Having lived in Maryland most of our lives, we are lucky to be in such close proximity to our nation’s capital. Washington DC is a place that we visit frequently. With so many museums and historical sights, this city makes an excellent travel destination in the USA. For one day, we acted like tourists, scouting out the perfect walking tour for first-timers to Washington DC.
About this Walking Tour
Distance: 5 miles of walking
See the best of Washington DC: The White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Museum, The National Mall, The Newseum, The World War II Memorial (and more!)
Dine at some of DC’s most famous spots: The Old Ebbitt Grill, the Willard Hotel, and The Capital Grille
Walking Tour of Washington DC
This museum is awesome. It’s one of our favorites in the world. The Newseum is a museum promoting and explaining the free expression of speech and the First Amendment. See a piece of the Berlin Wall, the headlines after 9/11, exhibits documenting the freedom of speech, Pulitzer Prize photographs, and the twisted broadcast antenna that once stood on the World Trade Center. Take a step back in time, viewing the newspaper headlines from the last 100 years. Or, take a step into the future and visit the Virtual Reality Lab.
One of our favorite spots: Today’s Front Pages…a wall filled with the front page of newspapers from the US and from around the world. We were here on Black Friday, so today’s headlines, at least in the US, were all about holiday shopping.
Step outside onto the terrace for a great view of the Capitol building.
You could easily spend at least half a day here. Most people tour the museum in two to three hours.
Entrance Fee: It’s a little pricey to enter the Newseum, but it’s worth it. Ticket prices are $24.95 per adult and $14.95 per child. For updated ticket prices and hours visit the Newseum website.
Lunch at The Capital Grille
Across the street from the Newseum is The Capital Grille. The food is delicious, with options like French onion soup, steak, seafood, and sandwiches. Having lunch here is nice break before walking the National Mall.
A meal here can be expensive. If it is out of your budget, you can skip The Capital Grille and buy lunch at one of the many food trucks that line The National Mall.
Stroll down the National Mall
From The Capital Grille, walk over to the National Mall. The National Mall is a national park that stretches almost two miles from the Capitol Building in the east to the Lincoln Memorial in the west. Today’s walk will cover most of this distance.
As you stroll down the Mall, enjoy the views. This is iconic Washington DC. As you make your way to the Washington Monument, you will pass the museums of the Smithsonian Institute. You can visit one of these today or come back another day if you have more time in DC. We recommend the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, or the National Archives Building.
The Washington Monument is the world’s tallest obelisk, standing at 555 feet tall. When construction was completed in 1888, it was the world’s tallest structure for an entire year until the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889.
The Washington Monument is closed to visitors until August 2019 while a new elevator system is being added.
The World War II Memorial
Sitting between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool is the World War II Memorial. This is a free, quick visit with a cool view down the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.
Martin Luther King Memorial
From the World War II Memorial, you will walk out to the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King Memorial. If the cherry blossoms are blooming, you are in for a treat because the Tidal Basin is the prettiest spot to visit in Washington DC at the end of March into early April.
The Martin Luther King Memorial is one of the newer monuments in Washington DC, opened in 2011. See the 30-foot statue of Martin Luther King and read 14 of his most inspirational quotes that are inscribed on the granite walls.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Head back towards the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial, stopping briefly at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial
Say hello to Honest Abe at the Lincoln Memorial. This is a popular spot so expect large crowds midday. From the top of the steps you have one of the best views of the National Mall and Washington DC.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
From the Lincoln Memorial, walk the short distance to The Three Soldiers. This is a bronze statue commemorating the Vietnam War.
Just beyond The Three Soldiers is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the Memorial Wall are the names of the servicemen who were killed or missing in action in the Vietnam War. The names were added in chronological order starting in 1959.
This is another quick, scenic stop. Within the Gardens is a memorial to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. See the engraved signatures of John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
The White House
From Constitution Gardens, leave the National Mall and walk briefly along Constitution Avenue. Walk on the Ellipse, a large park that separates the White House from the National Monument. For an up close view of the White House, you can see it from the pedestrian street, Pennsylvania Avenue.
Inside the White House
It is possible to arrange a tour of the White House. Click here to learn more.
Dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill
Only one block away from the White House is Old Ebbitt Grill. The Old Ebbitt Grill is the oldest saloon in Washington DC, dating back to 1856. This saloon has been visited by Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt. The location of the grill has moved several times but it has been in its present location since the early 1900’s.
Now the Old Ebbitt Grill is a restaurant owned by Clyde’s. Dine on traditional American food. We recommend the raw oysters…they were the best dish we tried while eating dinner here.
End your day with a cocktail at the Willard Hotel
This is a very historic spot in Washington DC. Martin Luther King finished writing his “I Have a Dream” speech while staying here. The Willard has hosted almost every President since 1853. Abraham Lincoln had his inaugural luncheon here. And Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell were guests here.
End your day with a drink at the famous Round Robin bar.
Where to Park for this Walking Tour
The best way to get around Washington DC is by metro, but if you have a car, there are plenty of parking garages to choose from. We parked in a parking garage at 600 D St NW (labeled on the map) which is near the Newseum. After dinner, it was a short walk to get back to our car. There are many parking garages located between the Newseum and the Old Ebbitt Grill.
If you use the metro, the station closest to the Newseum is Archives – Navy Memorial – Penn Quarter Station.
With More Time in Washington DC
Here are some ideas of things to do if you have more than one day in Washington DC:
- Visit the Smithsonian Museums
- Tour the Capitol Building (learn more here)
- Tour the White House (learn more here)
- See the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin in April
- Visit the International Spy Museum
- Spend a day in Georgetown
- Visit the National Zoo
- Tour the US Holocaust Museum
- Visit the Arlington National Cemetery
- Visit the Washington National Cathedral
- Take a day trip out to Mount Vernon
- See the Library of Congress
Seeing the Cherry Blossoms
The average time of the cherry blossoms peak bloom is April 4. However, in recent years, the trees have bloomed as early as March 20 and as late as April 10. In 2019, peak bloom was on April 1.
The blooms last roughly 10 to 14 days, depending on the weather (if it’s windy, they don’t last long). So, if you are coming from out of town, you will need a little luck in seeing the cherry blossoms at their peak.
The best place to see the cherry blossoms is at the Tidal Basin. There are also cherry trees at nearby monuments and memorials.
On a weekend during peak bloom, expect HUGE crowds. We visited DC on April 6, 2019, a Saturday, to tour the White House, and walked down to the Tidal Basin to see the blossoms. This was the most crowded we have ever seen Washington DC. If you can, visit on a weekday and try to get here in the morning, before the crowds arrive, for the most peaceful experience.
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