We recently had family visit in DC. This was their first trip to the area and we only had a week.  While they wanted to see the main sights, they also wanted to see a few things that are off the beaten path and not as touristy.  We deliberately picked October for their visit.  The weather is still nice but kids are back in school and most of the tourists are gone.  In fact, unless trying to catch something specific like the Cherry Blossoms or Independence Day celebrations, October is probably the best time to visit Washington DC.

Here is how we spent their week in DC …  (note this schedule does require access to a car)

Day 1:

Hillwood Estate with Afternoon Tea (reservations required)

Kennedy Center Show (we saw Shear Madness)

Day 2:

National Archives (recommend advanced tickets and to go first thing in the day) to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights

American History Museum to see Actual Star Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s kitchen, Actual Muppets, Ruby Slippers, Indiana Jones Hat and Whip, Greensboro sit-in lunch counter etc…

Lunch – Food trucks on Constitution Ave

Walk the Western National Mall (could also rent local bike) to see Washington Monument, White House from fence, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial (1.1 miles); Korean War Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial, MLK Memorial, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial (2.1 miles)

POV Bar at The W Hotel to marvel at the view of White House and Washington Monument

Dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill (reservations recommended)

Drink at Round Robin Bar at The Willard Intercontinental Hotel (opened 1847 – famous regulars Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Henry Clay, MLK Jr the night before “I Have a Dream”)

Day 3:

Colonial Williamsburg

Day 4:

Capitol Tour (go early in the day so you can beat the crowds and catch opening speeches in the House Gallery if in session – passes are required through your Representative)

Supreme Court and/or Library of Congress

Lunch on Capitol Hill (we ate at Talay Thai but I also recommend  Library of Congress Madison Building, We The Pizza, or Bullfeathers

Air and Space Museum

Dinner in a DC neighborhood like Logan Circle, DuPont Circle, Eastern Market, Union Market (reservations are always recommended in DC)

Day 5:

Pentagon Tour (advance tickets required)

National Arboretum

Union Market for lunch

Fredrick Douglass’ House (advance tickets recommended)

Deep Throat’s Parking Garage

Walk over Key Bridge to Georgetown (1.1 miles)

Martin’s Tavern or elsewhere in Georgetown for dinner

Day 6:

Air and Space Museum Dulles Udvar-Hazy Center to see Space Shuttle Discovery, Enola Gay, Concorde

Mount Vernon

Day 7:

Arlington Cemetery

Any other missed sights

Items not included on itinerary that were saved for the next visit due to time are also listed below for consideration — 

  • Natural History Museum
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Ford’s Theater
  • Newsuem (not free)
  • Spy Museum (not free)
  • Crime Museum (not free)
  • New African American museum
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Museum of Fine Art
  • Tudor Place Historic Mansion and Garden
  • Carlyle House and Garden
  • A speakeasy
  • Post Office Museum
  • DEA museum
  • S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Holocaust Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Zoo
  • Other smaller / less known Smithsonian museums – https://www.si.edu/
  • Watergate hotel (5 min stop)
  • Ferry trip to National Harbor or Georgetown from Alexandria (not free)
  • Masonic Temple, Supreme Council, 33°, Scottish Rite Freemasonry, S.J.
  • George Washington’s Freemason Temple (Alexandria)
  • Embassy Row
  • National Cathedral (huge and beautiful, long enough you could lay the Washington Monument down inside)
  • Richmond, Jamestown, Yorktown or Monticello
  • Day trip to Harper’s Ferry
  • Day trip to Baltimore
  • Day trip to Annapolis
  • Day trip to Philadelphia
  • Day trip (or overnight) to NYC – one really long day trip (24 hrs) could be done on bus for under $150 per person and you would have full day in the city


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