Packed with world-class museums, landmarks, and everything political, Washington, D.C. is a city unlike any other. Yet far away from the tourist areas and politicians, the nation’s capital is a normal, albeit unique, American city with diverse neighborhoods and a vibrant cultural scene. Plan your visit to Washington, D.C. and discover the top attractions and best places to stay throughout the city.

Early Morning: Waffle Up for the Day

You have a long day of exploring ahead of you, so don’t forget to grab some breakfast before you set off. For whatever reason, Washingtonians have a strong love of waffles, so you may as well indulge in the local delicacy. Head downtown to 10th Street NW and grab a table at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. Despite the fact that it’s only been open for 20 years, the owners have an interesting story. Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln himself would come in each day to order the waffle, egg, and bacon breakfast, which is a lead you should probably follow.

If you want a more souped-up (not actual soup) version of the waffle with more toppings, try Wicked Waffle over on I Street. Go with a classic waffle with syrup and powdered sugar or go hog-wild with other ingredients such as Nutella, ice cream, apples, strawberries, and everything else but the kitchen sink.

Once you’ve debated and chosen which waffle joint speaks to you, take a minute in between delicious bites to set yourself up for the day. Download the DC Metro and Bus app so you always find the right train or bus to get to your destination, get the Uber or Lyft apps to find a late-night ride or if you’re tired from walking, and if you want an active approach, get the Spotcycle app, which shows you where the nearest bike sharing station is located.

You may also want to consider the Smithsonian Mobile app, which shows you locations, floor plans, exhibits, tours, and anything else you might need when you visit one of the world’s most legendary museums.

Air space
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Midmorning: Visit Some of the Smithsonian Branches

Out-of-towners might think that the Smithsonian is just one giant museum, but it’s actually 19 separate museums along with the National Zoological Park. These world-renowned museums are widely considered some of the best in the world, so it’s definitely worth a visit. Even if you aren’t a museum person, every location is free, so you aren’t out any money.

If you want to make the most of your time, stick to the 11 Smithsonian museums within the National Mall. Start your cultural journey off with a trip to the National Museum of Natural History, which holds over 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. With over 7.1 million visitors a year, it’s the most crowded of any museum, so go early to beat the crowds.

Once you’ve had your fill of natural history, scoot on over to the National Air and Space Museum, which is also the world’s second-most-visited museum. The building contains 61 aircrafts, 51 spacecrafts, and over 2,000 other articles for your viewing. Highlights include Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and the Lockheed U-2 spy plane.

Noon: Refuel and Continue on Your Journey

You’ve been doing a decent amount of walking by this point, so it’s probably time to stop off for some lunch. Fortunately, Washington, D.C. has plenty of options within walking (or Uber) distance of the National Mall.

For a hearty sandwich that will tide you over until dinner, head to Red Apron. Made from locally sourced meats with no hormones and antibiotics, the sandwiches here are downright amazing. A burger, beef n’ cheddar, or meatball sandwich should keep you going, but without being too heavy.

After eating, it’s time to visit the National Gallery of Art. This gallery isn’t part of the Smithsonian, but it’s free nevertheless. The gallery consists of two buildings: the West Building, which focuses on European works from the 14th century to the 19th century, and the East Building, which boasts contemporary and modern art.

Standout attractions of the gallery include works by Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol.

White house
The White House in Washington DC.

Afternoon: Visit the White House

No trip to Washington, D.C. is complete without a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There’s something unique about seeing the residence of one of the most powerful person in the free world. Take some photos with friends and family for a memorable shot. If you’re a fan of people watching or want to be a part of a good cause, go to the public park across the street that’s usually rife with protestors.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

Late Afternoon: Visit the Moving Monuments and Iconic Landmarks

Travel back to the National Mall to explore some of the most famous monuments and landmarks in the world. History buffs will enjoy visits to the various memorials throughout the Mall. The Vietnam, WWI, WWII, and Korean monuments are particularly moving and help you grasp just how many people perished for the freedom and glory of a nation.

Other places worth a visit include the Grant Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Reflecting Pool, which is as beautiful as it is photogenic.

The Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Early Evening: Head to the Kennedy Center

Hopefully you’re not hungry just quite yet so you can head over to the Kennedy Center. Only the locals know that the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center hosts a free live concert every day at 6 p.m. Over the years, acts have included everything from local favorites to symphony orchestras to nationally recognized acts.

Dinnertime: Grab Some Food in Adams Morgan

If you want to live like a local and break the path of most tourists, head to the Adams Morgan neighborhood for dinner instead of Georgetown. Along 18th Street NW, you’ll find plenty of Washington, D.C.’s most famous food: pizza. The pizza here doesn’t have its own style per se, instead drawing culinary inspiration from the melting pot of cultures.

In Adams Morgan, the slices are obscenely large, and one slice is enough for two people, unless you’ve imbibed beforehand. Duccini’s Pizza and Jumbo Slice Pizza are the most popular choices here.

The Neighborhood Georgetown in Washington DC.

Late Night: Head to Georgetown

To class it up at the end of the night, head to Georgetown — one of D.C.’s oldest and most upscale neighborhoods. The cobblestone streets and riverfront park add tons of charm as you walk through at night, and the lights and sights are almost enough to keep you warm even when it’s chilly.

Grab a nightcap at one of the many bars in the area before you head home. The Rye Bar is a classy joint that serves American whiskies while you sit in a nice, leather chair. For a quaint, neighborhood experience, grab a pint at Ri Ra Georgetown, which mimics a narrow Irish pub.

Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.

Because Washington, D.C. is a popular travel destination for businessmen, politicians, and travelers from around the globe, the city has accommodations for all types of budgets and lifestyles. Choose from your favorite Washington, D.C. hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals to complement your visit.

Luxury Hotels

Washington, D.C. is always welcoming foreign diplomats and dignitaries from around the globe. To impress them and keep them comfortable, the government books them a stay in one of Washington, D.C.’s luxury hotels.

With a stay at the Watergate Hotel, you’ll get a five-star experience while also soaking up a bit of history. This hotel was right near the famous Watergate office building that led to Nixon’s resignation, but it also offers a whiskey bar and a spa and wellness center. The St. Regis Hotel, Mandarin Oriental, and the Ritz-Carlton are all spectacular options as well.

Budget Hostels

For budget accommodation that frees up money to spend on other things, book a stay at a Washington, D.C. hostel. Most of these hostels offer an array of accommodation options, ranging from single and double rooms to 10-bed dormitories.

Hostelling International is one of the top choices for young travelers and students, offering bunk beds and shared bathrooms at a discounted rate. The hostel also has a fully equipped kitchen to cook your own meal, a common room to play games or watch television with other guests, and a laundry room. For your convenience, Hostelling International also schedules tours, has trivia nights, and sponsors pub crawls.

Vacation Rentals

When you’re traveling with a large group or family, booking a hotel can get expensive. Often, you’re stuck renting two or three rooms to accommodate everyone, causing your costs to skyrocket. With a vacation rental, you can have the space you need, as well as budget-friendly amenities such as a washer/dryer and kitchen.

Go big or go home with a luxury penthouse in Georgetown, enjoy quaint city living in a small cottage near the National Mall, or stay at a convenient, chic apartment in Logan Circle.

If you’re ready to book the trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C., get every aspect ready to go before you leave, right here on GoDoTrip.