DC is not usually boasted of like most of America’s major cities. Still, it does have plenty of unique experiences in the arts, food, history, and fun to offer. It is a city that blends some of the nation’s most historical monuments with the modern, eclectic culture of the city.
This city has plenty to offer; continue reading for my guide of 15 places to visit in Washington DC to secure a well-travelled trip.
Washington DC experiences a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Spring and Fall are relatively warm. Winters average around 3 °C while summers have an average of about 26°C.
Places to visit in Washington DC as a tourist
The White House
The main attraction in Washington DC, the White House. Built between 1792 and 1800, this Neoclassical building is toured by about 10 million visitors a year. There are many rooms and cabinets to see, including the famed Oval Office located in the West Wing area of the building.
To apply for a self-guided tour of the White House, you must contact your Member of Congress and submit your info to them. They run Tuesdays – Thursdays from 7:30 am – 11:30 am, and Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. Non-US citizens will need to contact their Embassy.
The Lincoln Memorial
A majestic national monument to honour the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. This is one of the top places to visit in Washington DC. The height of the Lincoln statue reaches 5.8 m tall and leaves an impression. Across the statue, you can oversee the Reflecting Pool, which seems to stretch all the way to the Washington Monument.
The Washington Monument
The globe’s tallest stone structure (and obelisk) is the Washington Monument standing at 169 m tall. Reservations and tickets are required to make the trek up to the top on a tour group. This is your best bet for the views in the tallest vista in the city.
The Capitol Building
The seat of the US Congress, the Neoclassical building, was completed in 1800. The interior Rotonda and the famous fresco, Apotheosis of Washington, can be seen inside. The guided tour is well worth the trip.
Places to visit in Washington DC as an arts lover
National Gallery of Art
For art lovers, some of the finest collections in the world are housed here, including the only Da Vinci in the Americas. Other displays included Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Botticelli, El Greco, Warhol, etc.
Over 50 galleries along with art, you’ll find drawings, prints, photographs, and the Sculpture Garden to finish your viewing. This is not to be missed for those that appreciate the arts and seek places to visit in Washington DC.
The Smithsonian is a group of 19 museums, 9 research centres, and a zoo. It is referred to as “the nation’s attic” because it houses 137 million historical items.
The castle is the main headquarters and serves as the information centre for all the museums. From art to cultural museums, anyone in history will appreciate the wealth of knowledge to be shown.
J. F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
The JFK Center hosts over 2000 performances annually. This is the perfect venue to score tickets for theatre, jazz, dance, ballet, orchestral, chamber, pop, and folk music, as well as other performances all year. There is also a special discount for attendees under 30 years of age. A gem in the heart of DC, performances are always a major attraction here.
Places to visit in Washington DC to enjoy nature
National Zoological Park
One of the oldest in the US, this free park houses over 200 animals and 400 species. The giant pandas and tigers are visitor favourites. Be sure to check out the O-Line, a network of cables used by orangutans to cross over to the Great Ape house for some amusement.
US Botanic Garden
About 750,000 frequent the Botanic Garden every year and with good reason. There are now over 10,000 living specimens, many over 165 years old. From the Orchid House to medicinal plants, even desert and Hawaii collections, the Garden will fulfil all needs for nature lovers.
The Union Market is a great stop for food and craft beer enthusiasts. There is something for everyone here, from empanadas to Korean tacos or steamed pork buns and gelato. Artisan shops sell their blends extra virgin olive oil or handcrafted knives to add to the ambience. On Fridays, there is picnic-style or drive-in movie nights. Free for picnics and $10 fee for reserved parking spaces.
Places to visit in Washington DC to enjoy food
If there’s one place you go to for breakfast in the DC area, it’s Ted’s Bulletin. Serving a typical American fare, if you’re in the mood for breakfast done right, opt for The Big Mark Breakfast: 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, hash browns, toast, and a homemade pop tart.
Perfect for: Breakfast
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Opened in 1958, this DC staple has served up burgers, fries and hot dogs topped with its famous chilli. Frequently visited by plenty of celebrities and President Obama, you can see pictures proudly adorning the walls.
From Bill Cosby’s half-smoke or Ben’s Famous All Meat Chili Dog, you’d be missing out by not stopping by for a taste when visiting Washington DC.
Perfect for: Lunch
Barcelona Wine Bar
A taste of Spain in the nation’s capital, Barcelona Wine Bar is a great place to split tapas for dinner and order a filling paella to top off the meal. There are plenty of plates that are recommended.
Perfect for: Dinner
Places to visit in Washington DC: Revel in DC’s nightlife
With so many “trendy” bars to choose from in DC, The Saloon brings a breath of fresh air as it enforces older principles. Equipped with an awesome bartender, this saloon has a no-nonsense attitude: no yelling, no tv, no cellphones, no standing. To add to this refreshing ambience, The Saloon takes 0.25 from each tab and puts it towards building schools. They also donate and sell merchandise to fund these projects. They use other unorthodox methods as well.
Insider tip: ask the bartender if you can “touch the cow”.
Owned by the acclaimed chef José Andrés, this upscale cocktail bar is the right place for a stiff drink or an exquisitely crafted cocktail by their cocktail engineers. Don’t expect to order a LIT here; this bar is made for chefs and bartenders to create and innovate in the art of mixology.
There are so many places to visit in Washington DC. Anyone can have a great experience when mixing the touristy with the local and getting lost in DC’s mixture of architecture, art, food, and culture.