Things to do in Washington, DC

Get Your Bearings in Washington

By Gina Gallucci White
Washington Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Visiting attractions in Washington, D.C. may make tourists feel like they are stepping through the pages of history. Get tickets from your member of Congress and tour parts of The White House or go sightseeing at national monuments and memorials dedicated to the country's great leaders and courageous defenders. The nation's capital also has a plethora of museums showcasing some of the world's most finest treasures. The best bonus? Many of these destinations offer admission free of charge.    


Unless you like sitting in traffic, take the Metro for easy, fast access around the District.

Hot Tips:

The pandas are the main attraction at the National Zoo. Try to go to their exhibit first and early.

Where to Stay

Scattered throughout trendy neighborhoods or within walking distance to must-see attractions, Washington, D.C. hotelsoffer amenities and experiences in addition to lodging. With a focus on their historic location, many luxury hotels such as The Jefferson Hotel and the Hay-Adams Hotel cater to your every need. There are also plenty of quality budget friendly options include the Washington Plaza Hotel and Carlyle Suites Hotel that offer top-notch accommodations that won't hurt the bank account. Make sure to select a venue in or near the neighborhood you will be visiting.      

Take It or Leave It:

If you are coming to the district for a popular event, (i.e. Cherry Blossom Festival, Fourth of July fireworks) book far in advance.

Hot Tips:

Concierges to help plan your sightseeing ventures are avilable at some hotels.

What to Eat

Over the past few years, Washington, D.C. has become quite the foodie destination. Not only are world-famous chefs setting up restaurants in Washington, D.C. (Jose Andres, Bryan Voltaggio and Daniel Boulud to name a few) but some of the most promising faces in the culinary scene are making unforgettable meals to drool over. Whatever type of cuisine your palette is craving, the nation's capital has a number of eateries ready to serve.  


Reservations far in advance can be crucial to getting into some of these destination restaurants.

Hot Tips:

Georgetown Cupcake gives away a free not-on-menu flavor every day to the first 100 customers who ask for it by name. Check Facebook for the announcement.

Places to Party

Washington, D.C. may be known as a serious place but once the light makes way for night, the district becomes a great place for a fun night out on the town. Check out The Black Cat and Nightclub 9:30 to see big name acts perform in an intimate setting. Shake off your troubles at a number of different dance clubsin the area or check out several area comedy clubs to laugh them off. Missing your favorite sports team back home? Go Buffalo Billiards or other sports bars in the area to see the big game. 


Parking on side streets and walking back to your car. Stay in well lit areas and cab it back to your hotel or take the metro.

Hot Tips:

Bouncers can be the difference between getting into a club and not. Be nice to them.

Where to Shop

From high-end stores to quirky boutique shops to well-known retail outlets, Washington, D.C. shopping has something for every one. You'll find no shortage of places to spend your cash. Tysons Corner Center boasts the largest shopping complex in Virginia while Eastern Market offers unique crafts made by local vendors. Union Station may be known for its trains but it is also a must-visit for shoppers. Looking for discounts? Head to the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets to find more than 120 stores.    

Hot Tips:

Check out Smithsonian museums' gift shops to buy items relating to the exhibits.

Best Local Souvenir:

Your Christmas tree is not complete without the annual White House Christmas ornament.



10Best Lists
Airport Guide

Things to do in Washington

Washington is known for...

Five of Washington's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Government:

There's no denying that the one thing that most defines Washington, D.C. is the government. The White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court — the three branches of government which impact the lives of every single American — all sit within a few blocks of each other. From there, the list grows with the hundreds of office buildings where the many departments, agencies and administrations that guide our nation reside. Walking through these hallowed halls — where presidents, cabinet secretaries, senators and representatives past and present have toiled to lead and guide our nation — is truly awe-inspiring.

2. Museums:

Washington, D.C. may be the museum capitol of the world. A quick search turns up nearly 75 different museums offering their own unique collections. They range from the famous (and we might add enormous) National Museum of American History and the National Air & Space Museum, both part of the 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution, to the Hillwood Museum, the International Spy Museum and even a Madame Tussauds wax museum. Whether the collections are diverse and all-encompassing or small and eclectic, each offers an important view into a compelling part of American and world history.

3. National Mall:

The very heart of Washington, D.C. and perhaps the nation itself, the National Mall sees some 24 million visitors each year. Many of the city's great museums line the eastern portion of the mall, before giving way to some of America's great monuments. The iconic Washington Monument towers over the mall. The powerful World War II Memorial pays homage to one of our greatest generations. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its deep, black surfaced etched with thousands of names, still brings tears to the eyes of many. And then there's the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the famed Reflecting Pool. The site of some of D.C.'s most famed moments, the backdrop in hundreds of movies and television shows, it's perhaps the single place that tops most visitor's "Must See" lists.

4. Pandas:

When kids think of Washington, D.C., they might first think of the President of the United States. But often their second thought is of the National Zoo's famous panda bears. On loan from China, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the zoo's main draw. The rare black and white bears come from the bamboo forests of central China. Extremely endangered, a mere 1,600 are still believe to exist in the wild, with another 300 or so in zoos and animals parks around the world. One of the National Zoo's most popular features is a webcam that allows people around the world to watch Mei Xiang and Tian Tian live as they go about their daily lives.

5. Cherry Blossoms:

In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Japan gave the first of what would be hundreds of Japanese cherry trees to the people of Washington, D.C. Fast forward a few decades, and the beloved pink and white trees had become an iconic part of the downtown D.C. landscape (and much of the surrounding region for that matter). Today, more than 100 years since the first official trees were planted, the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge event, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to ooh and ahh over the delicate blooming blossoms as they stroll around the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument.