If you have more than just a couple of days to explore the Washington DC area, I offer the following additional recommendations.
Arlington Cemetery – Plan at least two-three hours for your visit in order to walk around the grounds, visit the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and JFK, watch the changing of the guards, and spend some time in the welcome center. Arlington is easy to access from the metro but also has plenty of parking. If you have the time, I also recommend you visit the Arlington Cemetery website before your visit to see the list of notable graves and some that might be of interest to you – astronauts, Presidents, athletes, and pioneers in almost every field.
Mount Vernon was the home of George Washington. It is a beautiful estate just outside of Washington DC. It is not accessible by metro and if you don’t have a car then an Uber is probably the most cost effective means of transportation. Leave at least half a day for your visit in order to see the grounds, explore, and see the films. My husband enjoys the grounds and gardens so much he has an annual pass.
The Pentagon is the one of the largest office buildings in the world, has its own zip code and is the workplace of over 23,000 personnel. I find it fascinating that it has over 17 miles of hallways but so efficiently designed that you can get to any point in less than five minutes. The walls of the seven floors, and five wedges have been made into a museum which cover each of the Armed Services, Presidents, Wars, humanitarian operations, our treaties and allies, as well as dozens of other subjects. Also make sure to visit the 9/11 memorial before or after your tour. Public tours of the Pentagon are available, but you need to reserve a tour at least two weeks ahead of time. (FYI – for those wondering, the largest office building is in Bucharest, Romania and also worth the visit).
Of course, take the time to hit a few more museums. In addition to those free with the Smithsonian, there are some worthwhile, although expensive, museums such as the Spy Museum, Newseum, and National Museum of Crime and Punishment.
Explore a DC neighborhood like DuPont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street, H street. There are walking tours, small museums, local bars and cafes throughout the city just waiting for you to find them!
If this is a rare trip to the East Coast, and you have the time, consider a day trip or overnight trip to Philadelphia, New York City, Jefferson’s home Monticello, or the Virginia Beach area to see the historic triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown).