13 Things to Do in Washington, DC (For Tourists and Visitors) – 2022
Washington DC, as we said, is an atypical capital. It was created a little more than two centuries ago on the border between two states, Virginia and Maryland, and in fact, it does not belong to any of the 50 states but is a federal district. Its name is a tribute to the president of the country, George Washington, and curiously, there is a state also called Washington, in all the other parts of the country in the northwest.
It is relatively easy to visit the essential things to see in Washington in one day because most of its monuments are located on the National Mall. This esplanade stretches from the Abraham Lincoln Monument to the Capitol. Although the distance between the extreme points is only 4 km, it is a walk that will require a day due to the number of interesting monuments, gardens, and museums that you can visit.
The route that we propose to you through the Mall begins at the White House and goes through the area’s monuments in a clockwise direction.
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What to see in Washington – Things To Do In DC
If you want to visit Washington comfortably from New York without worrying about anything, book the perfect excursion for you here!
1. White House – Things To Do In DC
Undoubtedly the most mythical building to visit in Washington DC is the White House, the residence of the presidents of the United States. Seeing the euphoria of the tourists, it seems that many feel as if they are about to have a meal with the president when in reality, the house can be seen from quite a distance.
Every year around it, they seem to have to put up more security fences and armed secret service people: it is not a place where one feels comfortable. It is also entirely a bit smaller than one might imagine. In movies, they always show it from angles that make it look bigger.
You will always find a demonstration in front of the building, especially against wars and racism, two significant problems for the United States.
2. George Washington Monument – Things To Do In DC
You will not be able to visit it until 2019 because the elevators are being renovated inside. Still, the Washington Monument, located in the center of the esplanade, is one of the best-known monuments in the world that you will have seen in a thousand movies, series, or news programs infinite times.
This large obelisk with 50 American flags (one for each state) was inaugurated in 1885, and until the construction of the Eiffel Tower, it had the honor of being the tallest building in the world. When they reopened in 2019, the monument can be climbed with prior reservation.
3. Capitol – Things To Do In DC
The Capitol, this majestic neoclassical white building with its prominent dome, is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the United States. The deputies of the two houses of congress meet within it, and here they usually organize most of the most critical state events. The most famous of these acts is undoubtedly the inauguration of the American president.
Among the things to do in Washington, it is essential to take a tour of this architectural gem and enjoy its reflection in the Capitol Reflecting Pool, a small artificial lake near the Capitol. The entrance is free, but to visit it, you will have to make an appointment through the Capitol website, although on less frequented days, if you come in the morning, there are usually tickets at the ticket office.
4. Library of Congress – Things To Do In DC
From the Capitol itself, a tunnel connects to one of the most spectacular libraries in the world that houses almost 160 thousand documents; many of them (such as the draft of the Declaration of Independence or a copy of the Gutenberg Bible) is intangible for the history of humanity. You can only visit the lobby and look at the main room from outside through a glass wall.
5. National Air and Space Museum and other museums – Things To Do In DC
There are several exciting and free museums in Washington on the National Mall itself. If you only have one day in Washington, we recommend entering the National Air and Space Museum. Even if you are not a fan of these museums, it is unmissable.
In part dedicated to aviation, you will see some of the most famous aircraft in history, such as the Wright brothers’ plane, while in the section on space travel, there is an Apollo 11 module that landed on the Moon. And many other exciting things from the world of astronauts.
If you have more time, there are several other fascinating museums to visit. The National Gallery stands out – also free – with a complete collection of the great masters of art from Raffaello through Rembrandt or Monet to 20th-century artists such as Picasso or Joan Miró.
Other notable museums are the National Museum of the American Indians, with a lot of information about the people who lived in these lands before colonization, the National Museum of Natural History, the Holocaust Museum, or the National Museum of American History. Still, we recommend Visiting. You only have a minimum of 2 days in Washington DC.
6.The Smithsonian Institution Castle Garden – Things To Do In DC
Among so many museums and monuments, you will want to rest for a while, as there is no better place to do so than one of the well-kept secrets of the National Mall, the gardens of the Smithsonian Castle. Shortly after the National Air and Space Museum, you will find them coming from the Capitol side.
The sandstone castle houses administrative offices, but the picturesque garden behind it has been one of our favorite places in Washington. Here in the shade of the trees, you can rest away from the noise of the tourists.
7. Tidal Basin and Memorial to Thomas Jefferson – Things To Do In DC
South of the National Mall is a reasonably large lake called the Tidal Basin. Going around the lake is the part of the walk that we liked the most since there are fewer people in this area than in the central part of the Mall. Also, if you are lucky enough to travel in spring, you will find flowering cherry trees in this area.
First, you will find the neoclassical monument dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, the country’s third president. It is one of the most beautiful monuments to visit in Washington with its attractive dome.
Continuing around the Tidal Basin, you will find several other interesting monuments. A little hidden is the monument dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt. This set includes a series of waterfalls and a sculpture of the president and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Then at the end of the Tidal Basin, you will find the striking monument of the pastor and activist Martin Luther King Jr.
8. Reflecting Pool – Things To Do In DC
Leaving the Tidal Basin behind, you will reach the area of the Reflecting Pool, a pool that reflects the image of the George Washington Memorial. At the end of this pool are the famous steps from where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke his timeless words “I have a dream” in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
It is worth sitting on this staircase to reflect on the events that transformed our civilization in the 60s and 70s of the last century.
9. Abraham Lincoln Memorial – Things To Do In DC
Your day in Washington on the National Mall ends at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, perhaps our favorite memorials dedicated to the presidents. This monument recalls the Greek temples, and inside there is a massive sculpture of Lincoln sitting. At the same time, on the walls, you can read fragments of different essential speeches by the president who promoted the abolition of slavery in the United States.
If you haven’t tired of the historical monuments yet, you can take two more steps to look at the Vietnam War Memorial, where on black marble walls, you can see the names of all the almost 60,000 American dead from the Vietnam War engraved.
10. The night lights of the National Mall – Things To Do In DC
One of the essential things to do in Washington is to stand next to the Reflecting Pool at night to see the monuments of the National Mall illuminated. The nighttime reflection of the Washington Monument in the pool and the illuminated Capitol dome in the background is a highly memorable sight for any traveler.
From the same point turning to the other side, you will be able to contemplate the Lincoln Memorial and its spectacular lighting.
Would you be interested in taking an organized excursion or guided tour?
Find here the best-guided tours and tours in Washington! Or you can book one of the tours that we recommend by clicking on the banner below.
After visiting the National Mall, the quintessential activity to do in Washington in one day, we leave you some tips on things you can do in Washington in 2 days.
11. The Georgetown neighborhood – Things To Do In DC
Georgetown is undoubtedly the most picturesque neighborhood in the city, full of mansions, cobbled streets, and characterized by having a small-town feel. The roads with the most atmosphere are Wisconsin Avenue and the surroundings of M Street, where you will find many alternatives to eat.
Highlights include the Old Stone House, one of the oldest mansions in the city, and the campus of Georgetown University, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States…
Finally, for movie geeks, the stairs that connect Prospect Street to 36th Street are a must-see as this stairway was featured in the mythical movie The Exorcist.
12. Arlington Cemetery – Things To Do In DC
Relatively close to the National Mall is Arlington Cemetery, one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. Although it can be included on the first day, due to its size, it deserves a few hours due to its size. Therefore it is a better plan for the second day.
Most of the cemetery is a sea of white tombs where the American soldiers of the different wars from the War of Independence to the last military interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq rest in peace. The entrance to the cemetery is free.
The most famous person to rest in Arlington is President John F. Kennedy, whose grave and eternal flame by his side is a pilgrimage destination for many who vindicate the legacy of the assassinated president. Next to him, his wife and children are buried. Nearby is also the grave of his brother Robert F. Kennedy who was also assassinated. The cemetery is quite large, so you may consider touring it with this tourist trolley.
Finally, we recommend you go to the hill where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located, guarded by a guard throughout the year, every half hour (from April 1 to September 30) or every hour (from October 1 to October 31). March) the changing of the guard takes place. The solemnity of the event is very striking, as the locals watch in total silence, some getting emotional.
Arlington Cemetery can also be visited on an organized tour from the center, so you don’t have to worry about setting up your itinerary through this gigantic cemetery.
13. Chinatown and Ford’s Theater – Things To Do In DC
Also accessible on foot from the National Mall is the city’s Chinatown, accessed through the Friendship Arch, a very typical gate in these neighborhoods. As in all American cities, Chinatown is a world apart with shops that have signed only in Chinese, and it is also an excellent place to eat well and cheaply.
Near Chinatown, you can visit Ford’s Theater which is known above all for where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Today in this place, you also find a museum dedicated to the character of Lincoln.
Getting to Washington from New York
Washington is very well connected with New York, and you have several options to get there; the cheapest option is the bus that takes about 3 hours. Different companies offer this route. Greyhound and Peter Pan are the best known, while Megabus usually offers bargains if you book in advance and travel at times, not in high demand. The Amtrak trains represent the alternative that is somewhat faster but quite expensive.
Therefore we recommend the bus. Finally, if you are short on time and want to visit Washington on an organized excursion, you can book this day tour to Washington from New York!
How to get around Washington? – Things To Do In DC
Washington is not like New York, here to travel most of the city, you will only need your feet. However, if you want to get away from the National Mall, for example, to Georgetown, we advise you to use the DC Circulator buses that only cost $ 1. If you want to visit the monuments of Washington in comfort, another possible option is to use the tourist bus. It is an excellent option to use this cheap transfer to save time between the airport and your hotel.
Where to sleep in Washington?
In Washington, as in general in the large cities of the East Coast of the United States, accommodation is usually quite expensive. However, you will be able to find reasonable options. The best area to stay in is Downtown, which is quite close to attractions and is cheaper than the surroundings of the National Mall. The most affordable options are undoubtedly HI – Washington, DC Hostel and Duo Housing, both Downtown.
Capital Hilton and The Wink hotels tend to have good mid-range deals. Finally, if you want an incredible experience, recommend St. Regis Washington or Hotel Eaton DC.
Here we finish our mini-guide with the 13 essential things to visit in
In a day or two, Washington is a virtual excursion if you travel to New York and a necessary stop on any route by car along the East Coast.
Best Time To Travel
These are the high and low temperatures in Washington
Washington’s climate is semi-continental, which means cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. Washington can also be affected by cold currents coming from Canada that bring in frigid air during the winter.
Rainfall during the year in Washington DC
Precipitation is abundant throughout the year; there are frequent storms in the afternoon or evening in the summer.
Winter in Washington, dc
Winter has average daytime temperatures of only a few degrees above freezing, while they can drop a few degrees below zero at night. If you are visiting DC during the winter, know that it can easily have freezing winds and sunny days, confirming the unstable weather of the entire East Coast of the United States.
The snowfall is abundant, but fortunately, the city is prepared and cleans up quickly.
Spring in Washington DC
In spring, you will have a combination of cold days alternated by the first few days of mild temperatures; in some cases, it can be around 70F / 20-25C degrees, even in April. Spring is cherry blossom season too; if you can, you should come to the National Cherry Blossom Festival ( starting in late March for three weeks. ) Washington is full of Japanese cherry trees, and it’s a sight not to be missed! It must be cut! In May, although the instability of the climate continues, the temperatures rise considerably.
Summer in Washington
Summer in Washington is characterized by hot and muggy days, there can be storms in the afternoon, but temperatures easily reach and exceed 85F / 30C degrees and stay high even at night. The downpours, which do not help to cool down the temperature and lower the humidity, however, come suddenly.
Recommended activities for the summer seasons are a nice cruise on the Potomac River, a visit to Alexandria and Mount Vernon, an evening walking tour of the memorials!
Fall in Washington, dc
With fall, from September to November, comes the less volatile season. You will still find mild and sunny days at least until mid-October, then slowly the temperatures will start to drop, and in November, you can have the first cold days and even some snow.
Beginning in October, the foliage starts, and not only does Washington DC turn orange, red, yellow with shades of brown, but the entire state of Virginia will be magical for those who want to visit the countryside and experience the foliage season; there is no better month than October. Even the rain is less abundant!
When to visit Washington:
Among the four seasons, it is clear that fall and spring are the best times to visit Washington DC; cherry blossoms in April and foliage in October are also the main attraction.
What are the top attractions to visit in Washington DC?
The top attractions to visit in Washington DC are:
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- U.S. Capitol
- Lincoln Memorial
- National Gallery of Art
What are the best outdoor activities in Washington DC? – Things To Do In DC
The best outdoor activities in Washington DC according to Tripadvisor travellers are:
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
U.S. National Arboretum
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