Washington, DC is a fascinating city with dozens attractions. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. There is so much to see and do in Washington, DC that you can’t see it all in just one visit. A well-rounded trip should include exploring the region’s historic landmarks, parks and neighborhoods.
The White House has been the official residence of every president of the United States since John Adams. Visitors from around the world come to Washington, DC to tour the White House, the home and office of the U.S. President.
The historic structure has been expanded and renovated many times throughout history. There are 132 rooms on 6 levels. The decor includes a collection of fine and decorative arts, such as historic paintings, sculpture, furniture, and china. Built between 1792 and 1800, the White House is one of the oldest public buildings in the nation’s capital and serves as a museum of American history.
All White House tours are free of charge and can be booked in advance through a representative or Senator’s office
US Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building, the meeting chambers for the Senate and the House of Representatives, is one of the most recognizable historic buildings in Washington, DC. It is located at the opposite end of the National Mall from the Washington Monument. A trip to the nation’s capital would not be complete without seeing the capitol building! The capitol grounds are also quite the site, with 274 acres filled with lawns, walkways, gardens, streets, and its reflection pool.
Visitors can book tours of the Capitol Building in advance. Tours last 45 minutes and stops include the Rotunda of the Capitol and National Statuary Hall.
Our nation’s monuments are truly spectacular and “must see” attractions when visiting our nation’s capital. They are spread out throughout the city and can be difficult to see on foot. The best way to see the major monuments is to take a guided tour—you won’t have to negotiate congested city traffic and you will learn a lot of interesting facts about our national heroes.
Informative park ranger talks and junior ranger programs are available. Here are some of the favorite monuments.
The Jefferson Memorial is a dome-shaped rotunda that honors our third president, Thomas Jefferson. A 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson is surrounded by passages from the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson’s other writings.
The Jefferson Memorial is one of the most popular attractions in the nation’s capital and is located on the Tidal Basin, surrounded by a grove of trees making it especially beautiful during Cherry Blossom season in the spring.
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is the most prominent landmark in Washington, DC. The monument stands as the centerpiece of the National Mall. The stone pillar is the tallest structure in Washington, DC and measures 555 feet 5 1/8 inches high. Fifty flags surround the base of the Washington Monument symbolizing the 50 states of America.
An elevator takes visitors to the top to see a spectacular view of Washington, DC including unique perspectives of the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol Building.
The Lincoln Memorial honors President Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president. The structure’s 36 columns represent the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. A 19-foot larger-than-life-size marble statue of Lincoln sits in the center of the Memorial and the words of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address are inscribed on the walls.
The Memorial has been the site of many famous speeches and events since its dedication in 1922, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to those who served in the Vietnam War and is one of the most visited attractions in Washington DC. The memorial is a black granite wall inscribed with the names of 58,286 American’s killed or missing in the Vietnam conflict. It is the most well-known piece, but there is also the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Three Soldiers Statue. The main part of this memorial can be found in Constitution Gardens, next to the National Mall.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC was dedicated in 1995 to 1.5 million American men and women who served in the Korean War from 1950-1953. Located in West Potomac Park, the Korean War Veterans Memorial stands in the shape of a triangle intersecting a circle. The expansive memorial includes a group of 19 statues that depict soldiers on patrol facing an American flag. A granite wall has a mural of the faces of 2,400 unnamed soldiers with a reading that states “Freedom is not free.” A Pool of Remembrance honors all soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing in action.
Park rangers and volunteers provide educational programs and special events at the memorials.
The National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is a world-class art museum that displays one of the largest collections of masterpieces in the world including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 13th century to the present.
The National Gallery of Art collection includes an extensive survey of works of American, British, Italian, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, French and German art. It has one of the best collection of the Italian Renaissance works, which includes the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas.
The museum offers a wide range of educational programs, lectures, guided tours, films, and concerts.
The 19 Smithsonian museums are among the most popular attractions in Washington DC and cover a wide range of subjects from art to space exploration. Plan to explore the exhibits that you are most interested in, but don’t try to see too much at once. If you have just a few hours, focus your time on one museum. Enjoy interactive exhibitions such as the America on the Move at the American History Museum, the Q?rius Discovery Room at the Natural History Museum or How Things Fly at the National Air and Space Museum.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a must-see for visitors to Washington, DC. It is the most visited museum in the world and appeals to all ages. Many of the exhibits are interactive and great for kids.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. The museum features 22 exhibition galleries, displaying hundreds of artifacts including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” and the Apollo 11 command module.
National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a favorite with kids, but has plenty to intrigue all ages. Popular displays include dinosaur skeletons, an enormous collection of natural gems and minerals, artifacts of early man, an insect zoo, a live coral reef and much more. This museum is the most visited natural history museum in the world. It houses an impressive national collection of more than 125 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. It is also a research facility dedicated to inspiring discovery about the natural world through its exhibitions and education programs.
The National Zoological Park
The National Zoo is a 163-acre zoological park set within the Rock Creek National Park. It features more than 400 different species of animals. 1/5 of the animals are endangered or threatened. You’re able to witness some of the rarest animals on earth, such as giant pandas, and learn about why they are threatened in the wild and what you can do about it.
The National Zoo is a part of the Smithsonian Institution and admission is free! (There is a fee however, for parking in Zoo lots.)
Washington, DC is a fun city to explore. It has a wide variety of entertainment, outdoor recreation, great restaurants and plenty of places to relax and people watch. We have barely scratched the surface with our list.