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Welcome to the Bigroads ultimate travel guide to Washington D.C.! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Washington D.C..

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I currently do not make a profit from this website, and you will see no invasive or annoying ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


Washington D.C. serves as the nation's capital and it borders central Maryland and northeastern Virginia. It's very small, with a total area of only 68 square miles. Despite it's size, Washington D.C. is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country. There are dozens of museums, monuments, and governmental attractions to visit. You could easily spend a full week and only touch the surface of what's there.


Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Washington D.C.? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Washington D.C., in no particular order:

Visit several of the amazing Smithsonian museums
Go hiking in Rock Creek Park
Walk around the National Mall area to see all its famous memorials
Visit the city during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival (typically late-March to mid-April)
Take a day trip to Virginia and visit some of the great attractions just over the border
See the White House (and comment on how much smaller it is in person, just like everyone else does)
Visit the Georgetown neighborhood to shop at boutique stores and eat at fine restaurants
Hop on an elevator to the top of the Washington Monument (timed tickets are required)
Take a tour of the Library of Congress
Walk the grounds of the United States National Arboretum

If I could select only one place to visit in Washington D.C., I would choose the National Air & Space Museum.

Interested in discovering great attractions in other U.S. states? My 10 Great Attractions in Each U.S. State guide covers the best attractions from coast-to-coast. And here is a guide to the best One-Week Vacations in the U.S..


Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Washington D.C. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Washington D.C. bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Albert Einstein Memorial - a beautiful and large bronze statue depicting a seated Einstein; near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - supposedly one of the ten largest churches in the world
Ford's Theatre - see the 19th-century playhouse where Abraham Lincoln was shot
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (FDR Memorial) - beautiful 7-acre granite park with man-made waterfalls
Georgetown - attractive 18th century historic district that is extremely walkable; lots of shops and restaurants
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens - "an urban oasis blending exquisite arts and lush botanicals"
International Spy Museum - one of the best espionage museums in the world
Jefferson Memorial - features a 19-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson inside a domed memorial
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - performance art center with three main theaters (Concert Hall, Opera House, and Theater)
Korean War Veterans Memorial - experience a powerful scene of 19 stainless-steel soldier statues
Library of Congress - the largest library in the world
Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool - Greek Doric temple with sculpture & inscriptions of Abraham Lincoln
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial - 30-foot tall statue of the famous Civil Rights leader
Museum of the Bible - one of the best religious museums in the country
National Air & Space Museum - most travelers would agree that this is the best aviation/space museum in the U.S.
National Archives Museum - visit the home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights
National Cherry Blossom Festival - a spring celebration typically held in late March; blossoming cherry trees and many cultural events
National Gallery of Art - one of the best art museums in the U.S.
National Mall - the heart of Washington D.C. attractions with world-class museums and more than 100 monuments & memorials
National Museum of African American History and Culture - the world's largest museum dedicated to African-American history and culture
National Museum of American History - exhibits covering the social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history of the U.S.
National Museum of Natural History - supposedly the largest natural history museum in the world
National Portrait Gallery - portraits of hundreds of famous individuals
National Postal Museum - exhibits on the history of the U.S. Postal Service and also mail services from around the world
National World War II Memorial - memorial featuring stone architecture, bronze sculptures, and a large water fountain
National Zoological Park - see more than 1,800 animals in this Smithsonian zoo
Nationals Park - famous MLB baseball stadium; home of the Washington Nationals
Newseum - a seven floor journalist/news museum
Renwick Gallery - art museum with focus on contemporary craft and decorative arts
Rock Creek Park - a large urban park that is the best place in Washington D.C. to go for a hike
Smithsonian American Art Museum - one of several excellent art museums in Washington, D.C.
Supreme Court - visit the highest court in the nation
U.S. Capitol - visit the domed home of the U.S. Congress
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum - the United States' official memorial to the Holocaust
U.S. National Arboretum - a great place to go for a long walk in Washington DC; away from most of the most popular attractions
United States Botanic Garden - oldest botanic garden in North America; also has a butterfly garden
Vietnam Veterans Memorial - impactful memorial to the 58,000 US soldiers who died in Vietnam
Washington Monument - ride an elevator 555 feet up a tall marble obelisk for scenic views
Washington National Cathedral - one of the largest cathedrals in the U.S.
White House - see the famous white building that holds the offices and residences of the President of the U.S.

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Washington D.C.? If so, please email me at

Discover 5-star attractions in neighboring states using these state guides:  MD  |  VA


Here are some things that Washington D.C. is famous or well-known for:

historic houses
home of the federal government
governmental buildings / agencies
monuments / memorials
professional sports teams
protests / protesting

Visit my What is Each U.S. State Famous For? guide to explore the unique characteristics of other states.


While there are no official national parks in Washington D.C., there are many other federally-managed parks and properties in the district, including:

National Monuments
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
African American Civil War Memorial
Anacostia Park
Capitol Hill Parks
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Chesapeake Bay
Civil War Defenses of Washington
Constitution Gardens
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
Ford's Theatre
Fort Dupont Park
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
Korean War Veterans Memorial
LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac
Lincoln Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
National Capital Parks-East
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Pennsylvania Avenue
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
President's Park (White House)
Rock Creek Park
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Washington Monument
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
World War I Memorial
World War II Memorial

For more information on Washington D.C.'s national parks, visit the Washington D.C. page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all of America's national parks, explore my U.S. National Parks Guide.


Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Washington D.C.:

Capital Crescent Trail
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (the "C&O Canal Towpath")
Mount Vernon Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Washington D.C., visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.


There are no notable amusement parks in Washington, D.C., but there are several nearby amusement parks in Maryland, including Six Flags America and Adventure Park USA.


Washington D.C. has too many amazing museums to list. It's the best place in the U.S. for museums. See the 5-star attractions list above for all of its top museums.


Hiking within the borders of Washington D.C. is fairly limited, but you do have three great options:

Rock Creek Falls
Walking around the National Arboretum
Walking around the National Mall and other sites

Washington D.C. is one of America's most walkable cities. Start at the National Mall area and go from there. You can easily walk 5+ miles around the National Mall.

There are also some great hikes close to Washington D.C., including Great Falls Park on the border of MD and VA, and the Billy Goat Trail in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park in Maryland.


Washington D.C. offers several outdoor adventures, including these classics:

Canoeing/kayaking the Potomac River
Cycling the Capital Crescent Trail
Cycling the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (the "C&O Canal Towpath")
Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail
Cycling the Rock Creek Park trails
Day hiking in Rock Creek Park


For offbeat and unique Washington D.C. attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America


Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Washington D.C.:

bahn mi
half smoke
mumbo sauce

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Washington D.C. (or any other U.S. state), visit the website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each U.S. state, explore my Road Trip Food guide.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Washington D.C. (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.


Here is some helpful key information about Washington D.C.:

Major Airports:
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
None (although I-66 and I-95 have small distances that pass through the city limits)

Professional Sports Teams:
MLB: Washington Nationals
NBA: Washington Wizards
NFL: Washington Commanders
NHL: Washington Capitals
WNBA: Washington Mystics

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.


In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any link to read reviews and/or purchase these books on (affiliate).

Fodor's Bucket List USA (1st edition; 2021)
Moon USA State by State (1st edition; 2021)
Your Guide to the National Parks (3rd edition; 2022)
Road Trip USA (9th edition; 2021)


Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  

As an Amazon Associates affiliate, this website contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any products after clicking any link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only endorse products that I have personally used or those that come highly recommended by trusted peers.

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