There is plenty to do in Washington, D.C. One could spend weeks there and not see everything the city has to offer. If your trip is short and you only have time for a few activities, here is a list that mixes major tourist attractions with some out of the way hidden gems.
Beginning at the back of the Capitol building and ending at the Potomac River, the National Mall is home to D.C.’s famous memorials and monuments. You can find the iconic Washington Monument here as well as the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and World War II Memorial. It also boasts the world class Smithsonian Museums. The lawn of the National Mall is a beautiful space for walking and picnicking and, in the spring, viewing of the famous cherry blossoms.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
The 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman. So it’s fitting that the island named after him features miles of trails and beautiful foliage. It was designed to honor him and to be a peaceful oasis in the midst of the big city. The island sits in the Potomac River and can be reached by car, bicycle, or foot. It is open year round and there are no entrance fees.
Inside the grounds of the National Zoo, you would never know that the busy city is right outside the gates. Home to the famous Giant Panda exhibit and many other animals, the zoo is perfect for families with children of any age. Enjoy daily animal training, feedings, and talks by various keepers. The zoo is open year round (except for Christmas Day) and admission is free. There are winter hours for certain exhibits, so please check before visiting.
The National Arboretum houses interesting and educational exhibits such as a grove featuring every state’s tree, an herb garden, and a bonsai museum. One of D.C.’s most notable landmarks, the Capitol Columns is housed here as well. Open year round, each exhibit specializes in teaching about the plants shown during the season in which you are visiting, which means that even in the winter, there are opportunities to learn and see natural beauty. The National Arboretum is closed on Christmas Day. The Bonsai Museum is additionally closed on federal holidays.
President Lincoln’s Cottage
President Lincoln’s Cottage does require an entrance fee, but it is a lovely place to visit and to learn more about Lincoln, his ideas, leadership, and work. He and his family lived in the cottage, instead of the White House, for three summers during the Civil War. It is here that Lincoln wrote his famous Emancipation Proclamation. As one of history’s most famous leaders, this is definitely a place to visit and learn about bravery and courage. It is recommended that you purchase tickets in advance, but not required.
United States Botanic Garden
The U.S. Botanic Garden is one of the oldest of its kind. Our first president, George Washington, had a vision for a botanic garden in his plans as part of the nation’s capital city. Here, you can learn about plants and how they are used for sustainability and the well-being of our nation and world. The garden includes rare plants as well as different growing environments and is a peaceful setting to relax and slow down while enjoying the beauty found here year round.