The nation’s capital is one of the most popular places to visit in the United States. It is filled with museums, historic architecture, parks and playgrounds as well as restaurants offering a variety of menus. Whether planning a quick getaway or an extended family vacation, consider the following list of things to do this summer in Washington DC.
Celebrate with a Festival
Summer in Washington DC is a time for neighborhood street fairs and other cultural celebrations. During your stay, plan on attending a local festival or major event like the National Independence Day Celebration, the Capital Fringe Festival or the National Harbor Dragon Boat Races. You can enjoy arts and crafts, music, food and fireworks.
Home to rare giant pandas, the National Zoo is located in Northwest Washington’s Rock Creek Park. The 163-acre zoological park houses more than 2,000 animals from over 400 different species, including many that are rare and endangered. See elephants, tigers and other animals in exhibits that resemble their native habitat. Like the other Smithsonian Institution Museums, admission is free of charge.
History Can Be Fun
The most widely visited museum in the country, the National Museum of Natural History features a collection that contains over 125 million cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. In addition to dinosaur fossils and a replica of a blue whale, the museum is home to the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond. The Hall of Human Origins uses modern forensics to trace human development. A highlight of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo is the daily tarantula feedings. Guests can also enjoy the free-flight Butterfly Pavilion and an IMAX theater.
Go Back to the Civil War Era
Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot, and the Petersen House, the boarding house across the street where he died, are preserved as a national historic site. The museum displays various artifacts and memorabilia related to the assassination by John Wilkes Booth on the night of April 14, 1865. Items on display include the pistol Booth used, the door to the President’s Box and the coat Lincoln wore that night. The rooms in the boarding house have been furnished to appear the way they did that night.
Take an African American Heritage Tour
These popular guided tours highlight the contributions and cultural influences of the city’s African American community. Stops along the way include the Mary McLeod Bethune Statue, Benjamin Banneker Circle, Freedom Plaza and the Martin Luther King Memorial. Other points of interest include the Frederick Douglas House, Howard University and the U Street Corridor, a cultural center for African Americans in the city since the 1920s.
Feel Like You’re Taking Flight
The second most popular museum, the National Air and Space Museum chronicles the history of flight and space travel. The museum features interactive and multimedia exhibits that highlight the accomplishments of aviation and space pioneers. Items on display include the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 and the command module from Apollo 11. In addition to uniforms, space suits and other memorabilia, museum artifacts include a real moon rock that visitors can touch.
Take Me out to the Ball Game
Attend a Nationals baseball game. The hometown “boys of summer” play their games in Nationals Park located along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood. The 41,000-seat stadium features views of the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral from various vantage points in the upper deck. In recognition of its location near the Navy Yard, a submarine dive horn blows after a home run and a Nationals win. Children will enjoy the make-your-own-mascot store.
See DC by Moonlight
See Washington from a dramatic new perspective as the city transforms itself after the sun sets below the horizon. With a Monuments by Moonlight Tour, you will experience Washington’s stirring monuments and memorials set against the night sky aglow in decorative lighting. Sit back and enjoy the evening breeze as you experience the sights and sounds of Washington after dark. See the Lincoln, FDR, Iwo Jima Memorials, and more!
Cool off from the Heat
One of the best things to do when the temperatures begin to climb is to cool off at the Great Waves Water Park. In addition to pools, water slides and spray fountains, the park includes batting cages, miniature golf and picnic shelters. Great Waves Water Park is located just across the Potomac River in Alexandria.
Honor Our Fallen Soldiers
Cross Memorial Bridge to Arlington National Cemetery to view the Tomb of the Unknowns, the eternal flame marking the burial site of President John F. Kennedy and the graves of other famous Americans. In addition to various monuments and memorials, the cemetery is the setting for the historic Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial. The entrance to the cemetery features the Iwo Jima Memorial, The Netherlands Carillon and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which incorporates the original gateway to the burial ground.
Spy on Your Friends
Step back in time to the Cold War or imagine yourself as a real life James Bond fighting modern day cyber terrorists during a visit to the International Spy Museum. The interactive exhibits combine artifacts and stories that bring to life the clandestine world of espionage. Learn the techniques and tools of tradecraft as well as the history of the men and women behind some the world’s most pivotal spy missions as you experience espionage from ancient times until the present day.