Top 10 historic things to do in Washington D.C.

Hotel search

American history is etched in Washington’s streets. Presidential monuments and the world’s largest museum complex bring the past alive. Book your Washington hotel, and follow this guide to the very best of historic Washington.

Strolling the National Mall

America’s story is remembered along the 1-mile National Mall. The Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, U.S.. Capitol Building and Smithsonian Institution museums line the route. Visit at dawn, when Lincoln’s statue glows in the morning sunshine.

American icons at the National Museum of American History

Part of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History joins the best American icons in one place. Albert Einstein’s pipe, Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves are among the exhibits

14th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, 20004

Boating past monuments in the Tidal Basin

Glide over the Tidal Basin in a pedal boat to see Washington’s monuments from the water. Historic sites include the imposing Jefferson Memorial, the cherry groves and the Roosevelt Memorial. The Washington Monument and White House are visible in the distance.

15th St. and Maine Ave. SW, 20024

Visiting the White House

The glitter and gold of the East Room is a highlight on tours of the White House, home to every president since 1800. Visitors must submit tour requests in advance, but the White House visitor center has photo and video displays and is open to all.

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 20500

Names etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Like a gash in the earth, the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial reminds visitors of the divide caused by the Vietnam war. Veterans’ families attend the memorial regularly, and visitors will find faded flowers, notes and teddy bears to remind them of the painful human cost of war.

Henry Bacon Dr. NW and Constitution Ave. NW, 20037

Drinks and people-watching at Martin’s Tavern

Tucked into the colonial brick neighborhood of Georgetown, Martin’s has been a gathering place for politicos since 1933 — President Kennedy proposed to Jackie Onassis here. The tavern has become a favorite people-watching haunt and a good place for drinks and dinner.

1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 20007

America’s roots at the National Archives

America’s most important documents are on display in Washington’s National Archives. Examine the faded Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then move on to the 13th-century Magna Carta, one of only four in existence.

Constitution Ave. NW, Washington 20408

European history at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Look up as you pass beneath the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Tower of Faces, a staggering three stories of photographs from a Lithuanian village destroyed by Nazis in 1941. The museum recounts the tragedy of the Holocaust and addresses genocide worldwide.

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW, 20024 

Studying the graves at Arlington National Cemetery

The front porch of secessionist General Robert E. Lee’s house is a good spot for viewing 200 acres of tidy white gravestones. It has been America’s national cemetery since the Civil War. American soldiers and dignitaries lie at Arlington, including President Kennedy and the astronauts of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. 

Arlington, Virginia 22211 

Getting to know Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial

Set among the broad lawns of the Tidal Basin, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial is best explored slowly. Read the president’s inspirational quotes and view sculptures of his likeness. The memorial recounts the challenges of the Great Depression, World War II and Roosevelt’s personal battle with polio. 

900 Ohio Dr. SW, 20024