What more would one expect from the USA capital city than utter beauty and seemingly endless sights to see? Being from the US East coast, I have visited Washington DC several times in the past few years. Inevitably, I have yet to leave unhappy. Not only are the majority of attractions in this city free for the public to see, but they are also fantastic representations of important pieces of United States history. Let’s back up for a second…. did I just say that the majority of things to do in Washington DC is free? Yes, you read that right. Washington DC is filled with free museums that are open to the public to visit. If you pack your own lunch, you could easily spend an entire day in the city without spending a dime. If that did not catch your interest, perhaps my favorite attractions and restaurant recommendation will change your opinion.
Let the list begin!
The White House
The main attraction in Washington DC – the White House is a must visit location while touring this city. Alright, I will be honest. The White House is probably not going to be the most interesting part of your DC trip. However, it is exciting to see where the president lives, and where so many life altering decisions are made. It is definitely worth it to stop by to see how nice the yard is and to take a picture or two. While the outside of the yard is gorgeous, I have always wanted to tour the inside of the White House. I still need to cross that off my bucket list. In the meantime, feel free to view information on how you can do so yourself here.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
The zoo in Washington DC is beautiful, well kept, and filled with lots of diverse critters. It is, in my opinion, the nicest zoo that I have seen and the cheapest (because it’s free!). The zoo features loads of unique and interesting animals and focuses on educating it’s visitors. My personal favorite exhibit is the Great Ape House. It is amazing to see such large apes alive and in person. Be sure to save at least a couple of hours for this zoo, if not the whole day. There are plenty of food and souvenir shops throughout the zoo to check out as well. Whether you have a family, a couple of friends, or you’re alone, you are sure to have a great time at this zoo, and you’ll probably learn a thing or two as well.
The National Air and Space Museum
Even if you have no interest in planes or space, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is quite an interesting experience. You will enjoy seeing real life versions of old planes and learning about the history of aviation. Let’s not forget about the space part of the museum. There are fascinating exhibits about space and space exploration, and even an old rocket ship you can walk through. This museum is like no other, and worth the trip if you are in the area.
If you are really interested in airplanes, there is another free air and space museum in Washington DC near the Dulles airport. While I have not visited here myself, I have heard that it features real life versions of many more planes than the first museum. Check out the museum here.
The architecture of the capitol building is stunning. Even if you just walk by, it is totally worth it to see in person. I was in awe when I saw this amazing building. I went a few years back and saw it while it was under construction. This past summer, though, it was complete. I have to say it was amazing to see the actual building right in front of me, and the architects have done a fantastic job.. Pictures of this building do not give it justice (punny, I know). You can even book a tour of this building. While it is best to do so in advance, same day passes may be available depending on the season. Find out more information here.
The WW2 Memorial
Though many would choose not to remember it, the second world war is an important part of history that 16 million US armed service members served in. The World War Two memorial is a beautiful way to remember the sacrifices made by many brave people during an important time in history. Surrounding the memorial are columns representing each US state and territory that helped win the war. If you walk around the memorial, you can also see many more representations of important parts of the war. It’s a great experience to be able honor history right at the heart of America. Now to mention, on a sunny day, it is relaxing to look at the fountain and to take in the surrounding sights of the city.
Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Are you interested in animals, plants, culture and history or either of each? Then this is the place for you. Like all the Smithsonian museums, the Natural History museum is wonderfully displayed and well put together. One of my favorite parts of the museum is the anthropology exhibit about evolution. However, there is a lot more to see than just that. For instance, the museum displays plenty of information about various plant, fish and animal creatures. It also touches upon conversational efforts in recent years and the cultural history of the world. The museum is huge and takes some time to go through if you want to see everything.
The Lincoln Memorial
I got goose bumps the first time I saw the Lincoln Memorial in person. It is a truly mesmerizing site. The vast size of the Lincoln statue and detail in the sculpture is enough to stop you in your tracks. Though you will probably be surrounded by other tourists, you cannot miss seeing the Lincoln Memorial on your DC adventure. The stairs leading up to the memorial even offer amazing views of the city. If I had to pick one site on this list that is my absolute favorite, this is it. Lincoln is one of America’s most recognizable presidents, and this memorial does an amazing job of honoring such an important part of US history. I recommend visiting the monument in the late afternoon when the sun is setting to see the beautiful skies over the city as well.
The Washington Monument
While traveling through Washington DC, you will likely see the tall obelisk in the center of the city. The Washington Monument is purposefully placed there to honor the country’s first president: George Washington. At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in the world. This feat showed that George Washington was one of the greatest leaders of his time. You can view the Washington Monument any time during the day as it is in the National Mall and is easily visible throughout various parts of the city. However, if you would like to tour the inside of the monument and climb to the top, you have to wait until construction on the monument is complete in the spring of 2019.
The Shake Shack
To be honest, the first Shake Shack was opened in Brooklyn and for a while this burger joint was only native to NYC. In recent years, however, Shake Shack has expanded to several cities across the country including Washington DC and even in other countries. I can never resist a burger or milkshake from this delicious restaurant. Every time I visit Washington DC, this is exactly where I end up eating. I have yet to be disappointed by a Shack Shake burger. No, this is not the healthiest meal you can find. However, it is tasty, quick and fulfilling. AKA – it is perfect for when you are on the go. That is why it should be on your list of places to visit in Washington DC.