We loved our trip to Washington DC not only because it is great for history connoisseurs like us, but because it was relatively inexpensive. Most of the attractions are 100% free and with some other careful planning, the rest of your trip can also be enjoyable without breaking the bank. As Americans, it was especially great to see the places we learned so much about in our history books in school. Washington DC is also filled with powerful reminders of more trying times like the beautiful Vietnam War Memorial and the Holocaust Museum, all of which was an invaluable lesson for our kids. Our trip was over Spring Break (8 days, including travel days), which was before the hot summer weather and summer crowds. Ideally though, we would have waited one or two weeks later in early April to catch the cherry blossoms when they were in full bloom.
Museum of American History & White House: There are so many great things to do in Washington DC but here are a few of our favorites. The Museum of American History is located on the National Mall and, like all Smithsonian Museums, entrance is free. While managed by the National Park Service, tours of the White House must be scheduled through your local Congressman or Congresswoman. International visitors must schedule through their embassy in Washington DC. These free self-guided tours are scheduled between 21 and 90 days before your arrival, though we recommend scheduling closer to 90 days in advance.
National Mall: Visit the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic on the 2-mile long National Mall.
U.S. Capital and Library of Congress: It is hard not to pass through the halls of the US Capital and not feel respect and awe for those that call this building their place of work. Established in the year 1800, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with over 170 million items. Some of the more famous collections include a 15th Century Gutenberg Bible (one of the first mass-produced books) and the Presidential Papers collections, which includes papers from 23 former Presidents.
Kennedy Center and Arlington Cemetery: On January 23, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill dedicating the Center as a living memorial to President Kennedy, just two months after his assassination. In addition to this memorial, the Kennedy Center serves as a hub for performing arts in the Washington DC area. Under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army, Arlington Cemetery is the resting place of solders from the Civil War through today. The most frequently visited graves at Arlington is that of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
US Supreme Court and Rock Creek Park: Take a self-guided tour of the US Supreme Court building. Be sure to check the website before visiting to see if you can attend an actual oral argument, though be aware that in order to catch a seat, you will have to arrive very early. Rock Creek National Park dates back to 1890 and was just the third designated National Park in the U.S. The Park has a Nature Center and Planetarium, Horseback Rides, and plenty of trails to hike in this urban 1700+ acre Park.
Georgetown Walking Tour: Founded in 1751, this historic neighborhood is located in northwest Washington D.C. Georgetown is a popular neighborhood for members of the Senate and House, as well as the Executive Branch. We took a tour of Georgetown with DC By Foot.
Where We Stayed
Victor, Idaho: We stayed in this AirBnB that is located near Capitol Hill. This roomy space is in a nice neighborhood with a grocery store and restaurants within walking distance. It was just far enough from the National Mall to require an Uber but the trip was short and not too pricey. Photo credit: AirBnB listing.
Where We Ate
Georgetown Cupcake: This cupcake shop is located as would expected, in the Georgetown neighborhood. This sweet spot had so many amazing cupcakes to choose from. Don't be surprised to find a long line though.
FarmBird. Even though this is a take-out chain, we loved this spot located right in our AirBnB neighborhood. Food choices are healthy, tasty, and reasonably priced. We came here twice.