Although we normally suggest visiting multiple cities over the course of a week in On the Road Again articles, some cities pack enough of a sightseeing punch alone to last tourists longer than just a day or two. Here’s how to spend seven days in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Day 1: Dulles International Airport
When booking your flight in and out of Dulles International Airport (IAD), the decision to rent a car should be based on how many side trips you plan to take outside the heart of the Washington D.C. action, as public transportation is efficient and readily available throughout the city. If you rent a car, be prepared to leave it sitting in your hotel room parking garage for most of the week, as most of Washington D.C.’s hotspots are a quick walk, bike ride, metro ride, or bus trip away. If you opt out of renting a vehicle, take a taxi or Uber from IAD to your more centrally located accommodations.
Day 2: Cherry Blossoms
Covering Washington D.C. for the April issue is ideal because Washington D.C.’s iconic cherry blossoms are notorious for blooming in late March and early April each year, depending on weather patterns. Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin is a tourist destination for blossom peepers with over 3,700 cherry trees in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. As a matter of fact, if you plan on visiting this month, there’s a chance you can still catch the National Cherry Blossom Festival that will run through April 16th. To learn more about the festival, visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Day 3: Fan Favorites
If you ask Washington D.C. tourists about their favorite activity, monument, or museum, they’re most likely to mention the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Considerably one of the most postcard-esque sights to see, these historical masterpieces deserve their own day to leisurely explore. Built in the early 1900s to honor 16th President Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial is free to visit and open daily, and is home to the famous reflecting pool. An average visit lasts two hours with a plethora of monuments to visit and plenty of outdoor space for resting and taking in the architectural beauty in front you. The Washington Monument honors George Washington, with the nearby National Mall serving as the ideal place for a stroll on a pleasant spring day.
Day 4: Choose Your Museums
There are nearly too many museums in Washington D.C. to count. Whether your interests lie in military and war history, art, or science, this city offers something for everyone in the family. Across the Potomac River, the Arlington National Cemetery contains must-sees such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, and former President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite. To reach this emotional and unforgettable experience, there is a convenient metro station to take visitors straight to the entrance, eliminating the need for a taxi or car. Near the National Monument is the Smithsonian Museum of American History, as well as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, to entertain U.S. history and nature lovers alike. If artifacts and history lessons aren’t your forte, you can still set your sights on some of the nation’s best wildlife at the Smithsonian National Zoo for a lighter educational experience.
Day 5: Great Falls Park
If you’ve rented a car for the week, this is your opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of the metropolis behind and drive 30 minutes west to Great Falls Park in McLean, Virginia. You will find plenty of overlooks for viewing the stunning waterfalls, as well as the opportunity to kayak down the Potomac River Gorge. Additionally, there are numerous hiking trails of varying difficulty that will provide a quiet sanctuary in comparison to large crowds and street noise.
Day 6: Laissez-faire
With an overwhelming amount of activities and tours to fit into a short schedule, it’s an excellent idea to pack one “free day” into your itinerary to catch anything you might have missed before heading home. Sick of sightseeing by your sixth day? Take a food tour or find a local winery for a wine tasting. Spend time along the Potomac at Georgetown Waterfront Park, or simply spend the day shopping along the streets of Washington D.C.
Day 7: Depart Dulles
Those who chose not to rent a car should consult their hotel concierge on whether their hotel offers a convenient airport shuttle before hiring an Uber or taxi to head back to IAD. The Washington D.C. area can become congested depending on the time of day and day of the week, so it is best to leave for the airport with an abundance of time to spare to avoid any snags in catching your flight. Although it’s not the largest airport in comparison to major hubs, IAD fortunately has no shortage of breakfast joints for a quick coffee and croissant before boarding a morning flight.