dc top attractions

Washington, DC is the pinnacle of American destinations, with an incomparable collection of historic buildings, iconic monuments, and renowned museums. There really are several different versions of this city– the All American and governmental; the artistic and cultural. Then there are the people, and they bring it all to life each day with knowledge and excitement—making DC a one-of-a-kind place to visit. 

Travelers both new and returning should make sure they’ve hit a number of the city’s best-known neighborhoods and attractions by the end of their next visit. For a little guidance, check out our bucket list of DC’s top attractions. 

The Anacostia & Potomac Rivers

Washington, DC sits in between two magical rivers, both of which are lined with a number of the city’s most necessary sights. Beginning on the Potomac, you can take a riverboat cruise, a kayak, or a walk along the shores from Georgetown all the way down to Southwest Washington. Along the way, you can check out Georgetown Park, The National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery, and East Potomac Park. 

Across town, you can then explore the Anacostia River and its coastal attractions. Just north of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, there are Nationals Park and the Washington Navy Yard. Moving further up, you’ll find other DC gems like RFK Stadium, Kingman Island and Heritage Islands Park. 

National Monuments & Memorials

When making your Washington, DC bucket list, you need to make sure you’ve hit essential national monuments and memorials. Certain sights like the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool will pop into your mind right away. In the same bucket, you’ll have the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Jefferson Memorial sitting alongside the Tidal Basin. 

In regards to memorials and museums, we recommend also visiting the memorable Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the United States Holocaust Museum. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial is both an important symbol of American history, but also an artful sculpture that’s well worth seeing on your bucket list tour. 

The Smithsonians

A household name, The Smithsonian Institution is one of the most respected museum collectives in the world. Stroll the grounds of the National Mall and treat yourself to spending some serious time exploring as many of these establishments as you can. You can begin by exploring the vibrant Smithsonian Gardens and gorgeous brick buildings throughout. 

Moving to the Smithsonian museums, one of our absolute favorites is The National Air and Space Museum, which has historic aircrafts hanging from the ceiling and interactive exhibits. The National Museum of African American History is one of the newest and most essential places on the list with impressive exhibits on history and culture. Travelers can also get artsy at The Portrait Gallery and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Gallery.  

DC’s Other Great Neighborhoods

We think that the best way to continue to explore DC beyond its best known landmarks, is to explore the many unique and diverse neighborhoods that comprise the city. Throughout the city, there are places to get lost shopping or eating delicious food. During the summer, baseball games and outdoor concerts take over certain areas of town. During the winter, riverside ice skating rinks take over others. 

In nearby Georgetown, you have riverfront restaurants, adorable boutiques on M Street, ice skating in the winter on the Georgetown Waterfront, exciting college sports events, and sprawling romantic parks. In Dupont Circle, there’s a collection of excellent art galleries like The Phillips Collection, international restaurants like Rasika West End, and bars. Also, the Navy Yard is stocked with historical attractions, Nationals Park hosting baseball games during the sunny seasons, walking trails, beer gardens and outdoor concert venues. 

Discover More of Capitol Hill

Get the insider’s guide to Capitol Hill DC—from the best places to eat to the must-know shops—on our DC destination blog!