A Guide to Washington DC: The Most Famous Capital in the World

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Smithsonian Institution

For most Americans, and for most of the world, today is D-Day. Today is the day that Barack Obama steps down as US President. Today is the day Donald Trump becomes US President, and the most powerful leader in the world – there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say. I visited Washington DC back in July when the Trump vs Clinton campaigns were heating up and everyone was talking about the impending election. Despite the uncertainty of a Trump-led America, I thought today would be a good day to remind everyone just how beautiful the capital of the United States really is. Washington is a city unlike any I’ve ever experienced before; it’s steeped in history and has so much to offer. I spent three wonderful days there exploring as much as I possibly could on my Grand Southern Contiki Tour and I still feel like I only just scratched the surface. Let’s share some optimism on this gloomy January day and remind ourselves how great Washington is with this guide to the city and my top must sees…

Stroll down the National Mall



All eyes will be on this famous street this evening, but on a normal day the National Mall is buzzing with locals and tourists alike, with different events occurring almost every week meaning there’s always something going on. Wandering along the two mile long, tree-lined boulevard you’ll find the Capitol Building at one end whilst the Lincoln Memorial occupies the other end. In between two of the city’s most famous landmarks you’ll find a number of well known buildings, memorial statues and green parks. The whole of the National Mall, affectionately known as ‘America’s Front Yard’, is officially listed as a National Park and is one of the most visited areas in the whole of the United States.


Visit the Capitol Building



Another famous building and a must see when in the capital is, yep you got it, The Capitol Building. Home to the House and Senate, the Capitol Building is at the centre of American democracy and attracts millions of tourists each year – guided tours are free but must be booked in advance, which is why I didn’t get to explore the inside! I loved looking up at this place when I visited – it’s huge and looks so grand from the outside. Standing on the steps on Capitol Hill looking out towards the whole of the National Mall, with the Washington Monument and Reflection Pool in the distance, is pretty special and is definitely one of those ‘pinch me’ travel moments.


Stop for a selfie at the White House


Found the most famous house on the planet today 🇺🇸🏡 #Washington #whitehouse #heyobama #noregrets #USA

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One of the most famous houses on the planet, the White House is one of Washington’s biggest tourist attractions with free guided tours being offered four times a week, subject to the busy government schedule. Tours must be requested way in advance, up to six months before your visit date, and they get booked up incredibly quickly due to the White House’s extreme popularity. I could barely get close to the White House when I visited due to the safety railings and the hoards of security guards, but I still managed to take a decent selfie from the distance!


Gaze at the Washington Monument



This was my favourite building in the whole of Washington, and I know it’s extremely popular with tourists too! Perhaps the most iconic building across the whole of the city skyline, the Washington Monument stands 555ft tall and offers spectacular views across the entire city. Riding the elevator all the way to the top was an incredible experience, and the views from up high were amazing, taking in the National Mall and all the other famous monuments in the vicinity.


Discover the Memorial Parks


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The Memorials laid out across the centre of the city and the whole of the National Mall are really special and definitely worth dedicating a whole day to. I had enough time to see pretty much all of them during my time there and I fell in love with them. It was so interesting to learn the history behind each of them, and find out more about the famous faces they were commemorated to. The Lincoln, FDR and Jefferson Memorials were particular favourites of mine as they are so iconic, but I also really liked the reflective World War II Memorial and the beautiful Martin Luther King Jr Statue too. I’d recommend seeing the monuments both in the day time and after dark to see them lit up in all their glory – they look even MORE amazing when the sun goes down!


Explore the many museums



Part of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington is home to 17 museums and galleries which are all free to enter for the public. The most popular museums include the National Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Air and Space Museum. Each offer something different and are fun for all the family, although I’d recommend only focusing on the museums you actually want to visit as this will take up a lot of your time during your visit to the city.


Visit the National Zoo



Also part of the Smithsonian Institution, and also free to enter for the public, Washington Zoo is a really popular tourist attraction. Located in the residential Woodley Park neighbourhood, the zoo is laid out over 160 acres and is home to over 2000 animals. Some of the species at the zoo include lions, tigers, bears, giraffes, elephants and their famous giant pandas which are just ADORABLE! The zoo offers something different compared to the historic areas of the city and is a great day out for all the family.


So there we have it, my guide to the best things to see and do during your time in Washington. Although it may be an uncertain time for America at the moment, one thing I’m sure of is that Washington will still retain its charm and beauty of being one of the most iconic capital cities in the world. With so much to see and do and so many incredible landmarks to visit, your visit to Washington will be a dream no matter what.

Have you ever been to Washington DC? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments!

Love Jess x


Wish I was back exploring #Washington 🇺🇸🇺🇸 @contiki @statravel_uk #grandsouthern #contiki #noregrets #america #USA #DC #capital

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2 replies
  1. McCool Travel
    McCool Travel says:

    What? You visited DC and did not tell me. Darn it. Did you visit the Einstein statue? Or the Awakening? Looks like you had a blast, in spite of not having the world’s best tour guide to show you around. ;D

    • JourneyswithJessica
      JourneyswithJessica says:

      Dam!! It was part of my Contiki tour around the States last summer so I spent three nights there and loved it! Yes saw the Einstein statue, but don’t think we saw the awakening? If I ever return I’ll be sure to let you know so you can show me the places I missed! Jess 🙂

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