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The 11 best weekend getaways from washington, d.c..

Escape the hustle and bustle of our nation's capital with one of these refreshing weekend getaways.

Weekend Getaways From Washington, D.C.

Sunset over the water in Annapolis.

Getty Images

Consider a seaside adventure to Annapolis for your next trip away from Washington, D.C.

There's no denying the countless things to do and see in our nation's capital. However, the nonstop pace of Washington, D.C. , can wear anyone out, and sometimes a weekend getaway is just what the doctor ordered. Luckily, D.C.'s central mid-Atlantic location gives travelers easy access to top destinations in Virginia , Maryland , Pennsylvania and more.

To help you choose the destination that is right for you, U.S. News evaluated expert and traveler opinion to bring you the best weekend getaways from Washington, D.C. Whether your perfect trip involves hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or being pampered at a world-class spa resort, you'll find all that and more only a stone's throw from D.C.

The Best Weekend Getaways From Washington, D.C.

About an hour or less:, leesburg, virginia, annapolis, maryland, middleburg, virginia, about two hours or less:, shenandoah national park, virginia, st. michaels, maryland, richmond, virginia, about three hours or less:, charlottesville, virginia, rehoboth beach, delaware, philadelphia, ocean city, maryland.

Town homes in downtown Leesburg, Virginia.

Situated about 40 miles northwest of D.C., Leesburg may not be the first destination Washingtonians have in mind when they think of an exciting weekend getaway. But this hidden gem on the banks of the Potomac River has plenty to offer all kinds of travelers. From historic buildings like George C. Marshall's Dodona Manor to lush green spaces like Morven Park, you'll discover a surprising number of things to occupy your time with in Leesburg. Browse boutiques, explore art galleries or sip a latte at one of historic downtown Leesburg's many charming cafes. Or, if you'd like something a little stronger, hit up one of the area's breweries for a drink – Loudoun Brewing Company and Black Hoof Brewing Company receive rave reviews from recent travelers. Meanwhile, wine lovers can sample delicious vino at traveler-approved Zephaniah Farm Vineyard or Casanel Vineyards & Winery. In the evening, listen to live music at the Tally Ho Theater before bedding down at one of the area's charming bed-and-breakfasts . You can also splurge on a stay at the luxurious Lansdowne Resort , which offers amenities like three golf courses and a full-service spa.

Twilight at harbor at Downtown Annapolis, Maryland.

Maryland's capital city is ideal for travelers who need a break from D.C.'s fast-paced atmosphere. Once dubbed the "Athens of America," the historic seaport of Annapolis now draws visitors looking to explore its boutique- and restaurant-lined streets or experience the magic of the Chesapeake Bay by boat. Start your visit with a stroll through Historic Annapolis , which is home to a variety of charming cafes, museums and art galleries. Here, travelers will find top attractions like the William Paca House and the Banneker-Douglass Museum , which presents an overview of Black history in Maryland from the 1600s onward. Then, tour the exhibits on display at the U.S. Naval Academy , the second-oldest federal service academy in the country.

Don't forget to check out the city's many outdoor treasures as well. Weekenders can spend an afternoon lounging on Sandy Point State Park 's golden shoreline or enjoy a picnic at scenic Quiet Waters Park . Later, see for yourself why Annapolis is one of the nation's premier sailing destinations by taking a sunset boat tour of Chesapeake Bay. When it's time to turn in for the night, lay down your head at one of the city's many historic inns or hotels. Graduate Annapolis is a popular pick among recent travelers thanks to its comfortable, nautical-style accommodations and friendly staff.

[See more of Annapolis:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

Skyline aerial of Baltimore, Maryland.

Affectionately nicknamed "Charm City," Baltimore fits the bill whether you are planning a whirlwind daytrip or a fun-filled weekend getaway. From renowned art museums like the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Walters Art Museum to historic sites like Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine , this dynamic city has something to offer just about everyone. You won't want to miss top attractions like the USS Constellation and the National Aquarium , and if you can swing it, try to catch a baseball game at the iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards . Just don't leave without sampling Maryland's famous blue crab – the Chesapeake Bay is responsible for approximately half of the country's entire supply.

Although the drive here from D.C. is relatively short at about 40 miles, you can save yourself the hassle of navigating through downtown Baltimore by taking an Amtrak train from Washington's Union Station to Baltimore's Penn Station, which will get you into the city in less than an hour. From there, Baltimore's convenient public transit system is easy to get the hang of, and the Charm City Circulator (which offers four routes through the city's central business district) is free to ride. First-time visitors hoping to see many of Baltimore's top sights should opt for lodging near the Inner Harbor , or you can put your ghost-hunting skills to the test by staying overnight in one of city's spooky haunted hotels – such as the Admiral Fell Inn .

[See more of Baltimore:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

Grapes on vine at vineyard.

About 45 miles from D.C., Middleburg is like a breath of fresh air. Set amid a backdrop of rolling hills and vineyards, this quiet sanctuary at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia is known for being the nation's premier horse and hunt capital. World-class equestrian events are held here throughout the year, and the town is also home to the National Sporting Library & Museum, an art museum and research library dedicated to country pursuits. After brushing up on your horseback riding skills at one of the area's equestrian centers, go for a stroll along charming Washington Street, where you can browse art galleries, dine on delicious farm-to-table cuisine or hunt for hidden treasures in one of the town's antique shops.

Middleburg is also known for its many wineries – visitors can spend an afternoon sampling top-notch vino before bedding down at one of the area's lavish hotels. With a full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, an equestrian center, a cooking studio, and even an on-site zip lining course, Salamander Resort & Spa is perfect for travelers who want to pull out all the stops for their short weekend getaway. Or, you can opt for a room at the luxurious Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, an exclusive property offering a mere 18 guest rooms spread across six historic cottages. Time your visit for October to experience the four-day Middleburg Film Festival, or arrive on the first Saturday of December to take part in the town's beloved annual Christmas parade.

A sunset viewed from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, featuring a beautiful sky, lush forests, and jagged rocks. Hawksbill summit is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park.

From rushing waterfalls to rocky mountain peaks, Shenandoah National Park is home to a wealth of natural beauty about 70 miles from the city. Experience it on foot while hiking the park's 500-plus miles of trails (the strenuous 9.4-mile Old Rag Mountain hike is a traveler favorite), or enjoy the stunning views while exploring Skyline Drive , a 105-mile scenic route that is a must-do on any Shenandoah itinerary. You can also step foot on the legendary Appalachian Trail , about 100 miles of which is located in Shenandoah National Park. Plan your visit for fall to see the Blue Ridge Mountains painted in magnificent shades of red, orange and yellow, or come during spring to admire the park's wildflowers in bloom.

If you feel like roughing it under the stars, the park offers five campgrounds to choose from, and backcountry camping is allowed with a permit. Or, kill two birds with one stone by booking accommodations in the nearby town of Luray. Here, visitors will find the famous Luray Caverns, a vast underground cave system known for its extensive chambers of stalactites and stalagmites.

[See more of Shenandoah National Park:  Things to Do  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

View of a harbor with yachts moored to wooden piers under a blue sky in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Travelers looking for a relaxing weekend getaway will love the laid-back town of St. Michaels. Located about 80 miles east of Washington, this quaint harbor town on Maryland's eastern shore can suit a variety of needs, whether you are looking for a romantic trip for two or a family-friendly retreat on the water. Learn about the town's rich history of shipbuilding through interactive exhibits at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, then gain your sea legs on a sunset boat tour of Miles River. Or, if you'd rather stick to land, you can explore the streets of St. Michaels on a pedicab ride before perusing the many unique shops and restaurants that line Talbot Street. When it's time to turn in for the evening, visitors can retreat to one of St. Michaels' cozy inns or vacation rentals.

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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, at dusk.

About 110 miles from Washington, Virginia's capital, while steeped in history, is by no means stuck in the past. Sure, travelers can enjoy iconic landmarks like the Virginia State Capitol and St. John's Church , but you'd be remiss not to save time for exploring Richmond 's other cultural offerings too. From world-class art museums like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to top-notch restaurants and breweries , Richmond offers a plethora of ways to spend your time. Take a stroll through eccentric Carytown , where you'll find boutiques, a 1920s movie theater and more street murals than you can count.

You can also spend an afternoon rafting or kayaking down the scenic James River. Meanwhile, travelers with a taste for beautiful outdoor spaces will want to check out the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and historic Maymont , a sprawling Gilded Age-era estate featuring spectacular Italian and Japanese gardens. In the evening, lay down your head at the sophisticated Jefferson Hotel , an upscale property in the heart of downtown Richmond boasting deluxe amenities and opulent guest rooms – perfect for a romantic getaway in Virginia .

[See more of Richmond:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

Aerial shots of Charlottesville, Virginia on a cloudy evening in early fall.

The city of Charlottesville , located about 115 miles southwest of D.C., is an ideal getaway spot for those who want to immerse themselves in our nation's history. Your first stop should be Monticello , the former home of President Thomas Jefferson. Here, visitors can tour Jefferson's living quarters and learn about the experiences of the enslaved people who were forced to live and work here. Recent travelers also recommend saving time for a stroll through the Saunders-Monticello Trail, a 4-mile route through native hardwood forest. After exploring the grounds of his historic estate, pay a visit to the university founded by Jefferson in 1819: the University of Virginia . This historic college is the only university in the United States to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When you're ready to step back into the present, you'll find top-rated restaurants, art galleries, specialty shops and more in Charlottesville's beloved Downtown Mall . For a memorable experience, visit in autumn to go applepicking at Carter Mountain Orchard and witness the area's colorful fall foliage . Don't forget to grab an apple cider doughnut – a treat recent travelers say is not to be missed. Recharge your batteries with a luxurious stay at Boar's Head Resort , a charming property with many on-site amenities, including tennis and pickleball courts, a spa, golf courses, three swimming pools, a squash center and a rock climbing wall.

[See more of Charlottesville:  Things to Do | Wineries |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

Sunrise at Rehoboth Beach. Photo taken with a drone during summer.

Nicknamed the "Nation's Summer Capital," Rehoboth Beach is one of Delaware's best weekend getaway destinations. Located about 120 miles east of D.C., this 1-square-mile town is perfect for travelers in search of a classic beach vacation. Spend an afternoon lounging on the sand, then go for a stroll along Rehoboth's lively boardwalk , which is packed with restaurants, bars, shops and more. Meanwhile, families won't want to miss a visit to Funland , a popular amusement park featuring arcade games and plenty of kid-friendly rides. For a quieter (but no less beautiful) beach experience, head to Cape Henlopen State Park . Located north of Rehoboth Beach, this coastal park offers ample opportunities for swimming, fishing, cycling, camping, hiking and more.

When it's time to bed down, the area is full of cozy cottages and vacation rentals. Or, travelers can find lodging at one of Rehoboth Beach's top hotels. Boardwalk Plaza Hotel boasts comfortable Victorian-style accommodations and perks like an on-site pub and indoor-outdoor pool. Meanwhile, The Avenue Inn & Spa attracts travelers looking for extras like a full-service spa and complimentary breakfast. Plan an autumn visit to Rehoboth Beach to experience the annual Sea Witch Festival, a top fall festival .

[See more of Rehoboth Beach:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

Philadelphia's Independence Hall at sunset.

History buffs who have already explored Washington's many monuments and museums will be delighted to know there's yet another historical city within close reach of the nation's capital. Located around 140 miles northeast of D.C., Philadelphia boasts iconic landmarks such as the Liberty Bell Center , the Betsy Ross House and Independence Hall , where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted and signed. But despite its historic heritage, Philadelphia has kept up well with the times – hip nightclubs and trendy restaurants abound in Center City, along with world-class art museums like the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art .

Keep in mind that traffic in Philly is notoriously bad and parking options are slim, so ditch the car and opt for public transportation instead. An Amtrak train from Union Station to William H. Gray III 30th Street Station typically takes less than two hours, and once you're there, the city's easy-to-use transit system will get you wherever you need to go. But if you don't feel like sharing elbow room with a bus full of strangers, don't worry – Philadelphia is consistently rated as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. Take advantage of this by booking your stay at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia or the swanky Rittenhouse hotel, both of which offer prime locations near many of the city's top sights.

[See more of Philadelphia:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

View of Ocean City, an Atlantic resort town in Worcester County, Maryland, from the beach in the evening.

Maryland's Ocean City has long been the beach destination of choice for D.C. residents – and for good reason. Complete with kid-friendly amusement rides and 10 miles of uninterrupted shoreline, this quintessential beach town has all the makings of a fun-filled weekend getaway. For prime beach access, opt for a hotel facing the ocean – Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort and Hilton Ocean City Oceanfront Suites both receive rave reviews from recent travelers. Or, enjoy relaxing water views from a bayside vacation rental. And the best part? Ocean City is located less than 150 miles from D.C., so beach bums won't have to travel far to stick their toes in the sand.

Thanks to its position on Assawoman and Isle of Wright bays, Ocean City is the perfect place to enjoy low-key waters ports like paddleboarding and kayaking. But, of course, the main draw here is the city's wide, sandy beach . Although you'll have to fight off other beachgoers for a spot to lay your towel come June, lounging under the sun while ocean waves crash in the distance is the perfect summer activity. Families can peruse the boardwalk 's many souvenir shops and arcades, or head to nostalgia-inducing Trimper Rides for amusement park classics like mirror mazes and bumper cars. Refuel with tasty local treats like Thrasher's French Fries and Fractured Prune donuts. Meanwhile, travelers 21 and older can take advantage of Ocean City's exciting nightlife scene – Seacrets, the island's most popular party complex, features more than 15 bars and several stages playing nightly live music.

[See more of Ocean City:  Things to Do  |  Hotels  |  When to Visit  |  Photos  ]

You might also be interested in:

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Tags: Travel , Washington DC Vacations , Southeast Vacations , US Vacations

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20 Great Small Towns Near Washington, D.C.

places to visit near washington dc

Visit Loudoun

The Washington, D.C. area has a variety of small towns with great restaurants, shopping, recreational activities and cultural attractions. Visit these 20 towns and enjoy a wide range of architecture, historic landmarks, museums, arts and entertainment districts and more. Learn about the top attractions and what makes each destination unique. 

St. Michaels, MD

F Delvental

St. Michaels is one of the best destinations on the Maryland Eastern Shore for sailing, bicycling and eating freshly-caught crabs and oysters. The coastal town is a popular place to visit and has a variety of gift shops, restaurants, inns and bed and breakfasts. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum displays Chesapeake Bay artifacts and features programs about maritime history and culture. Visitors can take a cruise on a Skipjack, tour a brewery, distillery and winery, go fishing or explore historic landmarks.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 79 miles

Fredericksburg, VA

Rachel Cooper

Fredericksburg, Virginia is a charming historic town that was the childhood home to George Washington, a major port during the colonial era and the site of major battles during the Civil War. The historic district contains 350 original 18th and 19th century buildings and is home to many living history museums, restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 53 miles

Gettysburg, PA

 Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau

Best known for its Civil War history, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a quaint town with a wide range of attractions and activities. While there are numerous interactive tours and ways to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, visitors also enjoy the great antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and exploring the Pennsylvania countryside.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 86 miles

Harpers Ferry, WV

Getty Images

Harpers Ferry is a historic landmark in Jefferson County, West Virginia,  just an hour's drive northwest of Washington, D.C.  The area is known for John Brown's attack on slavery and the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War. West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia merge at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. Visitors can enjoy a variety of scenic hiking trails and explore the historic town which offers ranger-guided tours, museums, restaurants and craft shops.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 68 miles

Cambridge, MD

Cambridge is a small historic town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Located just 90 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., the waterfront community features brick paved streets with shops, restaurants, parks, a marina, museums, and a lighthouse.  The area attracts nature lovers, birders, photographers, cyclists, and paddlers to explore the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. In 2017, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park will open providing the public with a wide range of experiences to learn about the extraordinary history of the abolitionist movement in this region.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 86 miles

Winchester, VA

Located in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, Winchester has a four block pedestrian only historic district with unique shops, restaurants, and architecture. The famous George Washington Hotel  is an elegant place to stay with its convenient location in the heart of Old Town. The area offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities within an easy drive. Old Town Winchester is the artistic hub of the region with concerts, plays, operas and other cultural events throughout the year.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 75 miles

Leesburg, VA

Leesburg, Virginia, the county seat of Loudoun County, served as a commercial center for the region during the days of early settlement. Today, the historic district is a popular destination for fine dining, antiquing, shopping, and recreation. Visitors travel to the area from around the region to shop at the  Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets , to visit the nearby wineries and to attend a variety of seasonal events. Lansdowne Resort offers luxury accommodations and an ideal destination for a family gathering or business meeting. 

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 41 miles

Ellicott City, MD

Ellicott City is a historic town in Howard County, Maryland that is home to the oldest railroad station in the U.S. and the last operating grist mill in the state. Located 11 miles west of Downtown Baltimore, the town offers a unique destination for shopping and dining.  Ellicott City was severely damaged in a historic flood in August 2016 and in 2018, and the town is working toward reopening many of its attractions. Call ahead to check with the specific site before planning a visit.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 39 miles

Berlin is a small town in Worcester County, Maryland. It is approximately 7 miles from Ocean City and is the closest town to Assateague Island National Seashore.  The town’s Main Street was originally part of the path that connected the Assateague Indians with the neighboring Pocomoke tribe. Today, Berlin is home antique shops, art galleries and restaurants and has 47 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unique recreational activities in the area include journeys into calm streams and peaceful marsh lands. Herring Creek Nature Park, a five-acre nature trail, is the ideal place for bird watching. Frontier Town  is a popular family amusement site and water park. 

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 139 miles

Chestertown, MD

Mike Boswell

The small town on the banks of the Chester River was an important port of entry for early settlers to Maryland. Today, Chestertown is the county seat of Kent County and has a growing arts and entertainment district. It is a fun place to explore with many restored colonial homes, churches, and a variety interesting shops and restaurants. The Chestertown Tea Party Festival  is one of the many family friendly events that attracts visitors from around the region.  Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge   is a 2,285 acre island providing habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl. The area is also home to Washington College, the tenth oldest college in the United States.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 75 miles

Located on the Maryland Eastern Shore along Route 50 between Annapolis and Ocean City, Easton is a quaint historic town with great shops and restaurants. The Tidewater Inn  is an historic property that offers luxury accommodations and prime event space. Main attractions in town include the Academy Art Museum, Avalon Theater and the Pickering Creek Audubon Center.  Although Easton is located inland, it has convenient access to the waterfront communities of St. Michael's and Cambridge.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 70 miles

Manassas, VA

Manassas is an independent city near Prince William County, Virginia, located approximately 30 miles from Washington, D..C and a short drive from the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. The area is best known for its Civil War history and attracts visitors from around the region to explore its historic sites and enjoy shopping at dozens of art, antique and specialty shops.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 32 miles

Middleburg, VA

Located in the heart of Virginia horse country, Middleburg is known for its natural beauty and equestrian activities. The town is interesting to explore as it is home to more than 160 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Popular attractions include Aldie Mill, Creighton Farms and the National Sporting Library and Museum.  With an ideal climate for growing grapes, Middleburg also boasts more than 20 wineries within a short drive. The nearby Salamander Resort & Spa offers a luxury getaway destination and a wide range of activities for all ages. 

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 43 miles

Occoquan, VA

 Rachel Cooper

Set along the Occoquan River in Northern Virginia, the town of Occoquan was first settled by early colonists who relied on the river for transportation and trade. For more than 175 years, it served as industrial settlement with a grist mill and tobacco warehouses. Today, the town is an interesting place to explore and has antique shops, restaurants, and a boat dock.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 24 miles

Staunton, VA

 Eli Christman

Located in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Downtown Staunton is known for its magnificently preserved architecture. The town features unique shops, art galleries and restaurants, along with the recently-restored Stonewall Jackson Hotel . Top attractions include the Blackfriars Playhouse, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum  and the Frontier Culture Museum.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 157 miles

Lexington, VA

Virginia Tourism Corp.

Lexington is located in the center of the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia and is home to Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. History buffs enjoy the Stonewall Jackson House, the George C. Marshall Museum, and Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee.  A wide variety of outdoor recreation is available off the Blue Ridge Parkway and at nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The Virginia Horse Center provides year-around activities, such as major horse sales, competitions, equine events and instruction.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 189 miles

Waterford, VA

Peyton Chung

Waterford is a small town in the Catoctin Valley of Loudoun County, Virginia, located along Catoctin Creek. The historic district is a National Historic Landmark and includes a variety of 18th and 119th century buildings including a mill, Arch House Row, Camelot School, the William Virtz House and the Catoctin Creek Bridge. The Waterford Fair is an annual craft fair that attracts visitors from around the region. 

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 47 miles

Chincoteague, VA

Cameron Davidson/Virginia Tourism Corp

Chincoteague Island, a tiny fishing town at the northeastern tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore,is known worldwide for the wild ponies that live in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The town is steps away from the Atlantic Ocean by bridge. The most popular event for the area is held each July when the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company's  Pony Swim and Auction  brings scores of spectators to watch cowboys rounding up ponies and swimming them across the channel from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island for auction. Visitors enjoy kayaking, charter fishing and nature watching.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 170 miles

Purcellville, VA

Nestled in the heart of Virginia's wine country, the charming town of Purcellville is home to a great selection of boutiques, restaurants, and Loudoun County’s first distillery since Prohibition. Numerous award-winning wineries are within minutes of the Historic Old Town area. Nearby attractions include the W&OD Bike Trail, Fireman’s Field ballpark, and Bush Tabernacle.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 49 miles

Cumberland, MD

Cumberland, the western gateway city and the seat of Allegany County, Maryland, offers small town charm that dates back to 1787.  Major attractions include the C & O Canal National Park Visitor Center & Museum, the Allegany Museum, the Shops at Canal Place and Gordon-Roberts House. Nestled among the Appalachian Mountains, the town offers a convenient place to visit while enjoying outdoor recreation.

Distance from Washington, D.C.: 137 miles

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20 things to do near Washington D.C.

There’s so much to see and do in our nation’s capital it’s really easy to forget the sights and attractions just outside the city. You can stay in Washington, D.C ., and then take a day traveling to a few of these places and still be back in time to get a good night’s rest in your hotel room so you’re ready for your adventures the next day.

Here’s your guide of 20 places to visit within one hour of Washington, D.C.:

1. Arlington National Cemetery

Image Source: Ron Cogswell

Arlington, Virginia 2.9 miles from Washington, D.C.

This 624 acres worth of cemetery is a place to remember and pay tribute to soldiers who have fallen on duty. Explore through other parts of the cemetery to find and see the various monuments and memorials, as well as a chance to see the Changing of the Guard ritual at the Arlington National Cemetery .

2. U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

Image Source: NCinDC

Arlington, Virginia 4.2 miles from Washington, D.C.

A statue of six soldiers putting up the U.S. flag, depicting a prominent moment from World War II, stands in honor of all U.S. marines who have fought and given their lives to their country. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial , also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial , is located nearby the Arlington National Cemetery so you can admire and pay your compliments to the two without traveling too far.

An insider’s guide to Washington D.C.’s hidden gems Let's go

3. National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

Image Source: DVIDSHUB

Arlington, Virginia 4.4 miles from Washington, D.C.

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial was built to remember those men, women and children who passed away on Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. To honor those who fell, 184 steel and granite benches were made and placed on the west side of the Pentagon for people to come and view and pay their respects to.

4. DEA Museum & Visitors Center

Image Source: Joe Loong

Arlington, Virginia 5.1  miles from Washington, D.C.

Visitors aren’t openly welcomed to tour FBI or CIA headquarters, but you can stop by for free between Tuesday and Friday to tour the DEA Museum & Visitors Center . Through tour guides, videos and exhibits, you learn just what the Drug Enforcement Administration does and about the impact of drug addiction.

5. Netherlands Carillon

Image Source: kalacaw

Arlington, Virginia 4.0 miles from Washington, D.C.

The Netherlands Carillon is symbolic of the friendship between the Netherlands and the United States. The U.S. received this gift after aiding the Dutch people during WWII, and today many visit it to listen to the music of the 50 bells hanging in the tower, take in the views of Washington, D.C., and sit in peace while being surrounded by blooming flowers.

6. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

Image Source: James Davison

Arlington, Virginia 4.6 miles from Washington, D.C.

The trail network making up the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail follows paths explored by former President George Washington. It’s a great outdoor activity allowing you to walk, run or bike these trails, as well as take them by boat or horse.

7. George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Image Source: Kyle Rush

Alexandria, Virginia 18.0 miles from Washington, D.C.

American history lovers or just those who admired George Washington should travel to Mount Vernon where George and Martha lived. Guests get to visit the Mansion and Washington’s Tomb and feel what it was like to spend the day on about 50 acres of his stunning plantation.

8. George Washington Masonic National Memorial

Image Source: Jim Larrison

Alexandria, Virginia 9.4 miles from Washington, D.C.

On any of the seven days of the week, you can see this tourist attraction, which is also a library, research center, performing arts center, concert hall and meeting site. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial stands open to the public thanks to generous contributions from Freemasons and a few other donors.

9. Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Art Factory Center

Alexandria, Virginia 8.7 miles from Washington, D.C.

Located on the waterfront of the Potomac River is a former torpedo factory (hence the cool name) that’s been turned into an art center. Torpedo Factory Art Center is three floors of open galleries and studios filled with beautiful original artwork by various artists.

54 blockbuster movies filmed in Washington D.C. Can you name 5?

10. Great Falls Park

McLean, Virginia 16.5 miles from Washington, D.C.

A chance to be outdoors enjoying nature and history all in one place is at Great Falls Park . This 800 acres worth of gorgeous, clean park is in northern Fairfax County with plenty to do and explore, including hiking along Mather Gorge’s cliff tops.

11. National Colonial Farm

Image Source: baldeaglebluff

Accokeek, Maryland 23.9 miles from Washington, D.C.

At National Colonial Farm visitors can hike through winding trails, see Mount Vernon off a boat dock and travel to there by passenger boat. Bring good walking shoes and your camera to fully enjoy this farm any time during the year.

12. U.S. Naval Academy

Image Source: sneakerdog

Annapolis, Maryland 32.1 miles from Washington, D.C.

See what the Yard is all about on a guided walking tour of the U.S. Naval Academy . The public guided walking tours are offered year round, with times varying depending on day of the week and month. You might get to see the noon formation if touring then and partake in tax-free shopping if you do the tour, dine at Drydock and shop in their gif shop.

13. Annapolis Maritime Museum

Image Source: Maryland GovPics

Annapolis, Maryland 33.3 miles from Washington, D.C.

If you can’t take the smell of anything fishy, the Annapolis Maritime Museum isn’t for you. Those who welcome seafood can learn all about oysters, try out oyster tonging and fish from their dock and pier.

14. National Harbor

Image Source: Forsaken Fotos

Fort Washington, Maryland 11.7 miles from Washington, D.C.

National Harbor is a place to shop, dine and have a total waterfront experience. There are always events happening or you can get involved with the many shops and restaurants and then end your night on a bench overlooking the waterfront with its pretty views.

15. Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park

Image Source: Acroterion

Leesburg, Virginia 42.4 miles from Washington, D.C.

At Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park visitors can learn about this early Civil War battle, see the cemetery that sits in the center of the 223-acre park or venture along some of their hiking trails.

5 locals you must meet on every trip Get the inside scoop

16. Oatlands Historic House and Gardens

Image Source: lcm1863

Leesburg, Virginia 44.2 miles from Washington, D.C.

Established back in the early 19th century, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens is an elegant mansion, colorful gardens and rolling farmland. This area is full of nearly 200 years worth of American culture and history and has different activities available every season of the year.

Experience Leesburg from Holiday Inn Washington-Dulles Intl Airport

17. Inner Harbor

Baltimore, Maryland 39.3 miles from Washington, D.C.

Inner Harbor has been a seaport since the 1700s and stands as a city landmark and the center of tourism for Baltimore today. Tourists shop, eat and visit other attractions, like the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center, while visiting this famous eastern spot.

Make the most of your Inner Harbor visit at Crowne Plaza Baltimore - Inner Harbor

18. Fort McHenry

Image Source: greyloch

Baltimore, Maryland 39.6 miles from Washington, D.C.

This fort, shaped like a star, is an American national monument and historic shrine. The defense of Fort McHenry back in the 1800s during the Battle of Baltimore helped inspire Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

19. Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum

Image Source: Jim, the Photographer

Baltimore, Maryland 38.2 miles from Washington, D.C.

Baseball fans know this name well, as George Herman “Babe” Ruth was a baseball player and America’s very first sports celebrity. At the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum , guests can see and hear about the life and baseball career of this Baltimore native.

20. Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave

Image Source: Amy Meredith

Baltimore, Maryland 38.1 miles from Washington, D.C.

Edgar Allan Poe had a very unique way with words, which earned him the nickname of “America’s Shakespeare”. He wrote various types of short stories, lyric poetry and darker horror stories. His literature is still read today, so anyone who’s a fan can take the short drive from Washington, D.C. to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave .

Washington, D.C., keeps tourists busy with all its governmental and historical sites, but make the time to venture outside the city to see what other historical, cultural and fun attractions are nearby. It’ll make your trip to the capital an even better experience.

Washington D.C. tours, attractions and more

Explore choices for your next Washington D.C. trip, including an African-American history tour of the city. Book through IHG and earn 1,000 points.

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Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

New to DC? Explore 16 Unique Places Near Washington, DC Worth the Visit

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Washington, DC is a vibrant city filled with history, culture, and countless attractions. But if you’ve just moved to DC and are looking to escape the hustle and bustle and explore the surrounding areas, there are plenty of unique destinations to visit that are steeped in history and packed with interesting tourist attractions. 

Whether you’re in the process of buying a home or looking to rent an apartment in one of the many neighborhoods in DC , the District and its surrounding region has something for everyone. Redfin has 10 places to visit while living in Washington DC that are sure to delight you.

A picture of Key Bridge that links Virginia with the District of Columbia.

1. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Estimated travel time: 1.5 hours

Harpers Ferry is a hidden gem located just an hour and a half drive from DC. The town’s rich history can be seen and felt in every corner, with preserved buildings and historic sites that transport visitors back in time to the Civil War era.

In addition to its historic significance, Harpers Ferry is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The town is situated at the joining of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, providing ample opportunities for water activities such as kayaking, rafting, and fishing. Hiking trails abound in the area, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys.

The town also boasts charming shops, galleries, and restaurants that are sure to delight visitors. Take a stroll down the cobblestone streets and you’ll find yourself transported back in time.

Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States, in the lower Shenandoah Valley.

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As you make your way through the winding roads of Shenandoah National Park , you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world. The Blue Ridge Mountains tower above you, their peaks shrouded in mist, while the trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s hard not to feel humbled by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

While exploring the park, you’ll discover a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking trails wind their way through the forests, leading you to hidden waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints. You might even spot some of the park’s resident wildlife, such as black bears, deer, and foxes.

One of the highlights of Shenandoah National Park is the famous Skyline Drive. This scenic road stretches for 105 miles, offering unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding countryside. With numerous pull-off points along the way, you can stop to take in the vistas, snap some photos, or enjoy a picnic.

Winding road in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

3. Annapolis, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 1 hour

Nestled on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the picturesque town of Annapolis is a true gem of the mid-Atlantic. With its quaint cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and maritime traditions, it’s the perfect destination for a day trip from DC.

As the capital of Maryland, Annapolis is steeped in colonial history, and visitors can explore its rich past through its many museums and historic sites. The charming historic district boasts over 1,000 buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including the Maryland State House, which served as the nation’s capital from 1783 to 1784.

Annapolis is also a vibrant coastal town that’s full of life. The city’s harbor is home to a thriving sailing community, and visitors can take a sailboat ride or enjoy a sunset cruise on the bay. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you’re in luck – Annapolis is known for its delicious crab cakes, which can be found at many of the town’s restaurants and seafood shacks.

A visit to the US Naval Academy is a must. Founded in 1845, the academy is a top-tier institution that prepares future officers for service in the US Navy and Marine Corps. Visitors can take a guided tour of the campus and learn about the academy’s storied history and traditions.

Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as the county seat of Anne Arundel County.

4. Great Falls Park, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 35 minutes

Great Falls Park is a hidden gem just 15 miles from Washington DC. This breathtaking natural area is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, offering hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the Potomac River as it rushes through the Mather Gorge.

As you make your way along the trails that wind through the park, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees. The sound of the rushing river will be your constant companion, providing a soothing soundtrack to your hike. Take a moment to pause and soak in the beauty of the rugged rocks that line the river’s edge, or venture down to the riverbank for an up-close view of the rushing waters.

For those seeking a bit of adventure, there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, rock climbing, and fishing. And if you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to pack a swimsuit so you can cool off in the refreshing waters of the Potomac.

Kayaking Down Great falls National Park Waterfall

5. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Estimated travel time: 2 hours

Gettysburg National Military Park is an incredibly captivating destination for history enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War. The park offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and learn about the events that took place during the Civil War.

You will be transported to a different era as you explore the park, walking in the footsteps of soldiers who fought bravely for their beliefs. The park features a wide variety of exhibits and guided tours that offer visitors an in-depth look at the battle and its significance in shaping our nation’s history.

Beyond the history, the park is also a stunning natural area, with beautiful rolling hills and fields that are perfect for picnics or a peaceful stroll. Gettysburg National Military Park is a truly captivating destination that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who fought for our country.

General Warren statue standing on Little Round Top overlooking Devil's Den below, American Civil War, Gettysburg National Military Park, PA, USA.

6. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 3 hours

Assateague Island National Seashore , located just three hours from DC, is a true gem of the East Coast. This unique destination offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

One of the main attractions of Assateague Island is its famous wild horses. These majestic creatures roam freely on the island and are certainly a sight to behold. Visitors can observe them from a safe distance, or take a guided tour to learn more about their history and behavior.

In addition to the horses, the island is also home to miles of pristine beaches. Whether you’re looking to swim, surf, or simply relax and soak up the sun, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean provide the perfect backdrop for a day of fun and relaxation.

For those looking for more active pursuits, there are ple

nty of opportunities for hiking and biking on the island’s trails. With stunning views of the beach and the surrounding marshes, these trails are a must-see for nature enthusiasts.

Horses running along the beach

7. St. Michaels, Maryland

On the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is another hidden gem just waiting to be explored. This charming town is steeped in maritime history and boasts breathtaking views that are sure to capture your heart. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be swept away by the town’s quaint charm and welcoming atmosphere.

As you wander through the historic district, you’ll be transported back in time. The streets are lined with beautiful colonial architecture, and there are plenty of unique shops and galleries to explore. You’ll also find an abundance of local restaurants serving up delicious seafood and other regional specialties.

For a truly unique experience, consider taking a boat tour of the bay. You’ll get an up-close lo

ok at the town’s beautiful coastline and learn about its rich history from knowledgeable guides. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, rent a kayak and explore the bay at your own pace.

Hooper Strait Lighthouse

8. Luray Caverns, Virginia

Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley lies an underground wonderland that will take your breath away. Luray Caverns , located just two hours from DC, is a mesmerizing natural attraction that offers a glimpse into the ancient geological history of Virginia.

As you descend into the depths of the caverns, you will be greeted with a dazzling display of stalactites and stalagmites, towering columns of rock, and crystal-clear pools of water that reflect the stunning formations above. The caverns are home to one of the world’s largest musical instruments, the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which uses the natural acoustics of the cave to create hauntingly beautiful music.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the caverns, where knowledgeable guides will share the history and geology of the underground wonderland. The tour takes you through several chambers, each with their unique features and formations, and ends with a dramatic finale at the Cathedral Room, a massive underground chamber with soaring ceilings and awe-inspiring rock formations.

After exploring the caverns, visitors can also enjoy other attractions on the property, such as the Luray Valley Museum, the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, and the Garden Maze. For those looking for an adventure, there are also hiking trails and a ropes course nearby.

Long exposure shot taken in Luray Caverns in Virginia. The beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone makes this under ground geological cave a marvelous spectacle. The limestone geological formations are great in this subterranean marvel in the in the Shenandoah Valley.This underground pool has made the stones turn green as the acidic water has affected all the coins that people have thrown into the cavern water. - A great Background Texture Pattern, or Graphic Element Wallpaper for poster design.

9. Antietam National Ba ttlefield, Maryland

Located about an hour and a half from DC, Antietam National Battlefield is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the battlefield and learn about the history of the war through exhibits and guided tours. Walking the fields where the battle was fought, you’ll see cannons and monuments dotting the landscape, each one telling a unique story of bravery, sacrifice, and loss. You can also explore the Antietam National Cemetery, where over 4,000 soldiers are buried, and pay your respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Beyond the battlefield, the surrounding area offers a wealth of natural beauty, including hiking trails, scenic drives, and charming small towns. Take a stroll through nearby Sharpsburg, a quaint village that played a significant role 

in the battle, or venture out to the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which features miles of scenic hiking and biking trails along the Potomac River.

Antietam National Military Park, Sunken Road and Bloody Lane fence line and Union soldier monument, Sharpsburg, MD, USA.

10. Chesap eake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C., the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park offers a peaceful retreat that boasts a wealth of natural beauty and historical significance. This hidden gem is an ideal destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike, as visitors can explore the park’s stunning scenery, hike or bike along the canal towpath, and discover the park’s rich history.

Spanning over 180 miles, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park follows the path of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which was used in the 19th century to transport goods between Washington D.C. and the Ohio River Valley. Visitors can learn about the canal’s history and importance through various exhibits and interpretive programs throughout the park.

In addition to its historical significance, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park also offers a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitors can explore the park’s scenic trails, which offer stunning views of the Potomac River and its surrounding forests. The canal towpath provides an ideal setting for a leisurely bike ride or a peaceful hike, with plenty of opportunities to observe the park’s abundant wildlife.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

11. The Eastern Shore, Maryland and Virginia

Estimated travel time: 3.5 hours

The Eastern Shore, located on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, is a picturesque region that offers a relaxing escape from Washington DC. Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the area, including pristine beaches, scenic waterways, and wildlife preserves. The small towns and villages of the Eastern Shore are known for their charm, hospitality, and local flavor. 

The region is renowned for its fresh seafood, including blue crabs, oysters, and rockfish, which can be enjoyed at waterfront restaurants and seafood shacks. The Eastern Shore is also home to numerous historic sites and museums that offer insights into the area’s rich history, including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum , the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park , and the historic town of St. Michaels. 

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you will appreciate the many opportunities for hiking, kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching, as well as the miles of scenic byways that wind through the countryside.

Fishing pier at sunset, Ocean City, Maryland, USA

12. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore , located just an hour’s drive from Washington DC, is a vibrant city with a rich history, cultural attractions, and a thriving culinary scene. Visitors to Baltimore can explore the city’s historic harbor, which has been transformed into a popular destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment. The harbor is home to the National Aquarium, where visitors can see over 20,000 animals from around the world, including sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles. 

Baltimore is home to must-visit museums , including the Baltimore Museum of Art, which features an extensive collection of contemporary and modern art, and the Walters Art Museum, which showcases art from around the world. 

Baltimore is also a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that includes everything from crab cakes and oysters to artisanal coffee shops and craft breweries. Visitors can sample local delicacies at the city’s many restaurants and food markets, including Lexington Market and Faidley’s Seafood. With its lively atmosphere, cultural attractions, and delicious food, Baltimore is an excellent destination for a weekend getaway from Washington DC.

Baltimore is a great place to visit near Washington DC

13. Richmond, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 2.5 hours

Richmond , Virginia’s capital city, is a historic and cultural hub that is an ideal weekend getaway from Washington DC. The city offers visitors a diverse range of attractions, including museums, galleries, restaurants, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the country’s most comprehensive art museums, with a vast collection of works from around the world. The city is also home to the American Civil War Museum, which tells the story of the Civil War through the eyes of soldiers, civilians, and enslaved people. 

Richmond is also known for its food scene, with a thriving restaurant culture that features everything from Southern comfort food to international cuisine. The city’s location on the James River also makes it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as kayaking, fishing, and river rafting opportunities. 

Downtown Richmond, Virginia On A Sunny Summer Day

14. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware , is a charming coastal town that offers visitors a relaxing beach getaway just a few hours’ drive from Washington DC. The town features a beautiful stretch of white sandy beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. Visitors can also stroll along the boardwalk, which features amusement park rides, restaurants, and shops. 

Rehoboth Beach is also known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, with a range of galleries, theaters, and live music venues that showcase local and national talent. The town is also home to the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, which offers a glimpse into the town’s rich history and heritage. 

Rehoboth Beach is also a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that features everything from fresh seafood to farm-to-table cuisine. Visitors can sample local delicacies at the town’s many restaurants and food markets, including the famous Dogfish Head Brewery, which offers craft beer and pub-style fare. With its beautiful beaches, lively atmosphere, and delicious food, Rehoboth Beach is an excellent destination for a weekend beach getaway from Washington DC.

Lookout tower on the beach next to the sea

15. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia , is a living history museum that recreates life in colonial Virginia during the 18th century. The town features restored buildings, costumed interpreters, and historic reenactments that bring the past to life for visitors. Colonial Williamsburg is the centerpiece of the town, with more than 300 acres of restored buildings, homes, and gardens that showcase life in Virginia during the Revolutionary War era. Visitors can take guided tours, interact with historical interpreters, and attend live performances and reenactments. 

The town is also home to other historic sites, including Jamestown Settlement, where visitors can learn about the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Yorktown Battlefield, where the American Revolution was won. Beyond the history, Williamsburg is also known for its charming streetscapes, boutique shops, and dining experiences that range from fine dining to casual eateries. 

Garden view of Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

Thinking about moving to the area?

16. charlottesville, virginia.

Charlottesville, Virginia , is a charming college town that is home to the University of Virginia, one of the country’s most prestigious universities. The town is also known for its beautiful countryside, rich history, and vibrant arts and culture scene. Explore the University of Virginia’s historic campus, designed by Thomas Jefferson, which features stunning architecture, lush gardens, and world-class museums. The town is also home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation, which offers guided tours and a glimpse into the life of one of America’s founding fathers. 

Charlottesville is also known for its thriving arts and culture scene, with a range of galleries, theaters, and music venues that showcase local and national talent. Visitors can also explore the town’s many shops, boutiques, and restaurants, which offer everything from local crafts and artisanal products to farm-to-table cuisine. Charlottesville is located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering visitors ample opportunities for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and skiing. With its beautiful natural surroundings, rich history, and lively arts scene, Charlottesville is an excellent weekend getaway destination for anyone seeking a break from the city life of Washington DC.

Aerial shot of Charlottesville, Virginia on a cloudy afternoon in early Fall.

Julia is a part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about real estate and design trends. Her dream home be a charming beachside home with lots of light.

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22 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Washington, D.C.

Written by Becca Blond and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers Updated Mar 21, 2024 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Whether you are marveling at its white marble monuments and memorials, learning about history in one of its free museums, or getting a feel for how locals live in one of its vibrant neighborhoods, Washington, D.C. emits a pulsating energy not found anywhere else in the U.S. The District of Colombia is a city you can explore dozens of times and have a completely different experience with each visit.

Sunrise at behind Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial

Designed by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant at the request of George Washington, America's capital city sits on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. It is located on land specifically set aside after the Revolutionary War to keep the federal government from being in a single state.

L'Enfant planned D.C. to feel larger than life with its wide avenues, inspirational marble buildings, public squares, and a magnificent "public walk" that is the National Mall. The city is split into four quadrants: NW, NE, SW, and SE and its layout is a street grid intersected by avenues.

First-time visitors flock to its list of must-see attractions like the White House, Capitol Building, and museums, monuments, and memorials, perfectly spaced along its park-style National Mall. But beyond these famed attractions, you will find another DC. One ruled by locals and influenced by the host of long-term international residents, that is filled with eclectic neighborhoods including U Street , Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown.

This is a city where you can eat your way across the world's food scene in the space of a few miles. It is also a city that boasts a world-class arts scene and outdoor experiences from paddleboarding on the Potomac River to walking or biking along the C&O Canal towpath.

If you can avoid visiting DC in the summer, do so. Besides being unpleasantly hot and humid, summers are when you'll see the biggest crowds. The best times to visit Washington are spring and autumn.

Plan your trip to the nation's capital with our list of the top attractions in Washington, D.C.

1. United States Capitol and Capitol Hill

2. the lincoln memorial, 3. national mall and veterans memorials, 4. the white house, 5. the washington monument, 6. national air and space museum, 7. national gallery of art, 8. united states holocaust memorial museum, 9. library of congress, 10. national museum of natural history, 11. national museum of american history, 12. national museum of african american history and culture, 13. jefferson memorial and tidal basin, 14. the john f. kennedy center for the performing arts, 15. national zoological park, 16. national archives, 17. international spy museum, 18. arlington national cemetery, 19. washington national cathedral, 20. georgetown historic district, 21. smithsonian american art museum and national portrait gallery, 22. u.s. botanic garden, 23. u street corridor, 24. the wharf, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to washington, d.c., best time to visit washington, d.c..

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Recognized around the world as a symbol of the United States, the Capitol is the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The huge dome, based on the dome of St. Peter's in Rome, stands out above all other Washington buildings.

Like Washington itself, the building has grown over the years since the central portion was built between 1793 and 1812. The last addition, in 1958-62, enlarged the main façade where presidents take the oath. On the other side, a marble terrace offers beautiful views over the mall and the city.

The interior is resplendent with frescoes, reliefs, and paintings, especially the rotunda under the great cast-iron dome with a ceiling painting by Constantino Brumidi and huge paintings of scenes from American history on the walls. Beside it is the former Chamber of the House of Representatives, with statues of leading historical figures. The small Senate Rotunda leads into the beautifully restored Old Senate Chamber, where the Senate met until 1859, and the Supreme Court until 1935.

When free tours resume, they can be reserved online and begin at the visitor center on the lower floor, where there is an interesting exhibition on the building's history. Free tours on weekday afternoons explore the ornate paintings on the walls and ceilings of the corridors in the Senate wing, designed by Brumidi between 1857 and 1859. To visit the Senate or House in session, you need to contact your Senator or Representative for a pass; foreign visitors can arrange visits through the visitor center.

East of the Capitol are the Supreme Court Building; the Library of Congress; and Folger Shakespeare Library, home of the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare .

The Capitol Hill neighborhood extends southeast, with the lively Eastern Market, a farmers market with craft vendors, as well.

United States Capitol - Floor plan map

The best-loved of all Washington's memorials, the Lincoln Memorial stands at the far end of the mall, separated from the Washington Monument by the Reflecting Pool. At its center is a 19-foot marble statue of a seated and pensive President Abraham Lincoln surrounded by 36 columns, one for each of the states that existed at the time of Lincoln's death. This is the most famous work designed by noted sculptor Daniel Chester French. Jules Guerin painted the murals on the inside walls, showing important events in Lincoln's life.

Since its completion in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial has been the scene of a number of historic events. In 1939, when the all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to let celebrated African American singer Marian Anderson perform at a concert in nearby Constitution Hall, President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for her to give an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, attended by 75,000 people and broadcast to millions of radio listeners.

The Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream..." speech from the memorial steps in 1963, again making history here.

Visiting this and other Mall monuments is one of the favorite things to do in Washington, D.C. at night. The monuments are all lighted, and many, like the Lincoln Memorial, are open 24 hours. The statue of Lincoln is especially powerful lighted at night inside the darkened interior of the temple and framed by the floodlit white columns.

World War II Memorial

The spacious swath of lawns and pools that form a wide greenbelt from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial is also the site of many of Washington's landmark buildings and monuments. Most prominent at its center point is the Washington Monument , and war memorials include those to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial , a poignant wall inscribed with the names of all American servicemen and women who lost their lives or are missing, is one of Washington's most visited memorials. The nearby Vietnam Women's Memorial has a bronze sculpture of three servicewomen helping a wounded soldier. The Korean War Veterans Memorial contains 19 steel sculptures of soldiers. The newest, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in 2014.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

If you look at a Washington, D.C. attractions map, you'll notice that many of them line the National Mall, so you're likely to spend a lot of time here. Along with providing a park for walking, running, and picnicking, the Mall is a place for celebrations and festivals. Best known of these is the annual Independence Day celebration with fireworks around the Washington Monument.

Also in July, the Smithsonian American Folk Life Festival fills the Mall with music, crafts, performances, storytelling, cultural programs, and food from various regions around the country. The Smithsonian Kite Festival is held here in late March or early April.

On summer evenings, you can often find military bands performing at venues along the Mall. The US Navy Band has concerts at the Capitol steps overlooking the Mall on Mondays and on Tuesdays at Navy Memorial. The US Air Force Band performs on the capitol steps on Tuesdays and at the Air Force Memorial on Fridays.

Location: Between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, Washington, D.C.

The White House

The White House is the official residence of the President of the United States. The home of every president except George Washington, it was originally built by James Hoban in 1792, and after being burned down by British forces in 1814 was rebuilt in 1818.

Although tours of the interior that include the East, Blue, Green, and Red Rooms; the Ballroom; and the State Dining Room must be reserved well in advance through your Congressional office or embassy, every tourist to Washington will want to see this iconic building, at least from the outside.

The free White House Visitor Center , a short distance away, has excellent interactive exhibits, which show details about the White House and the presidential families. It includes furniture of past presidents, a model of the residence, historical changes, and videos with insights from presidents about their time living there.

The Ellipse , a 54-acre stretch of lawn stretching to Constitution Avenue, hosts summer concerts by the US Army Band. Next door to the White House are the elaborate 1833 Greek Revival Treasury Building and the 1871 Executive Office Building , one of the most striking old government buildings in Washington. From Lafayette Square, one of the city's best-known, statues of Lafayette and others overlook the White House.

Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

The Washington Monument

The 555-foot white shaft of the Washington Monument is a familiar icon of the National Mall, and a beautiful sight, especially when mirrored in the long Reflecting Pool at its foot. Construction of the obelisk to honor the nation's first president did not proceed smoothly. The plan was approved by Congress in 1783, but ground wasn't broken until 1848.

When the tower reached 156 feet in height in 1854, political wrangling and lack of funds stopped the project for several years, and the Civil War caused further interruption so that the tower was not capped until 1885, when it was finally completed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

You can still see the separate stages of its building by three changes in the color of its facing stones; inside are engraved stones from states, cities, foreign countries, individuals, and civic groups, many of them donors who helped in its private funding stages. You can take an elevator to the very top for aerial views over the mall and much of Washington. The base of the monument is surrounded by a circle of 50 American Flags.

Address: 15th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is one of the world's most popular museums, with a collection of history-making air and spacecraft that includes the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis , the first plane to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

More recent flight history is represented here by the Apollo 11 command module , part of the first manned lunar landing mission. Permanent and changing exhibitions illustrate the science, history, and technology of aviation and space flight, covering topics like the use of air power in both world wars, the space race, flight pioneers, and up-to-the-minute flight and space technology.

Many of the exhibits are interactive, and all contain actual historical objects, such as a moon rock you can touch. Not only do permanent exhibits illustrate the history, they show the how and why of flight and space science, explaining how things fly, how jet engines work, and what keeps the International Space Station in orbit.

In addition to the exhibits, there is the Albert Einstein Planetarium , an IMAX theater, and the Public Observatory on the east terrace, where you can examine lunar craters and see planets and other astronomical features through telescopes. Flight simulators (fee charged) allow kids and adults to fly combat missions with aerial maneuvers like 360-degree barrel rolls or experience naval aviation in an F-18 Super Hornet.

The museum is also the home of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, adjacent to Dulles Airport, and has even more historic aircraft and space exploration artifacts, including a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery . You can watch from observation walkways through the hangars where experts are restoring historic aircraft.

The Air and Space Museum is currently undergoing a seven-year makeover that will transform not only the arrangement of 23 galleries, but the way it interprets the history and science of flight. During renovations, a number of the exhibits will be closed, so if particular exhibits are of special interest, you can consult the museum's website to find out if they are open.

Address: 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

The West Building of the National Gallery of Art

Housed in two separate buildings connected by a tunnel, the National Gallery of Art is one of the world's premier art museums and one of the most popular in the U.S. Based on the sizable collection of financier and later Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, its large and diverse collection includes masterpieces of European and American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts.

Frequent temporary exhibitions add to this outstanding permanent collection to highlight arts from cultures around the world. Among the highlights is Ginevra de Benci, the only Da Vinci painting in any American museum. Others include works by major French Impressionists - Monet, Degas, and Renoir -- and other masterpieces by Rembrandt, El Greco, and Vermeer.

The newer East Wing features sculptures by Henry Moore, a mobile by Alexander Calder, and other modern works. Free concerts are held at the National Gallery on Sunday evenings from fall through spring.

East Wing of the National Gallery of Art

Also part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the mall are the two museums that comprise the National Museum of Asian Art. These are the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery , which houses more than 1,000 pieces, principally Chinese jade and bronze, Chinese paintings and lacquerware, and ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware.

The Freer collection includes nearly 30,000 pieces of Asian artworks, including Buddhist sculptures and Persian manuscripts, one of the most extensive collections in the world. The Freer also features 19th-century and early 20th-century American art, most notably a large collection of work by James McNeill Whistler.

The drum-shaped Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden traces the history of modern art from the mid-1800s, through more than 12,000 pieces of art and sculpture. One of the highlights of the garden is Rodin's Burghers of Calais .

The National Museum of African Art displays thousands of objects representing diverse artistic styles throughout the African continent, including sculptures, masks, costumes, household objects, and ceramics. All of these Smithsonian museums are among the many free things to do in Washington, D.C.

Address: 600 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Near the Smithsonian museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum documents, studies, and interprets the history of the Holocaust with the dual purpose of memorializing the victims and helping the world to confront hatred and prevent genocide.

Permanent exhibits examine the rise of the Nazis and the Aryan ideology, the ghettos, key events such as Kristallnacht, the concentration camps, and the Nazi atrocities. An exhibit on Americans and the Holocaust examines US reaction to Nazis, the war, and genocide, while another features personal accounts by US soldiers and citizens who witnessed the evidence of Nazi atrocities.

The presentations draw on the enormous collections of more than 12,750 artifacts, 85,000 historical photographs, 9,000 oral history testimonies, as well as archival footage and records of survivors and their families. A visit to the museum is a sobering experience.

Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

The Library of Congress

An underground passage with historical exhibits leads from the Capitol Building to one of Washington's little-known places to visit, the Library of Congress. It's the world's largest library, modeled on the Opera House in Paris. You can visit portions on your own, but free tours disclose even more of its beautiful interior.

Displayed here are one of the three surviving complete Gutenberg Bibles, an earlier hand-printed Bible, Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's personal library, and galleries filled with exhibits focusing on topics as varied as the musical careers of the Gershwin brothers and the work of editorial cartoonists and graphic artists.

Address: Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

Dinosaur skull outside the National Museum of Natural History

One of the most popular things to do with children in Washington, the Museum of Natural History explores the natural world with permanent and changing exhibits to interest all ages. Favorite exhibits include the renowned Hope Diamond and the dazzling collection of gems and minerals around it, and Ocean Hall with its stunning underwater photography and replica of a 45-foot North Atlantic Right Whale.

The Hall of Human Origins follows human evolution over six million years in response to a changing world. Children will especially like the dinosaur exhibits and the interactive Discovery Room where they can touch and play with various artifacts.

Address: Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

National Museum of American History

One of the most popular of the Smithsonian's many museums that line the mall, The National Museum of American History traces the political, cultural, scientific, and technological history of the U.S. since the Revolution. It displays important pieces of Americana, including Thomas Jefferson's desk, one of Edison's light bulbs, and the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to The Star Spangled Banner .

But beyond these treasured national artifacts, exhibits also examine how people lived, what they ate, where they worked, how they played, what they wore, how they traveled, how they worshiped, and how they governed themselves.

Illustrating these multiple themes are artifacts that include everything from gowns, work by First Ladies, and Julia Child's complete kitchen to the Muppets and the actual ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the film Wizard of Oz . With all the historical things to do in Washington D.C., you might think your family has had enough history. But this engaging museum houses some fascinating exhibits and artifacts of our collective past that will appeal to all ages.

Address: 14th Street NW at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Focusing on themes of history, culture, and community, the newest of the Smithsonian museums explores changing definitions of American citizenship and equality, at the same time highlighting African American culture and that of the entire African diaspora.

Various themes are covered in changing exhibits, which center on themes such as African American food traditions and chefs, the influence of African American sports stars on the breakdown of segregation, and African craftsmanship.

Historic artifacts on display include a section of the original Woolworth lunch counter that was the scene of the Greensboro, N.C. sit-in in 1960, and the aircraft known as the "Spirit of Tuskegee." In World War II, it was used to train African American airmen in the Army Air Forces, men whose work helped trigger the desegregation of the military.

Address: National Mall at Constitution Avenue, N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets

Official site:

Jefferson Memorial with spring cherry blossoms

The design for the domed white memorial to Thomas Jefferson, the third US president, is based on the Roman Pantheon, its low dome supported by 54 Ionic columns. Inside, appearing in a dramatic silhouette through the columns, is a 19-foot statue of a standing Jefferson, and around are engraved excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and other writings.

The monument stands alone at the far end of the Tidal Pool, which reflects the monument in its surface, and all around the edge of the water are cherry trees, a gift from Japan. These are one of Washington's greatest attractions when they bloom each spring, surrounding the basin with a cloud of pink flowers and celebrated with the Cherry Blossom Festival .

Along the Cherry Tree Walk around the Tidal Basin, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial reflects twelve years of American History through four outdoor rooms. Each one is devoted to one of FDR's terms of office as he guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II. Unveiled in 2011, the 30-foot-high Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the newest along the Tidal Basin.

Address: 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, D.C.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Opened in 1971 and named in memory of President John F. Kennedy, the National Cultural Center overlooks the Potomac River in a state-of-the-art building designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. It is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, which hosts some of the world's greatest guest artists each year, and the Washington National Opera , one of the nation's leading opera companies.

Its three main stages and several smaller stages present over 2,200 performing arts shows and events each year, about 400 of which are free. These represent all types of music and theater, both classical and contemporary.

Joining the Los Angeles Music Center and Lincoln Center in New York as one of the three most important venues in the United States, the Kennedy Center is a major stop for visiting overseas opera, dance, and drama companies on tour.

Address: 2700 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

Red Panda at the National Zoological Park

The National Zoo is another part of the Smithsonian, where nearly 2,000 different animals, birds, and reptiles live in habitats replicating as closely as possible their natural environments. Of the several hundred species represented here, about a quarter are endangered. This is one of the world's best zoos, not only for the quality of the visitor experience, but for its leadership in areas of animal care and sustainability.

By far the most popular animals here are the giant pandas, part of a major initiative that began in 1972 with the arrival of Hsing Hsing from the People's Republic of China. Other zoo highlights are red pandas, Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas, Asian elephants, cheetahs, white-naped cranes, and North Island brown kiwis.

In the Amazonia exhibit, you can glimpse the colorful underwater life of the Amazon, where one of the world's largest freshwater fish swims beneath a living tropical forest.

Along with the cheetahs at the Cheetah Conservation Station, you can see Grevy's zebras, dama gazelles, vultures, and red river hogs, and at the highly popular Elephant Trails, you can see the multigenerational herd and learn about the elephants' life at the zoo and in the wild.

Check the day's schedule for feeding times, demonstrations, educational games, and talks. As you might expect, this is one of Washington's favorite places to visit for children.

Address: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

National Archives

The National Archives holds permanent records of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, District of Columbia courts, and some federal agencies, as well as pre-World War I military service records for U.S. Army and Confederate veterans, and pre-1940 vessel and station logbooks for the U.S. Navy.

The records are open to researchers, and in the Rotunda, you can see the Declaration of Independence , Constitution , and Bill of Rights . Exhibition galleries feature a 1297 Magna Carta and a changing group of other historically significant documents. An exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, includes documents from the suffrage movement, and in other areas are interactive exhibits and hands-on activities for all ages.

Address: 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

International Spy Museum

The place for 007 wannabes, the museum covers the techniques, technology, history, and contemporary role of espionage. Many of the exhibits are interactive, and throughout the building are actual examples of real espionage equipment (including a poison dart umbrella designed by the KGB), from declassified hardware and captured equipment to movie props used in the James Bond series.

Photographs, audio-visual programs, and special effects combine to give a picture of strategies and methods behind secret espionage missions. The collections include historic spy artifacts from the Revolution and Civil War, along with a wealth of ingeniously concealed and disguised cameras and weapons, even the famous Enigma cipher machine that broke the Nazi codes in World War II.

The top floor is dedicated to real-life spies Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanson, and John Walker, detailing the actual methods and tools they used to spy on the United States, with videos describing how spies were caught. The lower floor moves from fact to fiction, filled with information and actual props used in James Bond movies.

Highlighting these is the Aston Martin DB5 that first appeared in the 1964 film Goldfinger , equipped with machine guns, oil jets, a dashboard radar screen, an ejector seat, tire slashers, a bulletproof shield, and a rotating license plate. The car actually inspired intelligence agencies to add similar features to their own vehicles.

Address: 700 L'Enfant Plaza, SW; Washington, D.C.

Official site:

Arlington National Cemetery in the fall

On a hillside overlooking the city from across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery is filled with memorials to American history and the men and women who were part of it. Its best-known landmarks are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , President John F. Kennedy's gravesite, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. The Welcome Center has maps, information (including the locations of specific graves), and exhibits telling the story of Arlington National Cemetery and its monuments.

Among these are memorials to nurses, Iran Rescue Mission casualties, and various battles and groups, including one at the graves of Lt. Cmdr. Roger B. Chaffee and Lt. Col. Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, who were killed in a fire aboard their Apollo spacecraft. Another commemorates the seven Challenger astronauts.

In a solemn and impressive ceremony, the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed every hour on the hour October 1 to March 31, and every half hour from April 1 through September 30. Although the cemetery is not right in the city, both the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Metrorail system and Metrobus have stops close to the gate.

Official site:

Washington National Cathedral

The English-style, Neo-Gothic National Cathedral, one of the world's largest cathedrals, took 83 years to build, from 1907 to 1990. It follows the Gothic building style and techniques, with flying buttresses and solid masonry construction of Indiana limestone. Throughout the cathedral are artistic details to see, from its stained-glass windows to the hand-embroidered kneelers that commemorate war heroes and historic events.

Special tours, reserved in advance, explore hidden parts of the building and its art; families should ask for the brochure Explore the Cathedral with Children for a scavenger hunt to find wrought-iron animals, tiny carvings, and gargoyles. Be sure to look for the gargoyle of Darth Vader high up on the northwest tower.

The cathedral is the burial place of President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller, and state funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford took place here. The top of the 300-foot central tower is the highest point in Washington.

The Bishop's Garden

The Bishop's Garden, on the south side of the cathedral, includes plants found in medieval gardens, plants mentioned in the Bible, and others native to the area, along with a fish pond. The 59-acre Cathedral Close, designed by the eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr in the early 20th century, is an urban oasis modeled on the walled grounds of medieval cathedrals.

Carillon recitals are held each Saturday at 12:30pm, and the peal bells are rung on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9pm and after Sunday services. On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30pm, a cathedral organist discusses the Great Organ here, followed by a mini-recital.

Address: Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

Georgetown Historic District

The neighborhood from 27th to 37th Streets, between Rock Creek Park and K Street NW, is the city's oldest, with origins in the early 1700s, before Washington itself. Georgetown University , the nation's oldest Roman Catholic and Jesuit College, is located here.

Today, Georgetown's tidy streets of historic homes and its boutique shops, cafés, restaurants, and small museums make it a popular respite from lines at the mall attractions. The C&O Canal , the 184-mile waterway paralleling the Potomac River, begins here, and its towpath is a favorite place for walking and cycling.

Dumbarton Oaks is a 16-acre estate with formal gardens and a valuable Byzantine and Christian art collection. Federal period Dumbarton House features Federal-style furniture, paintings, textiles, silver, and ceramics, and is home to one of five original known copies of the Articles of Confederation.

Tudor Place is an early 19th-century mansion built by Martha Washington's granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter, and her husband. Items from George and Martha Washington's Mount Vernon home are shown here, and the Federal-period gardens contain plants and trees from the early 19th century. The Kreeger Museum displays a wide collection of art from the 1850s to the 1970s including paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Chagall, Gauguin, and Picasso.

If you're looking for places to eat in Washington or things to do at night, this is one of the places to visit. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants and cafes, along with live music venues.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery

Sharing the historic Old Patent Office Building with the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of American art, representing more than 7,000 artists from the colonial era to the present.

The collections record the wonder of artists capturing the beauty of American landscapes as the nation expanded westward, and the changing face of American cities and towns. Special collections represent works by more than 200 African American artists, collections of Latinex works, an outstanding array of contemporary American craft and folk arts.

The National Portrait Gallery focuses on famous Americans, from the time of the first colonies to present day leaders and important public figures, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House.

Address: 8th and G Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

Official sites:


U.S. Botanic Garden

At the foot of Capitol Hill, the U.S. Botanic Garden is an oasis of tropical gardens in the center of the city. Surrounded by outdoor gardens, the huge glasshouse is the hub of a museum of living plants. Permanent interior exhibits create environments for plants at home everywhere from the desert to rainforests, while outside is a showcase of plants that thrive in the Middle Atlantic states.

The greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms, and the outside displays include a pollinator garden, rose garden, kitchen garden, and water garden. There's always something in bloom, and benches in the vast conservatory invite a stop to enjoy the fragrances and the lush green surroundings.

Address: 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C.

Official site:

Row houses near U Street

D.C.'s U Street Corridor is one of the city's top historic neighborhoods and served as the epicenter of Black culture in America between 1862 and 1948. Designated a historic district in 1998, this neighborhood is filled with colorful buildings housing plenty of shops, restaurants, and theaters.

It is anchored by 14 th Street on its west side and the recently renovated Howard Theatre on its east end at the edge of the Shaw neighborhood. Constructed in 1910, this was the center of Black Broadway for the first half of the 20 th Century. It fell into decline but underwent a magnificent renovation and reopened a decade ago.

Duke Ellington was born in this neighborhood and a sculpture honoring the famed jazz musician can be seen at the intersection of Florida Ave and T Street. Also check out a concert at Lincoln Theatre , built in 1922, where Ellington and other jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Nat King, Cole, and Louis Armstrong all used to play.

U Street is known for its delicious food scene. Here you'll find the acclaimed Ben's Chili Bowl , which has served everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Barack Obama. Its restaurants span the globe, however. If you are craving authentic Ethiopian fare, head to "Little Ethiopia" on the east end of U Street.

The Wharf

With its second phase only completed in 2002, The Wharf is D.C.'s hottest new waterfront neighborhood, home to more than 80 restaurants and shops, an iconic fish market, four hotels, and a popular live music venue. Running along the Potomac River for one mile, the neighborhood was created as part of a larger development plan for what had been a neglected portion of the SW quadrant.

Just about a 10-minute walk from the National Mall, The Wharf's waterfront location provides a totally different vibe than the memorial and museum area. The Municipal Fish Market is the country's oldest continuously operating open-air fish market, originally opened in 1805. Until the redevelopment of The Wharf, it wasn't really on the tourist map anymore. Today it is buzzing with hungry travelers and locals alike, who come here to dine al fresco on fresh fish.

If you want to get out on the Potomac River yourself, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore. There are also seasonal water taxis running from The Wharf to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, across the river. Alexandria is known for its stately 18 th - and 19th-century buildings and brick streets. It's a great place to wander around for an afternoon. Water taxis also run to Georgetown.

Come evening, book a luxe riverboat dinner cruise on Potomac. These offer a wonderful way to relax after an action-packed day, and river sunsets can be phenomenal.

Official site:

Sightseeing by Day:

  • Washington, D.C. has so many famous sites that it's difficult to keep track of all there is to see and do. One of the best ways to explore this city is on a classic Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tour , seeing the sites from an open-top red bus and getting on and off wherever you choose.

Sightseeing by Night:

  • At night, Washington is transformed as the floodlights are beamed up the monuments, giving them a completely different look from their daytime appearance. The Washington, D.C. Monuments by Moonlight Night Trolley Tour is a 2.5- hour guided tour that provides an easy way to see the city at night.

Sightseeing by Bicycle:

  • Active travelers will enjoy the Washington D.C. Monuments Bike Tour to visit the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial on a three-hour ride. Hybrid bikes and the relatively level terrain make this suitable even for those who are not avid cyclists. As many places to visit have security checkpoints and do not allow backpacks, it is wise to carry as little as possible while touring.

Weather wise, the best time of year to travel to Washington, D.C. is between the months of March and May and September to November . You'll hit cherry blossom season (usually from late March to early April), ogle spectacular fall foliage (especially in October through November), and enjoy a long stretch of great weather free from frigid and sweltering temps.

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Places to Visit Close to Washington: If you have time to explore outside the city, there are many easy Day Trips from Washington, D.C ., and our page on Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Washington D.C. can give you plenty of ideas for longer excursions.


Exploring Maryland : There are a number of tourist attractions in Maryland , including those in historic Annapolis and Baltimore with its lively harbor area. The state is also famous for its beaches and oceanfront resorts, many of which are within easy weekend reach from Washington. You can learn more about these on our page Top-Rated Resorts in Maryland.


Discovering Virginia : The District of Columbia lies between two states, and to its south, you can visit attractions in Virginia , including those in the capital city of Richmond . Or you could spend a weekend immersed in colonial history with the help of our page Top Tourist Attractions in Williamsburg & Easy Day Trips .

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14 Best Things to Do in Washington, DC

By Adele Chapin

Image may contain Landmark Architecture Building Tower Washington Monument Person Animal and Bird

There's the DC you see on C-SPAN footage and blaring cable news clips. Then there's DC that residents know, the livable city where you can spend a Saturday exploring indie boutiques, cool restaurants and breweries, and amazing concert venues. Your visit to America's capital city can include both sides of town, seeing awe-inspiring museums and memorials—or trying to find a presidential motorcade if you're a "West Wing" super fan. Next up, see a free concert at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, hear the birds chirp in one of The District's many parks (both wild and manicured), or even see the sights from the Potomac River on a water taxi. Need more ideas? Here's our list of the best things to do in Washington, DC, both on and off the beaten path.

Read our complete Washington, DC, destination guide here .

Every review on this list has been written by a Condé Nast Traveler journalist who knows the destination and has visited that activity. When choosing things to do, our editors consider landmarks and experiences that offer an insider’s view of a destination, keeping authenticity, location, service, and sustainability credentials top of mind. This gallery has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Main entry canopy view of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture NMAAHC

National Museum of African American History and Culture Arrow

It’s hard to imagine improving upon the grandeur of the historic National Mall , miles of greenery surrounded by world-class monuments and museums. But in September 2016, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture did just that. This relatively new addition to an iconic landscape houses artifacts, photography, and other media that reflect African American culture and experiences. Here you’ll find Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal and silk lace and linen shawl, a bill of a sale for a young enslaved girl, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, photos capturing the participation of Black women during the Civil Rights Movement, and a collection of costumes from ‘The Wiz’. Given the scope and size of the space (85,000 square feet), this is best saved for a day when you have plenty of time to devote.

Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DC

Ben’s Chili Bowl Arrow

You can’t miss Ben’s Chili Bowl. The restaurant’s bright red and yellow facade on the U Street Corridor proudly broadcasts itself as a Washington landmark. The institution is best known for its chili dogs and half-smokes—half-beef, half-pork smoked sausage smothered in chili—and has presided over U Street since it opened in 1958. Much has changed in 60 years: U Street has become a hipster hotspot and Ben’s has expanded to five other locations, including one inside Washington Reagan National Airport and another at Nationals Park . Former President Obama has been known to dine at Ben’s; his likeness graces a mural on the side of the building. Prepare yourself for an animated, if not downright rowdy, crowd. By day, the restaurant is a popular tourist destination—everyone is here to try a half-smoke—and by night it’s a perfect late-night spot to recover from an evening at one of U Street’s many bars.

Union Market Washington D.C. Things To Do

Union Market Arrow

Washingtonians love spending their weekends at Union Market, in the industrial NoMa neighborhood, a sweeping space filled with local food vendors, restaurants, and shops. Union Market offers more than enough to meet anyone’s needs. Get fish and chips from The District Fishwife, eat Venezuelan at Arepa Zone, or go for Southern comfort food like étouffée from Puddin'. For a sit-down meal, try the Michelin-starred Masseria or St. Anselm, a perfect steakhouse from restaurateur Stephen Starr. For drinks, head up to Hi-Lawn, a rooftop bar and open-air eatery. Or hit mixologist Gina Chersevani's two outposts: the New York soda shop–inspired Buffalo & Bergen and carefree dive bar Last Call. And if you’re in the mood to explore Latin American culture, you’re in luck, thanks to the nearby 20,000-square-foot Latin market, La Cosecha.

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Old Post Office Tower Arrow

This massive Romanesque Revival building completed in 1899 is covered with arches and turrets. It's a formidable presence on Pennsylvania Avenue, nicknamed America's Main Street. The building is now the grand home of the Waldorf Astoria Washington D.C. (the tower entrance is at the back of the hotel next to Sushi Nakazawa). This is also DC's second tallest structure, according to the GSA, second only to the nation capital's most recognizable building: the Washington Monument. But the Old Post Office Tower is much lower-profile for the tourist hordes, which makes a visit here a cheat code for taking in a sweeping view of the Washington skyline. No tickets or reservations are needed for a trip to the 270-foot observation deck within the clock tower.

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Washington DC Phillips Collection art artwork museum exhibit

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In a town full of museum after-hours parties, the Phillips Collection's monthly "Phillips After 5" is one of the longest-running events of its kind and still hits it out of the park. For example, a party celebrating an exhibit with French post-Impressionist artist Pierre Bonnard partners up with the Embassy of France to bring in a live band, snacks like spring vegetable galettes with edible flowers, and a floral arranging workshop.

Busboys  Poets Washington D.C.

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It’s hard not to be taken with Busboys and Poets, particularly if you have an affinity for cozying up with a compelling book and a steaming cup of coffee. Part restaurant, bookstore, and hub for driving social change, the establishment is eclectic and comfortable, outfitted with murals and art depicting activists and progressive movements. The crowd varies, based on time of day, event lineup, and what’s going on in the world when you visit. Weekend mornings can be lively, with folks tucking into a DC favorite brunch .

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The Yards Park Arrow

If you're looking to hike and disappear into nature within the city limits, head to Rock Creek Park . But for an outdoor escape that combines showy landscape architecture with DC's peaceful Anacostia riverfront, check out the Yards Park. This very modern urban park is an anchor of the redeveloped Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, turning a former industrial space into a slice of greenery for residents and visitors to enjoy amidst the office towers—with amenities like a dog park and water features that little ones can splash around in during the summer. The futuristic Yards Park Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with striking, swirling steel supports that glows at night, tempts photographers to capture a unique angle. The bridge is located near the park's Canal Basin and Waterwall, a unique water feature where kids are invited to wade and play in the 11-inch deep water on hot days.

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Eastern Market Arrow

Open since 1873, Eastern Market is a National Historic Landmark and a beloved local institution. Long before farmers markets cropped up in every neighborhood across the city, Eastern Market was the go-to place for fresh produce, meat, cheese, and baked goods—and still is. One can easily spend an afternoon wandering the stalls, which are packed with fresh produce, cheeses, meats, poultry, and flowers, as well as items like shaved ice snowballs, canned pickles, and Filipino food. If you’re really hungry, sit down for a meal at Market Lunch, a 46-year-old institution famous for its blueberry-buckwheat pancakes. On weekends, local artists sell handmade wood carvings, letterpress prints, soaps, and the like. A community staple for more than 140 years, Eastern Market offers a fascinating look into local life DC—beyond the buzzy new restaurants and the politics.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Performance Venue Washington D.C.

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The John F. Kennedy Center is a sight to behold, inside and out. Set on the banks of the Potomac River—between the Watergate Hotel and the Lincoln Memorial —this performing arts center is stately and iconic; it's the true monument to J.F.K. Edward Durrell Stone designed the modern marvel, whose halls are decorated with plush red carpets, enormous crystal chandeliers, and a bevy of state flags; its rooftop restaurant is a favorite place for Washingtonians to watch the sunset with a cocktail or coffee. The National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera both call The Kennedy Center home. In September 2019, the Kennedy Center doubled down on its commitment to the arts with the opening of The REACH. Filled with intimate performance spaces and lecture halls, the expansion aims to create deeper connections between performers and audiences.

National Mall Landmark Washington D.C.

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Each year, millions of people come to see the monuments and memorials that dot the more than 1,000 acres of the National Mall, which is flanked at one end by the U.S. Capitol Building and at the other end by the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 (his own memorial is a half-mile away). At the center of the park, dubbed “America’s Front Yard," the Washington Monument honors the first U.S. president and the founding of American democracy. Though the National Mall stars in myriad movies and TV shows, it's far more awe-inspiring in real life. From the solemnity at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the stirring energy at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, you’ll find that each monument or memorial has its own atmosphere. In other words: Prepare to feel all the feels.

Nationals Park Stadium Washington D.C.

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Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals, is one of the finest baseball stadiums in America; from the upper decks, you just might spy the top of the U.S. Capitol Building . While you’re cheering on the Nats, you can enjoy a burger from Shake Shack, brews from more than a dozen local breweries, or a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl , a local institution. Since it opened in 2008, the ballpark has become the glittering centerpiece of a revitalized Southeast Waterfront—so don't forget to check out the neighborhood while you're here.

Shop Made in DC Washington DC

Shop Made in DC Arrow

Shop Made is stocked with the work of the best artisans and makers from across Washington, DC, including prints, photography, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, toys, kitchen goods, clothing, and food. The boutique bursts with local pride, making it a perfect way to get to know the city while wandering around Georgetown. It also hosts regular events—like pottery painting sessions and calligraphy workshops—so be sure to check the website before your visit. The shop has been so successful, there are now six other locations throughout DC.

Rock Creek Park Park Washington D.C.

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Sprawling out across a whopping and wild 1,754 acres of public land, Rock Creek Park is one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in DC Officially authorized in 1890, it was the third national park to be designated by the federal government. It has something for everyone: a Nature Center for explorers; running, biking, and hiking trails for fitness enthusiasts; equestrian, golf, and tennis centers for sports lovers; and picnic spots, historic forts, a 19th-century gristmill, and concert venues for everyone else. While the verdant grounds are a peaceful escape from urban life, it also offers a planetarium—the only planetarium in the National Park Service, in fact—and the Smithsonian National Zoo . Both are free.

Spice Suite Washington D.C.

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This Takoma-area specialty shop is as eclectic, warm, and creative as its entrepreneurial founder, Angel Gregorio. Step in, and you might feel like you’re in the self-taught cook, mother, and activist’s own kitchen. At any given time, you’ll be able to select from more than 75 different food products and 23 kitchen accessories to outfit your own cooking space. The store is filled with glass jars whose labels read of interesting blends, including black cardamom, as well as red curry from Zanzibar.

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Attucks Adams: “U Street: The Art & Soul of Black Broadway” Arrow

Tim Wright, the owner of Attucks Adams, is the host of this tour that dives into why U Street earned its nickname of Black Broadway, complete with a 40-song playlist you'll hear as you walk. It's an inside look at this vibrant neighborhood: the story begins back in 1867 with the founding of Howard University and covers up until the go-go music scene of today. The tour often spans small groups, and you'll definitely want to reserve a spot. Howard Theatre, the grand, circa-1910 building where jazz great Duke Ellington once played, is a fitting starting point. The overarching theme of the U Street tour hits home how Black people had to recreate the institutions they were locked out due to racism and segregation, be that musical institutions or legal institutions and beyond. Tour stops include the site of Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression, Ben's Chili Bowl, the site of the Waxie Maxie Record Store, and the section of the neighborhood known as Little Ethiopia.

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Why get stuck in gridlock or Metro delays when you could glide serenely along DC's Potomac River to your next vacation stop, with gorgeous views along the way? The Potomac Water Taxi connects Washington's bustling new Wharf development to three different locations: Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria in Virginia, and National Harbor in Maryland. These bright yellow boats depart throughout the day and are an easy, non-committal way to drift along seeing the sights (instead of booking a dinner cruise, for example). Two routes (Alexandria to Georgetown and the Wharf to Georgetown) offer an accompanying audio tour if you download the City Experiences App. Otherwise, relax and enjoy the ride.

Hotel Zena, A Viceroy Urban Retreat

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Washington DC cherry blosso

The best things to do in Washington, D.C. right now

It's not all politics in the country's capital—find great art, family-friendly activities and more things to do in D.C.

Forget what you thought you knew about Washington, D.C.—the city's got way more to offer than just politics and government buildings—though we’ve got plenty of those, too. From free access to world-class museums to soaking up the sounds and beats of go-go, D.C. has got it all.

So, after you snap your obligatory pic with the Lincoln Memorial, consider swinging by Ben's Chili Bowl for a legendary half-smoke. Or take a stroll through some of the nation’s best-kept parks before catching a show at the legendary Kennedy Center. The possibilities are endless and year-round. Here are the top things to do in Washington, D.C. this year.

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

This guide was updated by D.C.-based writer Omnia Saed . At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines . 

RECOMMENDED: 👪  The best things to do in Washington D.C. with kids 🌿  The best cannabis dispensaries in D.C. 🧳  The best day trips from D.C. to get away from it all 🍺  The best bars in D.C . 🛏️ The best hotels in Washington D.C. 🏘️  The best Airbnbs in Washington D.C .

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Best things to do in Washington, DC

Rock Creek Park

1.  Rock Creek Park

  • Things to do
  • Play spaces

What is it?  Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre green space at the heart of Washington, which has been around since the 1800s. A little slice of peace in the buzzing capital. 

Why go?  The park is home to a ton of biking and walking trails (over 32 miles of them, in fact), and there’s a lot of history to be discovered through its colonial houses and working mills. Plus you can book onto a ranger-led history, nature, or stars and planets program. 

2.  Rose's Luxury

  • Capitol Hill
View this post on Instagram A post shared by R O S E ‘ S L U X U R Y (@rosesluxury)

What is it?  An iconic restaurant Aaron Silverman on Barracks Row with a Michelin star. Think small plates, pastas and cocktails you’ll remember forever.  

Why go?  Always five stars from us at Time Out, Rose’s Luxury has been serving up some of the best food and coolest vibes in Washington since 2013, and has since become a staple for tourists and locals alike. The queue is so long, you can order a drink while you wait. But it’s all part of the experience. 

3.  Le Diplomate

  • Logan Circle
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What is it?  This hopping French restaurant cost over $6 million to build, and it shows.

Why go?  Le Diplomate both looks and feels like you’re in Europe: The floors have the perfect squeak, the bread baskets overflow and the burger comes with a miniature French flag staked on top. If you want to be the envy of all your dinner mates (and you’ve got money to burn), order a signature seafood tower that comes filled to the brim with glistening crustaceans of all sorts. All in all, it's a homage to arguably one of the best cuisines in the world. Bon appetit . 

Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

4.  Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

  • Art and design

What is it?  A brutal beauty on Indepndence Avenue, boasting a wealth of modern art.

Why go?  This spectacular cylindrical building by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill was completed in 1974 to house self-made Wall Street millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection of 20th-century paintings and sculptures.  Today, it still operates as such, but it's open to all, and new pieces continue to be added. There is an impressive selection of  Giacometti pieces to see and a pair of Willem de Kooning’s rare 'door paintings'. A particular highlight is Yoko Ono's 'A Wish Tree for Washington, D.C.', the branches of which you're encouraged to whisper your secrets and desires to.

Explore the National Mall.

Eastern Market

5.  Eastern Market

  • Markets and fairs

What is it? Although it's been a bustling commercial district for centuries, today, this area is one of the most popular places in the city to go out for a drink or a bite to eat.

Why go?  Also known as Barracks Row for its proximity to the Marine Barracks,  Eighth Street SE in the Eastern Market neighborhood boasts plenty of restaurants. Winners include nostalgic diner Ted's Bulletin , pizza joint Matchbox and Mediterranean restaurant/wine bar Cava Mezze . 

Smithsonian's National Zoo

6.  Smithsonian's National Zoo

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Woodley Park

What is it?  A free zoo that's open all year round.

Why go?  Affordable outings that are fun for the whole family don't get much better than the National Zoo. Exhibits include 1,500 animals, ranging from rare pandas to giant salamanders via elephant trails and lounging lions. Currently, free entry passes are required.

National Gallery of Art

7.  National Gallery of Art

  • National Mall

What is it?  Now is a better time than ever to visit the National Gallery of Art, the gargantuan museum located smack-dab on the National Mall.

Why go?  Following an extensive renovation to the East Building, the museum showcases an impressive collection of modern art, including Katharina Fritsch’s playful Hahn/Cock —a gigantic royal blue rooster perched on the roof. There are countless other notable works of art, including a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh from 1889. The gallery is also home to various special installations, some permanent, some touring.

Take a DC trolley tour.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

8.  National Cherry Blossom Festival

What is it?   The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival , which was first celebrated in 1935, celebrates the change of seasons and the beauty of the cherry blossoms (not to mention Japanese-American friendship).

Why go?   Nothing says spring in DC like the appearance of the cherry blossoms along the Potomac. The trees, which were planted in 1912 as a gift from the people of Japan to those of the United States, are virtually venerated by DC visitors and residents alike as a symbol of spring’s imminent arrival. You can also enjoy cherry blossom tours – some of which give you a beautiful view of the blossoms from the relaxing luxury of a cruiseship.

Meridian Hill Park

9.  Meridian Hill Park

  • Parks and gardens

What is it?  Head to Columbia Heights to find this 12-acre park positioned due north of the White House along the longitudinal meridian of D.C.

Why go?   The Park is filled with sculptures and memorials, including statues of Joan of Arc, Dante and James Buchanan, the 15th U.S.  President. Pack a picnic and hang out in front of the Cascading Waterfall in the formal garden, or visit the upper mall area, where concerts and events are often staged. 

Compass Rose

10.  Compass Rose

What is it?  This woman-owned and run restaurant off 14th Street is known for its worldly dishes, including khachapuri.

Why go?  Though you might not be able to pronounce it, you’ll be glad you tried this Georgian (the country) delicacy made from bread, melted cheese, butter and a raw egg. Inspired by her travels, owner Rose Previte cherry-picked her favorite meals abroad and serves them in one place. Sunday brunch promises shakshuka, a can’t-miss dish made from tomato sauce, onions, egg and cheese.

11.  Busboys & Poets

  • U Street Corridor
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Busboys and Poets (@busboysandpoets)

What is it?  Busboys & Poets is more than just a place to get lunch or have a coffee—it's a gathering place for the community.

Why go?  Owner Anas "Andy" Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and restaurateur, opened the flagship venue in 2005 and swiftly became a hub for D.C. progressives, including many anti-Iraq War activists. Today, Busboys & Poets has expanded to six DC locations, all hosting events such as open mic nights and exhibiting art by local, national, and international artists.

Mansion on O Street

12.  Mansion on O Street

  • Dupont Circle

What is it?  One of D.C.'s quirkiest luxury boutique hotels, the Mansion on O Street stands out for its eccentric decor and interior layout, which includes 32 secret doors.

Why go?   The Mansion has a storied history, including a period during the 1930s in which it was used as rooming houses for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's G-men. Today, the Mansion is open to the public for tours, dining and shopping.

Toki Underground

13.  Toki Underground

  • H Street Corridor
  • price 1 of 4

What is it?  Set in the heart of the H St. Corridor, this is one of the few trendy restaurants that actually delivers good grub.

Why go?  You get a cool scene, sure, but you also get really good food. The menu is simple and focused on Taiwanese-style ramen, dumplings, and sides (including kimchi and steamed buns). 

14.  Art Enables

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Art Enables (@artenables)

What is it?  The community-focused art center provides gallery walls and workspace for artists with disabilities to create.

Why go?  Though it’s a bit off the beaten track (read: not on the National Mall), Art Enables is worth a visit. Works are available for purchase, with a lion’s share of the profit going directly to the artist. Art ranges from quirky (there’s one artist in the residence who focuses on painting shoes) to abstract. They also offer commissions. 

Eden Center

15.  Eden Center

What is it?  A giant Falls Church, VA strip mall that includes more than 125 Vietnamese shops and restaurants, Eden Center is the area's version of Little Saigon.

Why go? Eden Center is a must-stop for those who can't live without pho or bun cha. The chaotic parking lot, which is legendary among patrons both for the hassle and for its enchanting aroma of barbequed pork, is an essential part of the experience. Some of the best restaurants include Huong Viet , Thanh Truc and Hai Duong .

Union Market

16.  Union Market

What is it?  Union Market   is an upscale food- and drink-focused "artisanal marketplace," with shops selling local and imported goods.

Why go?  Unlike your typical farmer's market, Union Market is open every day, so if you have a midweek hankering for locally made cheese or extra virgin olive oil, you can come here to satisfy your urge. The space houses more than 30 artisans peddling everything from acai bowls to Korean tacos; you'll also find coffee, home goods, flowers and spices.

17.  Cotton & Reed

What is it?  Tucked away in Northeast D.C. by Union Market, the distillery slash bar serves some of D.C.’s most inventive drinks.

Why go?  You can thank Reed Walker and Jordan Cotton for the tasty cocktails at Cotton & Reed , the city’s first rum distillery . Don't miss the rum-tasting flights, which feature half-ounce pours of booze made right on-site.

Key Bridge Boathouse

18.  Key Bridge Boathouse

  • Sports and fitness
  • Kayaking & canoeing

What is it?  Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown is D.C.'s gateway to all things involving water, oars and paddles.

Why go?  Key Bridge Boathouse offers canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard (SUP) rentals and classes, as well as twilight tours of the Potomac via kayak. On the tour, you'll pass various DC landmarks, including Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Watergate Hotel, the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center . 

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

19.  Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

  • Movie theaters
  • Independent
  • Pentagon City

What is it?   Dinner, drinks and live entertainment from the comfort of your theater seat.

Why go?  This imposing '30s Art Deco building is home to one of the quirkiest cinemas you're ever likely to attend. Within the theater are tables and plump, comfy armchairs—from here you can enjoy table service, as well as a movie or live comedy show. The menu comprises convenient finger foods like wraps, burgers, nachos and doughnut holes, while the drinks menu features a satisfying range of cocktails, draft beers and non-alcoholic options. Don't turn up expecting to catch the latest flicks, however, as this is a second-run cinema—with ticket prices to match.


20.  Annapolis

What is it?  A day spent on the water in Maryland's charming capital, followed by an epic crab feast, is practically a D.C. rite of passage.

Why go?  You haven't really lived in the D.C. area if you haven't gone sailing in Annapolis . Opt for a two-hour cruise in the Chesapeake Bay from local companies like  Schooner Woodwind and Classic Sail Charters . Make sure you leave time before or after your sail to wander around the picturesque home of the US Naval Academy and St. John's College.

Ivy & Coney

21.  Ivy & Coney

What is it?  This bar from the owners of the now-closed Kangaroo Boxing Club, Josh Saltzman and Chris Powers, celebrates their respective hometowns, Chicago and Detroit.

Why go?  Ivy & Coney is the best place in D.C. to get  Chicago-style hot dogs and Detroit-style coneys (hot dogs covered in chili, mustard and onions), as well as peanuts and crackerjacks. Don't expect to get upscale cocktails here: the bar only has a few bottles, and nothing too schmancy. 

United States National Arboretum

22.  United States National Arboretum

What is it?  Technically a research division of the Agriculture Department, this 446-acre haven always has many more trees than people, even on its busiest days during the spring azalea season.

Why go?  Highlights include a boxwood collection, dwarf conifers, an Asian collection, a herb garden and “herbarium” of dried plants, as well as the National Bonsai Collection, which contains more than 300 trees. Also on display, somewhat incongruously, are 22 columns removed from the Capitol’s East Front during its 1958 expansion.

23.  Tregaron Conservancy

What is it?  Even though it spans 20 acres, this nature conservancy, situated between Cleveland Park and Woodley Park remains a hidden wonder in the heart of D.C.

Why go?  The non-profit Tregaron Conservancy  owns and protects the site of a century-old, neo-Georgian estate formerly known as The Causeway (and now as Tregaron Estate) and its surroundings. Visitors can roam the grounds of the conservancy for no charge, seven days a week (but donations are welcome).

The Wonderland Ballroom

24.  The Wonderland Ballroom

What is it?  This incredibly sought-after establishment offers something for everyone:  a chill downstairs bar, an upstairs dance party and some of the best trivia in the District.

Why go?  Hardcore trivi a nerds head to  The Wonderland Ballroom 's trivia night for its mix of joviality and seriousness. There's no entry fee or charge to play, but trivia-goers are expected to buy a beer or a snack at the bar. Fellow teams take turns hosting and writing the questions, which are often hard and always quirky. Need something to munch on while you're quizzing? There's a whole load of edibles on offer from bar snacks to full meals, including a super sumptuous veggie burger. 

Cork Wine Bar

25.  Cork Wine Bar

What is it?  With at least 50 wines available by the glass and 150 bottles, every palate is sure to be satisfied at Cork.

Why go?  It's hard to beat Cork Wine Bar's cozy, romantic atmosphere, and even harder to beat the voluminous wine selection. Try a wine flight or a wine and food pairing, in which Cork matches some of its small plates with various selections of wine. The venue's food menu is solid: try the charcuterie board, cheese plate and avocado on grilled bread. 

26.  Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden

What is it? Relax with a picnic lunch, or just take in the green surroundings at this Kahlil Gibran Memorial .

Why go? This bronze sculpture, designed by Gordon Kray and erected at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue in 1983,   honors the late Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran. Lines from his work are also engraved around the piece.

Pizzeria Paradiso

27.  Pizzeria Paradiso

What is it?  Pizzeria (and Birreria) Paradiso has found a way to combine the best of both worlds at its four locations.

Why go?  Head to the friendly Georgetown outpost of this pizza chain to experience the full Paradiso experience. Upstairs, in the homey, cheerful restaurant, you can chow down on fresh, hearty pizza (plus antipasti and salads) complemented by a beer menu spanning an impressive 20 on tap and some 168 more in bottles and cans. Phew. Once you've had your fill of pizza and booze, make a beeline for the games room where you can try your hand at everything from pinball to shuffleboard and classic arcade video games. Nostalgia, incoming.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

28.  Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

  • Penn Quarter

What is it?  The Company's mission focuses on promoting edgy, challenging plays in order to engage the D.C. community.

Why go?  Your coolest, artsiest friends have probably been to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company a bunch of times since its founding in 1980, but it's not too late to jump on the bandwagon. The small size of the theater allows every theatergoer to get a clear, unobstructed view of the stage, leading to an intimate, enhtralling communal experience.

Tabard Inn

29.  Tabard Inn

  • Contemporary American
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? This D.C. institution since 1922 has a shabby-chic vibe and great grub.

Why go?   There's never a bad time to drop in at the Tabard Inn, whether you feel like having a meal or just sipping a drink. Patrons can relax on Victorian sofas in front of a log fireplace that might have come straight from the pages of Wuthering Heights . 


30.  Sakuramen

What is it?  For delicious ramen in a non-pretentious setting, head to Adams Morgan's Sakuramen , a favorite among D.C. noodle fans.

Why go?   The surroundings aren't flashy, but this place delivers some of the best ramen in D.C., and quickly. The owners of Sakuramen take a broad and inclusive approach to their dishes, blending flavors from Japan, Hong Kong and America's east and west coasts. Our advice? Try ordering the Tonkotsu Red (pork broth with pork belly) or the meaty Shoki Bowl.

Sun’s Day Spa

31.  Sun’s Day Spa

What is it?  When stressed-out D.C. folks need to unplug, they had to this Korean Spa in Annandale. 

Why go?   You'll be doing your relaxation in the nude, but you would be surprised by how quickly you become comfortable in your birthday suit. (And don't fret— Sun's Day Spa  is gender-segregated). Start off with a relaxing soak or sauna session, then indulge in some of the spa's excellent full-body treatments. The scrubs are legendary for removing every last bit of dead skin from your body.

32.  Virginia's Horse Country

What is it? This scenic area  is renowned for starting the American Quarter Horse breed and hosting the oldest horse show in the country.  

Why go? Though Virginia's horse country is only 50 miles south of D.C., it might as well be on another planet. You can take a drive through the peaceful green foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stop at a vineyard or two to taste wine or go riding on one of many public access horse trails. 

National Air & Space Museum

33.  National Air & Space Museum

What is it?  Where else but in D.C.'s Air & Space Museum can you see missiles, aircraft and space stations, all without stepping outside the city limits?

Why go?  The museum's central Milestones of Flight hall, towering U.S. Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles, stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can touch a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. Permanent exhibitions in the museum detail the history of jet aviation, space travel and satellite communications. For a closer look (and to improve your knowledge of the universe), head to the public observatory for inspiring views of the sky. If the weather isn't permitting you to star-study, make a beeline for the Albert Einstein planetarium instead, where you'll be launched into a journey through space regardless of the outside elements.

National Museum of Natural History

34.  National Museum of Natural History

What is it ? There's so much to see at this museum—featuring everything from 274 stuffed animals to a sparkling gem and mineral collection—that it can seem a bit daunting.

Why go?  Adults will want to spend time in the  Kenneth E Behring Hall of Mammals and explore the David H Koch Hall of Human Origins for an in-depth look at human evolution. The museum is also a real magnet for children—especially the Insect Zoo, where little hands can pet tarantulas and other live arthropods. Fancy a closer look at creatures of the fluttering variety? The butterfly pavilion (aka a tropical oasis) is home to several species of winged wonders. You can also enjoy talks about the integral relationship that butterflies and plants share, named "Partners in Evolution."

9:30 Club

35.  9:30 Club

What is it?   Once a tiny, art-scene dive renowned for its heat (and smell), the 9:30 Club now boasts state-of-the-art sound (and ventilation).

Why go?  The club features an eclectic mix of artists and a few long-lived (or reunited) punk and post-punk bands have played here, including Wire, the Feelies and Mission of Burma.  Make sure to arrive early and scope out the best vantage point to ensure a good view. All that headbanging giving you hunger pangs? No worries: whip out your wallet and buy some of the tasty tidbits on offer, from salads and pizzas to burgers and cupcakes.

National Archives

36.  National Archives

  • Libraries, archives and foundations
  • Federal Triangle

What is it? The vast collection represents the physical record of the birth and growth of a nation in original documents, maps, photos, recordings, films and a miscellany of artifacts.

Why go? This is your only chance to see some of the country's most prized artifacts, including maps of Lewis and Clark’s explorations, the gun that shot JFK and the Charters of Freedom (the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence). Just search the catalog, and you'll be exploring thousands of years of history in no time.

Arlington National Cemetery

37.  Arlington National Cemetery

  • Historic buildings and sites

What is it?  It is the right of anyone killed in action in any branch of military service, or who served for 20 years, to be buried at Arlington, along with their spouse.

Why go?  Time has worked its healing magic and transformed Arlington into a place of honor and memory. There's much to see here, so start by paying your respects to the imposing marble amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The changing of the guard on the hour remains moving in its reverent precision.

Dumbarton Oaks

38.  Dumbarton Oaks

What is it ?  Located at the highest point in Georgetown, this offshoot of Harvard University is more than just a library.

Why go?  Dumbarton Oaks also has lovely historic gardens, an art museum and a music room, which is the site of frequent lectures and concerts. The Research Library focuses on Byzantine, Pre-Columbian and Garden & Landscape Studies, and includes a rare book collection. Strolling among the many enclosed gardens, paths and terraces would make for an enchanting afternoon.

Ben's Chili Bowl

39.  Ben's Chili Bowl

What is it? Since 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl  has been a DC landmark and is the birthplace of the legendary half-smoke.

Why go? When it comes to D.C. cuisine, half-smokes reign supreme. Distinct from hot dogs, these sausages blend half beef and half pork (hence the name), typically smoked and then grilled. At Ben’s, we suggest going all out with the works, that means a generous heaping of chili. 

Blues Alley Club

40.  Blues Alley Club

What is it? Blues Alley Club , an iconic jazz hotspot, has been a Georgetown staple for years.

Why go? Since 1965, Blues Alley has stood as the nation's oldest continuously operating jazz supper club. Grab a meal and catch a show at this beloved neighborhood venue, where Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus have all at one time played sets.

Kennedy Center

41.  Kennedy Center

  • Music venues
  • Foggy Bottom
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Affectionately known as "the Kennedy Center," The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts holds the prestigious title of the official United States National Cultural Center.

Why go? From theater and dance to orchestra and folk tunes, this place is a city hotspot. You can catch everything from Broadway hits like The Lion King to the mesmerizing sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra.

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32 Best Things to Do in Washington, D.C., From Must-see National Landmarks to Renowned Museums

Here's how locals in hospitality suggest getting to know the U.S. capital.

places to visit near washington dc

Victoria Chamberlain/Travel + Leisure

Our nation's capital is a veritable treasure trove of sights and experiences. The city’s always-evolving cultural scene, combined with its historical roots, make it an eclectic destination where centuries-old monuments and landmarks stand alongside sleek new museums and neighborhoods — and a great meal or exciting live performance is never too far away.

“D.C. has vibrant neighborhoods with unique character, such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and Dupont Circle," says Brian Salley, chef concierge at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC . "These areas offer a mix of shopping, dining, nightlife, and cultural experiences." And don't forget about the urban center's myriad parks and green spaces, where nature lovers can relax and unwind.

Planning a trip to this historic city? We polled several concierge teams at some of the best hotels in D.C. on the most exciting things to do and see on your next getaway to Washington, D.C.

Head to the Old Post Office Pavilion's clock tower.

zrfphoto/Getty Images

Occupying prime real estate in downtown D.C., the Old Post Office Tower soars 270 feet above Pennsylvania Avenue, and it offers breathtaking views of some of the capital's most famous landmarks, including the White House, U.S. Congress, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. The beautiful 19th-century building, which also houses the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC , is open for self-guided tours daily.

Climb "The Exorcist" steps in Georgetown.


Tucked between a stone wall and a brick building, this steep climb was made famous by the 1973 horror movie "The Exorcist." The steps connect Canal Road N.W. with Prospect Street N.W. above, where you'll also find MacNeil's house on the 3600 block.

Snap a selfie with Transformers.

In the same area, head to 3614 Prospect St. N.W. to check out life-sized statues of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. The Transformers guard the residence of Georgetown University professor Newton Howard; while the three statues (the third one is on his rooftop, and it's visible from the street) have drawn mixed reactions from Howards' neighbors, visitors and university students seem to like them.

Visit Washington National Cathedral.

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This imposing gothic building took 83 years to complete, and it boasts 215 stained glass windows and 112 gargoyles, some more famous than others. "See if you can catch a glimpse of the Darth Vader gargoyle," suggests Adrian Renart, assistant director of services at The St. Regis Washington, D.C. You might need binoculars to spot the sculpture of the Star Wars villain; it's set on one of the cathedral's northwest towers. The cathedral is also the final resting place of President Woodrow Wilson.

Explore the Tidal Basin by peddle boat.

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Once warmer weather arrives in D.C., lots of locals and visitors rent pedal boats at the Tidal Basin, a man-made reservoir that's about 10 feet deep. You can get your heart rate up by pedaling to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Or opt to cruise at a slower pace and simply admire the Basin, which is where the annual Cherry Blossom Festival takes place.

Place an order at Ben's Chili Bowl.

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This has to be D.C.'s most iconic dining spot — it's been a defining part of our capital's culinary (and cultural) scene since 1958, feeding people from all walks of life, including celebrities and presidents. The most popular menu item is the half-smoke grilled sausage, served with spicy chili sauce, onions, and mustard. Don't leave town without trying one.

Catch a show in the garden at the National Gallery of Art.

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"This concert series offers a variety of musical performances, including jazz, Latin fusion, bluegrass, and more," says Tiffany Gary, chef concierge at Riggs Washington D.C. The popular events take place every Friday, from May 19 through August 4, in the serene sculpture garden of the museum. Entry is free but your name must be pulled from a lottery to attend; register on the National Gallery of Art website .

Tour President Lincoln's home.

Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images

"President Lincoln's Cottage, where he lived for more than a quarter of his presidency, is a historic site and museum located in the northwest of the city," Gary explained. Instead of the White House, Lincoln resided in this idyllic two-story home, where the Emancipation Proclamation was born. Visitors can learn more about Lincoln's life and work through guided tours and interactive exhibits.

Visit Ford's Theatre.

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This is the venue where, on the evening of April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot during a performance of the play "Our American Cousin." The historic theater reopened in 1968 and exhibits inside explore the aftermath of the assassination, as well as its impact on U.S. history. Ford's Theatre also produces plays and musicals, and has a seasonal calendar of shows that start in September and continue through May.

Catch an interactive exhibit in Artechouse.

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Immersive and mind-bending interactive exhibitions that blend art and technology make the D.C. outpost of Artechouse Studio an absolute must-see for travelers. With no permanent exhibition, but rather a rotating list of fascinating experiences that changes every three or so months, each visit here is sure to be a memorable one.

Enjoy a live concert at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

"Libraries are not usually places one thinks of for parties. However, we guarantee no librarians will 'shh' you during these events," Gary says. Seasonal musical performances at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Penn Quarter feature local bands and some pretty fantastic city views from the lush rooftop garden.

Stroll through Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens.

While most visitors focus on the Smithsonian museums in downtown D.C., travelers looking for an equally impressive venue that's a bit more under the radar should head here . This site features a museum, sprawling gardens, and an estate that was once the home of philanthropist, heiress, and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post. "We suggest spending the day exploring the house, collections, special exhibits, and grounds," says Gary. "We often imagine how lucky former D.C. glitterati were to receive an invitation to one of Ms. Post's legendary garden parties. The Fabergé eggs are a must-see – as is an iced tea enjoyed when strolling the gardens."

Book a spirit tasting at Silver Lyan.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The first American bar of British mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, Silver Lyan is often named one of the world's best bars. Located in the Riggs Hotel, the bar hosts exclusive spirit tastings in a secret bank vault throughout the year. "This is a must for aficionados of whisky and other spirits; expect rare gems, special edition bottles, and a few [things] you won't find anywhere else," Gary says.

Visit the National Portrait Gallery and linger in the courtyard.

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Some people assume this museum isn't for them because of the specific art form found inside — do not make this error. You will view spectacular pieces here , including Barack and Michelle Obama's official portraits, which people line up to see, and you can enjoy the museum's modern courtyard as well, which features a "floating" canopy of glass and steel that was added in 2004. It's the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing and to have lunch or a snack.

Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island.

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One of the most serene and lush places in D.C., Theodore Roosevelt Island is an 88-acre natural retreat on the Potomac River. "Explore the trails, take in the scenic views, and learn about the conservation legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt," suggests Brian Salley, chef concierge at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.

Hike the trails at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

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Located on the banks of the Anacostia River in northeast D.C., this tranquil 700-acre park features 45 ponds and unique habitats bursting with wildlife, including many aquatic species. "Explore the beautiful aquatic gardens with their blooming lotus flowers and water lilies," Salley says. "The park also offers walking trails and birdwatching opportunities."

Spend time at The Wharf.

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D.C.'s newest neighborhood, The Wharf , is located along the Potomac River and offers waterfront dining, boutique shopping, five-star hotels, live entertainment, and activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. The area is also home to The Municipal Fish Market , which opened in 1805 and lays claim to being "the oldest continuously-operating open-air fish market" in the country.

Tour Embassy Row.

Over 170 embassies line the quaint streets of Embassy Row, an area in northwest D.C. between Dupont Circle and Observatory Circle. Book a guided tour to learn all about the stunning Beaux-Arts mansions here — they house some of the world's most influential diplomats — and the stories they hide.

Tour the U.S. Capitol.

Inspired by the grandeur of the buildings in ancient Rome and Greece, the U.S. Capitol is arguably the most iconic building in the country. The structure houses the U.S. Congress, and you can take a free guided tour through its beautiful halls. Tour participants will see the Crypt, a legendary vaulted space with 40 Doric-style columns; the Rotunda, fashioned after the Pantheon and often the site of official ceremonial events; and the National Statuary Hall, a stunning amphitheater with marble columns and towering statues.

Meet the animals at the National Zoo.

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Home to more than 2,100 animals and nearly 400 species, the Smithsonian's National Zoo is a 163-acre property in Rock Creek Park and a favorite of visitors and locals alike. From the always popular Asia Trail to the kid's farm and Africa Trail, it's easy to see what makes this zoo one of the most visited landmarks in D.C. Entry is complimentary, but check the zoo's website for information about timed passes and parking directions.

Explore the National Air and Space Museum.

This venue is still undergoing a multi-year, top-to-bottom renovation (slated for completion in 2026), but it is partially reopened now, with eight new exhibition spaces housing aviation artifacts. If that's not enough, you can head to the affiliated Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (a 40-minute ride from downtown D.C.), to peruse legendary aircraft like the Discovery space shuttle and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Keep in mind that the Air and Space Museum in D.C. needs a timed entry pass, so book yours well in advance, especially if you're visiting on a weekend.

Watch a live show at a local concert venue.

D.C. is an entertainment hub, so save some time for a comedy, theater, or music show. Alejandra Castillo, guest services and client experience manager at Hotel Washington , suggests checking the schedules at local venues like DC Improv and The Anthem for comedy, or taking in a big show at Capital One Arena or Kennedy Center . Recently, Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters (who's a Virginia native) celebrated the opening of his own venue, The Atlantis , a 450-person intimate space for live shows; it's a replica of a popular 1980s venue in D.C.

Peruse the incredible works in the National Gallery of Art.

As one of the top art museums in the world, the halls of the National Gallery of Art are lined with tens of thousands of works of art spanning centuries, including pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Piet Mondrian, Vermeer, and so many more. The striking East Building of the museum, designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, houses the institution's contemporary and modern art collection and a rooftop terrace with views over Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tour the White House.

You could just snap a picture of the most famous address in the country from behind its fence, but what fun is that? Though it requires some advance planning, touring the White House is possible; submit a request through your representative in Congress at least 21 days before the desired tour date. The self-guided tours take approximately 45 minutes, during which you will see the East Room, the State Dining Room, and the Blue Room. Presidents have sometimes surprised visitors on these tours, so you may even meet the President.

See the Lincoln Memorial.

Brandon Rosenblum/Getty Images

The Lincoln Memorial is a National Mall highlight. Overlooking the Reflecting Pool, the imposing building where the 19-foot tall statue of seated President Abraham Lincoln is located has been the setting for some of our country's most memorable demonstrations, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Visit the monument at night when it is beautifully illuminated and crowds are much smaller.

Museum hop at the National Mall.

You can't visit the National Mall without taking advantage of all the free museums. The National Museum of Natural History is always a hit with kids, and other highlights include the National Museum of the American Indian (note that there's a playground on the second floor), the National Museum of American History , and the fantastic National Museum of African American History and Culture (timed-entry passes are required here).

Explore the sculpture gardens of the National Mall.

Aside from housing a world-class collection of modern art (including five works by Yayoi Kusama), many visitors come to the Hirshhorn Museum to enjoy its sculpture garden, where more than 30 works are displayed. For more of this art form, head to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden , which is only a few minutes away and features art by the likes of Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Mark di Suvero.

Hike in Rock Creek Park.

When you've had enough of the hustle and bustle of downtown D.C., head to Rock Creek Park, a 1,754-acre haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 32 miles of hiking and biking trails, plus a dozen miles of horseback riding trails, this is a true escape. There are many kid-friendly facilities here, too, including a planetarium and a nature center with age-appropriate exhibitions.

Dine at a José Andrés restaurant.

James Beard Award-winning chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, José Andrés , has six restaurants in D.C., many of which are within walking distance from downtown. From classic Spanish tapas at Jaleo and authentic Mexican flavors at Oyamel Cocina Mexicano to the Mediterranean Zaytinya, Andrés's eateries are excellent dining options. His latest dining concept, The Bazaar by José Andrés , opened to glowing reviews earlier this year at the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.

Take in the views from the Washington Monument.

As the tallest building in D.C., the Washington Monument provides stunning views over the capital. A 70-second elevator ride takes guests 500 feet up to the observation deck and museum, from where visitors enjoy spectacular, unobstructed views of the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian museums. Tickets are free, but advance reservations are required.

Explore D.C.'s murals.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

"Many local artists express their creativity through murals all over D.C.," Castillo explained. "One [tour] that I often recommend is with Jason Bowers, who is behind D.C. Mural Tour ." The tour takes place in the NoMa neighborhood and around Union Market, where you will see more than 20 beautiful murals. This formerly industrial area is quickly becoming one of the trendiest places to hang out in the capital, thanks to its many restaurants and boutiques.

Shop for designer goods at CityCenterDC.

CityCenterDC is a premiere shopping destination, where brands like Louis Vuitton, David Yurman, Dior, and Chanel all have boutiques — and some of these stores have private shopping rooms for the ultimate VIP experience. If you’re staying at the adjacent Conrad Washington, DC , Jeff Morgan, the hotel’s chef concierge and president of the Washington Area Concierge Association (WACA), can book those shopping experiences for you.

Related Articles

68 Best & Fun Things To Do In Washington, DC

By: Author Jerric Chong

Posted on Published: September 23, 2020  - Last updated: October 15, 2023

Things To Do In Washington, DC

You’re probably familiar with Washington, DC as the capital of the United States, and it’s true that you can find all sorts of historically and culturally significant sights within it.

From museums to war memorials to government buildings, it’s definitely the headquarters of the nation.

There are other parts to the city, however.

It’s home to everything from quirky little shops and boutiques to sprawling wilderness reserves filled with waterfalls and hundred-year-old oak trees.

It’s much more diverse than you might think!

Are you wondering what to do in Washington, DC?

Are you hoping to explore all of your options and not just the ones most commonly featured in travel guides?

Here are 68 of the best things to do in DC.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking through these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

1. National Mall

National Mall

National Mall

The first stop that you’ll want to make in Washington, DC is the National Mall .

You’ve already seen it depicted in hundreds of films, shows, plays, postcards and art prints, so it’s time to gaze at its majesty in real life.

The long, grassy slopes are home to dozens of iconic U.S. institutions.

The White House is the most famous, but the Washington Monument is the tallest, and the Smithsonian Museums are the largest in terms of square footage.

The domed top of the U.S. Capitol Building can be seen in the hazy distance of the east.

The Lincoln Memorial is at the opposite end on the west.

Other attractions include statues, museums, memorials, art galleries, botanical gardens and more.

In the summer, cherry blossom trees bloom over ponds and reflecting pools.

In the winter, snow piles up on the lawns.

The National Mall is one of the major points of interest in the United States.

Forget the boundaries of the District of Columbia; it’s iconic for the entire country as a whole.

You’ll definitely want to cross it off your bucket list when you’re in the area!

Check details, prices and reviews here.

Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, United States

2. Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

With more than 167 million items, the Library of Congress is the second-largest library in the world.

Its shelves hold everything from rare, fragile books to contemporary recordings for popular music.

It also boasts maps, manuscripts, photographs, paintings, murals, news reels, sheet music and just about everything else that a seeker of knowledge could want.

The library has three buildings in total, and each one showcases breathtaking architecture that’s just as incredible as the materials within.

The most famous is probably the Thomas Jefferson Building with its ornate, golden-toned central reading room, but all of them are worth a visit.

Special events are often held at the library as well.

For example, one of the buildings has a performance theater; another has an auditorium for live musical performances; another has television and motion picture rooms.

Did we mention that everything is free?

Not only is the Library of Congress one of the best things to do in Washington, DC, but it’s also budget-friendly.

You could entertain yourself for hours without paying a dime.

In terms of tourist attractions, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Address:  10 First St SE, Washington, DC 20540, United States

3. Eastern Market

Eastern Market

Eastern Market

The fruits are fresh. The flowers are fragrant.

The jewelry stands glitter in the sun; the woodworking stalls are always abuzz with the sounds of power tools.

Welcome to the Eastern Market !

Spilling out of an old brick building as a hybrid indoor/outdoor shopping space, the Eastern Market is one of the oldest of its kind in Washington, DC.

It’s open every day of the week except Monday, and it offers a constant rotation of farmers, florists, artists, butchers, blacksmiths, jewelers, booksellers and more.

If you’re feeling hungry, you can grab everything from warm flatbreads to shaved ice cups topped with homemade syrups and candies.

If you want to support small businesses, you can shop for shawls, necklaces, quilts, picture frames, seaglass gems and other goodies.

There are even specialty services available for things like leather working and shoe making!

The Eastern Market is one of the most fun things to do in Washington, DC.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find it here, and it’ll probably be cheaper than a retail outlet.

Bring your bag and get ready to shop!

Address:  225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

4. Ford’s Theatre

Ford's Theatre

Ford’s Theatre

The show must go on.

Despite being the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Ford’s Theatre is still open today, and it’s still bringing plays, musicals, speeches, comedy shows and other live events to the residents of Washington, DC.

The venue is small and cozy.

It retains a lot of its original decor from the 1800s, including red carpets and golden railings in front of the balcony seats.

It has a kind of throwback atmosphere that’ll make you feel like you’re stepping back in time to the days of top hats and narrow-waisted gowns.

If you’re a history buff, you should also know about the museum located beneath the theater.

It’s the best place in the city to learn about Lincoln, and it’s home to one-of-a-kind relics like the bloodstained pillow used during Lincoln’s final moments.

There’s no shortage of famous places in Washington, DC, but Ford’s Theatre manages to stand out from the rest with both its vintage charm and its utterly unique backstory.

Quite literally, you can’t get this experience anywhere else.

Address:  511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

5. Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour

Shop in the spring. Boat in the summer.

Bike in the fall. Ice skate in the winter.

Washington Harbour offers activities for every season, so in addition to being a fun, lively place in general, it’s also a destination that will welcome vacationers at any time of year.

The views of the river are phenomenal, and you can enjoy them in many ways, including a rented canoe or jet ski right there on the water.

If you’d prefer to stay on solid ground, you can take a walking, biking or eating tour of the local hot spots, or you can simply wander on your own until the sizzle of fresh catfish tempts you into a seafood joint.

There’s shopping. There’s dining.

Hotels are all along the shoreline if you need accommodation.

Theaters, galleries, lounges and performance venues are always close at hand for entertainment.

Considered the “premiere waterfront destination of DC,” Washington Harbour is one of the best places to visit for travelers who want a fun and exciting time in the area.

Come here after you’ve had your fill of quiet museums and memorials.

Let loose and have a blast!

Address:  3000-3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

6. Heurich House Museum

Heurich House Museum

Heurich House Museum

You can be forgiven for assuming that the Heurich House Museum is some grand palace built for long-forgotten aristocracy.

Its Victorian-style architecture includes stone archways, wide windows, spire-topped towers and all of the stairs and alcoves that you’d expect from a gothic building.

The truth, however, is that the Heurich House Museum was built by a European immigrant in the 1890s.

He ran a successful brewery a few miles away, and he wanted a taste of home in Washington, DC.

The brewery went out of business after the man died, but thanks to careful preservation by his descendants, the house survived.

It stands today as a tribute to turn-of-the-century living in Washington, DC.

Its first few floors have all of their original rooms and furnishings, including boudoirs, parlors, fireplaces, spiral staircases, servant’s quarters and more.

Tours are available every weekday.

Consider a trip to the Heurich House Museum if you’re looking for fun and unusual things to do in Washington, DC.

You’d never expect a piece of centuries-old gothic architecture to be sitting in the middle of a busy metropolis, but that’s exactly why it’s a must visit!

Address:  1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

7. National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

Hailed as “the nation’s museum,” the National Gallery of Art is considered one of the best in the United States, and it’s located right in the heart of Washington, DC.

It’s actually comprised of two buildings: East and West.

The East Building is made with pink marble and a sharp, almost geometric flair that includes things like open rooftop terraces and sky-lit atrium galleries.

By contrast, the West Building has white columns in a neoclassical architectural style reminiscent of ancient Greece, so it harks back to the past even as its cousin looks to the future.

The interiors are just as impressive as the exteriors.

Dozens of art collections include paintings, portraits, sculptures and busts from all around the world.

The works of many famous artists can be found here.

A trip to the National Gallery of Art is one of the top things to do in Washington, DC.

Not only will you be stunned by the scale and scope of its exhibitions, but you’ll also be moved by the immerse amount of meaning that the gallery holds for the United States of America.

Address:  Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565, United States

8. Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park

You haven’t truly lived until you’ve hurled yourself down a mountain while strapped to a narrow cord strung between two trees.

Fortunately, this is just one of the experiences that you can have at Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park , so you can cross it off your bucket list as soon as you visit Washington, DC!

Activities include everything from ziplining to clambering across rope bridges and airborne obstacle courses.

You can test your nerves on the Tarzan Swings; you can goof around with the kids on a Treetop Discovery Journey.

There’s even something called a “Monkey Drop” if you’re really feeling brave.

It’s okay if you’re a beginner.

There are instructors who will walk you through the basics and show you how to have fun while staying safe.

Youngsters are also welcome as long as they meet certain guidelines, so this can be a family outing.

You won’t find a lot of ziplining opportunities in Washington, DC, but if you’re willing to leave the city, Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park isn’t that far.

You could be there in less than an hour if the traffic is light.

Sign up for an adventure today, and you could be flying through the treetops as early as this weekend!

Address:  7550 Reservation Dr, Springfield, VA 22153, United States

9. Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books

Bookstores are nothing new in Washington, DC, which might just be one of the most well-read cities in the world.

However, Capitol Hill Books is unique in a number of ways.

For starters, it’s completely unpretentious.

It sells used and battered books in a cluttered space with little direction but lots of wobbly stacks, and most of the goods have been so deeply discounted that they’re practically free.

The store’s founder is a retired WWII veteran who barks at millennials for using words like “totally” and “whatever.”

Despite this, he’s actually quite fond of his good-for-nothing customers, and he sold the store to four of his favorite regulars in 2016.

The new owners have been faithful to the spirit of the original store, so they haven’t changed much.

You can still find handwritten signs banning smartphones and the foreign language section stacked up in the bathroom.

One thing that’s changed has been the upgrade to electronic cash registers after years of the founder writing receipts by hand and complaining about it the entire time.

Are you looking for quirky, off-beat ways to have fun in DC?

Hit up Capitol Hill Books.

Just make sure that you don’t use any dang slang!

Address:  657 C St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

10. Thip Khao

Thip Khao

If you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll be absolutely dazzled by Washington, DC.

Its streets are packed with dining options that range from Michelin-star restaurants to cheap food trucks and hole-in-the-wall grub hubs.

The hard part won’t be finding a place to eat; it’ll be choosing between all of the places to eat!

Thip Khao is just one of the city’s many restaurants, but it stands out from the crowd for its daringly unique menu.

It’s dedicated to Lao cuisine, and dishes include things like goat curry and fried duck head.

There are also blood sausages, fire ant eggs, cured pork bellies and alligator tails served with mint and green apple.

These dishes might sound extreme to a first-timer, but there’s a reason why locals and tourists both go crazy for Thip Khao.

If you’re willing to expand your horizons, you can have an amazingly exotic culinary experience without even leaving the streets of DC.

Take a deep breath.

Get over your fear of fermented fish chili rice.

It’s time to push yourself out of your comfort zone with Thip Khao, one of the coolest, boldest and tastiest restaurants in the city.

Address:  3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010, United States

11. Old Town Trolley Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour

There are so many tourist attractions in Washington, DC, that it can feel like an impossible task to visit them all.

Your best chance at success is utilizing an Old Town Trolley Tour .

As a “hop-on, hop-off” tour, the Old Town Trolley Tour will allow you to explore the city at your leisure even as you enjoy the convenience of having informative guides and chauffeurs.

If you see a store, restaurant or landmark that interests you, just disembark at one of the tour’s 17 designated bus stops around DC.

When you’re ready to resume the trip, hop on the next bus and keep going.

The tour will take you to all of the best places to go in the city, including the world-famous National Mall.

You’ll also have the opportunity to experience a water taxi on the Potomac River.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Washington DC, consider a hop-on, hop-off experience with an Old Town Trolley Tour.

It can be a great way to kick off your trip and see the bounty spread before you as a visitor.

Address:  50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

12. National Arboretum

National Arboretum

National Arboretum

With flowers, ferns, trees, shrubs, succulents and as far as the eye can see, the National Arboretum is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US .

It’s also one of the most colorful.

From the tidy, well-trimmed bonsai collections to the overgrown willow trees hanging over fields of wildflowers, every inch of this arboretum will dazzle the eye.

Walking trails will lead you through gardens and groves.

Art collections will greet you in between statues, fountains and reflecting pools.

Tourist attractions include everything from arbor houses to nature museums.

There are other things to see, too, that don’t involve the natural world.

For example, the National Capitol Columns stand in an open field as a tribute to American history.

Are you looking to escape the grind of Washington, DC?

Are you a fan of nature, culture, beauty, history or all of the above?

The National Arboretum is a must see destination, so you’ll definitely want to make time for it when you’re near the capital.

Address:  3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

13. CityCenterDC



Covering more than five blocks, CityCenterDC is a “mixed-use development” located in the heart of downtown.

In simple terms, this means that it’s a gigantic commercial and retail space where you can find shops, parks, restaurants, hotels, offices and condos all contained within a single area.

If this sounds like a busy place, you’re absolutely right!

While CityCenterDC is a must see for folks who enjoy the thrumming energy of a modern urban landscape, it isn’t for the faint of heart.

There are always crowds, and there are always miles and miles of traffic.

If the bustle is part of the appeal, however, you’ll love the liveliness of CityCenterDC.

You can’t walk two steps without seeing another shop or another cafe.

You could spend hours within these five blocks alone; you don’t even need to venture further into downtown to have a good time.

If you aren’t afraid of bumping elbows with strangers, CityCenterDC is among the top tourist places of Washington, DC.

It’ll put you right on top of the beating pulse of the city, and you can’t ask for more from a vacation destination.

Address:  825 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

14. The Pentagon

The Pentagon

The Pentagon

You might be surprised to learn that the Pentagon allows visitors, but it’s actually one of the biggest Washington DC attractions for political-minded folks who want to see where the action happens.

Guided tours are available on weekdays from 10 AM – 4 PM.

They’ll take you through some of the front rooms and offices as well as the Hall of Heroes where you can view Medal of Honor recipients.

There are also informative displays about all four branches of the military along with photos, relics and memorabilia from the conflicts of the past.

Keep in mind that tours have to be scheduled at least two weeks in advance, and you’ll need a government-issued photo ID to enter.

They don’t let just anyone pass through the front doors.

As long as you meet the criteria, however, it can be a rare and exciting treat to visit the Pentagon.

It can also make for a great story back home.

You can honestly tell your friends that you’ve walked the same halls as presidents, princes, dignitaries and more!

Address:  Washington, DC 22202, United States

15. National Zoo

National Zoo

National Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The National Zoo is a staple of Washington, DC for more reasons than one, so if you’re an animal or nature lover spending time in the city, it’s definitely a place to put on your to-do list.

The first reason to visit is because of the sheer range of animals within the zoo.

More than 2,000 animals call it home, including a family of giant pandas.

If it jumps, flies, crawls, stalks, slithers or rolls around in bamboo, it can probably be found here.

Another great thing about the zoo is that it hosts a wide variety of events and activities for visitors.

From “Woo at the Zoo” on Valentine’s Day to “Boo at the Zoo” during Halloween, there’s always something fun to do.

Last but not least, the zoo is free.

Yes, you read that right!

You can stroll right up to the gates tomorrow morning and gain entry without paying a dime.

It’s open every day of the year except Christmas, and it never charges admission.

Are you tempted by the National Zoo yet?

Are you ready to see all of the amazing creatures and enjoy all of the fun activities?

It’s located right on the National Mall of Washington, DC, so you can’t miss it!

Address:  3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

16. International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is a mix of fun and factual.

As its name suggests, it’s dedicated to the art of espionage, and many exhibits revolve around real-life spies and their history, technology and methodology.

On the flip side, a lot of stuff to do at the International Spy Museum is just plain cool.

There are trivia games and movie nights; there are interactive spy missions where the whole family can play at being James Bond.

Speaking of James Bond, he gets some attention, too.

Fictional spies aren’t overlooked.

The museum recognizes the role that they’ve played in public interest about the field.

If you’re looking for fun and unique things to do in Washington, DC, consider a stop by the International Spy Museum.

It’s one of the only museums of its kind in the entire world, so in addition to being a DC standout, it’s also a rare treat for those who like their martinis shaken and not stirred.

Address:  700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

17. Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

If you’re a fan of the funky, you won’t want to miss Adams Morgan .

This vibrant neighborhood has colorful houses lined up like ducks in a row alongside shops, cafes, bars, bistros, lounges, clubs and many other entertainment venues.

You can sing karaoke until 3 AM; you can follow trails of graffiti to community art projects.

Every weekend, this neighborhood transforms into a mini-city of its very own.

Another great thing about Adams Morgan is its diversity.

Just walking down the street can take you on a journey around the world, especially if you’re a foodie.

You can dine on all kinds of pizzas, noodles, pastas, empanadas and gyros.

Go shopping at the thrift stores.

Take in live music at the pubs and taverns.

Eat until you’re stuffed at the outdoor restaurants of every flavor.

Adams Morgan is one of the best places for entertainment in Washington, DC.

It’s a must do if you like the nightlife scene, but even if you’re an older or calmer kind of traveler, you can find ample ways to have fun in a neighborhood like this.

18. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Located in Arlington, Virginia, Arlington National Cemetery is a few minutes south of Washington, DC, but it’s worth the side trip.

You’ve probably heard of it before.

It’s one of the oldest and most esteemed military cemeteries in the world.

The land was originally owned by George Washington’s grandson.

It passed through various hands, including Robert E. Lee’s wife, until it became the property of the U.S. government.

Today, it’s used as the final resting place for soldiers dating all of the way back to the Civil War.

The grounds are beautiful, especially when the leaves change colors in the fall.

Elaborate statues, fountains, headstones and memorial buildings are dotted across the hills.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most popular places to visit in the cemetery, but there are many others.

If you’re wondering what to do in Washington DC, put some gas in the car and hop across state lines to Virginia.

Arlington National Cemetery is a must do.

Address: Entrance at Arlington Memorial Bridge, Arlington, VA 22211, United States

19. Capital One Arena

Capital One Arena

Capital One Arena

The Capital One Arena is one of the major points of interest of Washington, DC.

It’s even been credited with the revitalization of its neighborhood.

You don’t have to sit through a history lesson to enjoy the arena for what it is, however.

It’s an awesome place!

Home to everyone from the Washington Wizards to the Washington Capitals, it hosts sporting events of all kinds, including basketball, hockey and even wrestling.

It’s also been used for concerts, festivals, horse shows, family events and ice skating performances.

If you want to see Disney on Ice while in DC, this is where you’ll go.

Amenities include a lounge, salon, food court and commercial retail space.

You’ll find lots of well-known shopping brands here.

To put it simply, everything that you need for a good vacation is right here in the Capital One Arena.

There’s entertainment; there’s food and drink; there’s a place to get your hair cut or your nails clipped.

What more could you ask for from an arena?

Address:  601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

20. Odyssey Dinner Cruise

Odyssey Dinner Cruise

Odyssey Dinner Cruise

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase a three-hour tour?

Thankfully, this isn’t Gilligan’s Island.

It’s the Odyssey Dinner Cruise .

Setting off from the Potomac River, the Odyssey Dinner Cruise will take you on a journey through some of the top travel destinations of Washington, DC.

You’ll pass by towering monuments and memorials; you’ll drift along shorelines dotted with fountains, statues, museums, naval piers and other points of interest.

Befitting a dinner cruise, a three-course meal is served with every trip.

You’ll enjoy tableside service along with classical music in a sophisticated setting.

When you’re done with your food, you’ll have the option of cutting a rug on the dance hall.

If you’re wondering what to do in DC, you don’t have to limit yourself to a small list of attractions.

See everything at once through an Odyssey Dinner Cruise, and enjoy some buttered scallops in citrus sauce while you’re at it!

Address:  580 Water St SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

21. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

If you’re looking for unusual tourist spots in Washington, DC, consider the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens .

They’re captivatingly beautiful, but they’re definitely not your average park!

What sets them apart is their water-based plant life.

They offer several species that are quite rare for the region, including waterlilies, lotus blossoms and water hyacinths.

Some of these plants are located within Kenilworth Marsh, the only remaining tidal marsh in DC.

Another source of entertainment is the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival.

It’s a two-day event held at the park, and it offers games, tours, dances, cultural lessons, fashion shows, wildlife experiences and more.

If you’ve ever admired the beauty of a floating heart or the hidden meaning of a lotus flower, you’ll definitely want to check out the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

It’s a must do for nature enthusiasts in general, but it’s particularly special for folks who like to explore little-known places and find hidden gems during their vacations.

Address:  1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019, United States

22. Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is a small and beautiful sanctuary located off the coast of Washington, DC.

It’s only accessible through a pedestrian bridge, and cars and bikes aren’t allowed.

You have to explore with nothing but your own two feet.

If you’re up for the walking, however, it’s a top 10 destination in terms of scenery.

There are hills and fields; there are shaded tree canopies; there are babbling brooks.

It’s a great place to relieve some stress by lying back on the grass and staring at the beautiful blue sky.

There are also wilder, denser places where serious hikers can test their mettle.

If you venture deeply enough into the trees, you might hear the call of Washington’s birds or the slither of its snakes.

Do you want to go off the grid for awhile?

Check out Theodore Roosevelt Island.

It isn’t one of the glamorous tourist places of the region, but it’s one of the best things to do in DC if you don’t mind loping it on foot.

Address: George Washington Memorial Parkway, Arlington, VA 22211, United States

23. National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

The National Museum of Natural History is another place that you’ve probably seen in a lot of movies, but we’re here to tell you that reality is even better than fiction.

Its amazing collections have to be seen to be believed!

The first thing that you’ll notice is a gigantic elephant roaring at the center of a large, open-air rotunda.

From there, you can choose a direction and explore art galleries, fossil halls, meteorite collections, butterfly gardens and more.

There’s a Hall of Bones. There’s an Insect Zoo. The Hope Diamond is here.

Whether you’re into astronomy, oceanography, paleontology, meteorology or any other type of natural history, you can probably find some kind of display for it.

Run by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History lives up to its reputation and then some.

It’s one of those rare places to visit that manages to combine education and entertainment, so even as you’re having fun, you’ll be trying new things and learning new facts.

Address:  10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, United States

24. Argentta Spa at the Watergate

Argentta Spa

Argentta Spa

If bottomless mimosas are your thing, you’ll love a luxurious afternoon at the Argentta Spa .

It’s found within the Watergate Hotel, but you don’t have to be a guest to sign up for a massage, manicure or mud mask.

Feel free to pamper yourself regardless of where you’re staying in the city.

Amenities include a pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steamroom.

Beauty services range from basic facials to elaborate Icelandic moonflower scrubs.

If you’re over 21, you can enjoy drinks with just about everything, including cocktails during cuticle treatments and wine after rooftop yoga classes.

If you’re looking to treat yourself while in Washington, DC, it’s hard to beat the “luxe living” of the Argentta Spa.

You’ll feel like a whole new person when you step out of a lavender-infused saltwater bath.

Additionally, if you get too lazy and relaxed to move, you can just book a room at the hotel and extend your stay!

Address:  2650 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037, United States

25. DC Improv Comedy Club

DC Improv Comedy Club

DC Improv Comedy Club

This subterranean comedy club has an awesome atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else in Washington, DC.

As you might expect from an underground building, it features a lot of dark walls and dimly-lit alcoves, but it gets filled with so much laughter that it never feels gloomy.

Instead, there’s a warm, almost cozy atmosphere as the comedians take the stage.

They’re close enough to reach out and touch.

As a member of the audience, you’ll be able to eat and drink while they perform, so everything has a very casual feeling.

Shows are hosted every week.

Special events include classes in improv, sketch and stand-up comedy.

If you’re traveling for work, you can even rent the venue for fun and unique team-building exercises.

Maybe you’re spending time with colleagues.

Maybe you need a cool place for a date tonight.

No matter what the occasion, the DC Improv Comedy Club will be a side-splitting spot!

Address:  1140 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

26. Culture House

Culture House

Culture House

You can’t miss the Culture House .

Literally, you can’t miss it.

Its bright colors can be seen from miles away, especially since most of the surrounding neighborhood was demolished years ago.

The Culture House was only spared from the bulldozer because it used to belong to the Friendship Baptist Congregation, an African-American institution that supported low-income families and provided them with fun, creative ways to express themselves.

The Culture House has gone through various owners since then, but its mission remains the same.

Every inch of the place has been hand-painted or graffiti-sprayed with various types of artistry.

From cartoons to abstract swirls to elaborate “in memoriam” murals, it’s basically a living, ever-evolving work of art.

There are other reasons to visit the Culture House besides gawking at the walls, too.

Many artists use the space for showings and exhibitions.

Its psychedelic interior is also popular with musicians.

If you want some non-touristy things to do in Washington, DC, the Culture House is decidedly off the beaten path.

It’s a wonderfully unique place, and it’ll make for a wonderfully unique visit as well.

Address:  700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

27. Cascading Waterfall

Cascading Waterfall

Cascading Waterfall

You’ve never seen a waterfall quite like this.

Located within Meridian Hill Park , it’s a man-made art installation that sends water flowing down a series of 13 stone steps.

Like its name suggests, it’s a beautiful cascade, and many people think that it represents the perfect harmony between man and nature.

When you’re done with the waterfall, there are other cool places to see in the park as well.

There are statues and fountains; there are monuments for war heroes.

One of the most famous is a heavy bronze recreation of Joan of Arc on a horse.

The sword in her hand has been stolen and re-stolen multiple times over the years; sometimes, the thieves leave flowers or other tokens behind.

When visiting the statue, you never know if you’re going to see the sword or not.

Do you want to experience the great outdoors without having to leave the urban terrain of Washington, DC?

Stop by the Cascading Waterfall at Meridian Hill Park.

It’s a nice place to get a respite from the city while still being conveniently cocooned within it.

Address:  16th St NW &, W St NW, Washington, DC 20009, United States

28. The Chocolate House DC

The Chocolate House

The Chocolate House

If you just felt a little shiver of excitement at the name “ Chocolate House ,” this is the tourist attraction for you!

Offering hundreds of bars, breads, truffles, crisps and bites made by world-class artisans, the Chocolate House DC is a luxury boutique and tasting room for chocoholics of all types.

You can munch on everything from chocolate peanut brittle squares to orange-infused dark chocolate fudge bombs.

You can also indulge yourself with wines, soaps, blankets and other care package goods to complement the cocoa.

As for activities, you’ll have your choice of classes, workshops and cooking events.

You can learn how to roll truffles; you can sample various types of gourmet chocolate under the tutelage of an expert.

The schedule varies.

Your sweet tooth will definitely get a workout at the Chocolate House DC.

Are you ready to treat yourself to some amazing desserts made by high-quality chocolatiers?

Get your taste buds to the Chocolate House!

Address:  1904 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, United States

29. United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

With all of its vintage theaters and gleaming government buildings, you might not expect Washington, DC to have a lot of greenery.

However, the United States Botanic Garden would prove you wrong.

It’s a natural oasis in the middle of an urban landscape, and it’s hands-down one of the best places to visit in the city.

Flowers bloom in every shape and shade that you can imagine.

Gardens are arranged by theme, so one might have rare and endangered species while another is focused on jungle, desert or tropical plants.

There’s a canopy for looking at the trees and flowers from a top view.

There are trails and courtyards if you want to walk, talk, sit or just breathe deeply among the orchids.

You don’t have to be a botanist to appreciate a large and impressive house of botany.

If you want to escape the high-rise buildings of Washington, DC for awhile, stop by the tranquil spring that is the United States Botanic Garden.

Address:  100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

30. Monumental Helicopters

Monumental Helicopters

Monumental Helicopters

It’s always fun to see a city from the sky.

It can get a little complicated in DC, however, because of the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) imposed on all of those important government buildings.

If you want to experience aerial views, you’ll need to book a helicopter tour with a company that has been approved for FRZ flights.

Monumental Helicopters is that company.

They have FRZ access, and while they can’t exactly fly you over the White House, they can get you closer than many of their competitors.

They can also take you on show-stopping journeys to other Washington DC attractions.

They offer a variety of tours out of Baltimore and Annapolis that also incorporate some of DC’s nearby hot spots.

If you’ve always wanted to fly alongside the seagulls in Chesapeake Bay, this is your chance!

It’s unfortunate that you can’t take a real helicopter tour of Washington, DC, but with companies like Monumental Helicopters, at least you can experience something close to one.

Just make sure to call ahead and book early.

They provide such an in-demand service that they’re often swamped with requests.

Address:  7505 General Aviation Dr #100, Fort Meade, MD 20755, United States

31. Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

Don’t be fooled by the name “ Smithsonian Institution Building .”

While it might sound like a boring collection of offices and cubicles, it’s actually a medieval-style castle!

It was built with red sandstone over the course of 1849 – 1855 in a combination of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture.

The architects picked this style deliberately because they wanted it to stand out from the white marble and granite of other DC buildings.

The towers rise to a staggering 145 feet.

The windows are curved and arched alongside turrets and other medieval staples.

Inside, there are parlors, galleries, libraries, chapels and great halls.

There’s even a crypt for the tomb of James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian Intuition.

Washington, DC might be full of cool buildings, but the Smithsonian Institution Building is one of the top choices to visit.

How many chances will you get to see a genuine castle?

Rather than backpacking through Europe or Asia, just hop on over to DC.

Address:  1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, United States

32. Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill is another vintage building in the DC area, though it isn’t quite as vintage as a medieval castle.

However, it does date back to the mid-1850s, and it went through several lives as a boarding house and a saloon before finally settling on its identity as a tavern.

The dining room shines with polished woods and red, brown and gold accents.

The menu offers old classics like steak and eggs as well as more contemporary dishes like oysters and scallops.

For dessert, you can try some of the famous peach cobbler or the mouthwatering brown butter chocolate chip cookies; for a drink, you can sip white wines, bourbon whiskies, rum cocktails and tequilas with salty glasses.

The service is impeccable. The menu is delicious. The decor is fun and retro.

Why wouldn’t you stop at Old Ebbitt Grill when you’re feeling peckish in Washington, DC?

Address:  675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, United States

33. The Mansion on O Street

The Mansion on O Street

The Mansion on O Street / Rain0975 / flickr

The Mansion on O Street isn’t actually a mansion.

It’s a series of brownstones connected by cluttered rooms, creaky staircases, secret doors, winding passageways and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with everything from rare books to antique dining sets.

It’s partly a museum, partly a junk shop and wholly a place where you can have fun in Washington DC.

With more than 100 rooms in total, you’ll have your work cut out for you when it comes to exploring the labyrinth.

You might enter this weekend and not emerge until next weekend.

It’s that complex.

Once you embrace a perpetual feeling of being lost, however, you’ll have a blast.

There are all kinds of odds and ends to appreciate as you wander from room to room, and special events include tours, treasure hunts, musical performances, book readings and more.

A lot of the goods are on sale, too, so you can take home some of the world’s weirdest souvenirs.

Consider a trip to the Mansion on O Street if you’re looking for fun things to do that aren’t in your typical travel guide.

It might be one of the lesser-known options for Washington DC attractions, but considering its strange, secretive nature, that’s rather fitting!

Address:  2020 O St NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

34. U Street

U Street

Once hailed as the “Black Broadway,” U Street spent years as a cultural hub for African-Americans in Washington, DC.

It’s become more gentrified as of late, but you can still find important works of art, music, fashion and culture preserved here, and you can still grab an awesome slice of Ethiopian dessert.

Attractions include the work of notable black architects like the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and the Thurgood Marshall Center.

There’s also the Lincoln Theatre, a historic performance venue for legends like Duke Ellington, and the Bohemian Caverns, a jazz club that dates all of the way back to the 1920s.

After you’ve enjoyed a show, grab some dinner at Ben Chili’s Bowl or smoke a cigarette at the U Street Music Hall.

If you’re in the area in the spring, see if you can catch the annual Washington DC Funk Parade.

U Street is an important touchstone for the African-American community in the District of Columbia.

It’s also a place of good vibes, great festivities and as much soul food as you can eat.

If you’re looking for fun vacation spots, make sure to mark U Street on your map!

Check out this mouth-watering U Street food tour.

35. The Capital Wheel

The Capital Wheel

The Capital Wheel

Have you noticed that Washington, DC doesn’t have a lot of skyscrapers?

It’s deliberate on the part of city officials.

It also means that attractions like the Capital Wheel really stand out.

Rising more than 170 feet from the land and water below, the Capital Wheel is a gigantic Ferris wheel that overlooks everything from the Washington Monument to the Potomac River.

It has such amazing views, in fact, that you can see Virginia and Maryland from the very top gondola.

As for the gondolas themselves, they’re both enclosed and climate-controlled, so you’ll never have to worry about bad weather ruining your visit.

You can just sit back and watch the raindrops streaking across the glass as you slowly ascend into the clouds.

If you’re traveling to the city in winter, you can also catch spectacular light shows that transform each gondola into an LED extravaganza.

You aren’t afraid of heights, right?

So climb aboard the Capital Wheel and look at Washington, DC the way that few tourists ever do.

You’ll treasure the memory for the rest of your life.

Address:  141 American Way, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, United States

36. Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Take a deep breath in crisp, clear air when you visit Rock Creek Park .

It’s one of the most beautiful places to go in Washington, DC, and thanks to careful conservation efforts by the community, it’s also one of the best sites for escaping the smog of the city.

Water glides over the rocks in cold, clear streams.

Ferns and flowers hide all kinds of wildlife, including several species that aren’t commonly found in other parts of the state.

Nature trails are everywhere, and they’ll take you over hills, through trees, across foot bridges and down inlaid steps.

Available activities include everything from horseback riding to sightseeing at old-fashioned grist mills.

Do you need a break from the lights and noises of the big city?

Rejuvenate yourself by spending some time at Rock Creek Park.

Whether you’re going for an all-day hike or just an afternoon picnic in the park, it’ll soothe your soul to be surrounded by natural beauty on all sides.

Address: 3545 Williamsburg Ln NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

37. Georgetown


You can’t talk about Washington, DC without mentioning Georgetown .

It’s one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the city, and if you play your cards right, it can also be one of the most fun.

The secret lies in making a game plan.

Georgetown is a lively neighborhood filled with colorful houses dotting cobblestone roads and shopfronts, so there are lots of things to see and do.

If you don’t want to miss out on anything awesome, you’ll need to know where to go and what to visit.

Are you hungry?

Take a food tour of the many cafes, bistros, bakeries and restaurants.

Do you enjoy nightlife?

Hit up the bars, pubs and taverns with their live music and never-ending taps.

Sightseeing is another popular activity in Georgetown.

The architecture is very Instagram-worthy, so whether you’re looking at snow-topped patios or fall foliage scattered on the streets, you’ll definitely want to whip out your camera and document it.

Georgetown is one of the major places of interest in Washington, DC.

If nothing else, it’s worth exploring just to say that you’ve been there!

Explore Georgetown with this walking food tour.

38. Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe

Located within the National Museum of the American Indian, this cafe is one of the only ones in the country that serves exclusively Native American food.

It’s a great place to expand your culinary horizons while also supporting the indigenous populations of Washington, DC!

Menu items range from “bison burgers” to “yellow corn tacos served with goat meat and plantains.”

An open kitchen will allow you to watch your meal being prepared over fire pits and cedar-covered grills.

There’s a bit of a food court atmosphere to the cafe since it offers dishes from multiple Native American tribes.

You can even order a sample platter if you want to try different ones.

On slow days, the cooks will chat with you about the history of their skills and dishes.

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe is one of the best ways to spend your money in Washington, DC.

It gets its ingredients from tribal co-ops; it supports a museum dedicated to its people.

Most importantly, it serves Native American food that’s awesome and authentic, so you can feel good about your lunchtime choices when you eat here.

Address:  Independence Ave SW & 4th Street Southwest, Washington, DC 20024, United States

39. Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

Part of the National Gallery of Art, the Sculpture Garden has an amazing collection of outdoor artwork that ranges from the aesthetically pleasing to the mind-bendingly weird.

You could spend a whole day just wandering the trails and looking at all of the goods.

Graft is a tree made entirely out of silver.

Spider is a gigantic, eight-legged bronze piece that looms over visitors.

Thinker on a Rock is a quirky take on the old classic with a ponderous rabbit in place of a human.

Chair Transformation Number 20B is a series of melted blue chairs that have been stacked on top of one another.

When you’re finished with the sculptures, venture into the gallery and look at the paintings, or hop on the ice skating rink that opens every year from December to March.

You can also grab a bite to eat at the pavilion cafe or shop for souvenirs at the museum gift shop.

For fun times with crazy, creative artwork, check out the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art.

You won’t regret it!

Address:  Constitution Ave NW &, 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States

40. National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

Another museum in the Smithsonian collection, the National Postal Museum is dedicated to the long and surprisingly interesting history of the U.S. postal system.

There’s a lot more to know about the Pony Express than you might think!

Exhibitions include letters, stamps, uniforms, decals, flags and vintage postal tools like printing presses and perforation machines.

Displays include multiple recreations of life-sized, turn-of-the-century transportation.

Wagons and stagecoaches line the floor; an “air mail” plane hangs from the ceiling.

You can even climb inside postal rail cars on a gigantic train.

Another cool thing about the museum is that it’s located at the former site of Washington’s central post office.

From 1914 to 1986, it was genuinely in use by the locals.

If you’re visiting Washington, DC to learn more about its historical significance to the United States, you’ll want to make time for the National Postal Museum.

It’s a unique destination for a unique time in the past, so it’s a must see for history buffs everywhere.

Address:  2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States

41. Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter

Do you have some free time tonight?

Hit up Penn Quarter .

It’s a neighborhood that never sleeps, so it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for midday shopping or late-night drinking; you’ll always find open doors here.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company puts on the best shows from the Bard.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum shares space with the National Portrait Gallery and the Marian Koshland Science Museum.

The Capital One Arena is close by for sports fans, and the J. Edgar Hoover Building is just a stone’s throw away for the politically minded.

There are other, lesser-known attractions as well.

For example, there are many bars and restaurants to cater to the frequent foot traffic of tourists, and there are a number of stores for shopaholics.

With its endless variety of events and activities, Penn Quarter is one of the most fun things to do in DC.

It’s especially nice for night owls who are looking for a good time.

You don’t have to retreat to your hotel just because the sun goes down!

Visit Penn Quarter instead and enjoy yourself until the sun rises again.

42. Catacombs of Washington, DC

Catacombs of Washington, DC

Catacombs of Washington, DC / Lawrence OP / flickr

Hidden beneath the city of Washington, DC is a series of underground tunnels that are designed to mimic the religious catacombs of the Middle Ages.

They’re only 100 years old, so they’re quite young by catacomb standards, but their cracked stone walls and curving, dimly-lit passageways will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook of some kind.

Holy artwork covers the walls.

Shrines, tombs, altars and chapels can be explored at your leisure.

The skeleton of an eight-year-old martyr will watch over you as you venture from room to room.

Tour guides are available if you’re worried about getting lost forever among the ghostly graves of religious icons.

Otherwise, you can explore this subterranean complex on your own; it’s located beneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America .

The Catacombs of Washington DC are one of the coolest sites to see in the city.

They aren’t as well-known as other tourist attractions in the city, but that just means that you won’t have to battle large crowds underground.

You can creep through the tombs in a hushed silence that befits the setting.

Address:  1400 Quincy St NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States

43. Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park

Though it’s located in Maryland, Greenbelt Park is just a half-hour from downtown DC, so it isn’t a chore to take a drive there.

In fact, the drive itself can become a tourist attraction when the weather is nice.

The leaves turn gold in the fall; the tulips and dandelions blossom in the spring.

It’s quite scenic!

The main attraction, however, is definitely Greenbelt Park.

This woodsy wilderness is one of the top spots in Washington for hikers, campers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

There are off-grid locations if you like to get rugged, or you can stick to the reserved camping areas to enjoy amenities like picnic grounds and public bathrooms.

There are also a variety of trails for folks of every skill level, so whether you’re an experienced backpacker looking for a challenging route or a complete beginner who just wants to take a leisurely stroll through nature, there’s a pathway that will suit you.

Are you looking for fun places to go in Washington, DC?

Greenbelt Park doesn’t technically fit the bill, but if you’re willing to cheat on the District of Columbia with the state of Maryland, your sneakiness will be rewarded.

Address:  6565 Greenbelt Rd, Greenbelt, MD 20770, United States

44. Nationals Park

Nationals Park

Nationals Park

Home of the Washington Nationals, this ballpark mixes a classic, old-school stadium aesthetic with contemporary features and amenities.

For example, while it has grandstand seats surrounding a nostalgic green diamond, it’s also the first eco-friendly, LEED-certified stadium in the nation.

While it sells hotdogs and peanuts, it also offers ribs, lobster rolls, kielbasa, bao bao and Korean fried chicken.

Baseball is the biggest sport for Nationals Park , but if your trip coincides with hockey season, you might also be able to catch a NHL game.

You can also keep your eyes peeled for concerts, papal masses, political rallies and other big events.

Tours are available with and without appointments, so that’s another possibility for killing some time while you’re on vacation.

If you’re headed to DC this week, check out the schedule for Nationals Park.

You never know when something cool will be going on, and with any luck, you’ll get the chance to take your family out to a ballgame in true American style.

Address:  1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003, United States

45. Madame Tussauds Washington DC

Madame Tussauds Washington DC

Madame Tussauds Washington DC

The wax statues of Madame Tussauds are known throughout the world.

However, it must be said that the Washington DC location is even better than the ones found in Hollywood or Las Vegas.

You won’t believe some of the famous faces on display here!

The Presidents Gallery has wax figures of all 45 U.S. presidents.

The Glamour Room has everyone from Beyonce to Michael Jackson.

The Civil Rights Room gets serious with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sports Gallery goes right back to the humor with its renditions of Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods and Evander Holyfield.

If you’re curious about the creation process of these wax dolls, there’s also a “Behind the Scenes” room where you can learn some of the secrets of the trade.

Otherwise, feel free to explore the museum at your leisure and poke at all of the frozen celebrity smiles.

Unlike other museums, visitors at Madame Tussauds are allowed to freely interact with the exhibits, and funny selfies are both accepted and encouraged.

Are you tired of the usual Washington DC attractions?

Do you want something that’s totally weird and off-the-wall?

Madame Tussauds has you covered.

Just make sure that your camera roll is ready!

Address:  1001 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States

46. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden / Ron Cogswell / flickr

Put together by a rich heiress with a taste for high art and culture, the Hillwood Estate is filled with things like tapestries, portraits, ornaments, flowers, tea sets and porcelain goods.

It’s a collection that spans the globe, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Washington, DC if you enjoy delicate beauty.

The Hillwood Estate is technically known as a “decorative arts museum.”

However, it’ll offer a much different experience than your standard museum.

You’ll start with a trip through a Japanese zen garden.

A set of sliding doors will open into the estate, and a tour guide will escort you through everything from the French Porcelain Room to Russian Sacred Arts Room.

If you like the House of Romanov, they have an entire suite dedicated to them; items on display include a stunning collection of Faberge eggs.

There’s also an entire exhibit dedicated to the jewelry and fashion of pre-industrial England.

When you’re done with the exhibitions, hit up the on-site cafe for tea and sandwiches, or check out the souvenir shop filled with books, artwork, stationery and other delicately charming goods.

There’s a lot to see at the Hillwood Estate.

You’ll wish that you had more than one pair of eyes.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Washington, DC, however, you won’t want to miss it!

Address:  4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States

47. Union Station

Union Station

Union Station

This Union Station is one of the oldest railway stations in the world, and for a long time, it was also one of the biggest.

Millions of people visited it every year to take trains and buses to Boston , Baltimore , New York and more.

Today, Union Station is still a thriving hub for transportation, but it’s also been modernized for the convenience of the contemporary traveler.

There are shops and food courts; there are beauty services and bike repairers; there are tour guide companies of every possible type.

Previous businesses have included bookstores, barber shops, post offices and even a mortuary.

Union Station is the kind of place that you’ll want to visit at least once.

It might not be what immediately comes to mind when you think about Washington DC attractions, but it’s worth putting on your itinerary.

Visiting DC without a trip to Union Station is like visiting NYC without a trip to Fifth Avenue.

48. Chinatown


In its heyday, the Chinatown of Washington, DC was one of the most prominent in the United States.

It’s suffered a lot of gentrification since then, and only a fraction of its original population remains, but it’s still a great place to get some dumplings.

Many of the businesses in the area are family-owned by Chinese immigrants.

There are restaurants, clothing shops, laundromats, video stores, general stores and more.

If you don’t know where to start, try the Washington DC Chinatown Community Cultural Center.

In addition to offering practical things like maps, they also host a variety of classes and festivities that celebrate China, so they can help gain a deeper understanding of the culture even as you partake in its food and festivities.

DC’s Chinatown might lack its original glory, but it’s still one of the best places to visit in the region.

Grab your chopsticks and loosen your belt!

The orange chicken is waiting!

Address: Bounded by G H, 5th, and 8th Sts., Washington, DC, United States

49. Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Are you looking for romantic places to visit in Washington, DC?

Take your sweetheart to the Tidal Basin .

It’s such a gentle, beautiful location that it isn’t at all uncommon to see lovers picnicking along the shore, renting out a paddleboat for two or just holding hands as they walk under shaded tree groves.

The most popular time to visit is during March – April when the cherry blossom trees come into bloom.

They provide rare and spectacular sightseeing opportunities that only last a couple of weeks before they’re gone, so they’re quite special.

If you miss the blossoms, however, don’t fret!

There are other places of interest throughout the basin.

For example, it’s located near the National Mall, so you can hit up all of the major monuments and memorials of DC with your special someone by your side.

Another option is to rent the aforementioned paddleboats and spend an afternoon on the water; they’re available every season except winter.

Put on some nice clothes. Spritz yourself with your favorite fragrance.

It’s time for date night in Washington, DC, and the Tidal Basin is waiting.

Address: E Basin Drive NW Ohio Drive NW, Washington, DC 20003, United States

50. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this basilica.

Its towering domes look like something out of a renaissance painting from the 1800s, and the height of its bell tower puts it among the largest Catholic churches in the world.

The interior is just as grandiose as the exterior.

There are almost 100 shrines to the Virgin Mary alone, and they’re complemented by murals, mosaics, statues, roses and other beautiful and meaningful ornaments.

Elaborate altars are available for praying.

A crypt holds valuable relics like Pope Paul VI’s coronation tiara.

Surprisingly, the basilica is still open for everyday worship.

While other basilicas might be jealously-guarded historical sites, this one is free and open to the public, and it welcomes visitors of every age, gender, race and faith.

If you find yourself near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception while visiting Washington, DC, consider going inside for awhile.

It’s okay if you’re a sinner. Mary won’t judge.

Address:  400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017, United States

51. East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park is one of the best things to do in Washington DC.

It’s also one of the lesser-known tourist attractions.

When you put these two facts together, you’ll realize that you have the opportunity to experience a great place in the city without the usual crowds.

Outdoor amenities include a golf course, a public swimming pool and an entire series of athletic fields for tennis, soccer, rugby and football.

You can also go walking, jogging, driving, biking, skating and fishing along the various trails and piers.

In the spring, the cherry blossoms scatter pink petals on the sidewalks.

In the winter, snow covers the ground and turns everything into a winter wonderland.

Swing by East Potomac Park if you want to experience natural beauty in Washington, DC.

It isn’t all condos and traffic!

There are sedate, serene places as well, and they’re worth a stroll under the trees.

Address:  Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

52. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Holding more than 2,200 events each year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of the top destinations for art and culture in Washington DC.

It’s home to multiple venues, including theaters, concert halls and opera houses, and they’ve collectively welcomed millions of visitors since their foundation.

Do you like ballet?

Buy a ticket for the Nutcracker.

Are you a fan of classical music?

Check out shows by the National Symphony Orchestra or the Washington National Opera; they both call this location home.

Other events include plays, musicals, chamber concerts and more.

There are lectures and workshops for adults; there are educational games and activities for the little ones.

Many of these things are free, so if you’re wondering what to do in the city when you’re on a budget, it might behoove you to get a little culture.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a place that truly lives up to its name.

It’s a multicultural, multidisciplinary hub where there’s always something new and exciting going on.

Whether you’re visiting this weekend or next year, you can just look at the schedule and pick an event!

Address:  2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, United States

53. Oki Bowl

OKI bowl at Georgetown

OKI bowl at Georgetown

Do you dream of sushi? Do you live for late-night ramen?

Oki Bowl serves authentic Japanese cuisine in the heart of Washington, DC, and the only thing that outdoes the menu is the decor.

Dozens of mismatched lanterns hang from the ceiling.

The floor has black-and-white squares while the walls are covered in rainbow posters and oddly-shaped shelves crammed with toys and trinkets.

Even the bathrooms have eye-popping designs.

They’re painted with glowing blacklit landscapes that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a neon nightclub or maybe a futuristic anime.

They’re so cool that their lines are always a mile long because people take so many pictures during their potty breaks!

Oki Bowl is a fun place to grab a bite to eat in Washington, DC.

If you find yourself craving some miso soup while you’re in the city, make the trek here.

It’s worth it.

Address:  1608 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

54. Rockefeller Mansion

Rockefeller Mansion

Rockefeller Mansion

Located in a remote wilderness preserve and surrounded on all sides by leafy, privacy-giving hardwood trees, the Rockefeller Mansion is such a large and grandiose estate that it actually has two separate mailing addresses.

It was built in the 1920s and purchased a few decades later by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

It’s a real house, so it isn’t a tourist attraction that you can just walk up to and admire.

You’ll have to keep your distance.

If you love architecture, however, or if you enjoy finding treasures at the end of long hikes, it might be worth a side trip to see the Rockefeller Mansion.

You can snap a few photos from afar, and you can marvel at the fresh air and natural woodlands that surround the estate.

Washington, DC has very charming landscapes when you’re willing to venture out of downtown, and the Rockefeller Mansion is proof of that.

55. National Geographic Museum

National Geographic Museum

National Geographic Museum

You know National Geographic.

Everyone knows National Geographic.

But were you aware that it’s also a museum in Washington, DC?

Filled with fun things to see and do, this interactive educational center will be a treat for the whole family.

Kids will love the games and activities that range from fossil digs to 3D movies about volcanoes and supernovas.

Teens will appreciate the scattered remains of shipwrecks and the larger-than-life taxidermy models of forgotten beasts.

Adults will enjoy learning something new about ancient civilizations from Peru, Greece and Machu Picchu.

There are special events hosted by the museum as well.

Whether it’s attending a class or exploring an exhibit after-hours, you can find plenty of neat things on the schedule.

The National Geographic Museum is one of the top things to do in Washington DC.

If you’ve ever flipped through the magazine at the dentist’s office, do yourself a favor and check out what it can really do with your undivided attention.

Address:  1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

56. Victura Park

Victura Park

Victura Park

Another great place to get away from it all in Washington, DC, Victura Park is a lovely little landscape that overlooks both Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Potomac River.

It’s located on the back lawns of the Kennedy Center, but you don’t have to be a patron to enjoy the park.

You can just waltz in, spread your picnic blanket on the grass and enjoy the scenery.

Another option is buying your lunch from the outdoor pop-up and wine garden.

In true “pop-up” style, the menu is ever-changing, so this week’s dishes might not be next week’s dishes.

There are occasionally guest chefs who host events and classes.

If you do want to check out the Kennedy Center, it’s just a few steps away in a large, geometrically-cut building.

It isn’t free like the park, so you’ll need to buy a ticket, but it’s worth it.

If the lights and crowds of Washington, DC are starting to get to you, consider slowing down for awhile with Victura Park.

It’s one of those lovely, low-key places to see that can recharge your batteries for the rest of your vacation.

Address: 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20566, United States

57. Skydive Capitol City

Skydive Capitol City

Skydive Capitol City

Did you know that you can cross “skydiving” off your bucket list when you visit DC?

You can’t jump off the Washington Monument or anything, but if you’re willing to take a short drive outside of the city, you can go nuts in the wide open fields of Virginia.

Skydive Capitol City is one of the best companies for it.

The owners actually hold Guinness World Records for their tandem skydiving, and all together, the staff has jumped out of planes more than 10,000 times.

You can take lessons or go tandem with an instructor if you’re a beginner.

You can also sign up for a freefall if you’re a licensed skydiver just looking to get your fix while you’re away from home.

All things considered, Skydive Capitol City can provide unforgettable memories while you’re in the area.

You’ll never feel more alive than when you’re risking death, so if you have the nerve, sign up for a skydiving session and get to work on that bucket list!

Address: Warrenton Airpark, 9272 Green Meadows Rd., Warrenton, VA 20187, United States

58. Lucky Strike

Lucky Strike Entertainment

Lucky Strike Entertainment

Rainy days are a bummer during vacations.

Fortunately, when you’re visiting Washington, DC, you don’t have to let them stop you from having a grand old time!

Lucky Strike is just one indoor attraction in the DC area, but it’s so cool and creative that it deserves special attention.

As you might have guessed from the name, it’s primarily a bowling alley, and it offers more than a dozen state-of-the-art lanes equipped with lights, chimes and digital scoreboards.

But the fun doesn’t stop there.

You can play arcade games; you can sign up for a game of laser tag; you can hit the dance floor.

There are special events like Silent Disco Night.

There are exotic foods and tasty cocktails.

All in all, Lucky Strikes is one of the better attractions in Washington, DC, and it can be visited anytime.

It isn’t dependent on good weather.

If you’re wondering what to see in the city on a rainy day, put on your bowling shoes and come here!

Address:  701 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States

59. Tudor Place

Tudor Place

Tudor Place / DC Gardens / flickr

Six generations of George Washington’s family lived and died within Tudor Place .

Originally built in the 1700s by the same architect who created the Capitol Building, it spent more than 100 years as the estate where the Washingtons lived, married, worked, retired and died.

Today, Tudor Place has been converted into a museum, and visitors can explore the property like they’re a long-lost relative.

The inside of the house has charmingly vintage furnishings; the outside has everything from gardens to carriage houses to elaborate, labyrinth-style hedges.

There’s even a bomb shelter!

It was built during the Cold War, and it’s open to the public as a fascinating relic that peeks into the past of an emotionally-charged era.

Tudor Place is one of the last remaining estates from the colonial period of Washington, DC.

If you’re a history buff, it’s a top 5 destination within the city.

It doesn’t get more historical than the silverware that was actually used by George Washington’s kin.

Address:  1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

60. J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building

You might know the J. Edgar Hoover Building as the headquarters of the FBI.

It’s another place that you wouldn’t expect to welcome visitors, but as long as you’re a U.S. citizen who books an advanced tour and complies with the “restricted items” list, you can indeed walk the halls of this venerable institution.

The tours are self-guided, so you’ll need to be comfortable on your own.

You can look at different articles, artifacts and multimedia exhibits as you move along the permitted areas.

All of the materials that you’ll see are dedicated to the history and legacy of the FBI.

It’s done some important work for the country, and those efforts are on full display here.

If you’ll be traveling to Washington, DC, make time for the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

It’s a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain of a powerful organization, and with all of its stories and mementos, it’s also one of the best places to visit to learn about U.S. history.

Address:  935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20535, United States

61. Gadsby’s



There are two locations called “ Gadsby’s .”

They’re at the same place and operated by the same people, but to avoid confusion, let’s look at them separately.

The first location is Gadsby’s Tavern.

It’s a complete throwback to the 18th century right down the period costumes worn by the waiters, so if you want dinner and a show, this is a fine place to get it.

The second location is Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

Operating out of a restored version of the original building, it offers exhibits, workshops, classes and other educational events and activities for those who are interested in the colonial era.

The two Gadsby’s can make for quite the evening, so be sure to leave yourself enough time to visit both.

The original businesses were favorites of a whole host of important people, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, so you won’t want to miss a chance to walk in their presidential footsteps.

Address:  134 N Royal St, Alexandria, VA 22314, United States

62. DC Dragon Boat Club

DC Dragon Boat Club

DC Dragon Boat Club

The DC Dragon Boat Club creates a weekly spectacle on the Potomac River, and after you’ve seen them splashing around for awhile, you’ll be itching to join the fun.

Practice sessions are for developing their rowing and paddling skills.

Races are for getting their adrenaline going as they compete against each other for bragging rights and the occasional cash prize.

Annual events include the DC Dragon Boat Festival, the Independence Dragon Boat Regatta and the Baltimore Dragon Boat Challenge.

One of the nicest things about the Dragon Boat Club is that they’re always open to newbies.

Even if you’re just a curious first-timer who’s never paddled a day in your life, they’ll welcome you to their practice sessions.

They’ll even provide the lifejacket!

Maybe you want to try something new.

Maybe you’re a pro racer looking to get back into the game.

Either way, the DC Dragon Boat Club can provide an exhilarating afternoon on the water, so don’t hesitate to hop down the riverbank and join them.

Address:  975 Wharf St SW, Washington, DC 20024, United States

63. National Museum of Health and Medicine

National Museum of Health and Medicine

National Museum of Health and Medicine

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is run by the U.S. government, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at its exhibitions.

Rather than being the dull, drone-like museum of school field trips, it’s a fun and dynamic place that disguises its lessons so cleverly that your kids will be begging to come back.

Organs are displayed in glass jars.

Hairballs are behind glass cases after being pulled from human stomachs.

Rare and vintage medical tool are everywhere; some are replicas, and others are rusted originals.

You can also see one-of-a-kind relics like the bullet that was pulled from Abraham Lincoln’s skull.

It still has trace amounts of brain matter on it.

If you’re seeking Washington DC attractions that offer something a little different than usual, try the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

It’s a nice mix of informative and educational, and whether you’re traveling with kids, colleagues, dates, spouses or no one at all, you can have a great time here.

Address:  2500 Linden Ln, Silver Spring, MD 20910, United States

64. Adventure Park

Adventure Park USA

Adventure Park USA

The wind whips through your hair.

The straps dig into your chest.

You’re moving so fast that your cheeks are wobbling on your face, and you’re pretty sure that you left your stomach several stories beneath you.

Say hello to Adventure Park !

Located about an hour north of Washington, DC, Adventure Park is an outdoor recreation area that offers ziplines, roller coasters, rope courses, archery ranges, laser shows, hay rides, arcade games, mini-golf courses and much, much more.

There’s so much to see and do that your legs won’t be able to carry you to it all.

They’ll give out before you can finish.

Other amenities include a smokehouse restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat and an outdoor activity center where you can play with everything from excavators to genuine tomahawks.

Adventure Park is one of the most fun things to do in DC.

Technically speaking, it might fall outside of city limits, but it’s still close enough for a side trip.

The whole family can pack into the car and make a day of it!

Address:  11113 W Baldwin Rd, Monrovia, MD 21770, United States

65. National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

Are you a bookworm? Are you a history buff?

Do you love pouring over handwritten papers and sepia-toned scrolls in the pursuit of historical knowledge?

Maybe you just enjoy the smell of old books.

No matter why you’re considering a visit to the National Archives Museum , you should know that it’s worth the trip.

More than three billion records call it home.

That’s billions with a “B.”

Its most famous documents are the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but there are plenty of others, including the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation.

When your eyes get tired from all of the reading, you can take a stroll through the large, neoclassical building and soak in the details of its artwork and architecture.

There are also various educational rooms filled with things like telegrams and video recordings for further review.

The National Archives Museum is more than just a museum.

It’s a piece of history that can be explored at will.

If you’re at all interested in the foundation of the United States, you won’t want to miss this place when you’re visiting Washington, DC.

Address:  701 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States

66. Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in DC.

It’s also one of the most centrally located if you’re looking to pack a lot of tourist attractions into a busy schedule.

Like the name suggests, the Capitol Building is less than a mile away.

The Senate, the House of Congress and the Supreme Court Building are all within walking distance.

You can also find lesser-known locales like the Washington Navy Yard and the Congressional Cemetery nearby.

Flea markets and farmer’s markets crop up every weekend.

In the summer, musicians play in the parks; in the winter, there’s sledding down the actual Capitol Hill.

You can also enjoy yourself just by taking a scenic stroll around the rowhouses.

Capitol Hill looks exactly like what you’d expect from a neighborhood in Washington, DC, and it can be oddly satisfying to realize that.

No matter how you choose to spend your time on Capitol Hill, you’re sure to love it.

There’s a reason why it’s such an enduring community in the city.

Once you’ve seen what it has to offer, it’ll be hard to say goodbye.

67. Haunted Halcyon House

Haunted Halcyon House

Haunted Halcyon House / AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA

At first glance, the Haunted Halcyon House looks like any other stately building located in the upper-class regions of Georgetown.

It isn’t until you learn about its sordid past that you realize the twisted depths of its legacy.

For starters, the Haunted Halcyon House has gone through dozens of owners since 1787, and nearly all of them have reported strange tidings around the house.

There are also grisly rumors about runaway slaves that have perished in the basement and widows who have gone mad with grief and hung themselves from the rafters.

One confirmable fact is that the Haunted Halcyon House was owned by the death-obsessed Albert Clemens in the 19th century.

A cousin to Mark Twain, Clemens believed that he could somehow stave off the Grim Reaper by making a series of bizarre, inexplicable changes to the home, including stairs that lead to nowhere and trap doors that are just waiting for unsuspecting victims.

You can view the Haunted Halcyon House as part of many “ghost tours” in Washington, DC, or you can simply visit it as a one-time attraction.

The choice is yours. The spookiness will always be there.

Address: 3400 Prospect Street NW, Washington, DC 20007, United States

68. Monuments by Moonlight DC Night Tour

End your vacation with the Monuments by Moonlight DC Night Tour .

It’ll provide a beautiful and slightly surreal look at some of the most unforgettable sights in the city, so if you want to leave a lasting impression of Washington, DC in your memory, this is the way to do it.

Like its name suggests, the Monuments by Moonlight tour is done entirely at night.

The “moon” part may or may not happen depending on the weather, but even if it stays hidden behind the clouds, you can still enjoy the tour.

Since so much of the city is made with white marble, including the dome of the Capitol Building, it has a natural nighttime glow.

Other stops on the tour include the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to fun and interesting stories from a local tour guide; it’s the kind of stuff that you would never get from a travel brochure.

It’s hard to say goodbye to an amazing city like Washington, DC, but this tour can give you one last hurrah before you go.

It’ll be an amazing experience that you’ll remember long after you’ve returned home.

Start Planning Your Trip To Washington, DC

These are a few of the most fun things to do in Washington, DC.

Whether you’re interested in art, food, history, culture, government or just beautiful views of cherry blossom trees over the water, this is a city that you won’t want to miss!

Things to Do

Discover endless things to see & do in Washington, DC

You can find all the best things to do right here in DC, from concerts and cultural events to American history, free attractions and so much more.

It’s easy to ride the Metro or hop on a bike and explore all that the nation’s capital has to offer. Walk the halls of free Smithsonian museums, paddle on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers or sit back on a double-decker tour bus and soak up some history. Local shops, funky marketplaces and people-watching hot spots beckon by midday, as nighttime gives way to multi-course dinners and drinks from local breweries. However you spend your time here, make it count.


All Things to Do

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Everyone Should Explore These 13 Stunning Places Around Washington DC At Least Once

places to visit near washington dc

Maura is a freelance writer and consultant from Washington, DC.

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There is no lack of beauty in and around the DC area. We have breathtaking parks, beautiful historic homes, incredible monuments and so much more. If you are looking for more beauty outside and around Washington DC, visit these 13 most beautiful places around Washington DC.

places to visit near washington dc

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Which of these stunning places will you visit? If you are looking for more natural beauty, visit these 10 incredible places in nature in Washington DC!

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places to visit near washington dc

22 Free Things to Do in Washington DC

W ashington DC is great because there are so many free things to do! Find out the best free things to do in Washington DC so you don’t have to spend a cent.

I’ve visited DC so many times, and I’ve found so many things to do for free! The city is filled with free museums and attractions , idyllic parks, and free festivals. You’ll have no trouble finding things to do in Washington DC for free.

Don’t break the bank on your visit to Washington DC! Check out these top free things to do in DC .

Fun Free Things to Do in Washington DC

1. united states capitol.

A visit to the U.S. Capitol Building is a must while visiting Washington DC . And it’s free to tour!

Public tours of the United States Capitol are available to everyone, including non-U.S. citizens. The free tour covers the Crypt, Rotunda, National Statuary Hall, and Senate and House Galleries.

2. White House

The White House has been the official residency of the president of the United States since John Adams in 1800.

It is free to tour the White House, but you’ll have to submit a tour request months in advance through your representative if you’re a U.S. citizen, or through your embassy in DC if you’re an international visitor.

3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History explore the history of our planet from billions of years ago to life on earth today.

This free DC museum has an amazing collection of fossils, precious gems, and unique artifacts that you won’t want to miss!

4. Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States and it’s home to over 1,500 animals.

At this free zoo, you can find bears, monkeys, big cats, elephants, and more. Their popular exhibits include the Elephant Trails, Great Ape House, Cheetah Conservation Station, and the American Trail.

5. National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art has a collection of 141,000 works of art from around the Western world.

This free museum has art from the Middle Ages to the present, including a huge collection of Italian artwork (and the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas).

6. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

As a bonus, the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art adjacent to the West Building is also free to visit.

The free garden exhibits several works from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection and is a treasure trove of botanicals and sculptures.

7. National Archives Museum

In the free National Archives Museum , you’ll be able to see important documents from the founding of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.

They also have other documents and records that shaped America’s history, including a copy of Magna Carta , presidential papers, and rotating exhibits.

8. Smithsonian Castle

The Smithsonian Castle (also called the Smithsonian Institution Building) is the visitor center for the Smithsonian museums. It’s the Smithsonian’s first and oldest building.

You can stop here for information on visiting the other Smithsonian museums, to see their America’s Treasure Chest display with items from each of the Smithsonian museums on display, to see the tomb of James Smithson, and to tour the castle. All of which is free!

9. National Mall

The National Mall is the long park space that runs between the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the White House.

Essentially a huge park, you’re free to stroll the sidewalks, plus the Smithsonian’s free museums line the sides, and there are free events throughout the year that you can attend on the National Mall.

10. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the largest military cemetery in the country. It serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their families.

Here, you’ll find the famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its popular Changing of the Guard ceremony. You can also see the graves of President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, the seven Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts, the Tuskegee Airmen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many more important people.

The cemetery is free to visit and explore on your own. They do offer a tram tour that costs extra, if you don’t want to walk the entire cemetery. The tram is free for those with disabilities.

11. Pentagon

The Pentagon is the headquarters for the Department of Defense. It is one of the largest office buildings in the world, covering 6.5 million square feet.

You can tour the long hallways, each of which are filled with information and artifacts about the country’s military history. You can also visit the small indoor memorial and chapel for the September 11 attacks.

It is free to tour the Pentagon, but tours are only available to U.S. citizens, and you must make an reservation well in advance of your visit.

12. Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial immortalizes Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the U.S. and the author of the Declaration of Independence.

This monument on the Tidal Basin has a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of Jefferson, surrounded by many of his famous quotes. In the spring, the memorial is surrounded by DC’s famous cherry blossoms .

13. WWII Memorial

The National WWII Memorial in the middle of the National Mall honors the 16 million Americans who served during World War II.

This is a serene memorial with 56 granite columns and a plaza fountain.

14. Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot-tall marble obelisk that commemorates George Washington, a Founding Father and the first president of the United States.

And you can ride to the top of the monument for a great view of the city.

Technically, the Washington Monument is free to visit. But to get a ticket, you’ll need to reserve online in advance, which costs a $1 service fee. There are a limited number of walk-up tickets available, which are completely free and without service fee, but these sell out very quickly.

15. Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.

The incredible marble monument holds a 19-foot-tall statue of Lincoln as he gazes out over the National Mall’s Reflecting Pool.

16. Cherry Blossoms

Every spring, thousands of cherry blossoms cover Washington DC . You’ll find the beautiful pink and white blooms all over the city, most notably at the Tidal Basin.

The city also holds a free 4-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival with arts and cultural events celebrating the cherry tree.

This is one of the best times to visit Washington DC!

17. Tidal Basin

The Tidal Basin is the man-made reservoir on the western part of the National Mall. It serves as a pretty backdrop for some of DC’s best monuments.

Walk around the 2-mile Tidal Basin Loop to see the Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the George Mason Memorial, the John Paul Jones Memorial, the Floral Library, the Japanese Pagoda, the Japanese Lantern, and site of the First Cherry Tree Planting.

18. Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic neighborhood of Washington DC that is full of cobblestone streets, Federal-style architecture, and old-town charm.

Enjoy wandering the cobbled streets of Georgetown where you can do some window shopping, see Georgetown University, and see the oldest standing building in DC.

19. The Wharf

The Wharf is a waterfront district in Washington DC that runs along the Washington Channel. This area has tons of shops, restaurants, rooftop bars , entertainment, hotels, and apartments.

Enjoy a waterfront stroll along the Wharf, window shopping at boutique stores, and a visit to the country’s oldest continually operating open-air fish market.

20. Chinatown

Chinatown is a small historic neighborhood of DC that is home to tons of great restaurants , the iconic Friendship Archway, and the Capitol One Arena.

The intersection of H Street at 7th Street is where you’ll find the beautiful Friendship Archway, a traditional Chinese gate donated to DC by sister city Beijing in 1968.

21. Willard Hotel

The Willard InterContinental Washington DC Hotel , (also called the Willard Hotel) is a historic hotel where DC’s political elite have been hanging out for over a century.

Every president since Franklin Pierce has either attended an event or gotten a room at this elegant, turn-of-the-century hotel. Ulysses S. Grant enjoyed drinking and smoking in the lobby, and hotel lore says that this is the origin of the term “lobbying”.

The hotel is filled with history, and even if you don’t book a room there, you can still pop in and take a look at the elaborate lobby, decked out in gold, marble, and classy wood finishes.

22. SW DC Prehistoric Pocket Park

The SW DC Prehistoric Pocket Park is a tiny park of toy dinosaurs that someone made in their front garden. You’ll find it at 602 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20024 .

This is a fun little free piece of art to find on your walk between the Wharf and the L’Enfant Metro station!

Free Things to Do in DC Map

Ready to explore these fun free things to do in Washington DC? Use the map below to plan out your trip!

I hope you have a great time exploring DC on a budget!

Save on Washington DC’s Top Attractions

Want to save big on Washington DC’s top attractions ? With the Washington DC Sightseeing Pass , you can save up to 60% on the cost of entrance tickets to museums, tours, and attractions all around the city!

Visit bucket list attractions, enjoy top tours, and discover hidden gems handpicked by local experts. With one price and one pass, you have everything you need right on your phone. This is the perfect pass for visiting Washington DC!

Get your Washington DC Sightseeing Pass here.

Top Washington DC Tours

  • DC Monuments and Memorials Night Tour
  • Washington DC in One Day: Guided Sightseeing Tour
  • Arlington National Cemetery Walking Tour & Changing of the Guards
  • Washington DC “See the City” Guided Sightseeing Segway Tour

Where to Stay in Washington DC

Find the perfect place to rest your head on your visit to Washington DC, from the top rated accommodations to unique stays you can’t get anywhere else.

  • Where We Stayed: Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center or the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf
  • Top Hotel: The Hay-Adams
  • Great Value: Phoenix Park Hotel
  • Unique Stay: Unique DC Row House Near Historic H Street

Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center

We enjoyed our stay at the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center when attending an event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

This hotel has a great location. It’s just on the edge of Chinatown and is within easy walking distance to the National Mall and all the tourist hot spots. There are plenty of restaurant options and nightlife nearby.

Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf

We love the location of the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf , though the hotel’s customer service could use some work.

The Wharf is a great spot to be for beautiful waterfront views and lots of dining and nightlife . It’s also only a 10-15 minute walk from two different Metro stations, and it’s really easy to get to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

More Things to Do in Washington DC

Explore even more of the nation’s capital! Check out these other top tips for visiting Washington DC.

  • 25+ Best Things to Do in Washington DC
  • Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC
  • Your Guide to Rooftop Bars at The Wharf, Washington DC
  • Visiting the Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC
  • Where to Eat in Chinatown, Washington DC
  • Taking a Day Trip to Alexandria, Virginia from Washington DC
  • Taking a Day Trip to Baltimore, Maryland from Washington DC

Ready to visit Washington DC? Plan your trip with these tips.

  • Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner , my favorite flight search engine.
  • Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Washington DC using
  • Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.
  • Explore DC in a New Way: Enjoy a Mystery Picnic in Washington DC to discover more of the city.

What are your favorite free things to do in Washington DC? Let me know in the comments!

The post 22 Free Things to Do in Washington DC appeared first on Paige Minds The Gap .

Washington DC is great because there are so many free things to do! Find out the best free things to do in Washington DC.

12 of the best things to do in Washington State

Brendan Sainsbury

May 6, 2024 • 9 min read

places to visit near washington dc

Experience the best of Washington State with this guide to the top things to do © Joel Rogers / Getty Images

Washington’s headline act is its natural environment .

This intricate jumble of deep inlets, high mountains, thick forest, and broad river valleys sprinkled with fruit trees is best enjoyed through some form of self-powered human propulsion, be it on foot , on skis, on two wheels, or with a paddle in your hand.

Playing a more than adequate supporting act are the culture-loaded cities. The region is famed for its glass art, farmers markets, brewpubs, indie music venues and viticulture. For an overarching view of the Lower 48’s most northwesterly state, balance your time between urban and rural.

1. Admire the surreal glass art of Dale Chihuly in Seattle

Eclipsed only by Venice for its innovative glass art, Seattle brings together the magnificent works of Tacoma-born master, Dale Chihuly, in the bright confines of  Chihuly Garden and Glass , a beautifully curated museum that lies in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle . One of the largest galleries in the US devoted to one artist, the exhibition rooms present a dazzling kaleidoscope of orbs, sunbursts and delicate crystal.

Detour: Next door to Chihuly and equally extravagant in design is the super-modern  Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) an obligatory musical stop in a city that blessed the world with Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Heart, among others.

Wildflowers in front of a snow-capped mountain

2. Hike the summer meadows of Paradise on Mt Rainier

Few have the time or tenacity to make it to the glaciated 14,411ft summit of Mt Rainier (the Lower 48’s fifth highest mountain) but substantially more people manage to travel by vehicle to the profuse flower meadows at the national park hub of  Paradise . Overlooked by the mountain’s snow-capped dome, this vast natural playground anchored by the handsome Paradise Lodge built in 1916 marks the start of several paths, including the five-mile-long Skyline trail which leads hikers through endless alpine blooms to a 7100ft viewpoint called Panorama Point.

Need more hiking inspiration? Here are Washington State's best walking trails

3. Rent a bike and investigate the “Pig War” on San Juan Island

Largely rural and crisscrossed by a web of winding lanes demarcated by tangled hedgerows, the diminutive San Juan archipelago might have been designed with cycling in mind. Its second largest landfall, San Juan Island, has an unusual history showcased in a  national historical park that explores the legacy of one of North America’s most peculiar “conflicts”. The 1859 “Pig War” is the name given to a protracted military stand-off between the Americans and the British over the newly established international border where the only casualty was a local pig. You can find out more about how direct conflict was avoided, and level heads prevailed at two historically themed “camps” located at opposite ends of the island.

Detour: Afterwards, ferry your bike over to nearby Lopez Island, a 30-sq-mile slice of rural tranquility that’s home to a farmers market, vineyard and spring cycling race.

Excited by the idea of an adventure to San Juan Islands? Check out the First timer's guide to plan your trip. 

A dramatic rocky coastline lined with dense forest

4. Visit one of the US’s finest Indigenous archaeological sites in Neah Bay

Of the many Native American tribes in Washington State, few have preserved their history as eloquently as the Makah, a whaling people who have inhabited the blustery northwestern tip of Washington since time immemorial. In 1970, a Pacific storm uncovered the remains of an ancient Makah village on the coast near Ozette, prompting the site to be comprehensively excavated by a group of American archaeologists working alongside tribal members. Rather than relocate the findings, which included whaling weapons, canoes, spears, and longhouses, the 55,000+ artifacts have been kept on the Makah reservation where they are now displayed in a superb museum in the Makah village of Neah Bay.

Detour: If you’ve traveled this far west, press on to Cape Flattery , 7 miles beyond Neah Bay, the most northwesterly point of the mainland US, a dramatic promontory perched high above the raging Pacific. 

5. Wander off the grid in Stehekin

Refreshingly detached from Washington's wider highway network by imposing mountains,  Stehekin is an isolated community in the North Cascades that’s impossible to reach by road. To get there, visitors must either catch a boat or seaplane across Lake Chelan, or hike in through the exhilarating wilderness of North Cascades National Park .

Physical isolation has helped foster Stehekin’s unique character. Home to a historic homestead, an organic garden, and a Seattle-quality wilderness bakery, this is a place to sidle up to nature unhindered by the distractions of the 21st-century news cycle. Rent a bike, grab an oar, or mount a horse and enjoy the simple pleasures of life before the internet and cell phones.

Planning tip: The quickest and most popular hiking route to Stehekin starts on Hwy 20 and tracks 23 miles south across the spectacular 5392ft Cascade Pass. It’s mostly snow-free from late June to late September. See the  national park website for more information.

Looking for more fantastic places to visit in Washington? Here's our guide to the best

A park ranger gives a talk to tourists in front of a volcanic landscape

6. Watch nature rejuvenating at Mt St Helens

The hot-headed stratovolcano that blew its top here in May 1980 is a more peaceful place these days with nature slowly recolonizing its post-apocalyptic blast zone. For anyone with a passing interest in volcanology, this is an obligatory geology lesson made infinitely more poignant (and fascinating) since the area was designated a  National Volcanic Monument in 1982.

The mountain’s 52-mile approach road (Hwy 504) harbors four different information portals headed up by the Silver Lake Visitors Center at mile 5 and the Johnston Ridge Observatory at mile 52. Both offer an educational assortment of movies, scientific panels, and interpretive trails explaining the finer details of what happened on that fateful day. There’s nowhere else like it in America.

7. Feel the full force of the wild west on Ruby Beach

Battered by sporadic storms and lashed by churning Pacific breakers,  Ruby Beach on Washington’s western shoreline is a windswept swathe of sand and rocks guarded by eroded sea-stacks and littered with piles of tree-trunk-sized driftwood. Come here for bracing walks amid wild ocean scenery looking out for bald eagles and colorful starfish. A short forest path descends from Hwy 101 to the beach at the mouth of Cedar Creek.  

Detour: Drive 32 miles inland to the less blustery but equally primeval world of the Hoh rainforest, an enchanting domain of lichen-heavy trees and dripping ferns.

Wondering when the best time to visit Washington State is? Check out our seasonal guide

Fields of purple, red, white tulips in full bloom under a clear blue sky

8. Embrace spring tulips and daffodils in La Conner

Tiny  La Conner (population 965) packs a sizable punch with its classy B&Bs, niche shops and vivid fields of daffodils, tulips and irises that reach their zenith in spring. Sitting pretty on the flat delta of the fertile Skagit River Valley with the snowy tip of Mt Baker winking in the distance, the town, whose small street grid is lined with salt-of-the-earth restaurants and a trio of arts orientated museums, exudes the air of an upmarket rural retreat. Not surprisingly, it’s gained a reputation as a tranquil weekend getaway for stressed-out Seattleites. For full floral immersion visit the Roozengaarde Display Garden just outside town.

Planning tip: The highlight of La Conner's cultural calendar is the annual Skagit County Tulip Festival in April, an orgy of garden-hopping and florally themed selfies.

9. Sip New World wine in Walla Walla

Washington currently has 20 geographically defined wine growing regions or AVAs each with their own subtleties and nuances but, when it comes to overall tourist infrastructure, there’s only one contender:  Walla Walla .

Sequestered in the state’s well-irrigated southeastern corner, the town and its environs produce what are widely regarded as being the best “new” vintages in the US in more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms. Propping up the tourist economy are all the necessary ingredients of a vibrant viticulture: a handsome Main St, a warm, dry climate, and a clutch of fine restaurants that pair memorable vinos with well-nurtured local food.

Two cross-country skiers follow a trail

10. Cross-country ski around Winthrop and the Methow Valley

Cross-country skiing is invariably confined to small parks and designated resorts but, in the Methow Valley, around the compact town of Winthrop, you can ski for days, from hut to hut and lodge to lodge, along 120 miles of interconnected trails run by a  local non-profit .

The best starting point is the  Sun Mountain Lodge , a self-contained adventure haven with its own trail network perched atop a hill above Winthrop. From here, ski trails link down to the bucolic Methow Valley where several more rustic-chic lodges can rehabilitate your fatigued legs at the end of an invigorating day on the tracks.

The lightly populated valley is bookended by the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Mazama and charming Wild West-themed Winthrop.

Planning tip: Hwy 20, the main road across the North Cascades to Winthrop is closed between late-November and April due to snow blockage. To reach the valley from Seattle during the ski season, you’ll need to take US 2 over Stevens Pass to Wenatchee before switching to Hwys 97 and 15.

11. Go Bavarian in Leavenworth

Leavenworth , Washington’s meticulous recreation of a cute Bavarian village, sits in a spectacular pocket of the Cascade Mountains that’s eerily redolent of the Alps. The former lumber town’s metamorphosis came about in the 1960s when the re-routing of the cross-continental railway threatened to put it unceremoniously out of business. Swapping tree-chopping for tourism, community authorities promptly reinvented Leavenworth with a picturesque German theme complete with gabled “fachwerk” houses, geranium-stuffed flower boxes and bars plying beer and bratwurst. The result is remarkably authentic. Tourists pull over in their droves, not just for the kitschy  nutcracker museum and lederhosen wearing restaurant-staff, but for the numerous hiking, rock-climbing and backpacking opportunities that await in the adjacent  Alpine Lakes Wilderness .

12. Spend a night in Spokane’s historic Davenport hotel

Washington’s second largest metropolis and capital of the so-called “Inland Empire” doesn’t get the same name-recognition as Seattle or Tacoma. Yet urban underdog Spokane is home to one of the grandest hotels in the US, the opulent  Davenport , a deluxe Renaissance-Revival five-star that’s been charming presidents and movie stars since 1914.

Even if you don’t plan on staying the night in one of its historically elegant rooms, it’s worth dropping by this venerable institution to admire the exquisite lobby or nurse a martini beneath the stained-glass ceiling of the in-house Peacock Lounge.

Detour: When in Spokane it would be remiss not to visit downtown Riverfront Park , site of the 1974 World’s Fair, with its SkyRide gondola, hand-carved carousel, and close-up views of powerful Spokane Falls .

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National Nurses Week 2024: Chipotle's free burrito giveaway, more deals and discounts

Nurses should be celebrated every day, but they do have a special week: national nurses week, which runs may 6-12. restaurants like chipotle and buffalo wild wings have specials during the week..

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Chipotle is giving away 100,000 burritos for National Nurses Week. And you don't necessarily have to be a nurse to get in on the deal.

From Monday, May 6, to Friday, May 10, healthcare workers can sign up for a chance to win a free burrito e-card on the Chipotle website . At the end of National Nurses Week, 100,000 healthcare workers will be randomly selected to get an email asking them to verify their employment status via Those who successfully verify that within 48 hours will get a free burrito e-card.

Customers can get in on the action, too, by purchasing limited-edition Chipotle Healthcare Heroes E-Gift Cards online; 10% of the proceeds from the gift card purchases will be donated to the American Nurses Foundation. And throughout the month of May, you can round up your online or app orders to the nearest dollar amount. 100% of those proceeds will go to the foundation.

National Nurses Week 2024: A RN reflects on the state of the profession, calls for change

When is National Nurses Week?

National Nurses Week is observed annually May 6 through May 12.

What is National Nurses Week?

National Nurses Week grew out of a congressional resolution and proclamation signed by President Reagan in 1982 deeming May 6 as a National Recognition Day for Nurses.

The American Nurses Association board of directors expanded this to a National Nurses Week in 1990. The permanent dates for the week were designated in 1993 to be officially observed starting in 1994.

The week includes National School Nurses Day on May 8 and May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, which has been celebrated as International Nurse Day since 1974.

More ways to save: Visit USA TODAY's coupons page for deals from thousands of vendors

National Nurses Week 2024 freebies, deals and discounts

Here's a roundup of freebies, deals, discounts and other specials for National Nurses Week.

  • Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza: Nurses get a 20% discount on all orders with a valid ID from Monday, May 6, to Sunday, May 12.
  • BurgerFi: Nurses get a 20% discount on all orders with a valid ID from Monday, May 6, to Sunday, May 12.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: From Monday, May 6, to May 12, nurses get 20% off their orders with valid IDs on dine-in, call-in, and walk-in orders.
  • Buzz E-Bikes and Huffy Bicycles : Both United Wheels -owned companies give nurses 20% off online purchases year-round when verifying their at checkout.
  • Create Amor: Through June 7, get 25% off orders for scrubs (use the code NURSE25) and $1 per set (top and bottom) will be donated to the American Nurses Foundation. The scrubs brand will also donate 100% of proceeds from each Iris Five Pocket Top sold directly to the foundation.
  • Dunkin': Nurses can get a free medium hot or iced coffee, no purchase necessary, on Monday, May 6. (The deal excludes Frozen Coffee, Cold Brew and Nitro Cold Brew. Espresso shots, flavors, dairy alternatives & cold foam may be an additional charge.)
  • Firehouse Subs: The sandwich chain has a week of specials available starting Monday through its Firehouse Rewards loyalty program and app including (on Wednesday) BOGO Hook & Ladder Subs and (on Friday) two medium sandwiches for $12 or two large sandwiches for $18.
  • Free Rein Coffee Company: Nurses, first responders and medical providers get 20% off all year long from "Yellowstone" star Cole Hauser's brew brand by verifying with Also eligible for the 20% discount: military members.
  • The Good Feet Store : The retailer, with more than 250 locations, will give nurses a complimentary pair of Architek Comfort Slip-Ons and three pairs of OS1st Comfort socks with the purchase of at least a Good Feet Store 3-Step Arch Support System. (Note: if Architeks are not available, a pair of Brooks running shoes will be provided. Valid nurse's ID is required.)
  • The Greene Turtle: All nurses and healthcare workers with a valid ID get a free meal (value of up to $15) on Monday, May 6.
  • Happy Joe’ s Pi zza & Ice Cream: Nurses get a 10% discount at participating locations from Monday to Friday, May 6-10.
  • honeygrow: Nominate a nursing team for $250 worth of catering from the fast-casual chain with 33 locations in the eastern U.S. Submit your nomination on the honeygrow website before Wednesday, May 8. Five winning teams will be announced on May 10 via honeygrow's social media platforms.
  • HTeaO: The iced tea chain will give healthcare personnel 50% off cups of tea from Monday, May 13, to Sunday, May 26, with a valid hospital, doctors office, and school nurse ID.
  • Insomnia C ookies: The Philadelphia-based late-night bakery chain with more than 240 locations is giving nurses a free Classic cookie in-store, no purchase necessary, all week beginning Monday, May 6. (Just show a valid ID; availability varies by location.)
  • KIND Snacks: Nurses get 15% off their purchases on the website all year long. Customers just verify with at checkout.
  • Landing: The flexible rental firm, with sites especially practical for travel nurses, is giving away prizes including three months' rent. Nurses can enter to win by submitting a 60-second video and others can nominate a nurse, too.
  • Logan's Roadhouse: Nurses get 20% off their entrée this week. Just show your badge.
  • McAlister’s Deli: Nurses can get free tea – either one big Sweet Tea, Unsweet Tea, ½ Sweet & ½ Unsweet Tea, or ½ Lemonade & ½ Sweet/Unsweet Tea (flavor shots excluded) – at McAlister's Deli from Monday, May 6, to Sunday, May 12, with their badge or ID. Offer valid in-store only; no purchase necessary.
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill: Cater a Moe's Southwest Grill meal for nurses from Monday, May 6, to Sunday, May 12, and when you spend $300 or more, get a $50 E-gift card (use code THANKYOU24). Good at participating locations; not valid with other offers or third-party delivery. Doesn't include tax, tip and fees.
  • Pancheros: Nurses can buy one entrée and get one free on Wednesday, May 8, at participating restaurants. (Offer good in-restaurant; just present a valid hospital badge at checkout.)
  • The Parking Spot: The parking company is giving healthcare workers 25% off parking during their trips; just signup with an associated healthcare email account .
  • Peter Piper Pizza : Nurses can get a free personal pizza every day Monday through Friday (May 6-10). Redemption is limited to once per day; valid nurse ID/credentials must be shown.
  • Postino: The restaurant chain, with more than 25 locations in five states , will give nurses its $25 Board and Bottle (bruschetta board, plus a bottle of wine) all day every day during the month of May with badge/ID. (The special is usually only available Monday and Tuesday 8 p.m. to closing.)
  • Potbelly Sandwich Works: Nurses get a free cookie or fountain drink with the purchase of an entrée by showing their ID Monday, May 6, to Sunday, May 12. Also, all customers can get free delivery on a catering order over $150.
  • Salata Salad Kitchen: On Monday, May 6, Healthcare workers get 20% off their order when they present their badge at checkout. Also from Monday to Friday, get 20% off catering orders of $200 or more, and get free delivery on orders through DoorDash.
  • Shipley Do-Nuts: Nurses who belong the chain's Do-Happy loyalty program can get a free half-dozen box of glazed do-nuts with any purchase on Monday, May 6.
  • Skechers: Nurses get a 10% discount on all styles during the month of May on the Skechers website (valid ID or form of employment required). Online shoppers can also round up the purchase price of May purchases to the nearest dollar with proceeds going to the American Nurses Foundation; donate $5 or more and get $10 off your next $100 purchase in June.
  • Smoothie King: Get $2 off your on Monday and Tuesday via Smoothie King’s Healthy Rewards App (use code THANKS2024). The promo code may be used multiple times. Also, Friday, May 3, to Friday, May 10, when you buy $25 or more in gift cards online, get a bonus of 2,000 Healthy Reward points.
  • Sockwell: Nurses get a free pair of socks when they buy three pairs at full price May 6-12 on the Sockwell website (excludes closeouts and 3-packs).
  • Yogurtland: Through May 14, the frozen yogurt chain is offering free delivery on orders of more than $15 made through the website or mobile app (use the code FREEDELIVERY).
  • Zaxby's : Nurses can buy one Boneless Wings Meal and get a second one free on May 7 at participating locations (redeemable through the Zaxby's app or website for Zax Rewardz members, while supplies last).
  • Zips Car Wash:  Nurses can get a $5 "Pro" Wash at any Zips Car Wash or Rocket Express location across the country through May 19 with wash code 3687.

Follow Mike Snider on X and Threads:  @mikesnider  & mikegsnider .

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