Whether you seek more independence or want a professionally planned itinerary during your visit there are countless activities for all ages and interests to enjoy. Let’s take a look at 41 things to do in Washington DC, that make it one of the most sought after places in America.
Washington, DC is an epicenter of history and culture that will capture any traveler’s imagination. For road trippers, it makes a perfect stop along their journey—filled with free attractions, stately monuments and memorials, traditional museums, outdoor activities, local music venues to explore– the list of things to do in and around Washington goes on!
Table of Contents
1. See a Concert at The Anthem
See big names in entertainment at The Anthem concert hall and auditorium, right on the southwest waterfront area. Concerts in the past have included Foo Fighters, Mumford & Sons, Eric Church, Bob Dylan, and Bon Iver.
The premier venue cost $60 million to build.
2. Catch a Movie at AFI Silver Fox
The AFI Silver Fox Theatre and Cultural Center is a retro jewel in Silver Spring, Maryland, that was saved by the wrecking ball from community efforts. You can see first-run movies, foreign, independent, and international films and documentaries, plus order cheese plates and paninis from the café menu.
3. Attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival
Come witness the breathtaking beauty of the blooming Japanese Cherry Trees in Washington, DC, marking the start of spring for the entire country. Every year, over 700,000 visitors flock to the National Cherry Blossom Festival event during March to April, enjoying festivities like parties, kite festivals, parades, fireworks, and marching bands.
Don’t miss out on this photogenic spectacle that’ll surely put a smile on your face!
4. Ride the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus
Looking to explore all that DC has to offer? Look no further than the Big Bus tour! With a multitude of stops at top attractions, you can hop off and on at your leisure, spending as much time as you’d like at each spot.
Look out for the iconic double-decker maroon buses, which come equipped with a knowledgeable guide and pre-recorded commentary to enhance your experience. Plus, with complimentary earphones available, you’ll be able to enjoy the tour in multiple languages. This is a really exciting way to see Washington DC!
5. Catch a Commanders Game
Did you know that the Washington Commanders have been playing in the heart of the nation’s capital since 1932? Catch them play at FedExField in Landover, MD, just a short five-mile drive from DC.
Throughout the team’s storied history, football legends like Joe Gibbs, Joe Theismann, John Riggins, and Champ Bailey have all donned the iconic burgundy and gold uniform.
6. Take a Water Taxi to Georgetown
The Potomac Riverboat Company by Hornblower offers great views along the Potomac River as you navigate a shorter, and less congested route to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, or National Harbor from The Wharf in Washington, DC.
Day ($31 for a single day/$40 for two days) and commuter passes are available.
7. Play Mini-Golf
Looking to add some fun and history to your DC trip? Swing by the East Potomac Miniature Golf course, the oldest continually running mini-golf course in the US!
Not only is it located in the National Park System, with 18 holes of play, but it’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy some nostalgic fun and learn about US history at the same time!
8. Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”
Experience America’s favorite pastime at Nationals Park next to DC’s Navy Yard neighborhood! Catch the 2019 World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, as they hit off the 2023 season with action-packed games against top teams like the Mets, Giants, Lions, and Marlins.
Savor classic ballpark treats like peanuts, popcorn, and ice-cold beer while enjoying some thrilling baseball action. It’s an all-American adventure you won’t want to miss!
9. Drink Local Beer at True Respite
Rockville, Maryland, is where you’ll find True Respite Brewery. The brewery’s taproom is unpretentious, and even those not familiar with the craft beer scene will feel comfortable. You may want to take in a special event such as trivia, themed dinners, pop-up patisserie, happy hour flow yoga, or game night.
Scrum & Hooker, True Respite’s nutty with a hint of chocolate brew, is delicious.
10. Visit the District Wharf
The District Wharf (in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area) is a brand spanking new riverfront complex encompassing restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Don’t miss the long-standing open-air Fish Market, which you are sure to smell before you see it, the oldest in the nation.
11. Feast on a Fantastic Brunch
Go for a delicious brunch at Arlington’s Green Pig Bistro, where gourmet cinnamon rolls don nearly every table. The Fried Chicken Waffle with sausage gravy and onion jam is to die for, and the house made andouille sausage Shrimp and Grits is another tasty dish to try.
12. Dine in a Historical Tavern at Martin’s
Come dine at Martin’s Tavern , a charming and historic (1933) eatery with a vintage atmosphere, rich wood decor, and an irresistible menu. Satisfy your cravings with the Hot Brown, featuring roast turkey, bacon, tomato, and rarebit sauce on toast, or try the Fish & Chips, made with freshly fried New England cod.
To add to the experience, make sure to request Booth #3, the site of John F. Kennedy’s proposal to Jackie Onassis. Learn more about Martin’s fascinating past on the laminated cards found at every table.
13. Munch on Delicious Garrett Popcorn
Founded in 1949, Garrett Popcorn has satisfied salt cravings with light and super flavorful fresh-popped Chicago-style popcorn. Garrett’s CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp are my favorites, or you can have the best of both worlds with the famous Garrett Mix.
14. Test Your Inner Bravery
Hold a human heart at the Natural Museum of Health and Medicine at the US Army’s Forest Glen Annex. You’ll find bizarre and old medical instruments, human skeletons, organs, and even congenital anomalies preserved in this museum’s exhibits.
The Natural Museum of Health and Medicine also displays the bullet that killed President Lincoln.
15. Visit a Classic Smithsonian Museum
Looking for an unforgettable field trip destination for you or your school kids? The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the world’s most popular history museum, never fails to impress. Just step inside the door and you’ll be captivated by the massive dinosaur skeleton.
But that’s only the beginning.
You’ll also discover an insect zoo, bone hall featuring skeletons from all kinds of animals, a butterfly pavilion, ancient Egypt, and much more. Make sure to check out the hall of gems, minerals, and rocks while you’re there- it’s a personal favorite of ours.
And don’t miss the stunning Mackay emerald (168 carats) or the dazzling blue Hope Diamond (45.5 carats). A visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is sure to create lasting memories for everyone.
16. Practice Your Spy Technique
The International Spy Museum is a super fun place to visit. Channel your inner Mata Hari and learn about secret identities, counterintelligence, and espionage at this fan-favorite attraction.
17. Admire Art at Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery is a fantastic National Historic Landmark and treasure trove just steps from the White House. Most of the works are 19th to 21st century, with a gorgeous Chihuly chandelier as the focal point above The Grecian Slave sculpture by Hiram Powers.
18. Stroll Through History
The collection of artifacts at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC, is incredible. You could wander the halls and study the collections for days. Best of all, admission is free.
Inside, see kitschy things such as Archie Bunker’s chair, Fonzie’s jacket, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, and the original Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the song. The Food History exhibit is one of my favorites, thought-provoking, and educational.
19. Visit the Smithsonian Castle
The Castle is one of the 19 free (yes, free) museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution. While the Smithsonian Castle is mentioned far less than its counterparts (Natural History, Air & Space, etc.), it is impressive and worth a visit.
The Smithsonian Gardens surround the castle and are an Instagram-worthy photo op.
20. Learn about African Art in Washington, DC
Visit the National Museum of African Art (another installment of the Smithsonian entity) as you make your way into the Smithsonian Castle. This small, but powerful museum, has African art collections that are second to none in the country.
The stately building is designed with the exhibits mainly in the basement.
21. See Amazing Zoo Animals
The National Zoological Park, or National Zoo, is one of the world’s most beloved zoos, partially due to its Giant Panda residents. The conservation-forward zoo has free admission, nearly 3000 animals, a kid’s farm, and is open 364 days of the year.
My favorite things to see are the orangutans, California sea lions, bison, and mole-rats.
22. Glimpse the Nation’s Capitol
Not only is the United States Capitol one of the most recognized landmarks in the world, but it is also home to the government’s legislative branch. You’ll find the majestic icon on Capitol Hill surrounded by an impeccably groomed landscape.
Fun Fact: the statue sitting on top of the dome is called the Statue of Freedom.
23. Photograph The White House
The White House is the most recognized site in Washington, DC, and associated with the power it exudes. While it is tough to land a tour, you can still take plenty of pictures. If you are lucky enough to land a visit, you can take photos with your cell phone or compact still camera.
24. Walk the C&O Canal National Historic Park
Take a walk on the historic National Park that was created to preserve the country’s early transportation history. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal operated for 100 years and became the lifeline for towns along the Potomac River.
Products transported on it were mostly coal, lumber, and agricultural items.
25. Explore Arlington National Cemetery
Discover the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, where over 220,000 heroes are laid to rest. Take a tour and explore the site’s rich history. Don’t miss the iconic Eternal Flame of President John F. Kennedy or the solemn Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
I can still remember being in awe of the sacrifice that these monuments represent, during my unforgettable trip to Washington DC in the 6th grade. Come pay your respects and learn about the stories behind these national treasures.
26. Touch the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The moving, yet somber slab of black granite is etched with the names of the 58,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by Moya Lin and is stunning.
27. Awe at the Korean Memorial
Lay your eyes on the powerful and haunting Korean Memorial, another in the District of Columbia national park service. It is my very favorite memorial in Washington, DC, and what a tearjerker it is. The statues, depicting the troops living in the trenches, is so moving that it provokes the tears every time.
28. Walk Up to the Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln, sitting in his chair overlooking the obelisk of the Washington Monument, is a visitor favorite in the nation’s capital. The walls at the Lincoln Memorial show the famous I Have a Dream quote by Martin Luther King, as well as excerpts from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address speech.
Climb the 58 steps to the top for the best views.
29. Reflect at the Washington Monument
Looking for the best view in D.C.? Look no further than the Washington Monument! This towering marble obelisk stands at a whopping 555 feet tall, and pays homage to our country’s first president, George Washington. You can spot it from just about any corner of the city.
But the best view of the monument (and, let’s be real, the perfect photo-op) comes from the nearby Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Nestled between two giants, the reflection of the monument in the pool is absolutely stunning.
Want to see the view from the top of the obelisk? No problem! There’s an elevator inside that will take you there.
30. Visit the Jefferson Memorial at Night
A beautifully designed tribute to 3rd US President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, is located on the banks of the Potomac River. The Jefferson Memorial, modeled after the Pantheon of Rome, is the perfect place for prime viewing of the cherry trees of spring and is even more stately and gorgeous at night.
31. Stamp your National Park Passport
Did you know that the oldest building on its original foundation in Washington DC is the 1766 Old Stone House? This historic gem has recently become a proud addition to the National Parks system.
Fun Fact: the British invasion of Washington, DC in 1814 was not the first time the Old Stone House had seen foreign troops on its doorstep, as it was already several decades old at that time and had been built in the British colony of Maryland.
32. Soar through the National Air & Space Museum
Discover an awe-inspiring collection of aviation artifacts at the National Air and Space Museum. See priceless pieces such as the Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh, the Wright Brothers’ original 1903 Flyer that made history by crossing the Atlantic, and an impressive variety of rockets, missiles and aircraft.
Come explore the fascinating world of aviation and see history take flight before your very eyes!
33. Pay Tribute at the FDR Memorial
Discover the stunning memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the serene banks of the Tidal Basin. It took 40 years to complete and features his loyal companion, Fala, in the design.
You’ll be moved by the powerful statues of The Great Depression, including the Fireside Chat, rural couple, and Breadline. The secluded location adds to the solemn atmosphere of this incredible tribute.
34. Shop the Georgetown Boutiques
Current trends and styles are in full force at the boutique shops of Georgetown. Shop high-end threads at Ella Rue, Bonobos, and Alice + Olivia, or visit the Shops at Georgetown Park for more affordable finds at big names like H&M, J. Crew, and Anthropologie.
Pick up something for your pet at Dog Tag Bakery, and eco-friendly, educational toys for tots at Tugooh Toys.
35. Wait Out the Rain at Fashion Centre
Looking for a rainy day plan in Washington, DC? Look no further than Fashion Centre at Pentagon City! With over 160 stores and dining options spread over four floors, there’s something for everyone at this indoor shopping mall.
Shop ’til you drop at popular stores like Apple, J. Crew, Macy’s, and Nordstrom. Don’t let the weather rain on your parade – head to Fashion Centre at Pentagon City for a guaranteed good time!
36. Explore the Eastern Market
Come explore Washington DC’s oldest marketplace: Eastern Market! Nestled in the charming Capitol Hill neighborhood, this historic brick building boasts a huge variety of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious baked goods, beautiful flowers, artisan cheeses, and so much more.
Not only that, but the market is always buzzing with live music, local artists showcasing their talents, and unique seasonal vendors. This is just the place for an authentic taste of the city’s vibrant culture and community.
37. Unleash Your Inner Bibliophile
A political hub and great place for books, readings, and seeing authors is Politics and Prose. It is DC’s premier independent bookstore with a jam-packed event calendar and four locations.
38. Spoil Yourself at These Luxury Digs
Experience a lavish getaway from head to toe at Ritz Carlton Pentagon City, a deluxe hotel in the heart of DC. Attached to the Fashion Centre shopping mall, this glamorous accommodation offers a wide range of activities. You’ll discover a trendy lounge and exquisite restaurant on the premises, with the added bonus of being on the metro line.
Take your stay to the next level by upgrading to the club level and indulge in five distinct food presentations every day, complete with beverages, wine, and beer.
39. Bargain Shop
Enjoy a shopping spree at the Clarksburg Premium Outlets, a rustic-looking outdoor mall with an eye-catching natural setting. Here, you’ll find around 90 brand-name stores such as Nike, Under Armour, Tory Burch, and Tumi.
The outlets also have a handful of restaurants.
40. Pray at the National Cathedral
Discover the beauty of Washington National Cathedral, one of the most stunning cathedrals in the US! Located on Wisconsin Avenue, this majestic cathedral boasts Gothic spires and dazzling stained-glass windows.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that it has hosted four state funerals for US Presidents – Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Eisenhower. Don’t miss the chance to explore this historic and breathtaking landmark in the heart of the capital city.
41. Sail into Washington Harbour
Explore the beautiful Washington Harbour development, nestled on the Georgetown waterfront and overlooking the Potomac River. Take a water taxi from here to many exciting destinations.
Savor the exceptional river views from outdoor cafes, luxury condos, and a public boardwalk that also offers fantastic vistas of Key Bridge, Kennedy Center, and the Washington Monument.
When winter rolls around, you can even enjoy an ice skating rink where the fountain used to be!