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One Day in Washington DC

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The seat of US government and home to myriad wonderful museums, not to mention a plethora of monuments and memorials, Washington DC can keep you busy for days. Fortunately, many of the major attractions are quick to visit and close together, so it's possible to get a good feel for "the District" in one day. This itinerary includes all the highlights.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nightlife Seeker
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

10 Places

6 City Tips

Print
Map

10 Places

Eastern Market

Flea & Street Markets

Lincoln Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Tidal Basin

Bodies of Water

National Museum of American History

History Museums

Pavilion Cafe at the Sculpture Garden

Restaurants

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Natural History Museums

White House

Government Buildings

Marvin

Restaurants

Stephen C's City Tips

  • It is customary to tip 18-20% in restaurants, depending on the service.
  • There's a lot of distance to cover, but it's easy to walk and bike around DC. Wear comfortable shoes!
  • Don't underestimate the heat or the sun during the summer. Drink lots of water and wear lightweight clothing, but bring along a sweater for chilly air-conditioned interiors.
  • Carry a water bottle, as the drinking fountains don't always work — or taste good.
  • All memorials and monuments are well worth a visit at night, particularly during the summer — they transform when lit up.
  • Depending on where you are staying, a Metro SmarTrip card might be a useful purchase.
  • Save
    Eastern Market
    Flea & Street Markets
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    DC's oldest continually operating market is a good way to kick off your day. Since it opened in 1873, Eastern Market has been a bustling hub, where locals pick up everything from fresh fruits to meat and treats. Start your day with blueberry buckwheat pancakes from Market Lunch, and then wander around to browse the crafts and watch the activity.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • On weekends, everything expands out to the sidewalks, making things a bit more crowded, but more exciting too!
    • Market Lunch will likely have a wait, but it's worth it!
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #70 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Good place to buy cooking items 29/11/2017
    • Good for a walk around and to browse 26/11/2017
    • Eastern Market
    Address:
    7th St. & North Carolina Ave SE
    Washington DC, DC 20003
    Phone:
    +1 202-698-5253
    Hours:
    Sun
    09:00 - 17:00
    Tue - Fri
    07:00 - 19:00
    Sat
    07:00 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Lincoln Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Americans see this magnificent monument almost every single day (it's emblazoned on the penny!), but it still takes your breath away to see the real thing. Inside his neoclassical abode, 'the Great Emancipator' watches over Washington from his larger-than-life perch, the words to his Gettysburg Address etched on the wall at his side. Outside, the pool stretches out to the imposing Washington Monument, which reflects back in its waters.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Climb the stairs and walk around the back for an impressive view across Memorial Bridge towards Arlington Cemetery. This is a popular sunset spot with locals.
    • The light for photos is best in the early morning.
    • Take a moment to stand on the steps of the monument and contemplate. Major historic events have take place here, including Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Most amazing view 17/12/2017
    • Iconic monument, Some visiting tips tips. 16/12/2017
    • Lincoln Memorial
    Address:
    2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW
    Washington DC, DC 20037
    Phone:
    (202) 426-6841
    Other:
  • Save
    Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    One of the most iconic DC monuments, Maya Lin's moving 'Vietnam Wall' bears the names of 58,267 soldiers, in the order that they perished in that long, controversial war.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • After visiting the memorial, take a stroll through the tranquil Constitution Gardens.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Inspiring 15/12/2017
    • Moving 15/12/2017
    • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    Address:
    5 Henry Bacon Dr NW
    Washington DC, DC 20242
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Save
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    One of the newest memorials in Washington DC, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a short walk south of the reflecting pool, on the edge of the Tidal Basin. At this stunning memorial, visitors walk through the Mountain of Despair to find the civil rights leader carved into the Stone of Hope (both of these are from a line in Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech). Etchings of his most inspiring and motivating words surround this great man.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Along the way to the memorial, stop to check out the touching Korean War Veterans Memorial.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Inspiring 15/12/2017
    • Thoughtful 13/12/2017
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
    Address:
    1850 West Basin Drive SW
    Near West Basin Drive SW & Independence Ave. SW
    Washington DC, DC 20024
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Save
    Tidal Basin
    Bodies of Water
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Walk along the length of the reflecting pool toward the Washington Monument, and then cut over to the Tidal Basin. Here you can rent a paddle boat for a unique view of other memorials, including the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: one of Washington's newest memorials.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The boat dock is located on the eastern shore of the Tidal Basin, next to a concession stand and not far from the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
    • The best time to rent a boat here is March/April, when you might just catch the cherry blossom trees in bloom. Reserve boats in advance in these months.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #33 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Tidal basin 11/12/2017
    • Pleasant walk 09/12/2017
    • Tidal Basin
  • Save
    National Museum of American History
    History Museums
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    The National Museum of American History is like an eclectic scrapbook containing American memorabilia, from First Lady fashions to Kermit the Frog.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The museum is in the midst of ongoing renovations, so key exhibits are sometimes closed. Check the website to see the latest at the time of your visit.
    • The museum also offers an excellent array of lectures, film screenings, and other events. Check the website to see what's on at the time of your visit.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #30 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Museum 13/12/2017
    • Go here, go here, go here! 12/12/2017
    • National Museum of American History
    Address:
    1400 Constitution Ave NW
    Between 12th and 14th Street
    Washington DC, DC 20560
    Phone:
    +1 844-750-3012
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Pavilion Cafe at the Sculpture Garden
    Restaurants (American, Cafe)
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Set beside the central pool of the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden, Pavilion Cafe serves up tasty sandwiches, pizzas, and treats — with a side of awesome views.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Come winter, the pool becomes an ice skating rink, a fun diversion for after your lunch!
    • If you have time, stop into the National Gallery, if only to check out the only da Vinci on view in the Americas.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #198 of 2,519 restaurants in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Place for a good lunch 01/12/2017
    • Convienent location, inexpensive good food, great setting. 27/11/2017
    • Pavilion Cafe at the Sculpture Garden
    Address:
    7th St. and Constitution Ave. NW
    In the National Gallery Sculpture Garden
    Washington DC, DC 20565
    Phone:
    +1 202-289-3360
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 - 17:00
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 - 16:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    Natural History Museums
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Even if you only take a quick cruise through the National Museum of Natural History, you should be sure to stop into this classic sight. At roughly the size of 18 football fields, it could take a whole day, but highlights include the Hope Diamond and the dinosaurs.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Stop by the Insect Zoo to witness live tarantula feedings (if you dare). Visit the website or ask at the museum for times.
    • The museum is open until 5:30pm daily, and until 7:30pm during summer.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Museums 15/12/2017
    • Amazing A must go!! 15/12/2017
    • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    Address:
    10th Street and Constitution Ave
    Washington DC, DC 20560
    Phone:
    +1 202-633-1000
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    White House
    Government Buildings
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    You can't come to Washington DC and not visit the White House! Just don't expect to get inside, as getting on a tour takes a lot of planning (see the White House website for details). Fortunately, it's easy to view the exterior.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Have a drink at the W Hotel's POV rooftop lounge for impressive views of the White House.
    • Stop off at the Capitol Building first, and then Capital Bikeshare and ride along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #41 of 458 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Beautiful 16/12/2017
    • AN ATTRACTION YOU MUST SEE WHILE IN WASHINGTON 15/12/2017
    • White House
    Address:
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave
    Washington DC, DC 20500
    Phone:
    +1 202-208-1631
    Other:
  • Save
    Marvin
    Restaurants (American, Bar, Pub)
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Named after one of DC's favorite native sons (singer Marvin Gaye), Marvin is a lively spot with a fun rooftop beer garden that serves an impressive selection of Belgian brews. It's a great place for a nightcap — or to kick off a night out in the District.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • If you want to keep the party going, the U Street area is full of other fun bars.
    • The rooftop is open year-round, so you an enjoy the fun atmosphere even in winter.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #637 of 2,519 restaurants in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • If I was a local, I'd be a regular! ROOFTOP BAR! 11/12/2017
    • Great food cozy location 28/08/2017
    • Marvin
    Address:
    2007 14th St NW
    Washington DC, DC 20009-7562
    Phone:
    +1 202-797-7171
    Price range:
    USD 30 - USD 30
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:30 - 02:00
    Mon - Thu
    17:30 - 02:00
    Fri - Sat
    17:30 - 03:00
    Other:
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