Planning your Washington DC bucket list and looking for the best things to do in the city? We have gathered the best of the best so you can feel like you experienced the city and had a well rounded trip to the Nations Capital. Washington DC should be on everyone’s USA bucket list, the city is iconic.
While the Federal Government is located here in the city as well as where the President resides, the White House, the city is bursting with so much more. From incredible museums, dining that will blow you away from street food to Michelin Star restaurants, some of the best music venues in the country, and the city is loaded with history.
No matter what you decide to add to your Washington DC bucket list, you are going to have a fantastic time in the city. One of the BEST ways to see the city and hit all the major landmarks is with a hop on hop off tour.
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Washington DC Bucket List
1. See the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial
For the best sunrise views in the city, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking down the reflecting pond and onto the Washington Monument is where it is at. Bonus: a lot of people are not out at that time, so it feels like you have the monuments to yourself.
After the sunrises, you can explore the different memorials and monuments all within walking distance of the area, before it gets super busy.
2. Catch a National’s game
Yes, Washington, DC does have a baseball team and a relatively new stadium. This is a great way to see the city come alive. National’s fans are die hard. So grab a beer and a hotdog for the best night of your life, win or lose. This is one of the best dc bucket list items for your summer bucket list.
3. Eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl has been an icon in the city for years. President Obama used to dine there when he was in office and they have the most incredible food at affordable prices. Make sure to add this stop to your Washington, DC bucket list and check out the murals too.
4. See the Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery
Visiting Arlington Cemetery is a somber moment because it is still a cemetery. However, you should visit it. Seeing the changing of the guard is a really unique experience to have while you are there, also stop by the eternal burning flame for JFK.
You could spend an entire day walking around Arlington Cemetery, so it is best to plan in advance for what you want to see. The best way to take in this attraction is with a 2 hour guided tour. Because the cemetery is so big, you want to make sure you see all the highlights
5. Tour the White House
Every President in history except George Washington has lived in the White House, which makes for a fascinating visit. You can see where the leaders of the United States once lived. A tour like this will take advanced planned.
You will need to submit a request no more than three months before you visit to the city and no less than 21 days before arrival, to your member of congress.
Tours do book up and are not guaranteed, so if you know you are coming to the city, submit a request as soon as you can.
6. Visit the Smithsonian Museum’s
In Washington, DC there is 11 galleries and museums to visit on the National Mall, most notable the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History.
The National Museum of Natural History is pretty big. One of the best ways to get the most out of this visit is to take a small group tour. That way you can hit all the highlights and learn things you may have missed. There is a lot of great stuff in here.
In the area there is an additional six other museums and the National Zoo.
Tours to consider:
7. Ford’s Theater
Visit Ford’s Theater where you can sit in and hear the story about the night Lincoln was assassinated and see where he sat.
Tours to consider:
8. Visit the Supreme Court
One could argue the most powerful position in the USA is the Supreme Court as they create laws. If you can sit in on a hearing, it is a unique experience.
9. Ride the Metro
The easiest and fastest way to get around Washington, D.C. is by taking the metro. But be forewarned, no food or beverages are allowed to be opened or consumed on board.
10. Eat your way through Union Market
If you love food, one of the best places to stop in for a taste of everything is Union Market. The best time to visit is on the weekend and you can browse through for a variety of things. Also check out the murals on the walls of the building.
11. Shop in Georgetown
Washington, D.C.’s best shopping is in Georgetown! M Street is filled with boutique shops, fancy finds and delicious foods.
Some of the popular places you should not miss for sweets are: Georgetown Cupcake and Laduree.
Tours to consider:
12. See the art experiences at ARTECHOUSE
Immerse yourself in the concept of digital art and technology. The space is always changing and it is a fun way to experience art. Just make sure to book in advance.
13. See the cherry blossoms in the spring
One of the BEST spring bucket list destinations is Washington, D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The city comes alive.
Pro tip: book in advance and know the city is going to be extremely crowded. Plan to use the metro system because traffic is a nightmare.
14. Holocaust Museum
This is the quietest place in the city. If you want to learn more about what happened during the Holocaust, this is a fantastic museum to learn. Be respectful when you visit, it is absolutely devastating that this took place.
Things to do in Washington DC
15. Bike through Rock Creek Park
Looking for an outdoor excursion that doesn’t include museums? Take a ride through Rock Creek Park. It is most beautiful during the fall season when the leaves are absolutely stunning.
16. Eat Michelin dining
Currently there are 18 restaurants in Washington, D.C. that range from 1-3 Michelin Stars. If you plan to dine at any of the establishments, it is well advised to book as far in advance as possible. The restaurants are usually booked full.
17. Visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
When visiting the city, make sure and pop by the Hirshhorn as you never know what will be on display. The most famous exhibit was Yayoi Kusama! Make sure to check in advance just in case you need an entry ticket for highly sought after exhibits.
18. Shop Eastern Market
One of the best farmers markets to go to in the city is in Eastern Market. Both indoor and outdoor, you can find just about anything.
19. Browse the street art and murals
There are so many fantastic murals in the city spread out. You will find clusters like in Shaw, Columbia Heights and more.
20. Visit Cotton and Reed – the only rum distillery
Located next to Union Market, no Washington, DC bucket list would be complete with a stop at their only rum distillery. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!
21. United States National Arboretum
This is a hidden gem when it comes to the cherry blossoms. If you want to view them with little to no crowds, this is where you go.
22. See a show at the 9:30 Club
The iconic 9:30 Club in DC is the place to go for a show. After decades in existence, it has become one of the most popular venues in the city for smaller scale shows.
23. Watch the lighting of the National Tree
The lighting of the National Tree is just as important as the Rockefeller Tree in New York. If you happen to be doing your Washington, D.C. bucket list checks during December, add this to the list. Your Christmas bucket list should include a stop here at least once.
You should also consider doing the holiday lights nighttime bus tour!
24. Take a fun photo with the Washington Monument
A lot of people like to take pictures where it looks like they are standing against or trying to push over the monument. They are funny and a must.
An easy way to experience the monuments with added info is a guided architecture tour of the monuments and memorials.
25. Library of Congress
Want to visit the largest library in the world? THIS IS IT!
26. See money made at the U.S Bureau of Engraving & Printing
There is a magic about seeing money bring printed right off a machine in huge rolls. If coins and dollars interest you, it would make sense to take a free tour here.
27. Spend a night at the scandalous Watergate Hotel
Most notable for its ties to the Nixon Presidency, the Watergate Hotel is located in glamorous Georgetown and packed with history.
28. Monuments by moonlight
Seeing the monuments during the day is fun, but a top Washington DC bucket list activity is to see them at night. You can see them from an entirely new perspective.
Tours to consider:
- Monuments by moonlight trolley tour
- Small group Monuments at night electric car tour – this one is AWESOME!
- Historical highlights of the National Mall
29. Stroll the Wharf waterfront
The newest addition to DC scene, the Wharf is packed with eateries, shops, bars, and even a music venue, and it is all on the water.
30. Play a round of golf at Hains Point
If you want to play golf in DC for cheap, Hains Point is where it is at. You can play 9 or 18 holes, mini golf or just hit balls.
31. Shop and dine in Union Station
While Union Station is technically a train station, it is also a mall. It is highly recommended to stop in for a bite to eat, check out the vendors or to do some shopping.
32. See the museums and popular government buildings
Inside each of these builds lies history. Whether it be in the artifacts, walls, art, of the building itself – they are all worth exploring.
Tours to consider:
- Museum of the Bible with early admission
- African American History Museum family tour – up to 5 people
- Skip the line International Spy Museum
- National Museum of Natural History small group guided tour
- National Museum of American History guided tour
- National Archives Building with cruise on the Potomac and tour of the Capitol
- Guided tour of the National Archives
- Smithsonian tour combo: Air and Space Museum + American History Museum
- Guided tour of both the Natural History Museum + National Gallery of Art
- Skip the line: National Archives + Capitol Hill tour
- Guided tour: National Portrait Gallery + American Art Museum
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