Washington DC attracts history buffs with its national monuments and memorials, as well as impressive museums displaying various cultures, artefacts, and collectibles from around the world. Home to the White House, you may even catch a glimpse of the nation’s president while you’re vacationing in the USA capital.

    Spring often attracts crowds to the 2-mile-long Tidal Basin as hundreds of pink cherry trees are in full bloom from March to October. All year round, the city also has a vibrant entertainment scene, with live jazz, rock and roll, and EDM blaring from nightclubs, lounges, and bars concentrated in the U Street district. Make the most out of your stay by checking out our guide of things to do in Washington DC.

    What are the best things to do in Washington DC?

    1

    The White House

    Watch a 10-minute video of the president’s home at the visitor’s centre

    • History
    • Photo

    The White House is a popular stop for most visitors in Washington DC as it has been the official residence of every president of the USA since 1800. Self-guided tours are available, but foreign visitors are required to apply for a tour request at their home country’s embassy in Washington DC. Even if you’re not able to schedule a tour inside, the White House still offers beautiful snapshots thanks to its all-white exterior, blooming flowerbeds, and fountains.

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    Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 202-456-1111

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    2

    Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials

    Learn about the leaders with a walking tour of the memorials

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    The Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials are built in commemoration of some of the nation’s most noteworthy people. The Lincoln Memorial, inspired by the Pantheon, features 36 Doric columns and a 5.8-metre-tall sitting statue of Abraham Lincoln looking out towards a reflecting pool. A 10-minute walk away is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which is located next to the Tidal Basin. Both are located in Independence Avenue, and you get to enjoy a lovely view of gardens, sculptures, and a large reflecting pool as you walk from one memorial to another.

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    3

    Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

    Check out an actual fossil Neanderthal at the Hall of Human Origins

    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History displays over 126 million objects ranging from animal fossils, gemstones and meteorites to live butterflies and insects. Spanning over 325,000 sq m of exhibition space, it’s one of the largest museums in the world. The Hall of Human Origins is where you get to learn about the history of human species through an interactive human family tree, an authentic fossilised Neanderthal, and over 70 skull replicas.

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    Location: 4th St SW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 202-633-1000

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    photo by Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Pennsylvania Avenue

    Go museum-hopping in downtown DC

    • Photo
    • Budget

    Pennsylvania Avenue is a great place to visit historical buildings and museums in Washington DC. A good starting point for tourists is the White House, where you’re within walking distances of the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial. You can also enjoy a day of museum-hopping when you’re in Pennsylvania Avenue, with famous spots including the Smithsonian Museums, Art Museum of the Americas, and Hirshhorn Museum.

    Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 2050, USA

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    5

    Eastern Market

    Visit the Sunday flea market to shop for crafts by local artists

    Eastern Market, established in 1805, is one of the first public marketplaces in Washington DC. It occupies an 18th-century brick building on Capitol Hill. The North Hall is where you can find vendors selling fresh flowers, produce, pasta, and baked goods from Tuesday to Sunday. On weekends, Eastern Market hosts a large flea market where local artists sell handmade crafts, second-hand books, cameras, antiques, and collectibles from all over the world.

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    Location: 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 7 am to 7 pm, Saturday from 7 am to 6 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 202-698-5253

    Map

    photo by Daniel Lobo (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    US Capitol and the Library of Congress

    Join a free tour of the senate building

    • History
    • Budget

    The US Capitol has more than 600 rooms and miles of vaulted corridors built in 19th-century neoclassical style. Its most impressive feature is a 177-foot-tall white dome with revolutionary period scenes, relief sculptures, and busts of former presidents. Be sure to head there early as tours are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Near the senate building is the Library of Congress, where you can enjoy free lectures, poetry readings, and concerts all year round. The library also displays a recreation of Thomas Jefferson's original library.

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    Location: East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, DC 20004, USA

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 202-226-8000

    Map
    7

    National Gallery of Art

    Go for a walk in the Sculpture Garden

    • History
    • Budget

    The National Gallery of Art displays more 140,000 artwork from Europe and America from different time periods. Its West and East Buildings are connected by an underground concourse that’s fitted with Leo Villareal’s Multiverse installation, where you can see over 41,000 LED nodes creating hypnotic trailing lights and abstract sculptures. A highlight here is the Sculpture Garden, which has a large fountain that functions as an ice rink during winter. Admission to the National Gallery of Art is free all year round.

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    Location: 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 202-737-4215

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    8

    Rock Creek Park

    Join a guided trail ride by the Horse Center

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Rock Creek Park is one of the largest green expanse in Washington DC. Hiking is a popular activity as the park has more than 30 trails to suit any fitness level. The Rock Creek Park Horse Center offers daily horseback riding lessons and guided trail rides for those looking to explore the park at a leisurely pace. It’s also a popular spot for picnics, jogging, tennis, and cycling, so expect huge crowds if you’re visiting on weekends or national holidays.

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    Location: Washington, DC 20008, USA

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    9

    Tidal Basin

    See blooming cherry trees in springtime

    • Couples
    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    The Tidal Basin is a manmade pond overlooking many Washington landmarks, including the Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials. The 2-mile-long pond is a popular spot for cycling and jogging all year round, but it draws a big crowd in spring as hundreds of cherry trees are in full bloom during this season. Paddleboat rides are available between March and October, which cost about $18 an hour for a 2-person boat and $30 for a 4-person boat.

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    Location: 1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA

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    10

    U Street

    Catch live jazz at this vibrant nightlife hub

    U Street, known as the birthplace of jazz legend Duke Ellington, houses some of the busiest nightclubs, jazz clubs, and theatres in Washington DC. From the internationally-acclaimed 9:30 Club to underground U Street Music Hall, there’s always a live gig happening on U Street. Even if you’re not there for drinks and music, you can find many art galleries, vintage shops, and wall murals while exploring this colourful neighbourhood.

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    Location: U St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA

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    photo by ianakoz (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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