Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. The Lincoln Memorial stands at the far end of the National Mall, a little under 2 miles from the Capitol. The memorial was dedicated in 1922 and the famous reflecting pool nearby opened the following year. The monument to Honest Abe is a “must see” for Washington, DC visitors.
Lincoln Memorial location
The Lincoln Memorial is located on the western end of the National Mall. The GPS address is 2 Lincoln Circle Circle NW. It is located about three quarters of a mile from the Washington Monument and approximately the same distance from the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
Getting to the Lincoln Memorial
There are several transportation options to get to the Lincoln Memorial.
Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Foggy Bottom station and walk towards 23rd and I Street. It is about an eighteen minute walk. If you are coming from Virginia on the blue line, exit at Arlington Cemetery station and walk across Memorial Bridge. This is about a twenty minute walk.
DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to one of the two nearby stations. “Lincoln Memorial” is located on the south side of the memorial and ” Henry Bacon DR& Lincoln Memorial Circle NW” is located on the north side of the memorial next to the refreshment stand.
TIP: The best and easiest way to see the Lincoln Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.
A few interesting facts
The Lincoln Memorial is modeled after the Parthenon. There are 36 Doric columns representing the 36 states in the country at the end of the Civil War. There are also the names of 48 states above those columns. These were the states in the country at the time of dedication in 1922.
The Lincoln Memorial has a typo! In Lincoln’s Second Inauguration (carved in the wall closest to Lincoln’s left hand), an engraver accidentally engraved an “E” when he meant to engrave a “F”. The error has been fixed, but it is still noticeable.
The spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered I Have a Dream in 1963 is commemorated with those words carved into the floor. Look down where you are about two-thirds of your way up the stairs.
Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the Lincoln Memorial?
The Jefferson Memorial is inspired Thomas Jefferson and his love for classic architecture. Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia are the basis for the design. Thomas Jefferson passed away in 1826 and probably never imagined a place like this would exist in his honor. These days, visitors marvel at his 19-foot statue and the quotes and writings that surround him.
Jefferson Memorial location
The Jefferson Memorial is on the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. It is one mile directly south of the White House. From the inside the White House, the President (or any visitors) gets an amazing view of the memorial. Also, visitors of the Jefferson Memorial get a cool view of the White House off in the distance!
Getting to the Jefferson Memorial
There are several transportation options to get to the Jefferson Memorial.
Metro: Take the orange, blue or silver line to the Smithsonian station and walk toward 15th Street NW and then turn south and walk around the Tidal Basin.
DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the Jefferson Memorial station located on East Basin Drive SW, behind the memorial and directly across the street from the Jefferson Memorial refreshment stand.
TIP: The best and easiest way to see the Jefferson Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.
A few interesting facts
The statue inside the memorial is not the original. President Franklin Roosevelt held a ceremony for the opening of the Memorial in 1943. Of course, because this was during the middle of World War II, our country bronze and other metals for the war effort, not statues. So, the bronze statue that you see today was installed later in 1947.
Speaking of Franklin Roosevelt, the president was a huge fan of Thomas Jefferson. He insisted that the location of the memorial on its current spot as it was a spot with a clear view from the White House. As a result, when you stand on the top step of the Jefferson Memorial you can see the White House clearly off in the distance.
However, the location was not without controversy. The Tidal Basin is the site of the world famous Washington, DC cherry blossoms. In order to build the Jefferson Memorial, construction workers needed to remove some trees. About 50 local women, protested on these grounds in what has become known as the Cherry Tree Rebellion.
Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the Jefferson Memorial?
Washington, DC is a very photogenic city. Between the monuments and iconic sites, there are plenty of great DC photos. We asked local photographer Nicole Glass to share some of her best photo tips so you can come to Washington, DC prepared.
Photograph a DC sunset
The best time to capture a sunset is 30 minutes before and after the scheduled time for sunset. That’s when you are really going to get the most beautiful light and the most beautiful shots. You can use a DSLR camera but smartphones are excellent as well. Sunsets are really one of the easiest DC photos you can capture.
Most photographers focus on the sunset itself. However, they forget to look behind them. During a sunset the whole area is illuminated by beautiful light. Sometimes, all you have to do is turn around and see the city from a different perspective. Sunset varies considerably throughout the year. During summer sunset isn’t until after 8pm. In the winter, sunset is before 5pm. The easiest way to know
Capture a silhouette
When you’re taking a photo of a silhouette you’re capturing a person or an object but you can’t identify them because you’re seeing the outline of that person or object. These are really great to do during a sunset because there is such a contrast between the foreground and the background.
Make sure the person in the photo is doing a pose other otherwise looks interesting. Then, lower yourself toward the ground. This helps make sure there is more sky behind your subject. Getting down low also helps make your photos unique since almost everyone takes photos from the same eye-level.
Don’t be afraid of the rain!
When you come to DC, chances are the weather is not going to be perfect. In the summer, it’s hot and humid. In the winter, it is cold and gray. However, it is often very wet. That said, you can definitely get fantastic photos even on a rainy day. Stormy weather is great because you might get black storm clouds behind a monument which makes it look so much more intense.
When it comes specifically to rain, you can use it as an opportunity to look for reflections. Sometimes, if you’re standing in a particular location, you can actually see the monuments reflecting through the puddles. Washington, DC has several famous reflecting pools that photographers love. Think of puddles like temporary reflecting pools.
Take a photo of a photo
This maybe a little harder to pull off if you’re traveling solo. However, if you have a traveling partner or someone who’s with you it’s a little bit easier. Taking a photo of a photo can give you a different perspective of a place that has been photographed millions of times already. It creates a really cool perspective and it will make your photos look way more unique and interesting.
Buy yourself a crystal ball
This one will require you to go out and buy a prop. However, it’s a cheap one and it can really add some cool effects to your DC photos. Crystal balls are available for ten to twenty dollars on Amazon. They are very affordable and you can photograph popular landmarks or attractions through the ball. So, place the ball on the ground or have somebody else hold the ball or hold it yourself. Then take a photo of a landmark through the ball.
Now, the key thing to know is that the ball actually flips your photo upside down. Since you want the photo to be right-side up when you share it you need to flip it with an app. Just rotate 180 degrees and then your photo will look right.
Get on the DC rooftops
Try to capture your DC photos from a higher perspective. This means taking advantage of the rooftops here in Washington DC. Two rooftops where you can go and have a drink with a view are at W Hotel and the Watergate Hotel. The Hay Adams is a very well-known hotel it’s right near the White House as well. As a guest of the hotel, you will have access to the rooftop.
July in Washington, DC is squarely in the middle of summer tourism season. June, July and August are the three busiest and most crowded months of the year in DC. This is the time of year when kids are off from school and families are taking their summer vacations.
DC in July Weather
July weather in DC is hot humid and honestly pretty miserable. July is the hottest month of the year with average daily highs of 88 degrees and average daily lows of 72 degrees. That honestly wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the humidity, which can make it feel like it’s in the 90s or even 100s on some days.
Packing for DC in July
To pack for DC in July, you are going to want to bring your summer clothes. Shorts and comfortable walking shoes are all a must. You should pack pants if you’re planning to see a show at the Kennedy Center or go to a fancy restaurant or otherwise some place where shorts would not be appropriate.
You are also going to want to remember an umbrella. No matter what the seven-day forecast says, summer thunderstorms often pop up out of nowhere. Sun protection is also a must. Hats and sunscreens are important to use, especially if you burn easily. If you are going to be outside for an extended time, bring the sunscreen with you and re-apply throughout the day.
July Holidays and Events
The most notable event in July is Independence Day which is also our only federal government holiday. There are also a few notable events you might want to check out as well.
Fourth of July in DC
A few things you can do on the Fourth of July include a dramatic recreation of the reading of the Declaration of Independence. This happens on the steps of the National Archives. The Independence Day parade followsdown Constitution Avenue. A Capitol Fourth concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol and the fireworks are a must see if you want to get the full DC July Fourth experience.
If you are into sports, consider going to the ballpark for the Nationals game! This year’s first pitch is at 11:05 a.m. So, this leaves plenty of time for other activities afterwards.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Another notable special event in July is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This is usually held the last week in June and first week in July. Unfortunately, this year in 2019 it has been cut back and will not be happening in July at all. The Folklife Festival is a social event where you can experience cultures from all around the globe through things like music, dance, art and food.
Capital Fringe is also a popular thing to do in July. Fringe is all about independent forms of theater dance and other types of arts. Fringe is held across multiple venues. Some venues feature more than one stage. You can see some really interesting performances. Dance and performance art that you would not see at the Kennedy Center or some of the more traditional theaters.
If you’re a sports fan, the Washington Open (currently called the Citi Open) is a tennis tournament that is part of ATP and WTA circuits. Every year the dates change slightly. However, it is usually either at the very end of July the very beginning of August or both. The Washington Open takes place at the William Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.
One of the great things about visiting the nation’s capital is that there are so many free things in DC. This makes Washington an excellent travel destination for budget travelers and for families where buying tickets for everyone would really add up. These are ten of our favorite free things in DC.
10. U.S. Capitol
The Capitol is a beautiful building at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol is where our legislative branch of government meets and it’s one of the most iconic buildings in the city and in the country. You can tour the inside of the Capitol by making a reservation on the Capitol Visitor Center website.
If you are an American and if you prefer you can also contact your member of Congress to request a tour. These tours are typically led by one of their interns and there is a long-running debate about whether the Visitor Center tours or the congressional office tours are better. However, just seeing the inside of the dome and all the other cool stuff that’s inside is a memorable experience.
9. National Archives
Everybody knows the National Archives is where Nicholas Cage broke in and stole the Declaration of Independence. The Archives showcases the original version of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They also have a cool museum that has a lot of lesser-known records and documents from throughout history. Make sure you plan a little extra time to check it out.
A bonus trip hack for the Archives is that it is open year-round and you can go anytime; but during peak tour season in the spring and summer you should go on Recreation.gov and reserve tickets to skip the line. You do have to pay a small processing fee. But, it’s worth it! It is only a couple of bucks and your time is valuable!
8. Smithsonian museums
Smithsonian is not a single place. Rather it is the government agency that runs many of the museums on the National Mall and elsewhere in DC. The most popular Smithsonian museums are Air and Space, Natural History and American history. Smithsonian museums are one of the most popular free things in DC. However, our recommendation for Smithsonian museums is to go to the ones that sound the most interesting, rather than the ones that are most popular.
7. National Zoo
Despite the name, this is not the biggest nor the grandest zoo in America. In many ways, the National Zoo is more like a neighborhood zoo than a major tourist attraction. However, unlike other big zoos, the National Zoo is completely free.
You might be interested to know that only four zoos in the United States currently have giant pandas on display. The National Zoo in DC is the only one where you don’t have to pay to see them. If you have a big family and kids, the zoo is a great option because you can spend as much or as little time as you want and not feel bad about it.
6. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Obviously not everything here is free. If you are coming here to see Hamilton or another popular play, you might spend a small fortune. But, there are daily free performances on the Millennium Stage. You can also take a free tour of the Kennedy Center, if you want an inside look at the building and some of the inner workings of the place.
5. National Gallery of Art
Believe it or not, the U.S. government runs two distinct museum institutions: the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art. Smithsonian was founded by an Englishman named James Smithson and the National Gallery of Art was founded by former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. The National Gallery focuses strictly on art and is one of the best institutions of its kind in the country. Although, if you are a world traveler you could certainly debate about whether it stands up to some of the big European art museums.
4. Old Post Office Tower
If you like views, then you have to check out the Old Post Office Tower. The Washington Monument gets all the attention when it comes to views. However, we think the Old Post Office is a superior view. It is less crowded and easier to access. Plus you get awesome views down Pennsylvania Avenue and of the Washington Monument itself. The door is kind of hidden and hard to find. Check out our video for step-by-step instructions.
3. U.S. Botanic Garden
The U.S. Botanic Garden is on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. You can think of it as a museum of plants. It is one of the more relaxing free things in DC. There are greenhouses that recreate climates from all around the globe. So, you can find some really cool plant life that is not native to the DC area.
During the holiday season, they go all out with their Christmas decorations and in the summer a bonus trip hack is to cross Independence Avenue and go check out Bartholdi Park. It’s usually quiet peaceful and beautiful. So, it can be a great place to sit and relax.
2. Library of Congress
A lot of people think the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is the most beautiful building in the entire city. We recommend the free guided tour of the inside of the building. That will give you a chance to learn about the art and architecture that is all around you. Make sure to budget some extra time to see the rotating exhibits which are always excellent.
A bonus trip hack for the Library of Congress is to plan to go here after you do your Capitol tour. It’s connected to the Capitol via an underground tunnel so once you’ve cleared security at the Capitol you won’t have to through another metal detector.
1. Monuments and Memorials
You cannot come to Washington DC without going to the Lincoln Memorial, standing on the top step getting a view of the city and the reflecting pool. The war memorials are very moving and powerful remembrances of those who served. The other memorials are to people who shaped what our country is today. Of course, the monuments are one of the many free things in dc and open 24/7/365 to visit.
Trip Hacks DC runs tours of the monuments and memorials. These are not free. However, a tour is not required to see them. We really do think a tour makes your experience of the monuments so much better.
Another option that free are the Ranger talks. Our Park Rangers are extremely knowledgeable and great at showing you around. However, the disadvantage is that Ranger talks typically only cover one monument or a small group of monuments. So, you would need to cobble several of them together to make it into a full tour.
Let’s get this out of the way: there is no bad time to see the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. But what about DC evening tours? There is a lot of advice floating around that they are the best. Is it true?
The unsatisfying answer is: it depends. For a lot of visitors, it definitely is. Others might actually prefer a morning or afternoon tour. Read on for some important things to consider.
Evening vs after dark
It is really important to address the distinction between seeing the monuments in the evening vs. after dark. A lot of people assume that when you see a monuments tour advertised as an evening tour, it means that you’re going to see the monuments all lit up in the night sky. However, this depends heavily on the time of year that you are visiting. For example, on the shortest day of the year sunset in Washington DC is at 4:47p.m. and on the longest day of the year it’s not until 8:30p.m. If you visit in June or July, you can’t expect any tour to show you the monuments all completely after dark.
DC evening tours: pros and cons
One of the biggest upsides of doing DC evening tours in the summer will not be as hot. During June, July and August, the heat and humidity can feel oppressive. Coming to see the monuments when the sun is setting, rather than during the middle of the day, can help make it a little more comfortable. Another big upside to doing an evening monument is that it is a family friendly activity that you can do after dinner.
A big disadvantage to DC evening tours is that the Mall can very completely overwhelming during school field trip season from March through June. Every spring schools from across the country send their students on field trips to the nation’s capital. These groups tour the monuments after dinner because it’s one of the few evening activities that’s available for large groups of teenagers. For families with small children, evening tours might keep the kids up well past their bedtimes. Kids tire more quickly than adults and might struggle to finish an evening tour compared to one earlier in the day.
Coming to Washington DC and want to sign up for one of our evening tours?
June is the start of summer tour season. June, July and August are the three busiest months in DC because kids are off school and families are taking their summer vacations.
When you visit in June make sure to expect that the crowds are going to be relatively heavy. It’s also important to know that the first two weeks in June overlap with school field trip season. June weather in Washington DC is hot and humid. The average daily high in June is 84 degrees and the average daily low is 66 degrees. Remember that you must factor in the humidity which can make it feel a lot hotter.
Packing for a June trip means busting out your summer wardrobe. A jacket is probably not necessary. However, if you do want to bring one, a light rain jacket is all that you need. Pants or nice jeans are good if you plan to see a show at the Kennedy Center or visit some other place where shorts would not be appropriate. You should remember to bring your umbrella. No matter what the advance forecast says, summer thunderstorms can and do pop up out of nowhere. Sun protection is also a must Don’t forget to use your sunscreen before heading out for the day!
The most notable special event in DC in June is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This is usually held the last week of June and the first week of July. The Folklife Festival is a social event where you can experience cultures from all around the globe through things like music dance art and food. Aside from food and souvenirs, it is completely free to attend.
June is also the month for Capital Pride. The parade is held on a Saturday and the route goes through the Dupont Circle neighborhood. There are events throughout the entire city for the entire month.
DC Jazz Fest
DC Jazz Fest is another popular June event. Every year the performers and the venues change so make sure to check out the official Jazz Fest website for details for this year. Jazz Fest has indoor and outdoor concerts, small concerts, big concerts, free concerts and ticketed concerts. So, if you are into jazz there is something for you.
Seasonal Summer Activities
June is also when our seasonal summer activities get going into full swing. This includes things like Friday night Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art. You can also find free outdoor concerts and movie nights throughout the week.
June is also the month when Smithsonian typically starts to run their extended hours. So, check out the Smithsonian operating calendar to see if any of them are going to be open late on the dates that you’re visiting.
There are no federal government holidays in June but there are a few unofficial holidays worth noting.
Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June. This is not a big restaurant holiday like Mother’s Day. Since its summer, things like baseball games, cookouts and golfing are popular.
The summer solstice is on June 20th and sometimes there are special fun events planned around it. For example, in 2018 Smithsonian actually kept their museums open until midnight for a special solstice event.
Are you a sports fan?
If you are a sports fan, June is when baseball and soccer are both in full swing. Check out one of our five major pro sports teams when you’re in town!
A lot has happened already in 2019. If you’re coming to DC this year, these are some important 2019 DC Updates that you need to know about.
Trip Hacks DC Tours
When we launched Trip Hacks DC we offered exclusively private tours. This meant that tours were just you and one tour guide showing you the sites on the National Mall. However, we heard that you wanted public group tours that were affordable to smaller groups. So last year, we created Monumental Trivia at Twilight.
This year, we added a few new tour guides. Monumental Trivia is a public tour which means that you pay per person rather than for the entire group. Rob will lead Monumental Trivia on Saturdays and our other guides on select other days of the week.
The National Park Service originally advertised Spring 2019 on their website for the re-opening of the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, now it looks like August 2019 is the earliest possible re-opening. Remember that this is only an estimate and can change.
There is a major Metro shutdown scheduled this summer. The yellow and blue lines will be completely closed south of Reagan National Airport. This will last from Memorial Day weekend through September. This is especially important to know if you are considering staying in Old Town Alexandria for your trip. Even though Old Town is a great area and it’s one of our recommended areas it is not a good choice this summer. The good news is that there are still plenty of other great areas to stay.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is one of our favorite things to do in DC. It usually runs for about two weeks and highlights cultures from all around the world. However, in 2019 it’s only going to run for two days: June 29th and June 30th. The official reason is because there are a number of delays and planning issues most likely as a result of the historically long government shutdown that happened last December and January.
The Circulator bus is currently (and temporarily) free! In February, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that Circulator would be completely free indefinitely. Rides used to cost one dollar and you could pay either with a dollar bill or a SmarTrip card. Now, they are free, SmarTrip or cash required. Free Circulator won’t last forever. The DC City Council already voted to switch back to the old fares. So, be sure to double-check the Circulator website before you trip.
Another Circulator update is that they are launching a Zoo Express bus. It will take you from the Woodley Park station straight to the National Zoo entrance. This seasonal bus is going to run from May through September.
If you visited DC in the past, then you might have checked out the International Spy Museum at their location downtown near the Capital One Arena. This winter, the Spy Museum started moving to their brand-new location in L’Enfant Plaza. It is bigger and will provide a much better experience for visitors. So, if you do want to go to the Spy Museum this year make sure to double check to make sure you’re heading to the right location.
Electric scooters are seemingly everywhere in 2019! There are scooters from half a dozen different companies. You can download their app, create an account, and put in your credit card information and ride away on a scooter. These are also a fun novelty if you are on vacation.
One important thing to note is that the scooters are technically not allowed outside of their service area. The National Mall is outside of the service area. So, when you are walking around the National Mall, you will see scooters everywhere. The scooter companies are not enforcing their service areas and charging people fines if they break their rules. But we do not know if this is still going to be the case in a week a month a year or ever. So, be aware of this if you’re planning on using them around the National Mall.
When you visit the Jefferson Memorial this year, you are going to find a big construction zone around the monument. They are working on remediating a substance called biofilm. This black material is growing on top of the dome. From a distance, it looks like dirt but it’s actually a microscopic organism that attaches itself to the stone. This makes it a whole lot more difficult to clean up than dirt. The National Park Service did a successful test a few years ago which is why there’s one spot that looks nice and clean. Now they are going to do the rest.
Air and Space Museum
The Air and Space Museum is one of, if not the most popular, museums in DC. Smithsonian just started a major renovation that will last for the next several years. Be sure to reset your expectations of the museum since it will feel like a construction zone and the exhibits closed on a rolling basis.
Coming to Washington DC, want to come on a tour with us?
There are a lot of great places to day trip from DC. We have a blog post with five great nearby destinations. However, these are four places where you might be tempted to day trip but where you should resist that temptation. These are great places to visit! For that reason, a day trip does not do them justice.
Philadelphia is a great city and a place where our founding fathers spent a lot of time. There is a lot of amazing history here. Philadelphia is a much bigger city than people realize. Sure, you could look at the Liberty Bell, peak inside Independence Hall, and take a photo in front of the Love statue. However, you would be missing out on trying a bunch of cheese steak places, running up the art museum stairs like Rocky and checking out the museums along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. You should at least stay one or more nights to see everything.
2. New York City
We don’t recommend a day trip from DC to New York or vice-versa. New York and Washington DC are actually not as close as people seem to think. Spending a single day in New York really does a disservice to everything America’s biggest city has to offer.
In theory, you could hop Amtrak train at Union Station and in a few hours be exploring in midtown Manhattan. However, in reality, the train takes about three and a half hours and the ticket, best-case scenario, cost at least $50 each way.
If you’re a family of four, is spending four hundred dollars and seven hours on the train really worth it? You will barely crack the surface of what New York has to offer. If you want to get back to DC before midnight, you would need to leave New York no later than 8:30p.m. If you want to go to the Big Apple, spend a few days or more.
Williamsburg, Virginia should be an overnight trip. There are two main things that people go to Williamsburg to do: Busch Gardens, the European themed amusement park and Colonial Williamsburg, the living museum that gives you a chance to explore what the country was like before it was our country. Williamsburg is a hundred and fifty miles away. In ideal conditions you could get there in two and a half hours.
However, a big problem with day tripping to Williamsburg is that to get there you have to drive on Interstate 95. This interstate is infamous for heavy traffic both on weekdays and on weekends. Plus, both Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg are outdoor activities. If you plan to visit in the summer you are going to be spending a lot of time outside in the heat and humidity. Packing it into a single day with a drive back to DC at the end is too much.
4. Virginia Beach
Washington DC is not a coastal city. If you really want to visit the beach, one option is Virginia Beach. The problem with trying to do a day trip is that it is just way too far. Virginia Beach is about 200 miles from DC and the Hampton Roads area has notorious traffic. We don’t recommend pairing a beach trip with a DC trip. However, if you want to do a day trip to a beach when you visit DC, the beaches in Delaware and Maryland are closer.
Coming to town and interested in a Washington, DC tour?
There is so much to see and do in DC. But what if you want to get out of the city and take a day trip? This could be a great option if you are staying more than just a few days. The best DC day trip one that’s close enough to travel there and back in one day, but far enough to feel like you’re really getting out of the city. Here are five of our favorites.
1. Old Town Alexandria
Is Alexandria really a day trip? It’s only about ten miles from DC. However, Alexandria is it’s own unique city that has its own history and charm. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and fun things to keep you busy.
Just taking a stroll down King Street can be a fun experience. The Torpedo Factory Art Center on the waterfront is a destination on its own. When you come to Alexandria, you can sign up for a guided walking tour or a food tour and learn all about the area. If you’re thinking that taking the Metro won’t make it feel like a day trip then why not try the water taxi instead? You can use it to get from the Wharf in DC to Old Town Alexandria. There is something about taking a water taxi that makes the experience feel more unique and special.
Baltimore often gets overshadowed by DC, at least as far as tourism goes. But, people forget that Baltimore is a major city and it’s very easy to get to from DC. You can take the MARC commuter train from Union Station for this DC day trip. In about an hour and for less than $10 you can get to Baltimore.
Once you arrive, the National Aquarium is a huge aquarium right on the Inner Harbor. DC does not have its own aquarium. So, if you’re into this sort of thing then this is a great excuse for a day trip. If you are a big US history buff, Baltimore has quite a few notable sites. One is the Star-Spangled Banner House. this is the actual home where Mary Young Pickersgill made the flag that now hangs in our American History Museum. It’s the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write that famous poem that is now our national anthem.
You can also see Fort McHenry – the spot where that actual flag actually flew. If you’re an art lover, the American Visionary Art Museum has a lot of funky cool art that you can’t really see in DC. And if you’re a sports fan, the Ravens and the Orioles both play downtown.
When people hear Gettysburg they usually think straight to the Gettysburg Address – the famous speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered during the Civil War. Gettysburg is an ideal day trip for a Civil War history buff. It’s about 90 miles away in Pennsylvania and you can get there in about two hours. Gettysburg National Military Park is the main attraction. It’s where you can visit the Gettysburg National battlefield and the Gettysburg Museum. The park is part of the National Park System and it’s free to visit. Make sure to check out the NPS website in advance to see what special programming they have coming up.
Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. It’s located about 30 miles from DC. In good conditions you can make that drive in under an hour. But be very careful because that number could go way up if you attempt to do the drive during rush hour.
Of course you can tour the Maryland State House, one of the oldest state capitals and often considered one of the most beautiful. You can also take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, especially if you’re into the U.S. Navy or naval history. Annapolis is located right on the Chesapeake Bay so if you go during a warm weather month you can rent a sailboat take it out on the water. Or you can go on a fishing charter and see what you can catch. Even if you don’t catch your own seafood, definitely eat Maryland’s signature dish: steamed Chesapeake Bay crab covered in Old Bay seasoning.
Charlottesville is the farthest day trip from Washington, DC. It is about a hundred and twenty miles and a two and a half to three hour drive. If you’re interested in the founding fathers or early U.S. history, this is where Thomas Jefferson lived. You can visit his home: historic Monticello.
Charlottesville is a small city and considered a college town because of the campus of the University of Virginia. But Charlottesville also has a lot of great restaurants without the hustle and bustle of a big city. Virginia has a thriving wine scene and a lot of vineyards are located around Charlottesville. So, if you’re a wine person, you don’t have to go all the way out to Napa Valley or France to go to vineyards. Of course, if you choose to do this make sure you’ve got a designated driver to take you around.
Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?