You are here

3 Days & Nights in the Nation’s Capital

Mix museums and monuments with DC’s vibrant neighborhoods

Washington, DC is, of course, the capital city of the United States of America. The city’s iconic monuments, memorials and museums that many have only seen in history books or on television are larger than life on the National Mall. If this is your first time in DC, you’ll want to hit all the major must-see attractions. But save some time to explore DC’s vibrant neighborhoods off the Mall as well. The District, as it’s known to locals, truly offers something for everyone with its international flare and homegrown restaurants and shops. Read on for our recommendations for a long weekend in the nation’s capital

Day 1

Morning:

Start your morning with a light breakfast and get your bearings at the Smithsonian Institution Building, otherwise known as The Castle. Located on the National Mall (at the Smithsonian Metro stop), this red brick building houses the Smithsonian’s visitor center and an introductory film that will help you map out your day. The Smithsonian is a collection of museums, many of them located on the National Mall, including the National Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery of Art. You won’t be able to get to them all, but selecting two or three that interest you will give you the flavor of this world famous (and world’s largest) museum and research complex.

Mid-Day:

In between museums tours, stop for a leisurely lunch. Try out one of the restaurants in Penn Quarter (near the National Gallery of Art), like The Source by Wolfgang PuckPing Pong Dim Sum or Jaleo.

Evening:

Post-museum hopping, end your evening with a tour of DC’s iconic monuments and memorials by moonlight with Old Town Trolley Tours. The monuments and memorials look majestic by day, but by night—when they’re all lit up—they look magical.

Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall - Washington, DC

Day 2

Morning:

Start your day with the 70-second elevator ride to the top of the Washington Monument. You’ll get a 360-degree view of the nation’s capital and learn all about George Washington and the early history of the city. Note that free tickets are distributed first come, first serve starting at 8:30 a.m. and go quickly. Tickets can also be reserved in advance online with a $1.50 service fee.

Mid-Day:

Take a bike or segway, via Bike and Roll or Segs in the City, to get a new view of the memorials on the National Mall, including the Jefferson MemorialLincoln MemorialVietnam Veterans MemorialMartin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. After your guided tour, head to Dupont Circle for lunch, an always bustling neighborhood that many locals call home. Try casual Greek cuisine at Zorba’s or go for fresh seafood and tasty sides at Hank’s Oyster Bar.

Evening:

Still in search of a stellar view of DC’s iconic attractions? Head to the W Hotel’s P.O.V Rooftop and Lounge. The all weather hot spot offers food, cocktails and a bird’s eye view of the White House. It’s so close you can see the Secret Service standing guard on the White House roof.

Day 3

Morning:

Start your day in historic Georgetown. The quaint yet posh neighborhood offers a number of options for a bountiful brunch, like Seasons at The Four Seasons (also a great place to spot DC’s politicos having a power breakfast) or Sequoia on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Mid-Day:

Do some shopping on Georgetown’s main drag, M Street, and then do some sightseeing in the historic neighborhood. Dumbarton House, the Old Stone House and Tudor Place all offer a glimpse into what it was like to live in DC in previous generations.

Evening:

Explore DC’s nightlife on U Street. From high energy nightclubs to laid back bars, there’s a spot for everybody’s after-hours style. Take in some live jazz at Twins Jazz; visit the Black Cat for live acts on two stages; or have a late dinner at the the always bustling Le Diplomate.

Find more inspiration for DC by day and by night with our itineraries by season.