Travel Tips for Your Visit to Washington DC

Straight from DC Insiders!

Here are some top Washington DC travel tips for an incredible vacation.

Washington DC Travel Tips - The White HouseWhatever you want to see, you will find the downtown locations of our Washington DC bed and breakfasts 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!

Download our comprehensive guide – DC Travel Tips (pdf)

Washington DC Trip

Museums

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.

DC Museums you shouldn't miss

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Full disclosure! This museum is our family favorite. Our dad spent almost 50 years at the Natural History Museum, most of them as Curator of the Meteorite and Tektite Collection. In addition to seeing his "space debris", you can see fascinating exhibits on gems and minerals, the oceans, and human origins.

National Air and Space Museum
Remember when you wanted to grow up and be a pilot or an astronaut? This museum will recapture that feeling and rekindle that flame through spectacular exhibits and exhilarating IMAX films. Among the 60,000 items in the museum’s collection, you will see the original Wright Brothers’ Spirit of Saint Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and the Apollo Lunar Module.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
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.

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121│ 703-780-2000 There are several ways to get to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. The estate is approximately 20 miles away by car. A popular option is to take a cruise along the Potomac River from the SW Waterfront to the estate. Another unique way to reach Mt. Vernon is by bike, or a bike and cruise combination. It is also accessible via public transportation combination of metro and city bus.

 

Lincoln Monument in Washington DC

Monuments & Memorials

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.

Most Visited Memorials

Lincoln Memorial
Possibly the most popular monument on the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial features an iconic statue of a somber Abraham Lincoln, looking exhausted and grieved by the Civil War that defined and consumed his time in office. The walls of the memorial are engraved with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address. The words are powerful, moving, and sadly relevant to our current time. Many important events in recent US history have taken place on the steps of this beloved memorial, including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was the highlight of the 1969 March on Washington.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The United Sates is a Jeffersonian democracy, and the 19-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Jefferson Memorial is oriented so that his piercing eyes are fixed on the Oval Office in the White House. On the walls of this memorial you can find excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1777). This memorial has perhaps the most beautiful setting of all of the memorials on the Mall, overlooking the Tidal Basin with its ring of Cherry Trees. On a beautiful summer afternoon, you can take a paddle boat out into the Tidal Basin and enjoy the view of this memorial from the water.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The newest of the memorials on the mall, the Martin Luther King Memorial is a fitting and powerful homage to a man who life, leadership and ideas had a powerful, positive and lasting impact on American history. The design of the memorial is influenced by MLK’s words in his “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The 450-foot inscription wall includes quotes from MLK’s writings, sermons and speeches, including our favorite: “We shall overcome, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Memorial, or “the Wall”, as it is often called, is one of the most poignant memorials on the National Mall. The heated controversy that surrounded its design and construction has faded away as millions of visitors have been moved to tears by the simplicity and power of 58,000 names engraved on a continuous slab of highly polished black granite. The Memorial has attracted so many gifts - including letters, flowers, photographs, teddy bears and even a motorcycle - that an off-site archival facility now exists to house them.

Washington DC Attractions

Other Favorite Attractions

In addition to all the great museums and monuments there are a number of other places we suggest you visit while in the Washington DC area.

Make all the other important stops

National Zoo
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, including the new baby panda cub, Bao-Bao, great cats, and a “Think Tank” full of pretty smart 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.

Udvar Hazy Center
It is an excursion to get to this museum, located about 30 miles outside of DC near Dulles Airport, but we think the effort is well worth it!  This incredible companion to the National Air and Space Museum features the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Gemini 7 Space Capsule, an Air France Concord, the Enola Gay, and the SR71 Blackbird among many other civilian and military air and spacecraft.  It’s definitely easier to get to this museum if you have a car, but you can also get there through a combination of public transportation options.  If you have a late afternoon flight out of Dulles Airport, this is a great way to spend a few hours the day of your departure.  You can take the shuttle from Dulles to the Museum and stow your carryon luggage in lockers provided at the museum.  If you have larger suitcases, you will need to roll them around with you.

The National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002 │ 202-245-2726

The National Arboretum features over 400 acres of gardens and displays. Public and private tram tours are available for a small fee.

African American Civil War Memorial & Museum  This historic Museum and Memorial honors the contributions and the personal histories of the 200,000 African American soldiers, also known as the U.S. Colored Troops, who served during the American Civil War.  The Museum has an extensive collection of primary source material and is an excellent resource for genealogical research.  The museum also sponsors fascinating lectures on such topics as the role of African American spies in the war effort, and the role that African American women played in the war.  Check the website for lecture dates.

Arlington National Cemetery
Many Americans don’t realize that Arlington National Cemetery is a Civil War Cemetery.  The site was the home of Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate General during the Civil War, and his wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee.  The Lee’s abandoned the property at the beginning of the War and moved to Richmond.  The Union Army used the Lee mansion as its headquarters, and to ensure that the Lee family would never move back into the house, they buried Union war dead all the way to the front door.  Be sure to take the National Park Service bus tour of Arlington.  The stories you will hear are rich and exciting, and the bus will take you to the Kennedy gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and, of course, the Lee mansion.  Be sure to ask about the graves that bear the single word, “Citizen”.

 

Washington DC Travel -Top Events

Festivals & Special Events

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.

Our hometown favorite events

MARCH-APRIL: NATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
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!

APRIL: SMITHSONIANCRAFT SHOW
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.

MAY:  NATIONAL CATHEDRAL FLOWER MART
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.

JULY 4TH:  NATIONAL MALL INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION
The nation’s premier Independence Day holiday celebration, A Capitol Fourth concert and show includes an evening of patriotic and uplifting music followed by a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument in DC

Tours

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.

Walking Tours

Walk of the Town
This is a free, no reservations needed group walking tour of the National Mall (which means the payment is tips.) Tim has been the TripAdvisor #1 ranked DC tour guide for quite some time. Take a look at his website for the different tours, meeting points and schedule.

Washington Walks - 202-484-1565
Washington Walks offers group, no reservations needed walking tours of Washington, DC. They offer tours of the National Mall and memorials, but also several different tours tailored to some of the historic and unique neighborhoods of DC. Most tours cost $15 per person. See the website for the tour descriptions, meeting points and schedule.

DC by Foot
This is another great option for pay what you like walking tours. See the website for a schedule of their daily tours which include the staple National Mall tours, but also several themed tours around the city. Reservations Required.

Susan Murany - Private Licensed Tour Guide -  202-244-3307
Susan is a licensed tour guide who has crafted several themed walking tours. See her listing of tours and fees on the tours by locals website, or give her a call. She can also create a customized tour based on your interest. See us at the front desk for the folder with some of her tour descriptions.

DC Metro Food Tours
Choose a neighborhood, book your tour online, meet the tour guide at the designated location, and bon appetite.

Washigton DC Arts and Culture

Arts & Culture

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.

Discover More DC Area Activities

Cultural Tourism DC
DC is a living, cosmopolitan city, so interesting events are going on all the time.  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.

Culture Capital
Culture Capital is another great site for discovering interesting and entertaining one-time, one-of-a-kind DC events.  Check out the links on the left-hand side of Culture Capital’s home page for listings of special exhibits in our major museums, lectures at the Smithsonian and the National Geographic, or films and concerts at the Library of Congress.  Don’t miss the “Free Events” link which, as the name implies, gives you a listing of free events in DC.

Find your perfect room at our bed and breakfast in Washington DC to view all the attractions and make your trip to Washington DC one to remember.