Put all of the traditional Washington, D.C. attractions out of your mind – the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian museums, the monuments – instead you’ll see fresh food, arts and nightlife scenes. Spend your morning in the city’s farmers markets and contemporary exhibits. Take a scenic afternoon stroll from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument before you catch a show at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. And if you’re going at the end of March and April, be sure to hit the Tidal Basin, where thousands of pink cherry blossoms surround you.
However with all of that being said, these are the places you have to see when you’re in Washington, D.C. next.
U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress
Arguably the U.S. Capitol is the most magnificent building in all of Washington, D.C. and it’s the one place visitors can witness politics in action. Members of both houses of Congress are here to debate and create national policy and law, while the visitors can explore the building’s north and south wings and the circular centerpiece: the Rotunda. This iconic hall features paintings, frescoes and sculptures representing famous scenes from American history. Plus it’s free to visit the Capitol (although you need a reservation ahead of time) and Library of Congress – which houses the “largest library in the world.”
National World War II Memorial
Between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll find the National World War II Memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 2004 to honor the 400,000-plus Americans who died during the war. It features a circle of 56 pilings (each represent the then 56 U.S. states and territories) looking over the Rainbow Pool. It’s a breathtaking sight at night when the lights are shining.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
With over 126 million artifacts on display, this massive Smithsonian museum on the National Mall attracts millions of visitors every year. When I visited, the tour guide said something like they receive at least 10,000+ visitors daily, the summer months are double that number. Make sure to check out the tarantula feedings in the Orkin Insect Zoo and the replicas of marine life in the 23,000-square-foot Sant Ocean Hall.
Granted, the ticket prices are pricey, it’s worth the visit. Plus, it’s Washington, D.C.’s most popular museum. And like the name says, Newseum is dedicated to the news. Visitors enter an atrium that sports a huge television screen and a news helicopter. All of this leads then into 15 galleries on the history of the news.
The Tidal Basin
We mentioned the Tidal Basin before, but now we want to go a bit in-depth. The Tidal Basin is a 2-mile-long pond that acts as the backdrop to D.C.’s most loved sites. Every spring, the Tidal Basin springs with color as the cherry blossom trees (a gift to D.C. from Tokyo) bloom into breathtaking cotton candy-colored tufts. It’s a visitor hot-spot every year. Either follow the path around the basin or get in the waters in a paddle boat.