Best Things to Do in Washington

See History Come Alive and the Future Take Shape in D.C.

Not only is Washington, D.C. home to the country's three-tiers of government, it is also a popular tourist attraction for people from around the world. 10Best has taken the Metrorail, driven and walked around the nation's capital to bring to you the top attractions and activities the area has to offer. (It was exhausting and a trip to the shoe store will probably be needed.)

You can't go to the nation's capital without a trip to The White House  even if it's just for a selfie taken outside the gates. However, if you plan far ahead, you can get tickets from your member of Congress for an inside tour.

Memorials are an iconic part of the district so we narrowed it down to the two must-sees -- the Lincoln Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. Both are sites to behold but they are breathtaking at night so consider making two trips.

The National Zoological Park is always a must see as it is one of only three spots in the United States to see giant pandas. The star of the show is Xiao Qui Ju (pronounced SHIAU-chi-ji), a panda cub born at their facility on Aug. 21, 2020. As a part of their COVID-19 protocols, entry passes for the zoo are required.  

Whatever your interests are, you are sure to find the perfect attraction or activity in the district.




Honoring the 16 million who served in the U.S. military and the more than 400,000 who gave their lives, the National World War II Memorial offers a breathtaking tribute. Two semi-circles are made up of 56 granite pillars standing tall inside the memorial which account for the 48 states, the District of Columbia, the Alaska and Hawaii territories, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands who partipated in the war. The Freedom Wall, which features the message, "Here we mark the price of freedom," features 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. METRO: Smithsonian.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: A symbolic tribute to those who fought, served and died in one of the most defining events of the 20th century.

Gina's expert tip: Just like the Lincoln Memorial, this one is also simply stunning in the evening.

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George Washington's Mount Vernon
Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon

Known as America's first home, George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, just outside of Washington, D.C., features a mansion, outbuildings, gardens, animals, a distillery and gristmill, and a four-acre farm. What was once an active plantation is now a bustling tourist attraction. Visitors may purchase tickets to one of several different tours offered throughout the year including a guided tour of the mansion and see the first president's garden and landscaping designs for the grounds. Washington took his last breath inside the mansion's master bedroom in 1799 and the estate serves as his final resting place. His wife Martha and other relatives are also buried in The Tomb.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: When not leading armies and helping to birth the nation, George Washington spent five decades expanding the mansion his father built in 1735.

Gina's expert tip: It is said that George Washington was a dog lover and so is his estate. Dogs may also come along on your visit. Just make sure to clean up after them.

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We have all seen paper copies of fine works of art hanging in homes and businesses. Once you step inside the National Gallery of Art, you get to see the real pieces for your own eyes. The west building features early European and American works and boasts the only painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Americas. Meander over to the east building to take in contemporary art work including Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso. For those coming here in the winter months, head over to the museum's garden ice rink where you can rent skates and take lessons. METRO: Smithsonian

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Priceless works of art from some of the most renowned artists to ever walk the planet can be found here.

Gina's expert tip: Touching the art is a big no-no. Many are fragile and can damage easily.

Read more about National Gallery of Art →


Francis Scott Key was not talking about fireworks when he composed the national anthem with lines like "And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air..." But the nation's capital knows how to put on a party to celebrate Independence Day. While the nearly 20 minute firework show is the main draw, thousands of people head to the National Mall to see the parade down Constitution Avenue Northwest from 7th to 17th street and take in several concerts throughout the day. Make sure to take plenty of water for the free event because Washington, D.C> gets rather hot in early July. METRO: Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, or Judiciary Square. (Note: the Smithsonian station is closed on July 4th.)

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Where else would you celebrate the nation's independence than Washington, D.C.?

Gina's expert tip: Check to see what will be open. Certain monuments, memorials and areas are not open or close early.

Read more about Independence Day on the National Mall →

Initally owned by President George Washington's adopted grandson, Gen. Robert E. Lee served as custodian of the land until it was seized by the federal government to be used as a military cemetery in 1864. Today, Arlington National Cemetery is home for veterans and those killed in the line of duty from every conflict dating back to the Civil War. U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy, and the Space Shuttle Challenger crew are among those buried there. The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider is not to be missed. Metro: Arlington Cemetery

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Without the sacrifices of those buried here, who knows where this country would be.

Gina's expert tip: Be courteous and respectful. While the cemetery is a tourist destination, it is also the final resting place for more than 300,000 people.

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This spot on the list is actually dedicated to two companion museums. The National Air and Space Museum is easily the most popular building along the National Mall and features the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and a lunar rock that visitors may touch. Many take in shows at the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater or sight see in the Albert Einstein Planetarium. Take a short drive to Chantilly, Va. to check out the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which features two huge hangers and houses the space shuttle Discovery. Many go to the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower to get a 360-degree view of Washington Dulles International Airport. METRO: Smithsonian and Wiehle-Reston East

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For those who love to look to the sky, these museums are must-sees with a number of cool exhibits and historical aircrafts.

Gina's expert tip: Visitors to all Smithsonian museums and indoor spaces are required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.

Read more about Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum - Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center →

National Cherry Blossom Festival
Photo courtesy of iStock / Melissa Kopka

In 1912, Toyoko Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted Washington, D.C. with 3,000 cherry trees. To commemorate his generosity, the Cherry Blossom Festival was born. Tourists from all over the world come to the Tidal Basin to see the blooms which come out on average between late March to early April. The peak bloom date is the day that 70 percent of the blossoms are open. While the blooms may be the main attraction, the festival features a variety of creative and diverse activities that promote contemporary arts and culture, the enviroment and education. While most events are free and open to the public, some require paid admission. Metro: Smithsonian

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: What better way to welcome the end of winter and the beginning of spring than to have beautiful flowers framing the Nation's Capital.

Gina's expert tip: Come in the early morning or evening hours to avoid large crowds.

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National Mall

To serve as a symbol of unity, strength and wisdom, the 16th President Abraham Lincoln is honored with this memorial featuring a statue seated below the inscription, "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." Completed 57 years after his assassination, the Greek Doric temple was also the site for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech delievered during the the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom rally in August 1963. While the site is impressive during the day, the view will take your breath away at night. Metro: Smithsonian.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The site honors the man who helped free a people and provided a backdrop for one of the most historic speeches ever given.

Gina's expert tip: Look at the frieze to find the names of the 36 states in the union at the time of President Lincoln's death.

Read more about Lincoln Memorial →

National Zoological Park
Photo courtesy of iStock / steinphoto

Lions, monkeys and elephants. Oh my! Located in Northwest Washington, D.C., The National Zoological Park features a variety of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The stars of the show are the pandas. The newest cub is Xiao Qi Ji, known as "little miracle." Born in Aug. 2020, he is already a huge favorite among visitors. Fans will line the fences at the panda exhibit with large telephoto lens to capture every movement. The best part is visitors get to see all of these unique animals from around the world for free (Yes. You read that right.) Make sure you wear good walking shoes because the 163-acre park has hills. Also, don't stand under the ropes when the orangutans are on the move. You will thank me later. Metro: Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan or Cleveland Park.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Two words: Panda bears. The National Zoological Park is one of just a few places in the country to host pandas.

Gina's expert tip: The zoo is free but entry passes are now required as part of their COVID-19 protocols. Folks can reserve their passes weeks in advance so be sure to plan ahead especially if you are going on a weekend.

Read more about National Zoological Park →

White House / White House Visitor Center

Given its name by President Teddy Roosevelt, The White House boasts 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms and six levels in the residence. The 55,000 square foot home has served as a safe harbor for U.S. Presidents since 1800 and welcomed leaders and dignitaries from around the world. Decisions on World Wars, crises and ground breaking policies have all taken place behind these walls. While it is famously missing its cornerstone, the historic site also features a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, billiard room and bowling alley. White is a tough color to keep clean and it takes 570 gallons of paint to cover the outside walls. Metro: Federal Triangle or Metro Center

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is the most famous house in America (Sorry Kardashians)and has housed every U.S. President and thier family except George Washington.

Gina's expert tip: You can get free tickets to tour parts of The White House. Just go through the office of your member of Congress or Embassy if not a U.S. citizen. A tour must be planned far in advance and tickets go on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Read more about White House / White House Visitor Center →


Meet Gina Gallucci White

Gina Gallucci White is an award winning freelance writer with articles appearing in such regional publications as Frederick Magazine, The Daily Record, Montgomery Magazine and The Gazette. She...  More About Gina