How To Spend A Perfect Weekend in Washington DC Itinerary: 3 Day DC Travel Guide

Washington DC Weekend Itinerary – Perfect for 2-3 Days

Looking to take a weekend getaway in Washington DC? Located within 4 hours from major cities like New York City, Washington DC is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

After visiting the Nations Capital in 2018 and 2021, I’ve put together this Washington DC itinerary, which covers the best things to do for a weekend – especially for first-timers!

In this Washington DC Weekend travel guide, you will find 3 days worth of top attractions to visit along with travel tips, where to stay in DC, and restaurant recommendations.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a top attraction to see on any weekend itinerary in Washington DC
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a must-see during a weekend in Washington, DC

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This map includes the full 3 day weekend itinerary in Washington DC. You can save it to your Google maps to use for later!

Day 1 in Washington DC: Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, the White House, and more!

To start your weekend itinerary off right, we are going to dive into your Washington DC trip with some of the best major attractions to visit!

During our first trip to the District of Columbia, we walked (basically in a giant circle) around to all of the must-see attractions in DC, which are all in the National Mall. Walking was completely fine, however, I’d actually recommend riding a bike instead.

You can find public bikes all around DC through Capital Bike Share. Additionally, if your hotel offers bike rentals, I’d consider it.

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial might be one of my favorite spots in Washington DC. Not only is the memorial itself an architectural gem, but from the top, you also see the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with the Washington Monument in the background.

During our visit, it made me think back to Forest Gump when Tom Hank runs to Jenny. Am I aging myself?!

The memorial was completed in May 1922, with 36 Doric columns for each state a part of the union before his death.

According to the National Mall dot Org, Lincoln’s 19 FT statue is made from white marble that weighs 175 tons! It even had to be shipped in 28 different pieces.

This is a very popular memorial, so if you are trying to beat the crowds, I’d suggest trying to get here early.

DC Travel Tip: If you decide to drive and want to park your car, put in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which has a decent amount of parking on the street. It is just a short walk to the Lincoln Memorial.

Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20002

Hours: Open 24/7

View from the Lincoln Memorial which includes the Capitol and Washington Monument in the background and the reflection pool.
Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Next, take a short walk to the Korean War Memorial which is located to the right of the Lincoln Memorial.

Dedicated on July 27, 1995, the memorial stands to remember the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. during the 3-year long war.

Here you will find 19 Soldier Statues standing at 7’3″. Behind them stands a large 164 FT strip of black granite etched with 2,500 images of staff that helped support the soldiers through the war.

While a little somber, it should not be missed during your weekend in Washington DC.

Address: 900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024

Hours: Open 24 hours

Korean War Memorial on a rainy day. 6 statues of soldiers in view.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

After, head to one of the newest Memorials to the National Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

You will walk through the “mountains of despair”  opening to the back of the 30 FT granite statue of Martin Luther King Jr., known as the stone of hope.

The memorial opened on August 22, 2011, and is one of the 4 monuments to be on the National Mall that is not a president! His memorial honors the civil rights movement of the 1960s and his important role in non-violent resistance.

Surrounding the memorial stands a 450 ft wall which includes excerpts of King’s speeches. 

Across from the MLK Jr. memorial, you can also see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003

Hours: Open 24 hours

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on a rainy day. Woman in pink raincoat and clear unbrella.

Tidal Basin

The Tidal Basin is most famously known for the beautiful cherry blossom trees that surround the man-made reservoir. You can see the Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms during the Springtime in DC (beginning of April). Tourists from all over flock to see one of the largest cherry blossom festivals outside of Japan.

When you explore the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, you will be looking right at the Tidal Basin and will continue to walk around it as we continue through the first day of your weekend in Washington DC.

Cherry Blossoms and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.

Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial

Adjacent from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, keep walking right to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

This memorial is pretty unique in my opinion as it has small man-made waterfalls. The memorial is split into 4 outdoor “rooms” symbolizing FDR’s 4 terms as the 32nd President.

The waterfalls also have symbolic meaning to the Great Depression and World War II. 

You will find two sculptures of FDR, one in a wheelchair and the other sitting with his dog Fala at his side, along with sculptures depicting the Great Depression and First Lady Elenor Roosevelt.

Address: 1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242

Hours: Open 24 hours

Franklin D. Roosevelt Statue and his dog at the the FDR memorial.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Another top monument you will want to see during your weekend in Washington DC is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

This memorial is actually one of the most popular backdrops during Cherry Blossom season.

Located in West Potomac Park, this memorial was completed in 1943. Resembling the Roman Pantheon, it is definitely a must on your itinerary.

Address: 16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242

Hours: Open 24 hours

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

Washington Monument

Likely one of the most noticeable monuments in DC is the Washington Monument. You can see it peeking out of the city just about anywhere.

Now is when we are going to make our way right up to the front lawn!

This obelisk which honors President George Washington is said to be the tallest obelisk in the world at around 555 FT.

You can even take a trip to the top of this monument with their new modernized elevator. Originally, it had a steam elevator that took around 10-12 minutes. Now the 70-second elevator will take you 500 ft!

Tickets are free but must be purchased in advance with a $1 convenience fee. You can find tickets for the Washington Monument here.

If you don’t wish to go to the top, you are free to walk around it, as it is a part of the National Mall.

Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024

The Washington Monument, a must on any weekend itinerary in Washington DC

World War II Memorial

Next, make your way over to the World War 2 Memorial where you will find 56 granite pillars that represent each state and territory surrounding a grand fountain.

The memorial opened in April 2004 and honors the 16 million members that served in the armed forces during the war.

Address: 1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Hours: Open 24 hours

The White House

A weekend getaway to Washington DC would not be complete without paying a visit to the White House.

Every President dating back to President John Adams has lived in the White House. Additionally, the White House has 6 levels in residence, 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.

Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

The White house is a must see with a weekend in Washington DC.

Choose a Museum to Visit

Last but not least choose 1,2,3 or however many museums you would like to visit. Washington DC has tons of awesome Museums to visit, many of which are completely free!

Some of my Favorite Museums in Washington DC include:

  • Renwick Gallery: A Branch of the Smithsonian that consists of Contemporary Art. During our visit, we got to experience a really cool Burning Man Exhibit. Address: 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Very popular Museum, check for free tickets). Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Address: 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (very popular). Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
  • National Portrait Gallery (pretty popular). Address: 8th and G Streets, Washington, DC 20001
  • National Gallery of Art. American and European work. Address: Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565

As you can see, DC has a lot of Museums, and it would be tough to see all of them in one trip. I would shoot for 2-3 Washington DC museums for your weekend itinerary.

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

Day 2 in Washington DC: The Capitol, Native American Museum, Dupont Circle, and George Town

On day 2 of your Washington DC itinerary, you will be having a more relaxed day while exploring my favorite neighborhoods.

United States Capitol

The Capitol is easily a must-see on any DC itinerary. It’s one of the most unique buildings in Washington, architecturally speaking, and is where Congress meets to write and discuss laws.

If it interests you, consider even booking a tour of the Capitol. Check here for Capitol tours. Originally built in 1800, the Capitol sits on 16 acres and has over 540 rooms.

Address: First St SE, Washington, DC 20004

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

Native American Museum

I know what you are thinking, not another museum, but we really enjoyed the Native American Museum and it is really close to the Capitol.

If you want to learn about American history, it really starts here. I found the treaties and information at this museum so intriguing. Worth a visit in my opinion!

Address: 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20560

Dupont Circle

During our weekend trip to Washington DC, we stayed in the trendy area of Dupont Circle and I really love this area.

The neighborhood is very quaint with coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and more.

One of our favorite things to do was walking down Embassy Row (Massachusetts Ave NW) where you will find a line of diplomatic representations including the Embassy of Columbia, Peru, and Chile.

Another cool area to hang out is at the Dupont Circle fountain. This area is also very close to the Metro station.

Dupont Circle Water fountain in Washington DC.

Georgetown

Another great neighborhood to explore is Georgetown. It is famed for great brunch restaurants, instagrammable corners, picturesque cobblestone streets, shopping, bars, and more.

Notably, one of the most photo-worthy spots is in front of Call Your Mother Bagel Shop. Address: 3428 O St NW, Washington, DC 20007

If you love horror movies including the Exorcist, you can even see the Exorcist stairs where a part of the movie was filmed. (BTW – I am such a scaredy-cat, so I never watched it…shhh), but I did see the stairs.

If you love beautiful gardens, you might also consider visiting Dumbarton Oaks Park. With photo-worthy spots everywhere and beautiful 27 acres of manicured gardens.

Georgetown in Washington DC is perfect for a weekend trip. Hot pink building with turquoise roof. Woman in blue dress.

Day 3: Washington National Cathedral, National Arboridom, and More

If you have 3 days in your Washington DC weekend itinerary, here are some additional attractions to add to your list. You can also use this last day to do anything you missed the days before.

Washington National Cathedral

The Washington Monument has some serious Notre Dame vibes. Completed in 1990, this cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows and a garden to enjoy.

Additionally, during the Spring, you can see beautiful cherry blossoms.

Address: 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

Side of the Washington DC Cathedral.

National Arboretum

Another unique place to visit in DC is the National Arboretum. If you love Greece/Roman vibes, you will be excited to explore the National Capitol Columns.

These 22 Corinthian columns were originally a part of the Capitol building in 1828.

National Arboretum also has tons of beautiful gardens including azaleas, magnolia, and more. Additionally, the walking trails are nice.

DC travel tip for the National columns: When you pull in, keep driving straight, and eventually you will see the columns peaking out on your right side. This is the closest place to park.

Address: 3501, 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

View of the reflection pond and the National Arboretum Capitol Columns.

Additional Cool Things to Consider visiting in Washington DC

I know this Washington DC weekend itinerary is already very jam-packed with things to do, however, here are some substitute options if any of the above is not your cup of tea or closed during your 3 days .

  • Library of Congress (World’s Largest Library).
  • Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Enjoy Afternoon tea in DC
  • Smithsonian Zoo (if you like Zoos, I personally don’t).
  • National Geographic Museum.
  • Consider taking a guided DC tour.

Getting to Washington DC

Getting to Washington DC is relatively easy to get to especially if you live on the east coast. You can fly, take the train, a bus (Mega Bus/Greyhound), or drive.

If you choose to fly in, I’d suggest checking Skyscanner for the best flights.

The closest airport to DC is the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). There are also two slightly further airports:

Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Chantilly, Virginia. Approximately 25 miles

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) in Baltimore. It is a little over 35 miles from DC.

FDR Memorial in Washington DC National Mall.
FDR Memorial

Restaurants to Try in Washington DC

Here is a shortlist of some of my favorite places to eat in Washington DC.

  • Ted’s Bulletin for breakfast/Brunch. They have the most amazing breakfast, deserts, and even adult milkshakes. I’ve never been for lunch, but I am sure it’s great. They have 2 locations in DC. We ate at the 14th Street Location.
  • GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar for lunch. If you love cheese this is a winner for a quick bite. This is also close to the White House.
  • Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab for dinner. This is a more upscale restaurant and their food is amazing. Also close to the White House.
  • Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle. They have pretty good personal pizzas. It’s a chain, but I found I really like the Dupont Circle location.

Getting Around Washington DC

Exploring Washington DC couldn’t be easier. They have a very active subway system that is easy to use. Make sure to check the train schedule (not open 24/7 like NYC).

Find schedules, maps, and fares for DC’s metro here.

Another great way to get around DC is by walking or biking. You can also use Uber or Lyft.

Additionally, you could drive, but finding parking in DC is pretty difficult and garages are expensive.

Moreover, most hotels charge to park your car.

Dupont Train Station in Washington DC.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

The Omni Shoreham Hotel: This historic DC hotel has been around since the 1930s and is located in the upscale Woodley Park Neighborhood.

They have hosted celebrities, dignities, and Presidential balls from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

Their property sits on 11 acres in Rock Creek. It is like a little Oasis in DC. They have a heated pool, Health Spa, fire pits, and you can even rent out bikes.

This property is located close to Dupont Circle, and Georgetown, but slightly further from the cities center. They are also dog-friendly. Book the Omni Shoreham here. P.S. I was hosted at this property, but as always, opinions are my own.

Dupont Circle Hotel: Located in the heart of Dupont Circle, this chic hotel offers stylish and modern rooms. My favorite was the heated bathroom floors.

You are within walking distance to the National Mall and metro stations, along with tons of restaurants nearby. This property has more of a city vibe.

Dupont Circle Hotel offers a fitness center and is also pet-friendly. Book Dupont Circle: Booking.com | Hotels.com

Omni Shoreham Hotel Gardens. Pink flowers, a fountain in the center and lots of greenery.
Omni Shoreham Hotel Gardens

Washington DC 3 Days Weekend Itinerary Wrap-up

As you can see, Washington DC has so much to offer! If you can’t fit all of this into your itinerary, now you will have a reason to come back.

For more travel itineraries, check my destinations here!

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