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.
Drinking isn’t the only sport at this vintage motorcycle-themed watering hole. The downstairs bar resembles a retro-rec room with shuffleboard tables, Skee-Ball, pinball and Stacker, which can earn the winner an Angry Birds charm necklace, the rare nod to the 21st century.
Toro Mata specializes in Peruvian art and crafts, covering every available space with pottery, reverse-painted glass, figurines, paintings, textiles, jewelry and toy-size Andean pack animals.
The mansion, designed by U.S. Capitol architect Edward Clark, is a study in eclecticism and eccentricity. The museum collection can only be described as pack rat with a trust fund, and its tours are equally wild and unconventional.
On this self-guided walking tour, piece together the neighborhood’s history by following the 17 informational signs sprinkled throughout the protected historic district.
The historic golf course, part of the National Park system, comprises three courses: red (nine holes), white (nine) and blue (18). Or play a round on the oldest continually operating mini-golf course in the country, built in 1930. Greens fees start at a reasonable $10 for 9 holes.
Visitors to Ford’s Theatre immerse themselves in the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. Tours encompass the theatre, site of the assassination; the Petersen House, where the president died; the Center for Education and Leadership, which covers his legacy; and the newly renovated museum.
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.
The snug shop sells artisanal confections from all over the map, including designer bonbons from Arlington, Virginia, and pure cocoa bars from Madagascar.
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.