Choose from 95 Fun Things to Do in Washington
Centered around Columbia Road and 18th Street, it can make an excellent end to a day’s exploration of nearby Dupont Circle, the U-Street Corridor, or both. In the evenings, check out Habana Village for salsa dancing and Cuban food; Ghana Cafe for West African cuisine and, on the weekends, live African music; or local landmark Madams Organ for live jazz, blues and soul food.
If you can only get here during the day, though, try to come on a Saturday for the outdoor Latin Quarter market at Columbia and 18th, or take a wander by the elegant statues in Meridian Hill Park, once considered as a possible location for the White House.
Dupont Circle’s graceful marble fountain was designed and built by the same architectural team behind the Lincoln Memorial. Installed in 1921, the fountain replaced a memorial statue of Civil War rear admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont that was moved to the prominent Du Pont family’s estate in Wilmington, Delaware.
In the neighborhood surrounding the traffic circle and fountain, you can feast your eyes on Impressionist masterpieces at the elegant Phillips Collection; tour the 19th-century Anderson House, the lavish home of a former diplomat; and explore awe-inspiring exhibits at the National Geographic Society. Catch a contemporary play at the renowned Studio Theatre, settle in for an artfully prepared dinner at the intimate Obelisk, or enjoy some fancy cocktails at the chic, multi-level Eighteenth Street Lounge.
Designed in 1818 for the War of 1812 naval hero Stephen Decatur, Decatur House holds the honor of being the first and last house on Lafayette Square to be occupied as a private residence. Decatur is best remembered for his skills fighting Barbary pirates; sadly these failed him when he was killed in a duel a year after moving into his new home.
Architecturally, it’s an interesting mash-up of austere Federal and wedding cake Victorian influences. Inside, the house museum displays a permanent collection of Federalist and Victorian furnishings. You’ll also learn about the lives of its most famous tenants - including Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay - and the slaves who waited on them.
In the southeast corner of Lafayette Square, check out the likeness of Marquis de Lafayette, who became a revolutionary war general at age 19. Although Lafayette was branded a traitor in his native France, he was considered a hero in young America. In the northeast corner is a memorial to Tadeusz Kosciusko, an engineer in George Washington’s army. The sculpture is one of the most provocative in town.
Decatur House is located across the street from the White House. Other nearby attractions include the National Mall, the Art Museum of America, and the Aztec Gardens. The Decatur House is accessible via metro and bus.
Family photos around the home reflect Douglass’ two marriages, one lasting 44 years to a black woman his own age, the other to a white women’s rights activist 20 years his junior. Thought to be bi-racial and the son of his own slave master, Douglass defined his two marriages as divided between the backgrounds of his own two parents.
Every museum has a mission, and the African-American Civil War Museum makes the point that for some, the Civil War was about secession versus union, but for others, it was a matter of breaking human bondage.
The museum illustrates their message through a stunning permanent collection of photographs, documents, and some audiovisual programs, which follows African American history from the Civil War through the Civil Rights movement. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Project allows visitor to search for ancestors in databases of black troops, regiments, and battles.
Nearby is the African-American Civil War Memorial. At the center of a granite plaza, the bronze statue of rifle-bearing troops is surrounded on three sides by the Wall of Honor, listing the names of 209,145 black troops who fought in the Union Army, as well as the 7,000 white soldiers who served alongside them. Use the directory to locate individual names within the regiments.
The African-American Civil War Museum is located on U Street, in Columbia Heights, which is northeast from downtown. The neighborhood is accessible via metro and bus, and also is a hub for restaurants and nightlife.
The 4-ton bronze statue of Einstein depicts him holding a paper inscribed with his three most important contributions to science: the photoelectric effect, the theory of general relativity, and the equivalence of energy and matter (e=mc2). The uniquely mottled texture of the statue’s bronze is the signature style of its sculptor, Robert Berks, who also created the famous bust of JFK found in the lobby of the nearby Kennedy Center.
The memorial’s 28-foot-wide black granite base is inlaid with over 2,700 metal studs, which were mapped out by astronomers from the U.S. Naval Observatory and meant to represent the stars, planets and more as they appeared on the dedication date..
- Climbing on any monuments or cannons on the Gettysburg battlefield is prohibited.
- Be prepared for variable weather; summer heat and humidity can be intense and snow or ice may temporarily close some roads in winter.
- Ranger-led hikes, walking tours, and talks are available in the summer. Get info at the visitor center.
- Living history programs demonstrating Civil War tools and tactics take place on weekends from April to October.
- Beware of ticks when walking through tall grass and brush in Gettysburg National Military Park.
While the State Department is a functioning office and not generally open to the public, 45-minute tours of the 18th-and 19th-century furniture, fine and decorative art in the elegant Diplomatic Reception Rooms are offered on Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:45 p.m. Reservations for these free tours must be made about 90 days in advance of your visit via phone at or online.
- History buffs and families alike will appreciate a leisurely afternoon in Georgetown.
- Many of the sidewalks are made of (sometimes uneven) cobblestones; come prepared with comfy walking shoes.
- Many cafés, bakeries, and other comfy local establishments offer free Wi-Fi.
The stately Anderson House was designed in the Beaux-Arts style and has been described as a "Florentine villa in the midst of American independence." The Anderson House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and is considered to be one of the city's hidden treasures. Today, the Anderson House serves as the Society's headquarters and aims to preserve Larz's legacy of patriotic service and entertaining guests and offers several free concerts a year in the grand ballrooms and on the expansive grounds.
- Ford’s Theatre is a must-visit site for American history buffs.
- Tickets to the Ford’s Historic Site include access to the museum, the theater interior, the Petersen House, and the Aftermath Exhibits.
- Most visitors spend about two hours exploring the site.
- Visitors should reserve tickets in advance to guarantee entry; same-day tickets are limited.
- Ford’s Theatre is wheelchair accessible and offers audio-described and signed-interpreted performances.
- The FDR Memorial is a must-see for those with a keen interest in presidential history.
- Entrance to the memorial is free.
- The statues are part of the memorial’s interactive nature. You may touch the statues but please do not climb or sit on them.
- Distances between locations on the National Mall can be a lot farther than anticipated, so wear comfortable shoes and carry water with you.
- Washington DC can have unpredictable weather. Dress appropriately for the climate and tote an umbrella.
- The FDR Memorial is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. The former can be borrowed from the bookstore.
- The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a must-see for currency collectors, budget travelers, and anyone curious about the US currency system.
- All visitors to the bureau are required to go through security screening.
- The tour is wheelchair accessible, and wheelchairs are available upon request.
- Photography is not allowed inside the tour gallery.
In addition to its permanent collections and rotating art exhibits, the Library houses the three-tiered, Elizabethan-style Folger Theater, which each season stages three of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as literary readings and lectures.
Founded in 1789, Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution in America. This elite college of higher learning is home to the famous Hoyas, as well as some of the best examples of Romanesque revival style architecture on the East Coast. Approximately 7,000 undergraduates and 10,000 post-graduate students attend Georgetown University, and notable alumni include former president Bill Clinton. The school has four distinct university campuses, which include the Law Center, the undergraduate campus, the Medical Center, and the School of Continuing Studies, located in Chinatown.
- Keep in mind that the cemetery is a shrine honoring fallen members of the US Armed Forces and that a visit is a solemn affair. Exercise an appropriate level of respect.
- Be prepared to go through a security screening before entering the cemetery.
- No food or drink other than bottled water is allowed in the Welcome Center or on the cemetery grounds.
- The cemetery is wheelchair and stroller accessible, but you must bring your own.
- Download the ANC Explorer mobile phone app or use it at the kiosks on site to locate gravesites and monuments around the cemetery.