Everyone thinks of Washington DC as a capital city filled with a bunch of political stuff, but it’s actually a lot more than that. Sure, the political buildings and monuments are really great, but there are so many other things to do in Washington DC that would interest more than just House of Cards fans.
If you’re planning a trip to the US capital anytime soon, this list includes everything that you absolutely must do while you’re there. Here are 12 amazing things to do in Washington DC!
1. UNITED STATES CAPITOL BUILDING
The number one thing you need to see in DC is the US Capitol Building. The visitor center offers tours of the interior, and the exterior is absolutely gorgeous – though parts of the dome have been covered in scaffolding since 2013. The scaffolding is due to be fully removed before the Presidential Inauguration in January 2017.
While you’re up on Capitol Hill, be sure to check out the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court Building, both of which are equally as pretty and have some interesting architecture.
2. WASHINGTON MONUMENT
The iconic Washington Monument is situated smack-bang in the middle of the National Mall, and is currently the tallest building in DC. It actually held the title of world’s tallest structure in 1885 until it was overtaken in 1889 by the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s a fun fact: the marble subtly changes color about a third of the way up, as the monument’s construction was halted when funding ran out in 1854, and wasn’t continued until 1877.
3. THE WHITE HOUSE
The White House may be kind of unimpressive in real life, but that doesn’t mean you can skip it! We viewed the White House from the south side as we were walking along the mall, but you actually get a better view if you head up to Pennsylvania Ave and look at it from the north side as the road is closer to the building.
4. LINCOLN MEMORIAL
The Lincoln Memorial sits at the west end of the National Mall. This monument is very impressive, but it can get fairly busy so if you want to beat the crowds, head over early in the day. The monument is open 24 hours and is lit up at night, so this might be a great option if you’re out and about in the evening.Where to stay: State Plaza Hotel
5. WAR MEMORIALS
Washington DC has some amazing war memorials. The Korean War Veterans Memorial, which has a bunch of statues of life-sized soldiers scattered throughout a garden. It’s also the location of the famous ‘Freedom Is Not Free’ quote, which is engraved on a fountain within the memorial.
The Vietnam War Memorial sits directly opposite, and features the etched names of veterans on a rather large reflective wall. Both of these memorials were very moving and I would highly recommend that you see them on your DC trip, even if war memorials aren’t usually your thing.
6. THE TIDAL BASIN
The Tidal Basin is basically a gigantic pond right next to the National Mall. It’s has a walking trail that will take you all the way around, and in the spring it’s known for being one of the best places in DC to see cherry blossoms. There are also 3 more memorials around the basin (if you aren’t sick of memorials already): the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
The architecture in Georgetown is so different to the rest of DC (or even the rest of USA). The cobblestone sidewalks and super pretty Georgian architecture will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to Europe. A few places to check out are the canal (which has walking trails and pedestrian bridges along it), Waterfront Park, Georgetown University, and M St for shopping.Where to stay: Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel
8. ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Arlington Cemetery has an impressive landscape with long rows of white graves on the hillside. It’s also situated right next to the Pentagon, so if that’s your jam, you can check it out while you’re there!
9. UNION STATION AND UNION MARKET
Union Station is surprisingly beautiful. It reminded me somewhat of Grand Central Station in New York City, but the double levels of shops and big open areas were quite unique.
Next to Union Station is Union Market, which has plenty of local eats. Go when you’re feeling a tad hungry and take your pick of cuisine – your taste buds will be pleased.Where to stay: Washington Court Hotel
10. RESTAURANTS & NIGHTLIFE
The junction at U Street and 14th NW is a hotspot for anyone craving food from somewhere other than a chain restaurant. The Mexican meal we had at El Centro was fantastic, and there are great bars all over the place. One thing that Washington DC is known for is Ethiopian food, so this area might be a good place to try some!
11. SMITHSONIAN AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
The Air and Space Museum makes you feel like a kid again, staring wide-eyed at the massive aeroplanes, space ships, and rockets that fill up the huge space. The museum is both massive and incredibly interesting.Where to stay: Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol
If there’s one thing DC has no shortage of, it’s great museums! Enter museum overload by picking a few of these to explore:
- International Spy Museum
- Madame Tussauds
- Holocaust Museum
- American History Museum
- Natural History Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
Entrance to many of these museums is included in the Washington DC Explorer Pass.