20 places to see in Washington, DC, USA

What to see in D.C. in one day

I never wanted to go to DC. It ended up being one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to.

I went there for work, but for the first few days I was in an obscenely vacation mood. Washington reminded me of a resort where, by some misunderstanding, there is no sea. It’s a quiet and green city with few cars, lots of low cinematic buildings, and an overall relaxed, retired feel.

Washington doesn’t give the impression of a capital city: it’s very compact. I arrived at the hotel from the airport at 5pm, and by 10pm I had already walked around the center. If you are also passing through Washington and want to see as many sights as possible, walk my 10 km route. It starts at the White House and ends in the Georgetown Historic District. Along the way you will see the Media Museum, the Capitol, the Aeronautics and Astronautics Museum, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

How to get from the airport to downtown. Most flights from Russia arrive at Dulles Airport. Go to the center to the beginning of the route will have to change: first by bus, then by subway.

The route

The White House is the residence of the President of the United States. The first time my friends and I were there in the afternoon when two Americans were holding sluggish demonstrations: against abortion and in support of Jesus. The second time we drove there at night on scooters as a bored police officer guarded the White House in the pouring rain. All in all, we spent a couple of minutes at the residence: a quick look around and a snapshot on duty.

The Media Museum, or Newseum, displays famous photographs of journalists, historic newspaper editorials, and items from the scene. For example, pieces of the fuselage of the plane that was hijacked by terrorists on 9/11, or the dusty, broken phones of the victims. A sign nearby tells us that cell phones rang for days under the rubble: people searching for missing relatives.

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As of Dec. 31, 2019, the Newseum is not open.

The museum has six floors in all, the last of which has an observation deck overlooking the Capitol. Many of the rooms are themed: for example, there is the Berlin Wall Room.

The Capitol is the seat of the American Congress, America’s legislative body. It can be freely visited by Americans and foreigners. Visitors are shown the beautiful round hall with columns, the hall under the dome 55 meters high and the National Sculpture Hall. All tours are free. No water, food, bags larger than 45 cm and other items can be brought with you.

No ID is required to enter, but it is better to book your ticket in advance on the website. This can be done 90 days before the planned visit. Sometimes there are tickets available at the Capitol that can be used to enter the same day, but they may not be available in the summer: there are too many applicants.

If you want to see a session of Congress, you need a separate ID. Foreigners can get one only at the visitor’s center; you can’t do it on the website. If there are no sessions, you can just look at the hall.

Even if you’re not going inside, the Capitol is a curious place to just walk around. Fireflies fly over the lawns, and at the entrance on the west side there is a picturesque view of the National Alley. It is a 3 km long pedestrian street that begins on Capitol Hill. The main Washington monuments are on it – I’ll tell you about them next.

The Aeronautics and Astronautics Museum is the most popular museum in Washington according to Tripadvisor users. Its collection includes 30,000 aircraft and 9,000 space objects: planes, rockets, and various equipment. Among them – command module “Apollo 11”, in which the Americans landed on the moon, and the first plane that took off in the U.S. – 1903 Wright Flyer. Admission to the museum is free.

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You can see a movie schedule on the museum’s website

The Washington Monument is a giant granite obelisk 170 meters tall. At the monument Americans play baseball, and tourists lie on the grass or just walk around barefoot. At the top is an observation deck, which can be climbed by elevator. But you can’t do that until mid-August 2019: The elevator is under renovation.

The Lincoln Memorial was built in memory of the sixteenth president of America, who ruled the country during the Civil War. There are 36 columns inside the memorial – they symbolize the states that united under Lincoln. For Americans, this is an important memorial. It was Lincoln who abolished slavery in America – the monument symbolizes freedom and equality.

The memorial is open 24 hours a day: the hall with the monument does not even have doors. Admission is free. If facing the memorial, there is a separate entrance to the left of the stairs on the first floor. There is a small exhibit on the history of the monument, a restroom, and an elevator to the second floor.

Georgetown is a historic district in Washington. It was a separate town until 1871. An American told me that many old buildings from the colonial and federal period, that is, from the 18th and 19th centuries, have been preserved here. They are low neat houses along which one wants to walk aimlessly for hours. I imagined them when I read Gone with the Wind.

Georgetown has many famous stores, like Sephora, Banana Republic or Amazon Bookstore. Prices are high. If you want to save money, go to TJ maxx, which is a well-known American outlet. They sell clothes and cosmetics there at 50-70% discounts.

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Finding a scooter can be difficult. Sometimes there was not a single charged device within a five kilometer radius around me. Another time I spent half an hour walking around a scooter, but couldn’t find it – it was more painful than Pokemon-Go. But before I flew back to Russia, there were six scooters parked under the hotel window.

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I advise you to check beforehand where you can’t leave your scooter. Once I went to the Capitol, where my friends were waiting for me, and wanted to leave my scooter there, because it had run out of battery. But it turned out that the Capitol area was not part of the Uber parking zone. I had to drag the scooter for about one more kilometer in the heat of +36 °С and then to come back.

Most of the streets downtown have bicycle lanes – we tried to ride on them. On Pennsylvania Avenue, for example, the lane is between two car lanes. It leads right up to the Capitol – very scenic. In Georgetown, on the other hand, it’s uncomfortable to ride: there are no bicycle lanes, cars are densely parked on the curb, and the sidewalks are paving stones.

Water is free in restaurants. You can also get it from the fountains, which are everywhere.

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