Right before Christmas, I took a trip with my brother and Mom to Washington D.C. Now only was it a quick trip to a city I love, but it also accomplished one of the 25 things I wanted to do while I’m 25 – take a trip with my brother and Mom.
Washington D.C., the United States’ capital, is completely packed with things to do, and the best part is that most are absolutely free! This is great for the budget traveler looking for an inexpensive vacation or the savvy traveler wanting to visit an outstanding place and still have money leftover for their next trip. There is simply so much to do in D.C. that it can be overwhelming to decide what to do, especially if you’re there for just a long weekend like I was, so I thought I’d share some of the best things to do in D.C. – in my opinion.
1. National Mall
This long park is filled with national monuments, lined with museums, and covered in joggers, frisbee players, bikers, photographers, and those simply enjoying the fresh air. The National Mall is capped by the U.S. Capitol Building at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other end with war memorials of the Korean War, Vietnam War, and World War II in between. The Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial are also included in the National Mall. It’s truly jam-packed of things to see, many of which can be seen while walking to and from museum or other sites.
2. White House
Whether you tour it or just go see it from the outside, I believe the White House is a site that must be on your list. It’s right in a middle of everything – just off the National Mall – and is where the President of the United States lives. If you want to know how to tour the White House check out this link. You’ll have to make a reservation no more sooner than 21 days in advance.
I’ve never been here in past trips to Washington D.C., but that’s because the Newseum just opened in 2008. This was easily one of the best museums I have ever been to! It’s 5 floors of news history and media coverage of world events. I’m not usually one to read everything a museum has to offer, but in this case I did..well, almost. They had exhibits ranging from the Civil Rights movement, Pulitzer prize photographs, and media freedom throughout the world. In different exhibits, they had a large section of the Berlin Wall, the Unabomber’s cabin, and pieces of handwritten letters from America’s most notorious criminals. A perk they offer is that if you don’t get to everything, you can return the next day with your ticket and visit for free. This allows you to spilt it up and see other things D.C. has to offer.
4. National Holocaust Museum
It is quite the sobering experience, but definitely worth it. This museum is filled with everything you could have ever wanted to know about the Holocaust, including both the rise to and fallout from. When you arrive, you receive a small booklet that assigns you an actual Holocaust victim. You follow their story as you continue throughout the museum. Once you take the elevator up to the top floor, the entire museum is nearly silent during the journey back to the first floor. I believe this a must-see for everyone as it educates on one of the truly horrific events in human history.
5. Visit Georgetown
Unfortunately to get here, you cannot take the Metro. You’ll have to take the Metro to Rosslyn and walk across the Francis Scott Key Bridge or take it to Foggy Bottom-GWU and walk up Pennsylvania Ave. to M St. Either walk to doable, and the Rosslyn one is especially nice in great weather, but I’ve been caught on the bridge in the rain and cold before, which isn’t the most fun. The Georgetown area is host to Georgetown University, plenty of local eateries, shopping, and classic D.C. townhouses. There is plenty to do in the bustling college neighborhood of D.C.
6. Old Ebbitt Grill
It’s Washington D.C.’s oldest bar and restaurant and is located just south of the White House and Pennsylvania Ave. on 15th St. There is a lot of history to the place. The ‘Grill played a role in the Iran-Contra affair, hosts numerous politicians and stars, and has been featured in films. It can get quite busy at nights, especially on the weekends, but stopping in for a quick drink during the late afternoon can be a nice way to enjoy the oldest bar in D.C.
7. Smithsonian American History Museum
All of the Smithsonian Museums are free, so you can spend as little or as much time in them as you want. The American History Museum was one of my favorites, although it should be noted that I haven’t been to every Smithsonian. In my mind, the best part of it was the war section where it walks you through the history of every war in American history.
8. Arlington National Cemetery
There is a Metro stop right outside the cemetery, which is home to the burial places and memorials of the Kennedy’s, former President William Taft, and the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. I would recommend seeing the changing of the guard at the Tomb if you have not seen it before. The house of Ulysses S. Grant – confederate general in the U.S. Civil War – is located in the cemetery and is open for tours. It provides a great view of the city too, as it sits atop a hill.