Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

America’s capital offers lots of affordable activities year-round. Of the 17 Smithsonian museums, all of which offer free admission, the National Air and Space Museum is a favorite (literally—it’s the world’s most visited museum) thanks to its vast collection of artifacts, which includes the 1903 Wright brothers flyer and the Apollo 11 space module. Meanwhile, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts stages fantastic music and theater performances each year (400 of which are free to the public). Awe-inspiring monuments such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial should appear on any itinerary of things to do in Washington, D.C. (perk: unlike the museums, there are no long lines). Another architectural wonder is Union Station, with its vaulted ceilings, three majestic arches, and massive columns. Of course, the city offers an array of in-depth historical tours, but one of our favorites is more whimsical: Paws for Spies, which reveals tales of espionage with as many as 17 highly-trained dogs in tow. For the best itinerary, plan two or three cultural activities during the day, then explore Washington, D.C.’s restaurant and nightlife scenes, and, finally, check into an uber-comfortable hotel to recharge.

The cultural branch of the Mexican embassy shares its rich south-of-the-border traditions with a variety of public events, many of which are free.

Follow the ranger on a National Park tour that goes beyond the surface of the monuments and memorials.

The fun house of decor, open for more than 30 years, sells vintage pieces and architectural parts salvaged from residences, many in the District.

Paddle or sail the Potomac in a canoe, single or double kayak, rowing shell or Sunfish rented by the hour or the day. Go left and float by Watergate, the Kennedy Center and the Arlington Memorial Bridge; turn right for a snapshot of Georgetown’s convivial waterfront.

The rustic-gourmet grocer specializes in edibles from Lancaster County produced by Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite farmers. Pickings include flavored popcorn, freshly baked breads, jams, cheeses, Soupergirl soups and, for dessert, whoopie pies, and stroopies.

Discover your dream house–or at least your fantasy bathroom and lighting fixtures–at this showcase and shopping center of high-end home décor. The seven floors of decorated spaces illustrate the tastes and creations of more than 50 interior designers.

At this good vs. evil museum, the law usually wins, but the villains certainly put up a plucky fight.

The 36-year-old performing arts center embraces Latin American culture with bilingual programs held in the Tivoli Theater, an ornate movie palace built in 1924.

Tudor Place, owned by Thomas Peter, son of Georgetown’s first mayor, and Martha Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington, stayed in the family for nearly 180 years.

The ghost of Shakespeare rules this world-class house of research and learning, established in 1932. Sculptures of his iconic characters adorn the Elizabethan Garden, and bas-reliefs of dramatic scenes enliven the northern exterior wall.

A constellation of jazz legends–Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, for example–have lit up this celebrated music venue, which opened in 1926. Today, the club hosts national and local acts who jam in an intimate space that resembles a cool secret cave, complete with faux-rock walls.

Beer is king at this upstairs-downstairs bar. The assortment of brews is epic, with more than 500 types of bottled beer from around the world and 50 different drafts on tap. To be sure, the drink menu itself is longer than a Raymond Carver short story.

The Tony award-winning Arena Stage has been presenting new and classic American plays for more than six decades.

Three times a weekday, the U.S. State Department runs free tours of the tastefully decorated chambers used to welcome visiting foreign dignitaries.

The 12-acre urban park, part of the National Park Service family, exemplifies early 20th-century neoclassical design.