For the latest on what's open, re-opening, closed and cancelled in Washington DC go to: Destination DC's website. You'll find COVID-19 updates on attractions, museums, venues, festivals, events and more
Planning a trip to DC? Even if one of my tours does not fit into your visit to DC, I created this page in the hopes that it would generate some ideas to help you with your plans so that you can have the best possible experience here in the Nation's Capitol.
This is not a complete listing by any means, and is in no particular order. These are a few of the favorite places and attractions that people enjoy visiting in DC and frequently ask about. Please review the linked websites below to be sure to get up to date and current information. The difficulty in a visit to D.C. is not finding things to do, but deciding what you will need to leave out this visit.
How to Get Washington Monument Entry Tickets - once on the page click on Fees and Passes
Same-day, free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street, between Madison Drive, NW and Jefferson Drive, SW. The monument will be open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Tim's Tip - A fantastic addition or alternative to the Washington Monument is the Tower Tour at the Old Post Office Pavilion. In 2013 The old Post Office Pavilion was leased for 60 years to Donald Trump who developed the property into the The Trump International Hotel Washington DC. which opened in 2016.
The National Park Service led Tower Tour is physically located within the hotel but is a separate entity under the direction of the National Park Service. The Tower Tour is free and has its own separate entrance which is on 12th St. This entrance is directly to the right of the Starbucks on 12th St. (this location is across the street just east of the Federal Triangle Metro stop)
Although the Washington Monument is taller, I always recommended the Post Office Tower as my favorite panoramic view. I say this because the windows are larger and it is tall enough that you see everything, yet low enough that you can still see detail.
The Tower Tour is currently available 9:00 am - 4:30 pm Thursdays - Sundays.
3 informative sites for more info on the Post Office Tower
United States Capitol
One hour-long tours are available. Advanced tickets are available online HERE, or by calling 202-226-8000. No tickets are needed for the Capitol Visitor's Center. The entrance is on the East side of the Capitol.
Tim's Tips: 1) Plan to be at the Capitol for an hour and a half to two hours. 2) For the serious legislative branch enthusiast, gallery passes are available through your House Representative or Senator. 3) After your Capitol tour, consider also seeing the Library of Congress, directly across 1st Street.
Library of Congress
The "Library of Congress Experience" tour is located in the Jefferson building. Tickets for the free one-hour long tours are available by visiting HERE or by calling 202-707-8000. You may also tour the Library of Congress on your own.
Tim's Tip: My favorite exhibit inside is the Thomas Jefferson Library. Over 90% of Jefferson's original library has been "recollected" and arranged into a conch shell pattern that allowed Jefferson to be surrounded by his books. He sorted all of his books into three categories: memory, reason and imagination.
Public tours of the White House are available by requests submitted though your member of Congress and are accepted up to 6 months in advance. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, you should contact your embassy in Washington D.C. for assistance in submitting a tour request. For current information, visit HERE or call 202-456-7041.
Tim's Tip: Whether or not you are able to arrange a White House Tour in advance, you could plan a stop at the White House Visitor Center.
The White House Visitor Center reopened September 2014 after a 2 year, $12.6 million renovation. The impressive upgrades allow visitors to explore an interactive touch screen tour of the White House, experience interactive multimedia exhibits, see over 90 artifacts from The White House Collection, and view a 14 minute film "White House: Reflections from Within." The White House Visitor Center has free admission and is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day (12/25) and New Year's Day. (1/1) Also, no small point, the bathrooms in the Visitor Center are very nice, well kept and clean. Click HERE or call 202-208-1631 for more information.
Lectures on the first floor are sometimes available when the court is in session on a first-come, first-served basis every hour on the half-hour. Exhibits can be toured on your own. Check schedule and other details HERE or call 202-479-3211.
U.S. Botanical Gardens
The oldest continually-operating botanic garden in the United States. Spectacular. Click HERE or call 202-225-8333 for more information.
Tim's Tips: 1) Great place to make a quick stop and get a soothing "green" break. Who wouldn't feel better after being surrounded by plants from all over the world? 2) On a cold day, take a "free tropical vacation" visiting the Jungle Exhibit. 3) On a nice day, enjoy a bagged lunch on their conservatory terrace. 4) Great bathrooms!
Favorite attractions/helpful websites/links:
DC's Newest Smithsonian Museum
The National Museum of African American History and Culture -The unprecedented and ongoing popular response to the museum's opening on September 24, 2016 has been huge. As a result, free, timed entry passes are required for entrance for certain peak times and seasons when visitation is highest. Be sure to thoroughly review the section https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes that explains the process for getting advanced online entry passes as well as online same day entry passes.
Smithsonian Institution - 20 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park.
National Gallery of Art - Go to the information desk and ask for their "Less than an Hour" highlight guides available at both the National Gallery of Art West (traditional art) and the National Gallery of Art East (modern and contemporary art).
Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts- Free concerts at 6 p.m. every night.
Arlington National Cemetery - "Our nation's most hallowed ground." Be sure to begin at the Arlington National Cemetery Welcome Center where you can pick up a free map and get a good orientation to the cemetery. There is no cost to walk the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery on your own. For a fee, you can take the bus tour that begins outside the welcome center.
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial - The memorial was dedicated on October 16th, 2011. The centerpiece of the inspiring memorial is a 30-foot, 9-inch relief of Dr. King, a "Stone of Hope." A 450-foot inscription wall features fourteen poignant quotes from Dr. King's speeches, sermons, and writings.
Ford's Theater - America's most famous theater.
National Archives - See the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - "America's national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history."
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial - the Nation's monument to law enforcement officers (Federal, State, Local) who have died in the line duty.
American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial - The first national memorial dedicated solely to both living and deceased disabled veterans from all conflicts and all branches of service.
The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing-Washington D.C. Tours - See where paper money is printed! Unfortunately, there are no free samples.
Pentagon Tours - Advanced reservations required online from the Pentagon's website. Reservations must be made between 14-90 days in advance.
Note: 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is free, non-ticketed, and open 24 hours.
Gardens in DC - I have an entire page on this website devoted to some of the area's best gardens and horticultural points of interest.
Popular attractions that require a fee for admission
Mount Vernon - George Washington's Virginia Plantation on the banks of the Potomac River. Visit the mansion, a dozen original structures, Washington's Tomb and nearly 50 acres including beautiful gardens and landscaping.
President Lincoln's Cottage - Guided tours of President Lincoln's hilltop cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home in Northwest Washington DC.
International Spy Museum - The museum reopened in May of 2019 with updated exhibits, new exhibits, and interactive activities.
Museum of the Bible - Opened in November of 2017. A museum that documents the narrative history and impact of the bible.
Helpful websites for the DC visitor
To learn more about the major memorials and lesser known gems check out National Parks Service - National Mall and Memorial Parks.
See Schedule of Events section which will list and describe daily ranger led talks and walks.
Also check out the National Park Service Mobile App Page.
Goingoutguide.com - The Washington Post's Guide for DC area nightlife, events and dining.
Washington.org - Washington D.C. Tourism Site
American Guest House resources - A DC Bed and Breakfast that has put together a great listing and categorization of Washington DC attractions and restaurants for the visitor.
Public parking is limited near the National Mall. If at all possible, it really is easiest to use public transportation and the Metro system to get in and around Washington DC. Your hotel staff will know the most efficient metro routes into town.
For more information regarding parking near the National Mall and DC click HERE.
For the Metro system website link click HERE,
The DC Circulator (hop on/hop off bus) has a National Mall route connecting passengers to key attractions on and around the National Mall. Checkout this convenient route HERE.