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! 

Do you need a place to stay in Washington DC?

Have you been to Washington DC? Would you try this packed itinerary? 

Comment below!

Like it? Share it! ♡ Those Who Wandr

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  1. This is an awesome itinerary! I went to DC recently and hit most of these spots. I love that almost everything you included is free. Even though DC can be an expensive city, I love that they offer free entry to a lot of museums and sites.

    1. Yes! I love that most of the attractions in DC are free! Actually the only part of this itinerary that costs money is food, which is great for those traveling on a budget!

  2. Lincoln Memorial, White House and U.S. Botanic Garden attracts me. Detailed itinerary is very helpful. After reading this we don’t need a tour guide.

  3. I think I could spend all day at the art gallery. Though, the botanical gardens would be a nice respite from the city as well. I like that the museums are available to those on a budget.

    1. Agreed! The art galleries in DC, specifically the Smithsonian ones, are massive! You could easily spend all day in one.

  4. Wow that is a jam packed day! You sure get to see a lot though and if you only have 1 day that’s awesome! You’ll sleep well that night lol 🙂 I’ve been to DC a few times, I also love the Jefferson memorial, especially during the Cherry Blossom Festival! Some of these places I’ve been to but most I haven’t yet. Will have to check them out next time I’m there.

    1. Haha, you’ll definitely get a good night’s rest after this itinerary! Glad you have some spots to check out the next time you’re in DC 🙂

  5. This was great! I live in DC too and actually work in one of the Smithsonian museums. I think more people should venture away from the mall to discover DC too. The Zoo is also part of the Smithsonian and is free! Be sure to check out some of the National Park Service sites like the Frederick Douglass and Mary McLeod Bethune house (also free).


    1. I love the National Zoo! I would’ve included it in this itinerary if it weren’t so out of the way from where the majority of the attractions are.

  6. Thanks for the great insight as a local. I not sure you could pack more into a single day in any city in the world than what you have planned out. The only change I would make would be 6:00 pm Call travel agent and extend stay by 5 days.

    1. Haha, yes! If you are able to spend more time in DC, I definitely recommend doing so! Although I included a lot in this itinerary, unfortunately you aren’t able to enjoy the attractions (especially the museums) as much since everything is back to back to back.

  7. It is unbelievable that all these places can be accessed free of cost! Never knew one can even tour the White House! I liked the Georgetown waterfront park and Washington Monument the most. All the pictures are incredible!

  8. I like all the places that you have covered but it is a lot. They are all relevant historical sites. I would probably finish this itinerary in two days on my own. I like going to museums so I would not really be done in just one day. I also checked out the websites of the restaurants that you mentioned. They are all good.

    1. Yeah, unfortunately with this schedule you aren’t able to really enjoy the museums, but it’s great for someone who wants to just "see" it all.

  9. I absolutely LOVE this post! My vacations tend to be whirlwind events, so this is right up my alley – getting the most off your time there. I feel like I need to plan a trip to DC now…

  10. Great post! I´ve already pinned it! But are you sure that one day will do to visit all those beautiful places in Washington? 😉

    1. It’ll be a bit rushed, but definitely doable in one day! Or you can stay longer… 😉

  11. I took in the MLK JR memorial last time I was there as it was new. I just love how all of the museums are free. Such a great place to visit.

  12. Thanks for sharing this itinerary! dinner in georgetown is always so nice and of course a stop at Georgetown cupcakes is always a must

  13. It is a packed itinerary but certainly doable. I like the mix you provided. I love how you even incorporated Georgetown. I do not think you start to early. I am an early riser and love being in the city when the sun is rising and no one is around. I think you allotted enough time and I like the way it all flows. Next time I visit would love to try some of those restaurant as well. Great itinerary

    1. I don’t think 8am is early either, but some people just aren’t morning people so I had to include that little disclaimer 😉 Thanks so much, come visit DC soon!

  14. I can’t believe how much you have managed to fit into a day’s itinerary in a place where there is so much to see. Fabulous post full of useful and interesting information and I also really appreciate all the links you included to each attraction. Great photos too! It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to visit Washington DC.

    1. Thanks so much! It’s pretty packed, but I think it’s better to include more options and not have time to do them all, then to run out of things to do and scramble to find something to do!

  15. I’ve always wanted to visit D.C. and I’ve heard there is just so much to see and do! I’m impressed at how much you saw in one day! I’ll definitely be saving this list for the future visit!

  16. Thanks for such a wonderful post. We’re planning to visit DC in Summer of 2018, so this post will be very useful for us. What I really appreciate is the walking distance and estimated time between attractions. That makes it so much easier to plan. – Lee

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! DC is great for families, the majority of these attractions are very close to one another (I hate wasting time commuting). Let me know if you have any questions before your visit!

  17. So many wonderful places to explore in DC! I only did a day trip in 2005. I wish I had spent more time in your hometown. Breakfast at Tidal basin sounds like the right stuff!

  18. That’s a really action-packed day! These are some of the best photographs from DC that I have seen. Both Roosevelt and MLK look so… alive for the lack of a better word! Would love to spend weeks if not days exploring those museums.

    1. Aw, thank you so much! Yes, you can easily spend a week in DC and just explore a different museum every day.

  19. You are right, clearly from the long list of places to see, one day in Washington DC is just not enough. Such a great curated list of memorials, museums, gardens and you can’t forget the White House. World War II Memorial would be a must see, but how can you decide?! Vietnam War Memorial would also be on my list of places to see. I would definitely need more than one day in Washington DC. Thanks for sharing.

  20. What an amazing, informative list of things to do in one day in Washington D.C. I haven’t been there since 17 years old (so it’s been a few years, at least), but while we were able to do a lot of these things in our two days there, we still missed a TON! I love how action packed this itinerary is. Would love to go back and visit the Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials, as well as see the National Gallery of Art. Will definitely save this for the next time we visit. Thanks!

    1. Definitely come back soon, the National Gallery of Art is a personal favorite!

  21. What a great itinerary for somebody who has limited time in DC. Wonderful that you included eating options in all categories that are close to the attractions. I have been to DC many times and could spend an entire day at one of the museums mentioned, but certainly appreciate the itinerary.

  22. This brings back the memory of me going to Washington back in 2013. The national air and space museum is really the best place to go and it is recommended to go there.Of course, White house, lincoln memorial, US capitol is a must place to go when in Washington.

  23. I followed this itinerary with a few modifications and it was GREAT! Very helpful- this allowed me to see all the sights that were worth cramming onto my one day in DC. Without it I wouldn’t have known how far each attraction was from the others and I’m sure I would have spent lots of time backtracking. Extra steps matter when you’re walking ALL DAY nonstop. Thank you for this hugely helpful post!

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