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things to do in DC

Top 15 Things to Do in DC: Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring the Nation’s Capital

Washington, DC, is brimming with history, culture, and activities that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, or nature lover, the nation’s capital has something special for you. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the top 15 things to do in Washington DC, ensuring your visit is memorable and full of discovery.

Things to do in DC

1. Explore the National Mall

24,300+ National Mall Washington Dc Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock | National mall washington dc map
  • What to See: The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Reflecting Pool.
  • Experience: Walk the expanse of the National Mall, a greenway that hosts iconic monuments.
  • Tip: Visit at sunrise or sunset for breathtaking views.

2. Visit the Smithsonian Museums

Smithsonian to reopen all museums this summer | The Hill
The Hill
  • What to See: National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History.
  • Experience: Dive into the vast collections of artifacts and exhibits.
  • Tip: Entry is free, so take your time exploring multiple museums.

3. Tour the U.S. Capitol Building

760+ Inside Capitol Hill Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
  • What to See: The Rotunda, National Statuary Hall.
  • Experience: Learn about U.S. democracy through a guided tour.
  • Tip: Book your tour in advance online.

4. Enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival

National Cherry Blossom Festival - March 20 - April 14, 2024
National Cherry Blossom Festival
  • What to See: Thousands of blooming cherry trees around the Tidal Basin.
  • Experience: Cultural events and festivities during spring.
  • Tip: Peak bloom varies each year; check dates in advance.

5. Wander through Georgetown

25 Things to Do in Georgetown | Georgetown DC - Explore Georgetown in Washington, DC
Georgetown DC
  • What to See: Historic homes, C&O Canal.
  • Experience: Shopping, dining, and waterfront views.
  • Tip: Don’t miss the quaint bookstores and bakeries.

6. Visit the National Zoo

National Zoo - What To Know BEFORE You Go | Viator
  • What to See: Giant pandas, elephants, and more.
  • Experience: A family-friendly exploration of global wildlife.
  • Tip: Admission is free.

7. Discover the U.S. Botanic Garden

Season's Greenings" holiday exhibit 2023 | United States Botanic Garden
United States Botanic Garden
  • What to See: Rare plants and beautiful displays.
  • Experience: A peaceful escape within the city.
  • Tip: Check out the seasonal exhibits.

8. Take a Night Tour of DC Monuments

Monuments by Moonlight DC Night Tour Discount Tickets
Old Town Trolley Tours
  • What to See: Illuminated monuments and memorials.
  • Experience: A different perspective on the city’s landmarks.
  • Tip: Many tours are available, including bus and bike options.

9. Explore the International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum exhibition design | Communication Arts
Communication Arts
  • What to See: Spy artifacts and interactive exhibits.
  • Experience: Delve into the world of espionage.
  • Tip: Perfect for families and history enthusiasts.

10. Attend a Performance at the Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Kennedy Center Website
  • What to See: Opera, ballet, and theater productions.
  • Experience: World-class performances in a prestigious venue.
  • Tip: Free performances are often available on the Millennium Stage.

11. Visit the National Archives

National Archives Report Someone Tried to Scrawl “Total Authority” with Sharpie on U.S. Constitution | The New Yorker
The New Yorker
  • What to See: The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution.
  • Experience: See foundational documents of the United States.
  • Tip: Entry is free, but arrive early for shorter lines.

12. Stroll through the Eastern Market

Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. - Attraction | Frommer's
Frommer’s Travel Guides
  • What to See: Local artisans, farmers, and producers.
  • Experience: A vibrant community market in Capitol Hill.
  • Tip: Visit on weekends for the full market experience.

13. Kayak on the Potomac River

Potomac River, Washington DC | Tickets & Tours - 2024
  • What to See: Views of the Georgetown waterfront.
  • Experience: Active exploration of the city from the water.
  • Tip: Rentals are available along the river.

14. Tour the Library of Congress

Library of Congress - Wikipedia
  • What to See: The world’s largest library collection.
  • Experience: Architectural beauty and literary treasures.
  • Tip: Free guided tours are available.

15. Pay Respects at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery Is Sacred for Veterans, Families- The War Horse
The War Horse
  • What to See: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, JFK’s gravesite.
  • Experience: A solemn reminder of the nation’s history.
  • Tip: Witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

Frequently Asked Questions

things to do in DC

Is 2 days enough for Washington DC?

Two days in DC can cover many highlights, but with the city’s rich array of attractions, more time allows for a deeper exploration.

What is the most visited place in Washington DC?

The National Mall, with its iconic monuments and museums, is the most visited area in Washington DC.

How many days do you need in Washington DC?

Ideally, spend at least 3-4 days to experience a good mix of what DC has to offer without rushing.

What should I do on my first day in DC?

Start with the National Mall to see the monuments and one or two Smithsonian museums. This provides a solid introduction to the city.