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25 BEST Things to do in Washington, DC (2024 Guide!)

25 BEST Things to do in Washington, DC (2024 Guide!)

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Are you on the hunt for a list of the best things you can do in Washington DC? Well, not only do I have that list, but it also has some experiences on it you probably won’t hear about anywhere else!

We have visited DC tons of times over the years. We’re not even Americans, and that’s how fascinating we find it! We understand that it’s a bucket list destination for many, and doing it right is a big concern.

Especially if this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, we want you to come away having done everything you wanted and more. So keep reading, because not only will I cover the best things to do, but some handy tips to make it a perfect trip.

The Absolute BEST Things to do in Washington, DC

1. Go on a city tour and see it all 

Bailey and Daniel Take a selfie with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Dc
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC
Bailey on a tour bus in Washington DC with the Capital Building in the background
The sightseeing tours are the best way to see a lot of DC in a day!

A sightseeing tour is always a great way to get acquainted with a new city, but especially one with as many memorials, statues, and political landmarks as Washington, DC. We love sightseeing tours in DC as they’re a super efficient way of seeing as much as possible in a day while learning lots of local history. 

We did this full-day sightseeing tour, and we absolutely loved it! We saw so much – including the Roosevelt, National WWII, Martin Luther King Jr, and Lincoln memorials. We also saw the White House and the Capitol Building and got to do a Potomac River Cruise, so we got the full Washington, DC experience.

Plus, traveling through the city on an air-conditioned bus was nice because the weather was so hot and sticky while we were in DC!

The tour costs $89 USD per person, or $119 USD for those who want to travel in a glass-top bus for even better views. Also, do note that while this is a year-round tour, the Potomac cruise only runs between April and mid-October!

We’re so glad that we did the shared sightseeing tour, but if you’d prefer a more personalized experience, we recommend booking this half-day private tour instead!

Just like with the group tour, you’ll see all of the main monuments, memorials, and political buildings, but you’ll be in a luxury SUV with just your group. A private tour also means that you can tailor the itinerary to your interest and spend more time exploring the places you want to see most. 

Tickets for this private tour cost $520 USD for a group of up to 5 people. That’s just $104 USD per person, which I’d say is a pretty good tour for all the transport and expert guidance that’s involved!

2. See the White House

The White house at Sunset in the USA
So beautiful at sunset!
Bailey poses for a photo out the front of the White House in Washington DC
Didn’t see the president this time!

Obviously, seeing the White House is a must while you’re in Washington, DC, no matter when you visit! 

Completed in 1800, the White House has been the seat of presidential power for over 220 years, and every president since John Adams has lived here. However, it wasn’t officially called “the White House” until 1901 when President Theodore Roosevelt made the name formal. 

While it technically is possible to get a tour inside the White House, these are VERY difficult to arrange. You have to plan it months in advance, and then it can be canceled or rescheduled at the last minute due to official goings-on inside. Plus, those not from the US need to contact their embassy to help request a tour, which we thought was way too much effort. 

So instead, we decided to view it from the outside, which was still incredibly cool. The White House is legendary! We went to both the north side and the south side and loved the views from both.

3. Eat at the city’s oldest restaurant

Daniel enjoys a drink at The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington DC, USA
The old-fashioned was amazing!
Bailey sits down with her meal at The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington DC
Yum!

The Old Ebbitt Grill is a gorgeous and historic restaurant right near the White House – and it’s also the oldest restaurant in DC! 

Over the years, the Old Ebbitt Grill has played host to presidents and politicians, as well as celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Tom Hanks, and Harrison Ford. This place is brimming with old-school American glamor, so eating here is like stepping back in time. 

And not only that, but the food is amazing! Make sure to order the crab dip – if you don’t, you’re missing out. For our mains, we had salmon and trout, both of which were delicious, and we had the salted caramel bread pudding for dessert. It was just amazing – maybe even the best dessert we’ve ever had!

We also thought that the prices were good for the quality. You’re looking at around $25 to $40 USD for a main, which isn’t bad at all for Washington, DC. 

As you can probably imagine, the Old Ebbitt Grill is very popular, so be sure to book in advance. Dining here is an experience you really shouldn’t miss. It’s open from 8 am until 2 am, and although we came for dinner, you can also come for breakfast, brunch, or late-night drinks. Since it’s right next door, we caught the sunset at the White House and then headed here for dinner.

4. Tour the United States Capitol

Paintings on the wall inside the United States Capitol in Washington DC
It’s a beautiful building!
Bailey poses for a photo outside the United States Capitol in Washington DC
The US Capitol is a must-do!

The US Capitol building is the seat of Congress, and it’s one of the most iconic buildings in the whole country. Many decisions that have shaped the USA have been made here, and it’s the core of the country’s political power. The Capitol is recognizable by its imposing dome, but unlike the White House, it’s easy to go inside and explore! 

You need a tour to enter the building and while there are many Capitol tours available, we went on this 3-hour small-group tour and think it’s the best of the bunch! It offers reserved entry to the building, so there’s no waiting around (our legs thanked us!), and our knowledgeable guide taught us all about the various historic sections of the building as we walked through.

We also got to visit the Library of Congress, which is the biggest library in the world! We were also able to see a portion of Thomas Jefferson’s original personal library (although much of it was destroyed by a fire in 1851) and learn about how civilians can make use of the resources here, too. I mean, even politicians don’t need 39 million books at once, do they? 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we saw on this tour, but I don’t want to spoil it too much! The tour lasted for 3 hours in total and costs $89 USD per person. It has a maximum of 15 participants, so it also felt quite personal, and not too crowded.

But with all of that being said, if you’re short on time in Washington, DC, then you might want to think about a combination tour instead. We love this full-day Washington VIP tour, which combines a trip to the Capitol with stops by many other famous city landmarks, including The White House, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and so much more.

The tour costs just $129 USD per person – yep you read that right! I think this is a fantastic deal considering everything it includes, especially during the summer, as it also includes a Potomac River cruise!

5. Explore Georgetown

Georgetown Old Stone House in Washington DC
Georgetown Old Stone House
Daniel enjoys a slice of pizza on a food tour in Georgetown Washington DC
Yum!

Georgetown is Washington, DC’s oldest neighborhood. It’s believed to be named after George Gordon and George Beall, the two men who founded DC. It may also be named after King George II, rather than George Washington, as many people often think! George was certainly a popular name at the time!

Anyway, namesakes aside, we loved exploring Georgetown. It’s so charming and is home to lots of fantastic eateries, so we recommend eating your way through it! What’s even better is that it’s a small area, so everything is pretty much walkable.

Baked and Wired café sells fantastic baked goods. It’s a family-owned spot, and they make everything in small batches, so it’s all fresh and tasty. We got muffins, and they were the best ones we’ve ever had! It’s right by the canal and open every day from 8 am – 4 pm (with extended Saturday hours), making it a fantastic spot to start your morning.

Meanwhile, 90 Second Pizza is absolutely delicious. The dough is made slowly and lovingly over 48 hours, but it’s only in the oven for 90 seconds – hence the name! It truly is fast food. They’re open daily from 10:30 am till late.

For something a little more sophisticated, you can also stop in for macarons at Ladurée. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, the only problem is that their macarons almost look too good to eat! 

Bailey looks at the canals in Georgetown Washington DC
So much history here!

It was so much fun checking out Georgetown Park and the waterfront area, which is really pretty and only a few minutes walk away from all of the drool-worthy eateries we’ve just mentioned. 

We highly recommend this 2-hour historic walking tour of Georgetown to discover the story behind this quaint yet lively area. The guides do a fantastic job showcasing the homes of former presidents and influential families, sharing all kinds of personal stories about them!

Other cool stops include Georgetown University and visiting Martin’s Tavern, where John F. Kennedy proposed marriage to Jackie Onassis (when she was still Jaqueline Lee Bouvier). We like this tour because it brings Georgetown’s history to life and allows you to explore this lovely neighborhood in-depth in just a couple of hours!

Related Read: We’ve written about 15 of the very best things to do in Georgetown in its own blog! From river cruises to cat cafés, this neighborhood has it all.

6. Go on a brunch cruise

Bailey poses for a photo with her food on a brunch cruise in Washington DC
The food was really good!
Food on our brunch cruise in Washington DC
Brunch is served!

In some parts of the world, brunch just means a combined breakfast and lunch. But in the USA, brunch means a party!

We did this Premier Brunch Cruise in Washington, DC, and loved it. The drinks were flowing, and there was a DJ on board as well as two dance floors. The atmosphere was certainly lively, but it was also a great way to sightsee at the same time. 

The boat we were on had huge glass windows, so we got to see a ton as we cruised down the Potomac River. We spotted the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and Arlington House to name a few! Seeing it all from a climate-controlled cabin certainly gave us a nice break from DC’s heat, but there’s also an open-air deck we got to venture out on to snap some photos. 

We loved the buffet on board this cruise, and there were a generous number of options, but the bottomless mimosas were even better! It was such a fun experience, and the two hours flew by. 

This 2-hour Premier Brunch Cruise typically costs around $140 USD per person, including your food and mimosas. It departs from the pier at 11:30 am and is only available on weekends. On certain weekends, the price is a bit lower or higher. It’s so much fun because you get to party and enjoy sightseeing at the same time, so for this reason, we think it’s totally worth the money. 

7. Go for craft cocktails

Cocktails at Round Robin Bar in Washington Dc
Round Robin!
A cocktail at Round Robin in Washington DC
Ahh cocktails!

There are plenty of cool cocktail bars in Washington, DC which is just what you need after a long day of sightseeing. 

Round Robin is our favorite in the city, as the service is fantastic and the cocktails are so good. I recommend ordering a Mint Julep because it’s their signature drink! The bar is also super historic, dating back to 1847, and it’s located inside the swanky Willard Washington Hotel.

If you’ve been paying attention, you might remember that we named the Old Ebbitt Grill our favorite restaurant in Washington, DC. And while you should definitely dine there, it’s also worth heading over to the bar section for a drink. We love the decor and atmosphere, and they have some great cocktails – try a Fog Cutter if you like rum, or the Spiced Apple Sangria for something a bit different. 

And if you want to visit a classic US tavern, then head to Shelly’s Back Room for whiskey and cigars! Fortunately, they have a really good air purification system, so you won’t find yourself suffering if you don’t like cigar smoke, and they’ve got comfy leather couches to lounge on and big TVs playing various sports games. It’s a great spot for a laid-back evening. 

Shelly’s Back Room is located just a few blocks from the previous two bars we mentioned, so you can always make a fancy bar crawl out of an evening. Plus, all these bars stay open till midnight or later, so you’ll have plenty of time to grab a couple of cocktails after sightseeing.

8. Wander the Wharf DC

Bailey poses for a photo at The Wharf DC in Washington DC
Isn’t it beautiful?
Bailey at The Wharf DC in Washington DC
Be sure to take a walk at the Wharf!

The Wharf is Washington, DC’s modern waterfront neighborhood. With gleaming new buildings, beautiful views, and plenty of bars and restaurants, it’s definitely one of the best places in the city to visit. We loved walking around this area and sampling all the tasty cuisine! 

One of the coolest things about the Wharf DC is that lots of different events are held here, so there’s always something fun going on. 

In the summer, the Wharf DC usually hosts the Rock the Dock concert series, which is performed on a floating stage – how cool is that? These concerts cover a broad range of genres and are completely free to attend! They also host outdoor movie screenings for free on Thursday nights, and the buzzing waterside bar Cantina Bambina hosts a fantastic summery happy hour.

It’s worth checking out what’s on at the Wharf before visiting. But even if there aren’t any special events when you go, there’s always a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

We recommend heading to Whiskey Charlie, on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel, to enjoy a drink with a view, although it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance.

Or for a full meal, we like ilili, which is a stylish Lebanese restaurant that serves great hot and cold mezza. They’re open nightly for dinner and for lunch on Fridays.

Del Mar is another great choice. It’s a Spanish seafood restaurant, and you can dine outside with a view during the summer. This place was mentioned in the Michelin Guide and is run by a Michelin-star chef, so if you’re looking for fine dining around The Wharf, you’ve found it!

Related Read: Wandering around The Wharf is easily one of our top free things to do in Washington, DC!

9. Eat a famous Mason’s Lobster Roll

Bailey with a lobster roll at Mason’s Lobster Roll in Georgetown DC
Mason’s lobster roll!
A close up of a Mason’s Lobster Roll in Georgetown, Washington DC
How good does that look?

Lobster rolls originally hail from New England, and when done right, they’re so delicious. And while Washington, DC may not be in New England, you can find lobster rolls exactly how they’re supposed to be at Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.

In case you’ve never had one before, a lobster roll is a hot dog roll containing lobster meat with mayo and lemon butter. There’s also a Connecticut-style roll with sweet lobster and butter. Mason’s offers both, so you can try them for yourself and see which one you prefer! 

The lobster at Mason’s is imported from Maine, which is where the best lobster in the US is said to be from, and the whole business was founded by a long-serving lobsterman. It’s been a huge success and there are four branches in DC alone, which shows how much the locals love it.

You can find Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls at the Wharf, in Georgetown, near the Dupont Circle, or in the Western Market food hall. 

10. Eat your way through Union Market

Union Market in Washington DC
Union Market in Washington, DC
Bailey eats a doughnut at Union Market in Washington DC
Yum!

DC’s Union Market District is home to cool shops, vibrant street art and murals, and the Union Market itself, which is the food hall that the neighborhood is built around. We found so many delicious options here, from sandwiches at the Red Apron Butchery to poke bowls, dosas, and lobster tacos. Your only problem will be deciding what to chow down on first…

It’s also worth checking out La Cosecha, a Latin food market that’s adjacent to the Union Market. There are 15 different restaurants here offering contemporary dishes from all over South America, from Venezuelan fried corn fritters to ceviche and Salvadoran pupusas. You can also head to Cafe Unido, where you can try Panamanian Geisha coffee, which is one of the most expensive types of coffee in the world.

Union Market is open daily from 8 am until 9 pm but closes an hour earlier on Sundays. La Cosecha is open from 8 am until 10 pm daily. If you don’t leave here feeling stuffed, then you’ve done it wrong! 

Though I must admit, coming to trendy areas full of so many incredible food spots to choose from can be a little daunting at first! That’s why we love dedicated tours to these areas that are run by locals, like this 3-hour walking tour that travels from Union Station to Union Market.

We think this is the perfect introduction to the area if you’ve never visited before. After all, it’s a pretty comprehensive walkthrough (literally!) of historic spots and local gems. From the oldest Irish Pub in Washington, DC, to flavor-filled dishes in the Latin American market we mentioned earlier, we loved filling our bellies as well as our cameras as we were guided from spot to spot.

Tickets cost $125 USD per person, which we think is a pretty good deal for all the foodies like us out there. It’s also a small-group tour, capped at just 12 people, so feel free to fire away your questions whenever you have them!

11. See the Lincoln Memorial

Bailey poses for a photo at the Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
Abraham Lincoln!
Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
It’s a beautiful statue!

The Lincoln Memorial is arguably Washington, DC’s most famous memorial, and we definitely thought it was the most impressive! 

It’s a huge memorial to Abraham Lincoln, built in the style of a neoclassical Greek temple. There’s a large statue of the man himself in the central chamber and a 620-meter (2,030 ft) reflecting pool outside. It was here that Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. You can’t visit DC without seeing this iconic site – in fact, between 7 million and 8 million people visit it each year.

You can visit this gorgeous location 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it looks even more imposing when lit up at night! 

12. Visit the Jefferson Memorial

Bailey out the front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC
It’s huge!
Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC
Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC

The Jefferson Memorial honors the Founding Father and 3rd US President Thomas Jefferson, who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.

It’s situated on the south bank of the tidal basin in East Potomac Park, and we got a lovely view of it from across the water as we walked the 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) Tidal Basin Loop Trail. This is especially lovely in the spring, when the Japanese cherry blossom trees are in full bloom! 

And of course, we had to go and view the memorial up close as well. There’s a large bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson inside, and it’s free to go in. As with the Lincoln Memorial, you can visit 24 hours a day and most DC sightseeing tours will take you here since it’s one of the city’s most iconic sites. 

13. Go on a food tour

Bailey tastes a macaron from Ladurée in Georgetown Washington DC
Some of the best food I have had!
Bailey with a pizza in Georgetown Washington DC on a food tour
I was hungry!

We love going on food tours when we visit a new city because it’s the best way to discover all of the local hotspots and hidden gems. This walking food tour of Georgetown not only took us to the neighborhood’s best spots but also taught us a lot about the area’s 250-year history as you go. 

Definitely arrive hungry for this one – we’re so glad we did. From Korean tapas to high-end French cuisine with wine pairings, we visited restaurants that were over a century old, as well as new and trendy hotspots. All in all, it gave us a pretty complete picture of what eating out in Georgetown is all about!

This tour runs from Thursday to Sunday, and costs $80 USD per person, which is pretty good value since the portions we got were huge – they don’t skimp! It begins across the street from the Four Seasons hotel at 3 pm and lasts for 3.5 hours.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, we recommend trying this 2-hour donut tour! This quirky walking tour teaches you about some lesser-known local history as you stop at several different spots to try all different kinds of donuts. It also includes visits to some of the most scenic spots down the Instagrammable Palmer Alley. Safe to say, it’s not your typical food tour! 

The 2-hour donut tour costs $65 USD per person and runs daily during the summer at 10 am and 1 pm with additional time slots on weekends. The meeting point is at a coffee shop right outside the White House, so you really can’t miss it! There’s a fair bit of walking involved before you reach your last destination, so rest assured that you’ll work off all of those sweet treats. 

14. Go on a sightseeing river cruise

On a Capitol River Cruise in Washington Dc that leaves from Georgetown
Such a beautiful way to see the sights!
Baileu poses for a photo on a Capital River Cruise in Washington DC
I had a great time!

A sightseeing river cruise is such a relaxing way to take in the sights of Washington, DC, and during the summer, it’s a nice break from walking around in the heat. We mentioned them earlier, but Capitol River Cruises is a super reputable local company, and they have a few different options. As well as daytime cruises, they also offer sunset and moonlight boat rides (and a special 4th of July cruise!).

Regardless of which option you choose, the route remains the same. The boats pass by key DC landmarks including the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the infamous Watergate building. We had such a great time seeing the sights from the water!

Cruises run from mid-March to late November and last for 45 minutes. The daytime cruise costs $25 USD per person and departs once an hour, on the hour from 12 pm until 6 pm – 8 pm, depending on the season. The moonlight cruise costs the same as the daytime cruise, and the sunset option is slightly more expensive at $30 USD per person. 

There’s also the option to buy drinks and snacks onboard, and private charters are available if you’re celebrating a special occasion – or just want to treat yourself.

Related Read: Can’t get enough of these awesome river cruises in Washington, DC? Then check out our blog to discover some more of our favorites!

15. See the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives

The front of the National Archives in Washington DC
The front of the National Archives
Bailey at the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives security entrance
The last opportunity to take a photo!

One of the coolest things you can do in DC is go and see the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives. And not a copy either – the real deal! You can find it in the museum’s Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom exhibition, along with the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution. 

The National Archives Museum is free to visit, but if you’re in DC between March and Labor Day (the first Monday in September) it’s best to make a reservation. Otherwise, you might find yourself in line outside for over an hour! You can reserve tickets online and there’s a non-refundable $1 USD booking fee.

The museum is open from 10 am until 5:30 pm every day except for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, and the last entry is at 5 pm. 

Oh, and you CANNOT take photos inside the building under any circumstances! So you’ll have to do like Bailey and take a quick photo right outside.

16. Take an after-dark monuments tour

The United States Capitol lit up at night in Washington Dc, USA
It’s even more beautiful at night!
Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington Dc lit up at night
Statue of Abraham Lincoln lit up at night

Even after we saw all the famous monuments during the day, we still found doing this after-dark tour was so worth it! Seeing Washington, DC lit up at night was such a fantastic experience because we got to see the landmarks without the big crowds of tourists that are usually around during the day. The monuments also look truly spectacular when they’re floodlit after dark.

The after-dark tour took us to all of the city’s must-see sights, and we got roughly a 15-minute guided stop at each one. Visiting the White House, the Capitol, and six different memorials, we learned more about them, and they were truly epic to see all lit up at night! 

The tour lasted for 3 hours, and the guides really did their best to make sure that we had a great time. There’s the option to go on a luxury tour bus for $64 USD per person, or upgrade to an open-top or glass-top bus (depending on the time of year) for $114 USD per person.

Both buses leave daily from the US Navy Memorial Plaza at 7:30 pm and regardless of which you choose, it’s such a cool way to see the city!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

17. Visit one or three of the Smithsonian museums

Dinosaur at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC
Dinosaur at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
An elephant statue at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC
They are impressive!

The Smithsonian Institution is a huge museum complex that comprises a ton of different museums, and most of them are in Washington, DC! 

In fact, there are 17 Smithsonian museums in DC, so while you probably won’t manage to visit every single one, you can definitely find one that interests you.

Personally, we loved the National Museum of Natural History. There’s so much to see there from ancient fossils to Egyptian mummies and mammals. It’s open 7 days a week from 10 am until 5:30 pm, and admission is free, except for the butterfly pavilion, which costs $8 USD to enter (but is also free on Tuesdays).

There’s also the National Postal Museum, which is situated right next to DC’s historic post office, and open daily from 10 am – 5:30 pm. Next up is the American Art Museum, which has some amazing and innovative exhibitions to check out and is open from 11:30 am – 7 pm every day. Both of these are free, too! 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the best and most popular Smithsonian museums to visit, and for this reason, you have to reserve passes via their website. It’s open from 10 am until 5:30 pm every day, except for Monday when it opens at noon. 

You can only reserve passes up to 30 days in advance, and it’s completely free to do. During the winter, booking just a few days ahead of time is fine, but during the busy summer months, it’s best to secure your spot to visit a few weeks in advance. 

18. Explore the city by bike

Unlimited Biking tour in Washington DC
Photo credit: Unlimited Biking

This guided bike tour was a really fun way to explore DC in the open air, and we got to cover plenty of ground in just 2 hours. We got pretty sweaty while visiting in the summer, so definitely be prepared, but we still think it’s worth it, though!

The tour visited many of the major landmarks in the city, including The White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. We also got to see all of the main memorials, as well as the FBI Headquarters, where we learned more about the goings-on within this secretive organization.

This is a small group tour with a maximum of 15 travelers, so it’s not too big or crowded. It’s also an easy bike ride – DC is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the US, so there’s nothing to worry about, even if you’re not the most confident rider.

There was also the option to upgrade to an e-bike if we preferred, which would have taken a lot of the pedaling out of it, but in the end we decided to stick with traditional bikes. In hindsight, we might have stayed a little cooler with an e-bike!

The tour lasts for 2 hours and costs $55 USD per person for a regular bicycle, or $75 USD for an e-bike. You’ll join your guide at a meeting point, which is where the tour also ends, and the tour meets at 10 am or 2:30 pm.

19. Explore the National Art Gallery

National Art Gallery in Washington DC
National Art Gallery in Washington, DC
The gardens sculptures at the National Art Museum in Washington DC
Interesting art!

The National Art Gallery is a fantastic free thing to do in DC, and there are over 3,000 pieces of art to view at any one time! Here you can see sculptures, drawings, and paintings from the 1600s right up to the present day, and they always have some cool special installations to check out. 

We also loved the sculpture garden outside, where you can see lots of creative modern sculptures. There’s even one by Roy Lichtenstein! The Pavillion Café also has a gorgeous panoramic view of the garden and serves yummy freshly made soups and sandwiches. 

The National Art Gallery is free to visit and located on Constitution Ave. It’s open from 10 am until 5 pm every day. We didn’t need to make reservations, and there’s also the option to join one of their free guided tours on the day of if you feel like it. 

20. Take a Segway history tour

Capital Segway Tour in Washington DC
What a fun way to do a history tour in DC! Photo credit: Capital Segway

Another great way to tour Washington, DC is on a Segway! We got to cover so much ground as we zoomed around the city on this 2.5-hour Segway tour while being out in the open air. It’s definitely got the novelty factor.

The tour route took us past 25 different sites in just over 2 and a half hours, which we’d never be able to do on foot (even if we are experienced hikers!). Some are quick pass-bys, but we also got guided stops at other places like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lafayette Square. Our guide kept things fun and engaging, and whizzing around on a Segway is such an adventure.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never ridden a Segway before (many of the people in our group hadn’t) as you’ll be shown how to do it, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. However, the minimum age to ride a Segway is 16 in Washington, DC, so kids can’t join this tour. We think older teens will absolutely love it, although it’s a blast for adults too (we can personally vouch for this!).

It costs $75 USD per person, with a maximum group size of 15. This also includes a personal headset, so we got to hear the guide clearly throughout the tour. These tours run between March and July, with a variety of start times depending on the day, making it super easy to fit into our Washington, DC itinerary! Just make sure to arrive at the meeting point a half hour before the start time.

Related Read: This Segway tour was actually one of the best history tours in Washington DC, we did!

21. Climb the Albert Einstein statue

Albert Einstein statue in Washington DC
Albert Einstein statue

There’s only one statue in Washington, DC that you’re allowed to climb – the Albert Einstein statue! Climbing this statue is even encouraged because touching his nose is said to improve your IQ. So if you feel like you could do with a little boost to your brainpower, this is a quick and fun thing to do in DC. Plus, you can visit the statue at any time of day, and it’s free! 

We also saw lots of people sitting in the statue’s lap for a fun photo opportunity, and Einstein’s signature is also engraved on the paper that his statue is holding. The sculptor behind this statue, Robert Berks, has lots of other works around Washington, DC, too, including the bust of JFK at the Kennedy Center, pretty sweet!

22. Go on a pub crawl

Bailey enjoys a beer on a pub crawl in Washington DC
Cheers!
Beers at the bar on a pub crawl in Washington DC
We got a little tipsy!

In a city as historic as DC, you can bet your bottom dollar that the pubs have some stories to tell, and we got to discover a few of their secrets on this small-group pub crawl.

We like the fact that this is a small group tour with a maximum of 12 people, so it just feels like going for drinks with friends. It’s a great way to meet new people in DC, and we were laughing as our guide told us scandalous stories of White House parties gone awry and wild Prohibition-era soirées. This is the kind of history that you don’t hear at school or even on a regular sightseeing tour! 

The tour leaves from this park at 7 pm on weekdays and 4 pm on Saturdays, and you’ve got two options. We decided to purchase a happy hour package for $100 USD, which included a beer or cider at each of the four pubs we visited. There’s also a dry run ticket for $59 USD if you prefer not to drink. Then, if you change your mind on the day, you can always purchase drinks directly from the bars. 

23. Visit the war memorials

Bailey walks the World War II Memorial in Washington DC
Bailey walks the World War II Memorial
Statue of soldiers at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC
Statue of soldiers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Visiting the war memorials is a must while you’re in Washington, DC. They’re an iconic part of the city and an amazing way to learn about US history. You can visit them on your own as they’re all fairly close together or see them on one of the sightseeing tours that we’ve mentioned.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the most visited memorial located on Washington, DC’s National Mall, attracting over 5 million visitors every year. It’s a huge wall with the names of the veterans who lost their lives during the conflict, and it’s presided over by a 7-ft tall statue of three servicemen.

Nearby, there’s also a grove of trees with a statue of two servicewomen helping an injured soldier to honor the contributions of women during the war. 

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial is also free to visit and honors the millions of Americans who contributed to fighting the Second World War, both overseas and on the home front. There are 56 pillars arranged in an oval around a large fountain pool, and it’s located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. It was opened in 2004, so it’s quite a new memorial, relatively speaking. 

Korean War Veterans Memorial 

Last but certainly not least, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in West Potomac Park, close to the Lincoln Memorial. It consists of statues of servicemen as well as a memorial wall with the names of the soldiers who served inscribed. Also free to visit, it was unveiled in 1995 in a ceremony that was attended by US President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam.

24. Go to a high tea at Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens high tea
Photo credit: Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens High Tea 1
A perfect morning!

If you want to treat yourself to a refined DC experience, going for high tea at the Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens is the perfect way to do it. We really enjoyed the delicious and dainty finger sandwiches, clotted cream scones, and petit fours in a very grand setting, although the most fun we had was pretending that we were esteemed guests from a bygone era!

The experience requires a minimum of 10 guests, so it’s a great way for families or friends to celebrate. It costs $38 USD per person. Making a reservation is required and bookings must be done 7 days in advance, so you’ll need to be fairly organized with this one! 

Alternatively, the Mansion on O Street offers an awesome five-course afternoon tea. It’s best for larger groups as it requires a minimum of 10 people, and you’ll also need to reserve in advance. Bookings cost $90 USD per person, so it’s not super cheap, but that price includes a 45-minute guided tour of the mansion, where you can discover its themed rooms, secret doors, and passageways.

Whether you decide to go with your best friend or with the whole family, we think enjoying afternoon/high tea is such a cool and unique way to spend some time in the city!

25. Check out a unique museum or three

Astronaut Capsule at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC
Astronaut Capsule at the National Air and Space Museum

Washington, DC is known for its excellent museums, and as we mentioned earlier, there are 17 Smithsonian museums that you can visit for free here! While we talked about some of the more popular ones above, there really is a museum (Smithsonian or otherwise) for almost every interest.

The National Air and Space Museum is very cool – it houses the world’s largest collection of air and space artifacts. You can learn about the Wright Brothers and the history of the airplane. I also enjoyed checking out the Destination Moon exhibit, which features Neil Armstrong’s space suit – how awesome is that? 

This museum is located on Independence Ave. It’s open from 10 am until 5:30 pm, and you’ll need to reserve passes in order to visit.

Just across the street, you’ll find the National Museum of the American Indian. It has some super interesting exhibits to check out, from ceremonial objects and traditional jewelry to adverts and logos that feature or were created by Indigenous people. This museum is open from 10 am until 5:30 pm. It’s also free, and you don’t need a ticket to visit.

And for anyone who’s ever wondered what the life of a spy is like (which is probably all of us!), there’s the International Spy Museum. It’s one of DC’s most interactive museums, and we got to do all kinds of fun things, like going undercover on a secret mission, checking out crazy inventions used to steal secrets, and cracking codes!

The International Spy Museum is located about a 20-minute walk from the previous two museums, so you and the family could make a whole day of it! It’s open from 9 am – 7 pm on Saturday, 9 am – 6 pm on Friday/Sunday, and 10 am – 6 pm for the rest of the week. Tickets can be purchased in advance and cost between $25 and $32 USD, depending on the date you choose to go. 

Where to Stay in Washington, DC

the pool at Pendry hotel in Washington DC
The pool at the Pendry is so nice! Photo Credit: Pendry Washington DC

Now that you’ve learned all about Washington, DC, you’ll probably need a place to stay! To help you narrow it down, we’ve highlighted our top choices. We’ve included everything from budget hostels to luxurious hotels, so you’re bound to find something you like!

Pendry Washington DC – $$$

For the ultimate luxury and convenience, opt for the Pendry Washington DC. This 5-star hotel has free bikes, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, a fitness center, a rooftop bar, and a large terrace overlooking the wharf. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the docking port if you choose to do a river cruise (you might even see your boat from your window!). The rooms are spacious, modern, and super comfortable.

There’s a wide range of room options, ranging from $260 USD to over $1,000 USD, depending on what you choose. However, you’ll find the best deals when you book your stay in advance.

Hotel Madera – $$

Hotel Madera is a great mid-range accommodation in the heart of DC. You can have a taste of American comfort food and cocktails at their on-site restaurant – or grab a complimentary glass of wine at the bar. It’s located close to many bars and restaurants and is just a 5-minute walk to Dupont Circle. Rooms are quite large and well-equipped, and some come with balconies to view the city.

Prices start at $170 USD, which is a great value for what you get! Snag this deal by booking online here.

Duo Nomad – $

Duo Nomad is our top choice for budget accommodations in DC. It’s a clean place with complimentary breakfast, a garden, a terrace, and a shared lounge to meet other travelers or relax after a day of sightseeing. It’s located just off Capital Hill and a 10-minute drive to the wharf.

Prices run from $39 USD to $59 USD for a bed in a shared dorm. However, if you’re two people traveling, get a 2-bed shared dorm, and voila – it’s your own private accommodation! If you’re on a budget, reserve a bed at Duo Nomad on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in front of the White House in Washington DC
Thanks for reading!

Wow, that’s quite a list of all the best things to do in Washington, DC! Whether you have the time to do them all in one visit or pick a couple of top favorites, we hope this guide helps you have a perfect trip. There’s just so much history here and so much to see!

Before you set off to DC, have a look through our blogs for more ideas. Check out the rest of our guides for traveling through the US or even traveling around the world. Here are a few popular ones linked below for you:

10 BEST New York City PRIVATE Tours

6 BEST Philadelphia History Tours for First-Time Visitors

10 Things to Know BEFORE Walking the Brooklyn Bridge