11 best things to do in Washington DC on your first visit

New York City and Orlando might dominate the East Coast, but you shouldn’t forget about Washington DC – the calm before the storm.

It may seem odd, describing the capital of the USA as ‘calm’ but that’s what DC is.

The city is open rather than overbearing and has its unique charms.

From the famous National Mall to the quintessential Georgetown – Washington DC should be your number one destination in the US.

And if you’re into museums – you’re going to have the time of your life.

Here are the 10 things you must do on your first trip to Washington DC.

The White House

You can’t visit Washington DC without going to the White House.

The White House has been the residence of every U.S. president since the 1800s, making it one of the world’s major landmarks.

Much like touring the US Capitol, you will need to plan far in advance if you want to visit the White House.

If you’re a US citizen, you will have to make the request through your member of Congress. This can be submitted three months in advance, but no applications will be accepted 21 days before your visit.

For international tourists, you will have to contact your country’s embassy in Washington DC – again submit this as soon as possible.

Tours fill up on a first come first serve basis, so be quick!

You are encouraged to submit your tour request as early as possible as tours fill up quickly and a limited number of spaces are available. 


Georgetown is one of those spots in Washington DC that’s a great place to have a stroll.

The neighbourhood mixes a historic area with lots of new boutiques and restaurants.

Film and TV buffs will also appreciate Georgetown, with the area having featured on House of Cards and cult horror movie The Exorcist.

You can take a DC Circulator bus from the city centre to Georgetown for $1.

Georgetown University

Whilst you’re in Georgetown, you should head to Georgetown University.

On par with the Ivy League schools, the university is one of the most respected institutions in America.

Aside from education, the main building Healy Hall is beautiful. Built between 1877 to 1879, the architecture combines gothic and medieval – perfect for an Instagram snap.

Capitol Hill

Dominating the skyline from the National Mall is Capitol Hill – home to the US Capitol.

The neighbourhood is best known for hosting political and governmental proceedings.

You can visit areas of the Capitol on a guide-led tour, but be warned you need to book very far in advance – a month before is not going to cut it.

National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History is one of the best places to visit if you’re wanting to explore the museums in the city.

There are many diverse exhibits as well as numerous temporary display, so keep a couple of hours spare.

You can learn about America’s culture, television, and war; as well as seeing Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

National Mall

The park located in the city centre is the home to DC’s monuments and memorials.

It takes you through America’s history from the founding fathers to World War II.

Stretching over two miles, it’s well worth taking a guided tour. I would thoroughly recommend Free Tours by Foot.

However, if you’re not interested in a walking tour, it’s well worth making sure you see the following –

Lincoln Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

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