Have you been wanting to visit Washington, D.C.?
Do you feel overwhelmed with the idea of even starting to plan an itinerary?
No fear! This article will plan your trip for you.
You’ll see where to stay, what to eat, and the top 10 must-do items to get the very most out of your DC trip.
So, let’s get to it!
1. Experience the monuments
I get it, this one is obvious. But there are different ways to see the monuments.
In case you don’t know, some of the most popular monuments in DC include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown, just to name a few.
For a full list of Washington DC monuments (there’s a lot!), click here.
National Mall, Washington DC
Most of the DC monuments are located at the National Mall.
The National Mall contains and borders a number of museums of the Smithsonian Institution, art galleries, cultural institutions, and various memorials, sculptures, and statues. The park receives approximately 24 million visitors each year!
Fun fact: the National Mall is 146 acres.
Also fun fact: that’s a lot of walking.
I walked most of the day and caught Uber rides to places too far away. This worked perfectly for me!
There are also electric scooters, electric bikes, and mopeds you can rent!
Any of these options are better than a segway tour.
I did both the walking version of the memorials and the segway tour.
Why did I do both?
Because I did the segway tour first and I didn’t see the monuments, so I went back the next day to do it again on my own.
Don't do a segway tour.
“But it looks so much fun!”
The negative: a majority of this tour is spent learning how to ride the segways, then riding on sidewalks and crossing roads while only seeing monuments in the far-off distance. You could literally see them closer by simply driving by in a car.
The only memorial you get to see up close is the Abraham Lincoln memorial and even that had a 10-minute limit.
Although the tour itself didn’t serve the purpose I was hoping for, the whole thing was hilarious and I had a blast.
2. See the monuments at night
I highly recommend doing the Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Tour by Trolley.
This tour is only $45 and includes a hop-on hop-off tour of the monuments at night. You also drive by a lot of really neat landmarks. Trust me when I say it is a completely different feeling seeing the monuments illuminated. You won’t want to miss it.
3. Visit the Arlington Cemetary
Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery located In Arlington County, Virginia (across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.).
This cemetery spans 639 acres! Approximately 400,000 veterans from every one of America’s major wars are buried here.
We all have mutual respect and love for those that have served our country, but seeing the loss in that compacity is a feeling I can’t even explain.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
There’s no doubt that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is Arlington National Cemetery’s most iconic memorial.
Established in 1921, it has provided a final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members. Further unknowns from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984.
The Changing of the Guards
24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” stand watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When the Tomb Guards, also called Sentinels, are not “walking,” they spend their time in quarters underground (below the Memorial Display Room of the Memorial Amphitheater).
Witnessing the Changing of the Guards is such a powerful thing. I highly recommend this being a key item on your lists of things to see while you’re in DC.
What you may not know prior to visiting is that Arlington Cemetary is an active cemetery.
They actually have up to THIRTY funerals there a day. Seeing a funeral in progress with a horse-drawn carriage carrying a casket is something you’ll never forget.
4. Visit some of the Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 world-class museums, galleries, gardens, and even a zoo.
When I say visit SOME, it’s because you would probably need a week or more just to see all of them.
Keep in mind that all of these locations are now OPEN to the public again! That being said, some of these locations require a timed entry and you must book online prior to arrival. (This is to limit the amount of people entering due to Covid.)
5. Visit the Capitol Building
Coronavirus update: The Capitol Visitor Center remains closed. You cannot make tour reservations at this time.
You can, however, still see The Capitol from multiple views including right under the steps and right across the street (where you’ll find reporters reporting on the grounds).
It’s really neat to see in person after seeing it on TV your entire life.
This is probably an obvious one, but you won’t want to skip it just because you can’t do an official tour.
Speaking of the Smithsonian, you should…
4. See the Pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo
As long as you are walking in and not paying to park, this zoo is free (like most Smithsonian Institution locations)!
This includes the Asia Trail and Panda Viewing Yard, which used to require paid passes.
5. Visit National Harbor in Maryland
Listen – you’ve already going to see Washington DC and Virginia, so you’d be a fool to not see a little bit of Maryland, too.
Note: National Harbor is only 10 minutes from Washington!
So, what is National Harbor?
A cute waterfront area that offers dining, shopping, outdoor movies, cruises, and even a Ferris wheel!
Eat at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks
I’m serious when I say this is one of the best steaks I have ever put in my mouth. I got their center-cut Filet Mignon and a side of shrimp.
Treat yo self and go!
6. Visit Great Falls Park, Virginia
Great Falls Park has many opportunities to explore history and nature, all in a beautiful 800-acre park only 15 miles from the Nation’s Capital.
At Great Falls, you’ll witness the Potomac River build up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge.
Great Falls Park Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, daily, and closed December 25.
- Great Falls Entrance Fee – Vehicle – $20.00
- Great Falls Entrance Fee- Motorcycle – $15.00
- Great Falls Entrance Fee – Walk-In Person – $10.00
7. See the Planes at Gravelly Park
Have you ever seen photos of the famous “Airport Beach” in St. Maarten?
Gravelly Park is just like that, it’s just missing a small part – the ocean, and the fact that it’s not on an island at all.
Okay, the planes are the only common factor, but anyway…I digress.
Raise your hands in the air if you love Insta-worthy places.
Gravelly Point is a National Park Service sight in Arlington, Virginia. It’s located along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, just north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Plenty of awesome photo opportunities and unique views of the airplanes landing right in front of you.
8. Go see the Barbie Pond
I stumbled across this “gem” online and I just had to see it for myself.
No, I’m not making this up. It’s literally a location on Apple and Google Maps.
Imagine what it was like to get an Uber with a destination of a Barbie Pond. Very fitting for my personality, I know.
Bonus: even most locals don’t know about it! (There’s a reason why, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.)
Basically, some random person started a Barbie pond in front of their apartment. They change up the scenes every few weeks.
They even have an Instagram account with a pretty decent following.
Why, you ask?
More like why NOT.
Shut up and be my best friend.
10. Stay in & experience Old Town Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria is such a quaint and adorable waterfront paradise you’ll want to walk through and explore.
You’ll find shopping, dining, bars, history, and more. It’s chalked full of vibrant arts and culture.
There really is a never-ending list of things you can do in Washington DC, so you can’t go wrong with anything you choose to do!
Have you been to Washington DC? If so, what was the highlight of your trip?
Not done traveling yet?
Check out a full list of places you can travel (even during the pandemic) by clicking here:
Happy and safe travels!