The Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Washington DC – Our nation’s capitol. Nowhere else in the United States will you find so many family friendly and “free” attractions. Most of the largest tourist attractions are centrally located in the National Mall area which allows for easy navigation. The most popular time of year to visit is during spring when the cherry blossoms (1912 gifts from Japan) are in full bloom. Once you’re here, though, where do you go to make the most of your time? Well, we here at I Walked have compiled our favorite recommendations for Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Washington D.C.
It’s no irony that the tallest building in Washington D.C. (By law) presents the greatest views of the city. You can ride the elevator to top of the 555 foot white stone obelisk whereby park rangers will explain the history of this long-in-the-works building. Approved for construction in 1783, it was not formally completed until 1885. From the outside you can even see two different hues of stone which show when construction was temporarily stopped during the Civil War. The color differentiation is due to builders having to obtain the stones from a different quarry post-war.
Address: 1600 Independence Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C.
Cost: Free, but you do need to book a ticket in advance via the website above.
This historic building may appear to turn its back on visitors whilst facing east (away from the National Mall to the west), you should definitely not turn your back on it. Within its impressive walls you may view where laws are passed within the Senate and House or enjoy the 4,644 square foot ceiling fresco, the Apotheosis of Washington. This painting depicts our 1st president, becoming a god. A visitation to the cafeteria is guaranteed to offer bean soup, as this menu item is required by law since the early 1900s.
Address: Entrance is at the Eastern front on First Street and East Capitol Street, NE, Washington, D.C.
Cost: Free, but the tour pass is required. Tours are recommended to be booked in advance; however, a limited number of tickets are available daily at the Information Desk in Emancipation Hall on the lower level of the U.S. Capitol.
The rooms for visitation are somewhat limited, including the cleverly titled Blue, Green and Red Rooms. No visit to Washington, D.C., however, would be complete without a stop to the home of every president since John Adams.
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C.
Cost: Free, however, tours must be scheduled through your appropriate Member of Congress 1-6 months in advance of your planned visit.
The stoic 19 foot white marble statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln sends shivers down your spine. Daniel Chester French’s depiction is incredibly ornate in detail situated within a 36 Doric columned hall (representing the number of states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s presidency). At the base of the monument is the infamous reflection pool providing impressive views of the Washington Monument.
Address: Intersection of Independence Ave SW & 23rd St SW.
The most popular of the 19 Smithsonian museums, the National Air and Space Museum provides a hands-on opportunity for families to learn and experience the history of flight. Here you can see the original Wright Brothers airplane, the Apollo 11 command module or the original model for the Star Trek Enterprise. Time permitting, you can also visit the Albert Einstein Planetarium or one of the many IMAX films offered. Do not leave without letting the kids touch an actual moon rock!
Address: Independence Ave at 6th Street, SW, Washington D.C.
Segregated into 2 wings, the museum timelines its collection of 100,000+ pieces of art. Within the west wing (designed by John Russell Pope, best known for designing the Jefferson Memorial) are treasures dating from the 13th to 19th centuries. Here you will find the only DA Vinci painting within the United States. Working your way to the east wing (designed by I.M. Poe, who also designed the pyramid outside of the Louvre in Paris), you may enjoy more compositions of modern art.
Address: 4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who also created that small park in New York known as Central Park), this is another surprisingly free attraction (well, less the parking). Famous residents have included pandas from China (still a popular attraction) and Smokey the Bear. Kids will get a kick out of watching the orangutans traveling across the Orangutan Transport System (O-Line) over their heads within the Think Tank.
Address: 3001 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C.
Cost: Admission is free, however, parking is $10 for 1 hour, $15 for 2-3 hours, and $20 for greater than 3 hours.
Famous for its University, the streets of Georgetown are where you’ll likely want to go for shopping, restaurants and enjoying the old architecture along M Street. The Old Stone House at 3051 M Street is the oldest home in the area dating back to 1765. For shopping/commerce, check out Wisconsin Ave.
Address: 37th and O Street, NW, Washington, DC. (Note: Address is from Georgetown University—a popular attraction. Otherwise, take a stroll along Wisconsin Ave, NW.)
Cost: Depends on how much you eat/drink.
The 6th largest cathedral in the world took almost a full century to complete (1907-1990). A single visit will confirm it was worth the wait. Visit the cathedral for mass (as every president since Theodore Roosevelt has) or for a tour. The gothic structure contains over 200 stained-glass windows, gargoyles and the face of Darth Vader (as alluded to in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol). For information on how to find the Star Wars villain, check out http://www.nationalcathedral.org/about/darthVader.shtml.
Address: 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington D.C.
Cost: Requested donation of $5.
If you are lucky enough to come to Washington D.C. When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, there is no more beautiful locale to experience them than outside of this monument. Sometimes neglected as it has been relegated to the southern point of the National Mall just behind the Tidal Basin. A visit to reflect and enjoy the John Russell Pope structure which celebrates our 3rd president (and author of the Declaration of Independence) is well worth the extra hike.
Address: Intersection of Ohio Drive SW & E Basin Drive SW, Washington D.C.
Finally the opportunity for children and adults alike to live out their James Bond-like fantasies. Take part in “Spy in the City” or “Operation Spy” and become an actual agent. For the lazier amongst us who just want to learn about the history of espionage from Moses to the Cold War, the museum offers this opportunity as well. No guarantees that the eye will not be watching your every move.
Address: 800 F Street Northwest, Washington D.C.
Cost: $18 Adult and $15 Children (Ages 5-11)