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Washington, DC, offers travelers a variety of attractions and activities to partake in. Whether you are traveling alone, as a couple or as a family, there is something to see and do for everyone.

As the Capital of the United States, visitors have the opportunity to see history up close at the National Archives. They can also see history in the making by visiting the White House or Congress.

One of the national treasures is the Smithsonian Institute Museums, Gardens and Zoo. Located all over the Washington, DC, area, these are free to guests to enjoy, learn and explore. The exhibits cover many topics of interests to visitors including Natural History, American History and the most popular Air and Space. Guests at the National Zoo can see pandas on loan from China, one of only four exhibits of pandas in the United States.

In addition to the countless museums and exhibits, there are a number of events held annually in Washington, DC. Some of the major events include the Cherry Blossom Festival, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Capitol 4th Independence Day Celebration, and the National Christmas Tree Lighting/National Menorah Lighting to name a few. The National Mall is a good place to start your exploration as there is almost always something going on.

Most of Washington, DC, is connected by the Metro system, an underground subway. It is easy to navigate with each line being a particular color. The majority of the city is safe, but visitors are reminded it is a city and should take care to protect their valuables.

Contributor Profile


Katelyn K

Although originally from New Jersey, I have spent the last several years living in Washington, DC. My husband and I suffer from wunderlust and are well on our way to visiting all 50 states and discovering the most wonderful off the beaten path places that make America so unique.

Must-have road trip food?

The best part of any road-trip is trying the local food. So when in Hawaii have some poi, in Maryland have some crabs, in Texas the BBQ...etc.

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Things to Do & See

Here are some of the best things to do in Washington. Add them to your trip and we'll hold on to them in your Travelog. Look for to find free stuff.

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Smithsonian Institute Museums, Gardens and Zoo.

One of the most popular attractions in Washington, DC, are the museums and zoo that make up the Smithsonian Institute. Located largely on the National Mall, and accessible by the Blue and Orange Metro lines, the Smithsonian is easy to get to from anywhere in the Washington area. Among some of the more popular Smithsonian Museums are the Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, National Portrait Gallery and American History. The National Zoo located away from the Mall in Adams Morgan can be accessed by the Metro’s red line. One of the most popular attractions at the zoo are the Pandas on loan from China. The Smithsonian hosts a variety of events throughout the year such as the Folklife Festival and Zoolights. All of the museums are free, but some exhibits do cost a minimal amount.

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National Archives

The National Archives Museum is home of the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Guests can see all three of these important founding documents at the Archives. While reservations are not required, they can be made in advance by visiting the Archives website. In the summer the line for admission without reservations can be more than hour in the weather. The Archives can be reached by the Metro on the yellow or green lines.

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White House Tour

Individuals can tour the White House by arranging a tour with their member of Congress's office. These tours are limited each day, so it is recommend that you contact your Congressman as soon as possible when you are scheduling a trip. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance.

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Capitol Visitors' Center/Tour the Capitol

A few years ago, they constructed a Visitors' Center at the Capitol Building to provide visitors with some history of the architecture and development of the legislative body. However, if you want to see Congress actually in session you can either contact your Representative in Congress in advance for a tour, or try to get a same-day pass. The same-day passes often go quickly and tours with your representative's office may also be available same day, depending on the office. Senate side of Capitol Hill can be accessed from the Red line via Union Station, while the House side can be accessed via Blue or Orange line at Capitol South.

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International Spy Museum

As one of the most powerful Capitals in the world, Washington, DC, has seen its fair share of international spies. The International Spy Museum introduces guests to the real world of spies as well as the on-screen story of spies like James Bond. With frequently rotating exhibits, there is always something new to see. You can access the museum from the Red, Green or Yellow lines at the Chinatown-Verizon Center Metro station. Also, you can occasionally find deals for tickets on sites like groupon or livingsocial.

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The Newseum is all about the story behind the story. Focused on the development of journalism and news media throughout history, the Newseum endeavors to put you in the shoes of the report as well as in the history they are capturing. The interactive exhibits encourage guests to experience the trade hands on. The museum can be accessed by the red, yellow and green metro lines or you can pre-purchase parking on their website.


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Smithsonian Folklife FestivalAnnually, June to July

Each year the Smithsonian hosts the Folklife Festival. Typically, the festival is held each year in late June, early July on the National Mall. The festival highlights a particular country or culture each year and artisans, chefs and groups related to the country are brought to the National Mall to give visitors a first-hand experience.

Previous countries featured have been Tibet, Hungary and Peru, to just name a few.

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National Cherry Blossom FestivalAnnually, March to April

In 1912, the city of Tokyo, Japan gifted Washington, DC, 3,000 cherry trees, which were planted all over the National Mall and the Tidal Basin. Annually, the city celebrates the relationship between the two countries with a variety of events including Kite Flying on the National Mall, a parade, and other cultural experiences.

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A Capitol Fourth (Independence Day Celebration)Annually, July

What better place in the country to celebrate the birth of our nation than in its Capital? Each year the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) host "A Capitol Fourth" with a concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol. This free concert is open to the public and no tickets are necessary. Former performers at the concert have included Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, John Williams, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Reba McEntire, Natasha Bedingfield, Josh Groban, Gloria Estefan, and the Muppets from Sesame Street, just to name a few. After the concert, you can easily see the fireworks over the National Mall. You can also take advantage of going on the July 3rd to see the practice run of the concert if you want to try and avoid some of the crowds. Metro is the best option for this experience since much of downtown DC is closed on Independence Day for a security perimeter.

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National Christmas Tree Lighting/National Menorah LightingAnnually, December

Each year around Christmas and Hanukkah, the President and First Lady kick off the season by lighting the National Christmas Tree and National Menorah. Tickets are required for both events and are assigned by a free lottery organized by the National Park Service and organization leaders, respectively. It is a great way to get into the holiday spirit for the whole family. Both events are broadcasted online and on television and often feature current recording artists.

Top-Reviewed Restaurants

You're probably going to get hungry while you're there, but what's good in the area?

We've asked our friends at Yelp to keep us updated on what's cool and tasty, and they sent over their top-rated Washington eats. Add some to your trip and we'll store them for you.

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