Things to do in Washington, D.C.
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 snug shop sells artisanal confections from all over the map, including designer bonbons from Arlington, Virginia, and pure cocoa bars from Madagascar.
Founded in 1821 as the First Unitarian Church of Washington, the institution has a long history of supporting our nation’s biggest social issues, such as abolitionism, civil rights, women’s equality and, most recently, same-sex marriage.
Open since 1922, Heller’s tempts visitors with pastries, cakes and cookies that flashback to a more decadent age, one with more frosting, butter, and calories. Signature treats include mocha rum cakes, éclairs, and blocks of marshmallow doused in chocolate.
When the field is quiet, the Washington Nationals baseball stadium unlocks its gates for a behind-the-scenes peek.
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 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.
The Tony award-winning Arena Stage has been presenting new and classic American plays for more than six decades.
With its mismatched furniture and insomniac hours (open until 3 a.m. on weekends; reopens at 6:30 a.m.), Tryst is more than just an indie coffeehouse and bar: It’s a temple of loafing.
Open since the class of 1962, the closest bar to Georgetown University draws students on a study break, as well as alum wistful for the good ole days.
The two-time winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars bakes vegan cupcakes so rich and tasty, they could dupe even the most diehard dairy- and egg-eater.
The Navy museum, one of only 14 in the country, focuses on the long and thrilling history of the military branch, covering major wars and model ships as well as Arctic expeditions and deep-sea explorations.
Jack Rose takes its liquor seriously: The tippling establishment claims to have the largest collection of spirits in the world (more than 1,400) and the largest assemblage of whiskey (more than 900) in North America, if not beyond.
The boutique for men and women features a well-curated selection of styles appropriate for nearly every occasion: day job, garden party, weekend in the Hamptons, your best friend’s wedding.
The corner hangout wears many hats: brunch spot, bar, music venue, d.j. danceteria. However, if you can only choose one, go for the beer garden, a spacious patio with communal picnic tables, trees draped in twinkling lights and chatty co-cocktailers.