The Tidal Basin

#3 in Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
The Tidal Basin  picture1 of 4
The Tidal Basin 2 of 4
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Key Info

West Potomac Park

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.6

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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 paddle boat. Paddle boats are available to rent starting March 15 for $18 per hour for a two-passenger boat or $30 per hour for a four-passenger boat. You can pick up a paddle boat every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March 15 through October 9 from the boat dock near Maine Avenue. 

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.

If you're relying on public transportation, the easiest way to reach the Tidal Basin is by Metro; the closest stops are Smithsonian (on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines) or L'Enfant Plaza (accessible from the Blue, Silver, Orange, Yellow and Green lines). You can also take the National Mall bus line of the DC Circulator to the area. If you're planning a summertime visit, brace yourself for D.C.'s stifling heat with plenty of water. For more top tips on visiting during the spring for the Cherry Blossom Festival, read our guide.

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More Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial1 of 24
Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials2 of 24
Type
Time to Spend
#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.

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Kevin Voelker Photography/Getty Images
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