What are the best attractions in Washington D.C.?

Answers from Our Experts (3)

The best attractions in Washington D.C., are the Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, Library of Congress and Hillwood Estate.

McLean Robbins

Washington has many wonderful attractions, and the best part about them is that most are free and open to the public. Any visitor to Washington should begin with the museums and monuments on and around the National Mall. The Smithsonian museums are open daily to the public and house treasures from all over the world-- you can see Dorothy's Red Slippers, the First Ladies' Inauguration gowns, and egyptian mummies, all in under an hour. Walking between the many presidential monuments is also a great way to while away a morning or afternoon. 

But visitors to Washington should also look beyond the expected. Some of the best attractions in Washington are off the beaten path. On weekend mornings, start with a trip to Eastern Market or Union Market for some of the city's best craft and local food vendors. Stroll the historic streets of Capitol Hill and marvel at the architecture. 

There are also a number of less well-known museums worth a visit, including the Newseum (the museum of the news), the Spy Museum, the Kreeger Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Hillwood, formerly the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, is also a wonderful day trip. 

A new attraction to enjoy come April 1 is the Nationals and Yards Park area. In addition to several baseball games per week, this vibrant area near the Southeast waterfront has become one of the city’s most buzzed about destinations for new restaurants and bars. Venture out for a pre-game beer or plan a Saturday morning brunch at new and soon-to-open brewpubs, waterfront Mexican venues and even a rustic Italian hotspot.

Mary Beth Albright

Washington’s green spaces are among the country’s best, with serious cash spent toward landscape planning. Head to the National Cathedral Bishop’s Garden for a mellow afternoon in the shadow of the world’s sixth-largest cathedral. The garden is part of the Cathedral’s fifth-nine acre close and is extraordinarily designed, with a small waterfall and fish pond, rose garden, herb gardens, and stone shadow house. Not surprisingly, Frederick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame) penned the garden’s original blueprints. Gazing at the cathedral’s gothic spires and stained glass windows while munching on a picnic on the sprawling lawn, it could be medieval times.

Another fantastic al fresco dining spot, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden can’t be missed. The sculptures range from classic to modern, and a large fountain burbles in the garden’s center. Across the Mall, we once spotted a couple hand-tossing a salad at a picnic table on a sunny afternoon in the Smithsonian Castle’s garden – go in early summer to enjoy the fragrant roses.

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