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  • The Ultimate Washington DC Travel Guide (2023)

You’re planning a trip to the nation’s capital – awesome! In this Washington, DC travel guide you’ll find all the information you need to prepare for a great trip – everything from getting in and navigating the city to accommodations, transportation, and where to eat. You’ll also learn about exciting things to do and see during your visit, as well as helpful tips on budgeting, packing, and weather conditions. By the time you’re done reading you’ll be well on your way to an amazing trip to Washington, DC.

By the way, my name is Rob. I wrote this guide because in my decade-long career as a tour guide, I’ve met amazing travelers from all over the world and I want to help everyone who visits love this city as much as me. You’ll see my face peppered through the guide as I’ve included videos that I’ve created on each topic to help you go even more in-depth.

I hope you find everything here helpful. Enjoy your trip!

Getting into Washington DC

Most Washington, DC visitors will arrive by air, train, or car, and a few will arrive by bus or other means. If you’re flying, the city is served by three airports:

  • Reagan National (DCA)
  • Dulles International (IAD)
  • Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)

Reagan National Airport is the closest and most convenient option. It’s located just across the Potomac River from downtown. However, which airport you choose depends on various factors such as airfare, flight schedule, and where you’re staying.

Check out my video guide to our three airports for more details.

Washington DC Airports Guide ✈️ Costs, Distance & Convenience

If you’re traveling to DC by train or bus, you’ll arrive at Union Station. It is closer to downtown than any of the airports. If you’re driving your own car, it’s important to decide in advance where to park. Hotel parking is available but expensive. There are several safe and affordable garages in town. Once you arrive, I recommend parking your car and using alternative modes of transportation. Driving in DC is stressful and unpleasant.

If hotel parking isn’t for you, check out my video guide on where else you can park.

Where to Park in Washington DC

Washington DC Map and Orientation

To fully explore Washington, DC, it’s helpful to understand the city’s orientation and where the main points of interest are located. The best-known landmarks are: the White House, where the President lives, and the Capitol, where Congress convenes. These are both located in the center of the city. The Washington Monument, the tallest structure in DC, is south of the White House and serves as a useful reference point. East of the Washington Monument is the Lincoln Memorial and other national monuments, which are part of the National Mall , the most famous park in the city.

Across the Potomac River in Virginia is Arlington National Cemetery , an important site worthy of a visit. To the northwest of the National Mall is Georgetown, a popular neighborhood that offers excellent shopping, a waterfront park, Georgetown University, and the famous Exorcist steps. The National Zoo , the only zoo in America that is both free and home to Giant Pandas, is also located in the northwest section of the city.

To the south of the National Mall, you can explore the Wharf, situated on the Washington Channel, and the Navy Yard neighborhood, which is home to Nationals Park. Make sure you learn how to navigate our unique street grid so you don’t get lost!

Washington DC Street Grid, Explained

Washington DC Hotels and Accommodations

Choosing the right place to stay is one of the hardest parts of planning a trip. When it comes to hotels it can feel like Washington, DC has an overwhelming number of choices. For most visitors, a hotel close to the National Mall with nearby amenities like restaurants and drug stores is an ideal home base. The area around the White House, north of the National Mall, is a good option, as is the Wharf to the south. Crystal City in Virginia is also a decent choice, as it’s a short Metro ride into downtown. In total, I recommend 11 different areas to stay . Each area has its own pros and cons, but all are worth considering.

Best Hotels & Areas to Stay in Washington DC

While it may be tempting to try to save money by staying in the suburbs and commuting in, I generally don’t recommend it. Staying far away from the city center can make it difficult to recharge mid-day, especially if you plan to do a mix of daytime and evening activities during your trip. For most visitors it’s better to choose a hotel that’s in the heart of the action that can serve as a home base.

Getting Around Washington DC

Getting around in Washington, DC is relatively easy because there are so many transportation options. The best way to experience the city, if you are physically able, is on two feet. Walking is free and allows you to see more than they would from a car or underground. Metro is a great way to reach a lot of major sites. If you’re visiting from a place that doesn’t have a lot of public transportation it may feel intimidating. But I have lots of videos about Metro that you can watch to get comfortable. My Dos and Don’ts for riding Metro is a great place to start.

How to Ride DC Metro 🚇 2022

For destinations not served by the Metro, the Circulator bus is an excellent low-cost option. Capital Bikeshare is my personal favorite mode of transportation, as it’s cheap and convenient for solo travelers or couples. However, families with children or larger groups may have more luck with taxis, Uber, or another means of getting around. I rounded up all the transportation options available in Washington, DC if you’re interested in learning what’s available.

Washington DC Transportation Modes RANKED

Things to Do in Washington DC

Washington, DC offers an incredible variety of things to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The city is famous for its museums, with the Smithsonian Institution being the most renowned. The Air and Space Museum , Natural History Museum , and American History Museum are the “big three” most popular museums, but other lesser-known gems like the National Portrait Gallery and the National Postal Museum are equally fascinating. Art enthusiasts will love the National Gallery of Art , which houses an impressive collection of classical and modern works, as well as its outdoor Sculpture Garden. Private museums like the International Spy Museum and Planet Word offer unique and immersive experiences that are worth checking out as well.

In addition to museums, Washington, DC is home to some of the most iconic federal government buildings and landmarks in the world. The three branches of government, represented by the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court are all located within a few miles of each other and offer tours if you want to go inside. Other government-run sites like the National Archives , Library of Congress and Ford’s Theater are also worth considering.

And then there’s the famous national monuments and memorials. I truly believe one of the best ways to experience the monuments and memorials is on a guided tour . While it’s possible to wander around and see them on your own, you’ll get much more out of the experience with a professional guide who can explain the symbolism and historical significance of each site.

For visitors who want to balance out the museums and historical sites with other forms of entertainment, DC offers plenty of options. Sports fans can catch a game of their favorite professional team, whether it’s the Washington Wizards in the NBA, the Nationals in MLB, or DC United in MLS. The Kennedy Center is a renowned performing arts venue that showcases theater productions, ballets, and musical performances. The Wharf, a vibrant waterfront development, offers three stages for live music , as well as shops, restaurants, and a lively atmosphere.

Where to Eat in Washington DC

Washington, DC is not the world’s most famous foodie destination, but it punches above its weight when it comes to high quality dining. While there are no shortage of great places to eat, identifying the best ones for your trip can be a challenge. If you want to sample DC’s signature foods, look for half-smoke sausages from Ben’s Chili Bowl, Ethiopian cuisine, and wings with Mumbo sauce from a Chinese carryout. Since the city is relatively close to the Chesapeake Bay there is also plenty of excellent seafood, with fresh steamed crabs being a popular dish at the Wharf.

Here’s my roundup of all of DC’s signature foods.

Famous Foods to EAT in Washington DC

For visitors looking for the best of the best, the Michelin Guide is a great starting point. My favorite resource is Washingtonian Magazine’s annual 100 Very Best Restaurants list. Food tours are also a great way to sample a variety of cuisines and get insider recommendations from local guides.

If you’re on a budget, Washington, DC is known for its excellent fast casual dining scene. At these spots you can find delicious meals for around $10-$15. Fast casual restaurants typically offer counter service and a relaxed atmosphere, making them a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. They’re more expensive than fast food but less expensive than sit-down restaurants but still with excellent food!

If you want to start making a list, I have a video where I visited and showcased a few of my personal favorites.

Best Fast Casual Restaurants in Washington DC 🍔 2022 Cheap Eats

Budgeting Your Washington DC Trip

Is Washington, DC an expensive destination? How much should visitors expect things to cost? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is: it depends!

Every visitor needs a place to stay and the price of hotels varies dramatically depending on your trip dates. Contrary to what many people believe, hotel prices are not highest when the most tourists are in town. Instead, hotel prices in DC are driven by business travelers and are highest when lots of people are here for business and conferences. Generally, if you come to DC on slower dates, you can expect hotel rates in the mid-range of $100-$200. However, rates in the $200-$300 range are not uncommon, especially when many business travelers are here.

Meals are another significant cost category, and prices heavily depend on where you eat. My favorite fast casual restaurants typically cost between $10-$15 per person. A sit-down restaurant might cost between $20-$30 at the low-end and $100 or more at the high end. If you choose to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, you could spend as much as $300 per person! Alcoholic drinks at restaurants in DC are also pricey. A draft beer might cost between $8-$12, a basic house wine might be $10-$15, and a craft cocktail could be $15-$20.

You can save some money by going for happy hour specials, which is one of the tips I offer in my video on how to save money on food.

Tips to Save Money on FOOD When You Visit Washington DC 🤑

Transportation costs should also be factored into your budget. On average, budget $2.50 per person for a Metro ride and $1 per person per ride for a Circulator bus ride. A taxi will probably cost $10-$20 for a trip inside the city. Fortunately, most of the museums and federal sites in DC are completely free, which will help you save some money on entertainment.

If you want a full breakdown of all the possible costs you might incur in DC, check out my video on this topic.

How Much it COSTS to Visit Washington DC

What to Pack for Washington DC

When it’s time to pack for your trip to Washington, DC, the most crucial item to include in your suitcase, no matter the season, is a pair of comfortable walking shoes. I’ve never had someone tell me they regretted bringing comfortable shoes to Washington, DC.

In terms of clothing, it largely depends on the season. For summer visits, pack lightweight clothing, shorts, and items that will keep you cool under the sun. Bring accessories such as hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. During winter months, make sure to pack a warm coat, a scarf, gloves, and a hat to keep you cozy. It’s worth saying that DC isn’t as cold as other east-coast cities. In the spring and fall, it’s best to pack layers, as the temperature can fluctuate throughout the day.

If you’re curious about what I wear as a tour guide who spends a lot of time outdoors, check out my video about it.

What to WEAR in Washington DC in Every Season

Preparing for Washington DC Weather

The most popular landscape photos of Washington, DC are taken during the relatively small number of nice weather days. When you look at photos of the famous cherry blossoms it’s tempting to think we have picturesque weather year-round. However, the reality is that Washington, DC is a city that experiences all four seasons and nice weather is more of a treat than it is the norm.

Summers in DC are hot and humid. Winters can be cold but not unbearable. While snow is not uncommon, it typically only accumulates about a foot per year. The best weather tends to be in the spring and fall.

Thunderstorms are frequent in the summer, particularly in the early evening. Hurricanes can also pass by the city during the summer and fall. If you’re lucky and get to experience a nice day in Washington, DC make sure to get outdoors and take advantage!

Best Time to Visit Washington DC

There is no single best day or week to visit Washington, DC. Every month has its own unique pros and cons.

The busiest periods in DC coincide with school break. You’ll find the most tourists around during spring break and summer break. One of the most popular events in the city, the National Cherry Blossom Festival , occurs from March 20th to mid-April. The overlap between cherry blossom season and spring break makes this time of year extremely busy.

January and February are the least busy months, but there are still many indoor activities that you can enjoy with smaller crowds. September and October are some of the best months to visit Washington DC if you can swing it. The crowds are smaller than in the summer months, and the weather is more comfortable.

Previously, school field trips were concentrated between mid-March and Independence Day and then from September to Thanksgiving. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, school groups are now visiting the city all year round.

If you want more tips on how to navigate the school field trip season, check out my dedicated video on that topic.

How to Navigate Washington DC During Field Trip Season

Next Steps for Planning Your DC Trip

Congrats, you’re now a equipped to be top-tier Washington, DC traveler. The next step is to start getting tickets and reservations for the sites that require them. Government sites like the Capitol require reservations. Many museums require free timed tickets as well. And don’t wait to long to book your tours and activities! Trip Hacks DC tours do book up, sometimes weeks in advance! If there’s an activity you have your eye on, don’t procrastinate! If you wait too long you may wind up disappointed.

Know someone who’s visiting Washington, DC soon? Spread the wealth and share this Washington, DC travel guide with them to help them out too!

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About Trip Hacks DC

Trip planning resources.

  • DC Airports: a Guide to Navigating DCA, IAD and BWI
  • Hotels in DC: A Guide On Where to Stay
  • The 5 Best Local Washington DC Tours
  • Washington DC Trip Planning: Trip Hacks DC E-book
  • Packing for Washington DC: What To Bring for Your Trip

Newest Podcast Episodes

  • Podcast Ep.60 Why Take Tours When You Visit Washington DC
  • Podcast Ep.58 Tips for Attending Pro Sports in Washington DC
  • Podcast Ep.57 Everything Visitors Should Know About Washington DC Cherry Blossoms
  • Podcast Ep.56 Managing Your Washington DC Travel Expectations
  • Podcast Ep.55 What to Expect for Washington DC Tourism in 2024
  • Podcast Ep.54 Every Holiday in Washington DC
  • Podcast Ep.53 Why I Don’t Recommend Airbnb in Washington DC
  • Podcast Ep.52 Washington DC Experiences to DO and SKIP

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A Weekend In Washington DC: Plan Your First Visit With This Washington DC Travel Blog

US Capitol Building, Washington DC

Planning to spend a weekend in Washington DC? From Union Market and the National Mall to the city’s top galleries and free museums, this Washington DC travel blog will help you plan.

From the amazing food scene at Union Market to wandering along the National Mall, and checking out some of the top galleries and museums on the planet, Washington DC is a city with something for everyone!

It’s one of those iconic cities that I’ve grown up feeling like I knew. I’d seen it in movies and TV shows, and whilst I’d never been, it felt strangely familiar.

Ready to spend the weekend in Washington DC?

I was excited to spend a weekend in Washington DC and see iconic landmarks including The White House and The US Capitol. I was also really looking forward to seeing what else the city had to offer. Beyond the façades made famous through politics and TV, what else is going on?

I wasn’t disappointed – there were a lot of places to visit in Washington DC! From the magic of the Renwick Gallery’s exhibition dedicated to Burning Man Festival, to the many top restaurants serving exceptional cuisine, we found a lot to fill our weekend with.

It was also great to see how budget-friendly a lot of places were. This is a city filled with free museums and galleries, and it’s surprisingly walkable too.

Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC

So if you’re planning to spend a weekend in Washington DC,  check out the video for a flavour of what’s on offer, then scroll down to read about what we got up to in the city. Don’t worry – I’ve packed this Washington DC travel blog FULL of amazing places to visit, restaurant suggestions and a heap of spots you might not know about if it’s your first time in the city.

Check Out Washington DC’s Food Scene

Washington is one of the only places in the USA with the Michelin guide, which foodies will know is a good indication of the level of cuisine in the city! It’s a cosmopolitan city, so you’ll find anything you fancy, from Chinese to Mexican, Lebanese to German.

It’s also worth noting the city has the biggest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself, so if you’ve never had the chance to try that cuisine, I’d urge you do to it here.

If you’re spending the weekend in Washington DC, here are a few food spots to try out.

China Chilcano

My favourite restaurant in the city, it’s one of a collection by superstar chef Jose Andres. It serves a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Peruvian. Ceviche and dim sum on the same menu? YES I was in heaven!

China Chilcano, Washington DC

This trendy Mexican restaurant is down on District wharf. While you’ll find classics like tacos, nachos and margaritas, there are also some great twists, like this delicious main course of prawn and scallops with a tangy avocado salsa.

Mi Vida Restaurant, Washington DC

Union Market

 I love food markets, and this is one of the best and most varied I’ve visited in a long time. There are around 20 stalls all under one roof, some of which started out as popular DC food trucks before laying down roots in the market hall. Takorean (a Korean taco fusion) is my top pick. The arepas were fab too.

Union Market, Washington DC

Coolest Bars In Washington DC

From rooftop bars and secret speakeasies, to al fresco spots and breweries, there are plenty of places to enjoy a cocktail or a beer on your weekend in Washington DC. 

This bar feels like a gorgeous secret summer spot, with its outdoor terrace and quirky décor. It’s kitsch and fun, serving up tasty cocktails, including alcoholic juice boxes and great snacks and sharers.

POV Bar at the W Hotel

If you’re looking for a bar with a spectacular DC view, this is it! POV Bar overlooks several important buildings and landmarks in the centre of the city, including The White House.

I loved how you could see along the National Mall too.  It was the perfect spot to raise a final toast to our time in the city.

Cocktails at POV at the W Hotel, Washington DC

Blue Jacket Brewery

The craft beer scene is booming, so if you love beer, definitely stop by Blue Jacket.

Located near Yards Park, once inside you can watch all the processes going on.

As you may know, I’m not much of a beer lover, but I was surprised by the flavours here. There were some fruity beers using passion fruit and strawberries which almost converted me!

Blue Jacket Brewery, Washington DC

Explore The Amazing Free Galleries And Museums In Washington DC

One of my favourite things about Washington DC is how many great museums and galleries there are… and even better, pretty much all of them are free!

In just a couple of days we visited several of the top galleries in the city, so here are the ones I’d recommend.

National Portrait Gallery

There are some incredible portraits on display at the moment including a whole exhibition of presidential portraits.

This includes Kehinde Wiley’s vibrant painting of Barack Obama which has been extremely popular (there was a queue to get near it!) I also love the beautiful courtyard in this building – it’s light, airy and a very calming space.

National Portrait Gallery courtyard, Washington DC

Renwick Gallery

When we visited Washington DC there was a Burning Man exhibition on at the Renwick Gallery.

Wacky and colourful creations, intriguing costumes and soundscapes make this a totally unique experience.

Renwick Gallery, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art

You could spend all day here – it’s massive! We started in the sculpture garden, which I’d definitely recommend. Then we ventured into the West Building to check out the historical artworks before visiting my favourite part – the East Building where the modern works are displayed.

From paintings by Pollock to Rothko, to the colourful hanging mobiles by Calder, there’s plenty to look at. Don’t forget to visit Leo Villareal’s Multiverse – a moving walkway with a magical lightshow which connects the buildings via the basement.

washington dc tourism video

Explore The City On A Carpe DC Food Tour

I always love getting to know a city through its food, and this U Street Tour was a great introduction to the area famed for ‘Black Broadway’, the city’s jazz heritage and its Ethiopian community.

From chilli at Ben’s Chilli Bowl, to my first taste of Ethiopian food (yum!) and checking out the colourful murals, I finished the tour with a greater understanding of the city’s history. A food tour is also one of the best things to do in Georgetown , if you’re looking to explore that part of the city.

U Street, Washington DC

Venture To District Wharf  

To be honest I’d never considered Washington DC to be a ‘waterfront’ destination, but it is! I heard from locals this part of the city has totally transformed in recent years into the buzzy area it is today.

There are live music venues like Pearl Street Warehouse, great restaurants including chic Mexican Mi Vida (see above) and pontoons and docks to enjoy views, boat trips and more.

District Wharf, Washington DC

Channel Your Inner James Bond At The International Spy Museum  

Awaken your inner secret agent with a trip to Washington’s Spy Museum. This was a truly unique experience, charting the history of the world’s most famous spies, secret agents and criminals.

I loved how interactive it was (definitely one of the most fun things to do in Washington DC!) with chances to crack codes, test your strength and more. This is a museum that’s great for big-ish kids and grown-ups alike.

International Spy Museum, Washington DC

Tour The US Capitol

Another truly unique DC experience – touring the building I’ve grown up seeing on news bulletins and in movies. Tickets are free and include a film about the building’s construction and usage, followed by a tour of a few of key areas.

You can also visit The Senate and House galleries by enquiring in advance. Find out more about that here .

US Capitol Building, Washington DC

Wander The National Mall And See The White House

For me, one of the most exciting things to do on my first trip to DC was to see the city’s most famous landmarks! I loved walking from The White House, down the National Mall to see the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

So many iconic views, and amazing to take in the details up close!

Washington Monument, Washington DC

Where To Stay In Washington DC  

We stayed at The Embassy Row Hotel , located close to Dupont Circle. The decor was chic and stylish, and there were plenty of food and drink options nearby, plus it was easy to hop on the Metro or a taxi to get around the city.

There’s also a great café area on the ground floor, but the real hidden gem is up high! Yep there’s a rooftop pool. What better way to cool off after a day of sightseeing.

The Embassy Row Hotel, Washington DC

How To Get Around Washington DC   

If you’ve got limited time in the city, I’d recommend downloading the Lyft or Uber apps and taking taxis. A 20-minute journey will cost you approximately $10 – $12. There’s quite a lot of traffic in the city, so while some distances look short, allow plenty of time!

If you are on a budget or aren’t in a rush, the Metro is really easy to use and costs just $2.20 per ride. You can also look at travel cards that last for the duration of your trip.

If you’re travelling from abroad, don’t forget to get your ESTA application sorted out well in advance of your trip to Washington DC. While an ESTA can be applied for online and does not require a visit to the embassy, delays can happen due to random extended background checks. It’s definitely something to think about while you’re planning your itinerary.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my first trip to Washington DC. I was only there a few days but packed absolutely loads in! If I return, I’d probably focus on a few smaller neighbourhoods and explore on foot. I felt like there was SO much to see and do, I barely scratched the surface. 

Thanks to Washington DC and Travel Planners for inviting me to explore Washington DC. As always all opinions are my own.

Enjoyed this travel blog about spending the weekend in Washington Dc? Pin it for later…

Washington DC - plan your first visit

Chloe Gunning

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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14 Best Things to Do in Washington, DC

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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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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.

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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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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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.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Arrow

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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Potomac Water Taxi Arrow

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.

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The World Was Here First

The Ultimate 4 to 5 Days in Washington, DC Itinerary

Last Updated on January 29, 2024

by Audrey Webster

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

washington dc tourism video

Planning out a Washington DC itinerary can be a challenge when you consider all there is to see and do in the US capital. History aficionados will fall in love with Washington DC. There are few other places in the world that house so many museums and monuments from a single country’s history.

During your 4 or 5 days in Washington DC, you’ll have access to the Smithsonian’s iconic network of museums, historical monuments, and slices of history that you won’t easily find anywhere else.

Table of Contents

How Many Days in Washington, DC?

If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Washington DC, it can vary dramatically based on what you want to see. It’s a city that is loaded with activities that could keep you busy for several days.

You should plan to spend a minimum of 3 days in Washington DC. This will grant you ample time to catch the highlights at a leisurely pace. Even then, you’ll still have to prioritize what you see during your visit to the nation’s capital.

With 4 days in Washington DC, you have a little more time to see the museums and historical landmarks.

5 days in DC allows you to take a day trip to a nearby site like Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon, or somewhere even further. You can easily hop on the metro for a quick day trip out of the city itself.

You also could easily use this time to explore some of the other neighborhoods around DC, such as Dupont Circle or Georgetown.

US Capitol Building

Getting To & Around Washington, DC 

If you’re coming from far away, you’ll likely arrive in Washington DC by plane. There are three major airports: Dulles, Ronald Reagan, and Baltimore-Washington.

Visitors can use the metro to reach inner-city Washington DC from these airports. Alternatively, rideshare services and taxis are easily available and you can also book a transfer ahead of time.

DC is also well-connected via rail to a number of other cities on the East Coast, including New York, Boston , Philadelphia and even Providence. You can view train schedules here.

When getting around the city, take the metro. It’s clean, reliable, and reaches all the city’s main landmarks. That said, you should walk around the National Mall and Tidal Basin. You can easily reach most major monuments and museums just by walking around the National Mall.

The Tidal Basin offers its visitors a pleasant walk any time of day while getting to see iconic memorials and monuments. 

The White House

4 to 5-Day Washington DC Itinerary

For the days with two museums, we recommend visiting one in the morning and one in the afternoon after taking a lunch break. You can mix and match depending on your interest, but consider the highlights listed below to be the most highly recommended stops for your DC itinerary. 

Day 1 – White House, Tidal Basin, Memorials & More!

While the sites on the first day of this itinerary can be visited independently it is also possible to take several guided tours such as this bus tour , this bike tour or this evening tour if you want to see the monuments at night.

Washington Memorial and White House

We’ve added the White House and Washington Memorial to the top of your itinerary because they are can’t-miss sites in Washington DC. These two marble structures are iconic.

The Washington Monument stands at just over 555 ft tall. There is an observation deck at the top that grants visitors excellent views of the National Mall.

You can also book a tour of a portion of the White House to see some of the building’s most famous rooms. 

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a favorite monument for many first-time visitors to Washington DC. It’s the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Where he stood at the top of the monument’s stairs is marked by an engraving.

The reflecting pools before the monument make for an iconic Washington DC photo op. Make sure to check out the Lincoln Memorial at night too. The monument lit up is a stunning sight to see. 

Walk the Tidal Basin

Walking the Tidal Basin is an absolute must no matter what time of year you’re visiting, but the spring and fall are the most stunning.

Every spring the cherry blossom trees bloom casting the basin into a beautiful pink floral park. Here you’ll find the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and MLK Jr. Memorial.

You can rent paddle boats to explore the basin from the water. It’s a highlight of your Washington DC itinerary. 

Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC, USA

Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials

Continuing your walk of the National Mall, visit the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as “the Wall”, is a long black granite wall with the names of 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War. It’s a solemn and thought-provoking memorial.

Next, the Korean War Veterans Memorial pays homage to the over 1.5 million of soldiers who served. These 19 stainless steel statues march in a triangle formation toward an American flag. 

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial is a stunning white memorial dedicated to the 16 million Americans who served in World War II. It’s a circle of 56 columns that represent all U.S. states and territories around the Rainbow Pool.

Here is another memorial you want to make sure you visit after dark. At night, lights shine on the columns and from the pool making it an eye-catching site. 

World War II Memorial in Washington, DC

Day 2  – Museum of Natural History, National Archives Museum & the US Capitol

Smithsonian national museum of natural history.

Perhaps one of the most iconic museums in the United States is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It’s an absolute must for all visitors to Washington DC.

The museum, part of the Smithsonian museum network, is an especially great stop for a Washington DC itinerary that includes children and they are free to enter.

There are over 147 million items on display that range from marine life to geology to ancient Egypt. You can spend anywhere from two hours to about half a day exploring this museum and there is no doubt that it is one of the best things to do in Washington DC. It is also possible to take a guided tour if you want to learn more from a guide.

If you’re more interested in American History, then consider visiting the adjacent Smithsonian National Museum of American History during this time instead. Here you can find exhibits that are important to the history of the USA and it’s a wonderful place to visit.

Natural History Museum Exhibit in Washington DC

National Archives Museum

Where can you find the true Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the surviving copies of the Magna Carta all in one place? The National Archives Museum.

Make sure you reserve a timed slot in advance to avoid waiting in the long line at the entrance. Here is the only place where visitors can view the country’s founding documents. 

U.S. Capitol & the Library of Congress

The U.S. Capitol building is one of the most impressive working government buildings in Washington DC. With its towering white marble dome, it stands out in the National Mall. Inside, you can see where both houses of Congress reside.

Visitors can enter the capitol, but you must make a reservation in advance. You cannot visit the Capitol without a reserved tour – you can book a small group tour here.

Nearby you’ll find the Library of Congress. Here is where you’ll find hundreds of years’ worth of historical books and documents in a beautifully-designed building. 

Day 3 – Air and Space Museum & the Holocaust Memorial Museum

Smithsonian national air & space museum.

The Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum is a treasure trove of the country’s most iconic advancements in air and space technology. Here you’ll find Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, the Apollo 11 Command Module, the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Wright Flyer, and much more.

There is also an IMAX theater, Einstein Planetarium, and flight simulators to enjoy. You can easily spend several hours wandering the massive hanger filled with excellently-preserved planes. You can organise a guided tour here.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Exhibits

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum is a sobering experience. The stories of Holocaust survivors are told through film footage, photography, artefacts, and more. It tracks the rise of Hitler through propaganda and World War II.

There are several special exhibits–most advise a minimum age warning due to the graphic nature of the material on display. Portions of the museum have walls raised so young children cannot see over them.

It’s an informative and impressive museum that is well worth adding to your itinerary if you have 3 days in DC. 

Day 4 – Museum of African American History, National Gallery & the JFK Center

Smithsonian national museum of african american history.

If you’re seeing Washington DC in 4 days, you should mix and match your museums to make sure you see the ones you’re most interested in. However, ensure you visit the National Museum of African American History.

This museum is a relative newcomer to the National Mall, opening in 2016. It contains over 40,000 artefacts that trace the experiences and lives of African Americans from the country’s earliest years to present day.

The museum is expertly curated and you could easily spend half a day wandering its halls. If you want to learn more about African American history, you can take a half-day tour that includes some time in this museum.

National Gallery of Art

Art fans should prioritize a visit to the National Gallery of Art. There are two wings: the East Building which is home to modern art and the West Building home to classic art pieces. The collection is huge.

You could easily spend a couple hours or an entire day wandering between these two buildings. Don’t leave without visiting the rooftop where you’ll get great panoramic views of the city. You can organise a guided tour here.

Those traveling with children or who simply don’t want to visit more museums, then consider using this time to visit the Smithsonian National Zoological Park – also known as the National Zoo. Easily reached on public transport, this zoo is free to enter and you can see incredible animal exhibits – including Giant Pandas!

National Gallery of Art

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

From dance performances to musicals, the shows at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is an excellent way to spend an evening.

You’ll want to look at the schedule and reserve your tickets in advance. However, if you don’t have time to see a performance, visiting the center is still worth it.

There is a rooftop garden and bars that boasts incredible views of the National Mall. There is an art gallery and sculpture garden to explore as well. It’s a great addition to any trip to Washington DC.

Day 5 – Arlington National Cemetery, Rock Creek Park or Mount Vernon

Arlington national cemetery.

Located just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia is one of the nation’s most famous cemeteries.

Arlington National Cemetery is about one square mile and houses the graves of over 400,000 service members as well as former presidents. Highlights include John F. Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

If time allows, you should watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This memorial is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives, but their bodies were never found or identified.

You can opt for a tour of Arlington Cemetery if you want to learn more about the memorials and gravesites. Arlington isn’t far from DC itself, so it’s easy to add on to a 4-day itinerary or if you’re seeing Washington DC in 5 days. 

Arlington National Cemetery

Rock Creek Park

If you’ve had enough of being in the city, head to Rock Creek Park. Here you’ll find over 32 miles of hiking trails, tennis courts, biking paths, and a golf course. It’s a great way to spend a day or afternoon after spending a few days seeing as much of Washington DC as possible.

Should you want to explore the park further, pay a visit to the Nature Center, the Peirce Mill, and the Old Stone House. 

Mount Vernon

A visit to Mount Vernon is a step back in history. It’s the former home of the nation’s first president, George Washington.

Here you’ll find an immaculately preserved home, the tombs of George and Martha Washington, and a memorial dedicated to the enslaved people who worked on the property. Over 96 million people have visited Mount Vernon since it opened to the public in 1860. 

There are several options for getting to Mount Vernon. It’s located about 15 miles from Washington DC. You can take a guided tour bus , public bus, or Metrorail. If you have a rental car, parking is also available at Mount Vernon, but the lot fills up very quickly.

If you want the more scenic route, consider taking a boat along the Potomac River. Note that you will not be allowed on the property without a ticket – you can pre-book tickets here.

Washington's House in Mount Vernon

Where to Stay in Washington, DC

Phoenix Park Hotel – This hotel is an excellent choice for mid-range visitors looking. They have many great rooms to choose from, a central location for exploring the city and breakfast available in the mornings.

Hotel Washington – Those looking for a high-end stay in the US capital will love this swanky hotel. Located within easy reach of the National Mall, they have numerous delightful rooms to choose from along with plenty of great amenities – including a spa/wellness center and an on-site restaurant/bar.

Highroad Hostel Washington, DC – Budget and solo travelers will love this highly-rated hostel located in the center of DC. Situated close to all of the top attractions of the city, they have both dorms and private rooms available along with good common spaces.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Washington, DC hotels!

Whether this is your first time seeing Washington DC or you’re a return visitor, this itinerary will help guide your exploration of the US capital.

Are you visiting Washington, DC? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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About Audrey Webster

Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

Thank you so much for the above iternary. This is a great help. After reading your above iternary, I’ve decided to spend more time in DC.

My only question, what do you think of the hop on, hop off buses while visiting DC. Thank you.

Thank you….

Happy you’ve found this helpful and that you’re spending a good amount of time in DC! A hop on, hop off bus can be a convenient if you’re overwhelmed by navigating public transport or aren’t able to walk too much 🙂

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Washington, DC Itinerary 4 Days: 2023 Guide From A Local

washington dc tourism video

Washington, DC is my home – I have lived here over 12 years and I absolutely love it. There is just so much to explore here – from its rich history and world-renowned monuments to its thriving food and arts scene. 

In this guide, I will share my perfect 4 Day Washington DC Itinerary. This will help you experience DC like a true local. This isn’t your typical tourist guide; instead, you’ll get to discover hidden gems and beloved local spots that truly make Washington, DC unique. 

So whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone who simply enjoys the vibrancy of city life, this guide has something for you. Let’s immerse ourselves in the charm and culture of DC, shall we?

Washington Monument at Sunset

Table of Contents

The History of Washington, DC

Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States , has a history that extends far beyond the arrival of the first Europeans. The area now known as the District of Columbia was initially inhabited by Native American tribes, such as the Nacotchtank, also known as the Anacostan. These tribes lived along the banks of the Anacostia River, engaging in farming, hunting, and fishing, leaving a cultural footprint that continues to influence the city.

European exploration in the late 15th century introduced drastic changes to the region. In 1790, the Residence Act approved the creation of a capital district as specified in the U.S. Constitution. The states of Maryland and Virginia donated land to form the federal district, and President George Washington chose the exact location of the city, which was named in his honor.

In the 19th century, Washington, D.C., began its transformation into an iconic symbol of the American identity. The city was designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French-born architect and civil engineer. His design presented a city of wide boulevards, public squares, and grand buildings, embodying the ideals of the new nation.

Despite the turbulent periods of the Civil War and segregation in the 20th century, Washington, D.C., has continued to evolve, preserving its historic essence while embracing diversity and progress. Today, the city stands as a testament to the nation’s history, combining the past with the present in a distinctive blend that makes it one of America’s most visited cities.

Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days

Washington, DC Old Town Trolley City Tour

Travel through DC on a trolley with a live guide and visit all the top 25 tourist sites in the city at your own pace. Opt between a 1 or 2 day ticket so that you can make the most of your experience.

During this tour you can visit sites such as:

  • The White House
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • The Smithsonian Museums
  • Upgrade to get a tram tour of the Arlington National Cemetery as well.

This is the top rated bus tour in DC, and will serve as your transportation throughout the city!

Washington, DC Itinerary 4 Days of History & Culture

Day 1 | get to know the city, morning / early afternoon.

On your first day I recommend getting to know the city. DC is a highly walkable city, but it is spread out quite a bit. In my experience, this is a great way to efficiently cover the most ground is by taking a hop-on-hop-off bus . The top rated bus tour in DC is the Old Town Trolley Tour. I have taken this tour many times myself and always enjoy it. 

The best part about this bus is that all the tour guides are live and have a lot of good tidbits to share about the historical sites you’ll see along the journey. As you ride the bus, I recommend selecting 3-4 places to stop along the way (as that is all you will likely be able to do reasonably). I’ve but an asterisks by those locations I think are best for visiting on your first day below. 

On this bus tour, you will see the following places:

Washington Welcome Center

The first stop on your journey, the Washington Welcome Center, serves as an ideal starting point for visitors to the city, whether or not you take the bus. As the hub of the Old Town Trolley Tour, this center provides guests with valuable information, maps, and resources about Washington D.C.’s numerous attractions, monuments, and museums. Additionally, the friendly and knowledgeable staff is always ready to offer recommendations or answer any questions. Aside from being an information center, the venue also houses a gift shop, where you can pick up memorable souvenirs. 

If you do take the bus, you can start your tour  here . 

The White House*

The White House, an iconic symbol of the United States, serves as the official residence and workplace of the president. Its construction began in 1792 and was completed in 1800. It served as the second presidential home, following the first presidential house in Philadelphia. 

The structure was burned down by British forces during the War of 1812, but it was rebuilt and occupied again by 1817. Since then, it has hosted the country’s leaders and has become a symbol of the American presidency around the world. The White House is renowned for its neoclassical architecture, with its gleaming white façade and intricately detailed columns. It’s expanded over the years, with additions like the West Wing, which houses the famous Oval Office. 

Know that visiting the White House can be difficult to do / plan for. If you really want to visit, you will need to contact your Congressman. Learn more about the process  here .

White House Exterior

The National Archives

The National Archives, is a treasure trove of US history. This monumental building serves as the custodian of the country’s most important official documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, collectively known as the Charters of Freedom. These invaluable documents are displayed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. 

Besides the Charters, the National Archives houses billions of records, letters, photographs, maps, and films that trace the narrative of American history. The research rooms available to the public allow visitors to delve further into specific historical topics. 

One exhibit that I found interesting and entertaining is one dedicated to the letters sent to the government on behalf of Elvis by star-struck girls who didn’t want him to be drafted into the war back in the 40s. 

The building itself, made with Indiana limestone, is a beacon of the neoclassical style, featuring a grand pediment with sculptures representing the guardianship of the nation’s records. 

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The National Japanese American Memorial

The National Japanese American Memorial is a poignant tribute to the trials and triumphs of the Japanese American community during World War II. Situated in Washington, D.C., this memorial commemorates the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during the war. Showcasing a beautiful sculpture of two cranes entangled in barbed wire, the memorial serves as a symbol of resilience and hope. 

The names of the internment camps, along with quotes from internees, are inscribed on the memorial’s walls, providing a moving testament to their experiences. The site also honors the valor of Japanese American soldiers who fought for the United States during the war. A visit to this memorial offers an introspective exploration of an often overlooked chapter of American history, reminding us of the enduring strength of human spirit amidst adversity.

Union Station

Union Stati on , located in Washington, D.C., is an architectural marvel and one of the busiest transportation hubs in the United States. Built in 1907, it was designed by Daniel Burnham, a prominent figure in the Chicago School of architecture. The Beaux-Arts style building, characterized by its grand facades and lavish decorative elements, is a testament to America’s architectural prowess during the early 20th century. 

Not just a transportation hub, Union Station served as a critical part of the city’s infrastructure during both World Wars. It also houses an array of shopping and dining outlets, offering visitors more than just a travel experience. 

A walk through Union Station will let you soak it its beautiful architectural detail, from the intricate ceiling design to the statuesque figures adorning the main hall.

This is the 2nd option for st arting your tour .  

Union Station Interior

U.S. Capitol Building

The U.S. Capitol Building, an emblem of the American people and their government, is recognized worldwide as a symbol of the United States. Located at the eastern end of the National Mall atop of Capitol Hill, this iconic edifice is the meeting place of the United States Congress. 

The Neoclassical style building was completed in 1800 and has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored several times since, reflecting the growth and evolution of the nation. Its distinctive cast-iron dome, completed in 1866, is one of its most notable features. The Capitol Building is home to an important collection of American art, including historic portraits, murals, and sculptures. 

If you are able to snag a guided tour , you can get a glimpse into the legislative process, as well as the architectural and artistic treasures within. 

washington dc tourism video

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, located in Washington D.C., is a treasure trove for aviation and space enthusiasts. As one of the most visited museums worldwide, it showcases the marvels of human achievement in air and space exploration. The museum is home to thousands of artifacts including the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia – the spacecraft that took humans to the moon. 

The museum also features fascinating exhibits on space travel, astronomy, and planetary science. Interactive displays, including flight simulators and a planetarium, offer an immersive experience, making the vastness of space more accessible to the public. 

I’ll note, while this museum is great – there is an even  bigger and better version  out by the Dulles Airport. If you have time to visit it while in the area, I highly recommend it! 

washington dc tourism video

The Wharf is an energetic and upscale neighborhood located along the Potomac River in Washington D.C. Known for its waterfront living, vibrant nightlife, and diverse dining options, The Wharf is a top destination for locals and tourists alike. The area boasts several luxury hotels, high-end shops, and a lively concert venue, The Anthem. 

Its bustling marina hosts everything from yachts to paddleboards, while the scenic riverwalk invites leisurely strolls and picnics. A visit to The Wharf isn’t complete without exploring the historic Municipal Fish Market, the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States. 

Wharf Neighborhood

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. provides an intriguing insight into the shadowy world of espionage. This unique museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display, offering a rare glimpse into the covert operations and intelligence techniques used throughout history. 

The museum’s interactive exhibits allow visitors to step into the shoes of a spy, learning about the tools, technologies, and tactics used in covert operations. I’ve visited this museum a few times, and have found the artifacts fascinating. Let’s just say, some of what you see in the spy movies is true!

The museum also explores the role of espionage in shaping world history, from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War and beyond. 

washington dc tourism video

Washington Monument*

The Washington Monument stands as a symbol of the country and proudly pays tribute to the United States’ first president. Located on the National Mall, this iconic obelisk is one of D.C.’s most visited attractions, offering stunning views of the capital from its observation deck. 

Constructed from marble, granite, and sandstone, it is the world’s tallest obelisk and stands at a height of 555 feet. Visitors can explore the monument’s interior, which features exhibits detailing its construction as well as information on George Washington’s life. 

For those interested in catching a beautiful view of D.C.’s skyline, the Washington Monument is an ideal spot to take that perfect photo. 

Washington Monument in Spring

Smithsonian National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo, is a world-class attraction that welcomes millions of visitors each year. Housing over 2,700 animals across 390 different species, the zoo’s commitment to conservation, science, and education is evident in its vast range of exhibits. 

Notable inhabitants include giant pandas, African lions, and Asian elephants. The star attraction is undoubtedly the Giant Panda Habitat, where visitors can observe these beloved creatures in a setting designed to mimic their natural environment. 

The zoo also features a variety of interactive exhibits and educational programs for visitors of all ages. And like the rest of the Smithsonian locations, entrance is completely free! 

Cheetah at National Zoo

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial, dedicated to the third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, is another prominent landmark on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Designed in a style reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture, the memorial features a bronze statue of Jefferson, accompanied by inscriptions of passages from the Declaration of Independence and other notable speeches. 

Interestingly enough, there is also a small museum located at the bottom of the memorial that gives more context on his life and accomplishments.

The monument is located along the Tidal Basin, which includes a beautiful park, adorned with cherry blossom trees, that offers a serene ambiance, making it a popular spot among locals and tourists for contemplation and relaxation. 

Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days

FDR Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, is a tribute to America’s 32nd President and his legacy of courage, resilience, and hope. It tells the story of FDR’s life from his childhood through his presidency and features four outdoor galleries that represent each of FDR’s terms in office. 

The memorial features sculptures depicting key historical events, quotes from FDR’s speeches, and a contemplative waterfall that flows through the memorial. With its unique combination of artistry and history, the FDR Memorial allows you to reflect on President Roosevelt’s impact on society during his presidency, and also provides an opportunity to reflect on his legacy today.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a monument to the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate located on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The memorial features a 30-foot granite statue of Dr. King surrounded by quotes from his most famous speeches, such as: 

“I have a dream.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

In addition to the statue, visitors will find an inscription wall with more of his quotes and a reflecting pool with a circular stone wall etched with words from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. 

The memorial is a powerful reminder of the impact one person can have on a nation, and serves as a reminder of the need to continue the fight for justice today. 

MLK Memorial at Night

Lincoln Memorial*

Located on the western end of the National Mall in Washington D.C., the Lincoln Memorial is one of America’s most iconic monuments. The memorial was built to honor President Abraham Lincoln and features a 19-foot tall marble statue of the 16th president surrounded by 36 columns representing each state at the time of his death. 

There are inscriptions throughout the memorial, including the Gettysburg Address, and words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. In front of the monument is the reflecting pool, where visitors can take a moment to reflect on how far America has come in achieving freedom and equality for all since Lincoln’s time, as well as consider the work that still needs to be done. 

National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History is one of the Smithsonian Institution’s most visited museums, located on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from U.S. history including a full-size replica of the Star-Spangled Banner, clothing worn by first ladies throughout history, and memorabilia from historical events such as the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

Personally, the First Ladies Exhibit is one of my favorites! 

Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days

Visitors to the museum can experience what life was like in America throughout its history, and gain a greater appreciation for our country’s culture and heritage. 

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. is a Smithsonian Institution museum that collects and displays portraits of influential Americans from all eras. From presidents to actors, the museum is home to hundreds of portraits that tell stories about U.S. history and culture. 

The gallery also includes contemporary works, such as a commissioned portrait of Barack Obama taken by artist Kehinde Wiley. 

Visitors to the gallery can take in the inspiring stories of past leaders and innovators, while also gaining insight into how America has changed throughout its history. 

African Art Museum

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art is dedicated to the collection, conservation and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum houses a variety of artifacts ranging from sculptures to textiles, with pieces from countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana on display. 

Here you can explore the vibrant culture and history of Africa through the museum’s diverse collections, while also gaining a greater understanding of the continent’s influence on the world. Additionally, special programs and events are held throughout the year that provide unique learning opportunities for all ages. 

Book your DC Trolley Tour Now!

After heading back to your hotel to recover after an active day exploring the city, I recommend going to a centrally-located restaurant. If you like Mexican, Oyamel is my top recommendation. 

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana   is an acclaimed dining spot that is located centrally and offers a gastronomic exploration of Mexico’s diverse regional cuisines. Helmed by Chef José Andrés, Oyamel delivers a culinary experience that beautifully blends traditional recipes with contemporary techniques. 

The menu features a broad range of dishes, from antojitos (small bites) to hearty main courses, all of which showcase vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients. The atmosphere is lively and inviting, adorned with colorful butterfly decor that pays homage to the annual migration of monarch butterflies in Michoacán. 

Alongside the delectable food, Oyamel’s bar serves a variety of tequilas, mezcals, and meticulously crafted cocktails, ensuring a flavorful and memorable dining experience.

If you eat nothing else here – I highly, highly suggest you try the fish tacos. There are absolutely PERFECT! 

Fishh Taco from Oyamel

Day 2 | A Day at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846, is a renowned group of museums and research centers based in Washington D.C. Its origins can be traced back to James Smithson, a British scientist who left his estate to the United States with the intent to create an establishment for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”. Despite never having visited the U.S, his generous bequest laid the foundation for what would become a world-class institution. 

Over the years, the Smithsonian expanded to include 19 museums, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities, covering diverse fields such as natural history, art, space exploration, and American history and culture. 

Each museum has its unique origin story, tied to various historical events and initiatives. Today, the Smithsonian Museums continue to grow, documenting and disseminating knowledge, and educating millions of visitors each year.

On your second day in DC, I recommend choosing two of the below museums to pass the day at. Note, each has a good cafeteria, so you will be able to grab lunch while there.

MORNING/ AFTERNOON

National Museum of African American History

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., opened in September 2016 and has since become a significant monument in the American landscape. 

The museum is devoted to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. With a collection of over 36,000 artifacts, the NMAAHC offers a comprehensive exploration of the African American experience, touching upon themes of slavery, segregation, civil rights, and the contemporary era. 

In addition to its expansive exhibits, the museum holds educational workshops and community events, furthering its mission to help all Americans see how their stories, histories, and cultures are shaped and informed by global influences. 

In my opinion, this is the BEST museum in the city. It is honestly the first place I have visited that provides the true and honest story of black people in America. If you’d like to learn something that is not taught in history books or elsewhere, this is the place that you should go.

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Situated on the National Mall, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s largest natural history museums. Established in 1910, it has since become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. 

The museum houses collections from all over the world, containing specimens from every type of environment – terrestrial, aquatic, and even outer space. From its iconic dinosaur skeletons to the Hope Diamond, there is something for everyone at the National Museum of Natural History. 

You can explore permanent exhibitions such as Oceans and Animals, or take advantage of one-of-a-kind experiences like a live butterfly pavilion. By creating an atmosphere that is both educational and entertaining, the museum seeks to promote knowledge in natural history, inspiring visitors to explore and care for our planet. 

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​National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is a museum dedicated to the preservation and promotion of indigenous cultures from across the Americas. This Smithsonian Institute museum showcases exhibitions that explore Native American history, culture, and contemporary life. 

Here you can explore art galleries, take part in educational films and lectures, or participate in traditional Native activities such as pottery-making. With its expansive collections of artifacts and art, the museum strives to document and share the stories of Native Americans with all who visit.  

O Street Museum

I’ll caveat – this is not a Smithsonian Museum, but it offers a unique experience. The O Street Museum in Washington, DC is a hidden gem and a must-visit for art and exploration enthusiasts alike. This unique museum is known for its eclectic mix of art, architectural styles, and winding secret passages. With over 100 rooms and 70 secret doors spread across five interconnected townhouses, it offers a truly distinctive experience. And in addition, it is a fully functional hotel as well!

The museum’s collections span various forms of artistic expression, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and music. Additionally, the O Street Museum is deeply committed to promoting creativity, innovation, and the preservation of artists’ rights. Whether you’re an art connoisseur, a treasure hunt enthusiast, or simply curious about the unusual, the O Street Museum provides an immersive, unforgettable experience.

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Day 3 | Explore Iconic DC Neighborhoods

On your third day in DC, I recommend going for a neighborhood walk in one of the city’s many unique neighborhoods. I recommend trying one or two of the following neighborhoods. Each neighborhood presents a distinctive slice of what makes Washington D.C. such an engaging and diverse city to explore.

Georgetown, Washington D.C.’s oldest neighborhood, is a charming and historic area known for its cobblestone streets, federalist architecture, and bustling waterfront. Its roots stretch back to the 18th century, well before the establishment of the District of Columbia. Today, Georgetown is a vibrant community with a rich history, boasting a wide array of shopping districts, eateries, and scenic views.

Locations to visit: 

  • Georgetown Waterfront Park:  This beautifully designed park, stretching along the Potomac River, offers stunning views, picnic spots, and a well-paved path for walking, jogging, or cycling. It is a perfect place to relax, enjoy outdoor activities, or witness the sunset over the river.
  • Georgetown University:  A visit to Georgetown would be incomplete without touring its namesake university, renowned for its stunning Gothic architecture and beautifully manicured grounds. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the Healy tower for a panoramic view of the city.
  • Dumbarton Oaks:  This historic estate in the heart of Georgetown houses an impressive collection of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, as well as an extensive library. The beautifully landscaped gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand, are a haven of tranquility, offering a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Hidden Gem:  The Exorcist Stairs : These stairs are best known for being featured in the infamous movie.  

Navy Yard, primarily known for being home to the Washington Nationals Stadium, is a lively and burgeoning neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C. With a rich naval history dating back to the 19th century, it is now a hotspot for modern living, dining, and recreational activities.

Sites to check out: 

  • Nationals Park : This baseball park is the beating heart of the neighborhood, home to Washington D.C.’s Major League Baseball team, the Nationals. It offers a fantastic sporting atmosphere and is surrounded by a myriad of eateries and bars. If you are visiting during baseball season, I recommend checking out a game stadium is pretty new and the games are a lot of fun – even if baseball really isn’t your thing (like me).
  • Yards Park:  Situated by the Anacostia River, this beautifully designed park includes a waterfront boardwalk, a breezy green space for picnics, and a dancing fountain, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and outdoor activities. In the warmer months you can catch a variety of activities such as local festivals and summer movies. 
  • The Yards Marina : A modern and well-equipped marina with a community boathouse, offering boating opportunities to residents and tourists alike. Its vicinity to several dining and shopping outlets make it a must-visit location in Navy Yard. I love just going for a walk down the marina and in front of the actual Naval Yard itself. It’s a beautiful place for a stroll when the weather outside is nice. 

Hidden Gem:  This is a restaurant, but  La Famosa  in Navy Yard is one of my all-time favorites. It is a locally-based Puerto Rican restaurant that is pretty casual in style. I recommend trying the Canoa de Platano if you visit. It’s delicious! 

National's Park in DC

The Wharf is a vibrant and thriving neighborhood, located on the Southwest Waterfront of Washington, D.C. It’s one of the city’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods and has an upscale vibe to it. Its stunning views, waterfront dining, and diverse entertainment options make it a popular destination for residents and tourists alike.

While there you should check out: 

  • The Anthem : A centerpiece of The Wharf, The Anthem is a state-of-the-art music venue that hosts performances from world-renowned artists. Its intimate setting and top-notch acoustics provide a concert experience like no other.
  • District Wharf:  Stretching along the Potomac River, District Wharf boasts a variety of stores, restaurants, and outdoor spaces. Whether you’re shopping for unique gifts, enjoying a meal with a view, or simply taking a scenic stroll, there’s something for everyone here.
  • The Municipal Fish Market:  As the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States, the Municipal Fish Market offers a truly unique culinary experience. Visitors can purchase a variety of fresh seafood, or enjoy prepared dishes at one of the market’s food stalls.

Hidden Gem – 7th Street Park : This park comes complete with walking trails and picnic-friendly plots. It also has interactive fountains with multi-color lighting. 

Day 4 | Excursion to Mount Vernon

Morning / afternoon.

On your fourth day in DC, I recommend taking a short excursion outside of the city to Mt. Vernon. ​Home of George Washington, America’s first president, it is a must-see destination for any DC visitor. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, the estate offers an exciting and educational experience for all ages.

Mount Vernon Mansion

On the site you can expect to see the following sites: 

  • The Mansion : A tour of George Washington’s iconic mansion provides an in-depth look into his life as a statesman, soldier, and planter. Visitors can explore the interior of the house, gardens, and grounds.
  • The Pioneer Farm:  Take a step back in time with a visit to Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm. Interact with costumed interpreters as they demonstrate 18th century farm work such as blacksmithing, carpentry, and spinning wool. This farm was completely run by Washington’s slaves, and was honestly the site where I truly understood what slavery meant to the wealthy. It’s a sobering look on what it took to make the rich live in luxury while the on site slaves suffered on a daily basis. 
  • Distillery & Gristmill:  Tour the fully functioning, award-winning distillery and gristmill that George Washington founded in 1797. This educational experience highlights the importance of whiskey and flour production during his time. 
  • The Tombs : In this unique exhibit, you can explore the final resting place for George and Martha Washington as well as other family members. The tombs offer an enlightening look into the reverence and respect George Washington received after his death. 
  • The Museum & Education Center : The museum features interactive displays and unique artifacts to explore Washington’s life before, during, and after the American Revolution. Plus, visitors can learn more about his legacy through the center’s educational programs. 

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Spend your final evening eating at a nice restaurant. If you are open to a true international experience, I recommend eating at El Secreto de Rosita . Tucked away near U. Street, El Secreto de Rosita offers an authentic culinary journey through the vibrant flavors of Latin American cuisine. This cozy, intimate restaurant embodies the warm hospitality of Latin culture, providing an atmosphere that feels like a home away from home. 

Dinner at El Secreto de Rosita

The menu showcases a range of traditional dishes, each bursting with rich and robust flavors that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. From the perfectly seasoned ceviche to the tender, melt-in-your-mouth carnitas, every dish is a testament to the culinary traditions of Latin America. As the perfect finale to your day of sightseeing, El Secreto de Rosita promises a dining experience that is as memorable as it is delectable.

Washington, DC City Map

All of the locations mentioned above can be found in the map below:

The Best Tours of Washington, DC

Here are some of the best tours you may want to check out in DC:

  • DC Monuments and Memorials at Night : See all of DC’s most popular monuments at night and learn why the nation’s capital is considered one of the world’s most beautiful to see at night.
  • Best of DC Plus US Capitol and National Archives Reserved Entry : See famous landmarks like the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and more. Enjoy reserved and priority entry into the both the US Capitol building and the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are on display.
  • African American History Tour with Museum Admission : Add to your experience of visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture by learning more about the first Afro-Americans in the country. Visit sites like the Frederick Douglass National Historic site, the U Street corridor, the MLK Memorial, and more.

Day Trips from Washington, DC

There are many options for day trips from Washington, DC. Some of these include:

  • Baltimore, Maryland:  Just an hour north of DC, Baltimore offers a rich maritime history. Explore the Inner Harbor, visit the National Aquarium, or tour the historic USS Constellation.
  • Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  A 90-minute drive will take you to the site of one of the most significant battles in American history. Tour the battlefield, visit the National Military Park, and explore the charming town of Gettysburg.
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:  Located just 75 miles from the capital, it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. You can hike, camp, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Annapolis, Maryland:  This quaint city is the capital of Maryland and home to the U.S. Naval Academy. Stroll around the historic downtown and enjoy seafood on the waterfront.
  • Harpers Ferry, West Virginia:  This historic town, located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, offers a wealth of American history and beautiful scenery. You can hike, visit historic sites, and explore the charming town center.

If you are open to being on the road for a bit more time, a day trip to NY C is also a possibility, if you are a true road warrior.

Getting to Washington, DC

Getting to dc via plane.

Reaching Washington, DC is a smooth and efficient process, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. For travelers journeying from far-off locations, the city is serviced by three major airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). All these airports offer numerous domestic and international flights. 

Getting to DC via Train

Alternatively, if you prefer a scenic route, Amtrak provides convenient train services to Union Station, a historic and architectural landmark. The station is centrally located, providing easy access to various sights and attractions. 

Driving to DC

Lastly, if you’re considering a road trip, Washington, DC is well-connected by the interstate highway system, which includes I-95, I-66, I-395, and I-495, among others. These highways provide extensive coverage and easy accessibility to the city for motorists.

Getting Around Washington, DC

Navigating around Washington, DC, is remarkably straightforward, thanks to the city’s diverse range of public and private transportation options.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the Metrorail and Metrobus networks, providing extensive coverage across the city and surrounding suburbs. Additionally, the DC Circulator bus offers a convenient and affordable way to reach the city’s most popular monuments and museums

For a more personal mode of transport, taxis, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, and bike-sharing programs are plentiful.

If you prefer to explore on foot, the city’s grid layout and numerous pedestrian-friendly pathways make walking an appealing choice. Lastly, for those who wish to drive, car rentals are widely available, though be mindful of the city’s often busy traffic and parking limitations.

Where to Stay in Washington, DC

Washington, DC offers a variety of accommodations perfect for any traveler. For those who prefer hotels, there are plenty of options right in the city center, ranging from budget-friendly to luxuriously upscale. Plus, many offer views of iconic monuments and landmarks like the Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial. 

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Downtown DC Hotel recommendation

Citizenm hotel.

This hotel bills itself as “luxury without the capital prices”. It is located just a short walk from downtown and the Smithsonian museums. It features a colorful motif and a cozy environment. There is a hot and cold breakfast buffet and everything in the room is controlled by in-room iPad or the citizenM app.

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navy yard Hotel recommendation

Thompson hotel dc.

If you are into sports, this hotel is just a short 8 minute walk from the Nationals Park and about a 20 minute walk from Audi Stadium, where the local soccer team plays. As this hotel is located in the trendy Navy Yard neighborhood, there are plenty of options for delicious restaurants and local festivals as well.

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dupont circle Hotel recommendation

This boutique hotel in Dupont circle presents a classic and clean style. All the rooms are decorated in neutral colors with a touch of Art Deco-style decor. As this hotel is located in Dupont Circle, you will get a chance to spend time among DC’s most historic homes and buildings. This neighborhood also has plenty of unique shops and excellent restaurants and bars.

Where to Eat in Washington, DC

The restaurant scene in Washington, DC is as diverse and vibrant as the city itself. Whether you’re searching for traditional American comfort food, international cuisines, or gourmet dining experiences, the city has you covered.

Foodies will appreciate the range of eateries, from Michelin-starred establishments and innovative fusion restaurants to food trucks and vibrant farmers’ markets. While the local food scene is not as distinct as cities like New Orleans , DC’s food culture is a testament to its multicultural heritage, boasting a variety of flavors from around the world.

I have SO many go-to spots, but below are a few of my favorites. You won’t be able to get to all of these with just 4 days in Washington, DC, but try to see how many you can check out!

Quick (Local) Bites

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl is an iconic food institution located in the heart of Washington, DC. For more than six decades, this family-run restaurant has been serving up its famous chili and half-smoke sausages to locals and visitors alike. The atmosphere is lively and welcoming, filled with the tantalizing aroma of its signature dishes. Stepping into Ben’s Chili Bowl is like taking a journey into the city’s rich history, as the restaurant has remained a consistent symbol of community and resilience through times of change. 

Good Stuff Eatery

Good Stuff Eatery, located in the heart of Capitol Hill, is a favorite among Washington, DC locals for its gourmet burgers and shakes. Founded by Spike Mendelsohn, a former contestant on Top Chef, this eatery is known for its farm-fresh ingredients and creative twist on American classics. The menu features a variety of mouthwatering burgers, from the classic ‘Prez Obama’ Burger to the vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger’ (my personal fave!).

 The hand-cut fries and hand-spun shakes are not to be missed either (the s’more shake is what brought me here!). Good Stuff Eatery not only offers delicious food but also a vibrant and friendly atmosphere.

Good Stuff has a location in both Georgetown and Capitol Hill.

Cava Mezze Grill 

Cava Mezze Grill is a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant. This bright and airy spot serves up delicious, healthful fare with a modern twist. From their famous hummus to the grilled chicken pita wraps and falafel bowls, Cava’s fresh ingredients provide an explosion of flavor in every bite. For those looking to indulge, try the tzatziki fries – a unique take on classic french fries. Cava offers an array of sides, salads, and spreads that can be enjoyed alone or shared in addition to your meal. 

Union Market

Stroll the aisles of this bustling indoor market, where you’ll find a variety of locally-sourced produce, meats, cheese, artisanal products, and more. This vibrant venue also hosts over 35 vendors offering an array of international cuisines – from Korean barbecue to fresh Italian pastas. With all of the options, you can easily spend an entire day exploring this amazing marketplace. Enjoy some shopping and sit down for a bite to eat at one of the many eateries in Union Market – it’s an experience not to be missed while in DC!

Vendors in Union Market

Formal Restaurants

Founding Farmers

Founding Farmers in DC is a renowned dining destination, embodying the spirit of farm-to-table philosophy. As the name suggests, this restaurant takes immense pride in sourcing its ingredients from a network of family farms across the country, ensuring fresh and high-quality produce in every dish. With a menu that celebrates the diversity of American cuisine, Founding Farmers offers a culinary experience that is both delicious and sustainable. 

This restaurant is located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. 

dLeña

This restaurant has billed itself as providing a “modern approach on classic Mexican fare”. The food here is exceptional and the vibes are just right. If you visit this restaurant, I recommend eating in the basement, which is just so cozy. Also, on Wednesday nights, you can catch live music here too!

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This modern Middle Eastern restaurant is a must-visit for anyone looking to add some cultural flavor to their trip. The menu offers traditional dishes, like mezze platters and pita sandwiches, as well as inventive creations sure to tantalize the taste buds. 

The restaurant is located in the Navy Yard neighborhood.

This Mediterranean mezze restaurant is a favorite of DC locals. It serves up an array of Greek, Middle Eastern, and Turkish dishes made with fresh ingredients. From small plates like dolmades and falafel to larger entrees like signature meats or wood-grilled fish, Zaytinya offers something for everyone. 

The restaurant is located in the Gallery Place / Chinatown neighborhood.

For a classic tapas experience, look no further than Jaleo. The restaurant features traditional Spanish dishes like paellas and patatas bravas, as well as more innovative creations such as the signature crispy potato “bomba” with alioli.No visit to DC is complete without experiencing the city’s renowned food culture.

Chloe 

Chloe, located in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington DC, epitomizes culinary craftsmanship and innovation. This contemporary eatery brings together flavors from around the world, creating a unique fusion that is both exciting and palate-pleasing. Chef Haidar Karoum’s extensive travels are reflected in the diverse menu which features seasonal ingredients, ensuring that every dish is fresh and flavorful. 

Chicken Dinner from Chloe in DC

Rasika  

This modern Indian restaurant offers a unique take on traditional flavors. The menu includes favorites like tandoori chicken and curries, as well as innovative dishes such as the lobster korma or black cod served with tamarind glaze. 

When to Go to Washington, DC

Washington, DC is a great place to visit year-round. The city’s mild climate makes it easy to explore in any season. But if you are looking for the best time to go, October and April usually offer the most pleasant temperatures, with highs in the mid 70s Fahrenheit. Spring and fall bring some of Washington’s most beautiful blooms. This is the time I typically spend the most times outdoors, myself.

Summer is hot and humid in the city, so it’s best avoided. Winter months are cold but not too extreme and ideal for outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing. No matter when you decide to visit, DC offers plenty of exciting attractions and events throughout the year. 

Washington, DC Itinerary 4 Days

For those looking to experience some of the city’s most iconic sights, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a must-see. Held from late March to mid-April, the festival celebrates the blooming of DC’s world-famous cherry trees with a range of events and activities for all ages. 

Also, the annual DC Jazz Fest takes place over two weekends in late June, offering music fans an opportunity to enjoy jazz performances by local and international artists. 

FAQs on Visiting Washington, DC

Yes, Washington, DC is a highly walkable city with a layout that is easy to navigate. Many of the major landmarks, museums, and attractions are located near each other, making it possible to explore the city on foot. Additionally, the city has numerous parks and trails, providing a pleasant walking experience.

Definitely, Washington DC tours are worth it, especially for first-time visitors. They provide a structured and informative way to explore the city’s rich history and iconic landmarks. Besides, many tours offer unique perspectives or access to areas that you might miss if you were exploring on your own.

Typically, a three to four-day trip is sufficient to visit Washington, DC. This allows enough time to explore major attractions such as the National Mall, the Smithsonian Museums, and the U.S. Capitol. However, if you want to visit more museums or take day trips to nearby areas, you might want to plan for a longer stay.

The best area to stay in Washington, DC depends on your interests. Downtown DC is a great choice if you want to be near major attractions like the National Mall. Dupont Circle is known for its vibrant nightlife and dining scene, while Georgetown offers historic charm and upscale shopping.

The best time to visit Washington, DC is during the spring (March to June) or the fall (September to November). These seasons offer mild weather and beautiful natural scenery. Particularly, late March to mid-April is a fantastic time to witness the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

In Summary | Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days

That wraps this 4 day Itinerary of Washington, DC. As I hope you can tell, a trip to Washington, DC promises an enriching blend of history, culture, and nature. 

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or a foodie, the city has something to offer everyone. With its multitude of iconic landmarks, vibrant neighborhoods, and diverse culinary scene, Washington, DC stands as a city not just to visit, but to experience. 

Remember, the best times to visit are spring and fall, and staying in areas that align with your interests will greatly enhance your trip. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the heart of the United States.

Looking for More US City Guides?

  • 4 Days in New York City
  • 2 Days in New Orleans
  • The Best US Cities to Visit
  • Historical Sites in New Orleans
  • Virtual Washington, DC Travel Guide

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Christen Thomas is the founder of TravelWanderGrow, established in 2018. She has lived abroad and traveled extensively to over 30 countries. In addition, she is a certified Travel Advisor and is an expert in planning trips focused on city history and culture. As a frequent traveler, she also shares tips on how to prepare to travel well and how to save money while doing so.

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Washington, D.C.   Travel Guide

Courtesy of Kevin Voelker Photography | Getty Images

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31 Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

Many of Washington, D.C.'s main attractions relate to its principal enterprise: politics. These include the  White House and the U.S. Capitol , of course, as well as monuments and historic sites dedicated to notable historical figures. The capital

  • All Things To Do
  • 1-Day Itinerary
  • 2-Day Itinerary
  • 3-Day Itinerary

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The Tidal Basin The Tidal Basin free

If you've never been to Washington, D.C. before, plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, an approximately 107-acre pond encircled by a 2.1-mile loop trail. Constructed to use the strong tides of the Potomac River to clear silt from the Washington Channel and to maintain steady water levels in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pools , it now also serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.'s best-loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin bursts with color as cherry blossom trees (gifted to the city from Tokyo ) bloom into cotton candy-colored tufts, and they attract hordes of visitors. The cherry blossoms typically hit peak bloom (defined as when 70% of the cherry blossoms are open) in March or April. The National Park Service website makes "bloom watch" updates on its website , where you can check the progress of the trees and see when peak bloom is expected for the year. You can follow the path that leads around the basin, but recent visitors recommended testing the waters in a paddleboat. Paddleboats are available to rent from spring until fall for $28 to $40 per hour (depending on the day) for a four-passenger boat. You can pick up a paddle boat on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from the boat dock near Maine Avenue.

Even if you don't make it to town for the cherry blossoms, you won't want to miss the three major memorials that can be found along the Tidal Basin's shores: the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial . A memorial to Virginia Declaration of Rights author George Mason, also stands nearby.

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The White House and the Washington Monument The White House and the Washington Monument free

Even if you're only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marble symbols of the U.S. – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor.

Standing just shy of 555 ½ feet, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world at its completion in 1884. Nowadays, you can ride one of the monument's glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city, which invariably impress visitors. You can explore the attraction's exterior for free 24 hours a day, but National Park Service rangers are only available from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to answer questions. The monument itself is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free timed-entry tickets can be reserved up to 30 days in advance via Recreation.gov . (There is a $1 nonrefundable service charge for each ticket.) Some same-day tickets are distributed daily on a first-come, first served basis. The ticket window opens at 8:45 a.m.; be prepared for a line. The Smithsonian Metro stop is closest to the monument. Visit the National Park Service's Washington Monument page for more information.

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Lincoln Memorial Lincoln Memorial free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  The best time to see this monument is after dark when it's illuminated. You'll still contend with crowds, but it will be worth it. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy reading Lincoln's  two famous speeches – the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address – which are both etched into the memorial's north and south walls, respectively. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.

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World War II Memorial World War II Memorial free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  While it's pretty during the day, the memorial is incomparable at night. Visit after sunset. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to the 16 million American military members who served during World War II, including the thousands of individuals who lost their lives during the fight. A circle of 56 columns (representing the U.S. states and territories from the era) looks over the Rainbow Pool. At night, with lights shining, this memorial can be quite ethereal. The structure also has a wall of more than 4,000 gold stars – one for every 100 Americans who died in the conflict.

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National Mall (The Mall) National Mall (The Mall) free

Stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol Building , the National Mall is a tree- and museum-lined grassy expanse that becomes the focal point of many tourists' DC sightseeing. And although it might look like an easy jaunt from one end to the other, from tip to tip it's about a 2.5-mile venture, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring some water. There are several different walking paths along the mall to choose from and you can stop and admire various monuments and memorials along the way, including the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. Many visitors find the National Mall a fantastic spot for kids to run around on the grass or for a picnic lunch (whether you bring supplies with you or grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks that line up on Constitution Avenue, 17th Street and 14th Street).

Recent travelers say the National Mall – either toured by day and popping in museums and around memorials or toured by night and enjoying the sights by moonlight – is a quintessential DC experience. Many say the park rangers on-site to answer questions and direct visitors are very friendly and helpful as well.

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Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials free

One of the most moving war memorials, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – or "the Wall," as it's commonly referred to – is a long black granite wall with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who perished during the Vietnam War emblazoned on its surface. Recent travelers said their visits to the site were heartbreaking but thought-provoking and powerful, adding that even the toughest of individuals will find it hard to not become emotional while reading the wall's names. If you're looking for a specific person, keep in mind that the soldiers' names are ordered by the date they died, not alphabetically. Also, reviewers recommend using the attraction's name books and visiting during the day when there's ample sunlight.

When you're wandering along the eastern side of the Mall, venture to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Paying tribute to the 1.5 million who served in "The Forgotten War," this privately funded site contains 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers in combat. In a triangular area known as the Field of Service, soldier statues march toward an American flag. Next to the soldiers is a 164-foot-long granite wall that pays homage to the unnamed troops that fought in the Korean War. Another highlight of the memorial is the Pool of Remembrance, a tranquil place for reflection. However, some past travelers cautioned that the memorial lacks signage, so younger visitors may not understand as much as those who lived through the war.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial free

Located on the northwest rim of the Tidal Basin , this 30-foot granite memorial pays homage to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everything from its address at 1964 Independence Ave. (a reference to the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress) to its design (which shows King emerging from a "mountain of despair," a reference to his "I Have a Dream" speech) are meant to reflect King's significant contribution to American history. What's more, this towering sculpture opened to the public in 2011, making it one of the newest memorials to open in the District. It is also the National Mall's first memorial dedicated to an African American.

Previous visitors raved about this memorial, adding that its powerful symbolism and beautiful design will give you chills. Plus, the sculpture's proximity to other memorials and monuments like the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial make it convenient to reach. However, some reviewers wished there was more information on King's life, legacy and commitment to nonviolence around the statue.

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum free

Note: Beginning in 2018, the museum embarked on an ambitious, multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to renovate and reimagine all of its exhibits and put 1,400 new objects on display. It's reopening galleries in stages, but the IMAX theater is closed. Check the website to see what's on display before you go.

Attracting millions of people each year, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum contains a trove of celebrated aircraft, including Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B, the Apollo 11 Command Module, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Wilbur and Orville Wright's 1903 Wright Flyer, among others. Exhibits include flight simulators, an IMAX theater and the Einstein Planetarium. And parents beware: The gift shop is huge, so get ready for pleas from your kids. 

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Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture free

U.S. News Insider Tip: When hunger strikes, don't miss the Southern comfort offerings at Sweet Home Cafe, including fried chicken, collard greens and fish po'boys. The food is surprisingly delicious for a museum eatery. – Nicola Wood, Senior Editor

Designed to replicate the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art from West Africa, with bronze-colored latticework accents that honor the ironwork of enslaved African Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture opened on the National Mall in 2016. More than 40,000 artifacts are displayed inside, including photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, boxing headgear and a robe used by Muhammad Ali, and a fedora once worn by Michael Jackson. Themed guided tours are offered on select dates. Additionally, museumgoers can download the attraction's free mobile app for audio stories about some of the museum's exhibits.

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum United States Holocaust Memorial Museum free

You need to be in the right frame of mind to visit this sobering museum that focuses on the atrocities of the Holocaust. Through film footage, photographs and historical artifacts, it confronts subjects such as Hitler's rise to power, anti-Semitic propaganda and the horrors of the Final Solution. In addition to its permanent exhibition, "The Holocaust," the museum mounts several special exhibits. The facility also has a Hall of Witness, a three-story chamber beneath skylights; a Hall of Remembrance, a space with an eternal flame intended for individual reflection as well as public ceremonies; the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center; a library and a reading room.

Past travelers felt moved by this powerful museum but cautioned that its graphic collection is not ideal for younger children. (Indeed, the museum itself has age recommendations for its exhibits, signaling that some material may not be suitable for kids.) Many were especially impressed with its informative, thorough and respectful displays, adding that you can easily spend a few hours perusing its halls.

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National Gallery of Art National Gallery of Art free

U.S. News Insider Tip: There are two things you won't want to miss here: the rooftop terrace, which affords panoramic views of the city and a photo op with a giant blue rooster, and the only Leonardo da Vinci oil painting on permanent exhibition in the U.S. – Catriona Kendall, Associate Editor

If you're any kind of art connoisseur, you should make a stop at the National Gallery of Art. Composed of the East Building, which houses the gallery's more modern works (think: Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko), and the West Building, which contains the collection's older works (from Sandro Botticelli to Claude Monet), this museum has enough to fill an entire afternoon. Visitors often remark on the museum's large size and expansive collection. Pace yourself and maybe order a coffee, gelato or lunch at one of the gallery's five bars and cafes.

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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Even if you don't have time to catch a performance, head to the rooftop of the Kennedy Center to grab a drink and see an incredible sunset from the terrace. The on-site REACH art gallery and sculpture garden (free) are also fun to wander around. – Erin Evans

Many travelers highly recommend a visit to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, built and named for America's beloved Camelot president. The Kennedy Center houses the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera and hosts numerous other dance, theater and musical performances throughout the year. Although ticket prices can run a bit high, you can take in a performance for free on the Millennium Stage. The Kennedy Center debuted a new permanent exhibit in 2022: Visitors can explore the free "Art and Ideals: President John F. Kennedy" immersive exhibit to learn about the relationship between Kennedy's presidency and the arts. The facility also includes the REACH, an indoor/outdoor complex comprising an art gallery, sculpture garden, classrooms and studios, lecture halls, a video wall and more interactive spaces.

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History free

With a collection of more than 147 million items, this robust Smithsonian museum on the National Mall attracts millions of visitors each year. Some of the museum's highlights include replicas of giant whales and other marine life in the Sant Ocean Hall. There's also a 2,000-pound, 52-foot model of a mega-tooth shark suspended above a dining area. In addition, you can venture to the Butterfly Pavilion for some fluttery fun with multicolored bugs. No stop at this museum would be complete without stopping by the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – "Deep Time" exhibit features approximately 700 specimens, including Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops dinosaurs. Other permanent exhibits explore human evolution, ancient Egypt and geology, among other topics.

Although this museum is especially appealing to families, past visitors said there's something for everyone here. However, the property can get quite crowded on weekends, holidays and during the busy summer season, so consider arriving on a weekday or in the offseason to avoid crowds. Recent museumgoers also suggested saving some time for the Hope Diamond, which is on display in the geology exhibit.

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Washington National Cathedral Washington National Cathedral

U.S. News Insider Tip: Opt for a tour instead of exploring on your own, especially if you want to spot some of the cathedral's weirder gargoyles (like the famous Darth Vader). – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Construction first began on this massive cathedral – the sixth largest in the world – in 1907, but it wasn't actually completed until 1990. (Though work on the building continues, including extensive and ongoing repairs after an earthquake damaged the structure in 2011.) Designed in the Gothic style, the Washington National Cathedral sits surrounded by gardens, creating a pleasant atmosphere for visitors. Take a stroll around the cathedral and peer at its high vaults and flying buttresses, keeping a close eye out for gargoyles (there's one of Darth Vader!). Step inside to admire the building's intricate stained-glass windows.

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Arlington National Cemetery Arlington National Cemetery free

Arlington National Cemetery sits in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The cemetery spans about 1 square mile and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their families. Visitors should be sure to spend some time viewing the Memorial Amphitheater, the John F. Kennedy Gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Additionally, finding the grave of a notable veteran, family member or friend proves to be a powerful experience, according to visitors. The cemetery also has a downloadable app available to help you pinpoint the location of a grave.

Previous travelers appreciate the trolley tour from Arlington National Cemetery Tours, but they warn that the excursion is a bit pricey at $19.50 for adults, $10.75 for children ages 4 to 12 and $15 for seniors ages 65 and older. (There are discounted prices for service members, veterans and their families.)

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Planet Word Planet Word

The world's first voice-activated museum, Planet Word strives to provide an immersive language experience through multiple exhibits and interactive galleries. Its word-centric exhibits span three floors and explore such topics as how people learn to speak, words’ origins, the world’s diversity of languages, famous speeches (which visitors can recreate using teleprompters), songs (which you can deliver karaoke style), jokes and how advertising uses language to persuade consumers. It also has a library, of course, as well as recording booths for listening to others reflect on the power of words and for preserving your story. Its Lexicon Lane contains multiple "puzzle cases" with themed word puzzles that can be solved using various clues deposited around the room. The museum, which opened in 2020, also has a restaurant and a gift shop.

Visitors frequently enthuse about this museum with adjectives like "clever," "creative," "fascinating" and "innovative." Many say its well-executed interactive activities make it an especially engaging place for families. Plan on spending at least a couple hours here.

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U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress free

Arguably the most magnificent building in Washington, the U.S. Capitol is where visitors go to witness politics in action. Inside, members of both houses of Congress debate and create national policy and law, while visitors explore the building's north and south wings and circular centerpiece: the Rotunda. This iconic hall houses paintings, frescoes and sculptures depicting famous scenes from American history, not to mention an iconic cast-iron dome added to the structure in 1868. Though some travelers express mixed reviews on whether the U.S. Capitol warrants the time and effort spent (both making reservations and going on the actual tour), most agree the site is well worth a visit.

If you're not that stoked about exploring the building's innards, consider taking a stroll outside of the building. It's located on the National Mall nearby the U.S. Botanic Garden and the National Air and Space Museum . The easiest way to reach the Capitol is via the Metro to the Capitol South or Federal Center SW stops (both on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines) or the Union Station stop (on the Red Line). Additionally, there are bike racks outside the Capital Visitor Center and Capital Bikeshare stations nearby. For more information, check out the official U.S. Capitol Visitor Center website .

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National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  For an exhilarating night out after a day at the museums, check out the nearby ax throwing bar Kraken Axes. Then, when you work up an appetite, one of the best places to eat in Chinatown is Reren Lamen & Bar. – Catriona Kendall, Associate Editor

The National Portrait Gallery most notably houses images of every previous president, allowing visitors to reminisce about each political figure as they progress through the hall of portraits. The presidential portraits aren't alone, though, as the National Portrait Gallery also houses artistic renderings of notable American citizens ranging from sports figures to civil rights leaders. Moreover, the National Portrait Gallery only takes up half of the building and shares the space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This museum showcases rotating exhibits, which have previously exposed visitors to work created in response to the Vietnam War, glasswork, native women artists and more. The Smithsonian American Art Museum also operates a separate branch, the Renwick Gallery, devoted to contemporary craft and decorative arts.

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Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute free

More than 1,800 animals reside at the Smithsonian's 163-acre National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, from Asian elephants to cheetahs to sea lions. Look up every now and then as you stroll beneath the Orangutan Transport System (called the O Line): You may spot orangutans swinging along cables between steel towers. Or, if you're more intrigued by animals native to South America, head over to the Amazonia exhibit, home to creatures like titi monkeys and multiple frog species. The Great Cats exhibit features Sumatran tigers and African lions, among other feline predators. The zoo also has a playground and other attractions geared toward kids. If you time your visit for the holidays, swing by the zoo after dark for its ZooLights exhibition, when animal lanterns and lights bedazzle the park.

Recent visitors praised the zoo's pleasant surroundings and broad selection of species. Others warn future travelers to temper expectations: It's popular during the spring and summer seasons and there are long lines for (somewhat overpriced) food. Though some said the zoo could be more exciting and have a broader array of animals, keep in mind the more than 360 species are free to visit.

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Union Market Union Market free

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you're visiting with a group of people, buy a few different dishes from the various stalls and enjoy a little self-guided food tour of the market's best offerings. – Erin Evans

A massive food hall and gathering place for locals and tourists alike, Union Market is a fun place to spend a morning, afternoon or evening. Anchoring the Union Market District in Northeast D.C., the warehouse-style building features a plethora of food stalls, restaurants, bars and shops. The building originally opened to the public as the Union Terminal Market in 1931 and has transformed over the years to become the bustling hub of food, drink and socializing it is today. Dining options include coffee bars, Korean-Mexican fusion food stalls, specialty charcuterie and cheese shops, chocolatiers, pizzerias, doughnut spots and more. There are several upscale restaurants nearby as well, such as St. Anselm and Masseria.

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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery free

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery combine to comprise the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. Opened in 1923, the Freer Gallery showcases American paintings from the late 19th century aesthetic movement, plus art from China, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The Sackler Gallery opened in 1987 in the adjacent building, and it displays Thai earthenware, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine, Iranian artifacts and a host of rotating exhibits.

Past visitors particularly appreciated the Peacock Room, a gilded blue and gold room filled with frescoes of peacocks and pottery. The Sackler Gallery's underground exhibits also serve as a boon for sweltering tourists during the District’s hot summer months, which delighted recent travelers. The general consensus is that there are some remarkable works of art here.

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Rock Creek Park Rock Creek Park free

A large urban park extending from the Washington, D.C.-Maryland border to the Potomac River, Rock Creek Park is a destination for an expansive array of outdoor activities. It has more than 32 miles of hiking trails and 13 miles of horseback riding trails while bicyclists can use its paved trails and roads. It has a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts. Fishing and paddleboating on the Potomac River are additional options. The park also boasts plenty of built things to see, such as scenic bridges, fountains and statues.

In addition to its more than 1,750 acres of outdoor space, the park encompasses multiple noteworthy structures. The Nature Center features a book- and game-filled children's Discovery Room, displays of live turtles and snakes and an observation deck. It provides hiking information and serves as the starting point of the half-mile Woodland Trail. The Peirce Mill operated as a grist mill from 1829 to 1897, making the historical building the last one of its kind in the area. The Old Stone House, constructed around 1766, ranks as the oldest building on its original foundation in Washington D.C. Its former kitchen contains historical exhibits.

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National Archives Museum National Archives Museum free

If you love history, you'll enjoy visiting this museum. A treasure trove of the United States' founding documents, the National Archives Museum is high on travelers' to-do lists and almost always has long entrance lines. But once you do get inside, you'll see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Other interactive and kid-friendly exhibits fill the museum, which is located off the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station on the Green and Yellow lines. Conveniently, the museum is also a popular stop on many of the city's best bus tours .

Though the museum welcomes visitors every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., visitors are not permitted to enter after 5 p.m. A gift shop, cafe and restrooms are on-site. 

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9:30 Club 9:30 Club

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you're attending a concert at this venue, plan to arrive early, as the line can stretch around the block for popular artists. And if possible, avoid using the coat check (unless you want to be stuck waiting in line for hours after the show).  – Alissa Grisler, Associate Editor

The 9:30 Club has often been heralded as one of the best live music venues in America. The iconic club began earning its accolades around the time it opened in 1980, though, and has hosted groups like Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fugazi and Public Enemy, among others. While the 9:30 Club relocated and expanded over time, the club is still small enough to feel intimate. Its location near the bustling U Street corridor means that travelers will have no shortage of options for a pre-show dinner or a post-show drink (the staple Ben's Chili Bowl is just a few blocks away). Alternatively, the 9:30 Club offers a small menu of quesadillas, nachos and tacos if you want to eat there.

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Nationals Park Nationals Park

Nationals Park is home to the Washington Nationals, the city's Major League Baseball team. The stadium opened in March 2008; it's located in the popular Navy Yard neighborhood and seats 40,000-plus fans. Nats Park welcomes visitors and locals to see the games typically from March through October, so check the schedule to see if they're in town when you're visiting the city and buy tickets for a fun-filled afternoon or evening of baseball. There's not a bad seat in the stadium and there are plenty of concession options, including barbecue, tacos, sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, beer, cocktails and an outpost of the DC-famous Ben's Chili Bowl.

If the team isn't in town when you are, you can still check out the stadium on a two-hour tour (for $25). Tours are available on non-game days at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1 and 2:30 p.m. and take travelers to see the media box, the dugout, the bullpen and the visiting team's locker room.

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United States Botanic Garden United States Botanic Garden free

Billed as a "living plant museum," the United States Botanic Garden features dozens of intriguing plants and flowers across its indoor conservatory and outdoor gardens. Colorful orchids, roses, irises and lilies, and rare and exotic plants are just a few examples of what you can see on a visit here. The area includes a conservatory, outdoor gardens and the Bartholdi Fountain and Gardens; there are pathways to walk through each of the sections to enjoy a self-guided tour of the flora. A fun fact to note: The garden was established in 1820 and it is the oldest continually operating public garden in the U.S.

Travelers say this is a lovely spot to wander through and see beautiful flowers and plants. Many say the orchid room (with 5,000-some orchids) is a showstopper and must-visit part of the garden.

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National Building Museum National Building Museum

U.S. News Insider Tip:  The permanent exhibits are a bit technical, but special exhibits are accessible (and often hands-on!) for everyone, regardless of their knowledge of architecture. – Marisa Méndez, Senior Editor

Washington boasts countless examples of iconic architecture, but the National Building Museum fittingly stands out from the rest. The gargantuan former Pension Building, which completed construction in 1887, once housed the United States Pension Bureau as well as a variety of political events like inaugural balls. In 1985, the building completed its transition into a museum, and it was officially renamed the National Building Museum in 1997. Currently, the museum showcases various interesting intersections of architecture and design throughout American history and culture via approximately 100,000 photos, 130,000 architectural drawing and prints, and more than 20,000 objects ranging from building materials to toys.

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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Frederick Douglass National Historic Site free

Like other parts of the South, the Washington metropolitan area – which includes Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. – was once home to numerous plantations that profited off the labor of enslaved African Americans. To learn more about one of the region's most famous former slaves, visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the district's Anacostia neighborhood.

At this historical site, you'll learn all about Frederick Douglass, who had been born into slavery in 1818 who fled from Maryland to New York City in 1838. After becoming a free man, Douglass devoted his life to speaking against slavery, producing abolitionist newspapers and writing about his experience as a slave. In 1872, Douglass and his then wife, Anna, moved to Washington, D.C. The couple moved into the house known as Cedar Hill in 1878. After the death of his first wife in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts in 1884 and continued to live in the house until his death in 1895.

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Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden free

The Hirshhorn Museum is a contemporary art museum that features eye-catching exhibits and hosts stimulating events. The museum states its mission is "to share the transformative power of modern and contemporary art by creating meaningful, personal experiences in which art, artists, audiences and ideas converge." Exhibits at this museum often rotate in but examples of art you might encounter include abstract paintings, interactive multimedia and text- and image-based art. The Hirshhorn Museum also hosts many family-friendly events and activities to immerse kids in the art world. Meanwhile, several outdoor galleries make up the sculpture garden, which sits across the street from the museum. (Note: The sculpture garden is currently closed for an ongoing revitalization. It is expected to reopen later in 2024 or in 2025.)

Recent visitors recommend stopping by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to explore its modern art exhibits. Since it's free, it's easy to spend as much (or as little) time as you want inside. Several said they appreciated how often the exhibitions on display change, so there's always something new when they visit. Some noted though that if you're short on time, this is not a museum to prioritize seeing in D.C. as some of the other options are more interesting or engaging.

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U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum U.S. National Arboretum and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum free

Note: Due to the discovery of boxwood blight, the arboretum has closed its Boxwood Collection and adjacent Perennials Collection in order to prevent spread of the disease. It is closed until further notice.

Located northeast of downtown Washington, D.C., the United States National Arboretum rewards its visitors with beautiful outdoor spaces. The arboretum's outdoor collections range from dogwoods to azaleas to magnolias, but none of the plants are the area's primary attraction. Instead, most travelers make the trek here for the National Capitol Columns and the bonsai collection. The National Capitol Columns were built in 1828, decorated the Capitol building until 1958 and found their way to the arboretum in the 1980s. Now, the columns serve as an excellent place to snap photos or enjoy a picnic. The area's bonsai trees sit in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, which boasts an astounding 300 miniature trees that staff members rotate through the museum's three pavilions and special exhibits gallery.

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Heurich House Museum Heurich House Museum

German-American immigrant and brewing entrepreneur Christian Heurich built the mansion that now bears his name in the late 19th century. Now, its stands as both an example of Richardsonian Romanesque residential architecture as well a testament to the business-owner's legacy. (It also, appropriately enough, serves as the headquarters of the District of Columbia Brewers Guild, a nonprofit trade organization serving the city's craft brewing industry.) The museum aims to preserve the building, its grounds and its collections while demonstrating the relevance of Heurich's version of the American dream to the modern day.

Visitors typically find the tour guides highly knowledgeable and enjoy seeing the fine period furniture and the well-preserved, intricately decorated structure.

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This Black-owned Luxury Hotel Just Completed a Multimillion-dollar Renovation in One of Washington, D.C.'s Trendiest Neighborhoods

Salamander Washington, D.C., now features upgraded guest rooms, stunning communal spaces, and a soon-to-be-unveiled luxurious two-story spa.

Courtesy of Salamander Washington DC

Following a year-long multimillion-dollar renovation project, Salamander Washington, D.C. , formerly the Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C., has witnessed a remarkable transformation. The property now features upgraded guest rooms, stunning communal spaces, and a soon-to-be-unveiled luxurious two-story spa and sensational restaurant.

Under the stewardship of Salamander Collection Founder and CEO Sheila Johnson , who took over the property in late 2022, the project will infuse the same level of opulence as her Forbes Five-Star-rated Salamander Middleburg. “My vision is that Salamander DC mirrors the mystique, graceful simplicity, and comfortable luxury as the Middleburg property but in an urban setting,” Johnson told Travel + Leisure .

Upon entering the property, guests are greeted by an impressive collection of artworks, including a bas-relief installation by Art Space NYC that highlights iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

The revitalized Salamander Spa, debuting this fall, will be a destination in itself, offering a variety of rejuvenating treatments, from hot stone therapies to signature massages like Dream Catcher — perfect for promoting sleep and relaxation. The spa will also house a state-of-the-art fitness center, an indoor lap pool, and a men’s grooming lounge with vintage-style chairs, plaid wall coverings, and specially curated coffees, whiskeys, and bourbons.

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Dōgon, the hotel's new Afro-Caribbean restaurant, set to open in late summer, draws inspiration from historic cartographer, mathematician, and astronomer, Benjamin Banneker , who was a descendant of the Dōgon tribe of Mali. The restaurant will serve creative dishes reflecting the unique Nigerian, Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Creole heritage of its founder, chef Kwame Onwuachi.

Renowned interior designer Thomas Pheasant was tapped to spearhead the property’s transformation, and his touches are evident in the sophisticated neutral color palette and neoclassical-inspired furnishings. The hotel's lobby Lounge has also received a lavish update, with a bronze-accented rotunda, a ceiling of soft blue hues, and glass lighting reminiscent of the elegant movements of horses. Throughout the property are artworks curated by Johnson, including some of her own photography, as well as other artistic references.

With a prime location overlooking the Washington Marina, the hotel offers easy access to downtown D.C.’s notable attractions and events. Guests can explore the city on one of the property's cruiser bikes, utilize the Salamander Gem Car service to the National Mall area and the District Wharf, or catch the metro at L’Enfant Plaza station, just a five-minute walk from the hotel.

Recently, Johnson introduced a new offering, which she describes as a way to “savor and enjoy the distinct characteristics of both D.C.-area hotels.” For a taste of the city and the countryside, travelers can now reserve the Capital & Country package , which includes stays at both Salamander Washington, D.C., and its sibling property, Salamander Middleburg Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.

Nightly rates at Salamander Washington, D.C. start at $350. Book your stay at salamanderdc.com .

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For 75 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has underpinned the rules-based international order. As threats to peace and security become increasingly complex and attempts to destabilize our collective defence become more sophisticated, Canada and its NATO Allies are standing united – dedicated to defending democracy, security, and freedom.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced he will travel to Washington, D.C., United States of America, from July 8 to 11, 2024, to participate in this year’s NATO Summit.

The Summit will be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to Euro-Atlantic security and stability, particularly in the face of ongoing Russian aggression and destabilization. He will highlight Canada’s contributions to NATO’s collective defence efforts across Europe, including through  Operation REASSURANCE , Canada’s largest active overseas military deployment.

At the Summit, Prime Minister Trudeau will meet with NATO Allies and international partners to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security. Together, NATO leaders will explore ways to bolster collective deterrence and enhance defence capabilities and co-operation, while addressing other ongoing and emerging threats to the rules-based international order.

While in Washington, the Prime Minister will meet with members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives to advance opportunities for Canadian businesses, workers, and communities across the country – as part of our Team Canada effort to promote and defend Canada’s interests in and with the United States.

Prime Minister Trudeau and NATO Allies will be joined by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting focused on enhancing support for Ukraine and further responding to Russia’s unjustifiable war of aggression. During this meeting, Prime Minister Trudeau will underline the importance of continued military, financial, and humanitarian support to Ukraine. Throughout his visit, the Prime Minister will reaffirm Canada’s commitment to strengthening shared defence priorities and security partnerships.

“The NATO Alliance stands steadfast – protecting freedom and in defence of democracy. NATO was founded 75 years ago, and Canada has been part of nearly every operation in the Alliance. At this year’s Summit, we will strengthen our work to uphold the global order that underpins our prosperity and sovereignty.” The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Quick Facts

  • At the NATO Summit, Prime Minister Trudeau will be joined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, and the Minister of National Defence, Bill Blair.
  • This NATO Summit will be the first to include Sweden as a member of the Alliance. Sweden officially joined the Alliance in March 2024.
  • The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1949, establishing the NATO Alliance, of which Canada is a founding member.
  • Supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe through  Operation REASSURANCE . With approximately 1,500 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members currently deployed, it is Canada’s largest international military operation. Canada has been leading the NATO multinational Battlegroup, soon to be Brigade, in Latvia since 2017. In July 2023, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the renewal and expansion of Operation REASSURANCE, committing $2.6 billion to a three-year mandate, with up to 2,200 CAF troops continuously deployed.
  • Deploying His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Charlottetown to join and assume flagship duties of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) as part of Operation REASSURANCE in the Mediterranean Sea. The Royal Canadian Navy’s involvement in SNMG2 demonstrates Canada’s continued participation in NATO and strengthens military co-operation with our Allies and partners in the region.
  • Hosting the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence, in Montréal, Quebec, and NATO’s North American Regional Office of the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Continuing to support training and capacity-building efforts in the Middle East under  Operation IMPACT , including through NATO Mission Iraq, which was set up under Canadian command, and contributing to lasting security and stability in the country.
  • Providing CAF personnel support to the NATO-led international peace support operation in Kosovo through  Operation KOBOLD .
  • In Budget 2024 and Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence , the Government of Canada announced $8.1 billion over five years and $73 billion over 20 years in new defence spending. This builds on historic investments the federal government has made to date to support members of our Armed Forces, strengthen Canada’s defence capabilities, and respond to global challenges.
  • Since 2022, Canada has committed over $19 billion in multifaceted support to Ukraine. This includes $4 billion in military aid and equipment donations, such as Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks and an armoured recovery vehicle, armoured combat support vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and other arms and equipment. Other assistance includes $12.4 billion in financial assistance, $352.5 million in humanitarian assistance, $442 million in development assistance, and over $210 million in security and stabilization programming.

Associated Links

  • Canada and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Canada-United States relations
  • Budget 2024: Fairness for every generation
  • Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence
  • NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence
  • Canada’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Here’s what you need to know about navigating D.C. during NATO

Dozens of heads of state and government, along with thousands of other attendees, are expected to converge this week for the first NATO summit hosted by the District in 25 years. And with that comes closed Metro stations, blocked streets and detoured bus routes.

The summit, from Tuesday to Thursday, will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center with additional events at the Mellon Auditorium and the White House. Each building will be surrounded by a security perimeter, described by law enforcement as a “multi-layered buffer” that will include “law enforcement officers, physical barriers, and vehicle and pedestrian screening checkpoints.”

Some of the measures began as early as 8 a.m. Saturday, and the removal of security infrastructure will begin early Friday, after the summit wraps up. At a news briefing last week, D.C. Police Chief Pamela A. Smith said: “Let me put it simply: Next week is not going to be a regular week in D.C.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a political and military alliance of 32 mostly European nations , along with the United States and Canada. Dozens of foreign leaders will descend on D.C. this week for an agenda focused on support for Ukraine and its path toward NATO membership, as well as alliance unity, burden-sharing and modernization.

The summit is projected to be a key test of President Biden’s global leadership after a faltering debate performance raised concerns among alliance members as he campaigns for reelection against Donald Trump, who has shown disdain for the organization.

How will the summit affect traffic?

It will be quite the hassle to drive downtown this week, and officials are urging people to use public transportation whenever possible. There is a complicated web of road closures and heightened security that could make an otherwise easy drive very difficult.

If you’re driving to a residential or business parking lot within a closed area, you should expect to show identification and undergo a security inspection by law enforcement.

How will Metro be affected?

Although the Federal Triangle station will be closed Tuesday and the Mount Vernon Square station will be closed between 11 a.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Friday, trains are still running and will bypass those stations. This means northbound Yellow Line trains will end one stop early at Gallery Place.

Will sidewalks be blocked?

Yes. Be mindful of the street closures and how the increased security screenings could add time to your commute. To visit businesses in the closed area, there will be pedestrian checkpoints at Ninth and N streets NW, Seventh Street and New York Avenue NW, K Street and Techworld Plaza NW, and Seventh and M streets NW.

Nonmotorized bicycles and small scooters will be able to enter the vehicle screening area but not the area restricted for pedestrians.

Will there be changes to bus routes?

Your usual route may look a little different . Metro is detouring more than 20 routes from 8 p.m. Monday to 8 p.m. Thursday. The affected routes include 3F, 3Y, 11Y, 16E, 16Y, 32, 33, 36, 52, 59, 63, 64, 70, 74, 79, D4, D6, G2, G8, P6, S2, X2 and the Red Line shuttle.

Can I bring a bag into the security perimeter?

Yes, but there are restrictions. Those include backpacks larger than 18 inches by 13 inches by 7 inches, any nonplastic container or bottle, any umbrella with a metal tip, canned goods and weapons. You can find a more comprehensive list here.

How does this affect ride hailing, taxis and delivery services?

Ride hailing, taxis and hot food delivery can continue as usual, but drivers will need to enter through the marked vehicle screening points and undergo security checks.

How bad will the airport be?

You should plan to arrive two hours before departure for domestic travel and three hours for international flights — the same guidance the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority always recommends for travelers, said Crystal Nosal, a spokesperson for the authority, which operates Dulles International and Reagan National airports.

Can federal employees work from home?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management encouraged agencies to allow employees to work remotely during the summit because of “significant impacts to vehicular traffic and commute times,” according to a July 1 letter .

Here’s what you need to know about navigating D.C. during NATO

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Summer Travel 2024: Record Air Travel, Fewer Cancellations, Better Airports, More Passenger Protections

Year-to-date flight cancellation rate is just 1.4% during a record-breaking summer travel season​​​​​

WASHINGTON – Despite record-breaking levels of air travel this year, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) numbers show that the flight cancellation rate for the first half of 2024 was just 1.4% – nearly the lowest rate in over a decade. The latest data from airlines reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that weather continues to be the leading cause of flight cancellations.

Percent of Scheduled Flights Cancelled from 2015 to 2024

On June 23, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 2.99 million individuals in a single day at U.S. airports – the most airline passengers the agency has screened in its history. TSA expects to screen more than 32 million individuals this Independence Day travel season, which is a 5.4% increase over last year. At the same time, airfares are down 6% over the last year and below pre-pandemic prices.

“This year’s record-breaking air travel is another good sign for our economy as more Americans take to the skies than ever before,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “To help avoid travel headaches, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to modernize airports and expand passenger protections for a smoother travel experience.” 

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $25 billion in U.S. airport infrastructure over five years. This unprecedented investment is not only improving runways and air traffic control towers but also adding gates and adding flight capacity, modernizing baggage systems, replacing passenger boarding bridges, reconfiguring security screening areas, improving safety, and more to finally deliver world-class airports in the U.S. and meet anticipated demand in the decades to come. Just this week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced $289 million in airport infrastructure grants in 40 states and an additional $1 billion in available funding to modernize airport terminals. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, nearly 200 terminal projects are already under construction to modernize America’s airports and make air travel safer and smoother. 

The Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to improve airline passenger rights and oversight of the airline industry: 

  • The rule makes clear that airline passengers are entitled to a refund when their flight is canceled or significantly changed and they no longer wish to take that flight or be rebooked, when their checked baggage is significantly delayed, or when extra services they paid for – like Wi-Fi – are not provided. The rule also requires refunds to be automatic, prompt, in the original form of payment, and in the full amount paid. Airlines must comply with the rule by late October.  
  • Provisions of the final rule on airline refunds were fortified through the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 that President Biden signed into law on May 16, 2024. 
  • The rule creates a more competitive airline market by requiring airlines to disclose critical extra fees – like change fees and baggage fees – upfront to ensure consumers can better understand the true cost of air travel. The rule also bans “bait-and-switch” advertising tactics and requires airlines to clearly tell passengers upfront that a seat is included with the cost of their ticket. This rule is expected to save consumers over half a billion dollars every year.  
  • Launched the flightrights.gov dashboard, after which all 10 major U.S. airlines guaranteed free rebooking and meals when an airline issue causes a significant delay or cancellation. These are new commitments the airlines added to their customer service plans that DOT can legally ensure they adhere to through enforcement action.  
  • Secured nearly $4 billion in refunds and reimbursements owed to airline passengers – including over $600 million to passengers affected by the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown in 2022.  
  • Issued nearly $170 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations since President Biden took office. In comparison, between 1996 and 2020, DOT collectively issued less than $71 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations.  
  • Set up a system to expand the Department’s capacity to review air travel service complaints by partnering with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general , which will help hold airlines accountable and protect the rights of the traveling public.
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Washington DC's Independence Day Extravaganza: Welcoming Indian Visitors And International Focus

  • Jul 05, 2024,
  • Updated Jul 05, 2024, 2:33 PM IST

As the US celebrates its 248th Independence Day, Elliot Ferguson, President & CEO of Destination DC, highlights Washington, DC's major Independence Day celebrations and free attractions like monuments and museums. He notes the city's large Indian community and growing Indian tourist market, emphasizing its appeal to international visitors. Ferguson also mentions DC's preparations to host the NATO summit next week, showcasing the city's commitment to welcoming global travelers and providing them with an enriching experience.

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