The Ultimate Washington D.C. Travel Guide
Washington D.C., the capital city of the US, is home to several national monuments, historic buildings, memorials, museums, and so much more. If you want to see some significant working federal agencies in the US and experience US history, up close, Washington D.C is a must-visit. Here is my ultimate Washington D.C. travel guide with an interactive Washington D.C. attractions map!
Tip – Visit Washington D.C. in spring, when the cherry blossom trees paint the nation’s capital in pink.
Below you will find some general information about Washington D.C.: a little history, some geography, commute, and weather. If you wish, you can skip and move on to the Washington D.C. Attractions Map or Must See Places in Washington D.C.
History: Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia, is the capital city of the US, located between Virginia and Maryland. Washington D.C. got its name from the first president of the US, George Washington. The US Constitution required a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the US Congress, and not be part of any other US state. Maryland and Virginia both donated some land to form the Washington city, popularly known as Washington, D.C.
Geography: Washington D.C. is located in between Maryland and Virginia. It’s bordered by the states of Maryland on the southeast, northeast, and northwest; and bordered by Virginia on its west.
Flight: Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Marshall Airport (BWI) are the three major airports serving Washington DC.
Drive: If you live in any of the neighboring states, you could easily drive to Washington D.C.
Train: Amtrak offers several rail services, including Capitol Limited (Washington-Pittsburgh-Chicago), Cardinal (New York-Washington-Cincinnati-Chicago), Crescent (New York-Atlanta-New Orleans), Palmetto (New York-Savannah), Silver Meteor (New York-Miami), Silver Star (daily New York-Tampa-Miami), Carolinian (New York-Richmond-Washington), and Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vt.).
Best Places To Visit in Washington D.C.
Best way to explore Washington D.C.: I highly recommend that you avoid driving/renting a car in Washington D.C. The best way to explore Washington D.C. is by joining the Big Bus Tours and purchasing a multi-attraction discounted pass from CityPASS. By joining the tour, you can save a lot of time by not having to drive around and find parking. There is a lot to see in Washington D.C., here are my favorite places –
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol Building is located at the eastern end of the National Mall. The Capitol Building is the meeting place of the nation’s legislature and an iconic landmark of Washington D.C.
Tip: You will find me using the word “National Mall” throughout the Washington D.C. travel guide. By National Mall, I am referring to the area that includes the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the United States Capitol.
The White House
The White House, another iconic landmark in Washinton D.C., is the official residence and workplace of the president of the US. It’s been the residence of all US presidents except for George Washington.
The White House offers self-guided tours, but there’s a process and requires some planning. You would need to submit a tour request via your Member of Congress; please refer to the White House Website for more details. I am sure it’s worth the wait and the process and is on my to-do list.
The Lincoln Memorial is a national memorial built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The memorial is located at the western end of the National Mall. The building contains a large seated statue of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of his two well-known speeches – The Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address.
There’s a spectacular reflection pool at Lincoln Memorial, which reflects both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall, built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the United States. It’s both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 554 feet 7 ¹¹⁄₃₂ inches tall.
My favorite viewing point is from the Lincoln Memorial; the reflection of the Washington Monument in the reflection pool is just amazing.
Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the US army during the long three-year period of the Korean War.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, also popularly known as the Air and Space Museum, was established in 1946. The museum is enormous and houses some fascinating artifacts, including the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule, the Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane, and a lot more.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, also known as BEP, is located in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. It features a visitor center and tours, providing an opportunity to learn about the US paper currency and see millions of dollars being printed as you walk through the gallery overlooking the production floor.
Madame Tussauds Washington DC
Madame Tussauds Washington D.C., is unique because it features more wax sculptures of US political figures. Including wax sculptures of all 45 U.S. presidents on display.
Chinatown is a small, historic area in Downtown Washington D.C. This area was once home to thousands of Chinese immigrants. Today a popular tourist attraction featuring Chinese architecture, Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants, souvenir stores, bubble tea shops, and more.
National Harbor is a waterfront resort destination, located just 10 minutes from Washington, D.C., is home to rides, shops, resorts, and several restaurants. The best way to get to the National Harbor is via the water taxis, operated by the Potomac River Boat Company, connecting The Wharf to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor. I recommend boarding the water taxi from The Wharf, Washington D.C., a half-hour, one-way ride to the National Harbor.