A Guide to Sights and Attractions in Washington DC

There are few, if any, cities in the U.S. with as many attractions per square mile as Washington DC. In addition to serving as the nation’s capital, Washington DC almost feels like a city-sized museum, housing many of the country’s most valued and historically significant treasures, as well as drawing in some of the top talent in just about every artistic discipline. With so many attractions in Washington DC, it’s no wonder our nation’s headquarters is such a hot spot for tourists as well as for DC Metro home builders looking to own a little piece of history


A Guide to Sights and Attractions in Washington DC


From the most iconic Washington DC Attractions to the hidden gems known only to life-long Washingtonians, there’s no shortage of sights and sounds to experience in the district. Whether you’re moving in and looking to get to know the town you’re about to call home or just visiting, let this be your guide to some of the must-see Washington DC Parks, museums, and memorials. 


Washington DC Museums


While New York, NY may be able to boast having the greatest number of museums in the United States, nothing compares to the range and quality of museums Washington DC offers. 



Most of us are in some way familiar with the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, but there are also several smaller museums for people of more peculiar interests. True crime freaks will want to make a point to seek out the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, which serves a dual function as both a museum and the working set of America’s Most Wanted. 



For drama kings/queens (in the best sense of the word!), The Folger Shakespeare Library, home of the world’s largest Shakespeare Collection as well as a performance space that hosts regular performances of and presentations on the playwright’s work. 



Looking for the ultimate selfie opportunity? Check out Madame Tussauds Washington DC, where you can explore room after room of life-sized and incredibly realistic wax statues. The Presidents Gallery lets you get up close and personal with statues of every person that’s served in our nation’s highest office, where you can have your photo taken with your favorite (or least favorite) leader of the free world. 



The real stars of the Washington DC Museum show, however, are the 17 DC-area museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution. A great place to start is the Smithsonian Institution Building, fondly referred to as The Castle. Here you can check out some of the Smithsonian’s “Greatest Hits,” highlights from each museum, as well as meet with a staff of advisors to help plan your tour of the Institute. The most popular museum, the expansive National Museum of Natural History, sprawls out over an area larger than 18 football fields and tells the story of our planet from it’s very beginnings to the present, with incredible artifacts like completed T-Rex and triceratops skeletons and a stunning collection of stone-age art and jewelry. 



Another favorite is the National Air and Space Museum, dedicated to mankind’s journey from land to air and finally into outer space. Here visitors can marvel at some of the most famous aircrafts in history, most notably the Wright brothers’ first successful plane, as they wander the new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. Also notable is the Space Race gallery, which honors the spirit of competition that culminated in humanity’s first steps on the Moon. 



Washington DC Memorials


While the number of museums in the capital is astounding, when it comes to memorials, Washington DC can’t be beat. If someone told you to close your eyes and conjure up an image of Washington DC, there’s a good chance that that vision would include the Washington Monument towering over the National Mall, with the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials tucked away in the trees behind. 



If you’re going to visit DC, you’re inevitably going to find yourself at the National Mall. The cultural heart of Washington, the National Mall stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, and his home to an impressive array of museums and memorials, including many of the Smithsonian’s most famous facilities as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, the Peace Monument, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. 



Once you’ve moved on from the mall, you can check out some of the lesser known but no less interesting Washington DC memorials. Erected by female survivors of the famous shipwreck, the Titanic Memorial is a tribute to the men that gave up their lives to ensure the safety of the women and children on board the doomed vessel. Constructed in 1884 in the hopes that access to cool water would deter Washingtonians from imbibing alcoholic beverages instead, The Temperance Monument commemorates the movement to ban booze. The Fountain no longer works, but you can easily find something to quench your thirst at one of the many taverns across the street. 



Washington DC Parks


With all its stunning architecture, it’s easy to overlook how pretty the area is. Luckily, there are plenty of charming Washington DC parks to explore when you’re looking for some fresh air after spending the day looking at musty old books. 



One of the most beautiful attractions Washington DC has to offer, the U.S. National Arboretum is a 446-acre arboretum with over 9 miles of winding trails highlighting the natural beauty of the DC area and housing the National Capitol Columns that supported the Capitol Building’s iconic dome from 1828 until they were replaced and moved in 1958.



If you’re looking for a little Zen amongst the hustle and bustle of the National Mall, the Smithsonian’s Hirschhorn Museum's Sculpture Garden pairs over 60 masterful sculptures with a lush garden perfect for introspection. 



This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Washington DC attractions. Whether you’re indulging your inner history buff at a museum, marveling at the scope and grandeur of the city’s monuments, or relaxing in the park, a visit to our nation’s capital is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.



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Published 9.29.2021

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