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The BEST 2 Days in Washington, DC: A 2-Day Itinerary

The BEST 2 Days in Washington, DC: A 2-Day Itinerary

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As the capital of the USA, it’s no surprise that there are incredible sightseeing tours in Washington, DC. It’s well known for being the home of federal government buildings, countless monuments, tons of museums, and art venues.

While there is plenty of history here, we were excited to discover that DC also has great cocktail bars, delicious restaurants, and fun river cruises. There are also charming neighborhoods like Georgetown and quirky activities for kids and adults.

It can be daunting trying to plan a quick trip, but luckily, we’ve got you covered after our most recent visit! To make the best out of a 2-day stay, we’ve assembled some of our top things to do in Washington, DC for you to enjoy!

Don’t have time to read the full article? While in Washington, DC, we love going on a sightseeing tour (or even splurging for a private city tour), grabbing a late-night cocktail, walking around Georgetown, and visiting one (or more) of the Smithsonian museums.

Day 1

Go on a full-day city tour (morning and afternoon)

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 in a day!

Washington, DC is one of the most walkable cities in the United States, so it’s perfect for sightseeing tours. DC is unique because it’s not technically part of a state, but is a federal district that was created to be the capital city. As you can imagine, there is a ton of history here so we recommend taking a full-day history tour in DC to kick off your adventure.

We personally loved this guided sightseeing tour, and it’s perfect for all ages too. You’ll see over 10 different DC attractions like the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the US Capitol Building. While the last two places only include walking the grounds, you can also go on a US Capitol tour to see inside the Capitol and the Library of Congress!

Since we aren’t from the US, we really enjoy learning the stories behind these famous places. Our guide in DC did a fantastic job of keeping the walking tours interesting and entertaining. Seeing sights like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was also very interesting and our guide did a great job of describing the significance of each one.

Bailey walks along the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The last time we visited it was hot and humid, so we were very glad to get back on the comfy air-conditioned bus in between visits. One place we loved was the Georgetown Waterfront Park, which is in one of our favorite neighborhoods in DC and consequently where we’ll start our second day! Overall, we saw and learned a ton on this sightseeing tour, and even got to go on a lovely cruise on the Potomac River.

This tour lasts 6 hours and costs $89 USD per person, or you can elect the glass-top bus option for just $10 USD more. Also, we want to mention that the Potomac cruise portion only runs between April and mid-October, but you can enjoy the rest of the tour year-round. For one of our favorite ways to get acquainted with Washington, DC, you can reserve this full-day sightseeing tour here.

If you prefer a personalized option for you and your group, you can book this private city tour instead. You’ll still get to see all the buildings, memorials, and monuments as the tour above (and even a few more) from the comfort of a luxury vehicle. Plus, since it’ll just be you and your party, you can set the agenda! This tour lasts 4 hours and is $550 USD for a group of 5, or $650 USD for a group up to 14. Depending on your group size, this could be the cheaper option, and if you book it on Viator you’ll be eligible for free cancellation up to 24 hours before your tour time!

Related Read: Check out our guide on the best private tours in NYC! These tours come in handy if you’ve only got 1 day in New York City.

Enjoy a meal at the oldest restaurant in Washington, DC (dinner)

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!

After an eventful day of sightseeing, we suggest enjoying a meal at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It’s near the White House and is a stunning building with excellent food, and just so happens to be Washington, DC’s oldest saloon!

Since it opened in 1856, the Old Ebbitt Grill has welcomed famous politicians and celebrities and is a staple in the DC area. It’s been in its current location since 1983 and inside there’s an atmosphere of old-school American glamour, from the antique clocks and chandeliers to the wooden accents, marble staircase, and various paintings, eating here is like stepping back in time. 

But while the decor is amazing, the food is even better! If you like seafood, be sure to order the crab dip – it’s so good! For our mains, we had salmon and trout, both of which were equally delicious, and for dessert, we shared the salted caramel bread pudding which was seriously one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever had! If you like oysters, they have an Oyster Happy Hour from 3 pm to 5 pm and 11 pm to 1 am.

Honestly, for the quality of the food, the prices are very reasonable. You’re looking at around $25-$40 USD for entrées, and happy hour oysters are a dozen for $28 USD.

The Old Ebbitt Grill is very popular so we strongly recommend making a reservation especially since you only have a couple of days in DC. We caught the sunset at the White House before heading here for dinner, but you can also come for breakfast, brunch, or to enjoy a late-night cocktail which we’ll touch more on below!

Go for cocktails (night)

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

After a long day, it’s time for a drink! And much to our surprise, Washington, DC, has some excellent cocktail bars.

If you dined at the Old Ebbitt Grill that we mentioned above, you can also enjoy some incredible wine or cocktails here. They have the Main Bar, Grant’s Bar, and even the Oyster Bar which features some award-winning wines. If you like rum, we suggest trying the Fog Cutter. Or, for a unique twist, try the Spiced Apple Sangria. There are a ton of options, so you really can’t go wrong here.

Our favorite cocktail bar in DC is Round Robin Bar which is located inside the Willard Washington Hotel. Round Robin opened in 1847, and there are plenty of historical touches and decor like portraits of American icons to look at. It’s even been nicknamed the “Oval Office of Bars” since many political figures have been known to grab a drink here.

They have excellent cocktails and their service is amazing too. Their signature drink is the Mint Julep, and we can confirm that it is delicious. Honestly, sitting at this classy round bar (which explains the bar’s namesake) while people-watching and sipping a cocktail is just a fun experience to add to your to-do list.

For those looking for a classic American tavern experience, head to Shelly’s Back Room to enjoy some whiskey and maybe even a cigar. This is definitely more of a laid-back spot than the other two bars, and the atmosphere is more like log cabin meets sports bar. They actually have a good air purification system, so you won’t have to worry about suffering from cigar smoke while you’re here. There are also big leather couches and plenty of big-screen TVs so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a drink while watching whatever game is on.

Shelly’s Back Room is just a few blocks from the other bars we discussed, so if you’re looking for a fun night out, you can go on your own DC pub crawl! They’re all walkable and they stay open until midnight or later, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy some cocktails before your last day in Washington, DC.

Day 2

Explore Georgetown (morning)

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!

For your last day in Washington, DC, we’re headed to the city’s oldest neighborhood, Georgetown.

This is a charming area and it’s a small neighborhood, so you can walk around Georgetown easily. It’s full of federal-style architecture, delicious restaurants, and adorable shops.

After a long night, we suggest heading over to Baked and Wired which is a family-run cafe that sells an assortment of baked goods and delicious coffee. It’s a small business and they only prepare small batches which means their food is always fresh. We tried the muffins and they were absolutely delicious! It’s located by the canal and is open from 8 am to 4 pm every day, but we suggest getting there early as they sell out fast!

For something more savory, head over to 90 Second Pizza. They spend 48 hours making their dough from scratch and then cook it in the oven for – you guessed it – 90 seconds! As far as “fast food pizza” goes, this is one of the best. Their Georgetown location is on Wisconsin Ave.

Another great option is right across the street where you can get a classic lobster roll at Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls. They use lobster that is imported from Maine (so you know it’s good), and each roll will cost around $20 USD. I mean, I think the obvious choice is to get pizza and a lobster roll, but hey, you do you.

If fancy treats are what you’re after, take a stroll to Ladurée off of M Street for some colorful macarons. They are so beautiful and so yummy, and definitely worth the splurge.

Of course, one of our favorite ways to eat a lot of different food in just a few hours is by going on a Georgetown food tour. This tour stops at four different eateries with a guide that gives you a ton of history behind the neighborhood. It’s basically a 2-for-1 history and food tour, so it’s great when you’re short on time. It costs $129 USD and is available Thursday through Sunday.

Bailey looks at the canals in Georgetown Washington DC
The history of Georgetown is so interesting!

There are tons of places to shop in Georgetown too. We had fun people-watching and window-shopping at Georgetown Park and the Washington Harbour, which also offers some incredible views. In winter, Washington Harbour has a huge ice rink that is open to the public. It costs about $11 USD for 1.5 hours of skate time, and we hear it’s even more magical at night because of all the twinkling lights.

Georgetown is a charming place, and if you have time, we recommend taking this historic walking tour. We saw houses that were owned by the Lincolns and the Kennedys and important landmarks like the Old Stone House and Martin’s Tavern. We loved this tour and think it’s a fantastic introduction to Georgetown. It costs $65 USD and lasts about 2 hours so it’s great for this 2-day itinerary. Book online here!

Eat your way through Union Market (lunch)

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

After exploring Georgetown, we’re headed over to Union Market. As foodies, we always look for the best food markets or stalls while traveling, and we’ve been lucky enough to try authentic Philly cheesesteaks and eat at Chelsea Market in NYC, so we were super excited to sample the cuisine here.

It’s part of the Union Market District which is home to quirky shops, bookstores, and lots of beautiful street art, so it’s a fun place to explore. The Union Market itself is a foodie paradise with a variety of international options like poke bowls, lobster tacos, pastries, and more. Just be sure to pace yourself because we’ve still got a few more activities on our DC itinerary.

Next to Union Market is La Cosecha. It’s part of the same District and caters to Latin American culture and cuisine. The restaurants here offer dishes like Venezuelan corn fritters, Peruvian sandwiches, and Salvadoran pupusas. There are also chocolates and Panama coffee available as well. La Cosecha offers art exhibits, cultural shows, and lectures to help create a platform for Latin American artists, so it’s worth a visit for sure.

Union Market and La Cosecha are both open daily from 8 am to 9 pm, except Sundays when they close at 8 pm. The restaurants at each location have different hours, so you can check the websites above to view the times. If you’re full, that just means you had a successful lunch! And our next event will help you walk it off.

Related Read: If you’re traveling around the area, we’ve got tips about what to know before booking a food tour in Philadelphia.

Visit one of the Smithsonian museums (afternoon)

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 complex that’s comprised of museums, galleries, and even a zoo! While some of their buildings can be found in Virginia and New York City, the majority are right in Washington, DC. It’s actually the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, which is a pretty impressive title!

Since this itinerary is limited to 2 days, we recommend visiting just one of the Smithsonian museums. However, if you have more time and are on a budget, visiting these museums is one of the best free activities in Washington. To help you decide, we’ll touch on a few of our favorites below.

Our personal favorite was the National Museum of Natural History. There are tons of exhibits featuring fossils, Egyptian mummies, marine life, and more. It’s open every day and there are a lot of rotating exhibits too, so you can definitely revisit the next time you’re in DC. It’s free to visit, and there’s even a butterfly pavilion, but that costs $8 USD to enter, except on Tuesdays when it’s free. This is such a fun museum and we think it’d be perfect for families too.

Next, there’s the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) which has some incredible, innovative pieces. There are paintings, sculptures, and multimedia collaborations, and it’s got a good mix of traditional and contemporary artwork. The SAAM is open from 11:30 am to 7 pm, and the nearby Renwick Gallery is open from 10 am – 5:30 pm. As an added bonus, both places are free to explore!

If you’re a fan of mail, you might like the National Postal Museum, which is conveniently located next to a historic DC post office. Exhibits here consist of the role of the US Postal Inspection Service, stamp collections, and a detailed explanation of how mail goes from one point to another. It’s free to enter and it’s great for history buffs who want to learn more about the postal service.

One of the most popular Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s free to visit but it’s very popular, so you must reserve a pass on their website for timed entry. This is a beautiful museum and it’s the only national museum that exclusively documents the lives and contributions of African Americans. You can reserve passes up to 30 days in advance or same-day passes are available online every morning at 8:15 am.

Wander the Wharf DC (afternoon)

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!

After visiting one of the famous Smithsonian Museums, let’s take a break at the Wharf!

The Wharf is a mile-long (1.6 km) waterfront neighborhood with businesses, restaurants, bars, and beautiful views that make this the perfect place to go for an afternoon stroll.

This is a very lively area and there’s usually some kind of an event going on, so it’s a great place to end up if you want to dive into the local scene. There are festivals, live music, art shows, and tons more. In winter, there’s an event called Rock the Rink where you can ice skate and enjoy broadcasts of the Washington Capitals (aka the Caps) hockey games. There’s music, prize giveaways, and even discounted rink tickets if you wear Caps gear.

The Wharf is one of the best places to go in summer in Washington, DC. This is because it hosts cool events like the Rock the Dock concert series where musicians perform on a floating stage! There are different genres of music, and the shows go off at 7 pm on Wednesdays and are free to attend. On Thursdays, they host Sunset Cinema, which is a free movie night in the summer as well. We also suggest grabbing a drink or a snack from Cantina Bambina, which has an awesome summer happy hour.

Be sure to check out events at the Wharf before your visit to see what’s going on. On the plus side, even if there aren’t any events happening during your stay, it’s still fun to walk around and people-watch.

If you’re hungry, we really enjoy ilili, which is a fun little restaurant with Lebanese cuisine and a great vibe. They have delicious hummus and incredible lamb dishes too. Another fantastic choice is Del Mar. This restaurant specializes in Spanish seafood cuisine, and if you’re visiting in the summer, we suggest eating outside so you can enjoy the view. Del Mar is more of an upscale restaurant run by a Michelin-star chef so it’s a bit pricier.

Related Read: If you’re headed to New York City, look into getting an NYC attraction pass for discounts on top attractions.

Vue Rooftop for views of the city (dinner)

Vue Rooftop Washington DC
Photo credit: Vue Rooftop
Dinner at Vue Rooftop in Washington DC
Photo credit: Vue Rooftop

After two unforgettable days in Washington, DC, we think you should celebrate with dinner and drinks at Vue Rooftop.

It’s at the top of Hotel Washington and offers unbelievable views of the DC skyline. You can see the Washington Monument and the White House and enjoy a fun cocktail like The West Wing Express.

The real appeal is the view, but if you’ve got an appetite, you can’t go wrong with one of their burgers. If you prefer the nightlife, they have a DJ that plays from 9 pm until close on Friday and Saturday. It’s a cool spot and we think it’s a great place to see the sights and enjoy one last drink in DC.

Vue Rooftop is open Monday to Wednesday from 5 pm to 12 am, and Thursday to Sunday from around 11:30 am to 12 am, with later closing hours on Friday and Saturday. It’s a bit on the pricier side with cocktails averaging $25 USD, but it’s a fun experience, especially for your last night in town.

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 planned out two days in Washington, DC, you’ll need a place to stay! 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 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 outside the United States Capitol in Washington DC, USA
Thanks for reading!

That about does it for two days in Washington, DC! We hope this article has given you some new ideas for a DC vacation. We love traveling and finding fun activities to share with our readers, so thank you for your support!

We’ve been all over North America, including the USA and Canada! If you’d like to read some of our other travel tips, we’ll leave some articles for you to enjoy below:

10 Things to Know BEFORE Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

33 BEST Things to do in Philadelphia

Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise Review: Is it Worth it?!