More people are traveling to Washington, DC than ever before. In fact, the US capital received 18.5 million visitors in 2012 and the number is expected to rise to as many as 20.3 million in 2016, according to data from Washington, DC Meetings.
Whether it’s for work or fun, there’s more to this city than the three political branches of government. DC has hundreds of attractions and activities, more than 1,000 restaurants and 145 hotels to stay.
On a recent business trip to DC for an event at the National Press Club, I extended my visit to check out some of what DC has to offer (of course, always check hours, tickets and requirements before visiting any venue). If you’re looking for things to do in Washington, DC, consider these ideas.
Founding Farmers in Washington, DC
You have many options for breakfast in DC, but Founding Farmers celebrates the American farmer as well as local and organic sourcing as much as possible. The restaurant is also LEED Gold certified for its efficient and environmentally-friendly elements, such as lighting, heating, cooling, water use and other building systems. The restaurant is rustic in design with reclaimed woods. And the kitchen is responsive to special requests, such as dairy-free cooking.
The White House
If you can plan ahead, a White House Tour through the East Wing is worth your time. This is a self-guided tour which includes much of the home’s entertaining space, including the State Dining Room; the Red, Blue and Green Rooms; and the China Room. The tour takes about 30 minutes, but you should allow extra time to get through the entrance line that runs during limited hours. Tours are arranged through your member of Congress’ office, and you should submit a request up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days. International visitors are encouraged to contact their embassy in Washington, DC to submit a tour request.
Spy Museum in Washington, DC
If you like spy history and spy movies, the International Spy Museum may be for you and/or your family when visiting DC. The self-guided tour begins with a choosing a new identity before you begin to make your way through the museum’s various exhibits. You’ll learn the secrets of espionage through the Bond movies of the 20th century — as well as the challenges that confronts the 21st century.
Hard Rock Cafe DC
If you’re visiting for the day, chances are that you’ll be in the heart of the city. The DC location is known as the “Embassy of Rock and Roll.” Located near the Ford Theatre, it offers great background music, plasma screens and a perfect spot to just grab lunch.
National Mall in Washington, DC
This is likely that this is the most visited area in the capital. The National Mall runs between the Capital building and the Lincoln Meorial. Many Smithsonian Museums are located here, as well as the U.S> Botanic GardenTravel Tips: Consider walking or biking through the National Mall early in the morning to experience the parks before workers and tourists make their way into the city. Also, the Lincoln Memorial offers spectacular sightseeing at night.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Located near the National Mall, the U.S. Holocaust Museum is one of the most popular museums in DC. Its permanent and special exhibits cover the period from 1933 to 1945, including the Nazi Party’s rise to power and outbreak of World War II. Permanent exhibits include the “The Nazi Assault” (1933-1930), “The Final Solution” (1940-1945) and “The Last Chapter” (the efforts of Holocaust survivors to build new lives in Europe, Israel and the United States). Upon entry, you’ll receive an identification card that tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.
American History Museum in Washington, DC
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, including 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. The National Museum of American History has a variety of exhibits that relate to the history of the United States as well as the history of science, medicine and technology — from the War of Independence to today.
Enjoy an 11th floor, panoramic view of the capital and drinks at POV Roof Terrace and Lounge on the top floor of the W Washington, DC. This is a cool spot with two outdoor bars and lots of seating — which is helpful because it becomes popular after work and into the evening. (Seating at POV Lounge and Terrace is first come first serve.)
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Washington, DC
Newly opened in January 2014, Joe’s Washington DC has quickly been discovered by locals and visitors. Located in the old Union Trust Bank at 15th and H Streets, this restaurant at Joe’s feels like its Miami, Chicago and Vegas spots. However, Joe’s Washington DC has a contemporary lounge with marble pillars in view. The second floor is dedicated to event space (which meeting and event planners will definitely want to check out).
Updated. Initially published May 26, 2014.