Outdoor Activities in DC

This post list of the top outdoor activities in Washinton, D.C. contains some of our favorite outdoor activities, including family, evening, and budget-friendly things to do.

 

 


TOP 10 EVENTS AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN DC

This section covers our top ten things to do outdoors in DC. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just want to enjoy the sunshine on a great day, we have something for everyone listed below. For more ideas of things to do in DC, check out our Top Things to Do in DC post.  

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our other posts:

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass


1. Walk the National Mall

The best part of DC is outside! The National Mall is a free national park that extends from the Capitol Building all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, just over 2 miles. It’s an expanse of grass fields for recreational sports, picnics, and visiting our memorials and monuments. The Washington Monument is also on the National Mall, which you can go up into and get an incredible view of the entire city! We recommend exploring the National Mall on a free walking tour so that one of our expert guides can tell you the history and stories behind the memorials you can find there.  

 

 


2. Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is the largest green space in DC! It’s a great (and free!) place to hike, wander, bike, and climb. You can also find the National Zoo there! It’s open all the time, but we recommend going during daylight house. There are multiple access points to the park, it is North of Georgetown and West of Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan.

 

 


3. Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island is what’s called a “living” presidential memorial and is a great place to hike and picnic at. It’s free to enter and is open from sunrise to sunset every day. 

 

 

How to get there: The nearest metro stop is Rosslyn (check out our DC Metro riding guide here).  Exit metro and turn left on Wilson Blvd, then an immediate left onto Moore St. Make a right onto US-29, then left to Lynn St. Signs will point you down Mount Vernon Trail and a small footbridge and it’s a 15-minute walk.

Parking is also ample at the Island.

 


3. Visit an Outdoor Market

There are a number of markets throughout DC. We have two permanent markets, Union Market and Eastern Market, of which we offer an Eastern Market History & Desserts Tour. We also have farmers markets that pop-up throughout the year:

If you’re coming in the winter, there are a number of holiday markets in DC. For more things to do in DC in the winter, check out our winter guide

 


4. United States National Arboretum

If you love trees, you can’t miss the United States National Arboretum! There’s the National Grove of State trees, you can walk around the Bonsai tree collection, and check out the original columns from the Capitol. It’s a great place to lay out a blanket, have a picnic, and even fly a kite! It’s great for wandering even for those who simply enjoy the company of beautiful trees. 

Admission is free and the arboretum is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. 

 

 

Parking is ample there and is a short drive from the Capitol Building.

To get there by Metro can be a bit tricky, but here are the directions:  the easiest metro stop is Stadium-Armory (orange/silver/blue lines). Once you exit the metro, take the B2 bus toward Mt Ranier. Get off at Bladensburg Rd and Rand Pl.


5. Kayaking on the Potomac

For those more adventurous, we suggest kayaking the Potomac. It’s a great way to exercise and see the sites of DC from a boat! There are also paddle boards and canoes available for rent. 

There are a number of places to rent from, and prices vary but start at around $22/hour.

 

 
When to do it: depending on the season and weather permitting, most places start at around 9am and end around 7pm. 

For more information, check out boatingindc.com.


6. Wander Around Historic Georgetown

Georgetown is an incredible place to spend the afternoon wandering and exploring. Older than the city itself, Georgetown is DC’s oldest neighborhood, full of shopping, food, and incredible desserts, which you can experience on our Georgetown Cupcake & Desserts tour. You can find the oldest unchanged building in DC, the Old Stone House, there. There’s also Georgetown University, which you can take a self-guided tour of. You can visit Georgetown any time of the day or year and learn more about it on our Historic Georgetown tour. For those brave of heart, we recommend coming back after dark for out Ghosts of Georgetown tour.  

 

Unsure where to start? We recommend starting at the Old Stone House, at the corner of M Street and Thomas Jefferson. From there, the neighborhood extends behind you, so make a left on M, and then an immediate left onto 30th street. 

To get to the Old Stone House, take Metro to Foggy Bottom, make left out of the station.  At the circle, keep going left until you get to Pennsylvania Ave.  Walk down Pennsylvania Ave until it turns into M Street. The Old Stone House is 3 blocks on the left.


7. Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Spend the day at the Zoo! It’s free and a great way to get kids outside and burn some energy off. There’s the must-see panda exhibit and plenty for all ages to enjoy. The National Zoo is open daily from 8am-5pm. We recommend checking them out online too since they have a number of fun events year-round, not just for little ones! We personally love some of the boozy events they host for adults.

 

How to get there: the Zoo is midway between the Cleveland Park and Woodley Metro stations on the red line.

Pro tip: Arrive via Cleveland Park, and walk downhill to the zoo.  When leaving the zoo, continue to walk downhill to the Woodley Metro.

There is a parking lot at $25/car. If you get a zoo membership parking is free! 


8. Biking the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is a bike-friendly city, with lots of trails to explore. We recommend biking the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile scenic route from DC to George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. We recommend checking out our Guide to Visiting Mount Vernon to make the best of your trip now that you’ve arrived. 

You can rent a bike from a number of places, like Capital Bike Share, which is just $8 a bike for 24 hours. Biking the trail itself is free! The trail is open daily from 6am-10pm.

How to get there: the Mount Vernon trail starts near Theodore Roosevelt Island, so the easiest way is to Metro to Rosslyn and rent a bike near there. 


9. Meridian Hill Park

Explore Meridian Hill Park, a hidden gem in Washington, DC. It was once a private estate, now made into a lovely public park. It boasts the longest cascading fountain in the United States and is home to the only female equestrian statue in DC (Joan of Arc!). It’s free to go there and is located near Adams Morgan, a fun neighborhood to explore. The park is open during daylight hours.  

 

How to get there: The closest Metro is U Street. Take the 13th Street exit and make a left onto U Street. Walk toward 16th street, making a right onto 16th. 2 blocks up 16th will be the south end of the park.


10. Stroll up Embassy Row

Change countries without leaving DC by going on a stroll on Embassy Row! While there are over 180 embassy’s scattered around DC, many are in a charming area known as Embassy Row.  A stroll up Massachusetts Ave will take you through the heart of the area. We recommend learning about a few on our Embassy Row tour, but you can check out which embassies you can walk by on their website and follow along on a self-guided tour

It’s free to just walk around, and daytime will allow you to get the best views of the homes and statues. 

How to get there: Take Metro to Dupont Circle (red line).  Get off either exit, and head toward the circle.  Once you are in the circle, look for the PNC bank.  That is Massachusetts Ave. Start walking up and the embassies are on either side of the street for blocks.  You can see many all the way up to the Naval Observatory, where the Vice President lives.


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THINGS TO DO OUTSIDE IN DC AT NIGHT

There are a number of outdoor things to do in DC at night. We mentioned visiting the National Zoo in the top 10 section above, which hosts some after-dark events. For more, check out the list below. 

 

 

For a complete list of things to do in DC at night, check out our master post here


Outdoor Cocktails at the Watergate Hotel

The Watergate is a pretty well-known hotel for scandalous reasons but is today a thriving residential building. Their rooftop features a bar with great cocktails and an incredible view of the city that the public can enjoy. Getting up there is free, though cocktail prices can sometimes get expensive. In the winter, they occasionally host ice skating up there! The rooftop is open daily from 5pm-midnight. 

How to get there: Take Metro to Foggy Bottom (orange/silver/blue lines). immediately upon leaving the station, turn right until you are facing away from the street. walk through the park, make a left onto New Hampshire Ave. When you get to the circle, make the first right onto Virginia Ave, the Watergate is in front of you. The main entrance is slightly to your right down Virginia.

Two other rooftop bars worth mentioning:


Kennedy Center Roof

Head to the top of the Kennedy Center for great rooftop views of the city. Bonus, the Kennedy Center has a free concert every day at 6pm on the Millennium Stage! Admission is free, just go inside the elevator and hit the Terrace button. You might even catch a proposal up there, it’s one of the most romantic places in DC.

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am – 9pm, Sunday: 12pm-9pm

How to get there: There is a shuttle from the Foggy Bottom metro (orange/silver/blue lines). The shuttle signs are to the left as you exit the Metro.  There is a paid parking lot at the Kennedy Center as well.


Gravelly Point Park

Gravelly Point Park is a great park for hanging out, playing bocci ball, and just relaxing. But the main reason people go out there is to see the planes take off and land since it’s located near Reagan National Airport! Gravelly Point Park is just off the main runway at the airport and has picnic tables and ample parking to enjoy seeing the jets soaring overhead. And it’s free!

The park is open all the time but places stop at the airport around 10pm. 

How to get there: It’s difficult to get to the park via Metro, so a car is probably the easiest option, and there is plenty of parking.  You can also bike there on the Mount Vernon Trail (see above).


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KID-FRIENDLY OPTIONS

DC offers a lot of family-friendly activities and attractions any day of the year. Here are a few more family-friendly ideas.

 

For a more complete list of things to do with kids in DC, check out our master post here


Mini Golfing at East Potomac Park

You can mini-golf

within sight of the monuments on the National Mall at East Potomac Park. This is a great activity for the whole family! There’s also a regulation course and a driving range. 

Admission is $7/adult, $6/under 18 

Hours: Generally 10am-sundown, weather permitting. During the winter months, the course is closed on weekdays. 

How to get there: The closest public transit would be the Circulator city bus, the National Mall route, which can be boarded in a number of places, especially Union Station. Once on the Circulator, exit at stop 6, and continue along 15th Street, over the bridge. Immediately on the other side of the bridge, make a left onto Ohio drive, walk down Ohio until you come to the entrance. 

Metro: Using the Smithsonian stop (orange/silver/blue), take the 12th street/Holocaust Museum exit.  Walk along Independence Ave, making a right on 15th street.  Follow 15th street over the bridge, making a left on Ohio drive.

There is also ample parking, though it can get crowded in the busy season. 

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park is a 15-mile drive from DC, which can be tricky for those without a car, but absolutely worth it to go out of your way to explore. This is kidly-friendly, and a lot of families driving into DC with cars can take a little excursion to see these incredible waterfalls. There’s hiking and biking trails, places fish, and even to go horseback riding! 

The park is open year-round and parking is $15/per vehicle. 

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN DC OUTSIDE

There are a ton of free things to do in DC, and a lot are outside! We have a number of things mentioned in our other sections, like taking a free walking tour on the National Mall. For more, check out our list below.

 

 

 For more free things to do in DC, check out our master post here.


Find the DC Boundary Stones

For those with a sense of adventure, hunting down the boundary stones of DC is like a true treasure hunt! Back when we decided on the original boundaries of Washington, DC, we set out these boundary stones to mark the district. There a few still around, and you can go find them and see what are now the country’s oldest federal monuments. They’re free to find, and sometimes you can find them in unlikely places, like someone’s front lawn!

How to get there: See this website for a printable map of the 36 remaining boundary stones throughout DC.


Visit a Cemetery

Dc has some incredible historic cemeteries. These are great places to visit to pay respects to loved ones who might be buried there, learn the history of the area, and spend the day out and about. For example, not only is Arlington National Cemetery the final resting spot of over 400,000 heroes, it’s actually an arboretum! The cemetery offers horticulture tours for whose interested. 

Two other great cemeteries to visit while in DC are Oak Hill Cemetery which we offer tours of and Congressional Cemetery located on Capitol Hill. 

All of these cemeteries are free to visit. 

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden 

The Sculpture Garden is a great outdoor place to explore for those who love art. It’s also a great place for taking pictures, hanging out and reading, and attending one of the events they host throughout the year like their summer Jazz in the Garden series. 

They also have ice skating in the winter!

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Things to Do in DC in January

Things to Do in DC in January

This list of the top things to do in January in DC contains some of our favorite winter activities and some events unique to this time of year, including family and budget-friendly events.

 

 


TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

This section covers our top ten list for January. 

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our other posts:

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass


1. Go to a Sporting Event

D.C. is a major sports town, with sporting events taking place throughout the year. You can find all the matches and games here.

 

 

Basketball

Hockey

Find tickets to all the games in DC here.


2. See a Concert

The Washington DC area brings in some big artists and bands throughout the year. January is no different! Seeing a concert is the perfect indoor activity for the cold winter nights.

 

 

Find all the January concerts here.

If you’re looking for more evening activities, check out our full post.


3. See a Show

Washington DC has no shortage of theatrical productions to attend. This January sees both beloved classics and new favorites hit the stage.

 

 

Come From Away

This new musical tells the story of passengers whose flights were diverted away from New York on 9/11 and the different ways in which the tragic attack changed so many lives.

It has quickly become a favorite for Broadway enthusiasts and casual musical-attenders alike.

Find tickets here.

My Fair Lady

This classic story sees Eliza Doolittle transform into a fashionable woman of society when a professor decides to coach her. It runs all month.

Find tickets here.

Cats

Another long-running and well-loved musical is running from January 21 – 26, 2020.

Find tickets here.

Find all the theatre performances in January here.


4. Save Money with a Tourist Discount Pass

Tourist attraction discount passes bundle together popular area attractions and tours into one discounted price – they can also save you up to 50%.

They also can save you time with skip-the-ticket-line access to select activities.

 

 

Attractions you can see with these passes include:

  • CitySights Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
  • International Spy Museum
  • Madame Tussauds
  • The Capital Ferris Wheel
  • George Washington’s Home

We detail how these passes work and help you decide which, if any, is best for you.


5. Ice Skating Rinks

January is the perfect month to bundle up, lace up your skates, and head to one of the D.C. area’s popular winter ice skating rinks.

Most rinks are open every day in January, so take advantage of a crisp winter day with a skating adventure!

 

 

Admission ranges from $8 to $20 and skate rentals generally start at $4.

Find out more about Ice Skating Rinks in DC on our blog post.

If you’re looking for more family-friendly things to do, take a look at our full post.


6. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend 

Monday, January 20, 2020, is a day when we honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The day has become a national day of community service in the United States, with opportunities to volunteer and give back available throughout the D.C. area. 

 

 

A few suggestions for honoring MLK during MLK weekend:

The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

This memorial is free and open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along the edge of the Tidal Basin.

This memorial is included in our All-in-One Tour and Tidal Basin Tours.

Washington National Cathedral 

This is the church where King, who had a doctorate in theology, preached his last Sunday sermon before his assassination in 1968.

Use our guide for a self-guided tour and more information about the National Cathedral.

MLK Holiday DC Parade and Festival 

This annual parade begins at noon on January 20th at 2700 MLK Avenue SE and continues to Anacostia Park for the free festival.

Before the parade, there is a peace walk that is coordinated by the Coalition for Peace, to promote peace and positivity in D.C.’s youth.


7. Washington DC Restaurant Week

DC is slowly becoming known as a “foodie” town and this January you have a chance to try some of the best restaurants in the city at affordable prices.

You’ll find fixed-price menus for brunch, lunch, and dinner for under $40 at over 200 restaurants.

 

 

Find out which restaurants will be participating and be sure to make reservations as seats fill up fast!

If you sign up with the Restaurant Association you can earn rewards.


8. Indoor Activities

When the days get cold or windy, you may want to head inside. 

 

 

While all of our walking tours take place outside, the Capitol Hill Tour is only partially outside – once you head inside to visit the Library of Congress, you are indoors for the remainder of the tour!

For guests worried about being in the cold for too long, this is the best tour to minimize outdoor exposure.

Seeing the National Archives is another great attraction that allows you to view our founding documents.

You’ll also want to check out the remarkable Remembering Vietnam exhibition, which takes a look at twelve critical moments during the Vietnam War in an attempt to refresh our collective memory of this period in American history.


9. Enjoy a Comedy Night

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Two great comedians will be in the Washington DC area this January.

Jeff Dunham

This famous puppeteer and comedian Jeff Dunham will be performing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. He’s well-known for his comedy specials and TV appearances.

 

 

Maz Jobrani

Maz is an Iranian-American comedian who makes humorous observations about the world around him through a unique cultural lens.

He will be performing at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in DC.

Find all the comedy shows in the area this January here.


10. Take the Kids to Paw Patrol Live

If you have little ones who love the dog heroes of Paw Patrol, you can take them to see the gang live on January 31, 2020.

This colorful and high-energy performance is also interactive, giving the audience a chance to respond to questions and whatever is happening on stage.

 

 

This is a great opportunity to get the kids involved in theatre with a familiar show they love.

To find more family-friendly activities, check out our full post.

 


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NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES IN JANUARY

There are a number of things to do in DC at night. 

 

 

Some of the most popular evening activities include:

  • Visiting the Memorials at Night
  • Attend a Professional Sporting Event
  • See a Free Concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

For additional details and more ideas on how to spend your evening, make sure to check out our master things to do at night in DC post.


Take a Night Tour

Our 6 pm Memorials and Moonlight tour lets you explore the National Mall after the sun sets.

With the memorials lit at night, there is an extra level of beauty and at some of the veteran’s memorials, an added sense of reverence.

We also offer family-friendly Ghosts of Georgetown and an Adults-Only White House at Night Scandals tour.

Reserve a spot now!


Ford’s Theatre

Visitors to D.C. are often surprised to learn that the site of Lincoln’s Assassination is not just a historical site to visit but also a working theatre, which presents shows throughout the year.

A Christmas Carol’s last performance for this winter will play on January 1, 2020. 

Silent Sky, a drama about women astronomers, runs January 24 – February 23 2020.

 

 

Ford’s Theatre offers a number of discounts for tickets, including discounted preview performances, group discounts, under 35, active military, D.C. teachers, and more.

They also partner with TodayTix to offer discounted tickets through the TodayTix app.

Take our Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour to learn more about this historic building and what led to the tragic events that night.

For more nighttime activities, visit our things to do at night in DC post.

 


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KID-FRIENDLY OPTIONS

DC offers a lot of family-friendly activities and attractions any day of the year. Here are a few more family-friendly ideas for January.

 

 

There are plenty of attractions and activities kids will find fun:

  • Kid-Focused Sections of the Smithsonian Museums
  • Exploring Mount Vernon
  • The Smithsonian’s National Zoo
  • Family-Friendly Ghost Tours

For more details about the above list and even more activity ideas, read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.


Light Yards

The fourth year of this interactive art exhibit is a great evening activity for families at The Yards complex through the first week of January.

There are two immersive experiences. One has 106 pads where you can hop and jump to create patterns of light. Another features five giant neon wings and halos to pose with.


Indulge with a meal during Restaurant Week

Winter Restaurant Week features fixed price lunches and dinners at over 100 restaurants in the DC area.

You can find three courses for $22-35 per person.

Many of the participating restaurants might be a bit too fancy for younger kids but some family-friendly options are:

  • Clyde’s of Gallery Place
  • Old Ebbit Grill
  • Millie’s
  • The Hamilton

Find out more about Restaurant Week here.


Visit the National Zoo

While the zoo is mostly outdoors, there are some indoor exhibits to warm up as you explore.

Most importantly, you’ll have the animals to yourself. Avoid the crowds that flock to see the Pandas in the summer and learn more about those animals who thrive in winter.

Baby animals born last year are finally old enough to come out to public view, leaves have fallen off the trees so you can see animals with an unobstructed view, and you may even see tropical animals adapting to the snow!

For more activity ideas, read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO 

With a little planning, there are a lot of free activities available to do in DC.

Some of the events we’ve mentioned in this post like our walking tours are free of charge!

 

 

There are plenty of free activities and attractions in DC:

  • Go to the Free Museums
  • Take a Public Building Tour
  • Admire the Cathedrals and Franciscan Monastery 

Here are a few more ideas for free activities in January but for our comprehensive list, visiting our free things to do in DC post.


Visit the National Arboretum

This free living museum of flora from around the world might not come to your mind as a place to visit in winter, but it offers a unique setting in the offseason.

You’ll get a chance to explore without the crowds and see some of the winter growth.

Read their post on what the Arboretum is like in winter.


Attend a Performance at the Kennedy Center

Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center has free concerts every night at 6 pm. You can find out more about which act is performing on their website

 

 

Arrive a little early so you can take our self-guided tour of the Kennedy Center and watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace!


Take a Tour

We offer a limited but still pretty fun-packed schedule of tours during the winter months.

Our tours are name-your-own-price, so you get to choose how much they are worth at the end. A tour for every budget!

Find out more about our DC Tour schedule on our Tour Calendar page.

For our comprehensive list of activities and attractions, visit our free things to do in DC post.

 


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How is the Weather in Washington DC in January?

This post is an overview of the DC weather in January, with tips on how to dress and things to do to help make the most of your trip. 

 

 


HOW COLD IS DC IN JANUARY

The month of January is the coldest month of the year in the nation’s capital with morning low temperatures mostly in the mid to upper 20s F (-2 to -3C) with afternoon highs in the low to mid-40s F (6 to 7C). Read more »

Ice skating in the city

Where to Ice Skate in Washington DC

This post will inform you about the ice skating rinks in DC. We include hours, ticket prices and suggestions to make your experience great accurate for the 2019-2020 season.

For more suggestions on what to do in DC while you’re here, we recommend checking out our DC winter guide. And for any time of the year, check out our Top Things to do in DC post

 

ice skating in dc

Since most of the Washington, DC ice rinks open from the end of November and stay open through February, you may be interested other things to do in DC during those months:

Read more »

National Archives Tickets and Tours

Plan Your Visit to the National Archives

This post is about visiting the National Archives in Washington, DC, how to plan your visit, what there is to see. It’s more than just the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  

 

 


PLAN YOUR VISIT

Where Is the National Archives Building in DC? 

The National Archives has multiple facilities across the country but the National Archives Museum is in downtown DC on Constitution Ave NW between 7th and 9th St NW.   

The closest Metro to the National Archives is Archives /Navy Memorial station on the Green/Yellow line.   

 

Where is the National Archives Building

 

We recommend using this Google map link for directions. If you are new to DC, then check out our guide on how to use the DC Metro.

Nearby in College Park, Maryland is Archives II, which opened in 1984. The majority of the collection is open to the public but it houses mostly 20th and 21st c. records.

Archives II also keeps secure high profile artifacts that are classified, such as Adolf Hitler’s Last Will and Testament.


National Archives Hours

The National Archives is open daily from 10 am – 5:30 pm with the last admission at 5 pm.  The building is closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving (the last Thursday of November).


Do I need tickets to visit the National Archives?

Tickets are not required to visit the National Archives in the public line.

There is no admission ticket to the National Archives but it can get crowded and getting through security on the unreserved entry line can last up to an hour from March-June and on holiday weekends.


Advanced Tickets

If you want to cut down on uncertainty and wait-time, you can get tickets for a timed visit that allows you to skip most of the line.

There is a $1.50 processing fee per person and you can reserve up to 15 people. Admission is available 10:30 am – 3:30 pm with timed tickets.

Guided tours are available at 9:45 am Monday to Friday. They are free but advanced reservations are required.

RESERVE TICKETS HERE


How much time should I spend at the Archives?

A visit the Archives can be done as quickly as needed or you can spend time with the various exhibits. Allow at least 30 minutes from once you’re inside the building.


In a Rush? Visit the Archives in 30 minutes:

If you’re in a rush and just want to hit the highlights, there are a few must-sees.

After you enter security, make sure you pop in to see the Magna Carta, one of a few originals left, which is on display at the entrance of the Rubenstein Gallery.

Then head upstairs to the Rotunda to view the Charters of Freedom – Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Visit the Archives if you have more than 30 minutes:

If you’re not in a rush, we recommend 90 minutes to visit the Archives.

You can explore the rest of the Rubenstein Gallery to learn about the Record of Rights, the Public Vaults, the rotating exhibits and you can spend more time reading about the Charters of Freedom.


What can I take into the National Archives?

To expedite the security screening, it is recommended to take as little as possible. All bags and metal objects will be screened.

Since photography is prohibited, if it is possible to leave a camera elsewhere you will enter the building quicker, though you may bring it in if necessary.

There is a great gift shop, so do bring your wallet!


National Archives Cafe

There is a Cafe in the basement of the building, open Monday to Friday 8 am-2:30 pm if you get hungry during your visit. However, it is poorly rated and we don’t recommend a visit.

Nearby to the Archives is Penn Quarter and Chinatown neighborhoods. You can find many great, and fast places to eat on 7th Street north of the Archives.

 


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DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, CONSTITUTION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS 

The most visited part of the Archives is the Charters of Freedom. These are the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

 

 

The Declaration of Independence

Independence of the thirteen colonies from England was declared in 1776. Ever been asked to write your John Hancock? You’ll see his large signature on the bottom of this document.

The Constitution

This 1789 document laid the groundwork for our government. Notice the states that signed at the bottom – one of them is spelled differently than it is today!

The Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. They include the First Amendment right to free speech and religious freedom.

Count the ones you see at the National Archives. You’ll see more than 10 and can learn about this proposal and which ones were not adopted.

 


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EXHIBITS AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

O’Brien Gallery (rotating)
Rubenstein Gallery
Public Vaults

Current Exhibit at the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery (rotating)

From May 10, 2019 – January 3, 2021, the current exhibit at the National Archives is Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.

This display celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification and retells the struggle for women’s right to vote. 

There are over 90 objects, from the original 19th Amendment to a number of photographs and artifacts. You can see more about women’s suffrage movement at the Library of Congress with their display in their Southwest Gallery on the Second Floor, which you can explore when we go inside on our Capitol Hill walking tour

 

 

To learn more about the exhibit click here


Rubenstein Gallery

Image result for national archives magna cartaThis permanent exhibit discusses how Americans sought to continue the rights enshrined in the founding documents.

This interactive gallery features 17 touchscreen tables to explore the records. The timeline of America as an independent country is explored with documents of individual citizens and how their rights evolved.

The highlight of this gallery is the Magna Carta. This original document from 1297 is one of four original copies remaining.

The Magna Carta was an agreement between King John and the barons protecting their rights and land.

The rebellious American colonists would be inspired by this document when they believed they had the same rights as Englishmen.

Click here for a video tour of the gallery


Public Vaults

The public vaults are the main exhibit at the Archives and explain the purpose of the institution.  This exhibit holds over 1,000 documents divided into five sections:

  • We the People – records of family and citizenship such as immigration records and Native American settlement agreements.
  • To Form a More Perfect Union – records of liberty and law from investigative records from Kennedy’s assassination and congressional debates about Prohibition.
  • Provide for the Common Defense – records of war and diplomacy, Civil War regimental records and documents from the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Promote the General Welfare – records of frontiers and firsts; explorers artifacts and patents
  • To Ourselves and Our Posterity – keeping records for future. Here you can learn about how your records become part of the Archives and how you can do research.

Click here for a video tour of the public vaults

 


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White House Visitor Center

This post is about the White House Visitor Center and what you can find inside. It is a good option if you are unable to obtain tickets to visit inside the White House. For a full list of things to do in DC, check out our master post here. 

 

 


Visiting the White House Visitor Center

The White House Visitor Center is open daily from 7:30am- 4pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. It’s completely free to visit! For more free things to do in DC, check out our post

After an extensive revamping, the White House Visitor Center is open again to the public.  The restoration work took over 2 years and cost $12.5 million, much of which came from private donations through the White House Historical Association. There are over 90 new artifacts on display, many of which have never before been on display. There is plenty to see in the White House Visitor Center so we recommend setting aside 30minutes-1hour to explore it. 

White House Visitor CenterWithin the White House Visitor Center, you can watch a 14-minute film that takes you inside the White House and the lives of the First Families. Even though this theater is in the back of the visitor center, we recommend watching it first. You’ll find the theatre section all the way to the left when you walk in.

There are interactive exhibits of the White House that lets you tour inside and 3D models that you’re encouraged to touch. Throughout the visitor center are lifesize photographs of the White House through various administrations.

  Some of our favorite exhibits from the White House of years past:

  • White House Visitor CenterPresident Abraham Lincoln’s telegraph key – the actual telegraph key Lincoln used to communicate with General Grant during Robert E. Lee’s surrender.
  • The desk used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, where he sat as he spoke to Americans during his fireside chats.
  • A golden eagle finial that was the top of the White House flagpole in the late 1800s.

 


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How To Get to the White House Visitor Center

The White House Visitor Center is just a few blocks from the start of our National Mall tour near the White House and is a great option for something to do before our tour begins. It is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW (map). The entrance to the White House Visitor Center is on Pennsylvania Ave NW, just before you get to 15th St NW and across the street from Pershing Park.

Parking near the White House Visitor Center will be limited as many of the street parking in the area is restricted to federal employees, bus parking, or subject to rush hour restrictions. We recommend not driving there but if you must, there are parking garages nearby that offer day rates.

  • Purchase a guaranteed parking spot in advance near the White House Visitor Center with SpotHero.

The White House Visitor Center is easy to get to by public transportation. The two closest metro stations (Metro Center, Federal Triangle) are both about 7-minute walk.

 

White House Visitor Center

 

White House Visitor Center from Metro Center:

Metro Center is on the Blue/Orange/Silver/Red lines and one of the main stations downtown. It has a number of exits, the closest to the White House Visitor Center being the exit on 13th and G St NW. Once you exit the station, head south down 13th Street until you reach Pennsylvania Ave NW and turn right. The White House Visitor Center entrance will be on your left.

White House Visitor Center Metro Center

From Federal Triangle:

Federal Triangle is on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines. It only has one exit which is in the center of the courtyard of the Reagan International Center office complex. If you head towards the courtyard, you’ll see Pennsylvania Ave NW to your right. Turn left on Pennsylvania Ave NW and the Visitor Center will be on your left.

White House Federal Triangle

 


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White House Visitor Center

White House Visitor Center Gift Shop

The White House Visitor Center has a great gift shop. This is the place where you can get the official White House Christmas Ornament!

There is also a gift shop at 701 15th St NW called White House Gifts. Here can take a photo of yourself sitting behind a replica of the Presidential desk in the Oval Office!

 


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