Top 18 Must-See Attractions in Washington D.C.

From Monuments to Museums: The Ultimate List of Things to Do in Washington D.C.

Washington, DC, being the nation’s capital, is appropriately jam-packed with amazing sights and activities. Along the National Mall, you’ll find innumerable monuments and memorials coated in marble, and the city is home to the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of government.

Situated on the eastern bank of the Potomac River, right between the states of Virginia and Maryland, is the federal district of Washington, DC. While the remainder of the city is certainly worth seeing thanks to its many food and nightlife options, the National Mall is where the vast majority of visitors choose to begin their exploration of Washington, D.C.

To ensure that the federal government would not be centered in any one state, the District of Columbia was designated as the capital and placed on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. The city’s street grid, which is connected by wide avenues, was designed by Pierre-Charles L’Enfant and commissioned by George Washington.

The White House and the majestic Capitol Building with its dome are two of the most recognizable structures in the world, and they are both connected by Pennsylvania Avenue. The open and roomy layout of the city was envisioned by L’Enfant, and the National Mall was built to accommodate his plans.

The White House and the Capitol Building, two national emblems, are open to the public, as are dozens of other tourist sites, such as world-class museums and significant monuments. The northwest section of the National Mall has several of the most significant attractions. Spring and fall are preferable times to visit Washington due to the comfortable temperatures and low humidity levels.

Top 18 attractions in Washington D.C., USA

Weโ€™ve listed down some of Washingtonโ€™s top attractions to help you plan a better trip to this wonderful city. Have fun.

  1. National Mall
  2. The White House
  3. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  4. United States Capitol
  5. Lincoln Memorial
  6. Washington Monument
  7. National Air and Space Museum
  8. Library of Congress
  9. Jefferson Memorial
  10. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  11. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  12. National Gallery of Art
  13. National Museum of African American History & Culture
  14. Washington National Cathedral
  15. Georgetown Historic District
  16. National Archives Museum
  17. Arlington National Cemetery
  18. International Spy Museum

National Mall

The National Mall is a greenway that connects many of Washington, D.C.’s attractions and is an essential attraction for tourists to visit. Situated in the heart of the city, the National Mall spans westward to the Potomac River and eastward to Constitution Avenue and the Jefferson Memorial.

National Mall
National Mall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other Smithsonian museums are located across the street from the Mall but are still part of it. The Reflecting Pool and Memorials to Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James Garfield are located to the east. It is the most popular tourist destination in the nation’s capital, drawing an estimated 24 million people each year.

  • Address: Washington, DC, United States.

The White House

The President of the United States resides at the White House, and it is one of the best attractions in Washington, D.C. James Hoban constructed the White House in 1792; it was torched by British soldiers in 1814 and rebuilt in 1818, making it the residence of every President except George Washington.

Every visitor to Washington is going to want to see this landmark, if only from the exterior. Tours of the inside, including the East, Blue, Green, and Red Rooms; the Ballroom; and the State Dining Room, must be scheduled well in advance through your Congressional office or consulate, but it’s surely worth the trouble.

  • Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Av NW Washington, D.C 20500, United States.

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The J.F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is conveniently close to the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. More than two thousand events every year, from ballet and opera to concerts, musicals, and dance shows, make this state-of-the-art theatre one of the greatest venues to see a show in all of D.C.

The massive cultural complex, which bears the name of the former President and is located on the banks of the Potomac River, was opened in 1971. The site features a number of different theaters, including the opera house, concert hall, and the polished Eisenhower Theater. Some excellent eating establishments and rooftop bars may also be found there. This place is one of Washington’s most popular attractions among tourists and locals.

  • Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington, D.C 20566, United States.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

United States Capitol

The Congress of the United States has its sessions in the United States Capitol. Tourists are welcome to attend Senate and House sessions whenever they are in session. This place is surely one of Washington, D.C.’s top attractions.

Free passes are available through the office of the visitor’s representative in Congress. Since tours of the Capitol do not typically include opportunities to observe politicians in session, guests can alternatively get permits to tour the facility independently.

After the American Revolution, the Capitol was one of the first government structures to be built in the new nation. Building began in 1793, and by 1800, lawmakers were using it for sessions. The rotunda, which stands directly under the dome, is the heart of the Capitol Building. This is the last resting place of prominent persons like former presidents.

  • Address: Washington, DC 20004, United States.
  • Timings: Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, the most popular of Washington’s attractions and memorials, is located at the far end of the Mall, across the Reflecting Pool from the Washington Monument.

It has 36 columns, one for each of the states in existence when Lincoln died, and a 19-foot marble statue of a sitting and thoughtful President Abraham Lincoln at its center. Daniel Chester French, a renowned sculptor, is best known for this masterpiece. The inside walls have murals by Jules Guerin showing pivotal moments in Lincoln’s life.

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

Numerous significant events have taken place at the Lincoln Memorial since it was completed in 1922. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made history again by giving his iconic “I have a dream…” speech on the memorial steps.

Nighttime visits to this and other monuments on the Mall are a popular pastime for visitors visiting Washington, D.C. All of the memorials have lights, and several of them, like the Lincoln Memorial, are accessible at all hours. When Lincoln’s statue is illuminated at night within the temple’s dark interior and framed by the temple’s floodlit white columns, the result is stunning.

  • Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW. Washington, D.C 20002, United States.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument, a symbol of Washington, DC, and one of its most iconic attractions is a glowing white structure that towers dramatically above the National Mall. This massive 555-foot obelisk stands as a tribute to George Washington, the foremost President of the United States, and his many victories in the American Revolutionary War.

As the world’s tallest monument column, it towers majestically above the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. Embrace breathtaking views of the surrounding area from the top of this marble landmark. There is no better viewpoint from which to take in some of Washington’s top attractions and sights.

  • Timings: every day from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Georgetown Historic District

Georgetown, Maryland, is a historic area that predates the federal government’s relocation to Washington, D.C., by several decades. When Congress established the District of Columbia in 1871, it formally became a component of the nation’s capital. It’s cool to live, work, and play in Georgetown now. It is the oldest area in D.C. that has not been altered and is home to a prestigious institution as well as various embassies.

Northwest Washington, DC, is home to many famous people, including Thomas Jefferson (when he was vice president), Francis Scott Key (after a War of 1812 battle, he wrote the Star Spangled Banner), and John F. Kennedy (before he moved to the White House). It’s no wonder that this area is one of Washington’s top attractions.

Georgetown Historic District
Georgetown Historic District

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is fascinating for people of all ages. The National Air and Space Museum is a Smithsonian institution that welcomes visitors of all ages, from eight to eighty, with a wide variety of interactive exhibits. The museum is a goldmine of information regarding U.S. efforts in the aerospace industry.

The Wright Flyer from 1903 is on display, as are artifacts from the Apollo 11 moon landing and current space exploration efforts. What’s even better? The museum itself does not charge admission, but some of its special exhibits, like the IMAX theater, may. You can not go wrong with visiting this museum on your trip to the city, as it is one of Washington’s top attractions.

  • Address: 655 Jefferson Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20565, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.

Library of Congress

Today, the Library of Congress has the title of the world’s largest library, so it’s no wonder that it is considered one of the best attractions in Washington. The National Archives started off as a small building in 1800 when the United States government moved its archives from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress was founded in 1876 and has since grown to include 158 million objects, including 36 million books in 460 languages and 69 million manuscripts.

It has the continent’s most extensive collection of rare books. The library’s collections are available to the public, although it is recommended that researchers consult the library’s online catalog before making the trip. The magnificent primary reading area is called the Sacred area.

  • Address: 101 Independence Ave SE/ Washington, D.C 20540, United States.
  • Timings: Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Jefferson Memorial

Another one of Washington’s top attractions is the Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is honored with a memorial that includes many of his architectural ideas. The Pantheon in Rome is a stylistic inspiration for its formality. Some people were offended by the design because they said it copied the Lincoln Memorial too closely. President Franklin D. Roosevelt put an end to the argument by laying the cornerstone in 1939.

It is a monument commemorating Jefferson’s ideas as a politician and philosopher and may be seen on the National Mall, with the statue of Jefferson facing the White House. Washington’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival is held there in memory of the Japanese cherry trees that were cut down to make way for the memorial.

  • Address: 16 E Basin Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20242, United States.

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is a fascinating look into the history of espionage and one of Washington’s most popular attractions. Just south of the Smithsonian Castle, this museum celebrates the secret history of espionage spanning thousands of years with interactive exhibitions, relics, and even equipment.

The museum, which opened in 2002 and is presently situated in L’Enfant Plaza, is a popular destination for visitors of all ages. There are hidden cameras and guns among the world’s greatest collection of international espionage artifacts, but there are also creative inventions and disguises to be found there.

In addition to learning about notable spies, scientists, and clandestine operations through the museum’s spectacular photographs and displays, visitors may also crack codes and test their own espionage prowess.

  • Address: 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C 20024, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 9 AM to 7 PM.
International Spy Museum
International Spy Museum

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of natural History is another of the largest and greatest museums in Washington, DC, the United States, and one of its top attractions. Located on the National Mall, the museum’s seemingly limitless halls explore topics as diverse as ancient Egypt and Korean culture, dinosaurs, plagues, and meteorites.

The vast museum is a hit with children, and its 145 million objects make for a fascinating collection to explore. In addition to witnessing lifelike models of whales and triceratops skeletons, visitors may also observe the feeding of tarantulas in the Insect Zoo, explore the vibrant butterfly pavilion, and enjoy a film in the state-of-the-art IMAX cinema.

  • Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located just south of the National Mall, is a somber but essential destination. The museum, which houses thousands of objects, photographs, and oral testimonials, aims to teach visitors about the horrors of World War II, reject genocide and racism, and honor the memory of Holocaust victims and survivors.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are given the identity card of a real individual who survived the Holocaust, bringing them face-to-face with the history. This museum is one of the greatest attractions to visit in Washington, D.C.

Visitors learn about everything from Hitler’s rise to power and Aryan philosophy to the atrocities of Kristallnacht, ghettos, and the Final Solution as they meander through the museum’s well-designed exhibits full of horrific photographs and real items. The Hall of Remembrance’s candlelight and the Tower of Faces are two particularly touching features.

  • Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, D.C. 20024, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, is not to be missed by art lovers visiting the nation’s capital. From Raphael and Rembrandt to Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh, it features a who’s who of artistic greatness in the visual arts.

The museum was established in 1937 on the National Mall, and it has a stunning contemporary East Building, an elegant neoclassical West Building, and a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden. Each explores a unique creative discipline and time era, from medieval to modern art, with breathtaking works by European masters and American painters sprinkled throughout, making it one of Washington’s top attractions.

  • Address: Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5 PM.

National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum, which houses priceless historical records, can be found on the north side of the National Mall. It includes the Bill of Rights in addition to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which is sure to please history lovers. This museum is one of the top attractions in all of Washington, D.C.

The structure, which was completed in 1933, is a masterpiece of design, with a beautiful exterior that showcases the interior’s famous and spectacular rotunda. The Charters of Freedom are on exhibit here, and farther on, you’ll find the Emancipation Proclamation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, and a genuine Magna Carta from 1297, among other fascinating documents.

  • Address: 701 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 M to 5:30 PM.
National Archives Museum
National Archives Museum

National Museum of African American History & Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest and most impressive of the Smithsonian’s numerous museums and galleries. It opened in 2016 on the National Mall and featured several items, artworks, and audio installations that shed light on the histories, cultures, and communities of African Americans in the United States and the enormous obstacles they have overcome.

The museum is the only one of its type in the United States, and it features engaging and thought-provoking exhibits on topics such as African craftsmanship, the end of segregation, and the struggle for equality.

The museum’s impressive architecture, inspired by the three-tiered crowns seen in Yoruban art, is worth seeing even if you aren’t interested in seeing the personal belongings of historical luminaries like Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman, or Nat Turner. This museum is one of the top attractions in all of Washington, D.C.

  • Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.

Washington National Cathedral

Another one of Washington’s top attractions is Washington National Cathedral. Although the United States does not have a “national cathedral,” the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City of Washington and Diocese of Washington is widely recognized as the spiritual center of the country.

This Neo-Gothic edifice is the sixth biggest cathedral in the world and is better known as Washington National Cathedral. This is where we said our last goodbyes to Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford. Bear in mind that Visiting the cathedral outside of worship hours will cost you, although the services themselves are free.

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral

Arlington National Cemetery

The surrounding Arlington National Cemetery is another of D.C.’s most visited and gorgeous attractions. It was founded during the Civil War and currently serves as the last resting place for many of the United States’ most venerable war heroes and historical personalities.

Located on a prominent hill directly over the Potomac River from the city, the graveyard is lush and verdant and features stunning monuments and memorials. Many tourists visit JFK’s tomb, but some travel to the inspiring Iwo Jima Memorial or the majestic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In addition to strolling past neatly arranged graves, visitors at Arlington National Cemetery may also visit the nearby Arlington House and Pentagon.

  • Address: Arlington, VA, United States.
  • Timings: every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

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