A Historical Vacation to Capital Washington, D.C.
You’re probably familiar with Washington, DC as the capital of the United States, and it’s true that you can find all sorts of historically and culturally significant sights within it. From museums to war memorials to government buildings, it’s definitely the headquarters of the nation. There are other parts to the city, however. It’s home to everything from quirky little shops and boutiques to sprawling wilderness reserves filled with waterfalls and hundred-year-old oak trees. It’s much more diverse than you might think! Are you wondering what to do in Washington, DC? Here are some of the best things to do in DC.
1. Lincoln Memorial
Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District’s many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers’ favorites. History buffs might enjoy the man of few (albeit powerful) words’ two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, which are both etched into the memorial’s opposing walls. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building’s striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away. Though most agree the Lincoln Memorial is worth checking out during the day or at night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is after dark when the attraction is lit and less crowded. Plus, evening temps will make peak summer visits more comfortable.
2. The Tidal Basin
If you’ve never been to D.C. before, plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River and serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.’s best-loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin bursts with color as cherry blossom trees (gifted to D.C. from Tokyo) bloom into cotton candy-colored tufts, and they attract hordes of visitors. You can follow the path that leads around the basin, but many recent visitors recommended testing the waters in a paddleboat. Even if you don’t make it to town for the cherry blossoms, you won’t want to miss the three memorials that can be found along the Tidal Basin’s shores: the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
3. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Attracting millions of people each year, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum contains a trove of celebrated aircraft, including Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and Wilbur and Orville Wright’s 1903 Wright Flyer, among others. Exhibits include a flight simulator, an IMAX theater, and the Einstein Planetarium. And parents beware: The three-level gift shop is huge, so get ready for pleas from your kids.
4. The White House and the Washington Monument
Even if you’re only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marbleized symbols of the free world – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor. At 555 feet and 5 inches, the Washington Monument (at its completion in 1884) was the tallest structure in the world. And nowadays, you can ride one of the monument’s glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city.
5. World War II Memorial
A popular memorial, the World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to the 400,000-plus Americans who died during the war. A circle of 56 pilings (representing the then 56 U.S. states and territories) looks over the Rainbow Pool. At night, with lights shining, this memorial can be quite ethereal. Past visitors said they felt inspired after visiting the World War II Memorial. Though you’ll rub elbows with other tourists in the spring and summer, previous travelers suggest timing your visit during one of these seasons so you can enjoy the memorial’s fountains and waterfalls.