Washington, D.C. is one of the best cities in the country, it’s booming with culture and history and has experienced some explosive growth in the last few years, even earning its way on the list of must-visit places in North America in 2024! Whether you’re a local Washingtonian who’s been in D.C. all your life or a transplant who’s just gotten into town, here are our 25 top picks for things to do around D.C. that everyone should experience at least once.
1. This one is obvious, visit each of D.C.’s many free museums
You’re not taking advantage of what D.C. has to offer as a city if you’re not taking advantage of the free museums that D.C. has, not only can these museums be a fun experience, but they are also culturally enriching!
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of American History
- National Museum of Natural History
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- National Gallery of Art
- Smithsonian Institution Building
- Smithsonian Institution Building
- Hirshhorn Museum
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- National Museum of the American Indian
- African American Civil War Memorial
- United States Botanic Garden
2. Cheer on a D.C. sports team in person at a game!
Even though the Wizards and Capitals are planning to relocate to NoVa in a few years, they’re still located at Capital One Arena right in the middle of the city! Wizards and Capitals games, along with Nationals games, are an incredible way to show off your Washingtonian pride and experience what it truly means to be from one of the best cities in the country!
3. Shed a few tears on the D.C. Metro
It’s okay, we get it, it’s completely normal for people in the most overworked and loneliest city in the Country to get overwhelmed from time to time. If you need a place to let loose a few years or have a little cry, you can always check out our list of places to cry that locals have recommended to us.
The perfect plan for friends, family, or even loved ones, this 3D art exhibit is one of a kind and the perfect unique plan that is perfect for any occasion. Their current exhibit, Beyond the Light, takes you on a trip through outer space seeing the beauty of the stars and far-away solar systems that make for incredible visuals.
5. Have a picnic at Hains Point
These breathtaking views and comfortable picnic tables are the perfect place for an outdoor picnic with friends, family, or even that special someone! Not only is there a ton of lush green grass and a ton of space to run around and place games, but you can also get some incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding area.
6. See the Cherry Blossoms bloom at the Tidal Basin in Spring
Easily one of the most romantic places in the world during peak Cherry Blossom season, and that’s not a biased opinion, if you haven’t taken an evening spring walk with a loved one by the Tidal Basin to see the Cherry Blossoms then you are definitely missing out.
7. Witness the Changing of the Guard at the Arlington National Cemetery
This touching and chilling ceremony that takes place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery every 30 minutes between April 1st and September 30th and every hour between October 1st and March 31st, is an experience that every Washingtonian should experience at least once. Witnessing the Changing of the Guard ceremony in person and seeing the vastness of Arlington National Cemetery may be a riveting or triggering experience, but it is certainly something that we consider a rite of passage for those coming to or living in this city.
8. Spend an afternoon walking around Georgetown
There is a long list of things to do in Georgetown, so it’s easy to spend a lot more than just one afternoon there walking around honestly, but it is still something you have to do if you haven’t yet. Even if you want to walk along the Potomac River, where there are a series of parks to stroll through, the amount of unique history to learn and fun local businesses to check out make this mini trip worth it!
9. Ride the Capital Wheel at National Harbor
While this isn’t exactly right in the heart of Downtown D.C., taking a ride on the Capital Wheel at National Harbor is one of our favorite quick trips to do around D.C. with anyone who hasn’t gone yet. National Habor is not only filled with fun local businesses and cute stores to check out right on the waterfront but is also packed with great places to eat, making it a great weekend-day trip every Washingtonian should do at least once. Currently, there’s even the immersive and educational experience “Titanic. The Exhibition” being hosted there, which just adds to the list of reasons why you should visit sooner than later!
10. Experience the International Spy Museum
Being considered one of the most exciting, interactive, and fun museums to visit in all of D.C. is not an easy title to come by, but that’s exactly what the International Spy Museum is in our opinion! Not only is the museum filled with interesting stories and gadgets from different eras of the spy world, but it also has several unique exhibits that make for a fun time for the whole family, such as its upcoming exhibit dedicated specifically to the various cars featured in James Bond films over the years!
11. Step into an art masterpiece at the Van Gogh Immersive Experience
One of the most incredible and visually captivating experiences going on around D.C., the Van Gogh Immersive Experience is so much more than just an incredibly photogenic event, it’s a gateway to getting people to care about quality artwork! You get to step directly into several of Van Gogh’s top masterpieces in 3D to experience some of history’s greatest art the way it has never been before.
12. Witness the 4th of July Firework show over the Potomac River
If there is one day of the year that D.C. does like no other city in the country, it is 100% the 4th of July. Between the pageantry of the city itself and the fireworks display over the Potomac, this is something that everyone living in D.C. needs to experience before they can consider themselves a Washingtonian! Despite the massive influx of tourists every year for the 4th, it is still one of the days of the year that makes us the most proud to call D.C. our home.
13. Attend one of D.C.’s Candlelight Concert events
One of the most unique experiences you can get in Washington D.C. is to experience some of the beautiful shows that this city hosts throughout the year, and it doesn’t get more intimate and romantic than D.C.’sCandlelight Concerts . These shows often perform classical music in some of D.C.’s most unique and impressive settings, creating a fun and memorable evening for anyone who attends.
14. Visit the many dedicated Memorials and Monuments scattered around D.C.
Beyond D.C.’s incredible free museums that every Washingtonian should visit, there is also a list of monuments and memorials that should be on your bucket list if you haven’t visited them already. Yes, we know there are some touristy spots on this list, but the reality is that some of us take them for granted and haven’t taken the time to get up and close to them, which is something we think is important for everyone to do from time to time.
- The Lincoln Memorial
- The Washington Monument
- World War II Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials
- The Jefferson Memorial
15. Take a guided walking tour of the US Capitol
Yes, once again, we know this is totally for tourists and you probably think we’re transplants for recommending a tour of the Capitol, but the reality is that there is so much information to learn that is truly interesting! After all, how can you claim D.C. as your home and let some intern who’s been in D.C. for just a few weeks school you on your own city’s history?
16. Visit the White House during the holiday season
In our opinion, visiting the White House is not something necessary to do more than once, but that still means you should at least make the effort to go one time while you’re living in D.C., which is why we recommend you plan a trip during the holiday season. Not only will you get the standard tour of the White House with all the usual information and insights, but you’ll also get the added experience of being able to see that year’s unique holiday display, which has historically been developed by the First Lady. This way, in case there is any drama to discuss regarding the design you can at least say you’ve seen it in person when you talk about it with your friends or family!
17. Check out the biggest library in the world, the Library of Congress
The biggest library in the world is quite the place to get some work done, it’s one of our favorite little escapes within the city that so many people overlook! Even if it’s just to check the place out and walk around inside, it’s worth it to take the time and spend some time inside the Library of Congress.
18. Escape the city for a hike at one of the beautiful natural parks in the DMV area
Washington D.C. is surrounded by some of the most incredible nature in all of the country! Just a short drive away to National Parks filled with everything from incredible mountain hikes to sandy beaches along the Atlantic, it’s definitely worth taking the time to explore all the nearby nature that D.C. has to offer.
19. See a live show at the 9:30 Club
So much more than just your run-of-the-mill venue, the 9:30 Club is one of D.C.’s most iconic venues to catch your favorite performers at! Not only has it been considered one of the best concert venues in the country time and time again, but it was even voted one of Rolling Stone’s top 10 music venues back in 2018.
20. Visit The Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Despite the Smithsonian National Zoo recently losing its beloved Panda Bears, it remains one of the best zoos to visit in the entire nation! Not only is it the perfect family-friendly day plan, but it is also an exciting thing to do with friends if you’re looking for something to do on the weekend, so honestly you don’t need to be a little kid to visit it and have a fun time.
21. Take a tour to see George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate
Taking a tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is truly an interesting and eye-opening experience that everyone should experience at least once. The tour is informative and paints a true-to-history picture of who George Washington was and how he came to be the first president of the United States of America, we can’t recommend this one enough!
22. Go kayaking on the Potomac
For one of the more unique ways to take in the city and its incredible sites, renting a few kayaks with friends or even taking a guided tour on the water is a fun experience that will produce laughs and make for some great pictures!
23. Explore the National Cathedral
Take in the impressive gothic-style architecture of the Washington National Cathedral and walk around its impressive gardens for an interesting experience. Its impressive size and beautiful interior make for a quiet escape from the city’s craziness and foster a sense of historical connection and spiritual reflection!
24. Take the time to visit Dopamine Land for a completely immersive sensory experience
Dopamine Land is a temporary event currently taking place in D.C. that happens to be our new favorite thing! The immersive experience is fun and exciting, makes for a hilariously fun experience, and the best part is that it is so photo-friendly that you’ll be able to take some incredible pictures and make memories that will last a lifetime.
25. Wander around the U Street Corridor
Truly capturing the city’s rich cultural history and its roots in jazz, food, and nightlife, the U Street Corridor is a must-visit place for everyone living in D.C. that can’t be ignored. You get to see things that range from historical landmarks like the Lincoln Theatre to modern street art and new trendy places to go out for dinner or drinks!