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7 Best Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

Uncover the best and most fun things to do in this city.
Last Updated
:
February 12, 2024
by
Editorial Staff
US Capitol in Washington and fireworks
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We get it—you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C. and let us guess: that glazed look on your face means you just Googled “top things to do in DC” and found yourself with 5 billion museum, memorial, and White House tour recommendations. Now you’re wondering if you made a mistake booking this trip or if DC is just one giant field trip. Well, let us stop your History Class PTSD flashbacks right there!

Yes, DC has approximately one gazillion historical sites and yes, you will likely find yourself perusing more museums than a joyriding Ferris Bueller. But trust us, this city offers plenty more for the traveler who wants a bit more bang for their buck than reading placards at the Lincoln Memorial (but you should totally still do that). From shops and restaurants that would make Leslie Knope swoon to beautiful trails through Rock Creek Park, we’ll give you the real insider scoop on maximizing your time to experience the best of this capital city.

So grab a cup of coffee, preferably from one of the cool artisan cafes we’ll be recommending, and read on to discover the can’t-miss attractions to experience modern-day DC like one of the locals! Just try not to get any corrupt politician to stink on you—we hear it’s nearly impossible to get out of clothing.

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National Mall

National Mall, Washington, D.C.
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The National Mall is a grassy, long area that is home to many iconic monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, and the White House. There are also several Smithsonian museums that are open to the public. The Mall is usually bustling with people, particularly school groups. If you’re here during the springtime, you might want to stop by the Tidal Basin reservoir and check out the blossoming cherry trees.

The National Mall is a 2-mile-long expanse of open space that extends from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. It is a special symbol of American democracy and a national gathering place for civic celebrations. It was designed in the 18th century by Peter Charles L’Enfant, a French engineer who was commissioned by President Washington.

If you’re planning to visit Washington, you might want to spend at least one afternoon in this national park. You can visit the Lincoln Memorial, a marble monument to Abraham Lincoln. It was designed to look like a Greek temple, similar to the Parthenon, with 36 Doric columns and a marble staircase leading up to the sculpture of the 16th president of the United States. The imposing building is a powerful and reflective space, connecting the living to those who have passed away.

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Library of Congress

Library of Congress interior
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The Library of Congress is a national institution that houses more than 164 million items. The main building is on Capitol Hill. Other buildings include the Thomas Jefferson Building and the James Madison Memorial Building. Visitors can access the Library of Congress from Independence Avenue, 2nd Street SE, and East Capitol Street. Visitors may also visit the museum, which features many works from the United States’ history. In addition to being the nation’s largest library, the Library of Congress is also a museum.

In addition to its collection of books and materials, the Library of Congress also administers the national copyright system. In addition, it provides objective research to Congress. And, the Library is home to the world’s largest collection of documents. Visitors can visit the Library of Congress to learn more about the nation’s history and government.

The Library’s collection is comprised of books, manuscripts, and other materials. The collections of the Library of Congress are accessible worldwide. However, the Library has restrictions on the use of their materials.

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International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum
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The International Spy Museum is an independent, nonprofit museum that focuses on the history and tradecraft of espionage. It holds the world’s largest collection of international espionage artifacts and documents how espionage functions today.

The museum has been open since 2002 and has expanded dramatically over the past two decades. It was in need of a more iconic location, so the founders teamed up with Architects Hickok Cole and Developers JBG to design a new home for the museum. The museum is now nestled into a pair of 1960s I.M. Pei buildings.

The museum includes interactive exhibits and features real artifacts, including a James Bond-like car and an umbrella gun. The interactive museum also features hands-on activities that allow visitors to assume the identities of various spies.

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Ford’s Theatre

A large auditorium with rows of seats and a red carpet at Ford’s Theatre
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The Ford’s Theatre opened in August 1863. It was also the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The theatre has a rich history and is well worth a visit. Today, you can enjoy a variety of shows and events. It is also a great place for a group outing.

The theatre was a major attraction when it first opened, and was managed by theatre entrepreneur John T. Ford. The Ford’s Theater is now a National Historic Site and is open to the public. You can also tour the historic theater and experience what it was like when President Lincoln was assassinated there.

Ford’s Theatre’s historic building and theater is a national treasure, and the theatre is an excellent place to enjoy a show. The Ford’s Theatre Society has a commitment to bringing the best performances to its historic stage. The Ford’s Theatre Society has shown critically acclaimed plays, as well as regional and world premieres. The theatre also hosts educational programs that explore the diverse experiences of Americans.

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Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour, located on the Potomac River, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
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There are many activities to enjoy in Washington, D.C. The city has several famous monuments and is known as the political capital of the United States. Visitors can visit museums, historical sites, and historic monuments. The museums in Washington are free of charge. There are also numerous outdoor areas to enjoy.

A great way to see the sights is by taking a sightseeing cruise on the Potomac River. This activity is free for kids three and under. After you’ve experienced the city’s sights, be sure to get a taste of the city’s famous food.

The Potomac River is a scenic body of water that offers a beautiful view of Washington, D.C. While on your tour, you can check out landmarks like the National Harbor and the Jones Point Lighthouse. Other attractions include Mount Vernon and Fort Washington. While on your tour, you might even get to see bald eagles.

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CityCenterDC

CityCenterDC
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Washington D.C. has many attractions and places to visit. For example, the National Arboretum is a must-see attraction, which spans over five blocks. Another must-see destination is CityCenterDC, which is a massive commercial and retail complex. It features restaurants, shops, hotels, offices, and condos.

For a night out with live music, Washington is home to several clubs. The famous 9:30 club has been named one of the best nightclubs in the world by Rolling Stone and has played host to such legendary artists as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Radiohead. You can also see Drake play at this intimate venue, which seats 1,200 people.

Another popular attraction in D.C. is the Washington Monument, which was the tallest building in the world for five years before the Eiffel Tower was built. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful view of the city from the top of the obelisk. Arlington National Cemetery is also a popular destination. Located close to the Pentagon, this burial ground contains the graves of many veterans from every war since Independence. There are also concerts and sports events, which you can attend during your stay in D.C.

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Outside view of National Gallery of Art in Washington at dusk
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The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall, between the United States Capitol and the Natural History Museum, and across from the Air and Space Museum. The National Gallery of Art is accessible via the Metro. It is located near the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station. If you’re driving, there are several parking lots and garages nearby. Parking costs start at $16 per day; however, parking along south streets is generally less expensive.

The National Gallery of Art has one of the largest art collections in the world, with over fourteen thousand works of art on display. Visitors can view works of art ranging from the 11th century to modern times. The National Gallery of Art also features a sculpture garden. Visitors are encouraged to explore the gallery’s collection and learn about the art of the United States through free year-round programs.

Andrew Mellon donated the National Gallery of Art to the U.S., inspired by the National Gallery in London. The donation included a large collection of art including works by Raphael, Titian, and Duccio. Mellon also gave the National Gallery of Art a new home in the West Building.

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