2 days in Washington DC – a First timer’s Itinerary

Are you planning on heading to Washington DC for a weekend, or as part of a longer itinerary on a visit to the US? There is so much to do in the capital that it can seem overwhelming – from incredible museums, to delicious food, historic monuments and some of the most famous buildings in the world – Washington has it all. So where to start?

If you only have 2 days in the city, then you really have to focus on the National Mall. If you have longer than 2 days, you can check out my other posts – including Washington DC – beyond the National Mall and The Best Museums in Washington DC (posts coming soon). But if you’re on a time limit, here are my suggestions to getting the most out of a short break to the capital.


Day 1.

A. Take in the National Monuments

After grabbing breakfast, a great introduction to The Mall and Tidal Basin is to walk round the area following the Monuments. The route we took was Washington Monument – World War 2 Memorial – Vietnam Memorial – Lincoln Memorial – Korean War Memorial – Martin Luther King Memorial – Roosevelt Memorial – Jefferson Memorial. The total walk took us about 2 hours including stops for photos, and my favourite point was the view from the Lincoln Memorial across the reflecting pool.

B. National Air and Space Museum or National Museum of American History

Washington has some of the most incredible museums in the world, and there’s plenty of options to suit your interests. The National Air and Space Museum is one of the best, with exhibits on the Space Race, early flight, the Apollo landings and the solar system. You can see real space craft, spacesuits and learn all about the history of space travel.

Alternatively, if you’d rather learn a bit more about the history of America, check out the American History Museum. Here you can see the original star spangled banner, and learn about everything from the American civil war, migration, the use of locomotives in transport and US Presidents.

If neither of these museums appeal to you, you could also choose to visit an art museum such as the National Gallery of Art, or the Hirshhorn Museum.

C. Channel your inner James Bond at the International Spy Museum

Time to play at being a big kid! The International Spy Museum is so much fun, whether you’re an adult or a child. Channel your inner spy and learn about the history of spycraft – from spying methods, discovering true stories of espionage and boggling at the array of spy gadgets.

D. Head to a Washington icon for dinner

Finish up your day with a short metro ride out of the centre of DC to Ben’s Chilli Bowl – trust me, it’s so worth it! Without doubt, the best chilli I’ve ever eaten…which is probably why the likes of Barack Obama and Bono have both eaten here!


Day 2.

A. Visit the site of a President’s assassination at Ford’s Theater

Ford’s Theater is another historical location in Washington. Here, as he was watching a play, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed. The museum at the site tells the story of the Civil War, Lincoln’s life, and the events of his assassination (including the gun with which he was shot), as well as allowing entrance to the theater itself.

B. Take a tour of the Capitol Building

You can’t come to Washington and not visit the US Capitol. A tour of the building takes in The Crypt and Rotunda and you can even watch Congress in session with a Gallery ticket. It’s an incredible building which is a must do

C. Grab lunch at Eastern Market

Close to the Capitol is Eastern Market – an historic market which has been running since 1873! It’s the perfect place to grab some lunch, before heading back to the Mall for your final Museum fix.

D. National Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History, with the huge elephant in the foyer, is another DC icon. Explore the history of mankind and the animal world, learn about evolution and species across the globe, explore galleries on epidemics in a connected world, fossils and the ocean. The Museum is also home to the Hope Diamond – one of the most famous jewels in the world.

Inside the Natural History Museum

E. Admire The White House

Paying a visit to The White House is a must before you leave the city as it’s famous the world over and home to the president of the United States (whatever you may think of him). You can’t go in, but you can stand on The Ellipse and have a photo in front of the house. A nice way to end your trip to the city.

At The White House

I hope you’ve found this post useful if you’re planning a trip to DC. There is also so much more to do and see in Washington if you have more than a couple of days here- stay tuned for my posts on the Best Museums in DC, and great things to do beyond the National Mall.

Stay safe and happy travelling everyone.

5 Comments

  1. I was last in Washington, D.C. in 2007, and although it was that long ago, I remember visiting the major monuments: Lincoln Memorial, White House, and the Washington Monument. I went in the wintertime, so I wasn’t able to see the cherry blossoms in bloom…hope to return for that! Thanks for sharing your adventures in a lovely part of the US. 🙂

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      1. Haha, it was absolutely freezing when I went, so DC wasn’t so magical…all the same, it was a great experience to learn more about my home country’s history and politics!

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