10 Things to Do in Washington DC in a Day

What Is Washington DC Most Famous For?

    Washington DC attracts history buffs with its national monuments and memorials, as well as impressive museums displaying various cultures, artefacts, and collectibles from around the world. Home to the White House, you may even catch a glimpse of the nation’s president while you’re vacationing in the USA capital.

    Spring often attracts crowds to the 2-mile-long Tidal Basin as hundreds of pink cherry trees are in full bloom from March to October. All year round, the city also has a vibrant entertainment scene, with live jazz, rock and roll, and EDM blaring from nightclubs, lounges, and bars concentrated in the U Street district. Make the most out of your stay by checking out our guide of things to do in Washington DC.

    1

    Start the day at Pennsylvania Avenue

    Go museum-hopping in downtown DC

    Pennsylvania Avenue is a great place to visit historical buildings and museums in Washington DC. A good starting point for tourists is the White House, where you’re within walking distances of the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial. You can also enjoy a day of museum-hopping when you’re in Pennsylvania Avenue, with famous spots including the Smithsonian Museums, Art Museum of the Americas, and Hirshhorn Museum.

    Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 2050, USA

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    2

    Must-See: The White House

    Watch a 10-minute video of the president’s home at the visitor’s centre

    The White House is a popular stop for most visitors in Washington DC as it has been the official residence of every president of the USA since 1800. Self-guided tours are available, but foreign visitors are required to apply for a tour request at their home country’s embassy in Washington DC. Even if you’re not able to schedule a tour inside, the White House still offers beautiful snapshots thanks to its all-white exterior, blooming flowerbeds, and fountains.

    Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA

    Open: Daily from 7.30am to 4pm

    Phone: +1 202-456-1111

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    3

    Pay your respects at the Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials

    Learn about the leaders with a walking tour of the memorials

    The Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials are built in commemoration of some of the nation’s most noteworthy people. The Lincoln Memorial, inspired by the Pantheon, features 36 Doric columns and a 5.8-metre-tall sitting statue of Abraham Lincoln looking out towards a reflecting pool. A 10-minute walk away is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which is located next to the Tidal Basin. Both are located in Independence Avenue, and you get to enjoy a lovely view of gardens, sculptures, and a large reflecting pool as you walk from one memorial to another.

    Location: Lincoln Memorial: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20245, USA

    Phone: +1 202-426-6841

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    4

    Shop at Eastern Market

    Visit the Sunday flea market to shop for crafts by local artists

    Eastern Market, established in 1805, is one of the first public marketplaces in Washington DC. It occupies an 18th-century brick building on Capitol Hill. The North Hall is where you can find vendors selling fresh flowers, produce, pasta, and baked goods from Tuesday to Sunday. On weekends, Eastern Market hosts a large flea market where local artists sell handmade crafts, second-hand books, cameras, antiques, and collectibles from all over the world.

    Location: 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA

    Open: Tuesday – Friday from 7am to 7pm, Saturday from 7am to 6pm, Sunday from 9am to 9am to 5pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 202-698-5253

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    photo by Daniel Lobo (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Must-See: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

    Check out an actual fossil Neanderthal at the Hall of Human Origins

    The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History displays over 126 million objects ranging from animal fossils, gemstones and meteorites to live butterflies and insects. Spanning over 325,000 sq m of exhibition space, it’s one of the largest museums in the world. The Hall of Human Origins is where you get to learn about the history of human species through an interactive human family tree, an authentic fossilised Neanderthal, and over 70 skull replicas.

    Location: 4th St SW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 202-633-1000

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    photo by Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    Get active at Rock Creek Park

    Join a guided trail ride by the Horse Center

    Rock Creek Park is one of the largest green expanse in Washington DC. Hiking is a popular activity as the park has more than 30 trails to suit any fitness level. The Rock Creek Park Horse Center offers daily horseback riding lessons and guided trail rides for those looking to explore the park at a leisurely pace. It’s also a popular spot for picnics, jogging, tennis, and cycling, so expect huge crowds if you’re visiting on weekends or national holidays.

    Location: Washington, DC 20008, USA

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    7

    Go for a paddleboat ride at Tidal Basin

    See blooming cherry trees in springtime

    The Tidal Basin is a manmade pond overlooking many Washington landmarks, including the Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials. The 2-mile-long pond is a popular spot for cycling and jogging all year round, but it draws a big crowd in spring as hundreds of cherry trees are in full bloom during this season. Paddleboat rides are available between March and October, which cost about $18 an hour for a 2-person boat and $30 for a 4-person boat.

    Location: 1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA

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    8

    Eat half-smoke

    Go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for this Washington DC snack

    Half-smoke is a speciality sausage dish in Washington DC. The sausage is typically made with seasoned ground beef and pork, and smoked before it’s grilled. Once cooked, it’s served in a bun and topped with chilli, cheese, and onions. You can find many hot dog vendors selling half-smoke on U Street and National Mall, though many locals recommend Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW, which Barack Obama frequented in 2009.

    Location: 1213 U Street NW, Washington DC, 20009, USA

    Open: Monday – Thursday from 6am to 2am, Friday from 6am to 4am, Saturday from 7am to 4am, Sunday from 11am to midnight

    Phone: +1 202-667-0058

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    9

    Check out rare artwork at the National Gallery of Art

    Go for a walk in the Sculpture Garden

    The National Gallery of Art displays more 140,000 artwork from Europe and America from different time periods. Its West and East Buildings are connected by an underground concourse that’s fitted with Leo Villareal’s Multiverse installation, where you can see over 41,000 LED nodes creating hypnotic trailing lights and abstract sculptures. A highlight here is the Sculpture Garden, which has a large fountain that functions as an ice rink during winter. Admission to the National Gallery of Art is free all year round.

    Location: 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565, USA

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 10am to 5pm, Sunday from 11am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 202-737-4215

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    10

    End the day at U Street

    Catch live jazz at this vibrant nightlife hub

    U Street, known as the birthplace of jazz legend Duke Ellington, houses some of the busiest nightclubs, jazz clubs, and theatres in Washington DC. From the internationally-acclaimed 9:30 Club to underground U Street Music Hall, there’s always a live gig happening on U Street. Even if you’re not there for drinks and music, you can find many art galleries, vintage shops, and wall murals while exploring this colourful neighbourhood.

    Location: U St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA

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    photo by ianakoz (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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