Any tour of Washington DC is sure to be jam-packed with museums and monuments and the American capital is home to some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the world. But that’s not all Washington DC has to offer. If you’re looking for the best places to go in Washington DC while at leisure on your Trafalgar tour, we’re going to lift the lid on the local treasures that make Washingtonians proud to call the city home.
1. Foggy Bottom
Foggy Bottom is reached in a fifteen-minute stroll from the National Mall, which you’ll visit on Trafalgar’s Historic Highlights tour of Washington DC. Once there you’ll find the Watergate building which was at the heart of the political scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. Today, rooftop drinks here are a must when choosing things to do in Washington DC. Sip on a margarita and take in the unbeatable 360-degree view overlooking the Potomac River.
This area of Washington was once home to many breweries, glass factories and the Washington Gas and light company. The fog created by heavy industry over the Potomac River gave it the name of Foggy Bottom as it is still known today. Culture is the name of the game now as it houses the world famous Kennedy Center, which hosts as many as 3,500 performances a year ranging across dance, music, theatre and film.
2. Dupont Circle
The Dupont Circle Fountain is a popular meeting place for a walking tour of Washington DC. Surrounded by greenery, it’s a great place to sit and watch the city go by on a sunny afternoon. The fountain is beautifully adorned with Greek mythological figures for the Sea, Wind and Stars that were designed by Henry Bacon, the architect responsible for the Lincoln Memorial.
The houses you’ll see in Dupont Circle range from 18th century mansions to elegant private members clubs. The Dupont area of Washington is also great for a look at some of Washington’s less well known political landmarks.
Be sure to visit Embassy Row which stretches over two miles. The Australian Embassy is the first you’ll encounter but explore the area to discover statues dedicated to political icons including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
3. Ben’s Chili Bowl
They’ve been serving hungry Washingtonians for 58 years and Ben’s Chili Bowl is an institution, beloved by one of this city’s greatest residents, Barack Obama. For proof of the capital’s love for Ben’s, their Famous Chili Half Smoke was voted Washington’s signature dish – they sell up to 800 bowls of chilli in a single day!
Why not stop at Ben’s on the leisure portion of your Trafalgar tour of Washington DC?
4. Meridian Hill Park
Designed by landscape architects in 1910 in the style of an elegant garden in Tuscany, Meridian Hill Park is adorned with sandstone paving and waterfall style fountains. While the fountain is currently under repair, this park is still a gem beloved by locals that should feature on any walking tour of Washington DC.
Many locals refer to this site as Malcom X Park in honour of the frequent political rallies held here during the 1960s. This park’s heritage of hosting gatherings continues to the present day in the form of a Sunday drum circle which also dates back to the 1960s. Visit between 3pm and 9pm for a memorable performance and to experience one of the best things to do in Washington DC.
If you’re itching for more great places to visit, check out our blog for more of the best things to do in the USA (once you’ve conquered Washington).
The Georgetown area of D.C. is home to the campus of Washington’s famous Ivy League establishment Georgetown University. You’ll be within walking distance of Georgetown when you visit Washington DC on Trafalgar’s East Coast USA & Canada tour, which also stops at the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.
Georgetown’s distinctive cobblestoned streets make Washington’s oldest neighbourhood a great part of a walking tour of Washington DC. Look out for mansions that were once home to none other than JFK and the famous chef Julia Child. For dining destinations, Georgetown is known for waterfront options. Try Sequoia’s incredible seafood served with the backdrop of floor to ceiling windows with river views and an outdoor terrace, perfect for summer days.
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6. Shaw District
Rich in theatres, restaurants and bars, Shaw District has some of the best things to do at night in Washington DC.
Howard Theatre is a music venue that was given a restoration in 2007 and offers a selection of jazz, rock and blues performances. Be sure to stop by when taking a tour of Washington DC to trace its musical sidewalk, which features reliefs of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and more. The highlight is its final stop, a life-size tribute to one of Washington’s most famous sons – Duke Ellington.
7. Logan Circle
During the Civil War, Logan Circle was the site of a barracks converted into a refugee camp for freed slaves. In recognition of this heritage, a 25 foot tall statue of Civil War general John Logan stands at the centre of this green space. Unusually, this park is the only traffic circle surrounded by residential property in the nation’s capital, making it a laidback stop when on a tour of Washington DC.
From Logan Circle you can spot the steeple of the National City Christian Church, where President Lyndon Johnson came to worship and which also hosted his state funeral in 1973. You can also spot the towering Luther Place Memorial Church which features a bronze statue of Martin Luther from 1884. Be sure to wander the surrounding streets to take in its Victorian townhouses and hugely varying architecture.
8. Adams Morgan Neighborhood
For a night out on your trip to Washington DC, 18th Street is the locals’ spot of choice. Book a private karaoke booth in Muzette, grab a slice at Jumbo Slice, then enjoy a bourbon or scotch from the world’s third largest whiskey selection at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, with its distinctive speakeasy vibe.
By day, the area nicknamed AdMo has a different vibe to explore. The charmingly kooky café Tryst serves your caffeine fix with a side of animal crackers and has patio seats to soak up some sun. For the culture vultures among you, Idle Time Books offers over 50,000 used, second-hand and rare books to lose yourself in, something every book-lover will love.
9. Penn Quarter
The Penn Quarter is home to Washington’s Chinatown and on H Street you can spot the 47-foot high Friendship Gate. Unveiled in 1986, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the largest of its kind worldwide on opening. Across a few blocks between H and I Street, you’ll find a whole host of great Chinese restaurants.
For a foodie experience, be sure to make a visit to the Fresh Farm market on F Street NW, which hosts stalls from 3 to 7 PM every Thursday.
For sports fans, the Capital One Arena is also home to Washington’s ice hockey and basketball royalty in the form of the NHL Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards. When you’re looking for the best things to do in Washington DC, the Penn Quarter is a must for the best Chinese cuisine in the city and the unbeatable excitement of joining a local crowd to cheer on their team.
Inspired for your trip to Washington D.C? Check out Trafalgar’s Historic Highlights tour and immerse yourself in American history with this 8-day Regional Explorer trip.