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25 BEST Things to do in Washington, DC in Summer

25 BEST Things to do in Washington, DC in Summer

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Are you looking for the best things to do in Washington, DC during the summer? Well, you clicked on the right blog!

Summer is our favorite time to visit, and we know the pain of time wasted trying to find a fun activity to do. Especially if you don’t know when you’ll be back.

So we put together the best DC summer experiences in one handy list to save you the hassle of sorting through them all on your own. Including some you won’t hear about anywhere else!

Whether you’re just passing through America’s Capitol for the day or sticking around for a several, this blog will have an activity for you.

Things to do in Washington, DC in Summer

1. Catch an outdoor movie

Union Market outdoor theater in Washington dc
Photo credit: Union Market

One thing that we love about summer in Washington, DC is that there are a ton of places to catch an outdoor movie! Something about watching a film under the stars makes the experience so much more entertaining, and drive-in cinemas in particular feel quintessentially American. 

One of DC’s most popular outdoor cinemas is at Union Market. Between April and July, there are showings every first and third Friday of the month, although there are usually a few more sporadic screenings between July and October.

It costs $20 USD per car to do a drive-in, but those traveling on foot can watch the movie for free from Neal Place, which is right outside the market. They usually show nostalgic classics, and times vary, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.

Meanwhile, the Audi Field soccer stadium transforms into a cinema on select Thursday nights during the summer. They show family favorites on the jumbotron at 7 pm, so bring a blanket and make yourself comfy on the pitch as you enjoy a movie for free! Keep an eye on the stadium website to check for upcoming showings.

2. Take a Tiki Booze Cruise on the river

A tiki boat on the river in Washington DC, USA
Enjoy the sites with a drink in hand!

Summers in DC can be hot and sticky, so a cruise along the Potomac River is a nice way to cool off… and nothing says “fun in the sun” like this Tiki booze cruise

You’ll truly feel like you’re on holiday as you drift down the river on a floating tiki bar, with the breeze in your hair and a beer in hand. Rather than sweating as you explore DC on foot, this cruise allows you to take in the sights as you party out on the water. Sounds pretty good to me! 

Small Tiki boats are available from the Navy Yard for up to six people, and cost between $350 and $425 USD for the group. If you’ve got a bigger group, you can book a large boat for 8 to 18 of you and your closest friends. This costs between $45 and $60 USD per person, and the boat departs from Georgetown. It will have a bar on board, or you can BYOB and pay a corkage fee. 

The cruise lasts around 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to take in the sights, enjoy a few drinks, and maybe even bust some moves as you cruise along. Whatever the size of your group, a tiki booze cruise is an ideal way to celebrate a birthday, a bachelor/ette party, or just the fact that your plans made it out of the group chat.

Related Read: There are so many amazing Washington, DC river cruises – we’ve picked the best of the best in our blog, so feel free to check them out!

3. Go on a city tour

Bailey on a tour bus in Washington DC with the Capital Building in the background
Sightseeing tours mean you get to see a lot in a day!
Bailey and Daniel Take a selfie with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Dc
The Lincoln Memorial

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!

4. See the White House

Bailey poses for a photo out the front of the White House in Washington DC
Such a cool building!
The White house at Sunset in the USA
It’s amazing at sunset!

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.

5. Enjoy Jazz in the Garden

National Gallery of Art Jazz show in Washington DC
National Gallery of Art jazz show in Washington, DC

Listening to jazz on a warm evening in DC’s Sculpture Garden sounds like a pretty idyllic summer activity to us, so try to snag tickets when you’re in town! 

Jazz is a quintessentially American type of music, so where better to enjoy it than in the USA’s capital city, enjoying performances from artists from all over the country? The concerts run every Friday from late May until early August, and we can’t think of a better way to kick off a weekend in DC. 

In fact, they have proved so popular in the past that there’s now a lottery system to get tickets. Each Friday night concert has its own lottery, which you have to register for the week before. You’ll find out on the Monday of the week of the concert whether or not you were successful.

However, they do save a couple of walk-in passes and give them out at 5 pm on the day of the concert itself, which means a second chance for those not so lucky with the lottery!

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

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens High Tea 1
What a display!
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens high tea
Photo credit: Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Gardens

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!

7. Eat your way around the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle

Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle burger
Photo credit: Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle
Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle
Photo credit: Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle

Nothing says summer like a good old barbecue, and the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle is the ultimate way to celebrate the season, American style. Since 1993, big names in the barbecue game have been converging on Pennsylvania Avenue to participate in the ultimate cook-off. So, as you can imagine, this is the perfect place to enjoy a day out and eat as much as you possibly can! 

As well as all of the delicious food, there are performances by local and international musicians, as well as BMXers and breakdancers. There are also plenty of fun, carnival-style activities like a giant game wheel, a basketball shootout, face painting, and even a hot dog eating contest! 

The festival usually takes place over the last weekend of June, and tickets cost $20 USD per day. You can bag them online via the official website

8. Watch the July 4th fireworks

Fire works over the Capital Building during the 4th of July
Fireworks over the Capital Building during the 4th of July
Fireworks in Washington Dc during the 4th of July
There is nowhere more iconic!

The 4th of July is Independence Day, and watching the fireworks is a must if you’re in DC on this day. In fact, where better to celebrate America’s birthday than in the nation’s capital? 

As you would expect, Washington, DC really puts on a show to capture this patriotic holiday, and there are quite a few great spots around the city where you can get a first-class seat to the fireworks.

The most popular place to watch the show is the National Mall. We were lucky enough to see them here! Fireworks were launched from either side of the Lincoln Memorial, and we got to see the city’s most iconic landmarks illuminated in different colors.

Other popular spots to watch from include near the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and of course, the Lincoln Memorial itself. The show starts at 9:09 pm sharp, but you’ll need to arrive several hours before that to pass security checks and stake out your spot. 

You can also head across the river to the Marine Corps Memorial or the hill in Arlington National Cemetery for stunning views of the National Mall. These spots are quieter than the National Mall itself, but they still do get busy, so pack a picnic and get here nice and early. 

If the thought of arriving hours beforehand and dealing with crowds feels like a little much to you, you can also book a fireworks cruise along the Potomac River to enjoy the fireworks in a more peaceful way. We’ve heard really good things about Sea Suite Cruises and Capitol River Cruises, but book well in advance because tickets sell like hotcakes! 

Or, if you want an upmarket experience, lots of rooftop bars in the city offer fireworks viewing parties on the 4th of July. These are usually pricey but then again, how often are you in Washington, DC on Independence Day? We like the Vue Rooftop at the historic Hotel Washington, because it’s super swanky and offers unparalleled views of the White House and the Washington Monument. 

9. Tour the United States Capitol

Bailey poses for a photo outside the United States Capitol in Washington DC
You don’t want to miss this!
People tour the United States Capitol in Washington DC
It’s just as incredible inside!

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!

Related: There are so many fantastic Capitol tours available – check out our blog where we compare the best of the best!

10. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the Changing of the Guard

Changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC
Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery
Graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC
Graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the biggest graveyards in the USA, with around 400,000 military personnel buried here as well as many US presidents, including JFK. However, perhaps its most famous monument is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To give you a little background, after the First World War, Britain and France banned the repatriation of dead soldiers. Instead, they buried one unknown soldier every year on Armistice Day. The US had a different policy but proposed a similar ritual in the early 1920s, and so the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to represent all unidentified American soldiers, regardless of class, race, or religion. 

During the summer, you can watch the Changing of the Guard every half an hour, so it’s an ideal time to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For us, this precise and solemn ritual was very interesting to watch.

We visited as part of this 1.5-hour guided tour, which took us on a 90-minute walk through the cemetery to see the most important graves and memorials. As well as watching the changing of the guard, we visited John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, saw the former home of Robert E. Lee, and learned a ton about the cemetery and the famous figures buried here from our historian guide.

There’s nothing quite as humbling as learning all the facts and listening to the stories from a local historian, so it’s a short tour we highly recommend!

11. Explore Georgetown

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

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.

12. Go on a brunch cruise

Food on our brunch cruise in Washington DC
Umm, yum!
Bailey poses for a photo with her food on a brunch cruise in Washington DC
Cheers!

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. 

13. Go on a hike

Bears-Den-Trail-in-Virginia
Bear’s Den Trail!

Anyone who knows us will know that we have to hike everywhere we go if the weather allows! The sunny weather in DC is great for hiking during the summer, but remember to bring plenty of water with you because you’re likely to sweat a lot.

We loved the Bear’s Den Trail, which is an easy 2.6-kilometer (1.6-mile) out-and-back trail. It’s about an hour’s drive from the city, and then it’s a 45-minute return walk from the parking lot. 

The trail is really easy to follow, and it follows a section of the Appalachian trail to take you to Bear’s Den lookout, where you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains (cue John Denver’s Country Roads!).

We drove out to Bear’s Den, but if you’d rather stay in the city, then the Theodore Roosevelt Island Trail is fantastic. It starts on the Virginia side of the Potomac River and takes you over the bridge to loop around the scenic island park. At 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) long with just 18 meters (59 feet) of elevation gain, the walk should only take you around 35 minutes, and there’s parking nearby.

For more hikes in Washington, DC, check out this post by Kris Maria Wanders. She’s even included tips on where to reward yourself with post-hike drinks! 

14. See the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives

Bailey at the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives security entrance
One last photo before going inside!
The front of the National Archives in Washington DC
In front of the National Archives

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.

15. 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. You can go at 10 am or 2:30 pm.

16. Get an ice cream

Pitango Gelato ice cream in Washington DC
Photo credit: Pitango Gelato
Pitango Gelato ice cream
Photo credit: Pitango Gelato

Temperatures tend to hover around 30 °C (86 °F) in Washington, DC during the summer, so cooling down with an ice cream cone is a must. Here are three of our favorites!

Pitango Gelato

We love Pitango Gelato, an authentic and organic Italian ice cream spot! They’ve got tons of both classic and creative flavors, although on a really hot day, their fresh fruit sorbet is the ultimate refreshing treat. You can find them in Penn Quarter or Adams Morgan, and a new branch on the Wharf is in the works!

Dolcezza Gelato and Coffee

Ice cream connoisseurs should also stop at Dolcezza Gelato and Coffee, which has received mentions in publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Their gelato also has half the fat and calories of typical ice cream, so it’s a treat for your waistline as well as your tastebuds! They’ve got several locations around DC, so do yourself a favor and stop in to try their seasonal flavors. 

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Or for sweet, all-American flavors, head to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which is a local favorite. With options like maple-soaked pancakes, fluffernutter pie, and banana French toast, it’s easy to see why this place is so popular. Their 14th Street location is about a 20-minute walk from downtown, but it’s soo worth it. 

17. Wander the Wharf DC

Bailey at The Wharf DC in Washington DC
A great place to go for a walk!
Bailey poses for a photo at The Wharf DC in Washington DC
We love this place!

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!

18. Eat a famous Mason’s Lobster Roll

A close up of a Mason’s Lobster Roll in Georgetown, Washington DC
So delicious!
Bailey with a lobster roll at Mason’s Lobster Roll in Georgetown DC
Mason’s Lobster Roll!

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. 

19. Eat your way through Union Market

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

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!

20. Visit a few of the city’s memorials

Bailey out the front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC
Wow!
Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC
So cool

DC’s National Mall is home to many of the city’s must-see memorials. These memorials pay homage to historical figures and conflicts that have shaped the USA, and they’re all free to visit. 

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most famous memorials, which sits at the east end of the Reflecting Pool. As well as a statue of the man himself, this memorial also contains two inscriptions of his most famous speeches, and it was where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963. 

The Martin Luther King Memorial itself is a 10-minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial. There’s a large granite statue of the civil rights leader here, and Dr. King was actually the first African American to be memorialized on the National Mall. 

Statue at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington DC
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Statue to remember the nurses from the Vietnam War in Washington DC
A statue to remember the nurses of the Vietnam War

The Jefferson Memorial has to be one of the city’s most beautiful memorials, not least because it’s perched on the edge of the Tidal Basin. This elegant, domed building contains a bronze statue of the Founding Father and inscriptions of his most famous quotes. 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, meanwhile, pays tribute to one of America’s most controversial conflicts while honoring the hundreds of thousands of US soldiers who lost their lives as a result. The memorial actually has three parts: the Three Soldiers Statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Veterans’ Memorial Wall, which is inscribed with the names of those who died or went missing during the war. 

In fact, there are lots of war memorials to see, including the Korean War Memorial, the National WWII Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial. 

21. Go on a food tour

Bailey with a pizza in Georgetown Washington DC on a food tour
Pizza time!
Bailey tastes a macaron from Ladurée in Georgetown Washington DC
So tasty!

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. 

22. Go on a sightseeing river cruise

Baileu poses for a photo on a Capital River Cruise in Washington DC
So much fun!
On a Capitol River Cruise in Washington Dc that leaves from Georgetown
A great way to see the sights!

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!

23. Take a Segway history tour

Capital Segway Tour in Washington 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!

24. Watch the Nationals Play

Since Washington is the US capital, it makes sense that their baseball team would be called the Nationals! They’re a Major League team that actually started out in Montreal before moving to Washington in 2004. Several MLB Hall of Famers have played for the Nationals, and you can go and catch a game during the summer in DC. 

Baseball season runs from April to September, so you can see them at their home ground in Nationals Park during that time. The stadium is in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, which means there are tons of great bars to pregame in.

Or if you’re coming with the family, on Sundays there’s often a special promotion where kids aged 4 to 12 can run the bases for free. Nationals’ games also have a really fun tradition called the Presidents’ Race, which is when six giant-headed presidential mascots race around the field during the 4th inning. 

You can find single-game tickets through the Major League ticket finder, but in our experience, you can often save money by searching for second-hand tickets on StubHub. You really don’t have to spend a fortune on tickets, as you can get them for as little as $13 USD on the official site. 

25. Cool down in 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
An impressive display!

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 busy summer months, it’s best to secure your spot to visit a few weeks in advance. 

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! Whether you’re staying for a week or just a day, this city has loads of options. 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 traveling on a budget, we recommend reserving 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!

It should be no surprise that Washington, DC is such a popular place to visit during the summer – we found so many great things to do here when the weather warms up! We love going to DC and hope that this guide has given you a few ideas of what to do here, from catching a baseball game to seeing an outdoor movie to visiting some of the city’s historic sights and monuments.

If you found this blog useful, be sure to take a look at more of our guides to destinations in the US. We’ve linked to a few related blogs you might want to start with below:

10 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting the Museum of the American Revolution

8 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

25 Best FREE Things to do in New York City