This post has information on the best things to do in DC. Below you can find links to information on the city’s top attractions, museums, points of interest, kid-friendly activities, food, self-guided tours of various neighborhoods, and suggestions for things to do at night. Each link leads to a much more comprehensive page on that particular topic. Be sure to consider one of our pay-what-you-wish tours to explore these neighborhoods.
There are many free things to do in Washington DC. From world-class concerts to the top museums, you could keep yourself occupied for several days and only spend money on accommodations, food and transportation – unless you like to walk. As for those necessary costs, below you will find tips on how to keep those costs down.
For 100+ other free things to do, check out our post “Free Things to Do in DC”.
Those pink and white flowers you see on every post card are DC’s famed Cherry Blossoms. These trees bloom once a year in the Spring and there is a month long celebration of music, food, dancing and of course, Cherry Blossom Tours.
Use our Guide to the Cherry Blossom Festival to make sure you know the best places to view the Cherry Blossoms to avoid the crowds!
These are the highlights of a visit to DC. We cover the memorials on our National Mall and our All in One Walking tours. You can also experience the memorials via a hop on/hop off bus.
If you’d rather go out on your own, we have a self guided National Mall tour!
If you’re looking for less walking and more hop-on/hop-off style touring, check out our Bus Tour page to find the best bus tour.
There are 21 Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo – and you’re likely not going to have time to explore them all (but try if you want!) We have guides to make the most of your visit to three of the most popular museums: the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and the American History Museum.
We offer tours of Capitol Hill that include tickets to take a docent-led tour of the Capitol. If we don’t have a tour that fits into your schedule, tickets are available to the public – learn more here.
If you ever wanted to be in the presence of $1000 this is the place to go – just don’t expect to take any home with you (unless you buy it!) The BEP offers tours to the general public year round but some months require tickets, use our guide to find out more.
We recommend walking to get around DC, but we are a bit biased. DC has a well connected public transportation (WMATA) system and difficult to understand parking regulations. For this reason, it is best to park your car for the day in a garage, at your hotel or even at one of the suburban Metro stations and use public transportation to get around the city.
Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most honored military cemeteries in the US. It is the resting place of over 400,000 and where we honor our unknown soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Our Arlington National Cemetery tour takes you to the must-see parts of the cemetery, but if you want more, check our our self guided tours of the cemetery.
The world-renowned Kennedy Center has Broadway shows, operas, symphonies and ballets but there are also free concerts every night at 6pm on the Millennium Stage. Arrive early and take our self guided tour!
This emotional and educational museum is one of the top visited for a reason. It requires tickets during the busier months and these sometimes book up quickly. Use our guide to help make sure you have a chance to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are all on display at the National Archives. This museum is open to the general public and it’s free!
There is more to DC than just the memorials and museums!
Below is a list of many of the best things to see and places to visit in DC. For in-depth information on how to visit these attractions, simply click on the site’s name and you will be taken to another post with information such as:
As you plan your trip, you might also decide to consider purchasing a tourist pass. These discount passes help you save money by packaging attractions together for one flat price. So many of attractions and activities listed in this post are included in the various tourist passes. We encourage you to read our post comparing the different DC Attraction Passes. These passes are great deals for some and not for others.
Top Washington DC Attractions
Free Museums in DC
A great place to start is to look at our kid-friendly itinerary. There you will find many of the top attractions, best times to go and also alternatives depending on the age your children. The fun never ends for kids in the DC
Below are the most satisfying and kid-friendly experiences just click on the links below to be taken to our posts on that specific attraction and you will find useful information about these attractions such as best times to go, prices and hours, discounts, directions to get there and other nearby activities.
We offer family-friendly Ghost tours as a great nighttime activity. You’ll get a little history and a lot of humor – and maybe a haunting or two…
Bus tours are great when traveling with kids because it gives the little ones a chance to rest up a bit during a day of sightseeing. Since Hop-on, hop-off bus tours generally stop at the popular attraction locations, you can use the bus to move from destination to destination and it is a lot more interesting for your child to look out a bus window then stand in a crowded subway.
Our post The Best Hop-On, Hop-Off DC Bus Tours can help you decide which is best for you and your child.
The Great Outdoors
When you and your child are tired of concrete sidewalks and noisy cars, head off to one of these green spaces where you can romp and play DC style. We have ideas for Nature Lovers and those who prefer the water, there is Fun Activities on the Potomac
This national memorial to 26th President Teddy Roosevelt has trails through forests and boardwalks through marshland for you to run and explore. It is a popular attraction that is really only accessible by car from the Virginia side.
For riverside views of Georgetown, the Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial, there are many boat and cruise options.
For littler kids, a carousel ride on the National Mall provides a fun break between visiting the museums. There is also a food and drink stand nearby for a quick snack. Cost: $3.50.
Rent paddle boats on the Tidal Basin to get a unique perspective of the Jefferson, Dr. King, and FDR Memorials. Cost: $18 per hour for 2 person boat.
This isn’t a winter option, but during the colder months, why don’t you go ice skating?
If NYC is the city that never sleeps, DC might just be the opposite. The night life in DC is starting to improve, however, and you’ll find some great options for after the sun sets. Many of the items in other sections of this post are also great night options.
Our Top Things to Do in DC at Night post offers suggestions of not just what to do, but the best places to do it.
Seeing specific parts of DC at night with a guide to point out things you might not have otherwise noticed can make for a great and inexpensive way to spend an evening. Our pay-what-you-wish night tours cover several different neighborhoods, each beautiful at night in its own way. Our most popular evening tours are Memorials and Moonlight (National Mall) and our Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour.
We also offer Adults Only tours – we don’t set an age limit, but you’ve been warned about the content – from Haunted Georgetown to White House at Night. Or explore the Dark Side of Dupont Circle & Embassy Row.
One way to organize your trip to DC is by neighborhood. DC and the surrounding areas unexpectedly have many unique neighborhoods. You can explore on your own and we’ve created many self-guided tours, many of which also provide tips on things to do, restaurants and places to stay, as well as several GPS audio tours. Of course, you can join us for one of our many pay-what-you-wish walking tours for deeper insight into the neighborhoods shared by one of our knowledgeable and personable guides.
Top Three Neighborhood Guides
Washington DC Attractions By Neighborhood
Day Trips from DC:
Smithsonians & Museums near the Mall: Not sure what to see in the museum? We offer Museum tours, too!
Capitol Hill: We offer a Capitol Hill & Library of Congress tour that guides you inside the library, talks about the history of the Supreme Court and offers tickets for guided tours inside the Capitol Building.
When is the best time to visit Washington DC? Any time!
Below are annual events that occur during the 12 months of the year, and if you click on the link you will be taken to our detailed posts of these events and more. We have also included links to the typical weather for each month so you know what to expect and pack accordingly.
Winter Holiday Season (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb)
Springtime (March, April, May)
Summer in the City (June, July, Aug)
Fall (Sept, Oct)
For those looking for some structure planning a short stay in DC, we’ve created several different itineraries so that you can hit the road running. There’s no need to spend your time figuring out how to squeeze it all in. Our itineraries take care of that for you. These itineraries can also be used enhanced with our pay-what-you-wish two hour guided walking tours or enhanced with our self-guided tours or download our free DC walking tour app on (iTunes) or (Android)