get an uninterrupted photo of one of the world’s most recognisable homes (they’ve only got a damn fence in the way) but just seeing it with your own eyes is the important thing.

Did you know? George Washington, the first President of the USA, and the person who the capital was named after oversaw the construction of the White House but he never got to live there because his term was up before the building was complete! You can read more on Factmonster here

How to visit the White House:

I just stared at the White House through the railings like most people. It is possible to arrange a self-guided tour inside the White House. However, you have to do it via your Member of Congress (so, a no-go for overseas tourists like me). You can find out more on the White House page here. If you are an overseas tourist like me, you can get a glimpse inside with a stop at the White House Visitor’s Centre – full details here.

Explore The National Mall

Things to do in washington dc

In itself, the National Mall – which is actually an extremely long stretch of lawn, is more of a starting point for seeing the main historic sights in Washington DC rather than being a sight in itself but still, it’s a very pretty and very expansive lawn nonetheless.

Did you know? 

  • The National Mall comprises 146 acres of lawn that run from the Potomac River all the way to the Capitol building.
  • The purpose of the National Mall is a place for public gatherings and many political rallies and events have been held here including the famous march on Washington for jobs and freedom.

You can read more on FactMonster here.

How to visit the National Mall: I visited as part of my Segway Tour (see below). Otherwise, just tap ‘National Mall’ into Google Maps. Or, more specifically, head for the Washington Monument which is probably the most iconic of the many sights at National Mall. 

Visit the Capitol Building

Things to do in washington dc

For me, the Capitol Building is way more impressive (architecturally) than the White House and some of the best views you will get of the Capitol are from the balcony of the Newseum Museum (see below). I only saw the Capitol Building from the outside (both visits) but if you want to explore in more detail, you can book a tour to go inside.

Did you know?

  • The Capitol Building has its own Subway system.
  • The pesky Brits (apologies on behalf of my ancestors), nearly razed the building to the ground during the War of 1812 but a fortuitously timed storm put the flames out.
  • For just over a decade at the beginning of the 1900’s there was a law preventing any building being built higher than the Capitol. Although that law has long been repealed, there are still only 4 buildings in Washington DC that are higher than the Capitol: The Washington Monument, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Old Post Office and the Washington National Cathedral.

You can read more on Mental Floss here.

How to visit the Capitol Building:

If you want to go inside, these two tours include Capitol Building access:

  • You can take a guide-led tour of the Capitol for free – details on the Capitol website here. It’s best to book online to reserve ahead and we prepared to queues in peak season. If you want to skip the line, these two guided tours offer that.
  • VIP Washington DC Tour – As well as priority access and a guided tour inside the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Archives Building (home to the Declaration of Independence), you’ll be driven around Washington DC’s main main sites. As a bonus, there’s also a boat cruise on the Potomac River. This is a Certified Tour, meaning it’s been tried and tested and certified as passing the high standards set by the good folks at Get Your guide. (Price, $125)
  • Washington DC Half Day Tour with US Capitol Priority Access – this half-day tour combines the main sights of Washington DC (by bus) and also includes priority access to the US Capitol Building. (Price, $89)

Marvel at the Washington Monument

Things to do in washington dc

It’s definitely one of the most iconic places to visit in Washington DC and I’ve no doubt you’ve seen it countless times on TV and in movies, but nothing can compete with seeing the National Monument up close and personal. Do both – stand under it but also make sure you get that perfect picture of the monument reflecting in the reflecting pool. Honestly, this is by far one of the best things to do in DC. It’s a bonus that it’s also one of the many free things to do in Washington DC.

Did you know?

  • The Washington Monument is the tallest structure in Washington DC.
  • It was the world’s tallest man-made structure until the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889.
  • Look closely and you’ll see that the stone of the monument is in two shades. That’s because there was a two decade building hiatus during the Civil War. When construction work continued, a different stone was used to complete the monument.

Find out more on History.com

How to visit the Washington Monument – get to National Mall and you can’t miss it. I visited during sunset (in winter) and the light was glorious. All guided tours of Washington DC will have the Washington Monument on the itinerary.

You can now go up, inside the Washington Monument. Closed between 2016 and late 2019, work has now been completed on the elevator meaning you can once again ascend the monument. You can book on the official National Park website here. At only $1 to ride the elevator, is that the best value paid attraction in the USA?

Visit Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial

Things to do in washington dc

Of all the monuments in Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial is my favourite and arguably the most grand. 

Did you know?

  • It was from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream…” speech on 28 August 1963.
  • After President Lincoln was assassinated, plaster cast masks were made of his hands and face and it was those casts that were used to later create the likeness for the memorial (a bit creepy if you ask me!)

How to visit the Lincoln Memorial: (Almost?) all of the Washington DC city tours will include the Lincoln Memorial but you’re going to have to climb the steps to see him up close. The good news is, it’s only a few steps and it’s absolutely worth it. If you have time, see him illuminated at night (more details below on how to take a night tour of Washington DC).

Pay Your Respects At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I always find war memorials haunting but Washington DC is not short on dedications to those who have fought and lost their lives in battle, so it’s almost inevitable that you’ll find yourself at one war memorial or another during your visit to the capital. In my opinion, the Vietnam Veterans memorial, with its stark, black marble, is absolutely one of the most striking you’ll see.

Did you know?

  • The winner of the design competition for the memorial was an unknown, 21-year old student from Yale, Maya Lin, who beat all of the professional architects who entered. (The competition was anonymous).
  • Names are still being added to the wall – in 2006 a marine corporal whose death from a stroke was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967, was added to the memorial.
  • Although striking in black, the memorial is at odds with all of the white marble buildings and monuments that fill the rest of the National Mall.

Find out more at History.com

How to visit the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial: The memorial forms part of the National Mall and is located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. 

Honour the brave at the National WWII Memorial

The National WWII Memorial, just over from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S. during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort from home.

Did you know?

  • The memorial includes a curved Freedom Wall adorned with a field of 4,000 golden stars. Each of those stars stands for 100 American military deaths in the war.
  • In front of the Freedom Wall is the inscription: “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

How to do it: as mentioned above, the memorial also forms part of the National Mall and can be visited at the same time as Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

And that concludes my list of things to do in Washington DC in and around the National Mall. Next up, something a bit cheerier than war memorials…food…

See the United States Supreme Court

I’ve been inside enough courtrooms in my life to not need to go inside the United States Supreme Court but I did sail past it on my Segway Tour and gave the beautiful building a wave. By the way, I used to be a lawyer, not a criminal (no inappropriate jokes, please). I did once spend a night in a prison cell but that’s another story. At least it wasn’t as bad as my mate Tim who got to experience the inside of a prison in Panama (the country, not the city in Florida). But I digress. Back to things to do in DC.

How to visit the United States Supreme Court: The court is open to the public Monday to Friday. You can plan your visit on the Supreme Court Website here.

See Washington DC at night

All of those clandestine meetings in the spy movies take place in Washington DC at night. Not because there’s some rule about such meetings but because Washington DC illuminated at night is by far one of the most stunning views of the city. I’d definitely suggest setting aside some time to see the city at night and the most efficient way to do it will be on a tour.

How to see Washington DC at night:

There are plenty of tours to choose from.

  • Monuments by Moonlight – Evening Trolly Tour is run by Historic Tours of America and gets rave reviews for the simple reason that the tours are good. Doesn’t hurt that the price is friendly too, at $45. 
  • Hop On Hop Off City Bus Night Tour – if you plan to take the Big Bus hop on hop off ticket, you can add a night tour to your ticket, which is a great value way to see Washington DC at night.
  • Washington Under The Stars – Bus and Walking Tour – if you have the stamina, take this tour. It is a beautiful combination of walking and bus so you get to see the monuments close up (spy outfit, optional) while being transported over longer distances by bus. (Price, $64)

See more Washington DC memorials

You could dedicate an entire trip to seeing Washington DC’s memorials. The ones listed above are the memorials I visited (as part of my Segway tour) but there are plenty of others to explore including the: 

  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Martin Luther King JR Memorial
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Smithsonian & Washington DCs Best Museums

I ended up having a “Museum Day” on my second day in Washington DC and for non-museum enthusiasts, I would encourage you to try a few because Washington DC is home to some of the most impressive works of art and artifacts you’ll find in the world. That’s right, the world.

Understand The Smithsonian Museum

Things to do in washington dc

Before I arrived in Washington DC and took my Segway Tour, I, like many people, was operating under the misapprehension that “the Smithsonian” was just one (albeit the most famous) museum in Washington DC. In fact, it’s 19 museums!

Gasp.

For most people, ticking off just a few of the Smithsonian museums will be more than enough of a challenge though I can’t help admire the spirit of the seven interns who visited 17 of the museums in one day. If you’re want to try to do the same, this article tells you how.

For me, I decided to focus on three of the Smithsonian museums plus Newseum (which has regularly been voted the best museum in Washington DC). Two museums in the morning and two in the afternoon make for a pretty packed schedule, particularly given I’m the kind of person who likes to read every last word on every last plaque so a bit of advance planning is required. If that seems too harrowing, visit the museums at your own pace.

How to plan your trip to the Smithsonian:

The Smithsonian museums have this entire castle (above) as a dedicated visitor’s centre – perfect for planning your museum visits.

Each of the museums I visited had a summary floor plan that highlighted the main attractions in the museum and where to find them. For a $1 (optional) donation, it’s worth picking one up if you’re short on time.

How much does it cost to visit the Smithsonian? the Smithsonian museums are free to enter which makes it one of the best things to in Washington DC for free. 

Below are the Smithsonian museums I visited and the highlights I saw in each museum. 

Test Your History at the National Museum of American History

Things to do in washington dc

This was one of my favourite museums in Washington DC. Not only does it take you through America’s modern history from transport and the kitchen table (exhibitions during my visit), but you get to see one pop-culture item after another.

Museum Highlights:

  • The Ruby Slippers worn during the filming of the Wizard of Oz
  • The original Star Spangled Banner.

See Dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History

There are dinosaur skeletons aplenty in the Museum of Natural History, but that wasn’t the reason I wedged this museum into the middle of my day. I wanted to set eyes on the infamous Hope Diamond. I fully confess I was too superstitious to take a picture of the diamond lest its powerful curse somehow cause me to lose my beloved iPhone.

Museum Highlights:

  • Dinosaur skeletons
  • The Hope Diamond

Visit Europe via the National Gallery of Art

Things to do in washington dc

I could easily have spent the entire day wandering around the National Gallery of Art. From sculptures to Renaissance works to Modernism pieces, the museum is both vast and packed full of some of the world’s most significant and identifiable works of art.

Museum Highlights:

  • Self Portrait, Vincent Van Gough (1889)
  • Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, Edgar Degas (1878–1881)
  • The Japanese Footbridge, Claude Monet (1899)

Learn more about African American History

It was in Washington DC that Martin Luther King gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech but that’s not the only monumental bit of African American history to have taken place in the USA Capital. Find out more with a visit to the Museum of African History and Culture and an African American History Tour.

How to do it: You can find out more about the Museum of African History and Culture here (part of the Smithsonian). You can take a guided African American History Tour (museum access included) here

Understand Free Speech at Newseum

Things to do in washington dc

Updated: 31 December 2019 – Sadly Newseum closed its doors on 31 December. Personally, I’m very sad to hear this – it feels like a blow to free speech and protection of an independent press at a time when we need it more than ever. The slight good news is that the Newseum website lives on and I’m therefore going to keep this museum in this list so you can continue to explore it virtually on the Newseum website. 

Want an alternative museum that ticks the quirky box? Check out the Museum of the Bible.

Although not forming part of the Smithsonian museums, Newseum definitely deserves a place on your museum list.

In its own words, Newseum’s “dynamic, engaging and interactive museum allows visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment.” It’s a perfect description that is wonderfully executed. 

Museum Highlights

  • Berlin Wall (exhibition)
  • Front Pages Gallery (changed daily)
  • Hank Greenspun Terrace (for the best views of the Capitol Building)
  • Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery

Things to do in washington dc

9/11 gallery (including the twisted wreckage of the broadcast antenna that was on top of one of the World Trade Centre towers)

Explore more Washington DC museums

Like the city’s monuments and memorials, there are more museums in Washington DC than your average tourist will have time to visit. However, I’m listing a few more of the best museums in DC in case there is something that sparks your interest. As a fan of crime fiction, the spy museum is on my list for a repeat visit as would be the FBI experience if I was allowed.

If you are interested in Space Museums, check out my visit to the NASA and Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

Want more culture? Check out the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts  where free or low-cost performances are regularly available.

Explore the Potomac River & Beyond

Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Things to do in washington dc

I’d suggest setting aside half a day to visit Arlington National Cemetery because it’s located across the Potomac River. Although one of the most sombre places to visit in Washington DC, it’s definitely a sight I’d recommend placing on your list.

Things to see at Arlington Cemetery

  • John F. Kennedy grave site
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

How to visit Arlington Cemetery

You have a range of options for visiting Arlington Cemetery. I visited independently, taking a metro and then a bus around the cemetery but this was pretty time consuming. If you’re short on time, I’d recommend taking a bus tour. Here are the main ways to visit Arlington Cemetery.

  • Dedicated tour: Take this Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon Tour – both on the east side of the river, this is a perfect combination of activities – Arlington Cemetery and George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon (see below for more on Mount Vernon). (Price, $105)
  • Hop-on hop off city tours – Many of the city tours listed above like the hop on hop off bus will take you to the cemetery. From there, you can buy tickets for one of the buses that will take you around the cemetery (details below).
  • Walking tour – You can also take a private guided walking tour for a more personal and informative experience. (Price, $74)
  • Visit independently by Metro if you’re on a budget or just prefer to explore independently, you can visit Arlington Cemetery without a tour. I would recommend hopping onto one of the guided bus tours when you get there, to help you find the main sights in the cemetery. You can find out more and plan your independent visit on the Arlington Cemetery website here.

Take a cruise on the Potomac River

I’m drawn to water like moths to a flame (sorry for the cliche but it’s true). Mostly I’m content standing staring, watching the water swim by but if there’s a chance to get on the water in some way, I’m there. If you’re like me, you’ll want to take a river cruise on the Potomac River. 

How to do it: There are plenty of cruises to choose from. For the most bang for your buck, I recommend combining a river cruise with a sightseeing tour like this one – Washington DC Full Day Tour with a Scenic Cruise – a great combination of city sightseeing by bus and a one-hour boat cruise on the Potomac. (Price, $74)

Visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Full disclosure, I’ve not been to Mount Vernon. Mostly because I didn’t have time because this historic that was once home to George Washington is exactly the kind of grand estate I like to poke my nose around.

How to visit Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon is located on the east side of the Potomac River, on the same side as Arlington Cemetery. It’s about a 30 minute drive from National Mall and can also be reached by public transport and boat (I vote for the boat). You can find full details of how to visit as well as opening times on the Mount Vernon Official Website.

Otherwise, there are several tours that include Mount Vernon on the itinerary:

Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria Tour will take you to both Mount Vernon as well as a visit to George Washington’s hometown, Alexandria. (Price, $84)

Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon Tour – this tour covers two of the best things to do in Washington DC in one easy tour and is a very efficient way of covering both sights which are outside the city. (Price, $105)

Where to eat in Washington DC

Eating is most definitely one of the best things to do in Washington DC. From food trucks to food tours to fine dining, you’re more likely to run out of appetite before you run out of options. Here’s my favourite foodie options in Washington DC.

Washington D.C’s Food Trucks

Things to do in washington dc

There are so many things to do in Washington DC that stopping for food can feel like a luxury you don’t have. Fortunately, the recent explosions of food trucks onto the DC food scene means you can grab a quick bite without having to resort to trading cash for cardboard with a hot dog vendor. There are plenty of trucks to choose from, dotted all around DC and catering to every international flavour you can think of…and some you can’t.

How to do it: Food trucks are an ever-revolving scene. Here’s a list of some of the best food trucks in Washington DC and where to find them. If you have any more recommendations, leave a comment below.

Take a Food Tour around Georgetown

Things to do in washington dc

When I was putting together my list of what to do in Washington DC, eating was very high on my list. On a short time scale and wanting to maximise the number of restaurants visited in the least amount of time taken, I opted for a food tour around historic Georgetown with DC Metro Food Tours.

Things to do in washington dc

Lasting around 3.5 hours, the Gastronomic Georgetown tour featured four courses in four restaurants and a good smattering of history as we walked around Georgetown, an area that was once home to the Kennedys.

Highlights 

  • The charcuterie board at J Paul’s
  • The twice ground meatballs at Paolo’s
  • The smores for dessert

Get Political at Ebbitts Grill

What to do in DC when you can’t take the heat? Take cover for a long lunch in cool AC. Remember those Bloody Mary’s I mentioned from my first trip to Washington DC? Well, they were served in Old Ebbitt’s Grill. Not only it the oldest saloon in the capital (founded in 1856), it’s an historic landmark that has had a long list of past Presidents and politicians prop up the bar or talk policy over lunch. I can highly recommend the Bloody Maryland, topped with a jumbo shrimp (but I’d advise you to only have one!) and the jumbo lump crab cakes are the perfect accompaniment.

Dine with views at Washington Harbor

Head to Washington Harbor for great views of the Potomac and great food at Farmers Fishers Bakers. The food is made from scratch and as well as serving American classics, there’s an in-house bakery and sushi counter.

Dine near the National Mall at 7th Street/Penn Quarter

You’ll definitely be ready for a sit down meal after a day of sight-seeing and 7th street/Penn Quarter has a vast collection of restaurants and cuisines to choose from. If you don’t feel the need to go back to your hotel to spruce yourself up for the night, the area is a short walk from the National Mall.

Treat yourself at DuPont Circle

Alternatively, head to pretty DuPont Circle to explore a different side of DC and grab a divine dinner at the same time. There are plenty of recommendations by Zagat if you want to plan in advance.

Take a dinner cruise on the Potomac River

With an extensive buffet, 360 views, a DJ and games like giant Jenga and shuffleboard to entertain you, that’s a lot of fun packed into on experience. Find out more about taking a cruise on the Spirit yacht here. (Price, $77)

Planing your Trip to Washington DC

Things to do in washington dc

Visit Washington DC from New York

Separated by only a couple of hundred miles, and with Philadelphia on route, it’s pretty easy to visit Washington DC from New York. In fact, I did that on my first visit. I’d definitely recommend overnighting in DC for at least one night. I’d also recommend taking the train (Amtrak) because it’s about an hour quicker compared to driving and it’s far easier to spent the 3hrs eating snacks and reading when you’re not driving. 

If you want to visit Washington DC from New York without the stress of having to plan it yourself, there are some great 1-2 day tours where everything is organised for you. Here are two options:

Washington and Philadelphia in 1-day – it’s going to be a long day but adding two iconic cities to your New York trip makes this a brilliant add-on tour. See the White House, Capitol Building, Liberty Bell, the famous ‘Rocky Steps’ and Independence Hall all in one whirlwind day of sightseeing. (Price, $156)

Washington and Philadelphia in 2-days – similar to the itinerary above but at a more relaxed pace and with more sights included, this 2-day tour includes a hotel overnight in Washington D.C. Bonus: you’ll be taken on a buggy tour through Amish Country on the way back. (Price, $330)

My favourite Washington DC Guidebooks

I used the USA Lonely Planet Guidebook to plan my trip because I was on a longer USA trip. Although it’s not filled with pictures, it’s got all the details you need including train and bus routes and times as well as local maps. If you prefer something more visual, check out the DK Eyewitness Guide for the USA which has great images and 3D guides to major sites.

If you’re taking a trip, the Lonely Planet Washington DC Guidebook will be a lot lighter, as will the DK Washington DC equivalent.

And if you’re on a short visit, I absolutely love these Lonely Planet Pocket Guides – here’s the one for DC.

Where to stay in Washington DC

Looking for the ultimate luxury: The Willard Intercontinental – grand and so close to the National Mall you can get a view of the Washington Monument. Consider one of the suites named after and decorated in a style befitting an ex-president.

The most popular luxury hotel option: If the Willard doesn’t do it for you, check out The Jefferson, which is not only one of the top 3 hotels on Trip Advisor but has also won their coveted Travelers’ Choice Award.

A great price and location: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill has an ideal location – close to Union Station as well as walking distance to the Smithsonian and National Mall. Also, you know what you get with a Hyatt. 

Budget hotel near the White House: Washington Plaza Hotel can’t be beat for a budget hotel close to the White House. Recently refurbished, it’s ideal if you just want somewhere clean to rest your weary head. 

Washington DC Hostel Option: Hostelling International Washington DC Hostel – well located (within walking distance of the White House, National Mall and Smithsonian Museums. Includes breakfast. Private and dorm rooms available.

Want to get a great deal: check out Priceline Express Deals. I’ve regularly secured up to 60% off hotel rack rates using this function. You can find out more in my related article, How to Book Cheap Hotels (with Priceline Express Deals).

Getting around Washington DC

The Washington DC Metro makes it very easy to get around the city. You can check out the Metro map here or if you have a smartphone, I’d highly recommend downloading a free metro map app like this one.

For more trip planning tips, check out the Official Tourism Site of Washington DC and Capital Region USA.

Have you been to the capital? Any other recommendations for things to do in Washington DC? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Best Things to do in Washington D.C. (1)

I was provided with complimentary tours courtesy of Smithsonian National Mall ToursDC Metro Food Tours and Newseum.

Photo credits: Vietnam Memorial – hookbrother, WWI Memorial – Nicolas Raymond

Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. www.indianajo.com is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

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  4. Vanessa
    Vanessa at | | Reply

    DC is the most underrated places to visit in my opinion. I want to go back. I was with my mom the first time so I hope to explore more independently in the future.

  5. Corinne
    Corinne at | | Reply

    Jo, What a comprehensive list. I love a food truck, so definitely would be picking that for lunch. Just a note, the Newseum was booked solid the last time we were there, book early!

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