Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.

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Whether your coming to DC for a weekend getaway, or a long awaited family road trip, or looking to break away for a day trip, DC has a lot to consider and a lot to offer just about any traveler. Here is the best advice for planning a trip to Washington, DC. including the top five things to consider about DC.

An Ideal Weekend Trip to Washington, DC for Families


Families with a weekend to spend in Washington, DC will find a number of kid-friendly activities to occupy their time. The National Zoo should be at the top of the list, as well as kid-friendly museums such as the Natural History, American History, and Air and Space Museum down on the National Mall, or the National Building Museum, which all offer hands-on experiences. Nationals Park is particularly family-friendly if visiting in baseball season and catching the Capitals (hockey), Mystics (basketball), or Wizards (basketball) at the Verizon Center is always a treat for young sports fans. A little off the beaten path, head to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and watch money get printed. Many of DC’s restaurants offer kids menus, but the Ted’s Bulletin and Clyde’s restaurants are particularly family-friendly with great kids menus and activities to keep the little ones occupied.

An Ideal Day Trip to Washington, DC for Families


In good weather, families with only a day to enjoy DC should prioritize the National Zoo. Kids will love checking out the animals and there are a number of easy lunch options in the neighborhood. If the weather isn’t cooperating, head to the very kid-friendly National Building Museum or the National Museum of American History, which has special experiences for kids 6 to 12 (Spark!Lab, a hands-on workshop) and those under 5 (Wonderplace, a discovery zone for the littlest tourists).

An Ideal Weekend Trip to Washington, DC for Couples


There are a lot of options for couples in DC for a weekend. Treat yourselves to cocktails in an exciting venue like POV Roof Terrace at the top of the W Hotel for a spectacular view of the city of Round Robin at the Willard, a “lively meeting place for Washington, DC’s political and social elite since the days of Abraham Lincoln.” Then take a romantic nighttime stroll around the monuments—incredibly beautiful when lit up—before dinner at one of DC’s many top-notch restaurants. Take in a performance at the Kennedy Center, which offers all sorts of entertainment at all price ranges, including free, or visit a museum, such as the Hirshorn or the Phillips Collection. Walk around Georgetown and take the ferry to tour Old Town Alexandria. Couples looking to get active can hike Great Falls or bike out to Mount Vernon.

An Ideal Day Trip to Washington, DC for Couples

For couples that only have a day in DC, start off by visiting Eastern Market, where you can peruse the vendors and enjoy street performances before heading to a late brunch at Monmarte or Belga Café. Round out the day with a visit to the Phillips Collection or a walk through Rock Creek Park.

#1: DC is a Capitol & City

DC is both our Nation’s Capitol and a vibrant, living city. Contrary to how it is sometimes portrayed by politicians or the news media, DC is a real, functioning city. Take some time to research what’s going to be going on in DC during your visit. This will warn you about things that may inconvenience you—from large scale international summits or government shutdowns to routine maintenance on metro—and inform you about bonus activities—like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival or a free outdoor movie—you may have otherwise missed.

#2: Make a Plan


DC offers a wide variety of things to do. The traditional tourist destinations on and off the National Mall could fill a week if you really wanted to (did you know that the Smithsonian is 19 different museums, not just one?). Some destinations require significant advance planning, such as requesting a White House tour via your congressional representative. Take a survey of all DC has to offer and align it with the interests of your groups so you can make the most of your time here.

#3: How Active Do You Want to Be?


DC is a very walkable city, which is fantastic for visitors who are willing and able to traverse the city on foot, or even by bike. But not everyone is up for this (for example, it’s two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial) so investigate your alternatives. Traffic and parking can be a nightmare and there is little parking around the National Mall. Consider if you’re willing to navigate the city’s metro and bus systems, or if you’re able to spring for cabs. Maybe a sightseeing bus tour is your best option. Fortunately, there are options for everyone.

#4: Prepare for the Weather


Be sure to keep an eye on the local forecast as you pack for your trip to DC. The heat and humidity can hit as early as May, so throw a hat and cool clothes into your suitcase along with a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, and a portable umbrella in case one of the area’s common early evening thunderstorms. Winter weather can be extremely variable—temperatures in the 60s one day to blizzard-like conditions the next. Pack layers and options for very cold, windy, wet weather.

#5: Find a Hidden Gem


For most visitors, the itinerary can be pretty predictable, revolving around the National Mall. DC has much more to offer. Do a little digging and find something a little big off the beaten path, whether it’s the Bonzai museum at the National Arboretum, Abraham Lincoln’s summer cottage, or one of DC’s many local breweries, there are many unique experiences to be had once you venture off the National Mall.