I’ve now been to Washington DC twice for family long weekend trips and each trip felt too short to truly explore the city! The US capital does not disappoint on a variety of things to see and do in and around the city. Here’s a list of suggestions for any first timers visiting Washington DC!
- Explore the Monuments of the Nation Mall
Home to iconic landmarks, such as the Washington Monument, the National Mall is located in the heart of DC. Stretching out two miles from the US Capitol to the East to the Lincoln Memorial in the west, the National Mall is easily walk-able or you can rent a scooter to ride around (more information on that below).
Entrance to the Lincoln Memorial
2. Check out The White House and Capitol Building
While visitors are able to view outside of The White House, actually touring the building does take some advance planning. In order to embark on a public tour, visitors are required to make the request through their member of Congress up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days prior to the trip. I opted to view The White House from afar, which is heavily gated and guarded.
It takes less advanced planning to visit The Capitol in comparison to The White House, where advanced reservations for tours are encouraged, but not required. A guided tour includes visiting the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall (separate passes are needed for visiting the Senate and House Galleries).
3. Spend a half day at one of DC’s (many) museums!
The Smithsonian alone has 19 museums that cater to any interest, from air and space, to African Art, to Natural History. In addition to Smithsonian affiliated museums, there’s the International Spy Museum and National Geographic Museum.
We spent a half day at the Museum of Natural History during our last day in DC and was the perfect way to end our trip. Exhibits ranged from oceans and sea life, to mummies and dinosaurs. Of course the museums are family friendly and are free for everyone.
4. Pay your respects at the Arlington National Cemetery
While my reasons to visit the Arlington National Cemetery are personal, I believe everyone should pay their respects to those who served our country. About 10-15 minutes from central DC, the cemetery is free for visitors and is open year round.
5. Spend a half day at the Smithsonian Zoo
To be honest, I do have mixed feelings about zoos and always like to ensure they are ethical and have strong commitments towards conservation. The Smithsonian Zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institute, scientists and animal care experts conduct veterinary and reproductive research to save wildlife and habitats for some of the world’s most endangered animals. The zoo is home to 2,700 animals and over 390 different species. The orangutans getting their daily exercise climbing on cables was one of the highlights!
6. Ride a Scooter around the city
I live in a semi-rural area and about an hour and a half north of Boston and had not seen these until visiting DC! You can rent these electric scooters through Uber, Lyft, and Lime (to name a few) by reserving or walking up to a vacant scooter and unlocking it through their app. The scooters can even ride up to 15 mph.
7. Check out the dining and/or craft brew scene
My husband loves anything brew related, so we could resist going to a brewery/pub for our last meal before heading back to the airport. We chose to visit Capitol City Brewing Company, which has a variety of local craft brews and a delicious menu. If brews and pubs aren’t your thing, DC has a variety of different restaurants, as well as food trucks for any foodie experience.
Is a trip to DC on your bucket list? What are some of your favorite places to explore?