Things to do in Washington DC, USA

35 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. – Best Places to Visit in D.C.

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There are a lot of things to do in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. District of Columbia, as it’s officially called, is a federal district located between Virginia and Maryland that has nothing to do with the state of Washington, which is located at the other end of the country.

Washington, D.C. is a city that was planned to be the capital of the United States. It was carefully designed to be a beautiful city with infinite attractions for tourists. With small buildings, large gardens, and tons of tourist attractions to visit, Washington, D.C. is nothing like other cities in the United States.

I know this because I live barely two hours away from the city, which is why I have visited D.C. countless times. I know almost all of its monuments and museums, most of which are free, making them the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C.

Now, let’s get into the 35 best things to do in Washington, D.C. However, if you are going to be in the city for a short time, focus on the first top 10 tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. I also recommend this 4-hour guided tour to start your visit if you want to learn about the history of the city and get a ride to all the important places.

1. The US Capitol, an important building to visit in Washington, D.C.

The Capitol building is one of the essential places to visit in Washington, D.C. It is a symbol, not only of the city, but also of the United States, so you cannot miss it. It hosts the two legislative bodies of the United States Congress, the Senate (in the north wing), and the House of Representatives (in the south wing).

Designed in a clean, white neoclassical style, it was one of the first buildings to be built in the city. George Washington, the first president of the United States, laid the first stone in 1793. It stands out, above all, for the majesty of its dome, which reaches 289 feet high, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city and practically visible from any point.

United States Capitol, Washington DC tourist attractions

1. The US Capitol, an important building to visit in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the building having tons of political and historical symbolism, and being one of the top sights in Washington, D.C., it has free guided tours every day, Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, which depart from the Visitor Center. Although it is not necessary to book them, it’s highly recommended, and you can do it from here.

During the tour, you will visit the Rotunda, an incredible circular room under the dome where works of art are exhibited. You will be able to see the imposing fresco, The Apotheosis of Washington, painted inside it. You will also visit the Crypt and the National Statuary Hall. Congress sessions are also open to the public, but you will need a special pass that you can get here.

The Capitol is located at the eastern end of the National Mall, the area with the main tourist attractions in D.C.

2. Lincoln Memorial, one of the main attractions of Washington, D.C.

At the other end of the National Mall, with the Potomac River behind it, you’ll find the Lincoln Memorial, one of the main monuments in Washington, D.C.

Its construction began in 1914 in a style reminiscent of the Doric temples of ancient Greece. It has 36 columns that are 32 feet high. Limestone and marble were used to maintain the same opulent, white appearance of the rest of the city’s official buildings. Inside, a 20 foot-high sculpture depicts Abraham Lincoln in a seated position.

Lincoln Memorial, things to see in Washington DC

2. Lincoln Memorial, one of the main attractions of Washington, D.C.

The monument has witnessed numerous historical moments. Perhaps the most striking one was Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” civil rights speech. It’s also been on the big screen numerous times, including the scene where Forrest Gump is reunited with Jenny by the Reflecting Pool, the large pond that stands in front of the monument.

Visiting is, without a doubt, one of the best free things to do in Washington. D.C. Since it is open 24 hours a day, I recommend visiting it first thing in the morning if you don’t want to see hundreds of other tourists.

If you visit it while it’s still quiet, I advise sitting on its marble staircase so you can see beautiful views of both the Capitol and the Washington Monument, the next point we will talk about in our list of interesting places to visit in D.C.

3. Washington Monument, something you must visit in D.C.

The Washington Monument is in the National Mall, located between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial and in front of the White House. This 555 foot-high white obelisk was the tallest structure in the world between 1884 and 1889. It is mainly made of marble, granite, and sandstone, and today, it can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

Although its construction was planned 10 days after the death of former President George Washington, in his honor, it took almost 40 years to complete the monument due to lack of funds caused by the Civil War.

Washington Monument, places to visit in Washington DC, USA

3. Washington Monument, something you must visit in D.C.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t had the chance to go up to its viewpoint at 492 feet, where you get views of the entire city, since despite being one of the main places to visit in Washington, D.C, it was closed for elevator renovation for years. However, it is now open to the public again. The price of admission is $1, and although it isn’t necessary, if you want to secure your spot, it’s highly recommended that you book it here.

There is also a museum at the top. Back at ground level, the elevator will stop at different points so you can read some of the inscriptions on the 193 memorial stones found inside the obelisk. It is undoubtedly one of the main monuments in Washington, D.C.

4. National Mall, one of the most important places to go in Washington, D.C.

National Mall is the name of the large garden area surrounded by museums and monuments that stretches from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. However, after the construction of the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall was considered everything from that monument to the Capitol, including West Potomac Park.

As you can see, the three main points already mentioned in this article are within the National Mall, so there is no doubt that this is the most important place to visit in Washington, D.C. Besides the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument, you will find other important places in the National Mall such as the Smithsonian, the largest research and museum complex in the world; the Botanical Garden; and different war memorials.

National Mall, best things to do in DC

4. National Mall, one of the most important places to go in Washington, D.C.

If you are only going to visit Washington, D.C. for one day, everything you have to see is located in the National Mall. It takes approximately 30 minutes to walk between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, with the Washington Monument located 10 minutes from the Lincoln Memorial and 20 minutes from the Capitol (here is a map of the National Mall in Washington DC that will help you locate yourself).

As I mentioned, the best way to visit the National Mall in depth is by booking this 4-hour guided tour. You will see the main tourist attractions in Washington, D.C., and most importantly, you will learn about its history.

5. Visit the White House, an unmissable thing to do in Washington, D.C.

The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States.

Among the places to visit in Washington, D.C., the White House requires a little more planning, since you will need to make a visit request between 3 months and 21 days before the date of your visit.

If you are an American citizen, you should contact your member of Congress here. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, request a visit at your country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (you can find them here). In any case, you must send the following information by email of everyone visiting the White House with you: full name, date of birth, residence address, gender, citizenship, the date on which you want to visit the White House, and passport number. If you are an American citizen, you must also give your Social Security number. If you aren’t, you must provide the address where you are staying in Washington, D.C. You can check our recommended places to stay in Washington D.C.

White House, one of the best places to visit in Washington DC, USA

5. Visit the White House, an unmissable thing to do in Washington, D.C.

There are a limited number of visits per day, so the sooner you request your visit, the easier it will be to get a spot. Visiting hours are from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM on Tuesday to Thursday and from 7:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Friday and Saturday. If they approve your request, they will give you a specific visiting time. Make sure you arrive at least half an hour early, as you will need to go through security. Many items, such as cameras and backpacks, cannot enter the White House. Here is a complete list so you know what to leave at the hotel.

Although it may seem difficult to plan a trip to the White House, it receives more than 5,000 visitors every day, so visiting the White House is the best thing to do in Washington, D.C for free.

6. The Pentagon, the safest building in the world

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense and one of the safest buildings in the world. It is just across the Potomac River in Virginia, just a 6-minute drive from the National Mall.

It was inaugurated during the Second World War to bring together the different armed forces that, until then, had been distributed in different locations. Its pentagonal base design was thought to be the most efficient office building in the world. Although there are 17.5 miles of corridors, spread out over 5 floors, it only takes a maximum of 7 minutes to get anywhere on foot.

The Pentagon, Washington DC points of interest

6. The Pentagon, the safest building in the world

Visiting the Pentagon is one of the best free things to do in Washington, D.C., but you will have to book a visit in advance here, between 14 and 90 days before the tour. Visiting hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Thursday, and from 12 PM to 4 PM on Friday. When you book, you will be assigned a visit time. You must arrive an hour before to register at the Pentagon tour window, and you must follow the security measures described here.

Part of the structure of the building is secret, so, during the tour, you will only visit certain areas. But don’t worry – you will learn the history of the four branches of the armed forces (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force), and you will visit the Memorial Chapel, the Hall of Heroes, and the memorial next to the facade where, on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed, among other exhibits.

For me, it’s one of the unmissable places to see in Washington, D.C. if it’s your first time in the city.

7. Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the country

When we think about what to do in Washington, D.C., we may not think of visiting a cemetery. But the Arlington National Cemetery is not just another place. Veterans of all United States wars since the Civil War, as well as some former US presidents and astronauts, are buried here. The cemetery has appeared on television on numerous occasions and is recognizable by its more than 300,000 lined white headstones.

Visit the Arlington National Cemetery, things to do in Washington DC

7. Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the country

It’s also on the other side of the Potomac River, in Virginia, and next to the Pentagon. Getting there takes just 10 minutes by car from the National Mall, but if you don’t have a way to get there, I recommend the same 4-hour guided tour that I recommended to visit the National Mall. In addition to all the sights in downtown D.C., you’ll visit Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon.

The most popular area of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a curious place to visit in Washington, D.C. This tomb is dedicated to soldiers who died in combat but remain unidentified. It has a permanent guard 24 hours a day, and the changing of the guard ceremony, which is quite popular among visitors, takes place every hour from October 1 to March 31, and every half hour from April 1 to September 30.

President Kennedy was also buried in this cemetery, next to whose plaque you can find “The Eternal Flame,” which burns continuously.

8. Smithsonian Institution Building, an interesting place to go in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Institution, also known as the “Castle,” is the headquarters of the largest research and museum complex in the world, with 19 museums, 9 research centers, and a zoo.

Smithsonian Institution Building, museums to visit in DC

8. Smithsonian Institution Building, an interesting place to go in Washington, D.C.

Although some of the museums are in New York, Virginia, or even Panama, most are in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The most interesting ones (or at the least the ones I like the most) are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Museum of American History. Best of all, admission is free. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of museums, there are so many here that there’s something for absolutely everyone. You can check a list of all the museums here.

Visiting museums is definitely the most popular thing to do in Washington, D.C.

9. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the best museum in Washington

The National Air and Space Museum is the best museum in Washington, D.C. to entertain visitors of all ages. It’s probably one of the best places to visit in Washington, D.C. with kids.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

9. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the best museum in Washington

In it, you will find the largest collection of planes and spaceships in the world, many of which were part of important moments in history. You will see everything from the Wright brothers’ historic Flyer, the first motorized airplane, to the Spirit of St. Louis, which completed the first non-stop transatlantic flight. You’ll also find the Apollo 11 command module, a model of the International Space Station, and other temporary exhibits.

If you’re passionate about aerospace history and would like to have a guide for the visit, you can book one here, although, for the general public, it isn’t necessary. The museum is free and on the National Mall, so I think visiting it is a must-do in D.C.

10. National Museum of Natural History, a great museum to visit in Washington

The National Museum of Natural History, also on the National Mall, is another of the most popular museums to visit in Washington, D.C. If you want to visit it, go before it opens, since long lines to enter are relatively normal.

Although it is free, it is very controversial, and after visiting it several times, I don’t know if it’s one of the best places to visit in Washington, D.C. or the worst. In it, you will see an impressive collection of taxidermies, usually on a stage that simulates the natural habitat where that species is found. A part of me is in favor of this museum, since it educates people who may not have the opportunity to go to remote places to learn about the planet’s great biodiversity; it also serves as a substitute for cruel zoos.

National Museum of Natural History, things to do in DC with kids

10. National Museum of Natural History, a great museum to visit in Washington

However, it is inevitable to think that it was not worth taking the lives of all those animals. Many species shown are in danger of extinction, and, although many “pieces in the collection” are donated by zoos when the animals die, many others are hunting trophies. The museum itself doesn’t hunt and kill animals, but it does receive and display them.

In addition to the different taxidermy sections, you can find other sections on plants, fossils, and minerals (my favorite), in addition to various temporary exhibitions.

If you still have doubts on if it’s a place you want to see in Washington, D.C., I recommend taking a look at this article.

11. Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Museum of American Art is not one of the most popular museums in Washington, D.C. However, it’s probably one of our favorites. We love landscape photography and often seek inspiration from other arts such as painting. In this museum, among works that cover all regions and artistic movements in the history of the United States, there are several creations of the painters of the Hudson River School; a generation of painters who captured the magic of American landscapes in the 19th century. Seeing the works of Albert Bierstadt among others is, without a doubt, one of the things to do in D.C. that we enjoy the most.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, museums to visit in DC

11. Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

The museum is free, and although it is not on the National Mall, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to walk from the National Museum of Natural History to the American Art Museum. It occupies a swanky neo-Greek-style building that was previously the Patent Office, which it shares with the National Portrait Gallery, also a Smithsonian museum.

12. National Museum of American History, another museum to go to in D.C.

The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. is without a doubt one of the best museums in Washington. In it, you will find everything you can imagine related to the history of the United States, with many rooms that make you understand why, until 1980, it was known as the Museum of History and Technology.

National Museum of American History, places to go in DC

12. National Museum of American History, another museum to go to in D.C.

You will find a room dedicated to the history of transportation in the United States, with famous locomotives and cars that are truly amazing, First Ladies’ dresses, and an exhibition on objects and curiosities of the presidents of the United States. Here you can see all the topics covered.

I particularly found the exhibit on LGBTQ history in the United States very interesting, as well as the one that shows the evolution of Apple from the seventies until now. It’s certainly an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C. Since it’s also on the National Mall and admission is free, it’s highly recommended that you visit it.

13. Jefferson Memorial, another presidential memorial to visit in Washington

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is another of the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C. This monument dedicated to the third president of the United States and one of the Founding Fathers of the nation is in a neoclassical style, in keeping with the rest of the monuments in Washington, D.C., where pristine white prevails. It stands out for its marble steps and its 128 foot-high dome that can be seen from the National Mall on the banks of the Tidal Basin. It’s near the Washington Monument and the White House.

Jefferson Memorial, places of interest in Washington DC

13. Jefferson Memorial, another presidential memorial to visit in Washington

Inside is a 20 foot-high statue of Jefferson and different engravings on the walls with fragments of the ex-president’s writings. If you visit the city in spring, enjoying a stroll to the Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by hundreds of cherry blossoms, is one of the best things to do in Washington, D.C.

14. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, another visit you can’t miss in Washington, D.C.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is one of the few National Mall monuments that is not dedicated to a president. It is located in West Potomac Park, very close to the Lincoln Memorial, the place where he gave his much-acclaimed “I Have a Dream ” speech in 1963.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, historical things to do in Washington DC, USA

14. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, another visit you can’t miss in Washington

It’s definitely one of the essential places to visit in D.C., since this activist carried out crucial work in the American civil rights movement.

His famous speech coincided with the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Abraham Lincoln signed the document that freed all slaves in the Confederate States of America.

15. Ford’s Theatre and Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

The Ford Theater has been offering performances since 1860. However, it has become one of the main places to visit in Washington, D.C. since it was the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, towards the end of the American Civil War.

Ford’s Theatre, DC places to visit

15. Ford’s Theatre and Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

He was killed in cold blood with a shot to the head by John Wilkes Booth. To get to know these and other details in-depth, you can book a guided tour of the Ford Theater, an incredible way to learn more about the history of this country.

16. National Gallery of Art, an important art museum in Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art, on the National Mall, is another of the free museums in Washington, D.C. that belongs to the Smithsonian.

The main building resembles other monuments found in Washington, D.C., with a marble neoclassical design and a spectacular dome that reveals that the architect in charge of the gallery was also the one who designed the Jefferson Memorial.

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC tourist spots

16. National Gallery of Art, an important art museum in Washington, D.C.

Some of the most important works that you will find here belong to Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, and Gauguin, among others. You can visit on your own or attend a free guided tour that you must book in advance.

The gallery also has a sculpture garden that offers the possibility of enjoying art outdoors, which is where concerts, conferences, and temporary exhibitions are held on certain dates. If you like art, it’s, without a doubt, an essential place to visit in Washington, D.C.

17. US Botanic Garden, a great thing to do in D.C.

The US Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful and pleasant places to visit in Washington, D.C. It has 26,000 plants spread over different collections and habitats: oasis, desert, orchids, rare plants, jungle, etc.

United States Botanic Garden, Washington things to do

17. US Botanic Garden, a great thing to do in D.C.

It sits off the side of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the grounds of the US Capitol, so visiting it is something you can do in Washington in one day. In addition, admission is free, and they run both 45-minute guided tours and audio guides that you can download on your phone here.

18. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a poignant tourist attraction in Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the United States armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975. The monument is in Constitution Gardens, north of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and it is made up of three parts: The Three Soldiers, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where to visit in Washington DC

18. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a poignant tourist attraction in Washington, D.C.

This last part is the most popular and is where the names of those who died or disappeared during the war were inscribed, indicated with a diamond or a cross respectively. Near the wall, there is a directory so that family members can find where the names of their loved ones are.

19. Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial faces the Vietnam Memorial and is south of the Reflecting Pool. It is a tribute to veterans who fought in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953 and is shaped like a triangle intersecting a circle. Inside the triangle lie 19 stainless steel statues over 7 feet high that show a platoon on patrol.

Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., USA

19. Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

On the south side is a 164-foot black granite wall with engravings showing photographs of the war. Around the Pool of Remembrance, the dead, wounded, disappeared, and prisoners are named.

20. The World War II Memorial, a visit to do in Washington, D.C.

The World War II National Monument is also on the National Mall, between the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument, so you will pass through it almost unintentionally.

For me, apart from the meaning that this monument has, dedicated to the Americans who died in the Second World War, it’s one of the most beautiful monuments to visit in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial, places to go in DC

20. The World War II Memorial, a visit to do in Washington, D.C.

It was inaugurated in 2004, and that same year, it was declared a National Park. It stands out for consisting of 56 17-foot granite pillars arranged in two facing semicircles and separated by an oval pool. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 50 main states, territories, and associated free states that make up the United States.

In the middle of each semicircle, you’ll find a triumphal arch of 43 feet, which reads “Atlantic” in the north and “Pacific” in the south.

My favorite part is the Freedom Wall, which is west of the plaza overlooking the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. Embedded in this wall are 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died during the war. Definitely, an emotional place to visit in Washington, D.C.

21. Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It houses more than 158 million documents: books, maps, photographs, films, prints, sheet music, audio, and others. You can find a copy of the 15th-century Gütenberg Bible and a draft of the United States Declaration of Independence here.

Library of Congress, Washington DC free things to do

21. Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States

In addition to being one of the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C., it’s the oldest federal cultural institution in the country and serves as a research section of Congress. It is in the Thomas Jefferson Building, behind the Capitol, and offers free guided tours Monday through Saturday in different languages. You can see the schedule here.

22. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States

Visiting the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, is another thing to do in Washington, D.C. It’s behind the Capitol and next to the National Library in the Temple of Justice, which has been the permanent and exclusive residence of the Supreme Court since 1790.

Supreme Court, things to do in Washington DC, USA

22. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States

The building is beautiful. It’s reminiscent of a Greek temple, where almost everything has been built in white marble. It’s open to visitors Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, although you can check on its website for the few days and hours it’s closed during the year.

23. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a must-visit in Washington, D.C.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is located on the banks of the Tidal Basin, not far from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument. It was built not only in memory of the president but also of the time he represented. It is made up of 4 zones, each of which represents Roosevelt’s four mandates through inscriptions, sculptures, waterfalls, and illustrative panels.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, historical things to do in Washington DC

23. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a must-visit in Washington, D.C.

The most popular area is the large sculpture of the President with his faithful dog Fala. A sculpture of Roosevelt in a wheelchair was also added after the monument’s inauguration, since different groups asked to represent his disability. Furthermore, due to Roosevelt’s disability, the designers of the monument made sure that it was accessible, including, for example, inscriptions in Braille.

It is certainly one of the most curious places to visit in Washington, D.C., especially if you visit it in spring, since it will be surrounded by cherry blossoms.

24. International Spy Museum, the most curious museum in Washington, D.C.

Although it’s one of the few museums in Washington, D.C. where admission is not free, visiting the International Spy Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Washington, D.C. The entrance fee is not expensive, so I do think it’s worth it.

International Spy Museum, cool places in Washington DC, USA

24. International Spy Museum, the most curious museum in Washington, D.C.

It contains the largest collection of objects related to the world history of espionage that has ever been exhibited. The museum reviews the crucial role in history that intelligence services have played (and still play), from the Second World War to the Cold War to international terrorism.

The most controversial area is the exhibit on torture and illegal eavesdropping, as well as the questionable interrogation techniques that have been used throughout history.

25. Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful sight to visit in Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Washington National Cathedral is another of the things you can do in Washington, D.C. However, keep in mind that it is only free on Sundays. The rest of the week, you will have to pay an entrance fee that includes a guided tour. You can check the price here.

Washington National Cathedral, places to go in DC

25. Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful sight to visit in Washington D.C.

It’s the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest one in the country. Different official ceremonies have been held in the impressive neo-Gothic building, which is also known as the “National House of Prayer”. Some of the most important were the funerals of presidents of the United States such as Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

Keep in mind that the cathedral is not near the city center, so I only recommend visiting it if you are going to be in the city for more than 3 or 4 days. However, as it’s beautiful, I wanted to include it on our list of things to do in Washington, D.C.

26. Georgetown, the most popular neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city, north of the Lincoln Memorial on the banks of the Potomac River. It gained tremendous popularity in the 1960s, as the Kennedy family gave it a tremendous boost. President John Kennedy and Jacqueline met here, and she returned to the neighborhood after becoming a widow.

If Washington, D.C. looks too “serious” to you, I recommend taking a walk around this neighborhood, since it is full of life and is one of the best things to do in Washington for free.

Georgetown, things to do in Washington DC at night

26. Georgetown, the most popular neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Its main street, the M, has a lot of local food specialties; you can find pastry shops, cupcakes shops, eco cafes, cheese shops, steak houses, greengrocers, sandwich bars, and more, plus a lot of small clothing boutiques.

The prestigious Georgetown University is located here, so you will see many young people and bars where you can have a drink. If you prefer something quieter, I recommend taking a walk along the Potomac River in Georgetown Waterfront Park.

27. Tidal Basin, the setting of the most important memorials in Washington

I have already mentioned the Tidal Basin, an artificial inlet adjacent to the Potomac River that is part of West Potomac Park and where the monuments to Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are, several times throughout this article.

Tidal Basin, things to do in D.C.

27. Tidal Basin, the setting of the most important memorials in Washington

However, I think it deserves to be one of the tourist places to visit in Washington, D.C. since its beauty is extraordinary. It has 3,750 Japanese cherry trees that bloom between the last week of March and the first week of April, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

If you plan to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival, I recommend booking your accommodation in Washington months in advance, since the city receives the most visitors during the festival.

28. Adams Morgan, a neighborhood with more things to do in Washington, D.C.

If you are wondering what to do in Washington, D.C. at night, you have to visit the Adams Morgan neighborhood. It’s multicultural and picturesque and has great nightlife thanks to its bars, concert halls, international restaurants, and pubs.

Adams Morgan, things to do in Washington DC

28. Adams Morgan, a neighborhood with more things to do in Washington, D.C.

However, by day, it doesn’t lose its charm, as it’s a very active commercial area, with vintage clothing stores and second-hand bookshops installed in picturesque buildings from the late 19th century. It’s definitely the coolest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., although since it is somewhat isolated, I only recommend visiting it if you have enough time or want to go partying.

29. United States National Arboretum, a beautiful garden to visit in Washington

The United States National Arboretum is a botanical garden that is dedicated, above all, to woody plants and trees. It extends over 180 hectares in which there are 22 Corinthian columns that used to belong to the Capitol.

United States National Arboretum, Washington DC, USA

29. United States National Arboretum, a beautiful garden to visit in Washington

Inside it you can find the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, along with a large collection of azaleas, dogwoods, and ferns. If you are a nature lover, you cannot miss it. Admission is free, and they also offer guided tours that you can book here.

30. Theodore Roosevelt Island, a perfect place to hike in Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is a nature reserve that serves as a memorial to President Roosevelt. It’s on the Potomac River, a little north of the Lincoln Memorial.

Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt Island, something to do in Washington DC

30. Theodore Roosevelt Island, a perfect place to hike in Washington, D.C.

In the center of the island is a huge statue of the President with two fountains and four granite plates with phrases about the conservation philosophy of Roosevelt, who promoted a unique system that protected all the national parks in the country.

This space is perfect for hiking, as it offers three trails where you can discover the flora and fauna of the place. If you like nature, it is the best thing to do in Washington, D.C.

31. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most important shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the United States. It is the largest church in the country and the eighth largest in the world. It has a capacity of 6,000 people and is 460 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 237 feet tall at its highest point.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, USA

31. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington

A visit to this sanctuary, which mixes different Romanesque and Byzantine styles, is free. Although it isn’t near the city center, it receives a million tourists a year. Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, among others, have visited it.

I consider it an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C. whether you are a believer or not.

32. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, a lovely place to go in D.C.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is on the border between Washington, D.C. and Maryland, on the banks of the river Anacostia.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, places to go in Washington DC

32. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, a lovely place to go in D.C.

In it, you’ll find the Kenilworth swamp and water gardens with beautiful water lilies and lotus flowers. Although it’s somewhat removed from the city center, near the Arboretum, I think it is one of the best places to rest and relax. Visiting it is one of the best things to do in Washington, D.C. Also, entrance is free. You can check the opening hours here.

33. Old Post Office Pavilion, a historical building to visit in Washington, D.C.

The Old Post Office Pavilion is a Richardsonian Romanesque-style building, noted for its huge clock tower that is almost 315 feet tall. It was used as a post office and served various different functions until Donald Trump transformed it into a luxury hotel, the Trump International Washington D.C.

Old Post Office Pavilion, places to see in Washington DC

33. Old Post Office Pavilion, a historical building to visit in Washington, D.C.

It has an observatory upstairs where you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the city of Washington for free, even if you are not staying at the hotel, so it’s one of the essential things to do in Washington, D.C.

34. Rock Creek Park, one of the best things to do in D.C.

Rock Creek Park is the oldest natural urban park in the National Park System. It extends 3 mi² along the Rock Creek stream valley.

Walk-in Rock Creek Park, things to do in Washington DC

34. Rock Creek Park, one of the best things to do in D.C.

If you’re going to be in the city for a few days and you don’t know what to do in Washington, D.C. with kids, I recommend it. In addition to being perfect for hiking, cycling, and skating, it has playgrounds, a planetarium, a concert hall, and picnic areas.

35. Meridian Hill Park, an amazing urban park to go to in Washington D.C.

Meridian Hill Park is considered part of Rock Creek Park administratively. However, they aren’t close to each other. Let’s say it’s the city center version of Rock Creek.

Some curiosities of the park are that it contains the only female statue on horseback in Washington, that of Joan of Arc and that its cascading fountain is the largest in North America. It is undoubtedly the favorite green area for Washington locals, who flee from the masses of tourists in the National Mall.

Meridian Hill Park, best places to go in Washington DC, USA

35. Meridian Hill Park, an amazing urban park to go in Washington

It is especially popular on summer Sundays, as a “Drum Circle” takes place where percussion artists gather to have fun. The tradition dates back to the 1960s when drummers came together to celebrate black liberation. Other weekly events include swing classes and impromptu jazz concerts. No wonder it’s the locals’ favorite park and an interesting place to visit in Washington, D.C.

That’s all I recommend you see in Washington, D.C. I have also created this map of Washington D.C. that you can download to have all the places of interest on hand and help you plan your visit.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy your visit to Washington, D.C.!

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Home | TRAVEL - UNITED STATES | 35 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. – Best Places to Visit in D.C.

COFOUNDER & TRAVEL JUNKIE

Hi, I'm Ascen, a globetrotter based in Philadelphia, USA. I enjoy exploring new landscapes and creating in-depth travel guides for Capture the Atlas.

I have felt a special connection with nature and all the inhabitants of the planet since I was a kid. I am passionate about discovering new countries and especially their wildlife, but no matter how many places I visit, I will always belong to the remote beaches of Almería, in Southern Spain.

You can know a little more about me here.

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