Washington DC in 3 Days: everything you need to know

Washington DC has a special place to see and visit around every corner, so it's very easy to believe that you can't see it all in such a short time.

Andressa García

Andressa García

16 min read

Washington DC in 3 Days: everything you need to know

Washington DC | ©Anna Lowe

Although the capital of the United States is very large and has many attractions, a three-day trip will definitely be enough to visit a good part of its entertainment offer and to invite you to make a next visit.

You can take a look at some activities and things to see and do in Washington DC But if you are passing through Washington and expect to stay at least three days, I invite you to take a look at the itinerary I have prepared for you.

Day 1: National Mall, Monuments and Memorials

Arlington Cemetery| ©Tim Evanson
Arlington Cemetery| ©Tim Evanson

I invite you to start this three-day adventure through the American capital with a complete tour of some of the best monuments in Washington DC On the memorial tour you will pass by one dedicated to Thomas Jefferson as well as the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial.

This interesting itinerary includes somememorials to war veterans or victims of tragedy. Don't worry, most of them are within walking distance, so you can visit them all in one day.

Arlington Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery is a must-see when you visit Washington DC. It is a place where you can find thousands of graves of war veterans who fought in World War I and World War II, as well as in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and other similar conflicts.

To go to the Virginia side, you have to take the Arlington Bridge that will take you directly to the Cemetery and the US Marine Corp, the first two visits of the day.

Among the interesting things you can admire during your visit are the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is a place where the bodies of soldiers and veterans who fought in these wars and who were never identified are laid to rest.

Also of great interest is the tomb of John F. Kennedy and the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier that occurs every hour between October and March, while from April to September is every half hour.

Book the Arlington National Cemetery Tour

US Marine Corps War Memorial

Within Arlington Cemetery itself is one of the most interesting and beautiful monuments in the city of Washington DC, the US Marine Corp War Memorial.

This memorial is based on the iconic photograph showing the US soldiers raising the national flag on the Japanese islands after the victory in the Pacific as one of the landmarks of World War II.

It is definitely one of the monuments you can't miss if you go to Washington DC. It is dedicated to all the American soldiers who lost their lives, not only during the action in the Pacific during the war, but also to those who have left everything to fight in the wars that throughout history the American force has fought.

Air Force Memorial

This is one of the most interesting memorials in DC, its structure is imposing and consists of three spikes to the sky.

It represents the honor, heroism and service of the members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Each of the spike-shaped towers are constructed of stainless steel and stand approximately 402 feet tall.

Its view of the Pentagon leaves you with one of the most interesting and incredible experiences in the city of Washington.

It is located right next to Arlington National Cemetery, so to get there you only have to take VA-27 Washington Blvd south until you reach the memorial.

It is a memorial that is open every day of the year from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Admission to the memorial is completely free, making it an excellent morning visit.

Pentagon Memorial

Pentagon Memorial| ©Geoff Livingston
Pentagon Memorial| ©Geoff Livingston

Although the Pentagon Memorial is one of those special places to leave among the things to do in Washington DC at night, this time we will visit this monument in the morning hours.

From the Air Force Memorial you can see the Pentagon Memorial, but to get there you will have to take Columbia Pike and then turn to S Rotary Rd. and immediately go to N Rotary Rd. and finally to RDF Access Ln. There you will be right in front of the Pentagon Memorial.

This is the first memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11. What you will notice most about this place is the absolute peace you can feel.

The memorial consists of 158 benches or memorials representing each of the victims who lost their lives when the hijacked plane hit the Pentagon offices that morning of 9/11.

You will be able to read the date of birth and death of each of the victims. This memorial is arranged in such a way that you can distinguish where each person died.

United States Capitol

Visits to the U.S. Capitol are free. If you want to go on this first day of activities to get to know a little of the place inside, you should anticipate to reserve a ticket. If you want, you can wait until the day of the visit and wait in a long line at the entrance of the Capitol Visitor Center to get your ticket.

To get to the Capitol from the Pentagon Memorial, you will need to take the George Mason Memorial Bridge to Columbia County. Take I-395 N and follow it all the way to the Capitol.

The good thing is that it is a structure that can be seen from different points of the city. Inside the place you can find a myriad of elements that will not only enrich your view, but also enrich your knowledge.

From the acoustic effect produced by the Rotunda, to the multiple murals found inside the structure. Other features you will want to admire are the images on the walls of the Rotunda, where you can see important moments in American history.

White House

About three miles from the Capitol is your next stop on the list. Nestled in Lafayette Square you will find the White House. It is definitely one of the most impressive architectural works of this city.

If you want to enter and tour the interior of the residence, you should be aware of the permits you must apply for as well as the amount of time in advance you have to do so.

Although the White House is not a place you can tour lightly, it is an interesting place at least to walk around and take some pictures.

To learn a little more about the secrets hidden within the walls of the U.S. presidential residence, you can always go to the White House Visitor Center. In the case of our visit we will only get a few meters closer to be able to contemplate the wonder of that construction.

Washington Monument

Almost opposite the previous one is the next monument to visit: the one dedicated to George Washington. It is an obelisk of more than 550 feet high. To reach it, just walk along Lafayette until you find such an imposing monument.

This symbol of the capital of the United States has an innovative elevator that will take you from the ground to the top of the obelisk, from where you can appreciate a breathtaking view. Part of what you can see from the top of the monument is the White House, the Capitol and the National Cathedral.

It is open from 9:00 to 17:00, but to enter and go up in the elevator, you must buy tickets in advance, being the last trip at 17:00. Every day between 13:00 and 14:00 the attraction closes for cleaning.

Lunch stop

At this point of the tour, it will be time to have something to eat before continuing with the tour to the other monuments. For this I recommend visiting a restaurant in the area around the esplanade.

Try to have a light meal so that you can visit the rest of the monuments without any problem, you still have a lot of walking to do.

National World War II Memorial

At one end of the Reflecting Pool and just across from the Washington Monument is the memorial to World War II and the actions of American soldiers in the conflict.

Part of what you'll see here is a set of 56 wall-like structures arranged in a semicircle around a water fountain.

On either side you will see two bronze walls detailing scenes from the war. One of these walls represents the victory of the Pacific and the other represents the victory of the Atlantic.

Something that will surely surprise you is that both rows of the representation of the war converge in the defeated Germany after the war.

It is open all day, but between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. you have a chance to meet with a guide who will answer your questions.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Leaving the World War II Veterans Memorial and bordering the Constitution Garden, you will find another of the most representative memorials of the city. It pays tribute to those who died in combat or were missing during the Vietnam War.

There are three segments of the memorial, the first is a 246-foot high wall on which you can read at least 58,000 names of those who lost their lives during the conflict. The wall is reflective, so you can read each name as you see yourself reflected in it.

You can visit this memorial at any time of the day, but between 9:30 am and 10:00 pm there are staff to answer your questions, and even interpreters who can translate for you in case you don't speak English.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial| ©John Brighenti
Lincoln Memorial| ©John Brighenti

Continuing the day's route, a short distance from the previous stop is one of the most special and iconic monuments that line the National Mall in Washington DC.

This spectacular structure, crafted with inspiration from ancient Roman architecture, pays tribute to one of America's most important thinkers, also known for being the nation's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

As for the location of the monument dedicated to the self-taught man and also a lawyer, you have to know that in front of this impressive structure is a reflecting pool.

Both structures become a real spectacle at sunset, so it is one of the things I would recommend you to do in Washington at night.

In this case, we will follow our itinerary and stop to admire its grandeur in the evening.

Korean War Veterans Memorial Monument

A few minutes from the previous one, your next stop is at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

I invite you to notice the mural and the steel structures. When these are reflected on the granite wall, it gives the impression that there are 38 people.

Those 38 people are soldiers, and the number represents the line that divides South and North Korea. On the mural you will see the representation of soldiers from all areas of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Located just south of the Reflecting Pool, this memorial is also open 24 hours, but between 9:30 am and 10:00 pm you can find guards who can answer all your questions.

If you are lucky you may encounter one. You can also get an interpreter to translate the information for you if you are not fluent in English.

Martin Luther King Memorial

You won't have to walk far from the Korean Veterans Memorial to admire the imposing stone structure from which a serious and watchful Martin Luther King emerges.

It is the first monument to honor the life of a man of color. In addition, his monument is the fourth erected in Washington DC that does not honor the life of a president.

In life, loved by many and repudiated by many others. The life and work of Martin Luther King is very complex to describe. Suffice it to say that he was a staunch defender of freedom and equality of the races in his country.

He is considered one of the greatest exponents of the struggle against racism in the United States and responsible for the beginning of many changes that continue to be seen today in American society.

There is no timetable for you to visit the Luther King Memorial, because it is open 24 hours a day and admission is free.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Inside the large white structure you will see an incredible statue of Thomas Jefferson standing tall. The statue is approximately 15 feet tall and is made of bronze. It is very close to the Luther King Memorial.

If you are very careful and attentive to detail, you will surely come across interesting messages left by the statue. One of these unique features is that it faces the White House.

The statue is accompanied by different inscriptions on each of the faces of the structure, in which you can read different thoughts of who was a philosopher, politician, and among other things, the author of the first draft of the Act of Independence of the United States.

It is open all day, so you can visit it until late at night if you have been too long in the previous places.

Take an electric vehicle tour of DC's monuments at night

Day 2: Museums

International Spy Museum| ©John Goucher
International Spy Museum| ©John Goucher

On your second day of touring Washington DC, I suggest you go on a tour of the museums the city has to offer. From natural history to space travel, in a full day to tour some of the best museums in Washington DC, you can visit at least three of them.

International Spy Museum (1-2 hours)

To start the day, I recommend taking 1-2 hours out of your day to visit the new International Spy Museum.

Inside the museum you will find interesting attractions that will make you feel like a spy for a day. From the moment you arrive you are assigned an alias by which you will be known for the rest of your visit.

It has complete and international exhibits that show how this profession has developed throughout the years and around the world. You will be able to be part of a unique experience in which you will probably have the opportunity to spy on other people inside the enclosure.

  • Location: L'Enfant Plaza, located at Southwest Waterfront.
  • Price: From 28 euros.
  • Hours: Every day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2-3 hours)

With thousands of species to show its visitors, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is one of the most interesting places in Washington DC.

It serves as a center for recreation and understanding the history of mankind through the evolution of flora, fauna and human life. To get to this museum from the Spy Museum you will have to go southwest on Constitution Ave. past the Smithsonian Castle and then continue to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

This museum is divided into sections that are distributed on different floors. Each of the exhibits show the natural advancement of species. You can enjoy an interesting visit through the Egyptian and African culture. Depending on the day and time you go you can find different exhibitions, because some are permanent and others are temporary.

When leaving the museum, very close you will find different options to have a delicious and complete lunch to continue with the day's tour of the most interesting museums in the city.

  • Location: 10th St. & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560.
  • Price: Free.
  • Hours: From 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.

National Air and Space Museum (2-3 hours)

National Air and Space Museum| ©Raúl Alejandro Rodríguez
National Air and Space Museum| ©Raúl Alejandro Rodríguez

Also within the Smithsonian museums in the U.S. capital, the one dedicated to air and space stands out. From the Natural History Museum to the Air and Space Museum, you will have to take a left at the Smithsonian Castle towards the Air and Space Museum.

This is a place where you will be transported to the world of aviation and aeronautics, where you will see the most iconic models of airplanes and aerospace ships that visited outer space in their moment of splendor.

The true relics of the history of aviation can also be appreciated at the National Air and Space Museum, one of the most interesting being the plane that belonged to Amelia Earhart for so many years, the same one that accompanied her to accomplish unthinkable feats in her time.

You can also take a close look at the first capsules that were launched into space and many other similar relics.

  • Location: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560.
  • Price: Free.
  • Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Book a private tour of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

End the day in Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle| ©Ryan Park
Dupont Circle| ©Ryan Park

To end your museum day on a high note, there's nothing better than a visit to Dupont Circle. It is an intellectual meeting place, located on the northwest side of Washington DC and is ideal to spend the afternoon and evening among bars, books, luxury stores and exquisite food.

If you visit Washington DC in summer time, you will surely love to stop by some of the local nightclubs to dance a little. During the Christmas season the lights in the Dupont are magical and will leave you with postcards to remember.

Day 3: Georgetown

Getting to know Georgetown| ©Vicenç Feliú
Getting to know Georgetown| ©Vicenç Feliú

For your third day in Washington DC, I recommend visiting Georgetown. To get from downtown Washington DC to this town, you can go on a guided tour or take public transportation.

It is a town on the outskirts of downtown, famous among other things for being one of the most sought-after upper-class neighborhoods of the city.

Georgetown was once a mecca of commercial activity in the city, so you will see some interesting relics on your visit.

Old Stone House

To start your day, I recommend a visit to the oldest house in all of Washington, which still stands on its original site in Georgetown.

It is a stone house that dates back to the colonial and pre-revolutionary era, meaning that it has survived the darkest times the city has experienced since its construction. The house was built in 1765 and is located at 3051 M St. NW. Washington, DC 20007.

Dumbarton House

This house, which was built around 1799, will show you what life was like on this side of town in the late 1700s during the early republican period in the United States. It is a good place to visit right after going to the Old Stone House.

It is an interesting visit that you can't miss if you visit Washington DC. This is one of the few houses left standing that are living history.

It is kept as a museum open to the public, so you can go inside and look at every perfectly preserved detail. Its exact location is 2715 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20007.

Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Since you still have time left in the morning, I recommend you to go to Dumbarton Oaks Museum, it won't be difficult to get there because it is very close to Dumbarton House. It is a museum full of natural history and art. It consists of three spaces dedicated two of them to Byzantine and pre-Columbian art mostly.

The third space is dedicated to gardening historically. It is part of a Harvard University research center and is definitely a place that has to appear on your list of things to do in Washington. It is located at 1703 32nd St NW, Washington, DC 20007.

After the tour you will surely feel like stopping for a bite to eat. There are several options you can take for lunch, but some of the restaurants I recommend near this area are Spanish Tapas & Lunch and Clyde's of Georgetown for a lunch loaded with flavor.

Tudor Place

After lunch, it's time to hit the road to visit interesting places in Georgetown. Your next stop will be Tudor Place.

It is a mansion of sorts that is located in upscale Georgetown and in its heyday belonged to George Washington's step-granddaughter and her husband.

Today it is a museum of sorts dedicated to showing visitors what upper-class life was like in the 1800s.

You will love a visit to Tudor Place, especially if you are a lover of history and valuables. It is located at 1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC 2000.

The stairs of "The Exorcist"

If you love movies and specifically horror films, you will surely remember the iconic film of the genre, "The Exorcist", where a little girl is possessed and the local priest agrees to exorcise her.

Well, yes, they are in Georgetown and you can see them on your visit to the town. They are located very close to Tudor Place and is the next place you will visit in the afternoon of your day in Georgetown.

In one of the most emblematic scenes of the film, the demon that possessed the girl, takes possession of one of the priests who practiced the exorcism and throws him out the window, falling down the stairs and dying instantly.

These stairs dating from 1875 can be visited during your visit to Georgetown. It is located exactly on the corner of Prospect St NW and 36th St NW.

Georgetown University

If you are a fan of university campuses and all the magic inside, you can't miss the next point on your tour of Georgetown. Continuing along the route and very close to Prospect Street is Georgetown University.

Ranked as the oldest Catholic university in the United States, Georgetown University is a place you can not miss if you like to know interesting and historic places.

Its London-style structure and façade will make you want to walk through every part of the campus. It is located at 3700 O St NW, Washington, DC 20057.

Washington Harbor

To end your third day in Georgetown, you can't leave out the Washington Harbour, a place where you can spend the sunset appreciating beautiful views of the Georgetown harbor.

It is one of the most relaxing and vibrant places in Washington, ideal to rest from a hectic day and end it with a refreshing drink or a good meal. The exact address is 3000-3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007.

Book the Georgetown foodie tour and stroll through the neighborhood

Places to eat in Washington

Dining in Washington| ©Rob Nordstrom
Dining in Washington| ©Rob Nordstrom

For three days getting to know the American capital, you need a complete guide about food tours in Washington DC However, I will leave you with a short list of places where you can eat really well, so that you can choose for yourself what to eat during your days in the city.

  • Breakfast
  • The Blue Duck Tavern - Georgetown
  • Bistro Bis - Capitol Hill
  • Florida Avenue Grill - Florida Ave.
  • Le Diplomate - 14th Street NW, Washington
  • Lunch
  • Lebanese Taverna - Connecticut Ave.
  • Old Ebbit Grill - 15th Street NW, Washington
  • Marcel's by Robert Wiedmaier - Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Commissary - P Street.
  • Dining
  • Lafayette Restaurant - 16th Street, Washington
  • The Capital Grille - Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Ben's Chilli Bowl - U Street NW, Washington
  • New Heights Restaurant - Calvert Street NW, Washington

Transportation to get around Washington

Washington Metro| ©matthew Hunt
Washington Metro| ©matthew Hunt

To move within the city from one place to another, you can use a private vehicle, but if you are on your own and do not have your own car, you can use public transportation.

Bus routes, and especially the subway, are available for you to visit your favorite places during your three-day visit to the city.

Most of the city's subway and bus routes arrive near or very close to each monument you will visit during your three-day visit to DC.