How To Spend A Perfect Weekend in Washington DC Itinerary

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

After visiting the nation’s Capitol multiple times, 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, restaurant recommendations, and more that will help you plan an epic trip!

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

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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

Washington DC Itinerary 2-3 Days Review:

Day 1: Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, the White House, See a Museum or a few.

Day 2: The Capitol, Native American Museum, Dupont Circle, and George Town.

Day 3: Washington National Cathedral, National Arboridom, and choose an additional couple of activities.

How Many Days Do You Need in Washington DC

You may be wondering if 3 days is enough time to explore Washington DC or how much time you should spend in Washington DC. While you will not see everything, I believe you need at least 3 days minimum to see most of Washington’s main attractions.

As we go through this weekend guide, you will quickly see, that you are able to see a TON. You won’t be able to see it all, but it is a perfect start for a first-timer to Washington DC!

Weekend in Washington DC: Day 1 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, I thought back to Forest Gump when Tom Hanks ran 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.

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.

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

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

After, head to one of the newer Memorials on 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 that includes excerpts of King’s speeches. 

Across from the MLK Jr. memorial, you can also see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial—another must-see during a weekend in Washington DC.

Related: What to Do on a Rainy Day in Washington DC

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 in Washington DC

Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial

Adjacent to 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.

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 Washinton DC itinerary.

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. With 3 days in DC, you will have plenty of time to see this monument if you can’t get to it on day 1.

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.

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.

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. Better yet, they are some of the best free things to do in Washington DC!

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.
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Very popular Museum, check for free tickets).
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (very popular).
  • National Portrait Gallery (pretty popular).
  • National Gallery of Art. American and European work.

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: Capitol, Dupont Circle, Georgetown

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

  • The Capitol
  • Native American Museum
  • Dupont Circle
  • Georgetown

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.

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!

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 walk 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.


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 Arboretum, 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. I think the cathedral gets overlooked, but it is really beautiful, and it is even a place locals go to picnic and play with their pets. It is a great way to end your 3 days in Washington DC.

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.

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

Additional Cool Things to Consider Visiting with 3 Days 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 (the 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 – These are very popular.

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.

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 short list of some of my favorite places to eat during your weekend in Washington DC.

  • Ted’s Bulletin for breakfast/Brunch. They have the most amazing breakfast, desserts, 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. Menu
  • 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. Menu
  • 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 for the weekend 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 can rent a car and drive. People usually do this when planning it as a part of a road trip. We have always driven because we live on the East Coast, but it is a little more expensive to do so.

Moreover, most hotels charge for parking your car.

Dupont Train Station in Washington DC.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

Now that you know all the best things to do in Washington DC for the weekend, you will need somewhere to stay. I have personally stayed at both hotels listed below and had a great experience.

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 city’s 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 of 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!

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! You may have also noticed this DC itinerary is jam-packed, so if you can’t fit all of this into your itinerary, now you will have a reason to come back! I hope you have the best time in the nation’s Capital!

If you have any questions about this Washington DC itinerary or feel I missed something, let me know in the comments below!

Love this Washington DC 2-3 Days Weekend Itinerary? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Washington DC Weekend Travel Itinerary - Perfect travel Guide for 2-3 days in DC.
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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:

4 thoughts on “How To Spend A Perfect Weekend in Washington DC Itinerary”

  1. Thank you for the comprehensive guide! Heading there with family later this month for an impromptu trip. Great blog, formatting, and excellent information within. Thanks again! Good luck!


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