Plan your stay - visit our favorite places in Washington, DC
Whatever you want to see, you will find our downtown locations in the midst of DC’s many world-class tourist attractions exceptionally convenient. You will love DC’s Metro (subway) system: it’s clean, safe, convenient, inexpensive and efficient. Hop on at Woodley Park or Dupont Circle and ride in comfort to the National Mall, where you can spend days enjoying our many FREE museums. You will be surprised at how much there is to do and see in DC. Be sure to plan your trip so that you have enough time to see it all!
The Embassy Circle and Woodley Park Guest Houses have teamed up with Culture Capital to provide our visiting guests a useful and up-to-date Guide to Arts & Culture for the Washington, DC area. Find this week’s Hot Hits & Hidden Jewels or plan your trip using the advance search choosing your dates, location and type of arts experience.
Washington DC is full of world-class museums, and unlike most other cities with world-class museums, ours are free! Whether your preference is art, science, history or culture, we have it all.
To plan your trip to the Smithsonian, take a look at their website. If you haven’t been to DC for a while, you will want to see several new museums, including the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).
While you are at the NMAI enjoying the soaring architecture and beautiful collections, stay for lunch and have a buffalo burger in their excellent cafeteria. NMAI has the only American Indian restaurant we are aware of anywhere.
…is always a favorite with exhibits and incredible IMAX films. Don’t miss the Museum of Natural History with its huge African elephant in the rotunda, and the halls of dinosaurs, gems and minerals, and of course, meteorites and tektites. And be sure to see the First Ladies’ Inaugural gowns and Julia Child’s kitchen at the popular National Museum of American History.
Did you know that the National Zoo – a short 10 minute walk from the Woodley Park Guest House and one Metro station and a short 10 minute walk from Embassy Circle Guest House – is also part of the Smithsonian? The Smithsonian National Zoo is a great place for both children and adults, with its giant pandas, great cats, and a “Think Tank” full of orangutans. The zoo opens early, and with its miles of pathways from Connecticut Avenue to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, it is a popular route for runners and walkers.
The National Gallery of Art is a national and international treasure and you can easily spend weeks enjoying this superb and voluminous collection. It is an amazing thing to be walking quietly through a room filled with paintings and come face to face with Van Gogh’s Self Portrait or Renoir’s Girl with a Watering Can. Even if you have seen these images many times in print, seeing them in person just takes your breath away.
In the National Gallery’s East Wing, an elegant contemporary structure by the noted architect I. M. Pei, look up and see the huge Calder mobile that dominates the atrium and make sure you find the Matisse paper cut-outs on display Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM only.
A fabulous addition to the Smithsonian’s 19 museums is the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art. Many guests who hear about this museum look a bit skeptical and put it at the bottom of their “to see” list, but we would urge you to move it up near the top. This huge new museum is not stuffy at all. It is contemporary in tone and style and is bringing the art of portraiture to a whole new generation. And it’s one of the few museums anywhere in the world that lets you into the “storage area” to see the thousands of items that aren’t on display.
The National Mall is essentially divided into two sections. From 14th Street east to the Capitol Building, the Mall is devoted to museums. From 14th Street west to the Potomac River, and then across the river to Arlington Cemetery, the Mall is devoted to monuments and memorials.
The monuments and memorials have two main themes. The first theme embraces the leaders and ideas that have shaped this nation. The monuments and memorials in this group include the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. The second theme concerns the wars in which Americans have fought and died. The memorials in this group include Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the World War II Memorial. The monuments and memorials are stunning by day, but we also recommend seeing them at night, when their beauty is even more poignant and haunting.
To plan your visit to the monuments and memorials, go to the National Park Service website, and select “Find a Park”. Choose the “by location” option and then choose “District of Columbia”. All of the Park Service locations are listed with operating hours, entry fees (if any) and advance reservation options (if any). You can pre-book tickets to the Washington Monument, which is really convenient and certainly beats standing in line early in the morning to get a ticket!
Calling all political junkies, news hounds, historians, citizens of the world, and students of media, culture, the arts, science, technology – and just about everything else you can think of! We hope that covers all of you, because we want everyone to visit The Newseum, Washington’s exciting new museum of news and media. The Newseum is owned and operated by the Freedom Forum, a non-partisan foundation dedicated to America’s First Amendment rights and freedoms. In this age of failing newspapers, The Newseum is a powerful reminder of the absolutely vital role of a free press in a free society. Entry tickets cost $20 per person – and the experience is worth every penny!
*There are five rights/freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Can you name them all?
The White House has always been a popular tourist destination. If you want to visit the White House, you must request tickets through your Congressional office. This process takes quite a bit of time, so you should make your request to your Congressional office several months in advance of your planned arrival date in DC. If you are an international tourist, you must request permission to visit the White House through your Embassy.
The US Capitol is open for tours Monday through Saturday and is a favorite item on the sightseeing agenda. After watching hours of C-SPAN, it is a real thrill to see the House and Senate chambers, get a look at your Congressmen and Senators in person, and maybe even hear part of an historic debate. Our favorite part of the tour involves an historic demonstration of eavesdropping that does not include wiretapping!
The Library of Congress is one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington, DC and we highly recommend that you include this stop on your sightseeing agenda. It is a shame to go to the Library of Congress and not be able to get into the reading rooms, so why not plan to do something unique to Washington and get a reader’s card at the nation’s library. Click the link on this page to discover the many and various reading rooms you may wish to visit!
When you take a tour of the Supreme Court Monday thru Friday you will see not only the impressive and iconic building: you will see the highest court of the United States in action. Part of the tour includes time spent in the chambers where cases are argued before the justices. Laura has always wanted to hear a really fascinating, controversial and historic case argued before the court, but so far the cases she has heard seem to focus on rather arcane points of insurance and contract law. Hmmm!
The National Archives houses the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the Unites States and the Bill of Rights. Like the original works of art at the National Gallery, it really doesn’t matter how many times you have seen printed copies of these great contributions to human government: seeing them in person is breathtaking! The Archives holds millions of records in addition to the “Big 3″, and the Public Vaults highlight a thousand or more records of various kinds at any given time. The records on display in the Public Vaults show the depth and breadth of the Archives’ collections and provide a fascinating portrait of American life.
The most powerful and heartbreaking museum on the Mall, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, is a testimony to human triumph over unthinkable evil. The capacity of men and governments to destroy human lives certainly did not stop with the Holocaust, and the Museum’s bold and intimate examination of this terrible tragedy is focused on the hope that those who understand history will not be destined to repeat it. Everything about the Museum, from the descending spiral of its architecture, to the passport you receive when you begin your tour, to the pile of victims’ shoes is haunting and profoundly moving. Not focused exclusively on the past, the Museum also shines a spotlight on current world tragedies including those being experienced by the peoples of Chechnya and Darfur.
Within easy walking distance of the Woodley Park Guest House and a longer work or quick bus ride up Massachusetts Avenue from Embassy Circle, the Washington National Cathedral is a favorite stop for our guests. The Cathedral offers many touring options, including guided and self-guided tours, garden tours, Tour and Tea, Behind the Scenes tours and Gargoyle tours. Whichever tour you take, be sure to take the elevator to the 7th floor observation tower for an excellent view of the city and its environs … and if you enjoy liturgical music, check the Cathedral’s calendar for organ and choral recitals.
The Old Post Office pavilion is a glorious historic landmark that was saved from the wrecking ball and redeveloped into a retail pavilion and event space. The building’s 315-foot bell tower may offer visitors the best aerial view of Washington DC. Free tours of the tower with its360-degree, virtually unobstructed view of downtown DC are given daily by the National Park Service. (You will find tour details under the “History” tab on the website.) In additional to getting a great view, you can also get a great lunch or do some in-town shopping in the redeveloped building
Your choices in live entertainment are almost unlimited at the Kennedy Center. Enjoy the symphony, theater, ballet, jazz, the opera, or any number of international and contemporary art forms. Just check the calendar on the Center’s website to see what’s happening at the Kennedy Center on the dates you will be in DC. Be sure to take a look at the schedule of Millennium Stage performances every day of the week at 6 PM. The rich and varied Millennium Stage programs are the Kennedy Center’s free gift to you!
A great source for unique DC events that you might not find listed anywhere else is Cultural Tourism DC. Here you can find listings for a French jazz trio at the Bohemian Caverns, (Duke Ellington’s old club), book signings at the Smithsonian, concerts at the Austrian Embassy or the National Gallery of Art, lectures at the Kennedy Center, or films at National Geographic, the Archives or the Library of Congress.
Washington DC is a city known for it’s free festivals, special events and neighborhood celebrations. Guests from around the world travel to the city every spring to experience the beauty of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Thousands of tourist and locals lather on sunscreen and gather on the National Mall to celebrate our nation’s independence every 4th of July. This annual birthday party culminates with the country’s most spectacular fireworks display majestically set against the backdrop of the Washington Monument. Here’s a listing of our hometown favorites:
Smithsonian Kite Festival on the National Mall – March 2012
The Smithsonian Kite Festival is an annual event that is traditionally a part of the festivities at the National Cherry Blossom Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Kite enthusiasts show off their skills and compete for awards in over 36 categories including aerodynamics, beauty, box, and humor. The Smithsonian’s Kite Festival is one of the most popular annual events in Washington, DC and features kite fliers from across the U.S. and the world.
National Cherry Blossom Festival – March 20 – April 27, 2012
Washington, DC welcomes the arrival of spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a tradition that showcases the beautiful gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual two-week, city-wide event featuring more than 200 cultural performances and over 90 other special events. From arts and exhibits to cuisine and sports, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
Smithsonian Craft Show – April 19 – 22, 2012
The Smithsonian Craft Show is an exhibit of 120 exceptional craft artists, representing works in ceramics, decorative fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, wearable art, basketry, and wood. This is your opportunity to purchase items from the most prestigious exhibition of contemporary American crafts in the nation, and a great opportunity to see the exquisite National Building Museum as well.
National Cathedral Flower Mart – May 4 – 5, 2012
The National Cathedral Flower Mart is Washington, DC’s annual outdoor festival for garden enthusiasts and families. Each year one of Washington’s embassies is honored. The 2008 event celebrates the centennial of the National Cathedral. Details will be announced as the date approaches. The Flower Mart encircles Washington National Cathedral with its tents and includes more than 50 booths offering gardening items, handbags, jewelry, and more. Food vendors will be stationed throughout the grounds with fare including Asian specialties, pizza, BBQ, Cajun cuisine, lobster rolls, Italian sausage, fried mushrooms and artichoke hearts.
Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on the National Mall – June 27 – July 1 and July 4 – 8, 2012
Open daily 11 AM to 5:30 PM. Evening events at 6 PM
The Smithsonian Folk Life Festival is a special annual event sponsored each June-July by the Smithsonian Center for Folk Life and Cultural Heritage celebrating living cultural traditions from around the world. The Folk Life Festival includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, and discussions of cultural issues.
A Capital Fourth-Independence Day Concert July 4th on the steps of The Capital
The nation’s premier Independence Day holiday concert features performances from some of the country’s best known and award-winning musical artists with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Erich Kunzel. The Capitol Fourth concert and show includes an evening of patriotic and uplifting music followed by a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument.
National Book Festival: September 2012
The National Book Festival, an annual event held each September on the National Mall in Washington, DC, is a celebration of the joy of reading sponsored by the Library of Congress. Attendees visit with more than 70 award-winning authors, illustrators and poets who will talk about and sign their books. National Book Festival Pavilions are set up for Fiction & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, History & Biography, Children & Teens, Poetry, and Home & Family. The Library of Congress Pavilion features a variety of interactive family-centered activities about the importance of lifelong literacy, cultural preservation, and preserving digital culture.
One of the challenges of any tourist is arranging their schedule to allow enough time to visit all sights of interest. Over the years, we’ve encountered a wide variety of touring styles, so we’ve sought out tour operators that offer packages that can accommodate all different taste and interests.
Old Town Trolley Tours
Daily narrated tour with free re-boarding from 19 sites. See the city in daylight, or choose the popular Monuments by Moonlight tour. For your convenience, tickets for this tour are available for purchase at both of our Washington DC Bed and Breakfasts.
Bike the Sites
Rent a bike, helmet and lock and enjoy a guided tour of the mall including all the monuments and museums. Daytime and evening tours available, please visit the web site for the complete schedule.
C & O Canal Boat Rides
Park Rangers in period costumes guide the mule drawn boats through the lift locks as you travel through time down the canal.
City Segway Tours
An exciting new way to tour DC; a guide will instruct you on the proper operation of the Segway and then impress you with their knowledge of DC history and all its interesting sites. Daytime or nighttime tours are available; please visit the website for the complete schedule.
World War II refurbished amphibious vessel takes you on a 90 minute land and water tour. Season runs mid-March through October.
Guided walking tours of Arlington Cemetery, Georgetown, Embassy Row and the very popular Memorials by Moonlight tour.
Cycling is the best way to experience the city. Rent a bike and explore the Capital on your own or join a guided tour.
If you are planning a biking vacation, Bed Breakfast and Biking lists bike-friendly B & B’s and inns along or near the bike trails and byways throughout the country.