I recently traveled to Washington D.C. this summer (see the photo diary here) for the first time and loved it! It was so amazing to see the history of our country and so many important buildings and monuments. I feel like most people get to see The Capital in middle school, but that wasn’t the case for me. As I do with most vacations, I read up on the city and what the must see’s and do’s were. I wanted to share our itinerary from the trip, things I wish I had done, and other tips I learned upon the way.
There is honestly so much to do in D.C. it’s hard to fit it into one trip. You could probably spend at least 5 days in the city and still not see it all, partly because there’s so many museums. So if you only have a few days I would pick the top things you want to see and focus on that. As someone who had never been there before most of what I did was very touristy and we hit the main attractions.
Where To Stay
If you checked out the travel diary I posted than you know I was in D.C. two separate times on this trip. The first time I stayed at Pod DC Hotel, from Ashley’s suggestion, and the second time I stayed at an AirBnB near the Newsuem. I honestly loved The Pod. It was super simple and didn’t have all the extra things a chain hotel would, but was exactly what I needed, just a place to sleep. It’s location is really great just a few blocks from the mall, and surrounded by a ton of restaurants.
When I was picking a place to stay I wanted to be near the National Mall. I knew that most of what my parents and I wanted to see was near there and staying close to the attractions was important. D.C. is a large city and there is stuff located all over. While most big ticket items are on the National Mall and it looks close together in Google Maps it’s not as close as you would think. Expect to do a lot of walking or figure out their metro system. I walked a lot and took an Uber a few times.
Things To Do
The National Mall (Monuments and Memorials)
The Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial are all along The National Mall. Each memorial and monument is so large in real life and really takes your breath away. When you’re at the Lincoln Memorial make sure to turn around to see the Washington Monument and Capital. Near the mall is also The Korean War Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as well as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
My tip with seeing the Monuments is to maybe grab dinner and eat on the steps or grass around them. Seeing them at sunset is beautiful and going at night is even better! If you can even stop by and see them all lit up at night I would for sure do that!
The White House
Obviously this is kind of a big deal! Honestly though, The Capital is much more grand. We didn’t take the time to tour The White House, but we did go and see the outside. If you planned on doing a tour you have to arrange it at least 3 weeks in advance so I would just make sure to check the date and times and make sure you can visit inside. Everything I read about The White House said while its awesome to see it’s not necessary to take a tour.
The Capital tour was definitely a highlight of this trip for me. It’s so grand and much larger than The White House and the inside is beautiful. We did not sign up for a tour ahead of time, but you can. We got there before it opened and were able to wait in line and walk onto a tour. You’re given headphones to wear so your tour guide can talk to your group since there is a ton of groups touring at one time. Our guide was hilarious and made the tour that much better! There’s so much history in The Capital building and to think about the presidents and people who’ve impacted American history who once stood and worked there is incredible. I’d also spend some time walking around the outside of the capital and snapping some pictures.
A tip about The Capital, The Supreme Court, and even the Pentagon is to remember they are all Federal Buildings. Meaning people actually work there and they are closed on the weekends. While the museums don’t close these buildings do so plan accordingly.
Supreme Court and Library of Congress
I’m including these two together because they are right next to each other. The Library of Congress actually has a bridge that connects to The Capital. We went into the Library which is beautiful. I’m sure if you wanted to explore it more you could. We were limited on time and didn’t even go into The Supreme Court.
The Smithsonian Museums line The National Mall and there are tons to see! 19 to be exact. Like I said before you could spend days exploring them all. We were only in D.C. for 3 days so we had to be stingy with our time. The ones we made it to were The Museum of American History and Fords Theater. The American History Museum holds the Star Spangled Banner and had a First Lady dress exhibit which I adored! Fords Theater was also super interesting and I think worth a visit. Another to visit is The National Archives which holds the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Others we didn’t go to that I heard good things about were the Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, and the Natural History Museum. The Newseum is a little pricey, but all other Smithsonian’s are free of charge.
You really don’t want to miss this historic site. With presidents grave sites, including JFK’s, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the changing of the guard there’s a lot to see. You can also look up to see a family members grave site if you know one is buried here.
Oh Georgetown! This part of the city was one of my favorites! It’s so quaint and historic. All the brick reminded me of Brooklyn or the Upper East Side with the walk ups. I meandered through the neighborhoods simply because I like old architecture, but this is where you should get your shopping on! You can also make your way down to the waterfront and sit and enjoy all the yachts pulling in and out.
Places To Eat
I had the best breakfast at Open City. Which was like a quaint little cafe. It was seriously so cute! I sat out on the patio and enjoyed my french toast. I also had &pizza which was just like a blaze or pieology. It’s a chain and just about everywhere. Another place I read a lot about was Founding Farmers. You also cannot visit D.C. and not have a cupcake! I ended up at Baked and Wired twice they were so good.
Check out the travel diary from this D.C. trip to see the exact itinerary. If you have any questions you can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.