April 11, 2024

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Complete Guide To America’s Capital

Complete Guide To America’s Capital

The United States is one of the best travel destinations in the world, with phenomenal sites to visit. Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, is one such location. The place is much more than the nation’s political center and the leading cherry blossom tourist attraction.


Washington, D.C., is famous for many things. The location has picturesque neighborhoods dotted with iconic row houses, renowned galleries, and an underappreciated haute cuisine setting. Exploring the rich culture, history, and booming metropolitan spectacle will give visitors an incredible atmosphere.

Things To Do

Washington, D.C., is not only America’s capital but a destination filled with rich history and culture, and it embodies the freedom of the United States. Here is the complete travel guide to Washington, D.C., so keep reading!

UPDATE: 2023/04/13 14:35 EST BY NOAH STAATS

There’s More To See In Washington, D.C.

This article has been updated with four new things to do while traveling in Washington, D.C., as well as tips and tricks for a memorable vacation. Whether someone wants to spend the day under a cherry blossom tree or at the Smithsonian Museum, D.C. is a world-class travel destination.

1 Learn More About Abraham Lincoln At Ford’s Theatre

a memorial in the balcony of fords theatre for abraham lincoln

Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

For anyone wanting to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, taking a trip to Ford’s Theatre will be worth the time. In this attraction, visitors can find where the site of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln took place and pay their condolences. The museum is intimate, often a quieter place to explore the history of the United States while in D.C.

  • Ford’s Theatre is on the cheaper side, costing a
    $3.50
    reservation fee for each ticket.

That makes it perfect for those trying to spend less on day trips throughout Washington, D.C., and people with bigger groups/families.

In the summer, heading to Ford’s Theatre may also be a great idea to beat the heat!

2 Watch The Cherry Blossoms Bloom In D.C. At Tidal Basin

Washington, DC at the Tidal Basin
Shutterstock

Washington, DC at the Tidal Basin

For those who love flowers, watching the cherry blossoms throughout the D.C. area bloom is a must-see experience while in the city. Location-wise almost anywhere in D.C. will have cherry blossom viewing, although Tidal Basin tends to be the most popular.

Here, visitors can experience the blooms front-row and enjoy the sights of the Lincoln Monument. There is a sidewalk running through Tidal Basin, allowing people with strollers and wheelchairs to maneuver their way to the trees comfortably.

Many past visitors to D.C. recommend watching the cherry blossoms from a bridge between the FDR and Jefferson Memorial, so that’s a tip to remember during the trip! The trees typically bloom in late March and April, so those months are when someone wants to come to see them.

If someone wants to visit D.C. to view the cherry blossoms, try booking a trip in late March through April. This is prime season for flowering and will give people the best chance of witnessing the pink-filled streets of the United States Capital city.

3 Spend The Day At The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Museum of National History and Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington DC
Shutterstock

Cityscape with Museum of National History and Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington DC

One of the most popular destinations in Washington, D.C., is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This mega-learning center features our planet’s fascinating story and historical pieces from the USA’s long history. Here, guests can spend the day exploring various parts of the world, all under a single roof.

This museum is located on the National Mall and offers free admission to guests 364 days a year. For families or large groups, coming to the Smithsonian may be a great way to save extra money on attractions. With that said guests to the site could also request a private, guided tour through the massive complex, usually costing around $100.

Regardless, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., is one of their best spots, so it should be added to any history buff’s itinerary.

4 Tour The United States Capitol Building

US Capitol, Washington, DC
Wikimedia Commons

US Capitol, Washington, DC 

Another fun thing to do in D.C. is to tour the nation’s Capitol Building. This is a great way to explore where many of the United States elected officials do their work and potentially see a politician walking through the halls.

Generally, tours of the Capitol Building are free and should be available to the public Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. However, it’s a good idea to inquire before heading to the Capitol, as some days may be fully booked, or the touring may be put on pause for updates/security.

Washington, D.C., is one of the most guarded places in the US, so expect to see many police officers and special agents.

5 Discover Georgetown And DuPont Circle

View of Washington Monument at night
via: shutterstock.com

View of  Washington Monument at night from far

Washington, D.C., is located on America’s eastern coast and serves as the country’s capital but is not a state. From the Civil War to the American Revolution to modern waves of activism, the area has been the central focus of historical stances, as evidenced by its never-ending roster of landmarks, exhibitions, and commemoratives.

Georgetown remains and will continue to be Washington, D.C.’s leading shopping district. However, neighboring DuPont Circle could compete. Most stores are on two important traversing avenues, M Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue. There are both unique, chain, elegant, and thrift stores.

6 Learn A Bit Of History While In D.C.

View of United States Capitol
via: shutterstock.com

View of United States Capitol from far

There are many museums in Washington, D.C. The Mall is a 2-mile stretch of land boasting several of the city’s most well-known monuments and museums, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Air and Space Museum.

The Washington Monument is very famous and a must-visit landmark.

Pennsylvania Avenue is among the world’s most recognizable streets. One of its portions includes administrative buildings and monuments and concludes with the White House. The United States Archives, FBI Headquarters, and the Navy Memorial are all located here.

Related: Mount Vernon: The Historic Home Of The USA’s First President George Washington Is Open To The Public

National Gallery Of Art
via: shutterstock.com

inside of The National Gallery Of Art

The National Gallery of Art has been among the world’s leading art museums, in addition to being the most notable in the United States, and is home to a diverse collection of artworks ranging from European art pieces and statues to American art, some of which are timeless.

Temporary events supplement this exceptional permanent catalog by highlighting works from different cultures worldwide. The center also has a souvenir shop, a lovely sculpture park, and a famous ice rink for winter sports enthusiasts.

The United States capital is among the most desirable locations, given the tourist places available. This section of the United States incorporates many of the nation’s most significant monuments and sights. Apart from visiting the Washington Monument, there are many others to explore.

Folks arrive from across the world to indulge in the city’s entertainment. There are fantastic options and fun activities in Washington, D.C., when people are in the area, and there’s something for everybody.

8 Visit The International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum
via: shutterstock.com

The International Spy Museum from outside

Among the many attractions in Washington D.C., this is quite interesting. The International Spy Museum would be an excellent place to learn more about the historical past of espionage. Including more than 7,000 items on exhibit, this monument has the most comprehensive collection worldwide of espionage artifacts.

The museum will inform visitors about the history of spying and how it began. It also gives them a chance to demonstrate and improve their spying abilities.

The upper floor is devoted to real-life secret agents John Walker, Robert Hanson, and Aldrich Ames, documenting the exact techniques and equipment they used to conduct surveillance on America, as well as videos explaining how spies were apprehended. The bottom floor transitions from reality to stories, with details and actual objects from James Bond films.

9 Explore The National Air And Space Museum

The National Air And Space Museum Washington Dc
via: shutterstock.com

Inside of The National Air And Space Museum Washington Dc

The National Air and Space Museum is among the most renowned museums worldwide, housing a historic aircraft and spacecraft catalog.

Permanent and temporary exhibitions depict the science, past, and innovation of avionics and space flying, discussing themes such as flight innovators, the space race, air power’s usages across both world wars, and cutting-edge aircraft and space engineering.

Several displays, including real historical artifacts, are immersive, like a moon rock that people can touch. It is a must-see attraction for any aviation or space connoisseur.

10 Walk Around The Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden washington DC
via: shutterstock.com

Outside of The Botanic Garden washington DC

The U.S. Botanic Garden seems to be a tropical garden sanctuary in the city’s heart. The massive glasshouse, encircled by gardens, serves as the focal point of an exhibition of living vegetation.

Permanent indoor displays foster an atmosphere for plants at home, anywhere from the wilderness to the wetlands, while the exterior showcases vegetation that flourishes in the Mid-Atlantic regions.

Something is always in blossoms, and seats throughout the huge conservatory welcome visitors to take a break and relax in the aromas and verdant scenery. It’s a fantastic spot to escape the metropolitan area and discover various flora.

Other top attractions to explore: The World War II Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian National Museum Of Natural History, and many others.

The Washington Monument and The Potomac River
via: shutterstock.com

The Washington Monument and The Potomac River

Among the best parts about exploring a metropolitan region like this is that people can see some popular neighborhoods near Washington D.C. that are equally attractive and historically significant as the tourist hotspots. Every neighborhood has a distinct style, sites to discover, and significance.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill
via: shutterstock.com

Capitol Hill at night

Capitol Hill is a captivating and iconic Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Aside from its rich past and significance to the United States government, it is also renowned for its numerous shopping and dining alternatives.

Barracks Row, the city’s earliest shopping district, has many coffeehouses and popular food outlets. Due to its vast green spaces and famous parks, such as Stanton Park, Marion Park, and Garfield Park, the place also ranks among the top Washington DC neighborhoods for kids and families.

Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom
via: shutterstock.com

Foggy Bottom the walkup neighbourhood

Foggy Bottom has been a famous D.C. neighborhood, government, and cultural center. The neighborhood is mainly made up of exclusive homes and laid-back cafés.

It’s among the top D.C. neighborhoods to visit because it is calmer but still has activities like free concerts at the Kennedy Convention, beverages with Potomac’s outlook at the renowned Watergate Hotel, kayaking on the water, or a leisurely walk across Rock Creek Garden.

It’s also close to Georgetown and a perfect place to hang out.

DuPont Circle

Dupont Circle
via: shutterstock.com

Dupont Circle near Washington DC

DuPont Circle serves as a residential neighborhood in Washington, D.C. It is also famous for its thriving night scene and offbeat dining options, with the traffic loop binge and the massive fountain in the center serving as the area’s focal point.

There are many historical museums, trendy restaurants, and coffee houses with excellent coffee on M Street Northwest. The Chinese American Museum, The Wilderness Society, and The O Street Museum are also among the most famous destinations on M Street Northwest.

There are also numerous shops and boutiques to hold visitors occupied for hours.

12 Best Time To Go To D.C.

Washington monument
via: shutterstock.com

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool from Lincoln Memorial

  • Best Season To Visit: Fall
  • Best Months To Visit: September-November

The ideal months to visit Washington D.C. are April through June or September through November. The climate will be mild and pleasant in late spring and early summer. In September-November, people will still get some coziness without being faced with the extreme heat and swarms of visitors arriving during the summer.

Washington hosts the world-famous Cherry Blossom Festival from late March- early April. Holidays such as the Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are the best times to discover Washington’s brilliance.

The peak period for hotels is from April to June, whereas the shoulder season is from December to February.

Related: 14 Small Towns Near Washington D.C. You’ll Love Visiting

13 Best Ways To Get Around Washington D.C.

D.C. is a highly walkable city that boasts one of the finest public transportation systems in the nation. So getting around this famous travel spot couldn’t be simpler.

Walk Or Cycle Around

Cycling
via: shutterstock.com

A girl sitting in front of river with bicycle parked on side

D.C. is among the most coherent and walkable cities along the Eastern Coast, thanks to an effective urban planning initiative at its inception. Many landmarks are concentrated in nearby neighborhoods, allowing visitors to simply walk the distance.

Even late at night, the avenues in Northwest are tidy, well-lit, and reasonably safe for commuters. If visitors would like to be more energetic, try renting a bicycle to explore the attractions of D.C. sans dealing with traffic. Washington has long remained on the cutting edge of the biking lifestyle, and most streets in the Northwest have bicycle paths or are readily accessible by bike.

Use Public Transport

Washington Metro Area Transit Authority
via: shutterstock.com

Washington Metro Area platform

Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the buses and trains in the city, and its network is the most convenient way to navigate the city. The Metro, or train system, was gradually revamped to effectively serve travelers.

The bus service covers a significant portion of the city, but excluding the Circulator bus lines, it is less user-friendly for visitors. If people are searching for buses, the Circulator is the top choice.

There is no fixed fare since Metro evaluates it depending on the distance visitors commute on the network.

14 Where To Eat In Washington, D.C.

Tabard Inn
via: shutterstock.com

Front view of Hotel Tabard Inn

The capital’s erstwhile drab dining culture has transformed into a gastronomic haven, with old-school classics taking permanent residence throughout the metropolitan area.

Today, Washington, D.C., has some of the best steakhouses.

So, if people are looking for a simple and easy breakfast or a fine-dining dinner, the best places in D.C. list seem to have something for everyone.

15 Where To Stay In Washington, D.C.

Washington DC hotel
via: shutterstock.com

Hotel in Washington DC

The United States has some of the best hotels in the world, and Washington, DC, as the nation’s capital, has an appropriate hotel scene.

Cost, convenience, and amenities are the most important factors when selecting a hotel. Let’s look at some of the best places to spend the night in D.C.

Luxury Hotels

Luxury Hotels
Pexels

A luxury hotel

Melrose Georgetown Hotel

Viceroy Washington DC

Sofitel Lafayette Square Washington DC

Budget Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Washington DC
via: shutterstock.com

DoubleTree by Hilton in Washington DC, the parking and garage area

DoubleTree by Hilton Washington DC – Crystal City

Hyatt Place Washington DC/US Capitol

Hampton Inn & Suites Alexandria Old Town Area South

RELATED: The American Civil War Museum Is Home To What Was Almost Known As A Second Capitol White House

16 Tips For Staying In Washington, D.C.

Washington DC-5
via: pixabay.com

A colorful neighborhood

There are some things visitors need to understand before going on a tour of Washington, D.C. Admittedly; visitors would like to have a good time and discover important places.

  • Select the season carefully. While summer is a low season, the D.C. climate is notorious for its high temperatures and humidity, so consider the ease before booking a family vacation.
  • It is critical to arrange the vacation ahead of time. Look for the best accommodations and make a reservation because it can be tricky to book on arrival.
  • Given that most landmarks are within walking distance, take public transportation or stroll as often as possible.
  • When walking around the city, wearing comfortable and appropriate footwear is critical.

Related: 10 Amazing State & National Parks You Need To Visit In Washington State

17 How To Spend The Perfect Day In Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial
Pexels

Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

Visitors might begin their trip at the White House, DC’s most significant landmark. The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the National Air and Space Museum can all be seen by visitors thanks to the proximity of The Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Visitors must go to Georgetown to shop and explore a charming neighborhood. Additionally, nearby and a fantastic choice for food and shopping is DuPont Circle. After spending the entire day taking in the sights, travelers can experience the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife.

FAQ

Q: What is the best time to visit Washington D.C.?

The best months to travel to Washington, D.C., are September through November or March through May. Visitors will have the ideal climate during these periods, and while they might have to cope with the masses (especially at popular tourist attractions), it’ll be significantly less of a concern than dealing with the bad climate that causes visitors to spend time outdoors in the city.

Q: How to get around D.C.?

Washington, D.C., is a walkable city, with nearly all monuments and various neighborhoods within walking distance of one another. As a result, visitors can stroll around the area all day because it is safe and secure. Biking is another option, as most streets have bike paths. The city’s public transportation system is also inexpensive, fast, and efficient, making it a popular choice for visitors.

Q: What are the coolest things to do in D.C.?

Washington, D.C., is a bustling metropolis with a wide variety of attractions, including many free ones. But exploring some things is genuinely cool. One of the top experiences that will absolutely astound visitors is exploring D.C.’s museums, especially the International Spy Museum. Visitors will gain a deeper understanding of the world of espionage by visiting this exclusive museum.

Another fantastic location to visit to learn more about the aviation or space world is the National Air and Space Museum. Kayaking is another activity that people will appreciate in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood’s Rock Creek Garden. Last but not least, travelers must not skip out on spending the evening in Dupont Circle.

Q: Are 2 days in Washington D.C. enough?

Two days in the iconic American capital are sufficient to learn about a few of its most significant sites. Although 48 hours isn’t long enough to explore a place thoroughly, smart itinerary preparation can help visitors get the most out of their trip.

Choosing one area to explore at a time works well; check out museums, monuments, and other sights in one area each day. With so many amazing things to do, the hardest part is figuring out where to start.