Day Trip to Washington DC | Explore the Nations Capital in a Day

Day Trip to Washington D.C.

By Moritz, 24. March 2017
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About a 4-hour drive from New York City lies the US capital: Washington D.C. This is a great day trip not only to see The White House but to experience a US city that is the polar opposite of New York.

Washington D.C Day Trip

Washington offers a lot of green space, an impressive and modern downtown area, and many smaller districts such as Georgetown that are the perfect destination for a nice afternoon stroll. Is taking a day trip to Washington really something you should do? In order to check it out for you, we took part in the tour to get you all the current information. Read about all the highlights of the tour and learn how to get the cheapest tickets here.

Quick Facts:

  • The bus tour starts at 7am at the Gray Line Visitor Center in Manhattan
  • Four hours later, you find yourself looking at Capitol Hill where you will stop to take pictures
  • A visit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is included and takes around¬†1.5-hours
  • You will return to NYC at approximately 8pm

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Day Trip to Washington DC Monument


Washington Day Trip Details

Upon your arrival in Washington, your first stop is Madame Tussauds. There you will have the chance to meet all the wax figures of all the presidents of the United States. You will also have the opportunity to have your picture taken in the wonderful replica of the Oval Office.

The tour then continues to Capitol Hill, the Senate, and the White House. This is the head quarters of the US government and truly the highlight of the day trip to Washington D.C. After this you will stop at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, followed by a tour of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.

The return trip begins in the early evening and you arrive back in New York at about 8pm. It’s a long¬†day but you get to cover a lot of attractions and experience the capital of the United States.

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Power, Politics and the National Mall

Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and the HQ of the US government, as well as where the International Monetary Fund of the World Bank and the Organization of American States are based. Decisions affecting world politics are made here. The abbreviation D.C. stands for District of Columbia, a federal district that is fully occupied by the city. D.C. is not a state in the union, but controlled directly by Congress.

The city is named after George Washington, who was Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War as well as the nation’s first president. Walking through Washington you will immediately notice the contrast in comparison to NYC. It’s almost as if something was missing: ¬†the skyscrapers. This is due to the fact that Washington D.C. was meticulously designed as a capital city and no building were¬†allowed to be taller than the width of the adjoining street plus 6.1 m. There are only three buildings exempt from this rule: the Washington Monument, the tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion, and Washington National Cathedral.

Since we are so used to NYC, Washington always seems like a nice getaway from the craziness of New York. The clear layout of the city and broad avenues always have a calming effect.


The White House

The White House is one of the most recognized buildings in the world. It is the office and residence of the President of the United States and because of this one of highest secured buildings in the world. The secret service works with the latest in surveillance technology to ensure the security of the White House 24 hours a day. One glance at the roof says it all: Snipers keep a watchful eye on the grounds surrounding the government building. The pictures you see on TV generally show the center section of the White House, but the East and West Wing are also a significant part of the White House Complex.

Recently, the White House was reopened for tours. You can look at the details on how to request a spot on a tour here. Advance registration is required with your countries embassy in Washington D.C. if you are a foreign citizen. Visiting the whitehouse is a very special experience, you will get an exciting behind-the-scenes view of political life in the famous government building. Tours run daily from 7:30 am -11:30 am. In the afternoon, the areas accessible to the tour are then relinquished again to the President and his family. Only the lower floor is included in the tour. Photography is prohibited and security measures are tight. Please note that due to the timing, the white house tours are often not possible in combination with this day trip, due to the arrival time of the bus.

Day Trip to Washington DC White House


Things to do in Washington D.C.

In addition to the White House, there are numerous other must-see attractions that you really shouldn’t miss on your trip to the US capital.¬†You definitely should see the world renowned Lincoln Memorial¬†well as the Washington Monument¬†(a 169.3 m tall white marble obelisk that is located on the Mall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial). The Capitol, which houses the Senate and the House of Representatives, is also within walking distance of the White House.¬†The Jefferson Memorial and the grave site of John F. Kennedy are two other free attractions that Washington has to offer.

Arlington National Cemetery

We also recommend a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where you will find not only the grave site of John F. Kennedy, but also the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. There are various guided tours that provide you with all the info about the memorials. The most popular Arlington National Cemetery tours can be found here.

Day Trip to Washington DC


Things to do in Georgetown

Georgetown is a small historic neighborhood in Washington D.C. that attracts young people and students in particular. It is also one of the most expensive residential areas in the city. You can get to Georgetown by foot or with a bus from downtown D.C.. The colorful homes and the winding streets are a big contrast to the rest of Washingtons architecture.

There are many things you you can do in Georgetown. Not only is the neighborhood a shopping paradise, you will also find the best sushi in town here, as well as the best cocktails. M Street is the high street of Georgetown. On M Street you will find everything from retail chains like H&M, Zara, and Mango to small boutiques with a creative selections, as well as many recommendable restaurants. In the evening, people head for the bars or enjoy the night along the waterfront of the Potomac River.


Museums in Washington

Washington has numerous museums, most of which are free of charge. You will definitely find a museum here for every taste.¬†If you haven’t been to the one in NYC, check out the Natural History Museum¬†‚Äď a wonderful museum worth seeing.¬†Even the architecture of this museum is impressive by itself.

Our recommendation is a visit to the Holocaust Museum. The museum has the largest documentation in the world of the Holocaust and its victims. The artifacts you can see include A train car that transported people to the concentration camps, cobble stones, lost personal belongings such as shoes, a torn doll, thousands of photos and ID cards whose owners were killed and much more. Visitors get a very personal account of the suffering of the victims. You will also not find an equivalent of this museum in NYC making it well worth the visit. We also recommend the Newseum, the Spy Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and the National Gallery of Art museum.


Where to eat in Washington D.C.

Directly next to¬†the White House you will find¬†the Old Ebbitt Grill. This place benefits from a great location as well as selling delicious food. Due to this however, the Grill is always full and you will most likely have to queue¬†for a table. The menu includes everything from a classic burger to delicious steaks and fish. You will find a lot of ¬†White House personnel, secret service agents, and Washington lawyers dining here. If you are in downtown D.C., stop at the local¬†Shake Shack. The well-known burger restaurant definitely makes the best burger and fries in the city. Washington’s Shake Shack is just as good as its counterpart in New York and is the perfect choice for a family lunch. If you do go, be sure to try the home-made lemonade.


Is one day enough for Washington?

Washington D.C. is somewhere you could definitely spend more time, but if you are not on a tour of the US, this day trip is a good option as it is very well organized. If you think that you  would like more than just one day in the US capital, we recommend planning your own trip to cut down on costs.


Tickets to Washington

The easiest way to get to Washington DC is by bus. After a 4 hour ride, you are in the city center and can start your tour of the capital. 

Tickets at the best prices can be found here.

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