A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to tag-a-long on a trip to Washington, DC. I only had 3 days to visit this amazing political city filled with history, monuments, art, and culture. Before I went, I spent some quality time reading up the city, looking at maps of the mall, and strategizing my trip. Next month, my niece will be visiting Washington on a school trip, and it got me reminiscing about the amazing time I had in our capital city! Here a few photos, a few tips, and my top picks.
Here are my top tips for visiting Washington DC.
Wear good shoes!
You are going to do a ton of walking. This there is so much to see that you will be logging miles. I logged more than 20,000 steps on two of my days on the Mall!
Take LOTS of Pictures!
Washington is a photogenic city. At the time when I was visiting, I was already an experienced traveler and loved to stop and take photos. I tried to get photos that really caught the atmosphere of the trip, even if they aren’t the “best quality” shots, the goal is to have a collection of images that stimulate your memories. My evening shot of the Jefferson Memorial isn’t the greatest technical photograph, but it is an image that makes me so very happy, reminding me of that wonderful night-time bus-tour.
Egyptian Ushabti – Natural History Museum, Washington DC
Take a Night Bus Tour.
While this seems like the thing that every tourist does, there’s a reason why it’s a good deal. You see a lot of different sights for the price, and the driver I had was informative and hilarious! Most places close down at night, so it’s a great way to fill some off hours when your favorite museum is closed.
Pre-Plan your Top Sites.
I think that if I had gotten there without a plan, I would have been seriously out of luck. There’s so much to see and do it’s quite overwhelming. I was on a short three-day trip, so I basically picked two major monuments a day, one for the morning, and one for the afternoon. My best tip is to check on a map to pick places that are fairly close to each other. While it might sound good to do the Lincoln Memorial and the Aerospace Museum, they are a pretty long walk apart.
Reflections Outside of the Air and Space Museum
There’s Something For Everyone.
Pre-negotiate with your travel companions and pick your top places and make sure they happen! I really wanted to get to the Conservatory, while my travel buddy wanted to see the Library of Congress. Both of these “smaller” sites conveniently fit into a day, with a walk around the Capitol Building between.
“Ginevra de Benci” by Leonardo Da Vinci c.1474-8 National Gallery
Strategize your Meals
When visiting a new city, I like to block-plan my days with planned meal times. I also try to have a cup of tea or refreshment at every location with a cafe as a mid-point in the experience. My favorite lunch was at the National Museum of the Native American and my favorite cafe was at the National Gallery.
Night View of Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC.
My favorite Washington Places:
- National Gallery – https://www.nga.gov/
- National Air and Space Museum – https://airandspace.si.edu/
- Smithsonian Institution – https://www.si.edu/
- Botanic Gardens – https://www.usbg.gov/conservatory
- National Museum of the Native American – http://www.nmai.si.edu/
- Natural History Museum – https://naturalhistory.si.edu/
Lobby Fountain – Botanic Garden Conservatory, Washington DC
You never know when a building will be under construction. Although I would love a pristine image of the capitol building, restoration and repair are essential parts of the preservation process. So while the photo below won’t be winning any prizes, it’s a document of my time visiting Washington, DC.
Last but not least, don’t forget to just make time to walk around the buildings. After the evening rush of workers leaving the city for home, I planned time to just walk around the major federal buildings to look at the art and architecture.
“Man Controlling Trade” Michael Lantz c. 1942
Outside of the Federal Trade Commission Building, Washington DC.