Nestled on the East Coast of the United States, Washington D.C. is a capital city that’s perfect for a first-time visit to the east coast. This special city is home to many amazing sights, from the home of the United States’ President to delicious food, historic national monuments and old colonial sites.
If it’s your first time to the city, you’ll want to see some of the best, world-renowned sights in the city and no doubt your action-packed planning will mean one thing… there won’t be a moment to rest (there’s a lot to see in the city).
Take a look below at the very best places to see on your very first visit to Washington D.C. :
1.) Go Inside The White House
A trip to the nation’s capital just wouldn’t seem complete without a visit to the White House. With its famous address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House is the primary living and working space of the President of the United States.
We can all stand outside the property’s gates and marvel at the world’s most famous house but getting inside is a little trickier. For obvious reasons, security here is tight! If you want to be able to actually go inside the White House and tour it, you have to submit a tour request through your Member of Congress. Not from the U.S.? Not a problem! Simply contact your country’s embassy in Washington, D.C., for help with submitting a tour request.
All requests should be done well in advance! Don’t expect to rock up and just be allowed in! 😉
2.) Stroll the National Mall
A perfect starting point for some of the most famous museums and monuments in the city, the National Mall. The mall itself is a long strip of grassy park and pond area, which stretches from the Capitol building in the east to the Lincoln Memorial in the west. Take a stroll across the mall, which is especially great on a sunny day!
3.) Visit the U.S. Capitol Building
Home of the U.S. legislature, the Capitol building is full of lawmakers and politicians that help decide what goes on in the country and is one building that us visitors can still go into and tour! For tours of the Capitol, you can contact your state Senator or Representative (if you live in the US), who will give you a pass that allows access to the building. Alternatively, if you’re visiting from another country, you can purchase tickets for an official tour, just outside.
4.) Gorge on delicious food
Whilst wandering around this fabulous city, don’t forget to gorge on its delicious foody joints like the Good Stuff Eatery where you can devour some of the city’s yummiest burgers and creamy shakes! For something a little special, head towards Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier where you can sit back, relax and enjoy their incredible tasting menu.
If you’re hankering for a sweet treat, pop over to Georgetown Cupcake where they have a dizzying selection of freshly-baked cupcakes in every imaginable taste! Their coconut cupcakes are delicious!
5.) Tour the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is both the world’s largest library and the oldest cultural institution in the whole country. Try taking a free, one-hour guided tour of the building, which is great for us history buffs. Various exhibitions and galleries can also be found here, showing some of the very best collections in the Library.
6.) Explore at the Smithsonian Museums
With 18 world-class institutions in the D.C. area alone, you can be sure that there is going to be a Smithsonian Museum which interests you! A few of the most notable museums to see are the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of American History. Since these three are located right on the Mall itself, it makes for easy access after your stroll.
Other museums worth a visit might be the African-American History and Culture Museum, the American Art Museum, and the National Zoological Park. For a complete listing of the museums available, take a look here.
7.) See the Lincoln Memorial
No trip to D.C. would be complete without a stop next to Abe Lincoln on the Lincoln Memorial! Certainly one of the most iconic memorials in the city, the Lincoln Memorial sits at the west end of the National Mall, just on the edge of the Potomac River. Once you’ve taken your picture with the seated, marble version of the nation’s 16th President, be sure to turn around to take in the gorgeous views of the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument, which is perfect to see around sunset.
Looking for a swish place to stay? Make sure you check out the gorgeous Dupont Circle that has a pretty epic rooftop bar.
8.) Indulge your inner spy at the International Spy Museum
Who hasn’t dreamt about being a spy at least once in their life? If you’re anything like me it will have crossed your mind at least once!
The museum houses the largest collection of espionage items in the world and offers a uniquely global perspective on the importance and impact of spies. With plenty of exhibitions and interactive displays and even a lipstick pistol from 1965… how very James Bond!
9.) Learn at the National Zoological Park
A trip to D.C. doesn’t have to be solely about memorials and history. Why not spend a day visiting the National Zoological Park! It’s free, open 364 days of the year, and has giant pandas too! What more could you possibly want? Located slightly north of the downtown area, the zoo also has features on big cats, apes, and reptiles and supports many educational programs that support endangered species.
10.) Step back in time in Alexandria, Virginia
Technically not in Washington D.C., Alexandria is right across the river, and certainly worth a trip! This beautiful old colonial town is a major part of the D.C. area, allowing for visitors to escape the more governmental parts of D.C. and stroll the cosy old streets that line this area.
Known for its 18th and 19th-century architecture, fabulous restaurants, boutiques, and its arts and culture scene, Alexandria is one little spot you should definitely explore. If you feel like making an extra trip a little further south, be sure to check out Mount Vernon, the former estate of the nation’s first president, George Washington.
If you feel like making an extra trip a little further south, be sure to check out Mount Vernon, the former estate of the nation’s first president, George Washington.