Get Eyes and Cameras Ready to Sightsee in D.C.

Pictures in books are nice but it's always better to go see an artifact or place with your own eyes. Whether you are a student of history, a lover of beautiful architecture or a fan of seeing rare animals and plants, Washington, D.C. is the perfect spot to come to for a sightseeing visit. With so many different, unique venues, 10Best chose the top spots based on the sites that are the most photogenic places that will leave you wanting more room on your camera's photo card.

We've included historic favorites like The White House and the Lincoln Memorial because you can't leave the nation's capital without a trip to one or both of these sites. This is a great year to visit Ford's Theatre because it is marking the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination with a number of informative educational programs. 

Three museums that offer great sightseeing exhibits are the Smithsonian National Air and Space, the Steven F. Udvary-Hazy Center and the National American History. See The Wright Flyer, the space shuttle Discovery and the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz.' If you go to a Smithsonian museum be forewarned – they have banned selfie sticks so if you need your picture with a priceless artifact, just ask a kind looking stranger to snap a shot.

So when it comes to making visitors eyes light up in wonder, Washington, D.C. has many different attractions to sightsee.




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 participated 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.

National Zoological Park
Photo courtesy of National Zoo


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 especially Bao Bao, who is the youngest. Fans will line the fences at their exhibit with large telephoto lenses to capture every panda movement. The best part is visitors get to see all of these unique animals from around the world for free. 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.

Washington National Cathedral
Photo courtesy of Washington National Cathedral


With Neo-Gothic design harking back to centuries long ago, the Washington National Cathedral is beautiful structure to behold. U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt attended the ceremony when the foundation stone was laid for the structure in 1907. More than eight decades later, President George H.W. Bush would be present when the final finial was completed in 1990. The cathedral is the second tallest in the country and ranks sixth among those throughout the world. People come from all over the world to worship or hear concerts at the site. For those who enjoy the outside décor, the different gargoyles are truly delightful to locate. METRO: Tenleytown/AU



In 1912, Tokyo 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 environment and education. While most events are free and open to the public, some require paid admission. Metro: Smithsonian



For those of us lacking a green thumb or the ability to grow anything, the U.S. Botanic Garden is the spot to see an amazing array of living plants from many different areas. Dating back to the 19th century, the museum is divided into three separate sections: the Conservatory showcasing displays and exhibits including jungle, Hawaiian and endangered plants, the National Garden highlighting a regional and butterfly garden and the Bartholdi Park housing the historic, cast iron fountain. Kids can check out the seasonally open Children's Garden to get a better view of plants and play with garden tools. METRO: Federal Center SW

Ford's Theatre
Photo courtesy of Ford's Theatre


History books will teach you that this D.C. site was the location of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination just days after the Civil War ended but the theatre is much more than what happened on April 14, 1865. Today, guests can get their fill of history in the site's museum along with seeing great plays and programs throughout the year in its fully restored theatre. As you leave the theatre, be sure to go across the street to Petersen House to see where Lincoln took his final breathes. Metro: Gallery Place, Metro Center or Archives/Navy Memorial.

National Museum of American History


With 300,000 square-feet of exhibition, programming and public space, the National Museum of American History presents all aspects of the country's back story. There are approximately 3 million objects in its collections with only about 5 to 8 percent on display at any one time. See the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen 'The Star Spangled Banner' or gaze at the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz." Meet Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog puppet or take in gowns worn by The First Ladies. Be sure to check out their daily programs to enhance your experience. METRO: Smithsonian

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 the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic 'I Have A Dream' speech delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom rally in 1963. While the site is impressive during the day, the view will take your breathe away at night. Metro: Smithsonian.



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

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-sq.-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


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