How to Maximize Your Time With One Day In DC

Washington, DC is the capital of the United States and a popular tourist destination. Many people travel to the District of Columbia to learn about American history and its influence. In addition, the city is recognized for its famous monuments and world-class museums that tell the story of how America came to be.

Things to see and do in Washington, DC

DC is one of the best places to explore Black history and culture. The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial is the first memorial to honor a Black person at the National Mall. And the National Museum of African American History offers excellent insight into the plight of Black Americans throughout American history.

One of the top things to do in DC is to visit the Arlington National Cemetery, located across the Potomac River. Many people visit the site to pay their respects to those who died during various wars.

Also, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Memorial are popular destinations that honor fallen soldiers of war by telling some of their unique stories.


DC boasts plenty of restaurants and bars that serve delicious local and international cuisines. Old Ebbitt Grill is Washington’s oldest saloon, established back in 1856. The restaurant offers classic American meals, including roasted chicken, meatloaf, and steak dinners.

DC is also known for its food trucks, like Roaming Rooster, which serve some of the best fried chicken sandwiches in town.

If you’re traveling to DC with limited time, you can still see all of Washington, DC’s best sights and sounds. The capital city offers several day tours that can catch you up to speed on its history and culture in no time. And the metro station is one of the best ways to quickly travel through the city while on a budget. Here are six must-see destinations to explore with one day in DC:

The White House

Washington DC White House
Rene DeAnda

The White House is arguably the most famous landmark in America. As the home of the president and first family, the White House is the truest representation of the American government.

The White House Visitor Center features a collection of more than 100 historical artifacts, interpretive panels, and archival footage. You can also pick up a few items to take home at the White House Historical Association, a retail souvenir shop.

To tour the White House, you can submit a request through a member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator. Visits are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, so remember to plan for your trip by visiting the official website for more information.

DC's Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial
Ja’Corie Maxwell

The Lincoln Memorial is a famous landmark that holds much cultural and historical significance. This is especially true for Black Americans who may recognize the memorial as the place where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Built in 1922 by architect Henry Bacon, the memorial pays homage to the 16th U.S. president Abraham Lincoln for his efforts in defending democracy. Today, the towering landmark stretching nearly 100 feet high acts as a symbol of equality for all.

The steps leading up to the memorial are a popular attraction featured on television shows and in movies. And inside the monument are carved inscriptions that detail Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his famous Gettysburg address.

The National Mall of DC

When people think of a mall, department stores, retail shops, and food courts typically come to mind. But the National Mall in Washington D.C. is not your run-of-the-mill shopping center. Instead, it’s a lush, green national park that includes many famous and historical landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the National Gallery of Art.

As the most visited park in America, there are plenty of things for tourists to see and do. You can explore nature and animals at the Natural History Museum and Culture or learn about the holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Or, to cover it all in a short time, you can take a ride on the Big Bus Tour for fantastic views of the park.

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is one of the most famous landmarks in the entire country. Made from white marble and granite, the monument is a popular attraction to take pictures of. It was completed in 1884 to pay homage to the first president of the United States, George Washington. And because it stretches to nearly 555 feet, it’s become the tallest predominantly stone structure and obelisk in the world.

Because it’s so tall, it makes for one of the best places for tourists to see the city. Visitors can enter the monument and take an elevator to its top floor for an incredible view of the nation’s capital.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum

Washington DC Smithsonian Art Museum
Enrique Alarcon

The Smithsonian Art Museum, also called SAAM, is one of many Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. The art museum is a popular tourist attraction that houses an array of classic and modern works of art. Many of its galleries and exhibits feature several Black artists, including Benny Andrews, Ellis Wilson, and Loïs Mailou Jones. The museum even offers a number of exhibitions dedicated solely to Black art.

You can also take a walking tour of the site hosted by a tour guide. Or, if you prefer to explore at your own pace, SAAM also offers self-guided tours via your smartphone.

Washington DC's National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is a great place to learn about the history of aviation and spaceflight. The space museum is home to more than 600,000 rare and historical artifacts, including aircraft engines, spacesuits, and technical drawings. In addition, there are a number of exhibits to explore, both in-person and online.

Guests can watch a live demonstration of the science behind aircraft technology and flight mechanics. And for a comprehensive experience, the museum offers guided tours to guests who want to learn more about aviation.

The site is currently under construction due to renovation until the fall of 2022. So be sure to check the official website for more updates to plan your visit accordingly.

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