As the capital of the United States, there are so many things to do in Washington DC to add to your bucket list when traveling to this unique and cultural American destination.
From unique cultural experiences to historical sites and government buildings that exist only in this region of the country, you’ll find a plethora of options for your adventure in the nation’s capital.
Be sure to research the dozens of options of things to do before traveling to the district and the best time to visit Washington, DC so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing opportunities. Read on for some of the best things to do in Washington DC to ensure they all make it on your own travel itinerary!
Hands Down the Best things to do in Washington DC
Every traveler is different and looks for different things in a vacation, but some places are so unique and different that they come with their own special set of bucket list musts.
When visiting a destination as unique as the capital of the United States, you will find dozens of once in a lifetime opportunities for exploring that can’t be missed, no matter what your travel style may be.
Famous landmarks, rich collections of some of the nation’s most prized treasures and some of the best cultural sights found anywhere in the country make up just a few of the things to do in Washington DC! Below are some of the best of the best that deserve a spot on every DC visitor’s list!
Visit During the Cherry Blossom Season
While this may be one of the busiest times to visit, it is also the most beautiful. The cherry blossoms come before the heat of the summer and are a great interlude for warm weather.
Fragrant blossoms fill around the Tidal Basin for as far as the eye can see, making it the perfect backdrop for your photos.
Pro tip: visit during sunrise or sunset for an even prettier view. If the colors of the sky come out to play, you are in for a real show.
Tour all the Famous Landmarks at the National Mall
As the geographic and cultural epicenter of almost a dozen things to do in Washington DC, travelers to the region would be remiss if they didn’t include this spot on their travel itinerary.
From the tall spire if the Washington Monument to the breathtaking spectacle of the Lincoln Memorial, the iconic National Mall is recognized the world over as the emblematic landmark of the capital of the United States.
Because there is so much jam-packed into one location, it pays to consider a tour to experience every single remarkable detail of this location as well as add context to the site as a whole, cohesive unit. If you would rather explore at your own pace or simply take in the sights while exploring the city, self-guided tours are available as well as bike rentals to make the adventure easier.
See the Government at Work on Capitol Hill
The home of the government of the United States of America, another one of the coolest things to do in Washington DC is to visit Capitol Hill and all the offices, buildings and monuments held therein.
From the Supreme Court to the Library of Congress and even the Capitol Building itself, Capitol Hill is another one of those locations in Washington DC that packs a lot of experience into a very small footprint.
Because of the complexity of its role in the government of the country as well as the huge amount of cultural and historical significance held in each of the pieces that make up Capitol Hill, this location is another one where you might want to consider booking a tour.
See the Pandas at the National Zoo
The National Zoo is filled to the brim with all sorts of amazing animals, including the iconic and world famous pandas.
Young and old alike flock from all across the country to see these beautiful gentle giants, as well as all the other unique and endangered species housed within the grounds of this zoological park.
One of the biggest bonuses of this top contender for the must have experiences in Washington DC is the fact that the National Zoo is free to explore! Whether you have children or not, spending a day exploring the grounds of the zoo is a pastime enjoyed by both locals and visitors frequently!
Step Back in Time at the Smithsonian Museums
One of the best tips for visiting Washington, DC is that so much of it is free to explore.
Much like the National Zoo, the other museums in the arsenal of things to do in Washington DC, are also free to explore.
From air and space exploration to treasures of historical significance, you’ll find a little bit of everything plus some more throughout all the venues in this robust city!
Tours are often available to help you cover as much ground as possible. With so much to see, you might want to consider booking one through a reputable company so you can take advantage of as much as possible during your trip to the capital of the United States.
You can find tours specific to each museum or even combination tours to see the highlights of as many as possible! Some of the best small tours are a guided tour of the National Museum of Natural History, a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space or to save time – get a combined tour of both museums!
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is a breathtaking and arresting sight to behold, home to the grave sites of fallen servicemen and women as well as other notable and key figures from throughout the history of the United States.
Of particular note is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which has been guarded without a break since 1937.
The changing of the guard is a spellbinding and moving experience not to be missed among the many must have experiences in Washington DC. Guided tours are available as well as the opportunity to simply wander the grounds and take in the white headstones that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see.
Catch a Show at the Kennedy Center
Whether you want to catch one of their daily free shows or one of their award winning and world renowned performances of theater, dance, music and song, the Kennedy Center is often a top item on the bucket list of must have experiences in Washington DC.
One of the most remarkable parts of any visit to this location is also a trip to the rooftop terrace, where you’ll find unprecedented views of the city!
Picnic at the National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is a favorite must have experiences in Washington DC, for locals and travelers alike!
Free of the crowds and filled with breathtaking gardens as well as a koi pond and historic items from the history of the city, this oasis of green space is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the streets and unwind amid the landscape.
Be sure to visit in the spring to see the cherry blossoms bloom or in the fall for the stunning colors among the pristine landscaped gardens and vistas!
Explore Historic Georgetown
The waterfront and historic Georgetown neighborhood is home to some of the best culinary treats found within the nation’s capital.
A trip to this district is another one of the best things to do in Washington DC, revealing not only some of the complex and compelling history of the region but also the unique and dynamic international fusion of cultures that makes the capital so special.
For a comprehensive experience of everything that makes Washington’s oldest neighborhood so unique, take a guided tasting tour of the area with a knowledgeable local guide! You’ll hear stories spanning the decades, from political scandals to charming anecdotes, the history of this quaint neighborhood is well worth the time it takes to explore all its nooks and crannies.
Get an Inside Look at the White House
Last but certainly not least on the list of things to do in Washington DC is a visit to the White House.
Be aware that this experience will require a lot of advance planning! Since it is such a special and secure location housing the highest officials of the United States government, including the president himself, the tickets are limited and will require three months of advance ordering.
Regardless of the time investment needed, the chance to see behind the scenes at the most famous home in America is well worth the effort! Even if you can’t score tickets to go inside the White House itself, you will still want to visit the location for the opportunity to see the marvel of the President’s home in person!
While this is not an exhaustive compilation of all the things to do in Washington DC, there are so many to be had and the offering is new and exciting every single day!
With so many different and critical functions contained in such a small city, the amount of influence from near and far is unprecedented, creating a dynamic, robust and multicultural hot spot that is also filled with profound history and remarkable cultural influences unlike anywhere else in the world.
It comes as no surprise that the capital of the United States is on the bucket list of many and equally unsurprising is just how many must have experiences fill the lists of visitors from around the nation and the world.
Be sure to plan your Washington DC adventure well in advance so that you don’t miss anything this city has to offer. Even with careful planning and a jam-packed itinerary, you will find yourself wanting to visit again and again to take advantage of all the diverse and exciting things to do in Washington DC!
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