Washington DC in a Day: A 24 Hour Sightseeing Itinerary
Visiting Washington DC and short on time? Discover how to see the most iconic landmarks of America’s capital in one day.
With lots to do and see in Washington DC, it’s hard to limit the sightseeing to a twenty-four hour day. That’s why we have revealed the most efficient ways to get to get your patriotism fix.
Top Attractions to See in Washington DC
Here are some great tips for a one day itinerary in Washington DC.
The White House
Easily identifiable to all, the White House is a symbol of American freedom and democracy sits just off the National Mall and is the official residence and workplace of the United States president.
This is one of the best places to see on East Coast USA and an essential stop off for that iconic photo outside.
Although tours inside the famous building are hard to come by, stopping by the gates at the northern facade with a columned portico, or the southern facade with a semi-circular portico (pictured above), is well worth a visit.
For those visitors wanting to get inside the building, they will need to contact their state’s representative’s office, but for international travelers, it will be a little tougher, as they will have to go through their country’s embassy.
Nevertheless, whether you get inside or just peer through the gates outside, catching a glimpse of this famous house is definitely a must.
Capitol Hill (Congress and the Library)
One of the most recognizable buildings in the world and home of America’s government, is the U.S. Capitol Building.
This is where laws and bills have been argued, where minorities have fought for their basic human rights, and more importantly, where democracy of this great nation is maintained.
The Capitol Building, also known as Congress, offers a free public tour to those who make a reservation in advance. Visits are free and run every 20-30 minutes; however, the amount of visits can be curtailed when congress is in session. This iconic symbol remains an evolving location for visitors to observe democracy in action.
Much like the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress also gives free guided tours exploring the historic Thomas Jefferson Building to learn about the building’s symbolic art, architecture, and grandeur of the Main Reading Room.
At the heart of any trip to Washington, DC is a visit to the National Mall, but don’t be deceived because the National Mall is not an actual mall; it’s a national park in downtown Washington DC, or as I like to call it, America’s front yard.
Spanning 1.9 miles, from the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of Congress, the National Mall welcomes millions of visitors from around the world who come to celebrate presidential legacies, to honor the nation’s veterans, and to rejoice America’s commitment to freedom and equality.
Lincoln’s Memorial & Reflecting Pool
No journey to DC is complete without touring the landmark that has defined the nation.
Visitors will be treated to the 19-foot statue of Lincoln immortalized in marble as one of the many symbols of unity, strength, and wisdom. Before leaving temple-like figure, visitors should then walk behind the monument to experience a beautiful view over the Potomac River into the Arlington Cemetery.
Then, follow up that with a walk along the Reflecting Pool amidst the ducks and geese towards the WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The National WWII memorial salutes all 16 million people who served in the American Armed forces along with 400,000 of those who were involved in defending their nation.
The stone columns form a semi-circle around the memorial’s plaza offering an awe-inspiring, but somber memory for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation. These visits are often flooded with emotions, but help provide closure for veterans.
Visible from far down the Potomac, this obelisk is a powerful symbol of the DC skyline, and up close, it will leave a mark on all who visit the capital. The Washington Monument was built to commemorate George Washington, the first American president.
Surrounded by 50 flags representing the 50 States of America, it is without a doubt, a central landmark of the National Mall. Until May 2014, it had been closed for repair after damage from the 2011 Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene.
National Archives Building
The National Archives Museum, home to the nation’s founding documents, displays the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights which are housed in the rotunda for the public.
While this is a permanent exhibit is free, visitors must go through airport-like security and be aware no photographs are permitted within the building to protect the ageing documents.
In addition, it also hosts an original version of the 1297 Magna Carta and also exhibits other significant historical documents such as the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Emancipation Proclamation, and collections of historical photography and artifacts.
National History Museum & Air and Space Museum
The National History Museum, also known as Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, is the most visited museum of any type in North America. Along with its free admission, all visitors will feast on the sheer magnitude of various history, art, and political documents.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum highlights everything from the original Old Glory to the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong during the moon landing; there is something for everyone within these walls.
Ultimate One Day Washington DC Sightseeing Itinerary
Hopefuly this guide has given you some ideas for how to spend just a day exploring Washington DC.
Contributions by Michelle Murphy & Addie Scoggin