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Washington D.C. is one of my favorite cities in the United States. As the nation’s capital with tremendous historical significance, you can be sure that there are lots of things to do in Washington D.C. Because the myriad options can be overwhelming, I created a list of the best things to do in Washington D.C. that will come in handy if you’re a first-time visitor.
The 10 Top Things to Do in Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. is home to some of the country’s major institutions as well as some of the most meaningful memorials and museums. There are so many things to do in Washington D.C. that you could easily spend a few days there just trying to cover all major attractions. That also made it extremely tough to narrow down the list of top things to do in Washington D.C. to only 10. Yet, after some careful consideration, I finished the list for you. The great news? All sights but one are located along the National Mall, making it easy to cover everything efficiently.
All attractions are FREE to visit!
1. Washington Monument
Washington Monument is one of the nation’s most famous landmarks. It was built in honor of the first commander in chief and president of the United States, George Washington. Seeing the monument of George Washington who the capital is named after is must-do in Washington D.C. and at the same time impossible to miss. The 555 feet tall obelisk is the centerpiece of the National Mall.
When you visit the monument, an elevator will take you all the way up to where you will have a stunning view of the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool. While tickets are technically free, you should make an effort to reserve guaranteed tickets as they go quickly. The reservation charges you a fee of $1.
Did you know?
Before the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, Washington Monument was the tallest man-made structure in the world.
Address: 2 15th St NW
2. The United States Capitol
The US Capitol is the home of the US Congress and considered one of the world’s most recognized symbols of democracy. Just like most things to do in Washington D.C., it’s located on National Mall. You’ll find it on Capitol Hill on its Eastern end. During your visit, also go see the Library of Congress – one of my favorite things to do in Washington D.C. It’s gorgeous and the de facto national library.
The United States Capitol is open to the public for tours. Tours are free but you need to plan ahead to make reservations. It’s better not to risk waiting in line hoping for same-day tickets.
Address: First St SE
3. The White House
When naming the top things to do in Washington D.C., we would be remiss not to mention the White House. It has been the residence and workplace of every sitting president of the United States since John Adams in 1800. The impressive building houses 132 rooms, a part of which can be explored during a tour! Coming here is a special experience, as you will get an exciting behind-the-scenes view of political life in the famous government building.
Tickets are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. Requests for visiting the White House must be submitted up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. US-nationals will need to contact their member of Congress, while international visitors are asked to contact their embassy in Washington D.C. for assistance in requesting a tour.
Did you know?
The name “White House” was adopted 100 years after its initial construction.
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
4. Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool
The Lincoln Memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th and one of the most inspiring presidents of the United States leading the country through the Civil War and working to put an end to slavery.
His memorial is located on the west side of the National Mall overlooking the Reflecting Pool. You can visit Lincoln Memorial any time as it is open to the public 24 hours a day. With 7 million annual visitors, it’s the most visited memorial in the city.
Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW
5. Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson – not only was he one of the founding fathers of the United States, but he also was the 1st Secretary of State, formed the Democratic Party with James Madison, and served as the 3rd president of the United States. To honor his legacy, president FDR had the Jefferson Memorial built during his first term. The Jefferson Memorial is located along the Tidal basin, which looks especially stunning during cherry blossom season.
Address: 16 E Basin Dr. SW
6. Arlington Cemetery
A visit to Arlington Cemetery is one of the top things to do in Washington D.C. The military cemetery technically is, as the name suggests, located in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River just outside of the nation’s capital. Across 642 acres, you can find the graves of veterans and fallen servicemen, as well as the presidential grave of John F. Kennedy.
Address: Arlington, VA
7. The Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian consists of 11 museums and galleries on the National Mall. You will definitely find a museum here for every taste. All of them are free to visit. One of the most popular museums in Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Learn about the history of flight exploring the world’s largest collection of air and spacecraft.
Address: 600 Independence Ave SW
8. FDR Memorial
The FDR Memorial is one of many memorials built to honor US presidents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as the 32nd president. He helped the country regain faith during the Great Depression. His memorial features many statues and meaningful quotations paying tribute to his time in office as the longest-serving US president it is fitting that his memorial is the largest of those offered in Washington D.C.
Did you know?
FDR remained in office for 4 terms making him the only president to have served more than 2 terms. Shortly after, the 22nd amendment was passed and put a limit on how many times a president could be re-elected.
Address: 1850 West Basin Dr. SW
9. The National Archives Building
The National Archives is home to milestone documents like the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These founding documents are a must-see in Washington D.C for everyone. The Archives Building is open every day of the week and admission is free. Visiting the National Archives is one of the best things to do in Washington D.C. if you’re interested in learning about the birth of the nation.
Address: 701 Constitution Avenue, NW
10. Korean War Veterans Memorial
On either side of Lincoln Memorial, you will find a tribute to America’s veterans: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Both commemorate the sacrifices of those who served in the two deadly wars. The Korean War Memorial was financed by private contributions and depicts 19 stainless steel statues representing soldiers from the armed forces. In proximity to the sculptures, you will find the Mural Wall; a panel showing more than 2,400 photographs of Korean War veterans.
Address: 5 Henry Bacon Dr. NW & 900 Ohio Dr. SW
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