Washington DC is a place my husband and I have talked about visiting for years. Our boys are now at an age where they can appreciate the value of visiting historic places, and endure the endless walking throughout the city. Trust me you will want to pack your walking shoes! Wondering what to do in Washington DC? We’re giving you details on all the best sites – including many free places to visit in Washington DC.
What to do in Washington DC
Washington DC houses the White House, Nation’s Capitol Building, and many more historic landmarks worth visiting. To make the most of your trip, we’re breaking down all the best sites to visit starting with where to stay in DC.
Where to stay in Washington DC
I did a lot of research on where to stay in the city. Many people who work in DC choose areas a bit safer to live like Virginia and Maryland which are both about an hour away. I found that staying in Georgetown was the perfect area as it’s close enough to visit everything in the city, but also safe.
We highly recommend the Marriott Washington Georgetown. The rooms are very clean, the location is great, and the service was superb! *Tip don’t pay for parking at the Marriott (everywhere in the city charges way too much). Opt to park at the Hyatt Place garage literally around the corner and pay 1/2 the price.
Once you’re unpacked, hit the ground running with all the amazing sites Washington DC has to offer!
Washington DC recommended itinerary
- Lincoln Memorial
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
- WW I & II Memorials
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- The stunning FDR Memorial is not to be missed
All of the memorial sites are FREE. Plan for a 1/2 day to see them all and bringing food and drink is a must. There are only two small food stations in the area which close by 6pm and there are NO restaurants in sight! You will have to drive or uber to a restaurant.
Tip: It was recommended that we park our car by the hotel and plan on walking the majority of the time (or use the metro). It will save you parking costs (coming and going from the hotel) and most city parking only allows for 2-3 hour windows. The uber back to Georgetown ran us about $20.
The White House
This is as close as you’ll get to the White House unless you book a tour. The tours must be submitted no less than 21 days in advance. For information on how to book a tour, head here. While it would’ve been amazing to visit the White House, we only had a 3-day window and knew our time was limited.
Watch this 1-minute video of what to do in Washington DC
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The Capitol Building
Tours are completely free and can be booked on the same day. The Capitol Building visitor center is down a large set of stairs at the back of the building. It’s open daily 8:30 am-3:30 pm. You may not bring any food or drink inside. They will make you discard everything in the trash.
Once inside you’ll be paired with a guide and audio to follow along. It’s a really neat tour and highly recommended.
The Washington Monument
This towering tribute to George Washington can be seen for miles. It’s located near the National Mall and open for tours. See sweeping views of the city 500 feet in the air! While it’s free to visit, they charge a $1.00 service charge per ticket.
Smithsonian Museums in DC
There are MANY national museums to visit in DC including:
- Museum of Asian Art
- Museum of Natural History (the most recommended museum)
- Museum of African American History
- Smithsonian Castle & Gardens
- Museum of American History
- Air and Space Museum
- National Archives Museum
All of the above are FREE to visit! We spent 1/2 a day in the Museum of Natural History and that wasn’t enough time to see it all. It’s absolutely huge and offers so many cool and interactive experiences.
We also visited the National Archives Museum which holds the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. This was a really neat experience to see in person!
Something else we did while in DC is visit the International Spy Museum. While it’s not free like everything else mentioned above, it’s something interactive and fun to do together. You’ll go undercover as a spy and try to solve clues to get through your mission. Each member of your family solves their own mission. Watch the short video clip below to learn more.
*Tip – tickets go quickly and you can rarely get same-day tickets, so book this in advance.
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We hope you enjoyed this guide on what to do in Washington DC!