The city of Washington, DC, is rich in culture, politics, and history. To maximize your time and have a wonderful trip to this city, meticulous planning is necessary. It can be difficult to know where to begin with so many sights to see and activities to try. A list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Washington, DC has been put together to help you make the most of your vacation. We’ve got you covered for everything from seeing the city’s famous landmarks and museums to checking out the local cuisine and engaging in outdoor activities. Discover the finest tourist attractions and things to do in Washington DC, and create travel memories by reading on.
#1. Visit the National Mall and Memorial Parks
This is one of the tourist attractions and things to Washington, DC. A trip to the National Mall and Memorial Parks is one of the highlights of every vacation to the nation’s capital. This is because Washington, DC is a city rich in history and culture. Some of the nation’s most significant structures and monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, are located along this famous length of green space. The enormous monuments and memorials that line the National Mall stand tall against the backdrop of the Capitol and the White House, making for a wonderfully inspiring stroll.
The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are two of the parks’ many museums. The country’s rich history and cultural legacy are on display in these exhibits. The National Mall plays host to a number of significant political events, including protests, rallies, and presidential inaugurations.
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#2. See the White House and Capitol Building
A tourist seeking the top attractions in Washington DC must visit the White House and Capitol Building. The White House and the Capitol Building, are two of the city’s most recognizable structures. They must be seen on any trip to Washington, DC. You can get a sense of the US government’s history and power by visiting these sites in person. The President of the United States resides and works at The White House, which is situated at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Without a formal invitation from the President or a member of Congress, visitors are not permitted inside the White House. Although they are welcome to stroll the grounds and snap pictures in front of the famous iron fence.
The legislative branch of the US government is housed in the US Capitol Building. This can be found at the eastern end of the National Mall. The Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall can all be seen on tours of the building. Additionally, the Capitol Visitor Center provides educational events and exhibits that highlight the background and operations of the US Congress. Each of these historical structures provides a window into how American politics operate today.
#3. Explore Georgetown
While Georgetown provides a different perspective on the city’s culture and architecture, Washington, DC is famous for its historical sites and federal buildings. This Potomac River area is renowned for its cobblestone lanes, boutique stores, and distinctive dining establishments. You can walk down M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and look around the stores. This includes everything from upscale clothing boutiques to retro bookstores. A number of eateries and coffee shops are also available for you to grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee.
Visit the historic Tudor Place, a home museum showcasing American history and architecture, if you have an interest in history. Additionally, this area is home to Georgetown University, which has a lovely campus to tour that includes Healy Hall and Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart. Take a stroll down the boardwalk in Georgetown Waterfront Park to enjoy a beautiful view of the Potomac River. In order to enjoy the sea and explore the city from a different angle, you can also rent a kayak or a paddleboard.
#4. Visit the National Archives Museum
Anyone visiting Washington, DC, should make time to visit the National Archives Museum. The original Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are among the most significant historical documents kept at the National Archives Museum. The beautiful Rotunda, the museum’s focal point and where the aforementioned Charters of Freedom—the country’s founding documents—are kept, welcomes guests as they enter.
Visitors can tour the Public Vaults, which are located outside the Rotunda and house hundreds of fascinating records, such as letters from presidents, notable court cases, and even the canceled check used to buy Alaska. The permanent exhibit “Records of Rights,” which examines the battles for liberty and equality throughout US history, is one of the museum’s most well-liked displays. Original papers including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which paved the path for greater political equality, are on display in this show.
#5. Check Out the National Zoo
This is also one of the must-see tourist attractions in Washington DC. The Smithsonian National Zoo, which spans 163 acres of land in the center of the city, is a must-see site that gives guests the opportunity to witness more than 1,500 species. The zoo is a wonderful place to spend a day with family and friends. This is because it is home to some of the most fascinating and unique animals in the world.
Visitors can explore the various animal habitats, such as the Amazonia exhibit, which is home to a variety of animals from the Amazon Basin, the Asian Trail, which includes Asian animals like giant pandas, tigers, and sloth bears, and the African Savanna, which is the dwelling place to elephants, gazelles, cheetahs, and lions.
The Giant Panda Habitat, where guests can see the adored giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, is one of the zoo’s highlights. The zoo also offers a variety of year-round activities and events, such as animal feedings, classes, and after-hours activities.
#6. Tour the Smithsonian Museums
This is without a doubt one of the tourist attractions in Washington, DC. The Smithsonian Institution is the biggest museum complex in the world, and Washington, DC is well recognized for its number of museums. The Smithsonian offers a wide range of exhibits and collections that appeal to all interests and ages with its more than 19 museums, galleries, and the National Zoo.
There is something for everyone. From the National Air and Space Museum, where visitors can learn about the history of aviation and space travel, to the National Museum of American History, which is home to famous items such as the original Star-Spangled Banner and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.
One of the most appealing things about Smithsonian museums is that everyone can visit them because admission is free. Plan your visit so that you have enough time to spend a day or maybe a week seeing the many museums and galleries.
It’s a good idea to prioritize the exhibitions and collections you are most interested in and organize your journey appropriately to make the most of your time. Arriving early or staying late might help you avoid crowds. This will make the most of your visit to the museums, which can get congested, especially during the high season.
#7. Take a Stroll Through the Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin, a man-made reservoir located between the Potomac River and the National Mall, is among the most scenic locations in Washington, DC. Many of the city’s most recognizable structures, like the Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, encircle the Tidal Basin. The Tidal Basin is a unique place to explore. This is especially in the springtime when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The Tidal Basin attracts tens of thousands of people each year. They come to gaze at the stunning pink and white blooms that line the beach.
The cherry blossoms, which Japan gave as a gift to the United States in 1912, have come to represent the two nations’ enduring friendship. You can also enjoy the breathtaking views of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument while strolling across the ocean. You can stop for a rest and a snack while admiring the scenery at any of the many benches and picnic spaces that are located along the route. Rent a kayak or paddle boat to visit the Tidal Basin from the water if you’re feeling more daring. This is a fantastic way to view the cherry blossoms up close and gain a new perspective on the monuments.
#8. Take a Day Trip to Mount Vernon
This is also one of the tourist attractions and things to Washington, DC. A day excursion to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate is a must-do activity if you’re in Washington, DC. One of the most well-liked tourist spots in the region is Mount Vernon. This is a historic landmark that is only a short drive from the city. Visit the several museums and galleries at Mount Vernon, stroll around the lovely gardens, and learn about George Washington’s life during a tour of the residence. You can tour the farm where they lived and worked. Likewise, you can tour the tomb where George Washington and his wife Martha are interred.
The chance to observe historical reenactors and costumed interpreters in action is one of the attractions of a trip to Mount Vernon. You can watch them go about their daily lives in the 18th century, doing things like farming, spinning wool, and cooking. Mount Vernon is a terrific location for visitors of all ages. This is because it offers a gift store, restaurant, and special occasions throughout the year in addition to all the historical attractions.
#9. Visit Arlington National Cemetery
Visiting the Arlington National Cemetery is among the most enduring experiences you can have in Washington, DC. Many of our country’s heroes, including President John F. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and countless soldiers from every significant American conflict, are buried in this illustrious cemetery.
You’ll be astounded by the cemetery’s enormous size when you explore the expansive grounds. This is because of the seemingly unending rows of white headstones that extend in every direction. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where a guard keeps watch every day of the year, 365 days a year, in memory of those who have given their lives in service to our nation.
Take a tour of the cemetery with a guide if you have time to discover more about its history and the lives of those interred there. And don’t forget to stop by Robert E. Lee’s former residence, Arlington House, which looks out over the city and cemetery.
#10. Go to the National Air and Space Museum
Anyone with a passion for aviation and space exploration should visit this museum. More than 60,000 objects can be found in the museum. This includes the Spirit of St. Louis, the Columbia Command Module from Apollo 11, and the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Wright Flyer.
Additionally, there are exhibits on the physics of flying, space exploration, and aviation history that visitors can explore. The IMAX theater, which screens films on subjects including space exploration and aviation history, is one of the museum’s highlights. A wide range of educational events are also provided by the museum. This includes talks by subject-matter experts and interactive exhibits for children.
Visitors to other Washington, DC landmarks can readily access the National Air and Space Museum since it is situated on the National Mall. The museum does not charge admission, although some of the exhibits and programs might.