Full of history, Washington DC is a great place to visit. We share how to plan a trip to Washington DC, so that you can do just that!
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The home of the President and the capital city of the United States, Washington D.C. boasts a number of beautiful parks and historical landmarks; ideal for those interested in American History. There are a few things you need to know before visiting this historic capital.
Best time to visit Washington DC
The best time to visit Washington is during April and May, when the city is full of Cherry Blossoms. March to May and September to November offers cool, pleasant weather with less tourists too.
As with most places in America, July to August is high season for tourists and the city gets very hot.
Visiting in the fall before Thanksgiving is the cheapest time to head to Washington DC and hotels drop in price between Thanksgiving to New Years too but check the weather forecast when planning a trip.
Typical costs in Washington DC
Budget: Dorm beds $25 – $50, private rooms in budget hotels begin at $50.
Midrange: Hotels or B&Bs cost $120 – $250.
Luxury: Luxury hotel double room $350+
Transport: Metro day pass $14.50, single ride ticket $3. Taxi rides will cost you upwards of $12.00 depending on your zone and distance.
There are a range of cheap options throughout Washington as well as high end restaurants. There are some good fast food spots but not in all parts of Washington.
Breakfasts and lunches can be found under $10 whilst budget dinners often range between $15 – $30.
Midrange restaurants for two with three meal course will set you back $40 -$70 whilst a high end restaurant averages $60 – $100.
We often found a good restaurant with a wine and beer would be $45 approx.
How to get to Washington DC
Fly – Fly into Reagan National (DCA) which is the nearest and most convenient airport to DC, from here you can catch the Metro blue and yellow lines or a super shuttle/taxi. Dulles (IAD) airport also includes super shuttle or Washington Flyer bus to downtown Washington DC or Baltimore Washington International (BWI) is an airport slightly further from the capitol but cheaper flights may be found to this airport which is also connected to MARC trains that take you straight to Union Square.
Bus – Greyhound, BoltBus, Megabus and Washington Deluxe buses stop at Union Station, where you can then catch the Amtrak or red line to your hotel. Inexpensive fares can be found on a Chinatown bus, which takes you from Chinatown NYC to Chinatown WDC. Buses can take approx. 5 hours depending on traffic from NYC to Washington and prices start from $24 for advanced tickets, again from NYC to Washington DC.
Train – Amtrak serves Washington D.C. with trains stopping at Union Square. This is great if travelling the East Coast with train routes available from: Boston all the way down to Miami.
Drive – The Beltway, Interstate 495 surrounds the Washington DC area whilst Interstate 95 on the major north-south highway can be used to access DC.
How to get around Washington DC
The Metrorail and Metrobus is the safest, cleanest and most efficient transportation to use in Washington. Many hotels are conveniently located near a metro station or bus route and serve the many tourist attractions of the city. Use the Metro map to help plan your route.
We found walking was a great way to get around Washington, taking in the sites and parks Washington has to offer. Taxi’s maybe a better choice for those heading back after an evening out but can be costly if travelling far, as with all cities.
Best things to do in Washington DC
Vietnam & Korean War Memorial
National Gallery of Art
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The White House
Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress
World War II Memorial
Washington National Cathedral
Museum of African American History
Arlington National Cemetery
National Archives Museum
The Tidal Basin
National Air & Space Museum
United States Holocaust Memorial
JFK Center of Performing Art
National Museum of Natural History
International Spy Museum
American History Museum
The best Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC
Many of these museums are open every day apart from December 25th, from 10am to 5.30pm. There are two Smithsonian Institutions in New York, but the rest can be found in Washington DC; with most of them in walking distance from the National Mall. The museums are free to enter but you need to have a ticket; book early if you are travelling with a large group.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture – This is the only national museum devoted to African America art, life, history and culture. The multilevel, engaging museum is fantastic and a favourite to many.
- National Museum of Natural History – Discover the world’s scientific heritage and animal origins in the exhibitions at this museum. There are millions of insects inside and this is the perfect museum for families.
- National Museum of African Art – Featuring exhibits from the continent of Africa, you can find contemporary and traditional art on display here.
- National Air and Space Museum – A great choice for families visiting Washington DC, not only do they have exhibits of space artefacts but you can also see rockets, missiles and various types of planes. Take a tour of the Steven F. Udvar-hazy Center where you can find two large hangers with a showcase of space items, including the space shuttle Discovery.
- Smithsonian American Art Museum – Open from 11.30am to 7pm, this is a gorgeous art museum full of folk and decorative art works as well as sculptures and photographs.
- National Museum of American History – Learn about American history at this museum dedicated to the developments of the USA.
- National Museum of American Indian – Holding a massive collection of artefacts, the architecture of this museum is just as impressive. The concept is designated and focused around different Indian communities and tribes.
- National Portrait Gallery – Through visual arts, performing arts and new media, this museum tells the story of important people in America’s history; from presidents to poets.
- Anacostia Community Museum – Committed to challenging and bringing people together through critical thinking, this museum is perfect for those deep thinkers.
- Freer Gallery of Art – Home to a famous collection of art by James McNeill Whistler, this gallery is home to Asian, American and Ancient Egyptian Art.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden – Abstract art lovers will enjoy this sculpture garden and plaza, full of contemporary, unique art works.