28 Best Rainy Day Activities in Washington DC

Great Indoor Activities in Washington DC for Rainy or Cold Snowy Days

Did you know Washington DC receives more rain on average than Seattle? In fact, it has rained at least once, if not the whole time during my last couple of visits. Washington DC also experiences all 4 seasons. Therefore during winter months, you can experience below-freezing temperatures and even snow! With that being said, I’ve put together this list of indoor activities to enjoy on a rainy day in Washington DC.

First Time in Washington DC? Make sure to also check out my Washington DC Itinerary here! Don’t worry, it will open on a separate page, so you won’t lose your spot!

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial on a rainy day. Woman with a hot pink raincoat and umbrella.

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Explore The Library of Congress

Escape a rainy day in Washington DC at The Library of Congress, the largest Library in the world. With beautiful architecture and millions of books, films, and more, it makes for a nice DC experience.

They even have materials available in other languages. You can find around 470 different languages, to be exact.

The Library of Congress is also where the US Copyright Office is located.

Currently, you need to get your reserved time slot tickets online before visiting. Get your free Library of Congress tickets here.

Address: 10 First Street SE Washington, DC 20540

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM (last entry at 4:30 PM)

Visit Ford’s Theatre

Another great way to enjoy a rainy day in Washington DC is by visiting the Ford’s Theatre. You may already know this is the Theatre President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Opening in 1863, you can imagine, the theatre has a lot of history. Aside from live theatre productions, Ford’s theatre offers intriguing exhibitions! The shows here are wonderfully written and have great reviews online.

Just be sure to purchase your tickets before going to ensure you get to see your favorite show! Some upcoming shows include A Christmas Carol and Shout Sister Shout.

Get Tickets to Ford’s Theatre here.

Address: 511 10th St. NWWashington, DC 20004

Historic Sight Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM (Last entry at 4 PM)

Box Office Hours: 8:30 AM to 5 PM

Explore One of the Many Museums During a Rainy Day in Washington DC

One of the best places to escape from cold or rainy days in Washington DC is at one of the many museums and art galleries. On top of that, if you visit any of the Smithsonian Museums, you will be glad to know they are free to visit!

Outside of the National Museum of African American History in Washington,DC on a rainy day..

National Portraits Gallery

Founded by Congress in 1962, The National Portraits Gallery is designed to bring you through American History through art. These portraits are of Americans who have shaped the USA’s history. It is also the only other place you can find the complete collection of presidential portraits aside from the White House!

There are now over 23,000 items in all media to explore, and this DC museum is free to visit. Because of this, it is also one of the most popular museums to visit, especially during a rainy or cold day.

Hours: Daily 11:30 AM – 7 PM

Address: 8th and G Streets NW Washington, DC 20001

National Air and Space Museum

A great rainy day activity with kids is going to be at the National Air and Space Museum. Find really fun exhibits such as The Wrights Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age, America by Air, Destination Moon, and more!

The Museums Collection includes thousands of real objects that have gone into space, airliners, and more, making it a really cool experience for all ages. If you really love all things aviation, there are two museums.

One is located right in DC, and the other is near the Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

While you may not want to enjoy the outside Sculpture Garden during bad weather, the museum still has a lot of unique art to enjoy inside. The Hirshhorn Museum is known for its unique and contemporary art. 

One of the most popular exhibits to visit is the One With Eternity: Yayoi Kusama. Keep in mind that free-timed tickets will be needed to visit some of the special exhibits.

Address: Independence Ave. at 7th St., SW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5:30 PM 

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

Trade the miserable weather to walk around the decadent halls of the Smithsonian Institution Building. This traditional castle was first built in 1855 and really encapsulates the history of Washington, DC.

It is now the Visitor’s Center and offers tons of information, including common questions. Spend time browsing the artifacts and planning out your DC trip.

Address: 1000 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC

Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

One of my favorite museums in DC that is the perfect escape from stormy weather is the Renwick Gallery. In fact, we came here to escape the rain ourselves. Dedicated to contemporary arts, the museum’s collection began in 1829.

You can expect to enjoy really interesting exhibits like Burning Man. Additionally, the exhibits change often so that revisiting won’t be boring. Oh, and it is also free to visit, so you can just pop in!

Renwick Gallery is located right in the heart of DC, close to the White House, so getting here will be easy.

Address: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily – 10 AM- 5:30 PM

Renwick Gallery in Washington DC

National Postal Museum

Are you a stamp collector, or looking for something fun with the kids? Visit the National Postal Museum and stroll through a 1920s post office. During a visit, you can learn about the history of the post office and even start your own unique stamp collection!

Furthermore, the National Postal Museum is free to visit and located right near Union Station, so taking public transportation is your best bet.

Address: 2 Massachusetts Ave., NE Washington, DC

Hours: Daily – 10 AM- 5:30 PM

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Art lovers rejoice because there is another art museum. Get out of the rainy weather and immerse yourself in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where you can experience Washington’s history through a creative lens.

Being one of the oldest buildings in DC, this museum has so much intriguing history, which is represented through its vast art collection! 

Address: 8th and G Streets, NW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily 11:30 AM – 7 PM

National Museum of Natural History

The Washington Museum of Natural History is a must-visit for any first-time visitor to Washington DC! Believe it or not, it is one of the most visited Natural History Museums in the entire world!

Perfect for people of all ages, including families, this museum covers all aspects, from the origin of planet Earth, what the world looked like before humans existed, and more! You will find tons of interactive exhibits to explore.

This museum is also one of the best free things to do in Washington DC!

Address: 10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC

Hours: 10 AM- 5:30 PM

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Another interesting museum to visit is the National American History Museum. This museum goes as far back as colonial times and brings you to the present day.

It explores the evolution of America’s history, and with over 3 million historical objects, including the Star Spangled Banner, you can really delve into American history.

Address: 1300 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily – 10 AM – 5:30 PM

Car at Smithsonian Museum

National Museum of the American Indian

Another great museum to visit on a rainy day that is right by the Capital of DC, is the National Museum of American Indian. Here you will learn about the history of Native Americas, see genuine artifacts, contracts, and more. This was another one of my personal favorite museums in DC.

They also have the imagiNATIONS Activity Center (10 AM–4:30 PM, Tuesday–Sunday), which is the ultimate learning and play area for kids.

Address: 4th Street and Independence Ave., SW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily – 10 AM – 5:30 PM

Native American Museum in Washington DC one one of the best free things to do

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is a great one for those with family. Get all the James Bond feels with fun exhibits where you can test your spy skills.

Ticket prices range depending on the time and day. They are around $25 USD and can be bought on their website.

Address: 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington DC 20024

National Museum of African American History and Culture

African-American culture is a major part of America’s history, and this museum really brings that to life! This building brings a huge sense of diversity and education to the impact that African-American culture has had on America. This is a very busy and popular museum, so timed free-entry tickets may be needed.

Address: 1400 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC

Hours: Daily – 10 AM – 5:30 PM

National Geographic Museum

If you’d like to take a look into the past of Ancient Egyptians, the National Geographic Museum currently has a  King Tut exhibit. According to the museum, they go beyond a traditional artifact display and bring you through 3,000 years of history through interactive photography and multimedia so that the artifacts can remain in Egypt.

Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5 PM (last entry is at 4 PM)

Admission: Adults $20 USD; Students/Senior $16; Children Under 5 Free

Address: 1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Museum is famous for its ability to go into depth on what life was like during the Second World War and the impact that Nazi Germany had on America. It shows how America acted in the war and how its forces helped to restore freedom.

Within the museum, you will be able to access personal stories, home movies, and diaries that tell the story of the war better than anything else.

The museum holds exhibitions throughout the year, if you check their website before you visit, you will be able to see if they are currently running any special events.

Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 2 0024

Hours: Daily 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC

Enjoy The Phillips Collection

Located in the charming DuPont Circle neighborhood, The Phillips Collection is considered The USA’s first Museum of Modern Art. The collection was originally founded by Duncan Phillips in 1921. The collection actually sits in his former home. 

The Phillips collection has grown to over 5,000 art pieces, and they often have events and Exhibitions. If you plan on visiting, they are requiring a timed-ticket purchase, so you technically can’t just show up to this one. 

General admission starts at $16 USD, however, they do offer free admission for the first entry time of each hour. 

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 11 AM – 6 PM

Address: Address: 1600 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Explore inside the United States Capitol

If you want to add another building of importance to your rainy day activities, consider visiting the Capitol Building! You can actually reserve a tour online. This is something you will have to do in advance, but it is great whether it is raining/cold or not! A Professional tour guide will bring you through the National Statuary Hall, Crypt, and the Rotunda during your visit.

Address: 210 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20006

Hours: Tours are available from 9 AM to 3 PM

Seeing the Capitol is a must during any Washington DC weekend Itinerary

Watch a Show at JF Kennedy Performing Arts

If you enjoy Theatre and the performing arts, escaping the weather at The Kennedy Center is another great option. You can enjoy shows such as Wicked and Elektra. You can see what will be playing during your visit on The Kennedy website. They even have some free events.

Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566

Tour the Pentagon

It may be hard to plan visiting the Pentagon on a rainy day since it needs to be booked in advance, but you can definitely schedule it for cold winter days! If you didn’t already know, The Pentagon is where you can find the United States Department of defense.

It is essential before visiting to book tickets online as there are only a certain amount of tours available during the day. It is currently assessable for U.S citizens in groups of 5 or less.

To request a tour of the Pentagon, click here.

Address: 1400 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301

Hours: Tours are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM and 1 PM

Warm up at the City Center DC

The city center is full of places to take shelter from the weather. You can choose from browsing the unique shops, cozying up at numerous coffee shops, and eating delicious meals that change with each season!

Address: 825 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Hours: Open 24 hours

Wander Through the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Some may argue the best time to visit Hillwood Estate would be on a clear day so you can better enjoy the gardens (there is a greenhouse), however, inside the Estate is also quite unique and can be a fun way to enjoy a rainy day in DC.

The museum has around 18 rooms to discover with antique art, eighteenth-century French decorating style, libraries, and more designed by Marjorie Post, a socialite, businesswoman, and previous owner of the mansion.

Admission: Adult $18 USD; Senior $15; Student: $10; Child $5; Under 6 years old is free

Address: 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20008

Walk the National Mall Despite The Rain

Let’s face it, if this is your first time in Washington DC, you are going to want to see some of the main attractions because I know we did.

Despite it pouring rain during our first visit, we walked the whole National Mall and saw top attractions, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

We brought rain jackets, purchased umbrellas, and just went for it. In hindsight, I wish I had packed rain boots because my feet were soaking wet. When you are ready to warm up, you can pop into one of the museums I listed above, many of which are free.

Lincoln Memorial during rainy day in Washington DC

Take a Trolley Tour

If you still want to see a lot of DC without getting “too wet” from the rain, a hop-on-hop-off trolley tour can be a great way to do it. You will be able to learn about a lot of the monuments and important sites from the comfort of the Trolley, while still having the opportunity to get out and explore.

It is like a win, win, if you ask me, since we decided to just walk. I am pretty sure I was sick after my first trip lol. Check out this highly-rated Trolley Tour. We used the same company in Saint Augustine and really enjoyed it.

Wander Through Union Station

This may not be Grand Central Station in NYC, but it is still a gem and a good place to escape bad weather. The station first opened in 1908 and became a part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Aside from catching your next train, you can marvel at the architecture, shop at one of the retail stores, and eat at the food court.

Union Market

After visiting Union Station, you can head right over to Union Market, where you will find tons of additional restaurants to eat and drink as well as retail therapy. You can even enjoy the open-air rooftop bar that offers panoramic views of the city!

Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 AM – 9 PM; Sunday 8 AM – 8 PM

Address: 1309 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Explore The National Archives

Another excellent rainy day activity in Washington DC is exploring The National Archives. This building holds over 13 billion pages of textual records including the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. This is the perfect place for history buffs!

Every year, the National Archives grow around 2 – 5 percent. They meticulously go through everything and choose what they believe to be of the most importance.

Currently, you need a timed ticket that you can get online. It costs $1 USD for the transaction fee. Get your ticket here.

Address: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408, United States

Hours: Open Daily 10 AM – 5:30 PM except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

United States Botanic Garden

If you love gardens, you might want to pop by the botanical garden! They have a giant greenhouse with tons of beautiful plants inside to marvel at. The U.S. Botanic Garden is actually the oldest continuously operating botanic garden in the USA, first opening in 1820.

On top of that, it is the garden is free to visit, so you can just pop in if you feel the rain coming! 

Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5 PM 

Address: 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001

Getting Around Washington DC

While walking is usually the best way to get around DC, you probably won’t want to go that route if it’s raining or super cold. To shelter yourself from the rain you can use the Metro, Uber, or the hop-on-hop-off trolley to get around.

Dupont Train Station in Washington DC.

What to Pack for Rainy and Cold Days in Washington DC

Now that you know some of the best things to do on rainy days during your Washington DC trip, here are some things to consider packing with you! 

If you forget your umbrella, we were able to find a stand selling them during our visit, although it was more than I would have liked to pay. You may also be able to find a Poncho or umbrella at CVS or Walgreens.

Washington DC Snow/Cold Packing Items: 

And remember to layer!

Looking out the Potomac River in the rain at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Where to Stay in Washington DC

If you haven’t already booked your hotel, I would recommend doing it sooner than later, since the better hotels generally book up – especially on the weekends. Some hotels to consider include:

The Omni Shoreham Hotel:  Lovely historic hotel in Woodley Park Neighborhood. If you are looking for a resort vibe in a city, you will find it here. P.S. I was hosted at this property, but as always, my opinions are my own.

Dupont Circle Hotel: We stayed here during our first visit to DC and really loved it. This is a chic boutique hotel located in the heart of Dupont Circle. They offer really nice modern rooms. They even have heated bathroom floors.

Lyle DC: Located near Dupont Circle and the Dupont Circle Metro Station, the Lyle DC is a more budget-friendly option located in a nice area.

Rainy Day in Washington DC Wrap-up

I hope that after reading this, you feel excited to travel to Washington and experience everything that it has to offer, even when it is raining! If you have any questions or feel like I missed something, let me know in the comments below!

If you found these Indoor Activities for a Rainy or Cold Day in Washington DC helpful, I would appreciate it if you could share it below!

Washington DC Rainy Day Activities
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good. Learn more here: https://findloveandtravel.com/samantha-oppenheimer/

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