On your way to our national capital? There are so many worthwhile sites to see that are both educational and memorable. It may take several trips to see the whole area, but here ‘s our suggested list of the top 10 things to see and do in Washington DC.
1. The National Mall : We like to start out on the “Mall” — the grand open space in the center of the city where you will find the Washington Monument at one end and the U.S. Capitol building with the Reflecting Pool at the other. Along the Mall, you can stop at different museums, memorial parks, monuments, and famous agencies. With more than 25 million global guests each year, there is usually a variety of cultural or music festivals happening in different sections of the mall almost every day, but particularly on weekends.
2. The Tidal Basin : Just a bit down the hill from the Washington Monument is the Tidal Basin, a lovely reservoir that is surrounded by cherry trees, a gift from Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a wonderful place to walk or paddle boat just to get the DC vibe. Featured frequently in spy movies, it is often a meeting place for “real” international visitors and Washington DC area professionals. If you happen to be in Washington in early Spring, you’ll love seeing the cherry trees in bloom during the Cherry Blossom Festival which lasts for several weeks with events, music, and especially the gorgeous, fluffy pink floral display.
3. The Smithsonian Castle and Institute: Going up the mall is rather a long walk, so you may want to treat your travel group to a limo to see it all, from the IMAX theatre to an array of 20 art museums surrounding The Mall. From seeing history to art to air and space, there are events to appeal to everyone. It can’t all be seen in one day, so do pace yourself, get a tour guide and take time out for snacks, ice cream, a coffee, or selfies.
4. Monuments by Moonlight Tour: Stay past sunset and enjoy a tour of the Monuments surrounding the National Mall and the Tidal Basin after dark. Making a stop to sit on the steps of the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorial at night is incredibly moving. There are options to be able to take a popular Old Town Trolley or you can reserve a private limo with us taking advantage of one of our “Night Out” packages. You will be able to see the memorials for Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and the Korean War Veterans.
5. The White House: Going to catch a glimpse of The First Family is usually possible with a trip to the White House and is not to be missed…if just to say you visited a friend on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when you return home. At Christmas time, the National Christmas Tree lights up the Ellipse, the park in front of the White House, and there are many nearby memorials as well as the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
6. The National Archives: Journeying down Pennsylvania Avenue back towards the Capitol building, you will pass the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and other historic paper documents are on display under protective glass. Since you can see these documents up close, it can be very educational and inspiring for your entire travel group.
7. The Newseum: If you still have document fever after visiting the National Archives, you will also enjoy The Newseum just a little bit farther down Pennsylvania Avenue and next to the Canadian Embassy. Bloggers, budding authors and journalism junkies will love the vast collection of media and news items that have been archived for public display here. Important events in history as well as he 9/11 attacks are explored here through photography.
8. Kennedy Centre’s Millennium Stage: In the spirit of offering “Performing Arts for Everyone” the Kennedy Center puts on a live theatrical show happening every evening and it’s completely free. They feature local, national and global artists in music, dance, and theatre. In a great spot overlooking the Potomac River, you will enjoy these events on beautiful weather days. No tickets are required but seating is limited, available first come, first served.
9. Georgetown: Located in Northwest DC and home to many famous residents, embassies and a prestigious university, the Georgetown historic area is lined with cobbled streets, shops and restaurants of every ethnic origin. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to colonial times as you take a stroll. But the area effectively blends old with new and there are many bohemian shops as well.
10. Rock Creek Park: East of Georgetown is Rock Creek Park and includes the National Zoological Park, home of a very famous panda family: Tian Tian (Dad), Mei Xiang (Mom), Bao Bao (little sister) and Bei Bei (her new baby brother). If you need to see some trees again after visiting all of the museums, you’ll enjoy the outdoorsy activities featured there as well as the nearby Planetarium run by the National Park Service.
All of these excursions are somewhat weather dependent, so do dress for the season and wear comfortable shoes, take a sweater or light jacket. It can be windy on the Mall and occasionally misty around the Tidal Basin, so don’t forget a small umbrella or fold up poncho. Bring your camera and bottled water. If you forget something, there are tourist oriented carts that park temporarily all around the mall with lots of souvenirs and necessities.
(Flickr Photo by Greg Knapp)