WASHINGTON D.C. TRAVEL GUIDE
Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Washington D.C.! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Washington D.C..
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Washington D.C. serves as the nation's capital and it borders central Maryland and northeastern Virginia. It's very small, with a total area of only 68 square miles. Despite it's size, Washington D.C. is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country. There are dozens of museums, monuments, and governmental attractions to visit. You could easily spend a full week and only touch the surface of what's there.
TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Washington D.C.? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Washington D.C., in no particular order:
✮ Visit several of the amazing Smithsonian museums
✮ Go hiking in Rock Creek Park
✮ Walk around the National Mall area to see all its famous memorials
✮ Visit the city during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival (typically late-March to mid-April)
✮ Take a day trip to Virginia and visit some of the great attractions just over the border
✮ See the White House (and comment on how much smaller it is in person, just like everyone else does)
✮ Visit the Georgetown neighborhood to shop at boutique stores and eat at fine restaurants
✮ Hop on an elevator to the top of the Washington Monument (timed tickets are required)
✮ Take a tour of the Library of Congress
✮ Walk the grounds of the United States National Arboretum
If I could select only one place to visit in Washington D.C., I would choose the National Air & Space Museum.
For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.
5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Washington D.C. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Washington D.C. bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:
✮ Albert Einstein Memorial - a beautiful and large bronze statue depicting a seated Einstein; near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
✮ Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - supposedly one of the ten largest churches in the world
✮ Ford's Theatre - see the 19th-century playhouse where Abraham Lincoln was shot
✮ Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (FDR Memorial) - beautiful 7-acre granite park with man-made waterfalls
✮ Georgetown - attractive 18th century historic district that is extremely walkable; lots of shops and restaurants
✮ Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens - "an urban oasis blending exquisite arts and lush botanicals"
✮ International Spy Museum - one of the best espionage museums in the world
✮ Jefferson Memorial - features a 19-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson inside a domed memorial
✮ John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - performance art center with three main theaters (Concert Hall, Opera House, and Theater)
✮ Korean War Veterans Memorial - experience a powerful scene of 19 stainless-steel soldier statues
✮ Library of Congress - the largest library in the world
✮ Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool - Greek Doric temple with sculpture & inscriptions of Abraham Lincoln
✮ Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial - 30-foot tall statue of the famous Civil Rights leader
✮ Museum of the Bible - one of the best religious museums in the country
✮ National Air & Space Museum - most travelers would agree that this is the best aviation/space museum in the U.S.
✮ National Archives Museum - visit the home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights
✮ National Cherry Blossom Festival - a spring celebration typically held in late March; blossoming cherry trees and many cultural events
✮ National Gallery of Art - one of the best art museums in the U.S.
✮ National Mall - the heart of Washington D.C. attractions with world-class museums and more than 100 monuments & memorials
✮ National Museum of African American History and Culture - the world's largest museum dedicated to African-American history and culture
✮ National Museum of American History - exhibits covering the social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history of the U.S.
✮ National Museum of Natural History - supposedly the largest natural history museum in the world
✮ National Portrait Gallery - portraits of hundreds of famous individuals
✮ National Postal Museum - exhibits on the history of the U.S. Postal Service and also mail services from around the world
✮ National World War II Memorial - memorial featuring stone architecture, bronze sculptures, and a large water fountain
✮ National Zoological Park - see more than 1,800 animals in this Smithsonian zoo
✮ Nationals Park - famous MLB baseball stadium; home of the Washington Nationals
✮ Newseum - a seven floor journalist/news museum
✮ Renwick Gallery - art museum with focus on contemporary craft and decorative arts
✮ Rock Creek Park - a large urban park that is the best place in Washington D.C. to go for a hike
✮ Smithsonian American Art Museum - one of several excellent art museums in Washington, D.C.
✮ Supreme Court - visit the highest court in the nation
✮ U.S. Capitol - visit the domed home of the U.S. Congress
✮ U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum - the United States' official memorial to the Holocaust
✮ U.S. National Arboretum - a great place to go for a long walk in Washington DC; away from most of the most popular attractions
✮ United States Botanic Garden - oldest botanic garden in North America; also has a butterfly garden
✮ Vietnam Veterans Memorial - impactful memorial to the 58,000 US soldiers who died in Vietnam
✮ Washington Monument - ride an elevator 555 feet up a tall marble obelisk for scenic views
✮ Washington National Cathedral - one of the largest cathedrals in the U.S.
✮ White House - see the famous white building that holds the offices and residences of the President of the U.S.
Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Washington D.C.? If so, please email me at email@example.com.
For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:
WHAT IS WASHINGTON D.C. FAMOUS FOR?
Here are some things that Washington D.C. is famous or well-known for:
✮ historic houses
✮ home of the federal government
✮ governmental buildings / agencies
✮ monuments / memorials
✮ professional sports teams
✮ protests / protesting
Click here if you'd like to explore what other U.S. states are famous for.
NATIONAL PARKS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
While there are no official national parks in Washington D.C., there are many other federally-managed parks and properties in the district, including:
✮ Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
✮ President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument
National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
✮ African American Civil War Memorial
✮ Anacostia Park
✮ Capitol Hill Parks
✮ Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
✮ Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
✮ Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
✮ Chesapeake Bay
✮ Civil War Defenses of Washington
✮ Constitution Gardens
✮ Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
✮ Ford's Theatre
✮ Fort Dupont Park
✮ Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
✮ Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
✮ George Washington Memorial Parkway
✮ Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
✮ Korean War Veterans Memorial
✮ LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac
✮ Lincoln Memorial
✮ Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
✮ Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
✮ National Capital Parks-East
✮ National Mall and Memorial Parks
✮ Pennsylvania Avenue
✮ Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
✮ President's Park (White House)
✮ Rock Creek Park
✮ Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
✮ Theodore Roosevelt Island
✮ Thomas Jefferson Memorial
✮ Vietnam Veterans Memorial
✮ Washington Monument
✮ Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
✮ World War I Memorial
✮ World War II Memorial
For more information on Washington D.C.'s national parks, visit the Washington D.C. page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.
BEST RAIL TRAILS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Washington D.C.:
✮ Capital Crescent Trail
✮ Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (the "C&O Canal Towpath")
✮ Mount Vernon Trail
For detailed information on all known rail trails in Washington D.C., visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.
BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
There are no notable amusement parks in Washington, D.C., but there are several nearby amusement parks in Maryland, including Six Flags America and Adventure Park USA.
BEST MUSEUMS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Washington D.C. has too many amazing museums to list. It's the best place in the U.S. for museums. See the 5-star attractions list above for all of its top museums.
BEST DAY HIKES IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Hiking within the borders of Washington D.C. is fairly limited, but you do have three great options:
✮ Rock Creek Falls
✮ Walking around the National Arboretum
✮ Walking around the National Mall and other sites
Washington D.C. is one of America's most walkable cities. Start at the National Mall area and go from there. You can easily walk 5+ miles around the National Mall.
There are also some great hikes close to Washington D.C., including Great Falls Park on the border of MD and VA, and the Billy Goat Trail in
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park in Maryland.
CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Washington D.C. offers several outdoor adventures, including these classics:
✮ Canoeing/kayaking the Potomac River
✮ Cycling the Capital Crescent Trail
✮ Cycling the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (the "C&O Canal Towpath")
✮ Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail
✮ Cycling the Rock Creek Park trails
✮ Day hiking in Rock Creek Park
WASHINGTON D.C. TRAVEL TIPS
UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Washington D.C.:
✮ bahn mi
✮ half smoke
✮ mumbo sauce
For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Washington D.C. (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Washington D.C. (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.
OTHER KEY WASHINGTON D.C. INFORMATION
Here is some helpful key information about Washington D.C.:
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
Primary U.S. Interstates:
None (although I-66 and I-95 have small distances that pass through the city limits)
Professional Sports Teams:
MLB: Washington Nationals
NBA: Washington Wizards
NFL: Washington Commanders
NHL: Washington Capitals
WNBA: Washington Mystics
Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.
In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.
MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES
Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:
As an Amazon Associates affiliate, this website contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any products after clicking any Amazon.com link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only endorse products that I have personally used or those that come highly recommended by trusted peers.