We’ve modified this second day to account for ongoing closures at major government buildings. If the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and White House are back to running tours to the public, you may want to adjust this plan to slot in a tour of one of those oh-so-Washington experiences. 

In the meantime, with a second day added onto your trip, you can take a photo in front of the White House, spend some time exploring a Smithsonian Museum, and get lost in Georgetown’s historic side streets or shop the neighborhood’s many boutiques. Start: Metro on the Blue, Orange, or Silver Line to the Farragut West stop, or take the Red Line to the Farragut North stop and walk down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

1. The White House 

A visit to the White House is a highlight of a trip to the nation’s capital, even if you aren’t able to go inside for a tour. I encourage you to admire its exterior view and consider the facts: Its cornerstone was laid in 1792, making the White House the capital’s oldest federal building. It’s been the residence of every president but George Washington (although the nation’s second president, John Adams, lived here for only 4 months). The British torched the mansion in 1814, so what you see is the house rebuilt in 1817, using the original sandstone walls and interior brickwork. Consider following the “Strolling Around the White House”.

Return to the metro at Farragut West and take the train one stop on the Blue, Orange, or Silver lines to Federal Triangle. Alternately, from the White House you can walk east on Pennsylvania Ave., past the Treasury Building on your right, then take a right on 15th St. NW. Walk until you hit Constitution Ave.—you’re back on the National Mall! This time you’re heading to:

2. National Museum of American History

This museum has so much inside of it that it can be overwhelming, so it’s best to pick and choose which exhibits interest you. My advice? Start with a walk through the Star-Spangled Banner gallery. As you move through the darkened gallery, you’ll follow the story of the American Revolution’s Battle of Baltimore and the enormous flag that was raised there, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became the U.S. national anthem. In the middle of the gallery, you’ll see the banner itself, a delicate 200-year-old flag that has grown to mean so much to so many people. Prefer not to overdo it with the history? No problem; swap in any of the mega-museums down here instead: The National Museum of American History, National Gallery of Art, and National Air and Space Museum are all right here, plus more. 

From the museum, walk east on Constitution to 7th St. NW. (Take a little detour through the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden on your way.) From here walk north into:

3. Penn Quarter

This lively neighborhood just north of the National Mall is full of restaurants, bars, and assorted sightseeing attractions, all within a short walk of one another. Wander down to Pennsylvania Avenue and up 7th Street, the main arteries, and explore side streets. Then head to lunch at:

4. Jaleo

Washingtonians are proud to be the hometown of star chef and global humanitarian Jose Andres, and Jaleo is one of the best places to taste his work. The Spanish restaurant serves a wide range of tapas and other dishes inspired by Chef Andres’s Spanish roots. 

Exit Jaleo and walk 1 block north on 7th St. to the:

5. Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery 

Nothing reveals the essence of the American spirit and character better than its art. Pop in here and look into the portraiture faces of America’s presidents (and First Ladies—don’t miss Michelle Obama’s portrait on the third floor), its poets, its heroes, its historic figures, its celebrities. Study Georgia O’Keeffe’s southwestern landscapes, and admire the creations from self-taught folk artists, from exquisite quilts to outlandish sculptures made of metallic foil and found objects. The enclosed Kogod Courtyard with its wavy, glass and steel roof is a work of art itself.

From here your next stop is Georgetown, on the west side of the city. The easiest way to get there is to hail a taxi or order a ride share. You can also walk north to Massachusetts Ave. and catch the D.C. Circulator bus’s Georgetown to Union Station route. This will drop you at M St. and Wisconsin Ave., the heart of Georgetown:

6. Georgetown 

Come for the shops and restaurants, stay for the historic homes, gardens, and picturesque side streets. You could spend all afternoon into evening here—and even later if you’re up for some nightlife. The Georgetown walking tour in chapter 10 will give you a good taste of the neighborhood’s character. From there, pick one of the many eateries that line M Street, Wisconsin Avenue, or the waterfront plaza at Washington Harbour. 


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.