Washington DC Travel Guide 2024

2024 Washington DC Visitors Guide

Washington, D.C. is rich with culture and history, making it a sought-after destination for people of all ages, including families. Visiting D.C. takes some planning since it can be a hectic city, especially during the times of the year when there are a ton of tourists flocking to the area.

Planning ahead is key – some attractions require reservations to be made well ahead of time. Other events require group reservations, which can make it difficult to see what you want to see if you wait until the last minute.

George Washington himself chose the location for the city that bears his name, and which serves as the seat of government for the United States of America. Over the course of 200 years, Washington, D.C. has grown with the nation, and it now represents the very best of America. From its monuments to its incomparable museums, from the Mall to the steps of the Capitol, Washington offers visitors one-of-a-kind attractions.

Capitol Building & the Mall

The majestic Capitol building stands at the center of the city, allowing unobstructed views of the best-known attractions and centers of government. The giant open space of the Mall is marked off by the various museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest cluster of museums in the world. The National Museum of the American Indian pays tribute to the original American settlers. The National Air and Space Museum celebrates the nation’s achievements in flight and space exploration, from the Wright brothers’ first biplane to the Apollo moon mission and beyond. Visitors line up daily for the Natural History, American History, and Science Museums to explore the wonders of history, science, and technology, and to view the famous Hope Diamond. The Smithsonian Institution also includes the world-famous Sackler, Freer, and Hirshhorn galleries. Art lovers appreciate the nearby National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art.

Washington Monument

Looking past the mall, the Washington Monument stands 505 feet above the city. It was the tallest man-made structure in America from its completion until the early 1900s. Behind this monument are the reflecting pool and the memorials dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln and to those whose lives were lost in World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean conflict. New to the area of the tidal basin, and facing the Jefferson Memorial, a memorial to Franklin Roosevelt lies on the Potomac River. Not far from there, the National Holocaust Museum hosts millions of visitors each year.

The offices of the various government agencies take up much of the remainder of the city, and most offer free tours to the public. The White House also offers free tours, and the lines can sometimes stretch around the adjoining block to visit “the people’s house.” Just outside the city, the National Zoo houses thousands of animals on 163 acres of parkland. Across the river in Arlington, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands amidst the somber majesty of Arlington National Cemetery, where John and Robert Kennedy are also buried.

Washington Theatres

Washington has many distractions from politics. Washington’s theater life is thriving; it is second only to New York in the number of theater seats. The National Symphony and other musical companies play full schedules. As a temporary home to diplomats from around the world, Washington’s restaurant offerings are among the finest and most diverse in the country.

The beauty and grandeur of the nation’s capital continue to captivate the millions of American and international tourists who visit Washington, D.C. each year.

Washington DC Downtown Hotels

D.C. has hotels and lodging available to suit any budget. If you’re hoping to get a hotel room for cheap, try to visit D.C. when it’s not a popular tourist time. If there’s a special event going on in town, hotel rates will be higher than normal. You can also choose your hotel based on how close it is to the attractions you’re most interested in. If you stay nearby, you can walk to your destination and forgo public transportation.


Downtown Washington, DC has numerous attractions to keep you occupied for days. The best place to start is the National Mall. To get there, take the Metro to the Smithsonian Station. After exiting, you will be about halfway between the Washington Monument to the west and the U.S. Capitol building to the east. Numerous museums line the north and south sides of the Mall. Museums on the south side include the National Air and Space Museum and the Holocaust Museum. On the north side, you will find the National Gallery of Art, the American History Museum, and the Natural History Museum among others. Most are within walking distance, but the city has a bike-sharing program if you want to get places faster. Farther west on the Mall, you’ll find the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. To get a lot out of your visit, pick a few attractions and spend more time at them instead of spending just a few minutes at every single one. Downtown Hotel Service offers Hotels near Downtown Washington DC that are quality hotels at an affordable price. Use our Search box above or click here to see available hotels!

About Downtown Washington DC

Downtown Washington, D.C. holds a vast array of monuments, historic landmarks, museums, and other fascinating sites of interest worth seeing. From the world-class museums of the Smithsonian Institution to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial to the White House itself, Downtown Washington, D.C. boasts a vast collection of landmarks and cultural attractions with few equals on the planet. Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the capital or a seasoned traveler, you’re sure to find something interesting, inspiring, or exhilarating in Downtown Washington, D.C.

National Mall

The nucleus of Downtown Washington, D.C. is the National Mall, an expansive green space that holds many of the nation’s most iconic monuments, landmarks, and most important government institutions. Here, visitors will find must-see attractions and landmarks such as the White House, the Capitol, and the soaring Washington Monument. The inspiring Lincoln Memorial is also located on the National Mall, as is the National World War II Memorial, one of the city’s newest and grandest attractions. Other sites of interest on or around the National Mall include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and many others.

Downtown Washington, D.C. also boasts some of the world’s finest museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. These fascinating institutions range from art museums to natural history museums to just about everything else in between. The renowned museums of the Smithsonian Institution are absolute must-see sites and include the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Natural History. The National Air and Space Museum is a particularly interesting and unique museum that focuses on the history of air and space flight while fine art lovers will definitely appreciate the National Portrait Gallery. Other must-see museums and cultural attractions in Downtown Washington, D.C. include the National Archives, the International Spy Museum, the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Navy Museum and much more.

From moving memorials to some of the world’s greatest museums, Downtown Washington, D.C. has something for everyone. No matter where you’re from, you’re sure to find something interesting in the historic heart of the nation’s capital.

Washington DC Weather

The weather in Washington, DC varies a lot throughout the year and from one year to the next. Therefore, the type of clothing you want to bring greatly depends on what time of year you plan to visit.


During summer, temperatures often top 90 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity often accompanies the hot weather. Therefore, bring light clothing. You will sweat more with higher humidity, so bring multiple changes of clothes. Visiting the attractions usually involves a lot of walking, so you will get thirsty. Make sure to drink plenty of water. Also, afternoon thundershowers are common, so bring a poncho or umbrella. These storms often have a lot of lightning, so be prepared to seek shelter on short notice.

Spring & Fall

During spring and autumn, temperatures can be unpredictable. Generally, the weather is cooler during early spring and late autumn and warmer during late spring and early autumn. Also, temperatures often vary widely during a single day, with chilly mornings, warm days, and cool evenings. High temperatures can vary from one day to the next. Fronts often pass through the area, so warm weather one day can be followed by cool weather the next day.

Like summer, afternoon thundershowers do happen, so bring appropriate rain gear. Most severe weather occurs during spring, but it can happen during autumn as well. Tornadoes have occurred but are extremely rare. Many flowers bloom during spring, so bring medicine if you are susceptible to allergies. Your best bet is to dress in layers during these seasons so you can adapt to changing weather conditions.


Winter varies greatly from year to year. Generally, several winter storms can be expected. Some winters have more while others have fewer. While snowfall amounts from a single storm are usually less than a foot, some winters have seen major winter storms that shut down schools and government agencies for up to a week. Winter weather is infrequent enough that motorists generally are not well-schooled at driving in it, so strongly consider using mass transit. Snow usually melts within a couple of weeks of falling, so the ground is usually visible through most of the winter. The weather can also be mild during winter with temperatures topping 60 degrees some days. Do bring a heavy coat, but also be prepared to dress in layers.

Washington DC Transportation

Washington, DC is a large city, and getting around can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and research, tourists can easily find all major attractions. Driving around D.C. can be confusing and overwhelming for people who aren’t used to the city or driving in an urban area. To avoid this trouble, as well as the hassle of finding a parking spot, opt for public transportation. The DC Circulator, Metrobus, and Metrorail are all available travel options. You can also hail a taxi cab to get you around town.

If you’re flying into D.C., you’ll want to book a flight to one of the three local Washington, D.C. Airports:

  1. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
  2. Washington Dulles International Airport
  3. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Three major airports lie within 50 miles of the city. The closest is Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), followed by Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI). Reagan National is within eyesight of the city limits and has more ground transportation options while the other two airports are considerably farther away and do not connect directly to mass transit.

The city has some of the heaviest automobile traffic in the country, so tourists should strongly consider riding the Metro, the city’s subway system, instead of renting a car. It will probably be less expensive since parking is scarce and expensive. Metro has stations close to almost all tourist attractions and has a station at Reagan National Airport. A line to Dulles Airport is under construction, but not complete. The system has five color-coded lines—red, orange, blue, yellow, and green. Different lines share the same track in places, so make sure to look at a map and check to see what line a train is serving when it pulls into a station.

The Metro station closest to the bulk of attractions in downtown Washington is Smithsonian Station, shared between the orange and blue lines. It is located on the National Mall, about halfway between the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol. It is also within walking distance of many major museums.

The city also has an extensive bike-sharing program. Bikes can be rented at any bike station and returned to any other station. This is a great way to see the city while getting some exercise or to get from one attraction to another more quickly than by walking. Just make sure to look at a map to avoid getting lost.

For those who insist on driving, the city is served by multiple interstate highways—95 from the north and south, 66 from the west, 495 as the Capital Beltway and 395 as a spur of I-95. I-66 and I-395 are the only two interstates that provide direct access to the downtown area. Traffic on all of these highways can be heavy, especially during rush hour. Also, fuel prices are higher than in surrounding areas, so budget accordingly.

Traveling to Washington, DC should be exciting. To get the most out of your trip, learn the transportation system and use it wisely.

Washington DC Attractions

Touring the White House

One of the first things on most people’s list when they visit D.C. is touring the White House. These tours have to be set up in advance by your local member of Congress. Tours can only be arranged for a group of ten people or more; if you’re traveling with less than ten people, you can join in on another tour.

The Capitol and Congress

If you want to tour the Capitol or see Congress in session, public tours are available Monday through Saturday. While the tours are free, you still have to get tickets. It’s always advisable to reserve your tour online as far in advance as possible. There are just a limited number of same-day tickets available.

The National Mall

The National Mall is the best place to begin sightseeing in Washington, D.C. With good walking shoes (a necessity for a comfortable visit), one can go on foot to a range of museums and monuments, as well as the Capitol Building. History, art, science, and politics await exploration.


The Smithsonian Castle should be the first stop for those wanting to maximize their museum time. Here one can get material from the information center about which Smithsonian branches have which exhibits when and what the hours are. There is also a lovely garden behind the castle, along with several small galleries.

Air and Space Museum

Perhaps the most popular of the Smithsonian’s offerings is the Air and Space Museum, several blocks east of the Castle, next to the American Indian Museum. The Air and Space Museum holds artifacts from the history of flight, including early airplanes and space capsules. Across from the Castle lie the Natural History Museum, with its noted butterfly garden, and the American History Museum. Art enthusiasts will want to visit the Hirshhorn Museum, next to Air and Space, and both buildings of the National Gallery of Art, across from Air and Space. Those serious about art who do not mind a little more walking may want to venture the half-mile off the mall to the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum between Ninth and Eleventh streets.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument presides on the National Mall’s western boundary. To the east and south one finds memorials to presidents, national figures, and America’s war dead. Each approaches their subject in a different way, providing a history and experience in stone and metal. The Vietnam War Memorial records the names of that conflict’s dead. Some visitors trace the names of people they know. The Korean War memorial features life-size figures of soldiers. The Lincoln Memorial takes pride in a place overlooking the Reflecting Pool and is one of the most photographed images of the National Mall area. Nearby is the Tidal Basin, around which one finds the Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the newest Mall addition, the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Here is an insider tip: Calling one’s member of Congress before visiting Washington can get one privileged entry to the White House, Capitol building tour, the Pentagon, Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court, among others. Note that a background check is required for some of these.

However one organizes a Washington visit, new insights about national history and politics’ inner workings await.

Washington DC Dining

In Washington, D.C., there are many dining options to choose from. It is never impossible to find a place to eat at any time of the day. Some of the restaurants are located in some of the city’s nicest neighborhoods. One area, in particular, to check out is in the DuPont Circle neighborhood. One of the city’s most popular restaurants is “The Front Page.” From its $2 drink specials and free tacos during Happy Hour to its gourmet burgers and appetizers, the Front Page is a place to go during a night on the town.

Pennsylvania Avenue

If you’re a fan of the steakhouse restaurants, “Fogo de Chao” located on Pennsylvania Avenue is worth the visit. This upscale Brazilian steakhouse located near Metro Center features an all-you-can-eat dinner at a fixed price. There is a wide variety of meats and a great selection at their salad bar. One interesting feature is their colored coasters. One side is green, telling your server you want seconds. The other side is red, which means you’ve had enough. Murphy’s of DC is another place perfect for dinner. Murphy’s is an Irish Pub and Restaurant with daily specials that are guaranteed not to disappoint.

Adams Morgan

Another area of Washington D.C. to check out for good food is Adams Morgan. Near the venues of D.C.’s nightlife is “The Diner.” Open 24 hours a day, The Diner is one of the restaurants preferred by night owls or those looking for a place to eat breakfast. Also, open late at night is Kramer’s Books and Afterwards Café. Located near DuPont Circle, the café is located at the back of a bookstore. There is live music every night. They serve dinner and dessert to-go, even well into the late-night hours. Unlike The Diner, Kramer’s is not open 24 hours a day.

Breakfast or Brunch

There are some restaurants that are the best spots during breakfast or brunch hours. One place to check out for breakfast is “Open City”, located on Connecticut Avenue. For breakfast lovers, Open City serves breakfast all day long. The restaurant’s casual, laid-back atmosphere is perfect for a café and a place to chill with friends over brunch. The Mad Hatter is also another popular restaurant to eat for brunch. Like the name, Mad Hatter is complete with its décor based on the legendary tale of “Alice In Wonderland.”

Washington DC Events

People who think about Washington, D.C. usually think about the White House, Congress, and various other government and history-related monuments and buildings. While it is true that Washington, D.C. is a place of politics and it can be fun to learn about them, there is also much more to the city. Events celebrating fashion, food, and culture are held and draw participants from all around the world each year.

Yours/Mine Secondhand Shopping Soiree

Held four times per year, the Yours/Mine Secondhand Shopping Soiree is a shopping event involving merchandise from cosigners, vintage buyers, artists, and clothing and accessory shops. The event is only held in the trendiest venues throughout Washington, D.C., and serves up its own signature cocktail, the “Thrifty Gir-tini”. Fashion consultants and personal stylists are on hand to assist shoppers in finding the best look. The entire event is updated live on Twitter and Instagram. Shoppers even have the chance to be interviewed and photographed by well-known fashion bloggers. The event is cash only.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Held for two weeks from the end of March to the beginning of April, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the coming of spring as well as the 3,000 cherry trees that the mayor of Tokyo, Japan gifted to the United States a century ago. The event includes a parade that brings in visitors and participants from around the world and a Japanese festival that includes more than 80 performances as well as food and Japanese art.

Passport DC

Each spring, the embassies and cultural centers of Washington, D.C. like to open their doors and let their proverbial hair down. People from around the globe gather to show others their culture. Exhibits and demonstrations include learning native dances, tasting recipes, and learning about the country’s art and music. One of the most popular parts of the event is the Asian Heritage Festival. A Children’s Festival is also part of the fun.

National CAPITAL Barbecue Battle

A popular event in the city for over 20 years now, the National CAPITAL Barbecue Battle features some of the country’s top barbecuers and barbecue restaurants. Participants in the battle compete for more than $15,000 in prizes and the chance to participate in the Barbecue World Championship. Spectators can participate in cooking demonstrations or enjoy free samples. Interactive displays and children’s activities bring thousands of people to this event each year.

Family Fun near Downtown Washington DC

Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital and home to The President of the United States. The city is rich with history and filled with fascinating landmarks, interesting museums, and fun parks. Washington is an exciting place for families to visit, as there is so much to see and do.

Washington DC Family Fun

One of the most popular things for families to do is to visit the most famous home in the world. You can walk the halls where Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy once stood. While taking a White House tour, you can view the State Dining Room, the East Room, the Blue Room, and the Red Room. You will also see the Lincoln Bedroom, the Queen’s Bedroom, and the President’s Master Bedroom. You might even get a glimpse at the Oval Office.

Capitol building

The capitol building is where both chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives meet. It is the site where Congress will make important decisions, and it is the site of state funerals, concerts, and Christmas tree lightings. Presidential inaugurations are also held at the capitol. You can tour the building with your family and see Statutory Hall, the Old Senate Chamber, and the Old Supreme Court. The Capitol Rotunda is gorgeous.

International Spy Museum

One thing kids will enjoy is the International Spy Museum. You can view spy relics from around the world, including concealment weapons and secret documents. You could even have the opportunity to take a polygraph test and decipher messages. You can also become educated on the history of espionage.

National Zoo

The National Zoo is an entertaining place for families. You can see pandas, lions, elephants, and cheetahs. You can also see bears, zebras, and leopards. You can learn about animals from all around the globe.

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum presents families with a chance to see The Spirit of St. Louis, the command module from Apollo 11, and the Wright Flyer. You can touch a sample of lunar rock, and you can learn about aviation history. The museum includes a World War II exhibit and an Apollo to the Moon exhibit. You can even learn about supersonic flight, gravity, and rocket propulsion.

Other family fun things to do in Washington include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. Families will also enjoy the Vietnam Memorial, the National Aquarium, and the US Botanic Gardens.

Washington is a lively city that offers fun and educational experiences. Families will have a blast visiting the capital city. A trip to Washington will provide you with memories to last a lifetime.

Shopping near Downtown Washington DC

Washington DC Shopping is tremendously distinguished and unforgettable. With this metropolis overflowing with tons of national retail stores–including Barnes and Noble, Old Navy, Best Buy, and Gap–you can shop for hours and not have difficulty finding what you want or need. The key is to shop in the right area and within your means.


Georgetown is one of the many hotspots for shopping. It really suits collectors and young adults because there is a collection of boutiques and antique stores, most of which can be found on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Some of the popular stores here are French Connection, Lush, Coach, and Kate Spade.

Dupont Circle

This neighborhood features an eclectic selection of art galleries, designer boutiques, gift shops, and bookstores, namely Lambda Books. If you head over to Connecticut Avenue, you will find a bunch of renowned clothing stores–including Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Talbots, and Gap. Beware that shopping here can cause you to experience financial difficulties if you do not spend wisely, seeing that most of the stores are high-end types.

Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter is bustling and brimming with both contemporary and trendy shops. Some of the better-known retail shops include Pottery Barn, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Ann Taylor Loft, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Gallery Place is another big-time shopping zone in this area, and everything featured here is for every kind of shopper.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is where you will be able to find everything within walking distance. There is a farmers’ market selling all kinds of flowers and fresh produce. There is a flea market selling plenty of antiques, crafts, imported goods, and collectibles. Also, near Union Station, you will come across a shopping mall that features well over 130 upscale stores.

The National Mall

The National Mall is brimming with both museums and gift shops, so it is a place where you can discover historical facts, learn about legends, and buy souvenirs and fine artwork.

Washington DC Shopping is fun, different, and worthwhile. Regardless of your spending budget, you can enjoy your shopping experience. Just be conscious of where you are as you are shopping. Most of the stores are primarily for high-end shoppers, but a lot of what they sell is affordable and exclusive. This is what makes Washington DC Shopping so special: You can shop in big-time stores without having to spend a fortune.

Map of Hotels in Washington DC

  1. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – Find hotels Near Alexandria and National Harbor
  2. Washington Downtown – Find hotels Near College Park and Chillum
  3. George Washington University  – Find hotels Near Arlington and Westover Village
  4. White House  – Find hotels Near Edgewood and Colmar Manor
  5. Vietnam Memorial – Find hotels Near Cleveland Park and Rock Creek Park
  6. Takoma Park – Find hotels Near Bethesda and Rock Creek Park
  7. Washington Dulles International Airport – Find hotels Near Willard and Oak Hill
  8. National Gallery of Art – Find hotels Near Chantilly and Fair Lakes