Things to do in Washington DC

Whether you’re after history, art or stunning urban design, there are things to do in Washington, DC that cater to every taste. This is a location where museums and monuments sit comfortably next to upmarket eating precincts, world-class shopping boutiques, and carefully manicured parks. With so many sights and experiences to choose from, it’s a destination to settle into and explore at your leisure.

Lincoln Memorial

This is a place to pause and reflect on the price of liberty and freedom. The Lincoln Memorial overlooks the National Mall and pays homage to one of the most important presidents, and eras, in American history. Lincoln sits on permanent watch near the Potomac River, looking up towards Capitol Hill and paints an enduring image of Washington D.C.
Statue of Abraham Lincoln on display at the Lincoln Memorial

The White House

Home to the president and enshrined in global history, the White House and its grounds sit perpendicular to the National Mall. If you're looking to gain an in-depth appreciation of this iconic building, large swathes of the grounds are open for you to explore. Take time to browse in the visitor's centre, which includes artefacts and exhibitions that tell the story of the White House as a national symbol, stage, and home.
Facade of the front of the White House

Washington Monument

Built to honour America's first president, the Washington Monument quietly towers over Washington D.C. This 555ft marble obelisk is the tallest monumental column in the world and features a fascinating construction history. Although building began in 1844, it stood unfinished for 23 years due to the American Civil War and a shortage of funds.
View of the Washington Monument against the lake

Capitol Building

Instantly recognisable, the Capitol Building is the heart of US government and overlooks the National Mall. The beautifully landscaped gardens around the building are open to the public. Enjoy taking time out to view the ornate fountains and numerous monuments. Meanwhile, guided tours of the building's interior are also available, providing a more personal insight into the world's most influential democracy.
The United States Capitol Building


In an era of spin and fake news, Washington D.C.'s Newseum seems more relevant than ever. Highlighting and defending the importance of free expression, there are seven levels of interactive displays to explore, including 15 galleries and 15 theatres. See exhibits from historic newsworthy events like sections of the Berlin Wall and the broadcast antenna from the top of the World Trade Centre.
The Newseum: Museum of News in Washington DC

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Casting a watchful gaze directly towards the White House is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. This hallowed monument sits on the shores of the Potomac River, paying tribute to the third president of the United States and one of America's founding fathers. Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and is widely credited as an architect of the American Revolution.
Sunrise over the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin

Smithsonian Space Museum

Described as a museum that goes ‘above and beyond', the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is home to exhibitions and collections that chart the history and progression of aviation. With a focus on the invention and development of flight – both in and out of this world – here you'll find the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artefacts in the world, including the Apollo 11 command module.
Inside the National Air and Space Museum

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The simple yet strikingly beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial honours over 58,000 Americans who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. Symbolising far more than the fallen, it reflects America's coming of age during the tumultuous period of the 1960s and ‘70s. The name of every soldier who lost their life is inscribed here, etched into a gabbro rock wall that reflects the National Mall.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. © 2015 DiscoverAmerica.com

National Museum of African American History

The National Museum of African American History is another venue run by the Smithsonian Institution. Opened in 2016, it's dedicated to documenting the African American experience –covering slavery and the civil rights movement – and tackles the bigger theme of what it means to be an American. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time here, as there are over 3,500 artefacts covering everything from African American music to politics to athletics.
Exterior of the National Museum of African American History. © 2015 DiscoverAmerica.com

National Museum of Natural History

From cursed diamonds to a life-sized display of human evolution, the National Museum of Natural History is home to over 125 impressive specimens, cultural artefacts, and most famous relics in the world. Enjoy interactive displays and enough facts to blow your mind. Find the Museum of Natural History on the National Mall.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

As a living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is designed to inspire people to confront hatred and promote human dignity. The museum includes items, personal histories and footage from the Holocaust. It also extends to more recent events in Cambodia with a message to prevent history from repeating itself. You'll find the Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall, just south of Independence Avenue.

International Spy Museum

Opened in 2002, the International Spy Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the secretive world of espionage. This usually invisible profession is laid out for all to see through a huge collection of artefacts that wouldn't look out of place in a James Bond film – think guns disguised as torches and cameras hidden in combs. Fortunately, the museum itself isn't difficult to find, located in the Penn Quarter.