Updated July 20, 2020.
D.C. has an awful lot to offer, and it can be overwhelming! Instead of trying to cram everything into one day, I recommend planning to spend each day of your trip in just one neighborhood, if at all possible. You can easily spend a day on Capitol Hill. Here are all the best things to do!
10. Eat at Tortilla Coast
It looks like a Mexican dive, and it is, but it’s also where Hill staffers and Congresspeople eat lunch! You never know who you’ll see or what conversations you’ll overhear. And even from the perspective of someone who does not usually like Mexican food, the food really is pretty good!
Still hungry? Legendary D.C. Eats
9. Pay Your Respects at the National Japanese-American Memorial
My dad and I stumbled upon this memorial park a couple of years ago. I’d roamed the streets of D.C. for over 10 years and never knew it was just a stone’s throw from the Capitol. This beautiful park memorializes the Japanese-Americans who showed true patriotism in the face of adversity during World War II. If you don’t already know, the U.S. government created internment camps (very different from concentration camps of Europe) for the Japanese living in America as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. This memorializes the people affected and those Japanese-Americans who fought on behalf of the United States.
8. Tour the Sewall-Belmont House Museum
The Sewall-Belmont House is a historic home on Capitol Hill and is open for tours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. Legend has it that shots fired from the house sparked the burning of Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812! It is currently the headquarters for the National Women’s Party as well.
7. Peruse Eastern Market
Eastern Market is a year-round flea and farmers’ market. It burned down several years ago, much to the dismay of everyone in the District, but they have rebuilt and are back and better than ever! Whether you’re looking for local art, fun souvenirs, or fresh, house-made food, stop over at Eastern Market while you’re on Capitol Hill!
6. Visit the Folger Shakespeare Library
Interested in Shakespeare? You cannot miss the Folger Shakespeare Library! It’s an independent research library and home to 82 of the known 235 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. The Library began construction in 1930 to house oil tycoon Henry Folger’s Shakespeare collection. It is currently closed for renovation, but be sure to visit when the renovation is complete in 2022!
5. Visit Your Congresspeople
It’s true! If you want to thank your Congresspeople (or give them a piece of your mind), you can visit their office. Just look up which building they’re in and which office is theirs (which you can find on your Congressperson’s website), and pay them a visit! You can also use their website to schedule a Capitol or White House tour, but you will have to do that in advance!
Read on: D.C. Tours to Request in Advance
4. Visit the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens are like a haven on a winter’s day, an oasis in the summertime, and beautiful all year long! I truly love the Botanical Gardens because of the flowers, of course, but also because you can be anywhere you want to be. Love the jungle? Go to the jungle section. Crave the desert? Head over the the desert section. Curious about medicinal plants? Visit the medicinal plant section!
Read next: FREE Things to Do in D.C.
3. Tour the Supreme Court (and maybe get in on a hearing!)
If there’s an attorney or law student on your D.C. trip, you have to give them an hour or so at the Supreme Court. You can take a tour, sit in on a hearing, and peruse the museum in the basement!
Keep reading: D.C. Tours You Never Knew You Could Take
2. Tour the Library of Congress
This is my favorite building in D.C. because it’s just so beautiful! It’s the largest library in the world (you’ll only see a fraction of their collection in the iconic Jefferson Building). Want to dive deeper? Get your Library of Congress library card and visit the main reading room!
Read on: How to Tour the Library of Congress
1. Tour the U.S. Capitol
This is probably already at the top of your list, so it’s also #1 on mine! The Capitol Tour, whether booked through your Congressperson’s office or through the visitor center the day of your visit, is well worth your time and a bit of planning! Just remember you cannot bring food or drink into the Capitol, and you’ll have to go through security, including a metal detector. Just treat it like airport security, and you’ll be fine!
Read on: How to Tour the U.S. Capitol
Need more D.C. recommendations, itineraries, and eats? Check out my Washington, D.C. Page!
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