An Overview of Five Perfect Days in Washington, D.C. 2018
with Planning Links in “Before You Go” Section below the 5-Day Overview Itinerary
DAY 1 – National Archives, National Gallery of Art, Overview Amphibious Duck Tour of City
National Archives Museum
Visit the Rotunda for Charters of Freedom to see the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the United States Bill of Rights.
National Gallery of Art
The West Building of the National Gallery of Art houses the European Masters’ paintings and sculptures including works by Degas, Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, and da Vinci. It also contains works by American artists painted prior to the 20thcentury.
The National Gallery of Art’s newer, geometrical, modern East Building was designed by architect I. M. Pei. This building contains modern and contemporary art, including works by Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Calder.
Lunch – The Dubliner
Have lunch at the Dubliner for burgers, salads or traditional Irish food.
Amphibious Duck Tour of Washington, DC
Take a Duck Tour in an amphibious World War II vehicle to see famous Washington, DC monuments from land and then from the Potomac River as the vehicle floats into the river.
Step inside Union Station, a restored train station, metro station, as well as a shopping and dining venue.
Day 2 – The White House, National Museum of American History, National Museum of African American History
The White House
Take a pre-arranged tour of the White House following the procedure in the “Before You Go” section below and/or visit the White House Visitor Center.
Lunch – POV Restaurant at W Washington, D.C. Hotel
Have lunch at the POV restaurant at the top of the W Washington Hotel overlooking the White House. Menus include salads, burgers, sandwiches, and pizza. Make reservations in advance here: http://povrooftop.com
National Museum of American History
Visit the National Museum of American History, a Smithsonian Museum. The museum houses the First Ladies Gowns, the original Star Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Thomas Jefferson’s desk, George Washington’s uniform, Edison’s light bulb, and many modern-era artifacts, as well.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
After visiting the National Museum of American History, if you are able to get free tickets, walk to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Museum, at 1400 Constitution Avenue, NW. Read my detailed blog about this fascinating museum here:
Day 3 – Air and Space Museum, Holocaust Museum, National Mall Monuments and Memorials
Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Begin the day at the Air and Space Museum in DC at 600 Independence Avenue, SW when it opens at 10:00 am to beat the crowds at this popular museum. The museum contains the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, and a lunar rock you can touch.
Visit the Smithsonian Castle to see the original Smithsonian Institution. The castle now houses the Smithsonian Information Center and a café.
Lunch – Castle Café
Have lunch inside the Smithsonian Castle at the Castle Café. The menu offers specialty sandwiches, soups, pastries, salads, coffee, teas, bottled beverages, beer, and wine.
Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC
Visit the Holocaust Museum. The permanent exhibit tells the history of the Holocaust from 1933 to 1945.
Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Make your way to the Tidal Basin and take a Paddle Boat or walk around the basin where you will see the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. as you circle around the basin. This is the place to see the cherry blossoms in bloom if you are here in early to mid-April.
Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial
View the Washington Monument, as you walk toward the National World War II Memorial. Walk alongside the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Then, walk to the left, with your back to the Lincoln Memorial, and follow the signs to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Day 4 – United States Capitol, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Ford’s Theatre
United States Capitol
Begin your day at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, entering from the underpass on First Street NE. Visit the U.S. Capitol. Be sure to get free tickets in advance. See the “Before You Go” section below.
United States House of Representatives Gallery and/or Senate Gallery
While you are at the United States Capitol visit the House Gallery and/or the Senate Gallery using the passes obtained in advance. (See “Before You Go” section below.)
Supreme Court of the United States
Exit the Capitol, and look across the street to see the Supreme Court Building, If you would like to visit the interior of the building, check the official website here for visitor information and updates: https://www.supremecourt.gov/visiting/visitorservices.aspx.
Lunch – The Monocle
You may see some lawmakers at the famous Monocle restaurant near the United States Capitol. The restaurant serves salads, sandwiches, steaks, and seafood dishes.
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Highlights include the world’s largest emerald, Hope diamond, Star of Asia sapphire, and meteorites; the Hall of Human Origins – human-like apes including Neanderthal; the exhibit of The Last American Dinosaurs on the second floor of the museum; a 1500-gallon aquarium, and a live butterfly pavilion.
Dinner – BLT Prime by David Burke or Elephant and Castle
BLT Prime by David Burke is located in the Trump Hotel inside the old renovated United States Post Office. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps have a drink at Benjamin’s Bar and Lounge in the hotel and/or dinner at the BLT Prime by David Burke steakhouse. Or, have dinner nearby the hotel at the Elephant and Castle pub.
After dinner, see a play or a performance at Ford’s Theatre. Or, visit the theatre earlier in the day to visit the famous theatre where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Lincoln’s box seat is draped off on the right as you face the stage.
Day 5 – National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, Georgetown Lunch Stop, Arlington National Cemetery, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, Dinner Cruise
Note: You will need a car to visit most, if not all, of today’s sights.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum in Virginia
Visit the Air and Space Museum in Virginia, a Smithsonian Museum. Its two huge hangars display thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Lunch in Georgetown – Clyde’s Restaurant
Have lunch at Clyde’s in Georgetown. The menu offers excellent burgers, sandwiches, and salads. If you have time, stop for a while and visit some shops near Clyde’s in Georgetown.
Visit Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Pentagon and Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
Drive to the Pentagon and visit the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial commemorating the sacrifice of those who died in the September 11, 2001, air crash into the Pentagon.
United States Air Force Memorial
While you are at the Pentagon, look in the sky across the expressway at the Air Force Memorial. The three memorial spires range from 201 feet (61 m) to 270 feet (82 m) high and appear to be soaring; its array of stainless steel arcs against the sky evoke the image of “contrails of the Air Force Thunderbirds as they peel back in a precision ‘bomb burst’ maneuver.”
Note: The Blue Metro Line travels to Arlington and to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, so if you skip the Air and Space Museum and Clydes, it is still possible to visit Arlington and the 9/11 Memorial without a car. The Yellow Metro Line also travels to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
Spirit of Washington Dinner Cruise
Take a 3-hour dinner cruise on the Potomac on the Spirit of Washington as you enjoy views of the Washington Monument, National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria. See the “Before You Go” section below for ticket information.
Before You Go to Washington, D.C.:
- Contact your Senators and/or your House Representative. You will need to get your White House tickets and Senate and House Gallery visitor tickets in advance to (1) visit the White House, (2) visit the Senate Gallery inside the Capitol, and (3) visit the House Gallery inside the Capitol. You should ask both of your Senators and your Representative for White House tickets, because they are harder to get so you will hope someone comes through. Decide on the optimal day you would like to visit, but have an option or two in mind, and then contact both of your Senators’ offices and your U.S. Representative’s office to request tickets. You can locate contact information for Senators here:
and for Representatives here:
When you get in touch with your Senator(s) or Representative, you will need to provide the congressional staff with all visitors in your traveling party dates of birth and social security numbers. Requests for White House tour tickets are accepted up to six months in advance and NO LESS THAN 30 DAYS IN ADVANCE. Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. A limited number of tours are available. All White House tours are free of charge. For the most current tour information, call the 24-hour line at 202-456-7041. White House tours are always subject to last minute cancellation. The latest White House information is available at this link:
- Get Duck Tour tickets. Note: Buy tickets for the Duck Tour in advance for a $2 discount and to reserve your time and date.
- Get tickets for a show at the Ford Theater.
- Get tickets for the U.S. Capitol tour:
- If you are traveling between March 1st and August 31st, get your Holocaust Museum tickets in advance.
- Get Swan Boat tickets.
- Get tickets for your choice of Dinner Boat Cruise on the Potomac.
- If possible, get tickets to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Museum and the most difficult to visit due to its popularity. If this is a definite must-see for you, it is recommended that your get these tickets first before you plan the rest of your visit. A free timed pass is necessary for admission. If you’re able to obtain passes, you can claim up to six. They’re timed at 15-minute intervals, and everyone – even infants – entering the museum will need a pass. Tickets are usually available on the first day of the month 90 days in advance for three months in the future.
- Make your lunch and dinner reservations.
- If you have the time and the energy, you may want to schedule a three-hour morning Segway Tour of the National Mall with the Smithsonian Institute. Tours depart from the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s Mall entrance daily. Call 202-384-8516 for reservations and information.
- Make your hotel reservations. Here are a few recommendations in a variety of price ranges within walking distance of central D.C.
Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol
W Washington D.C.
The Willard InterContinental Hotel
For detailed information on the above 5-day plan with an accompanying podcast, check out my article, “Washington, D.C.: 27 Things To Do with 5-Day Plan with Podcast” below:
For more information about visiting Washington, D.C. monuments and memorials, check out my podcast #14:
For more information about visiting Washington, D.C. museums, check out my podcast #13:
You may want to visit the new Museum of the Bible only two blocks off the National Mall near the United States Capitol. Check out my detailed post and podcast about that here:
For much more information about Washington, D.C., see Amazon or the links below for information and/or to purchase the $8.99 paperback or the $5.99 Kindle book of Washington, D.C. 2018 by Cindy Loe.
I hope all of your travel days are just perfect!
Podcast on iTunes, TuneIn, etc: One Perfect Day in Travel