Washington DC in One Day: Dos and Don’ts

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From the iconic White House and the poignant Vietnam Veterans Memorial to some of America's most prestigious museums, Washington DC is teeming with tourist attractions. Visitors could spend days exploring the spirited city's sights, but even with just 24 hours, it's still possible to take in the highlights. To help you plan your trip, here are some dos and don'ts for one day in DC.

DON'T try to see everything in one day.
It's impossible to take in every single attraction in one day, so choose in advance what you want to see most. Opt for a tour of the White House or the Capitol, take in the view from the top of the  Washington Monument and then spend the afternoon hopping between the many landmarks along the National Mall. Alternatively, travelers can save time by booking a comprehensive sightseeing tour for an overview of the main sights. When it comes to DC's many museums, pick just one or two to explore—the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Air and Space Museum are all top choices, while children may be interested in the International Spy Museum or the National Geographic Museum.

DO book a guided sightseeing tour.
With so many sights to see, it can be hard to come up with a DIY plan and make sure you don't miss anything. Booking a guided tour saves both times and effort, leaving travelers free to enjoy the city rather than poring over a map. Opt for a Washington DC in one day tour for a prearranged guided tour of the US Capitol, a stop at the White House Visitors Center, and the opportunity to visit the museums of your choice. Alternatively, a full-day DC sightseeing tour may combine sights like the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and the World War II Memorial with an atmospheric river cruise along the Potomac River and around Theodore Roosevelt Island.

DON'T leave your planning until the last minute.
Touring the Capitol Building is an undeniable highlight, but don't expect to just turn up and gain entry on the spot—tickets are hard to come by. But a VIP best of DC tour includes coveted reserved entry to the Capitol and the National Archives Building. Booking museum and attraction tickets in advance will also save time.

DO make an early start.
Don’t underestimate how long you'll spend touring the top attractions—16 million tourists descend on the US capital every year and the crowds can be enormous. Opt to visit the most popular spots as early as possible to avoid the biggest crowds; most sights open between 8:30 and 10am. If visiting in the summer, make the most of the nice weather and explore the city by night. Also be sure to allot time for lines and security checks.

DON'T spend too much on entrance fees.
Budget-conscious travelers will be pleased to know that many of Washington's attractions are free, including all 19 Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress, so there's no need to spend a fortune on entrance fees. Instead, opt for a memorable city tour, a sunset dinner cruise along the scenic Potomac River, a hop-on, hop-off trolley pass or a VIP experience.
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SPECIAL OFFER

Washington DC Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley, plus Arlington National Cemetery

Take a hop-on hop-off Washington DC trolley tour to explore the nation’s capital at your own pace. The route encompasses the city’s top attractions, including the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. This is the only tour to take you into the Arlington National Cemetery. Just hop off at any stop when you want to explore, and then hop back on the trolley to continue around the city. When booking, select between a 1- and 2-day pass.
  • Duration: 2 to 16 hrs
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$13.50 USD
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  • Duration: 2 to 16 hrs
From
$13.50 USD

Washington DC in One Day: Guided Sightseeing Tour

Experience the sights and sounds of Washington, DC in one day on this guided, 6.5-hour, walking and riding sightseeing tour around the nation’s capital. Visit the city’s historic, iconic landmarks and monuments, like the White House, the United States Capitol, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Marine Corps War Memorial. See and learn about the memorials of famous American leaders who helped shape the United States, like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few. Includes a seasonal 1-hour Potomac River cruise.
  • Duration: 6 hours
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$74.00 USD
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  • Duration: 6 hours
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$74.00 USD

Washington DC Private Tour with Spanish or Portuguese Option

Explore the famous sites of Washington DC on this private, 4-hour tour. Choose from a morning or afternoon departure, then climb aboard a luxury vehicle and enjoy an educational and entertaining account of the US nation’s capital with a private guide. Travel around and through the plethora of famous war memorials and monuments. See the White House, the United States Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and many other landmark locations. From DC’s residential neighborhoods to Arlington, Virginia and back, experience this comprehensive tour of the city. Hotel pickup/drop-off included.
  • Duration: 4 hours
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$360.50 USD
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  • Duration: 4 hours
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$360.50 USD

Washington DC Photo Safari: Monuments and Memorials Tour

Want to know how to take better pictures while traveling? Want to become more familiar with a camera that may seem rather intimidating at times? Fear not, the answers to both can be found while exploring the sites and sounds of Washington, DC on this guided, small-group photo tour. Choose from a half- or full-day excursion, then visit the famous memorials and monuments of the US' capital while a professional photographer provides instruction and tips for taking better pictures. Transportation between locations and instruction materials on travel photography included.
  • Duration: 3 days 3 hours
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$89.00 USD
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  • Duration: 3 days 3 hours
From
$89.00 USD

SPECIAL OFFER

Washington DC Super Saver: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley and Monuments by Moonlight Tour

Explore the best of Washington, DC on this narrated, hop-on hop-off trolley tour. Visit more than 100 points of interest among DC’s top attractions — like the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, to name just a few. Select the 1-day pass, then board at any of the 14 stops and get to know the nation’s capital in customized fashion, with live onboard commentary from a professional tour conductor. A guided, 2.5-hour, moonlight trolley tour to the same landmark locations, illuminated for the evening, is also included.
  • Duration: 3 to 8 hrs
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$89.95 USD
$99.95 USD  $10.00 USD savings
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  • Duration: 3 to 8 hrs
From
$89.95 USD
$99.95 USD  $10.00 USD savings


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