Updated: Jul 11
Some cities have so much history and are in a lot of movies/tv shows that you HAVE to check the tourist-y stuff off the bucket list! DC is one of those cities. To save you time on curating your itinerary, here are some of the best things to do in Washington, D.C.
Union Market, DC
I visited Washington, DC for the first time in the summer of 2021 just as the US started to open post-pandemic. Since I was only there for a day, we planned our itinerary in advance so we would be efficient and stay within budget.
“I was looking forward to being at this memorial because I’ve seen it many times in movies/TV shows like Scandal, National Treasure and Designated Survivor.”
Expectation: You will walk A LOT! And in over 90F weather, it’s no joke!
Wear comfortable shoes
I underestimated how much walking would be required but that’s what the rental bikes or scooters are for. Since I visited on one of the hottest days (it was 93F or 33C), we rented a bike from the Washington Monument to see the remaining sites. The bike (App: CaBi) cost $8/day or $2 for 30mins – and it made a HUGE difference! We were able to visit 7 locations in 7 hours!
Take a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated
Don’t forget those sunglasses. It’s hard to make this work with eyelashes on though, so adapt accordingly.
Expectation: DC is an expensive city!
Tip: To save money, commute on public transportation. We started off the day by taking the subway and buses later on. It’s relatively easy to navigate once you pick up a map. If you’re unsure how to begin, you can always ask a subway staff or the bus driver for help or to confirm directions
Tourist Attractions To Visit
The following are the top tourist sites to visit to get a sense of the city and its history.
1. The White House
Of course this is the first attraction on the list.
The White House is home to the President and First family (Moneybagg Joe as of 2021)! When we visited there was an additional barricade that was put up during Trump’s era after the Black Lives Matter protests from George Floyd’s murder. However you can still take the obligatory tourist pictures from a distance here.
2. Washington Monument
The Washington monument was built to honor George Washington’s (First President of the United States) for his leadership in the American Revolution. It’s 555ft tall to signify the awe and respect the nation felt for Washington. Under normal circumstances, visitors can take an elevator up to the top of the monument. However, due to the pandemic, it was closed. Next time…
3. National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the US and the contributions of blacks you definitely want to visit the NMAAHC. It is the world’s largest museum dedicated to African-American history and culture. We saved this visit for another day due to COVID restrictions and the insanely long lines. It seemed like it needed its own separate day trip.
4. Lincoln Memorial
I was looking forward to being at this memorial because I’ve seen it many times in movies/TV shows like Scandal, National Treasure and Designated Survivor. Also because Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the US) made significant contributions to the liberation of blacks. It’s also famously known as the site where Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech took place. As expected there were a lot of tourists here but you can still get a quick picture.
5. WWII Memorial
This is between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. As the name indicates, the memorial recognizes WWII veterans for their service.
6. Union Market
Union Market is DC’s hippest bazaar that hosts a variety of local food vendors selling traditional American and cuisines from other cultures. You can grab your food and head to the rooftop or you can stay indoors if you prefer.
Union Market rooftop & entrance
7. A University Campus
Like Boston, DC is home to many universities. We visited Howard for obvious reasons (Chadwick Boseman, Kamala Harris) and for its reputation, which unfortunately did not translate in real life. Other universities to consider checking out include Georgetown University or George Washington University.