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Washington DC

Is 5 or 6 days enough to Washington DC? What are the obvious and not so obvious highlights to see there?
Thanks

Posted by
1253 posts

For sure, it would be great to go visit the various Smithsonian museums on the Mall (they’re free).

Posted by
5556 posts

Five to six full days should give you enough time to visit the biggies. The Capital: Congress, Senate. Museums galore( govt run ones are free!) Allof the Smithsonian Museums, American History, Air and Space, African American, American Indian, National Gallery of Art and many more. National Archives, Library of Congress.. Study up on all of these. You will be very busy.Try to avoid summer time as it is very hot and humid there.

Posted by
16614 posts

I think 5 or 6 days would allow for a nice visit. You won't run out of things to do unless you hate all museums.

We have many wonderful museums, often free. All branches of the Smithsonian and the National Gallery are free. The gem and mineral collection at the Natural History Museum is a knockout.

The National Zoo is good, and free. Also large. In the summer, the heat makes a midday visit inadvisable.

Historical sites include the White House, the Capitol and Mount Vernon (outside of town). Plus lots of monuments, of which my favorites from the visual perspective are the FDR and the Korean War. The Korean memorial is especially evocative at dusk or in the rain.

The Washington Cathedral (Episcopal) is interesting. There's also the Franciscan Monastery.

There are several worthwhile gardens, including the National Arboretum (in a rather obscure area) and the National Botanical Garden (primarily under glass, near the Capitol)

There are attractive neighborhoods with historic (by US standards) architecture in Georgetown, Capitol Hill and Old Town Alexandria.

I don't keep up with the nightlife options.

What are your particular interests?

Posted by
1029 posts

I’ve been 4 times and I’m moving there. 5-6 days gives you a chance to get a good overview of the city.

I strongly recommend the Trip Hacks D.C. videos on YouTube. They cover just about every aspect of D.C. travel and are 5-10 minutes in length, they’re aimed at travelers not someone writing a dissertation about D.C.

What are your interests?

I think the monuments are best at night, in particular the Korean War memorial. Unfortunately the Jefferson memorial is under renovation now, but you can still see it.

Remember, Metro closes fairly early for a major city. D.C. probably isn’t the city if you’re looking for the nightlife you’d get in NYC or Chicago.

Posted by
226 posts

Yes and you want to visit Arlington National Cemetery and watch the changing of the guard ceremony where the tombs of the unknown soldiers lie, it is like no other. When you get to JFKs grave in section 45, turn around so you can peer at the US Capitol, the view is magnificent. Walking the National Mall (a.k.a. The Mall is another famous landmark). The other sights you can see illuminated duing the evening hours by taking a tour on the old town trolly or a riverboat cruise on the Potomac.
To visit the interior of the white house check out this website: https://www.nps.gov/whho/planyourvisit/the-white-house-tour.htm. Top neighborhoods to wander in are Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, Penn Quarter and U Street Corridor. DCs top museum is the Smithsonian.

Posted by
1507 posts

On my third trip last May, we went to the Smithsonian museums and monuments at The Mall, visited Mt. Vernon, walked around old town Alexandria. Search trip reports on this site, I did one on Wash DC.

Posted by
987 posts

Don't forget that certain tours are only available if you make arrangements in advance. Plan ahead, but 5-6 days should be sufficient to see many of the popular highlights.

Posted by
2630 posts

Most of the main sights have been mentioned, so I’ll add Iwo Jima memorial, Ford’s theater where Lincoln was assassinated, and the air & space museum annex at Dulles airport (Udvar-Hazy Center). I will add that if you are active duty or retired military, you (and your party) can enter any of the museums (I.e,, holocaust and African American) that normally have timed entry, at any time they are open. you will just need to show your ID. No waiting.

Posted by
97 posts

Mahalo and Wow to inbsig, Suki, acraven, Dale, Marypat, diveloonie aka Tammy, aquamarineSteph, Jaimeelsabio!

All your suggestions were fantastic!
Thanks Dale for simply asking what I like. I definitely like the outdoor beauty, so some of the suggestions were great! I welcome more everyone! And the MaryPat the Arlington Cemetery was a great suggestion. I completely forgot about that one! Thanks also for White House interior website.

I WELCOME any more ideas you have thought of since!

Mahalo!

PS I’ll be in DC Oct 1-10 2020

Thanks again everyone, greatly appreciated!!!!!

Posted by
16614 posts

There are some nice garden-like areas around the Smithsonian museums, especially those along Independence Avenue.

Over by the Capitol, Bartholdi Park is across the street from the US Botanic Garden. Apparently it's actually part of the Botanic Garden, though I hadn't realize that. It's quite small, but I always spend a few minutes walking through it when I'm in the area.

Posted by
1696 posts

A pleasant day trip would be to Annapolis - a very pretty and historic colonial town that's tailor made for strolling. It's about an hour east of DC. There are some terrific places for lunch too.

Posted by
180 posts

I was there for 5 days lat may and saw everything I had any interest in seeing

the tip about TripHacks DC was a good one. Rob is awesome, we took his twilight trivia tour and it was great

Here's a budget suggestion if you drive there. Stay out in Fairfax, there is a nice Best western with an Awesome breakfast. It's a very short drive to the Metro station, and from there you can get get anywhere you want. the Cost of Hotels close to the mall is brutal, as is parking costs. If you board the metro in fairfax, you will always get a seat, unlike every other stop on the orange line, where you'll probably have to stand if you travel during peak times

Posted by
102 posts

Tons of great suggestions up thread. Have to say that the National Museum of African American History and Culture was a highlight for me. Was there as long as I could manage that day, and still didn't get to everything.

If the crowds start getting to you, try The Hillwood Estate https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/ It's not free, but pretty easy to get to with a metro ride and a short cab or uber.

It was a lovely break on my last visit.

Posted by
837 posts

If you’re interested in Lincoln history, President Lincoln’s Cottage is an interesting visit, for nearby outdoors with a little mild hiking thrown in, Great Falls and C&O Canal are near town if you want to feel like you’re out of the city for a few hours. Other historical houses include Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House not far from Mt. Vernon, Gunston Hall (George Mason’s estate), and the “free with a nice view of the Potomac” River Farm—a small site off of the George Washington Parkway.

Regarding the budget Fairfax suggestion above, you may have the budget to stay closer in, and if so, stay closer in. Also, the yellow line is typically less crowded than orange. If you are on a budget, check out hotel prices close to Huntington Metro. Route 1 (Richmond Hwy) is not that great atmosphere-wise, but it’s near Old Town Alexandria and the Huntington Metro station.

Posted by
376 posts

You might also consider Dumbarton Oaks. It’s on 32nd and R streets, NW, upper Georgetown. Beautiful gardens and a very nice pre-Colombian art collection. About a block East is Oak Hill cemetery, another nice place to stroll and see grave markers of famous people. In between is one of many entrances to Rock Creek Park with lots of walking, cycling and yes, riding trails. Across the street is where Katherine Graham lived. You don’t really see anything, but it’s fun to think about if you’ve seen “The Post”.

Edit: Other slightly off the beaten path things to do. For art: the Hirshorn sculpture garden. Freer Gallery and Philips Collection. Also, The Library of Congress reading room, and Supreme Court tour-they should be back in session while you’re there. Another outdoor attraction could be a walk around Teddy Roosevelt Island (in the middle of the Potomac) or a walk along the C&O Canal.

Posted by
1253 posts

I was very taken with the National Museum of Natural History (one of the Smithsonian museums). Our nation’s fossil collection is just spectacular.

Posted by
232 posts

In addition to the monuments and Smithsonian, I agree with the suggestion of Dumbarton Oaks and, especially, the Phillips Collection museum. I just love it.

Posted by
107 posts

The Newseum is a newish and interesting museum that focuses on history from a news- perspective and is pretty interesting.

Others I haven't seen mentioned yet are FBI HQ, Treasury tour, Supreme Court, National Archives to see Declaration of Independence, Library of Congress.

Posted by
6073 posts

Unfortunately, the Newseum closed last year.

Posted by
837 posts

The National Cathedral was mentioned earlier. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) is impressive and has magnificent mosaics and side chapels. So that’s another site to add to the growing list of possibilities.

Posted by
11152 posts

You've gotten lots of great suggestions. Be sure to allow time for security lines at the museums.

In addition to the Smithsonian Museums on the Mall, don't overlook the Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery, which share a building. They have the advantage of being less crowded than the ones on the Mall, but no less worthwhile.

I had never liked Georgetown, but that was because I spent most of my time on its overly commercial streets (M Street and Wisconsin Avenue). But then a took a self-guided walk to see all the houses Jackie Kennedy lived in at various times in Georgetown. It got me off the commercial strips and onto beautiful residential streets. I could even fantasize about which houses I'd want to live in, if I could ever afford it: https://www.georgetowndc.com/guide/self-guided-kennedy-walking-tour/

A tip my sister taught me that I wouldn't have figured out on my own: to check the balance on your Smart Trip card, just hold the card against the reader on the refill machine. There's no need to do anything else - the machine will display your remaining balance.

The Udvar-Hazy is great, but beware that the only onsite food option is a McDonald's. It's also a bit hard to get to without a car.

Posted by
116 posts

The Kennedy Center has free hour long shows every night at 6:00. They’ve recently had a massive renovation and expansion with interesting new public spaces. The Phillips Collection is open late on Thursday. They host a special Phillips After Five on the first Thursday of the month. Book ahead if you aren’t a member. i would also suggest the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I enjoy the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum. They share a building away from the Mall, near Fords Theater. They open at 11:00 and don’t close until 7:00.

The Smithsonian museums are free. The Phillips Collection, the Women’s Museum, the Holocaust Museum and a few others have an entrance fee. If you are a member of one of your local museums that participate in ROAM or NARM, entrance fees will be waived or reduced for participating museums.

Posted by
1398 posts

Air and space museum by the airport is excellent.

I found the American Indian Museum awful. The worst of any Indian museum I have visited. Sorry to say that since my neighbor worked a couple of years helping to set it up.

Hidden gem - old post office tower.

Posted by
16614 posts

The local word on the American Indian museum is not good, either. However, the restaurant is thought to be a lot better than the displays.

Posted by
1398 posts

Worst fry bread ever at the Indian Museum restaurant !

Posted by
432 posts

5-6 days is about right. I've been there numerous times. One of the best things we ever did was rent bicycles one day and ride by all of the monuments in the mall area. DC is a beautiful city and you'll enjoy it regardless of that you do.

Posted by
133 posts

This week, about 20 minutes should do it. Joining the list of closures: all Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo, Arlington Cemetery, White House, Capitol, Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Mount Vernon, Ford's Theater......

Posted by
506 posts

Look for a groupon on the Segway tours - very easy to use and you cover a lot of ground in half a day.