“Washington is a city of Southern charm and northern efficiency,” John F. Kennedy famously declared. You’ll certainly feel that way if you’re caught up in the throng on the National Mall on a sunny day or waiting for a table at one of the city’s hottest restaurants. The crowd is intense, and the wait can be long. There’s so much to see here, and everyone has his or her own way of seeing it. This chapter lays out suggested itineraries to help make your Washington, D.C., trip as fun-filled and stress-free as possible. It includes a 3-day tour of the capital’s iconic sites, plus three themed itineraries: one for families, another to explore women’s history, and the third an African-American history tour. Follow them to the letter or adapt them for your own purposes—it’s entirely up to you.

Prepare to be calm and flexible: Hours, entry requirements, and security measures are subject to change. Lines to enter public buildings can be lengthy; depending on the season and security clearance procedures, you'll need to enter many of the federal buildings. Reserve spots on tours whenever possible to avoid some of those waits. Most important, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Tour guides, the National Park Service rangers, and the staff at all the museums know an awful lot; take advantage of their expertise. Following the itineraries is an overview of D.C.’s neighborhoods. Among the most enjoyable activities in D.C. is exploring its neighborhoods on foot, so if you tire of crowded museums and structured itineraries, choose a neighborhood that appeals to you and simply stroll.

Three Sometimes Difficult-to-Visit Attractions 

An ideal Washington, D.C., itinerary would include a visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, a trip to the top of the Washington Monument, and a tour of the White House. However, the popularity and/or admission procedures of these sites can make visits difficult to incorporate into a set schedule. For instance, the only way to visit the interior of the White House is by making a reservation through the office of your congressional representative or senator, as much as 3 months in advance. Best advice? Absolutely try in advance to 1) book a White House tour, 2) order advance tickets to visit the Washington Monument, and 3) obtain an African American Museum entry pass. Then, if you're successful, tweak the following itineraries accordingly. 


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.