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10Best Things to Do in DC Before You Die

Which Washington attractions to add to your bucket list
Shannon Morgan

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Photo courtesy of Mike Deerkoski


Washington, D.C. is more than its memorials, monuments and museums; its also a foodie city, art town and historical district. With so many things to see and do in the District, it can be hard to select which attractions to visit. Here are ten essential D.C. experiences for your bucket list. 

1. Ascend the Exorcist steps

Falling down the Georgetown stairsFalling down the Georgetown stairs — Photo courtesy of sabreguy29

Run up the Georgetown staircase made famous by the final scene in The Exorcist when Father Karas is tossed out the window and falls down the stairs. You'll find the staircase at 36th and M Streets where M meets Canal Road.

2. Discover Duke Ellington's D.C.

Photo courtesy of Bohemian Caverns

Take a self-guided walking tour of jazz great Duke Ellington's U Street stomping grounds. Notable stops include the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Club and the Duke Ellington Mural on the True Reformer building.

3. Eat a Half-Smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl

Photo courtesy of stu_spivack

Grab a seat at the original counter of Ben Chili's Bowl, a 55+ year-old restaurant, and sink your teeth into a half-pork, half-beef smoked sausage topped with chili.

4. Enjoy a free performance on Millennium Stage

Photo courtesy of Millennium Stage

Spend the evening at the Kennedy Center. Free performances are held each night at 6 p.m. and range in genre from classical music to modern dance. Visit the roof terrace after the show for a one-of-a-kind view of the city.

5. Find Darth Vader at the National Cathedral

Photo courtesy of Cyraxote

See if you can spot the grotesque of Darth Vader high atop the northwest tower of the National Cathedral. A grotesque is like a gargoyle; it serves to deflect rain from the building.

6. Have tea at the Willard

Photo courtesy of Willard InterContinental Hotel, Washington D.C.

Pinkies up at the Willard's Peacock Alley for a D.C. tradition that features a tea menu akin to a 5-star wine list. Tea season runs from October through the holidays and again during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

7. See the memorials – at night

Photo courtesy of Tom Finzel

Take a moonlight tour of the District's iconic memorials to see their beauty illuminated. The Jefferson, Lincoln and Korean War Memorials top the list of ones to see at night.

8. See the Smithsonian by Segway

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian National Mall Tours

Visit the Smithsonian's many museums in just three hours. Hear stories about the museums, their gardens and the city. The tour departs three times daily from the National Museum of American History.

9. Shop the markets

Photo courtesy of bigbirdz

Grab some grub from local farmers and restaurants who serve up their fare at D.C.'s many open-air markets, like Eastern Market, Union Market and the Maine Avenue Fish Market.

10. View the Founding Documents

Photo courtesy of The U.S. National Archives

Go "behind-the-walls" of the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom to tour the public vaults at the National Archives, home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and other famous historical documents.

For 90 more D.C. experiences, pick up 100 Things to Do in Washington DC Before You Die.  What's on your D.C. bucket list?


Shannon Morgan

About Shannon Morgan

Shannon Morgan is the author of 100 Things to Do in Washington DC Before You Die.

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