Washington, DC is a wonderful place for both individuals and families to visit and explore. There is so much to do and see, you couldn't possibly do it all in one trip, so to make your planning less stressful I've put together a list of the top ten must see sights and things to do. My list includes guided tours as well as museums, monuments and many of the free places and activities the District has to offer.
Tour the White House
The White House is an architectural symbol of the power of the presidency and one of most compelling sights to see when visiting DC. Self-guided tours of the East Wing are available for groups of at least ten by contacting your Member of Congress. You can schedule your tour up to six months in advance of your visit.
Explore photos of The White House.
Take A Walking Tour of the Monuments by Moonlight
This three hour tour is well worth the $15. The guides are well-versed in stories about how our nation planned to honor our country's heroes and there is something almost reverent about viewing these illuminated memorials and monuments with the moon lighting the way. You will see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and the World War II Memorial. This is by and far one of the best and most inspirational tours in the city.
Make a Covert Visit to The International Spy Museum
Soviets trying to steal atomic secrets from the US; American spies being shot out of the sky over Soviet territory while photographing missile installations; Robert Hanssen's ultimate betrayal of our country--if the world of espionage and double agents is as intriguing to you as it is to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that flock to the Spy Museum, join the crowd. This is a high demand Museum that is packed on the weekends so if you can wait and go on a weekday, the lines may be less dense.
The US Capitol is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in our country. Home to the Senate and the House of Representatives come see where our laws are debated and voted on. This free tour is one not to be missed, but tickets are limited so get in line early because they go fast.
Georgetown offers some great shopping and wonderful dining experiences for any visitor. This historic neighborhood boasts houses over 200 years old, an elite university campus, and cobblestone streets that are centuries old.
Arlington National Cemetery
With over 260,000 graves Arlington National Cemetery is a somber reminder that our country's freedom came with a price. The eternal flame at President John F. Kennedy's gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are must sees for the entire family. There is always a sense of peace and quiet at this special place, but touring this site in the early morning really lends to the tranquility of the experience.
Old Town Trolley Tour
With over one hundred points of interest, this is a great way to see the city. The trolley runs all day and your ticket affords you day-long on and off privileges.
US Botanic Gardens
This is truly a slice of paradise in the middle of the city. This flowering haven is in bloom year-round and with the recent renovations and additions of the First Ladies Garden it is even more beautiful than ever. The Gardens are especially beautiful during the winter holidays when they bring out the electric train exhibit, including a Thomas the Train. Young and old are sure to enjoy themselves.
US National Zoological Park
The National Zoo is actually part of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the many free places to take advantage of during your visit. With over 400 species including the famous panda bears, children will be delighted with this experience. Many local schools take field trips here around mid-morning so it is best to go early and preferably on a week day.
These museums offer a vast array of artifacts, art, and historical memorabilia. The exhibits are world-class and offer something for everyone. Best advice: pick and choose. It would take days if not weeks to see all that the Smithsonian Institution has to offer, so pick those that really interest you.