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3 Days in Washington DC

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From captivating memorials to some of the best museums in the country, Washington DC is jam-packed with things to do. You could easily spend a week here (and still not hit everything), but this three-day itinerary hits all the highlights in order to give you a good sense of the District.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nightlife Seeker
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Luxury Traveler
  • Thrifty Traveler
  • Trendsetter
  • Like a Local

15 Places

4 City Tips

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15 Places

Day 1

U.S. Capitol

Government buildings

Supreme Court

Government buildings

Eastern Market

Flea & street markets

National Museum of American History

History museums

National Gallery of Art - Sculpture Garden

Art galleries, Parks

POV Roof Terrace

Bars & clubs

Day 2

Georgetown

Neighborhoods

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

Monuments & statues

Arlington National Cemetery

Cemeteries, Historic sites

The Pentagon

Government buildings

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Art museums, History museums

Day 3

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool

Monuments & statues

Tidal Basin

Bodies of water

Ford's Theatre

Historic sites, History museums, Theaters

Chinatown

Neighborhoods

Stephen C's City Tips

  • Purchase a SmarTrip from any metro station. It's unlikely that you'll spend enough on Metro to warrant buying a three-day pass.
  • If you don't feel up to lots of walking, try using the Capital Bikeshare system. There are 24-hour and three-day passes available.
  • It is customary to tip 18-20% in restaurants. For bartenders, $1 per drink is standard.
  • Don't forget: There is a 5.75% sales tax on all shopping purchases in DC; this tax is not included in the displayed price.
    Day 1
  • Save
    U.S. Capitol
    Government buildings
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    It may not be the sole reason you visit this great city, but the fact that DC is the seat of US government is what makes this city the dynamic place that it is. The iconic Capitol is where the action happens, and visitors can explore its hallowed halls to see the old Senate chambers and underneath that gorgeous dome.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Whether or not you can get into the Capitol, the Capitol Hill grounds are worth exploring.
    • Tours are free but require passes. As they are limited, it's best to book well in advance. If you try for same-day tickets, arrive early (the visitor center opens at 8:30am).
    • Instead of booking online, US residents can also book through their Senator or Congressional representative. Congressional offices often offer staff-led tours as well.
    • To view Congress in session, contact your representative or senator for passes; international visitors can visit the appointment desks in the visitor center.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #27 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Disappointing. 03/28/2015
    • Beautiful architecture 03/25/2015
    • U.S. Capitol
    Address:
    East Capitol St NE & First St SE
    Washington DC, DC 20515
    Phone:
    202-226-8000
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    8:30 pm - 12:00 am
    Tue - Sun
    12:00 am - 4:30 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    Supreme Court
    Government buildings
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    The Supreme Court's spectacular halls of justice are open to the public whether or not Court is in session, and they are well worth a visit.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • When Court is not in session, trained docents give 30-minute lectures every hour on the half-hour.
    • Entrance is free, but be prepared to go through security before entering.
    • Court sessions are open to the public. There are two lines: to attend arguments, or to view for a few minutes. Arrive early, as space is limited.
    • The Supreme Court is closed on weekends and holidays.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #38 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    • Beautiful Building! 03/28/2015
    • If you can't get in the courtroom, don't bother going. 03/28/2015
    • Supreme Court
    Address:
    First Street NE
    Washington DC, DC 20003
    Phone:
    202 479 3211
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    9:00 am - 4:30 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    Eastern Market
    Flea & street markets
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    The oldest continually operating market in DC, Eastern Market has been a bustling gathering space since it opened in 1873. Today, you'll find everything from meats and cheeses, to baked goods and fresh produce — plus an array of jewelry, artwork, and other items made by local artisans. It's a great place to stop for a bite and stay for some souvenir shopping.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • On weekends, everything expands out to the sidewalks, making things a bit more crowded, but more exciting too!
    • Don't underestimate the the sun during the summer — carry water and wear a hat.
    • Ask any Washingtonian and you'll likely hear that Market Lunch's blueberry buckwheat pancakes are worth the long line.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 38 shopping in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • If you are in the neighborhood 03/28/2015
    • Mediocre and Small 03/04/2015
    • Eastern Market
    Address:
    7th St. & North Carolina Ave SE
    Washington DC, DC
    Hours:
    Sun
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Tue - Fri
    7:00 am - 7:00 pm
    Sat
    7:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Save
    National Museum of American History
    History museums
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    From Julia Child's kitchen to Dorothy's ruby slippers, Abe Lincoln's top hat to the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Museum of American History chronicles the country through artifacts of historic and cultural importance.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The museum is in the midst of ongoing renovations, so key exhibits are sometimes closed. Check the website to see the latest at the time of your visit.
    • The museum also offers an excellent array of lectures, film screenings, and other events. Check the website to see what's on at the time of your visit.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fun Museum 03/28/2015
    • One of my favorite museums. 03/25/2015
    • National Museum of American History
    Address:
    Constitution Ave. NW
    Between 12th and 14th Street Constitution Avenue
    Washington DC, DC 20560
    Phone:
    202-633-1000
    Other:
  • Save
    National Gallery of Art - Sculpture Garden
    Art galleries, Parks
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Set in the midst of the National Mall, the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden is an ideal place for some well-earned relaxation.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • You'll find a number of dinner options on nearby 7th Street.
    • The Pavilion Cafe, set next to the garden's pool, is a good place for a pick-me-up.
    • During winter, the pool becomes an ice skating rink, and come summer there is free "Jazz in the Garden" every Friday evening.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 38 shopping in Washington DC
    • Nice greenery 03/27/2015
    • Nice stroll through some cool stuff! 03/26/2015
    • National Gallery of Art - Sculpture Garden
    Address:
    Adjacent to the National Gallery
    Washington DC, DC
    Phone:
    202-289-3360
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 am - 6:00 pm
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    POV Roof Terrace
    Bars & clubs
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    You can't get inside the White House, but no one should come to Washington without seeing it. Set inside the W Hotel, POV Roof Terrace offers a fabulous vantage point for viewing the most famous home in the nation — and the rest of Washington along with it. It can seem pricey (and even sometimes a little snooty), but the magnificent views are worth the price of a cocktail.

    Good for
    • Luxury Traveler
    • Trendsetter
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • The crowd can get rowdy on weekends, so if you're looking for quiet, visit earlier in the evening.
    • Sunset is a particularly magical time to visit.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 157 nightlife in Washington DC
    • STUCK UP STAFF/NON ACCOMODATING 03/26/2015
    • The view is breathtaking 03/13/2015
    • POV Roof Terrace
    Address:
    515 15th Street NW
    W Washington DC
    Washington DC, DC
    Phone:
    (202) 661-2478
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 am - 12:00 am
    Mon - Thu
    3:00 pm - 12:00 am
    Fri
    3:00 pm - 2:00 am
    Sat
    11:00 am - 3:00 am
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Save
    Georgetown
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Here is your chance to unleash your inner foodie or shopaholic. Georgetown combines historic streets with trendy restaurants and hip boutiques. The main artery is M Street, home to an abundance of shops and eateries, but you'll also find a breath of nature in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens and the C&O Canal Towpath.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    • Trendsetter
    • Shopping Fanatic
    Tips
    • Stop into Georgetown Cupcakes to pick up a treat for later in the day. There is almost always a line out the door, so there is no best time to visit.
    • Georgetown does not have its own Metro station. To get here, either take the Metro to Foggy Bottom and walk, or use the Circulator bus system.
    • Grab breakfast at one of the area's many eateries (Baked and Wired is a favorite), before hitting the shops.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #24 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    • Eat and Shop 03/29/2015
    • Georgetown is great 03/29/2015
    • Georgetown
    Phone:
    202-298-9222
    Other:
  • Save
    U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
    Monuments & statues
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    The Marine Corps War Memorial pays tribute to the many marines who have given their lives for their country since 1775. Based on an actual photo by photographer Joe Rosenthal during World War II, the stunning sculpture depicts six soldiers fighting to raise the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. Expansive views of Washington stretch out beyond.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • If you're up for it, it's possible to walk here from Georgetown, and then on to Arlington Cemetery.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 26 attractions in Arlington
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Simply Incredible!!! 03/26/2015
    • Awesome memorial. Upkeep is lacking 03/25/2015
    • U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
    Address:
    Arlington Blvd. and Meade St.
    Arlington, VA 22211
    Other:
  • Save
    Arlington National Cemetery
    Cemeteries, Historic sites
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    There is something incredibly moving about the waving rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery, and it's fitting that their neat lines have the precision of military ranks. On these hallowed grounds rest more than 400,000 military personnel — from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan — along with their immediate families. Much of these 612 acres sit on land that was formerly the home of Robert E. Lee, confiscated by the Union Army when he left to lead the southern troops.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • Not to be missed is the grave of JFK (next to Jackie and two of her infant children), marked by an eternal flame.
    • The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier pays homage to unidentified war heroes. Try to visit during the Changing of the Guard (every hour on the hour Oct-Mar and every half hour Apr-Sep).
    • Visiting Arlington House on the hill will give you a good understanding of how the cemetery came to be.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 26 attractions in Arlington
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Go, and be sure to see the hidden museum at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 03/28/2015
    • Brought to tears 03/28/2015
    • Arlington National Cemetery
    Address:
    Entrance at Arlington Memorial Bridge
    Arlington, VA 22211
    Phone:
    (877) 907-8585
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    The Pentagon
    Government buildings
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Virtually its own city, this massive five-sided structure is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. Guided tours of the Pentagon take about an hour and include a 1.49-mile walk and descriptions of each branch of service. On the western side of the building, you'll find the Pentagon Memorial, which honors the 184 victims who perished when American Airlines Flight 777 was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Tours of the Pentagon are available by reservation only. You may reserve online between 14 and 90 days in advance of your visit.
    • At least one form of valid ID is required to take the Pentagon tour. Visit the website in advance to confirm the requirements.
    • A 24-minute audio tour will lead you to points of interest in the memorial.
    • No photography is allowed on the Pentagon compound, except within the memorial.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #12 of 26 attractions in Arlington
    • Could Be Amazing 03/21/2015
    • Take a guided tour and meat some of the great people that guard our freedom 03/17/2015
    • The Pentagon
    Address:
    1400 Defense Pentagon
    Arlington, VA 20301
    Phone:
    703-228-3988
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    9:00 am - 3:00 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    Art museums, History museums
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    The Smithsonian American Art Museum is often a quiet place to wander and enjoy some art and serenity.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Enjoy a long lunch at the courtyard café.
    • Head to nearby Chinatown and 7th Street to find a restaurant for dinner.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Missed this one last time - won't do that again 03/27/2015
    • Loved it! 03/25/2015
    • Smithsonian American Art Museum
    Address:
    8th and F Streets, NW
    Washington DC, DC 20013
    Phone:
    (202) 633-1000
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    11:30 am - 7:00 pm
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
    Monuments & statues
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Probably one of the most recognizable sites in the country (just look at your pennies!), the Lincoln Memorial has also been the site of countless major historic and cultural moments — from Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech to the popular movie 'Forrest Gump.'

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The light for photos is best in the early morning.
    • After paying a visit to honest Abe, stop by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and then take an early morning stroll around the reflecting pool.
    • Climb the stairs and walk around the back for an impressive view across Memorial Bridge towards Arlington Cemetery. This is a popular sunset spot with locals.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Larger Than Life 03/29/2015
    • Majestic! 03/29/2015
    • Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
    Address:
    2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW
    Washington DC, DC 20037
    Phone:
    (202) 426-6841
    Other:
  • Save
    Tidal Basin
    Bodies of water
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Several of DC's memorials — including those to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. — dot the perimeter of the Tidal Basin, making this a good place to amble and take photographs.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The best time to visit is March/April, when you might just catch the cherry blossoms in bloom.
    • If you have time and the weather permits, rent a paddle boat for an hour. The dock is on the eastern end of the basin.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #29 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    • Must Go 03/27/2015
    • Best way to cover all Memorials 03/25/2015
    • Tidal Basin
    Address:
    Tidal Basin and Ohio Drive NW
    Washington DC, DC 20003
    Phone:
    202-484-0206
  • Save
    Ford's Theatre
    Historic sites, History museums, Theaters
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    On April 14, 1865, while watching a production of 'Our American Cousin,' from the Presidential Box of Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln was shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. To this day, the box remains draped with a period flag, so that visitors may honor the 'Great Emancipator' before walking across the street to the Peterson House, where the president passed away.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • Because the theater closes to visitors during rehearsals and matinee performances, it's a good idea to check the schedule before visiting.
    • In addition to being a historic monument, Ford's is also a working theater, producing plays about the American experience and Lincoln's legacy. See one if you can!
    • Although a limited number of free tickets are available each morning at the box office, it is advisable to reserve in advance, either at the theater or through Ticketmaster.
    • Tickets are required and include admission to the theater, the small museum in its basement, and the Peterson House.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 189 activities in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • chilling 03/29/2015
    • Great Museum and Experience 03/27/2015
    • Ford's Theatre
    Address:
    511 10th St NW
    Washington DC, DC 20004
    Phone:
    202 347-4833
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:30 am - 5:00 pm
    Other:
  • Save
    Chinatown
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    Stephen C Says:

    Although it's very small, DC's Chinatown has no lack of things to see, eat and do. As well as the many Chinese restaurants, you'll find the National Portrait Gallery and the Verizon Center — home to the Washington Wizards' basketball team and Washington Capitals' ice hockey team.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • You'll find an array of eateries and bars on 7th Street.
    • If you're in the area during a game night, try to pick up some cheap tickets and take in a sports game.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #142 of 216 attractions in Washington DC
    • Very Cool!!! 03/28/2015
    • Its good. 03/22/2015
    • Chinatown
    Address:
    Bounded by G
    H, 5th, and 8th Sts.
    Washington DC, DC
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