There are many great cities worth visiting throughout America, so choosing just one to explore can feel like a challenge. If you’re planning out where to go for your next trip, look no further than Washington, DC. America’s capital city has something to offer for everyone, no matter what your interests are. There are so many things to do in Washington, DC, it would probably take at least a year to cover them all. With so much going on all year, there are many people looking to move to Washington, DC and plenty of great real estate there, according to Redfin.com. However, if you aren’t looking to relocate, you’ll have to find the best things to do in a limited amount of time during your visit.
Whether you’ve been to D.C. before or if this will be the first time you’re experiencing the city, it can be hard to plan your trip with so many things to choose from. To help you narrow down your options to five, be sure to put these things to do on your must-experience list.
1. Explore the Smithsonian Museums
No trip to Washington, DC is complete without visiting one of the Smithsonian Museums. The Smithsonian Institution is the biggest museum complex in the world. It includes 19 separate galleries and museums showcasing around 137 million objects, plus the National Zoo. Admission is free, making it easy for anyone on a tight budget to explore, but don’t try to cram in too many into one visit. Instead, pick out a few that really interest you and take your time. Some of the favorites include the National Museum of American History, which displays Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and Dorothy’s ruby shoes from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Other great picks are the Natural History Museum, where you can see the Hope Diamond, the National Gallery of Art with a collection that spans ancient to contemporary art, including works by da Vinci and Degas. The National Air and Space Museum includes the original 1903 flyer the Wright brothers’ built, astronaut space suits, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.
2. Visit the National Mall
Aside from the White House, the National Mall is likely one of the first places that comes to mind when you think of Washing, DC. As one of the most iconic places in D.C., the National Mall is home to many top landmarks, including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. If you’re looking for the best place in D.C. to go for a walk, the National Mall is one of the best and includes some of the country’s most famous monuments. One of the best ways to experience it is to enjoy an early morning stroll to marvel at the monuments up close without the crowds. Return again in the evening to see them lit up after dark. If you visit on a nice day, taking a walk around the National Mall should be on the top of your list of things to do. Being at the National Mall also puts you in the perfect area to walk to many of D.C.’s top sites, so it’s a great place to be no matter what the rest of your plans are.
3. View the Changing of the Guard and Tour Arlington National Cemetery
Washington, DC is one of the best places for people interested in the nation’s history, particularly military history. Across the Potomac River, visitors can take an interpretive bus tour through Arlington National Cemetery, a military cemetery that has been in use since the Civil War. Stops include the US Marine Corps War Memorial and other notable memorials and gravesites, including President John F. Kennedy’s and US Army General John J. Pershing’s gravesites. You’ll also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded 24/7 and honors service members whose remains were unable to be identified. The military guard is changed in an elaborate ceremony every half hour from April through September, and every hour the rest of the year. Because the Changing of the Guard occurs so frequently, it will be easy for you to get the chance to watch the ceremony.
4. Get a 360-Degree View from the top of the National Cathedral
Washington, DC is filled with stunning historical buildings, one of the most notable being the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, more commonly referred to as the National Cathedral. The National Cathedral boasts magnificent architecture with gargoyles and arches, as well as being the burial place for President Woodrow Wilson. Services for many presidents and other significant politicians have been held in the cathedral. The National Cathedral is beautiful in the inside and outside, but there are even more ways to enjoy it. By climbing to the top of the Pilgrim Observation Gallery, you can get a spectacular 360-degree of the city too. This is a great way to be able to take in all of Washington DC’s beauty.
5. Catch a Free Concert or Performance
Of course, you want to keep your D.C. trip affordable. Depending on what you do in Washington DC, you could end up spending a lot during your trip, but there are plenty of free events available. Throughout the year, and especially during the summer months, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy a free concert or another type of performance. At the Kennedy Center, free performances are hosted frequently on the Millennium Stage and may include everything from opera to multicultural music artists. Free concerts are often held at Eastern Market, Capitol Riverfront, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, and the Fort Dupont Summer Theatre. In addition to free performances, it’s easy to find a free museum in D.C. that piques your interest, including any of the Smithsonian Museums. With so many free options, Washington, DC is the perfect trip for people who want to see some of the best sites in the country without spending a fortune.