1-day Itinerary in Washington, D.C.
Explore the best things to do in Washington, D.C. in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.
- 1#1View all Photos
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.5 minute walk
- 2#2View all Photos#2 in Washington, D.C.0.8 miles to city center0.8 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
One of the most moving war memorials, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – or "the Wall," as it's commonly referred to – is a long black granite wall with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who perished during the Vietnam War emblazoned on its surface. Recent travelers said their visits to the site were heartbreaking but thought-provoking and powerful, adding that even the toughest of individuals will find it hard to not become emotional while reading the wall's names. If you're looking for a specific person, keep in mind that the soldiers' names are ordered by the date they died, not alphabetically. Also, reviewers recommend using the attraction's name books and visiting during the day when there's ample sunlight.
When you're wandering along the eastern side of the Mall, venture to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Paying tribute to the 1.5 million who served in "The Forgotten War," this privately funded site contains 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers in combat. In a triangular area known as the Field of Service, soldier statues march toward an American flag. Next to the soldiers is a 164-foot-long granite wall that pays homage to the unnamed troops that fought in the Korean War. Another highlight of the memorial is the Pool of Remembrance, a tranquil place for reflection. However, some past travelers cautioned that the memorial lacks signage, so younger visitors may not understand as much as those who lived through the war.10 minute walk
- 3#12View all Photos
A popular memorial, the World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to the 400,000-plus Americans who died during the war. A circle of 56 pilings (representing the then 56 U.S. states and territories) looks over the Rainbow Pool. At night, with lights shining, this memorial can be quite ethereal.
Past visitors said they felt inspired after visiting the World War II Memorial. Though you'll rub elbows with other tourists in the spring and summer, previous travelers suggest timing your visit during one of these seasons so you can enjoy the memorial's fountains and waterfalls.10-20 minute walk
- 4#14View all Photos#14 in Washington, D.C.0.6 miles to city center0.6 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Even if you're only in town for a short trip, visiting the Washington Monument and the White House – two marbleized symbols of the free world – is a must for any first-time D.C. visitor.
At 555 feet and 5 inches, the Washington Monument (at its completion in 1884) was the tallest structure in the world. And nowadays, you can ride one of the monument's glass-encased elevators to the top observation deck to enjoy 360-degree views of the city. You can explore the attraction's exterior for free 24 hours a day, but National Park Service rangers are only available from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to answer questions. The monument itself is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit the National Park Service's Washington Monument page for more information.15-20 minute walk; 15 minutes by bus
- 5#4View all Photos
Attracting millions of people each year, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum contains a trove of celebrated aircraft, including Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Wilbur and Orville Wright's 1903 Wright Flyer, among others. Exhibits include a flight simulator, an IMAX theater and the Einstein Planetarium. And parents beware: The three-level gift shop is huge, so get ready for pleas from your kids.
Visitors recommend arriving in the morning to avoid the heaviest crowds, which are sure to pour in, especially once summertime rolls around. Some say parts of the museum are also starting to look worn but insist this is a must-visit site for families and aviation enthusiasts.
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