10 must see sights in Washington DC

Hey friends!

This is the last edition to my East Coast Road Trip Series. If you’re behind, catch up with the first four stops on our trip: Acadia National Park, Maine, Niagara Falls, Boston, and Jersey Shore.

Our final and last stop was in Washington D.C. At this point, we were pretty much vacationed out, but nonetheless still excited to stop in D.C. I had been to Washington D.C. previously on a class trip in 8th grade, but Trevor never had. I was excited for him to see our nation’s capitol.

After we left Seaside Heights, New Jersey, we checked into our hotel located just a few blocks away from most of the main attractions. We stayed in D.C. for two nights, unlike the other stops on the trip where we only stayed one night (with the exception of camping in Maine).

If there is one thing that sticks out to be about this trip, it’s this: IT. WAS. HOT. Like, scorching hot. I specifically remember walking about the city that I thought there was a slight chance that I might die of a heatstroke. Oh and in case you were wondering, D.C. has basically no shade whatsoever in the city. But we didn’t let the 90 degree heat stop us !

The following are top 8 must-sees in D.C. that I highly recommend anyone planning a trip to the city to check out!

1.) Arlington National Cemetery 

10 must see sights in Washington DC

Even though the nation’s largest military cemetery is technically located in Virginia, I’m going to include it in this list. There are no words to describe Arlington. It’s vastness encompasses over 624 acres of land and is home to more than 400,000 graves since the Civil War. Notable names that have been buried at Arlington include the John, Robert, and Jacqueline Kennedy, as well as Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

10 must see sights in Washington DC

2.) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier  

10 must see sights in Washington DC

Although the Tomb of the Unknown Solider is located in Arlington, I want to individually point out how special this monument is. The Tomb sits atop a hill overlooking D.C. and represents an unidentified American solider form World War I. On the tomb reads, “Here rests in honored glory an American solider known but to God.” The tomb is located in a plaza of a beautiful, breathtaking marble Memorial Amphitheater.

10 must see sights in Washington DC

3.) Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a 555 foot tall obelisk looking over the nation’s capital. Made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, it’s the world’s tallest stone structure. It was built in 1848 to commemorate George Washington. Visitors are allowed to tour and go up to the top of the monument for an extravagant sight-seeing experience. You really don’t realize how tall this structure is until you’re standing right under it!

10 must see sights in Washington DC

4.) Lincoln Memorial

10 must see sights in Washington DC

As the name suggests, the 12 foot Lincoln memorial was made to honor our 16th president, Honest Abe. Built in 1914, the memorial stands as a symbol of the Civil Rights movement, where 250,000 people crowded around to listen to Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

10 must see sights in Washington DC

5.) The White House

10 must see sights in Washington DC

Let’s be real here. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the place to be here in Washington D.C. Since John Adams in 1800, every single president as resided here at one point. On this trip I wasn’t able to go inside of it, but this is something I did when I was in 8th grade and would highly recommend to anyone else. Being the history buff that I am, I loved just being near someplace so historic and full of honor.

6.) Vietnam Veterans Memorial

10 must see sights in Washington DC

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an absolute must-see. The wall itself is both beautifully fascinating and devastating. To see the thousands upon thousands of inscripted names onto the stone really puts our American soldiers’ sacrifice into perspective. It sits on 2 acres and has about 3 million visitors each year. The wall is 246 feet long and has approximately 58,300 names. It’s one of those things that people can’t simply tell you about. You have to go experience it for yourself.

10 must see sights in Washington DC

7.) National World War II Memorial

10 must see sights in Washington DC

The National World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S. and the more than 400,000 who died. The center point of the memorial is a gorgeous fountain surrounded by 56 granite pillars that represent each of the 48 lower states, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was opened in 2004 by George W. Bush.

The Memorial itself is incredibly humbling and beautiful. When we visited, there were people who were wading in the fountain and then were yelled at by a Memorial Worker to respect the Memorial, which I thought was great. As tempting as it was on that scorching day, I was not going to put my feet in that memorial.

10 must see sights in Washington DC 10 must see sights in Washington DC

8.) National Museum of American History- Smithsonian Museum

10 must see sights in Washington DC

The Smithsonian is by far the coolest Museum I have ever been to in my life, aside from the 9/11 museum. Once again, the history buff in me was just dying. Awesome point of interest within the museum:

-Dorothy’s REAL shoes as seen in The Wizard of Oz
Kermit the Frog
-The original Star Spangled Banner
-Original copy of the Gettysburg Address

and many, many more. The museum is HUGE. I mean, huge. It was hard to cover the whole museum in a single day. The first floor exhibits transportation and technology on the East wing; the west wing exhibits science and innovation. The second floor considers American ideals; the third floor exhibits America at war. There is also a newly renovated exhibit on American pop culture, AND there is a food court! There really is something for everyone in this museum.

10 must see sights in Washington DC

9.) National Archives Museum

10 must see sights in Washington DC

The National Archives Museum is our country’s storybook through historic documents. I was totally geeking out here. You can see the legit see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution & the Bill of Rights, just to name a few. The museum itself has a historic feel with dimly lit lights and a quiet atmosphere. Note: There is no photography allowed.

10.) The Pentagon

The Pentagon is the only attraction we didn’t visit on our road trip, but I had the pleasure to visit years back as an 8th grade student. It is our nation’s headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, technically located in Arlington County, Virginia. The one point of our trip that I didn’t get to visit was the memorial where the 9/11 attack occurred. Although 3,700,000 sq ft of the 6,500,000 sq ft of the Pentagon make up office space, the Pentagon is almost like its own little city with over 26,000 employees. It has over 20 of its own fast food operations, a cafe, a fitness center, and more.

Overall, D.C. is a must-visit destination for all Americans. If you haven’t already, make a point to stop and visit our beautiful nation’s capitol. You won’t regret it.

Have you been to Washington D.C. before? What points of interest would you recommend?


Can’t get enough travel advice? Check out these posts!
A Beginner’s Guide to Your First Trip to NYC
25 Road Trip Tips
50 State Sign Challenge: Part 1

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  • Greta Hollar

    My sister-in-law lives in D.C! Next time we visit we’ll have to do some of the things on this list!

  • Did you go to the Air & Space museum! I think that museum is a must when in DC sightseeing. It’s funny since I’ve lived in DC for over 10 years now, I still go and do touristy things all the time!

    • You do?! I think that’s awesome! Sadly no we didn’t get a chance to see that :(

  • DC is such a great vacation destination! So much to see, and most of it free! I lived so nearby my entire life, but I’ve never taken a tour of the White House! I think I need to go back and do that sometime soon.

    • Exactly, SO much of it is free! It’s a great place to take a family.

  • Becky @Disney in your Day

    I only live about 3 hours from DC but haven’t been since high school! I think I would have a much bigger appreciation for it now. Your post is inspiring me to plan a day or weekend trip there. I’m sure I could spend all day in the Smithsonian. Last time we went to the Air and Space museum, which is amazing too.

    • The Smithsonian was awesome. I’d love to go to the Air and Space Museum! We didn’t get a chance to do that.

  • love your Washington Monument picture! Great List

  • Paige Allison

    DC is one of my fav cities and I’d definitely agree with this list! I still haven’t checked out the pentagon – but like Alanna said, the air and space museum was pretty amazing!

  • Sweet Right Here

    So fun! I got to go there in high school, but haven’t been since then! I think I would appreciate it a lot more now. I loooove your fringe purse by the way 😀

    • Oh thank you! I’m just glad you had the chance to go at some point in your life :)

  • Chrissa – Physical Kitchness

    I used to live there! So much fun and so much to do. Great list!

  • I LOVE Washington DC! I was able to go twice in college with an organization I was a member of, but I definitely didn’t feel like it was enough! It’s one of the places I plan to spend some time in the future. These are all definitely must-see places! I also think the Holocaust Museum is one that people need to visit!

    • I forgot to add that to my list!!!! The Holocaust Museum was an amazing experience.

  • Dana Brillante-Peller

    I went to DC with my family when I was little. I can’t wait to take my boys!

    • I think they would love it :)

  • I went to DC several years ago for the Cherry Blossom Festival, and it was amazing! I purposely wanted to go in the spring or fall to avoid the high summer temps. I figure that like New Orleans there is a reason people used to leave that particular city in the summers – too dang hot & with the water there…HUMID!

    The one place on my list not on yours is the National Holocaust Museum. It was an incredible experience. Overwhelming & humbling. Quite incredible really.

    Beyond that, I was blown away by the National Native American museum & the Korean War Memorial. I was struck by how big the hands on the soldiers at the Korean War Memorial was. & it was odd to wander through that part of the park & see World War I memorials from the states looking so dilapidated & uncared for.

    • Hey Jen, I COMPLETELY forgot to add the National Holocaust Museum to the list and I’m SO MAD at myself! You are absolutely right; it truly was an incredible experience!

  • Agree with all of these! I love DC!

  • Such a great list!! I haven’t been to DC since I was little. I’d love to go back and visit all of these places!

  • I went on the same trip in 8th grade as well! I would love to go back as an adult! Thanks for bringing back the memories!

    • Isn’t it crazy how much you can forget from your childhood? I remember the big things we did but not so much the details!

  • Oh man I went there for my birthday last year and fell in love!! I love all of these places but my favorite was the Holocaust museum. Now I have a serious travel bug to go back haha

    • Someone else mentioned that in the comments, and I can’t believe I forgot about that museum! It was amazing. I’m going to add it onto the list :)

  • I’ve mentioned this before on one of your travel posts, but I’m all about visiting the nerdy museums and historical sights. So much cool stuff to learn and see! I love all your fun adventures and travel tips. Thanks for sharing!

    • Same here! We can be nerds together 😉

  • Sarah Koves

    I have been to DC twice, but I’ve never been to the Archives, Pentagon, Vietnam or WWII Memorial or in the Washington Monument. The National Holocaust Museum and National Zoo are awesome. One day I will do a White House tour too.

    • Oh crap!!! I forgot to put the National Holocaust Museum on the list. That was an amazing place as well.

  • I have never been to DC before but it is on my ever growing list of places I want to visit.

  • I went to DC twice this year when I lived in Virginia. I really enjoyed it. Lincoln Memorial was my favorite. I’m only sad I couldn’t get there during peak cherry blossoms season – that would’ve been amazing!

    • I know same here :( I hear it’s incredible!

  • Rose Mont

    I live about 3 hours away from DC. I would say we go every year. I don’t know if you can ever see everything. I really want to check out the zoo. I like that all the tourist spot (except Pentagon) are all walking distance from each other.

    • I love that too! It comes in so handy. Where do you live? I’ve never been to the zoo!

      • Rose Mont

        I live in VA and a couple hours drive makes for a good weekend trip once and awhile.

  • Jessica Hughes

    I’ve been planning a visit forever so this came in handy!!

    • How awesome! You should really go, it’s a blast!

  • Donnica Smalls

    I haven’t been to DC in a while but I really would like to get back to see the MLK memorial. Great guide!

  • I love DC! I wane to go back because I feel like there’s always more to see. I will be using this guide on my next trip.

    All the Best,
    Allison Jones | http://www.LiveLifeWellBlog.com

    • Thanks Allison! I hope you get the chance to go back soon (:

  • Shann Eva

    So cool! I’ve always wanted to go to DC. I can’t wait to take my boys there someday.

    • I think they would love it :)

  • We went to ALL these places (minus the pentagon) while we were in DC about a year and a half ago. These are some great tips!!!

  • Neely

    Went to DC last year aroundt his time and did a lot of this stuff!

    • So glad to hear you got the chance to visit! :)

  • We were in DC a few months ago. I never really liked it as a kid… Yeah… That was me… Now I love it! I love the Smithsonian so much :-)

    • It’s much more of an adult tour destination. The history might bore a kid. Glad you enjoy it now :) xo

  • I used to live near D.C. I miss all of it!

    • I don’t blame you! It’s a wonderful place :)

  • 1314 STUDIO

    Since 2016 cherry blossoms and festival is here, we wrote a mini guide on where are all the good photo spots in area: http://www.1314studio.com/2016/03/2016-cherry-blossoms-photo-guide-in-dc-nj-nyc-philly/

    • Cool! Thanks for the tips!

  • Love this post! All of these places are awesome and I’m so glad to see you had an awesome time in my hometown and I also can’t believe I never saw this post before! The capital is also a must-see and if you book ahead you can get a free tour from the office of one of your congressmen (or women, of course).

    • Hey girl! I forgot you are from DC, how awesome!!! I would LOVE to go back. But oh my goodness, it was scorching when we went!!! SO HOT