How to Spend One Day in Washington DC


Itinerary | Travel | Washington DC | United States

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In this extremely packed one day itinerary of Washington, DC we'll hit up most of the monuments and memorials, a couple of museums and galleries, and a gorgeous waterfront. You're going to be doing a lot of walking, so bring your comfiest shoes! PS: everything in this guide is FREE (besides food).

>> Related: FREE Things to Do in Washington, DC <<

One Day in Washington DC Itinerary: 

  • B R E A K F A S T (BYOBreakfast)

  • 8:00AM - Tidal Basin / FDR Memorial / MLK Memorial

  • 9:00AM - Lincoln Memorial / Vietnam War Memorial / Constitution Gardens

  • 10:00AM - World War II Memorial / Washington Monument

  • 11:00AM - Renwick Gallery / White House

  • L U N C H (Gallery Place Chinatown or City Center)

  • 1:00PM - Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • 2:00PM - US Capitol / US Botanic Garden

  • 3:00PM - National Mall / Smithsonian Castle

  • 5:00PM - Jefferson Memorial

  • D I N N E R (Georgetown) 

Things to Note

This itinerary starts pretty early in the day, which is recommended, as most museums and galleries close around 5pm. But don't hesitate to use this itinerary as a guide on where to go in Washington DC and go according to your own pace! 

We've been to the majority of the museums on the National Mall, and the ones listed in the itinerary are some personal recommendations. Below you will find other great options in case your interests aren't the same as mine. It's cool, we can still be friends. 

Ready? Let's go!


Bring your own breakfast and enjoy it on a bench by the Tidal Basin or Reflecting Pool! There are also little concession stands by some monuments and plenty of food trucks scattered up and down the National Mall. 

Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial

Located alongside the Tidal Basin, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial is a great tribute to the late president. This is a walk through memorial that will take you back in time and go over key parts of FDR's four term presidency. This is low key our favorite memorial in Washington DC, and absolutely breathe-taking during cherry blossom season (mid March/April)!

Address: 1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from FDR Memorial to MLK Memorial -  0.2 miles, 5 minutes

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

Also along the Tidal Basin, the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial is lined with some of his most powerful and memorable quotes and a grand statue of the civil rights leader himself. 

Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from MLK Memorial to Lincoln Memorial -  0.4 miles, 10 minutes

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, honoring the 16th President of the United States, is another favorite. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial you can look east across the Reflecting Pool for a view like no other of the Washington Monument. 

Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Lincoln Memorial to Vietnam War Memorial - 0.2 miles, 5 minutes

Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial is an emotional one. It's a beautiful tribute to the fallen US service members, and leaves a lasting impression on you. Beautifully designed by Maya Lin, walking through this memorial will leave you speechless. 

Address: 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Vietnam War Memorial to Constitution Gardens - 0.2 miles, 5 minutes

Constitution Gardens

Constitution Gardens consists mainly of a large pond, but it's nice to walk through on the way to the next stop.

Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20024
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Constitution Gardens to World War II Memorial - 0.2 miles, 5 minutes 

World War II Memorial

There are too many incredible features to the World War II Memorial that you need to just experience it for yourself. 

Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20227
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from World War II Memorial to Washington Monument - 0.3 miles, 5 minutes

Washington Monument 

The Washington Monument is closed until Spring 2019. They are currently renovating the elevator, but you can still get up and personal from the outside. The iconic pencil is always great for fun photo-ops. 

Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024
Hours: Open 24 Hours (outside)
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Washington Monument to Renwick Gallery - 0.9 miles, 20 minutes

Renwick Gallery

Renwick Gallery is part of the Smithsonian family, showcasing contemporary craft and decorative art. The building itself is a National Historic Landmark, built by James Renwick Jr, and features a beautifully curated collection of art. 

Address: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
Hours: Open Daily 10AM - 5:30PM
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Renwick Gallery to The White House - 0.2 miles, 5 minutes

The White House

We've personally never done a White House tour, but that's something you can look into if you're interested! Otherwise, not much to see but might as well take a picture, right? #doitforthegram

Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
Hours: N/A
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from The White House to LUNCH - varies


Our favorite part of the itinerary! All of the following locations are a 20 minute walk or less from the White House. 

$: Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken | District Taco | Buredo (sushi burrito)
$$: Old Ebbitt Grill (American) | Matchbox (pizza) | Daikaya (ramen)
$$$: Zaytinya (Mediterranean) | Rasika (Indian) | Fogo de Chao (Brazilian steakhouse)
Dessert: Pitango Gelato | Lincoln's Waffle Shop

>> Walk from LUNCH to Smithsonian American Art Museum - varies

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum offers plenty of rotating exhibits that showcase different types of American art and has a stunning indoor courtyard. The courtyard itself is worth a visit, it's our favorite place to just relax and nap in Washington DC.

Address: F St NW & 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Hours: Open Daily 11:30AM - 7PM
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Smithsonian American Art Museum to US Capitol - 1.1 miles, 20 minutes

US Capitol

Tours are available for the US Capitol, though we've never participated in one, maybe one day. We like to just take in the grand architecture of the building from the outside.

Address: East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, DC 20004
Hours: Open Daily, Monday thru Saturday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from US Capitol to US Botanic Garden - 0.3 miles, 5 minutes

US Botanic Garden

It's hard to believe that the US Botanic Garden is right next to the US Capitol, it's essentially a huge green house that many visitors (and even locals) don't know about. The US Botanic Garden transports to you to the tropics, the dessert, and Mediterranean all under one glass ceiling. 

Address: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001
Hours: Open Daily 10AM - 5PM
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from US Botanic Garden to National Mall - varies (depending on which museum you decide on)

National Gallery of Art

PERSONAL FAVORITE | We could spend all day at the National Gallery of Art, which is made up of two buildings. The West building focuses on neoclassical art while the East building is all about modern art. Both buildings are definitely worth your time, you'll find artwork from very famous artists here such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet to name a few. 

Address: 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565
Hours: Open Daily, Monday thru Saturday 10AM - 5PM & Sunday 11AM - 6PM
Cost: FREE


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Address: Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
Hours: 10AM - 5:30PM
Cost: FREE

>> Related: Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn <<

National Air and Space Museum

Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Open Daily 10AM - 5:30PM
Cost: FREE

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Address: 1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Timed entry via tickets available in advance or same day
Cost: FREE

National Museum of American History

Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
Hours: Open Daily 10AM - 5:30PM
Cost: FREE

National Museum of the American Indian

Address: 4th St SW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Open Daily 10am - 5:30pm
Cost: FREE

National Museum of Natural History 

Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Open Daily 10am - 5:30pm
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from National Mall to Smithsonian Institution Building (also on National Mall) - varies

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

The Smithsonian Institution Building, better known as The Castle is located in the middle of the National Mall. It is the main Smithsonian visitor center where you can learn about the different Smithsonian establishments and also has a gorgeous garden you can walk around. 

Address: 1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Open Daily 8:30AM - 5:30PM
Cost: FREE

>> Walk from Smithsonian Institution Building to Jefferson Memorial - 1.0 miles, 20 minutes

Jefferson Memorial

We saved the best memorial for last, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, located beside the Tidal Basin. This beautifully designed monument is where we find ourselves the most. It is beautifully designed and offers a great view of the Washington Monument. 

Address: 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Drive/metro/etc from Jefferson Memorial to DINNER - varies


$: Good Stuff Eatery (burgers) | Chaia (tacos)
$$: Farmers Fishers Bakers (American fusion) | Kafe Leopold (European) | Thunder Burger & Bari-Thai
$$$: Filomena Ristorante (Italian) 
Dessert: Baked & Wired | Olivia Macaron | Georgetown Cupcake

>> Walk from DINNER to Georgetown Waterfront Park - varies

Georgetown Waterfront Park

Head to the Georgetown Waterfront for a great view of the Potomac River with a backdrop of Rosslyn, Virginia and the Kennedy Center. 

Address: Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Hours: Open 24 Hours
Cost: FREE

>> Related: Laduree in Georgetown <<

Alright, we admit... this itinerary is kind of packed. But it is definitely doable! It'll feel like you just walked a marathon (because you did) but if you're able to do all of this in one day then all we have to say is, CONGRATS! You just took on Washington DC like a boss. 

#DClikeaboss if you try this itinerary so we can see & share your photos! 

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