How to Spend 1 Week in D.C.

Updated July 9, 2020.

Lucky you–you get to spend a whole week in D.C.! Many people who come to town are only here for a business trip (with little time for sightseeing) or a quick two- or three-day visit after full day of riding in a charter bus (often on an 8th grade trip), but if you’re here for a full week, you get to take your time, enjoy your trip, and even get out of the District and see things most people can’t fit in!

Here is your flexible one week itinerary. Rearrange the days however you like, but the activities for each day are close together or are convenient to each other. I hope you love your time in my adopted hometown!

Day 1

Capitol Tour (Free)

1 East Capitol Street, NE
Closest Metro: Capitol South on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Union Station on Red line
Closed Sunday

You will want to do this one first thing. You’ll enter through the Visitor Center, and you’ll be going through security. You are not allowed to have water or other liquids, food, weapons (including that Swiss Army knife on your keychain), and you will be walking through a metal detector. Check their Prohibited Items list before you go.  Just think of it like airport security. You’ll be led through the Capitol with a guide, and you’ll be given a headset for audio so all 20 guides and groups won’t be yelling inside the historic rooms. On your way out, don’t forget to use the tunnels to avoid going through security at your next stops!

The mural inside the Capitol Dome is stunning!
Learn how: How to Tour the U.S. Capitol

Library of Congress (Free)

100 1st Street, SE
Closest Metro: Capitol South on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Union Station on Red line
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8:30am-9:30pm
Tuesday, Friday, Saturday 9:30am-4:00pm
Closed Sunday

The Library of Congress Jefferson Building is my favorite building in D.C. It’s possibly the most impressive and beautiful building in the country, so it is not to be missed. They offer guided tours for free, or you can roam around on your own. Be sure to stop over at the Madison Building next door for a Library of Congress library card! You must be 16 or older and have a state-issued ID card (like a driver’s license), but that’s a pretty cool (free) souvenir that few people know you can get!

Don’t skip a peek at the Library of Congress’ Main Reading Room
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to the Library of Congress

Supreme Court (Free)

1 First Street, NE
Closest Metro: Capitol South on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Union Station on Red line
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Did you know you can go inside the U.S. Supreme Court? I didn’t know until I moved here! You can even sit in for a few minutes on a hearing when they’re in session. When they’re not, you can sit in the court room, and tour the building. It’s a definite must, especially if you have a lawyer (or future lawyer) in your group.

The Supreme Court of the United States

Lunch at Union Station and the Smithsonian Postal Museum (Museum Free)

50 Massachusetts Ave., NE
Closest Metro: Union Station on Red line
Monday-Friday 6:00am-9:00pm
Saturday 9:00am-9:00pm
Sunday 7:00am-6:00pm

There are tons of food options here, making it a great place for lunch (and/or breakfast if your hotel doesn’t include breakfast). There are also shops here, and it’s a major transportation hub got Maryland’s MARC trains, Amtrak, Virginia’s VRE, and buses coming in from New York, Philadelphia, and more. In fact, it’s Amtrak’s second busiest station in the country! After lunch, stop by the small, but worthwhile, Smithsonian Postal Museum. It’s a bit off the beaten path for most people, but since you’re already at Union Station, you can just walk across the street to this museum that’s interesting for both adults and kids!

Get ready for a big meal if you choose the Thunder Grill at Union Station!

Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen House (Free)

511 10th Street, NW
Closest Metro: Metro Center on Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Gallery Place/Chinatown on Red, Yellow, and Green lines
Ford’s Theatre: 9:00am-5:00pm
Petersen House 9:30am-5:30pm

You can walk about 10 blocks or hop on the Red line Metro (toward Shady Grove) and get out at Metro Center for your next stop. Plan to spend a couple of hours at Ford’s Theatre (where President Lincoln was shot) and the Petersen House (where he later died) across the street. Tickets for Ford’s are free, but they are timed. If you’re visiting between March and July, you may want to reserve tickets online in advance, but that will be $3 per person. If your timed ticket for Ford’s Theatre is more than 30 minutes in the future, consider visiting the Petersen House first.

Ford’s Theatre should be on everyone’s list!

The Old Stone House (Free) and Dinner in Georgetown

M Street, NW (Pennsylvania Ave. turns into M Street) between 28th and 37th Streets)
Old Stone House hours 11:00am-6:00pm
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Rosslyn on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines
Alternative transportation: Uber (download the Uber app and use promo code whitneyo116ue for $15 off your first ride), taxi, or the D6 bus toward Sibley Hospital and get off the bus at Q Street and Wisconsin Ave., NW.

If you get into Georgetown early and aren’t quite hungry yet, stop over at the Old Stone House at 3051 M Street, NW. Admission is free, and it’s the oldest house in DC that’s still on its original foundation! Georgetown is a great place to walk around, and an even better place to eat. You can find everything from fine dining to barbecue to cupcakes on M Street, and if you venture up or down some of the side streets, you’ll find even more! If you want a bite of history and good ol’ American fare, head to Martin’s Tavern (where every president from Truman to Bush enjoyed a meal) at 1264 Wisconsin Ave, NW.

Not up for a fancy meal? Check out 90 Second Pizza for something quick and potentially to-go!
More here: Where to Eat in Georgetown

Day 2

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Free)

300 14th Street, SW
Bureau of Engraving and Printing hours: Monday-Friday 9:00am-6:00pm; Gift Shop and Visitor Center 8:00am-6:00pm (Closed Saturday and Sunday; hours may change by season, check the website for specifics)
Closest Metro: Smithsonian Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

Start your day with this fun tour of the place where they actually make the money! Tours are free, but there is a limited number of tickets per day, so that’s why this should be your first stop. Ticket distribution starts at 8:00am and goes until they run out for the day. See how they make your money!

How tall are you in money?
Find out how: How to Tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Free)

100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW (across the street from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing)
Museum hours: Open daily 10:00am-5:20pm; closes at 6:30pm in the summer; closed for Yom Kippur and Christmas Day
Closest Metro: Smithsonian Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

You can get tickets online up to three months in advance, or you can get tickets outside the museum starting at 9:45am. Please remember to be respectful in the museum, and check out their website before you go to find out what their latest exhibits are.

More here: D.C. Tours to Request in Advance

The Monuments (Free)

The National Mall: Start at the Washington Monument, 2 15th Street, NW
Hours: Open always
Closest Metro: Smithsonian Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

This is a great opportunity to walk the major D.C. monuments! It’s close to the Holocaust Museum, and it’s a lighter activity after a heavy museum. Grab lunch at the Holocaust Museum’s cafe or the Smithsonian Castle and eat it there or take it to go. There are also food stands (and water!) throughout the monument route. Do not forget to hydrate, especially in summer!

Lincoln Memorial
Find out how to see the momuments best here: D.C.’s Monuments and Memorials

The White House and White House Visitor Center (Free)

White House Visitor Center: 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Hours: Open daily 7:30am-4:00pm (closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day)
White House: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Hours: Reservation only, to be made through your Congressperson
Closest Metro: Federal Triangle or McPherson Square on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines; Metro Center on Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines (or walkable from the National Mall)

You should visit the White House Visitor Center first because it closes at 4:00pm. This will give you some history of the White House, and you can see various artifacts from the White House through the years. When you finished up there, walk over to the White House and take your pictures. You can’t get too close these days, but you can still get great pictures!

Even if you can’t get a spot on the tour, you can still get a view of the White House!
Need to know: How to Visit the White House

St. John’s Church (Free) and Dinner Downtown

St. John’s Church location: 1525 H Street, NW
(across Lafayette Square from the White House)

If you aren’t quite hungry for supper yet, stop over at St. John’s Church, just north and across Lafayette Square from the White House. It was founded in 1815, and every president since James Madison has attended a service here.

For dinner, you have tons of options! If you’re looking for something specific, pull out your phone and use Trip Advisor or Yelp to find exactly what you want nearby, but if you want some suggestions, people love the historic Old Ebbitt Grill for something fancy. Try Chop’t Salad Co. for something cool in the summer (don’t worry, they have lots of meats, too!). Or I hear people raving about District Taco downtown as well.

St. John’s Church
More here: Religious Sites in D.C.

Day 3

Arlington National Cemetery (Free)

Arlington, VA
Hours: October-March 8:00am-5:00pm; April-September 8:00am-7:00pm; open 365 days a year
Closest Metro: Arlington National Cemetery Station on Blue line; also walkable from Rosslyn station on Orange, Blue, Silver lines

Start your day here, and make sure you watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Please remember to be respectful, as the guards have called people out before and will not hesitate to call you out, too. Highlights include Arlington House (home of Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee, George and Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter), the eternal flame at the Kennedy Gravesite, and the Women in Military Service Memorial. Plan to spend about 2 hours here.

Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Know Before You Go: Your Ultimate Guide to Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, aka Iwo Jima Memorial (Free)

North of Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, VA
Hours: Grounds open daily from 6:00am-dusk
Closest Metro: Rosslyn Station, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

Follow the Mount Vernon Trail north of Arlington Cemetery to the Marine Corps Memorial. This is one of my most favorite memorials, and if you’re in town for Independence Day, it’s the best place to watch D.C.’s fireworks show. It’s a very moving, larger than life memorial modeled after the famous photo taken at Iwo Jima during World War II. It’s also on the way to the Rosslyn Metro Station. On your walk from the Memorial to the Rosslyn Metro, grab a lunch to go at Chop’t, Starbucks, Potbelly Sandwiches, or any of the other options along N. Lynn Street. Do not eat in the Metro! You will be fined $500 if you are caught by a Metro officer.

U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, or Iwo Jima Memorial

George Washington’s Mount Vernon
(Admission charged: $20 adults; $10 ages 6-11; FREE younger than 6; $19 62+)

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Parkway; Mount Vernon, VA (18 miles South of Rosslyn on the Mount Vernon Trail)
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm, open 365 days per year
Transportation: Bike from Rosslyn with Capital Bike Share; Metro to Old Town Alexandria via the Blue Line and get out at King Street to take a Mount Vernon Cruise, which includes you admission price; drive in your car or a rental car; Uber ($20-$30, subject to change)

This part of your day might require a little more planning, but it will be well worth your time and effort. Mount Vernon is a treasure trove of history, and they have exciting new exhibits and tours coming up all the time. It’s a beautiful place for a picnic (remember the to-go lunch you picked up in Rosslyn?). They have a food court in the main building as well as a restaurant called the Mount Vernon Inn for some fine Colonial fare! Mount Vernon is dog-friendly, in case you brought your pooch along, and while there is no metro nearby, a quick search on your Maps app on your phone will show you the best way to get here from your starting point. You can bike it, come by boat (my favorite), or drive here. Plan to spend most of the afternoon and perhaps even stay until closing. They’re open every day of the year!

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate

Dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn or Old Town Alexandria

You have some fabulous dinner options this evening! The Mount Vernon Inn is a wonderful option after a day exploring the colonial-era estate. But if you’re ready to head back toward the District (what locals sometimes call D.C.), be sure to stop by Old Town Alexandria on your way back. They have some of the finest restaurants around, in every price point. Gadsby’s Tavern will keep you in the colonial spirit, but Alexandria actually has one of the best Vietnamese restaurants around called Caphe Bahn Mi. There’s great Thai food up and down King Street, as well as good old Southern American fare at King Street Blues. Take your pick!

Ghost Tour with Alexandria Colonial Tours
($13 for Adults; Military, Senior, and Youth discounts available)

Tours vary by season; check scheduling for your trip here.
Meets at the Alexandria Visitor Center: 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA
Closes Metro: King Street Station, Blue and Yellow lines

This is by far my favorite thing to do in Alexandria! Tours are one hour and vary by season but usually start at 7:30pm and 9:00pm, and they are tons of fun. You can purchase tickets in advance or just show up a few minutes before tour time and buy ticket there (cash only if purchasing at tour time, ATMs available nearby). You’ll have fun, learn a little history, and hear some ghosts stories and legends in the place George Washington claimed as his hometown!

***If you are not interested or are unable to make the trip to Mount Vernon, spend the day exploring Old Town Alexandria! There are many interesting museums and history to explore, and their waterfront is peaceful and beautiful. My favorite sites include the Mount Vernon Trail, Apothecary Museum, Carlyle House, Gadsby’s Tavern, and the Lee-Fendall House. Also be on the lookout for the two narrowest houses in America on Queen Street and Duke Street as well!

A perfect night for a ghost tour!

Day 4–Plan this on a day when rain is in the forecast

The Smithsonian Institution (Free)

Multiple Locations; Smithsonian Castle Visitor Center located at 1000 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, D.C.
Hours Vary; Smithsonian Castle Visitor Center open daily 8:30am-5:30pm
Closest Metro: Smithsonian Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

This is your Museum Day! You can find my comprehensive Guide to D.C.’s Smithsonian Museums for the details, but in short, my recommendation is to start at the Smithsonian Castle. It’s open earlier than the rest of the museums, and you can get breakfast here while you take in an overview of the museums and decide where you want to go from there. Some of my favorites include the American History Museum, National Zoo, and the U.S. Postal Museum! Many of the museums have cafes inside, or are near several food options for lunch.

The Smithsonian Castle is the best place to start!
Get all the details: Your Ultimate Guide to D.C.’s Smithsonian Museums

National Cathedral ($12 Adults; $8 ages 6-11; free under 5 years old)

3101 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm; Sunday 12:45pm-4:00pm
Closest Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo Station or Tennleytown Station, both on Red line

This is an impressive building with an interesting history. Those buried here include President Woodrow Wilson, Hellen Keller, and Cordell Hull (from my tiny hometown of Carthage, TN!), and the tours are worth the money if you’re interested in architecture or history. If you’re visiting the National Zoo, this is your perfect opportunity to visit the National Cathedral as well. If you’re already feeling the strain of a lighter wallet, keep to the Smithsonian Museums today!

Dinner Downtown, at Dupont Circle, or in Chinatown

If you’re sticking to the museums on the National Mall, you’ll want to eat downtown. Tonight, try out Pennsylvania 6 for something high-class, or City Tap House D.C. if you’re more comfortable with an incredible burger in a more rustic setting! If you find yourself up at the National Zoo and National Cathedral at suppertime, hop in a cab or Uber or simply walk down Wisconsin Avenue into Georgetown for dinner at Clyde’s on M Street or &pizza for something more casual. If you’re ending your museum day at the National Portrait Gallery (open until 7:00pm daily), you’ll want to enjoy supper in Chinatown. Try Zaytinya for some high-class Mediterranean, or Chinatown Garden for authentic Chinese!

Chinatown has lots to explore!
More here: 7 Things to See and Do in Chinatown

Day 5

Pick a Day Trip

If you’ve brought your car or want to rent a car for a day out of the city, pick an epic day trip. D.C. is awesome, but there are so many historic and exciting places to visit within driving distance. You can combine Thomas Jefferson’s MonticelloJames Madison’s Montpelier, and James Monroe’s Highland in a day (that order is best); Fredericksburg, VA, is about an hour and a half south of D.C. and is full of history for Revolutionary and Civil War buffs alike; and Gettysburg, PA, is only a two-hour drive from D.C. Check out more on my list of Day Trips from DC! You can also get pretty cheap deals on Megabus and Bolt Bus to Philadelphia or New York City, but try to take the first bus out and the last bus back to make the most of your time!

If you don’t want to rent a car or you didn’t bring your car, use this day to catch up on museums, Metro to Alexandria, explore more of Arlington Cemetery, or simply get a jump on the next couple of days’ activities!

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Fall
Need ideas?
Day Trips from D.C.
and Presidents’ Homes within a Day’s Drive of D.C.

Day 6

Old Post Office Tower (Free)

302 12th Street, NW
Hours: Open daily 900am-4:30pm (may change seasonally)
Closest Metro: Federal Triangle Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

Since the Washington Monument is closed for renovations for the next couple of years, the Old Post Office Tower is the best way to see the 360-deree landscape! There is a great walk-though museum at the entrance, and the National Park Rangers are there to answer any questions you may have. It’s located in the Trump International Hotel, but it is operated by the National Park Service and the best entrance to the museum and tower is behind the hotel, next to the Starbucks. Just follow the signs!

Don’t forget to take in the view!

The National Archives (Free)

700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Hours: 10:00am-5:00pm Monday-Saturday (Closed Sunday)
Closest Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial Station on Green and Yellow lines; Smithsonian Station on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

The National Archives is one of the must-visit destinations in D.C. You won’t seen Nicolas Cage here like in National Treasure, but you will definitely find the most meaningful, important, history-making documents in the United States right here. Plan to spend an hour or so here to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, but also the Magna Carta and special exhibits. They also have a great gift shop!

Note: this photo was take in 2008, before photos were prohibited inside the Rotunda at the National Archives!

The International Spy Museum
($21.95 Adults 12-64, $15.95 Seniors 65+, $14.95 ages 6-11)

700 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Hours: Seasonal, view full list here
Closest Metro: L’Enfant Plaza Station, Green, Yellow, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines

I suggest stopping by The Shake Shack for lunch next door to the Spy Museum. If a burger and shake is not up your alley, I also love Chop’t just a block and a half away! This is one of the few major museums in D.C. that you have to pay for, but in my opinion, this one is 100% worth it. You can purchase tickets in advance, but I’ve never had a problem getting in at the door. You’ll see some amazing exhibits and learn some Get Smart style spy stuff. My favorite part is learning about all the spies from all over the world. It’s incredible what they have done over the years–and dangerous, too.

International Spy Museum
Read next: Visiting the International Spy Museum

National Portrait Gallery (Free)

8th and F Streets, NW
Hours: 11:30am-7:00pm
Closest Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown Station on Red, Green, and Yellow lines

If you didn’t visit the National Portrait Gallery on your museum day and you have time after the Spy Museum, this is perfect timing! Don’t miss the Presidential Portraits, and they have several other exhibits as well, as this building also houses the American Museum of Art.

Don’t miss the official Presidents’ Portraits!

Dinner in Chinatown

You have plenty of options in Chinatown from all forms of Asian to seafood to pizza to Mexican and more! For something special, check out Legal Seafood. For something more casual and budget-friendly, go for Ella’s Woodfired Pizza or Gordon Biersch for pub food.

Eel Donburi from Asia Nine is a favorite!

Day 7

Catch Up Day!

This is your day to catch up on anything you might have missed, or perhaps you wanted to see or do something that’s not on this list! Give the monuments and memorials another go-around, or take a more obscure tour like Dumbarton HouseDecatur House, or Anderson House. Or learn a little about the legendary Masons at the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry! Visit a few more museums or just chill out on the National Mall. No matter what you do, enjoy the rest of your time in D.C.!

Are you heading to D.C. soon? Let me know what you want to do that might not have made the list! Check out my Washington, D.C., Page for everything you need to know and more!

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7 responses to “How to Spend 1 Week in D.C.”

  1. Thanks for planning everything out step by step!! This is a big help in planning for our trip next year.

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      You are welcome! I hope you have so much fun!

  2. Hello!! Love your post, thank you so much. Would you recommend the city pass or the sightseeing pass?

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      I have never done either of those! I would make a list of what each one includes and choose the one with more things I wanted to see and do!

  3. Love love love your detailed guide. Thank you

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      You are so welcome! Have a fun trip!

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