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Top Things to do for First Time Visitors

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Been wondering what to check out on your first trip to Washington? We have compiled a quick list that should give you some guidance on planning your trip.

Stop 1 - Photos at the Capitol, Supreme Court, and White House

Washington D.C. is full of iconic buildings, but there are three especially impressive and beautiful structures you won’t want to miss. It’s easy to get to excellent spots to get your photo taken in front of the US Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the White house. As they’re so close to the National Mall, you’ll be close to other excellent sites.

Stop 2 - The National Mall Memorials

From the Korean War Veterans Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial, there is no shortage of memorials both grand and subtle.  You can’t miss the World War II Memorial, but make sure you also see the Martin Luther King Jr. and World War I Memorials, among others.

Stop 3 - The National Gallery of Art

Featuring amazing works of art from around the world, as well as impressive temporary exhibits, this gorgeous museum is among the best in the United States.  Among so many treasures, it has the only Leonardo Da Vinci oil painting on permanent display in the US.

Stop 4 - The National Archives

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are three of the most important, foundational documents of the United States, and they’re all right here in the National Archives.  There are plenty of other fascinating and important documents and photographs on hand.

Stop 5 - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Preserving the history of one of Humanity’s darkest times, the Holocaust Museum exposes the nature of hate, and reminds us to be ever vigilant.  It is a powerful and affecting place.

Stop 6 - Arlington National Cemetery

This cemetery is the final resting place for many of the United States’ citizens who were called to serve.  It is a place to honor and contemplate the sacrifices made for the nation, with two Presidents buried on its grounds.

Stop 7 - National Museums of American History, Air and Space, and African American History and Culture

These three excellent museums are easy to access from the National Mall.  Each museum looks at our history through a different lens, giving us a better understanding of who we have been, who we are, and who we hope to be as a nation.

Stop 8 - Explore a neighborhood

Washington D.C. enjoys many different neighborhoods, each with its own vibe.  You can take guided tours of Georgetown, U Street, Capital Hill, Chinatown/City Center, or Anacostia among others.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: March 25th, 2022
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