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The National Mall is basically Washington DC’s backyard – it’s a grassy lawn where visitors and locals hang out on sunny days. Full of world-class museums (we’ll get to this later) and fun festivals, the National Mall is the center of many activities in the city.
Our two locations hold the largest collection of historic air & space objects in the world. In DC, see the original Wright 1903 Flyer, Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia," and touch a Moon rock. Check out our Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, home to the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Get advice about the city from the people who know it best. Local hosts share their tips and recommendations for travelers like you.
“Bring a variety of layers I would definitely recommend packing in layers. temperatures can vary wildly - from 50f to 90f+ in one day. i would recommend bringing at least a sweater.”
“Some museums and tourist sites Get tickets for the african american history museum online with timed entries and get there early (or hit the museum late in the day (3-5) when crowds are thinner; the white house, the capitol (through your congressperson) if a us citizen; some popular restaurants (use open table); nats or caps games (although some day before, nosebleed seats are available at cheap prices); shows at the local theaters, etc.”
“Bible museum & washington monument While tickets are free, they must be reserved in advance. make sure to have them booked and to show up for the time slot on your ticket or you might not get in.”
“Shows and performances at the atlas theater. Visit their website or simply walk to the theater to inquire about viewings.”
“Bus boy's and poets - poetry, karaoke, social hour You can enjoy brunch, poetry reading, books along with their monthly youth open mic. good luck finding parking it is usually hectic on a busy night. try catching lyft/uber instead!”
“There are an abundance of activities to participate in that require minimal fees. The daily newspaper is a god source of information to find out what is going on in the city and where. also use your google search to find what is close.”
“Metro rails do have elevator access for families traveling with strollers and other carriers. Consult with metro employees to get directions or information about accommodations.”
The lure of Washington, DC, is no doubt in its role as a living museum of American history, packed with monuments showcasing the nation’s greatest leaders (from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr.) as well as museums honoring the diversity of our nation (such as the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture). But beyond the historical and cultural landmarks is a city filled with a vibrant street life all its own, whether you’re in trendy NoMa, historic Logan Circle, green-space haven Woodley Park, or eclectic Adams Morgan.
With three area airports, domestic and international flights to the US capital are plentiful. The closest to the city is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), just three miles away from the National Mall. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is 26 miles to the west in the Virginia suburbs, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is 35 miles to the northeast in Maryland. Trains arrive into Union Station from major East Coast cities (the trip from New York’s Penn Station takes less than four hours, with departures about once an hour), and various companies run bus services. Traffic in and out of the city can become daunting, especially on the Capital Beltway — the 64-mile loop of Interstate 495 around the metro area. (Driving tip: One of the most picturesque entry points is via the Arlington Memorial Bridge.) Within the city, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s color-coded Metro train system makes it easy to zip around, and cabs, rideshares, bikeshares, and scooter rentals are also readily available. Parking can be challenging at times, but there are street meters and garages.
DC is best known for its spring, when its show of blooms is celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April. Temperatures tend to hit highs in the mid-60s Fahrenheit then, with lows in the 40s. October brings the same weather, but with fall foliage and nippy breezes. Summers are humid (no, it’s not because the city is built on a swamp — that’s simply folklore). Muggy temperatures in the 80s can feel icky, so opt for lightweight clothes and sunscreen. Winters tend to be the low travel season since temperatures float between the 20s and 40s. Always keep an eye out for rain, as precipitation is spread throughout the year.
The epicenter of American pride is no doubt this two-mile-long stretch of open space, with the Lincoln Memorial on the west, Capitol Hill on the east, the White House to the north, Jefferson Memorial to the south, and the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument in the center. Other notable sites include the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Also peppered along the way are several of the Smithsonian museums (all with free admission), including the National Air and Space Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In DC’s oldest neighborhood, stroll along the waterfront walkways of both the Potomac River and C&O Canal and enjoy the restaurants and nightlife, perhaps at the tavern where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Kennedy in 1953 or a 1960s-era jazz club modeled after ones from the 1920s.
This lively neighborhood for shopping, dining, and nightlife is named after its center, a metropolitan traffic circle with a fountain and a new underground art space. Dupont Circle is also the perfect starting point for a self-guided tour along the quarter’s Embassy Row.