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Things to do in
Washington, DC

The US capital offers up plenty of famed monuments and museums for your touring pleasure.

Our most recommended things to do in Washington, DC

From New York City: Washington and Philadelphia 1-Day Tour

1. From New York City: Washington and Philadelphia 1-Day Tour

Learn about American history on a tour of Washington DC and Philadelphia, both of which played important roles in the development of democracy in the USA. Visit the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, Independence Hall, and more on a guided day trip with roundtrip transfers from NYC. Your day will begin with an early morning departure from Times Square in Manhattan, where you’ll be greeted by your bilingual tour guide for the day. After 4-5 hours, your first destination will be the nation's current capital, Washington, DC. Once there, visit the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. During the tour, stop for a classic outside view of the White House, home and office of the U.S. President, and the Capitol Building, home of the U.S. Congress. Your visit to Washington concludes with free time for lunch on your own. Your next destination, after a 3-hour journey, will be the first-ever U.S. capital, Philadelphia, PA. Visit its historic Old City neighborhood and the Independence National Historical Park where your guide will lead you on a brief walking tour. Then, ascend to the top of the Rocky Steps before returning to Times Square in Manhattan.

Washington, DC: ARTECHOUSE Immersive Art Experience Ticket

2. Washington, DC: ARTECHOUSE Immersive Art Experience Ticket

Explore ARTECHOUSE DC in Washington, DC with an entry ticket and discover multi-sensory digital art. Immerse yourself in the enchanting exhibits with large-scale installations and choose to indulge with a cocktail at the XR Bar. Make your way to ARTECHOUSE DC, located just off the National Mall and nearby Smithsonian museums. Enter the nation's first multi-sensory innovative art destination with exhibitions that intersect art, science, and technology. Admire large-scale installations and witness creative innovation without limits in unique art spaces designed for curiosity seekers of all ages. Take a break and talk about the art on display at the ARTECHOUSE Extended Reality Bar inside the exhibit space. Choose from a list of exclusive cocktails inspired by the art and brought to life by extended reality. Download the ARTECHOUSE XR App to enrich your experience while exploring the digital playgrounds. Staff is on-hand to explain the uses of the app during your visit. You are invited to the 7th annual celebration of cherry blossoms at ARTECHOUSE DC! Enter a mesmerizing universe fusing art, technology, and tradition, as we bring the enchanting beauty of cherry blossoms to life through alternative universes filled with adventure and wonder.

DC: Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour by Open-top Bus

3. DC: Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour by Open-top Bus

Big Bus is the official preferred tour of the Cherry Blossom Festival. No one gets you closer to the natural beauty of the Nation's Capital. Explore the grandeur of the Nation's capital in style with Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tours. With an entertaining and engaging audio commentary, you can sit back and relax on an open-top double-decker sightseeing bus as you journey through Washington, DC's rich history and daily life. Immerse yourself in the city's most iconic and historic memorials, monuments, and museums. Hop off at any stop to explore at your leisure. Make the most of your day with the flexibility to plan your own itinerary. Choose to do one full loop to see the city or hop off and have your photo taken with Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Look out over the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did as he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from that very spot. With buses arriving regularly throughout the day, you have the freedom to explore at your own pace. Experience all that Washington DC has to offer, from the White House to the US Capitol Building and Capitol Hill to the Korean and WWII War Memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, and the MLK and FDR monuments along the beautiful Tidal Basin. Big Bus is the official tour operator of the National Mall, giving you the closest access to world-famous, free museums including the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, African-American History Museum, The Holocaust Memorial, National American-Indian History, National Portrait Gallery, and more. Complete your DC experience with the 3-Day ticket and enjoy a scenic Monuments Water Taxi cruise along the Potomac River between The Wharf and Georgetown. Admire breathtaking views of iconic landmarks, including the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument, from the comfort of a climate-controlled vessel. Explore Georgetown's historic colonial neighborhood, with its cobblestone streets, charming shops, and unique restaurants. Or take the Water Taxi to the Wharf for its trendy restaurants, boutiques, concert venues, and riverside views, plus easy access to downtown DC and the National Mall. Ticket is valid for a one-way journey in either direction.

From NYC: Discover the Highlights of Washington DC

4. From NYC: Discover the Highlights of Washington DC

Discover the political center of the world on a full-day trip to the Capital City of Washington DC. See the iconic buildings of Capitol Hill and visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Depart from central New York and head south to Washington in comfortable air-conditioned buses or minivans. Pass through New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland before arriving in the nation's capital. Visit the Arlington National Cemetery and stand at the Kennedy family gravesite. Continue to Capitol Hill, and see the Capitol, Senate, and White House. Learn about the buildings and their functions in the US government. Arrive at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, before visiting the Lincoln, Korea, and Vietnam Memorials. In the late afternoon, embark on a panoramic city tour before your departure back to New York.

DC: Buffet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner Cruise on the Spirit

5. DC: Buffet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner Cruise on the Spirit

See the sights of Washington DC from onboard the Spirit of Washington with a lunch or dinner cruise on the Potomac River. Enjoy a buffet dining experience as you sail, and delight in panoramic views. Board your vessel and receive a personal greeting. Have your photo taken by the ship's photographer to capture the memory before being seated at your private table. Once there, gorge on your lunch or dinner buffet consisting of creative entrees prepared fresh daily and listen to the onboard music. After your meal, visit any of the three climate-controlled decks as you glide by the sights. LUNCH/DINNER BUFFET SAMPLE MENU SALADS FIELD GREEN SALAD (G*)(VG)Tomatoes | Cucumbers | Carrots | Ranch Dressing | Balsamic Dressing KALE QUINOA SALAD (G*)(VG)(V)Quinoa | Roasted Red Pepper | Spinach | Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette GREEN GODDESS PASTA SALAD (V)Sweet Peas | White Beans | Scallions MAIN HONEY SESAME CHICKEN (G*)Scallions | Fresno Chillies OVEN ROASTED WHITEFISH (G*)Spicy Tomato | White Bean Ragu BAKED ZITI PASTA (V)Aged Reggiano Parmesan Cheese | Mozzarella Cheese | Spinach Cream Sauce ROOT VEGETABLE FRICASSEE (G*)(VG)(V)Idaho Potatoes | Broccoli | Grape Tomatoes | Gremolata | Cauliflower Coconut Cream Sauce COMPLEMENTSROASTED BROCCOLI (G*)(VG)(V)Toasted Garlic | Chili Flakes GARLIC MASHED POTATOES (G*)(V)Idaho Potatoes | Roasted Garlic DESSERTSIGNATURE DESSERT STATION (V)Cakes | Brownies | Seasonal Fruit | *May Contain Nuts *Menus subject to change

From NYC: Guided Day Trip to Washington DC by Van or Bus

6. From NYC: Guided Day Trip to Washington DC by Van or Bus

Journey from NYC to Washington on a full-day trip to see the sights of the nation’s capital with a Spanish-speaking guide. Visit the most important monuments, memorials and buildings like the White House and the Washington Monument. Head down South from NYC in a comfortable air-conditioned bus, passing through New Jersey and Delaware, with a stop in Delaware to stretch your legs and use the restrooms. Continue on past Maryland until Arlington, Virginia. The tour starts properly at Arlington National Ceremony, where the tour guide will take you to Kennedy’s grave and explore with you the lush grounds. Then, head to the Iwo Jima memorial, with time to take photos. During the whole journey, your guide will tell you interesting facts about the city.   Next, head to Washington DC across the Potomac River. Pass along Constitution Avenue where you’ll see the State Department, the Institute of Peace, and the Albert Einstein Memorial. Go to the National Mall and walk with your guide to places that have been featured in movies and TV series. See the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. You’ll recognize the Reflecting Pool from Forrest Gump. You’ll also see the most-visited monument in the city, the World War II Memorial.   Back on the bus, you’ll continue to view offices of important organizations such as the Organization of American States, the American Red Cross, and the Treasury Department until you finally reach the White House. Take some time to take pictures in the gardens before continuing on to see the FBI buildings, the National Archives, and more. Your final stop will be the National Mall, where you’ll have some free time to visit the exhibits, have lunch, and take photos of the Capitol Building. On the way back to NYC, you’ll be treated to a night-time panoramic view of NYC from New Jersey. 

Washington, DC: Capitol Hill and Library of Congress Tour

7. Washington, DC: Capitol Hill and Library of Congress Tour

Immerse yourself in the sights of Washington, DC on a guided walking tour. Enjoy entry tickets to the Library of Congress and Capitol Building. View the Supreme Court building and walk on Capitol Hill and learn about the country's legislative and judicial branches. Begin your tour at the top of "the Hill" and hear fascinating anecdotes and facts about the country's legal system. Originally named Jenkins Hill, find out how this area quickly expanded to become the epicenter of American government and politics. Walk by the Supreme Court building, known as "The Marble Palace", and the surrounding Congressional office buildings. Tour inside the Library of Congress, the national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the country. Proceed to the Capitol Building to marvel at its neoclassical style and iconic architecture, while your guide details its rich history. Before concluding your tour, your guide will bring you into the US Capitol Visitor Center to arrange for your tour of the capitol.

Washington DC: Monuments by Moonlight Nighttime Trolley Tour

8. Washington DC: Monuments by Moonlight Nighttime Trolley Tour

See the most popular monuments of the U. S. capital illuminated at night on a guided trolley tour. The route follows streets that have been traveled by presidents and makes three stops for you to get off the trolley and explore the memorials on your own and take photos. Enjoy entertaining commentary from a professional tour guide who will entertain you with stories about the Capitol’s colorful past. The three stops on the tour are: 1. The Martin Luther King Memorial & the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial 2. The Iwo Jima Memorial (aka US Marine Corps War Memorial) 3. The Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Besides stops at the major memorials, you will also get spectacular views of the Washington Memorial the White House, the National Mall, the Capitol Buildings, the Jefferson Memorial, the Smithsonian Museums and Castle, the FBI & Dept of Justice Buildings, and the World War II Memorial.

Washington, DC: Old Town Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley City Tour

9. Washington, DC: Old Town Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley City Tour

Named "Washington's Best Tour" by the Washingtonian Magazine and one of the top 10 hop-on hop-off tours in the world by Forbes, the Old Town Trolley offers the most comprehensive tour of the nation's capital. Relax while expert tour guides help you discover the beauty and majesty of Washington, D.C. This popular tour covers Washington's major attractions such as the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, and Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. Expert guides share colorful anecdotes, humorous stories and well-researched historical information. Upgrade to include a trolley tour of Arlington National Cemetery, an enduring tribute to those who’ve dedicated their lives to defending the nation. You’ll be transported to some of the most notable graves and memorials. DC City Tour Trolley stops: 1. 1001 E. St. NW: Washington Welcome Center/Ford's Theatre/Peterson House 2. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave: The White House/The White House Visitor Center/WWI Memorial 3. 701 Constitution Ave NW: National Archives (West/East Gallery of the NGA, Navy Memorial) 4. 400 New Jersey Ave NW: Japanese American Memorial/Hyatt Regency 5. 50 Massachusetts Ave NE: Union Station and the Smithsonian Postal Museum 6. 1st St. NE: US Capitol (Botanic Gardens, Supreme Court and Library of Congress) 7. 600 Independence Ave SW: Air/Space Museum, Museum of the American Indian/Eisenhower Memorial 8. Maine Ave SW at 9th St. SW: The Wharf 9. 700 L'Enfant Plaza SW: International Spy Museum 10. 1398 Independence Ave SW: Washington Monument, Smithsonian Museums and Castle, Holocaust Memorial Museum 11. 16 E Basin Dr SW: Jefferson Memorial/George Mason Memorial 12. 1964 Independence Ave SW: Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial/Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial 13. 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir. NW: Lincoln Memorial/Vietnam Veterans Memorial/Korean War Veterans Memorial/World War II Memorial 14. 1400 Constitution Ave NW: National Museum of American History/National Museum of African American History & Culture/National Museum of Natural History 15. 800 F St. NW: National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum (temp closed for Holiday Market) Arlington Cemetery Trolley stops: • Arlington National Cemetery • President John F. Kennedy Gravesite • US Coast Guard Memorial • John J. Pershing • The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier • Arlington House • US Marine Corps War Memorial Iwo Jima • Arlington Niche Wall Columbarium Courts

Washington DC: Explore the National Mall by Electric Vehicle

10. Washington DC: Explore the National Mall by Electric Vehicle

Glide around the streets of Washington DC on a guided tour by a battery-operated electric cart. See all the major monuments of the United States capital within the National Mall area, like Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Lincoln Memorial. After getting comfortable onboard, head first towards the Smithsonian complex. Admire the size of the largest museum and research complex in the world.  Next, discover three of the most well-known statues in Washington DC. Admire the monuments to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, arguably the three most beloved presidents of the U.S. From here, take a moment to pause and remember those who lost their lives in battle as you visit various war memorials. Pause at the memorials to World War I, World War II, the Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam War Veterans memorial sites.  Get your camera ready for when you pass by one of the most recognizable landmarks in the whole world, the White House, the home of the U.S. President. Finally, feast your eyes on Capitol Hill, home to the United States Congress.

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Frequently asked questions about Washington, DC

What are the best day trips and excursions from Washington, DC?

The best day trips and excursions from Washington, DC are:

Mount Vernon

Insider tips: Explore Washington DC like a local

Megan & Aram is a travel blog that focuses mostly on travel in the Nordics and Eastern Europe with the occasional trip beyond those regions. We love coffee, promoting small businesses, and sports.

What should I do on my first trip to Washington DC?

While there are seemingly endless fantastic things to do in Washington, DC, some must-sees include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Capitol Building. You'll see most of them on a stroll along the National Mall — the grand centerpiece of America's capital. Check out one (or several) of the Smithsonian museums, like the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, or the National Museum of American History.

What are some hidden gems to see in Washington DC?

If you want to escape the city for a moment of tranquility, head to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. The big showstopper here is the beautiful lotus flowers that bloom in summer. Some of the less-visited of the 20 or so Smithsonian museums are great to visit too, like the National Postal Museum. It might be niche, but it's a very fun, interactive museum to explore.

How much time should I spend in Washington DC?

Three to five days is a good length of time to see the main sights of DC and fit in a few of the hidden gems, but you could easily spend a week or more exploring the many great things DC has to offer. Less than three days and you’ll only be able to hit just a few top attractions, though you’ll still get a feel for the city.

What food is Washington DC known for?

Washington, DC's diverse demographic mean it's got a great food scene with loads of options. DC is known for its “half-smoke,” a type of hot dog that is half pork, half beef, and smoked and served on a warm bun with chili and onions. Grab one at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark restaurant serving half-smokes since 1958. Pupusas, stuffed flatbreads with El Salvador origins, are also extremely popular in the city.

What is the best way to get around Washington DC?

Many of the top attractions are within walking distance from each other, so getting around DC is a breeze for most. Want to go a bit faster but still have the flexibility to take a detour when something catches your eye? The city’s bike share program is easy to use. There's also an accessible bus and metro system to take you around the city and surrounding areas. Renting a car or taking a taxi can be a hindrance due to heavy traffic and difficulty parking, so avoid it if you can.

What are the best months to visit Washington DC?

Fall is a perfect time to go to Washington, DC, as the weather is very pleasant and the crowds are fewer. Spring is lovely as well, especially because of the famous cherry blossoms which attract hoards of people. Summer can be hot and humid, and it's the peak tourist season, so if you're not a fan of that combination it isn't the best time to go. In winter, things tend to be less expensive and less crowded, but it can be freezing and some attractions may close.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Washington DC?

Georgetown is a quaint neighborhood that’s been around since Colonial times. Wander along the bustling cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and take a breather in Georgetown Waterfront Park. Shaw is a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood with great nightlife, live music, art, and shopping. You can also take the metro to Old Town Alexandria, VA, just south of DC. This beautiful riverside neighborhood has small-town vibes and a big character with fantastic boutiques, antique stores, and ice cream parlors.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

The ethnic diversity of Columbia Heights is reflected in its fantastic restaurants. Whether you want to eat Laotian, Ethiopian, Louisiana Creole, or many other cuisines, you’ll find something to satisfy your cravings. H Street has the largest selection of restaurants, from vegan cafes to Michelin-starred institutions. Trendy Shaw is a hotspot for foodies, with tons of buzzy new restaurants in a small radius.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Georgetown has a chic mix of high-end boutiques, indie shops, antique shops, art galleries, and international retailers. For a full range of options, head to CityCenterDC, a large outdoor shopping mall with shops, cafes, and restaurants. If you’re looking for a great market, Union Market has more than 40 vendors, food, and live music to enjoy.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Washington DC?

One of DC’s most popular neighborhoods, Dupont Circle has it all: shopping, food, farmers markets, nightlife, and galleries. Its metro station easily connects you to other neighborhoods. Stay near the National Mall if you want to be close to the monuments and museums and like to be in bed early (there's no nightlife nearby). You could also consider Arlington or Alexandria, both in Virginia. These charming cities are both within easy reach of the capital and among some of the best day trips from Washington, DC.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Washington DC?

There are tons of great family-friendly things to do in Washington, DC — kids will never be bored! Kid-friendly museums, such as the National Museum of Natural History or the International Spy Museum, abound. Nature lovers will adore the Botanical Gardens, especially its Children’s Garden (with free activities) and the Butterfly Garden. Watching a Washington Nationals baseball game is also an exciting activity for kids and adults alike.

What is the best thing to do in Washington DC for solo travelers?

One of the greatest joys of solo travel is going at your own pace. This is maximized in DC, where you have many fascinating museum options and the freedom to spend as long as you like at whichever one strikes your fancy. A sightseeing walking tour or a food tour with a local guide are also great ways to see the city if you still want some company. A tour allows you to learn some of the city’s history, get insider tips, sample some amazing dishes, and meet other travelers.

What is the best thing to do in Washington DC for couples?

There are so many great date ideas for you and your partner in Washington, DC, from museum hopping and monument tours to to romantic restaurants and biking around beautiful parks and along the Potomac River. Take some time to visit the gorgeous Hillwood Estate in the northwest part of DC, full of Russian and French art, luxurious rooms, and a lovely 13-acre garden. In the evening, check out some of the nightlife in DC. Grab a drink at a pub or wine bar before heading to one of the city's great jazz clubs.

What are the best annual events in Washington DC?

One of the most famous events in Washington, DC, is the Cherry Blossom Festival, which happens at the end of March or the beginning of April (depending on the year’s weather). This gorgeous season swathes the Tidal Basin in pink, and the two-week festival is full of events including a kite festival and a Japanese street fair. The 4th of July Independence Day Festival is big in DC too — it is the country’s capital. Enjoy a great concert before the enormous fireworks show over the National Mall.

What are the best things to do around Washington DC?

If you want to escape the busy city for a quiet moment, head to Rock Creek Park or Theodore Roosevelt Island. These two areas offer miles of trails and green space within the city. A little further away, Great Falls Park is 800 acres of lush parkland, hiking trails, waterfalls, and rushing rapids that will delight your senses.

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What people are saying about Washington, DC

Overall rating

(7,442 reviews)

We had Kirby as our omniscient guide, we could ask him literally anything (about DC history) and he would have an on point answer. The tour covers all the important memorials which gives you a great overview of the founding fathers and the major wars that were fought for freedom or fear. What I'd improve is the welcome experience and overall friendliness at the bike rental.

Chris V gave our party of 5 a fantastic tour of all the major sites. It was unusually hot(90) for April, so we were happy to be driving around in an open air vehicle with an entertaining background on the monuments, etc. Would reccomend!

Excellent, excellent guide, limited time to visit the attractions but it suits given the long distance traveled during the day.

Our guide was excellent! Bus could’ve used better A/C. Would recommend to others.

Great tour! Cortland was great! We had so much fun and learned a lot.