How to See the Best of D.C. in a Day

I have to be honest: D.C. blew my mind. I knew I was going to enjoy myself and see a lot of cool American history, but I didn’t realize how incredible and indescribable I would find it all. I highly recommend visiting this city if you haven’t been, or if it’s been a while, and you don’t even need a ton of time to do it. We spent one solid day exploring, and I felt happy with what we were able to see in such a short time, granted it was a jam-packed day.

I recommend starting your day at a museum of your choice.

There are so many to choose from, so do a bit of research and decide which one intrigues you the most. I liked starting with a museum because at the beginning of the day we were caffeinated and able to pay more attention to detail (I personally would have found it hard to browse a museum after walking around and looking at monuments all day but that might not be an issue for you).

We started our morning at Newseum. As you can guess from the name, it’s a museum all about the news, and it was really impressive. Every morning they print the current front page of one newspaper from each state. It was interesting to see all the nation’s headlines side by side, and this is before you even step foot inside the museum. Once inside, we did an interactive exhibit where we got to be newscasters, read off a prompt, and watch ourselves onscreen, which was so much fun. We browsed a couple floors of historic newspapers, seeing iconic stories like Man on the Moon, Marilyn Monroe Found Dead, Vaccine Dooms Polio, etc. I spent my time surrounded by those old newspapers reflecting on the power of the media, how it’s changed over time, and what that’s meant for our society. In Newseum you will also find a section of the Berlin Wall, the antenna that stood on top of the World Trade Center, and all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. The top floor also has an outdoor deck with a great view of the Capitol Building. We definitely could have stayed the whole day, but after a couple hours we were ready to see more of D.C!

Views of the Capitol Building from the top floor of Newseum
Artifacts @ Newseum
911 Tribute @ Newseum
Berlin Wall @ Newseum

You have to visit the National Archives Museum.

If there’s only one museum you step foot into while visiting D.C., make it the National Archives Museum. First of all it’s free and centrally located, but more importantly it’s home to The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. It doesn’t get more American than that, and I cannot describe how surreal/amazing it was to see the sheets of paper that started it all.

Grab a bite to eat and wander around the beautiful, clean downtown. 

We ended up getting an Uber to a sandwich shop called Bub and Pop’s which was sooooo good. My friend and I split a sandwich, just half was enough to keep us fueled for most of the day–they were that loaded! Bub and Pop’s is less than a mile away from the White House, which happened to be our next stop, so it was the perfect location to allow us to walk around downtown a bit after lunch before starting all the sightseeing.

Huge sandwiches at Bub and Pop’s
Downtown D.C.

Get your fix of The White House from ground level and above. 

We made sure to spend a decent amount of time in this iconic building’s presence. We got photos of the front and back, and also went to a rooftop bar to admire it over drinks. From POV at the W Hotel you can also see some other monuments, so it was a great teaser for what we would be doing next.

Admiring the White House
Can’t stop looking at it

Explore all the monuments to your heart’s desire! 

While you could spend hours visiting tons of great monuments, we headed straight for the Lincoln Memorial in the interest of time. I was so impressed by the view of the Washington Monument in the reflection pool as well as being in the spot Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech. You definitely don’t want to miss The Lincoln Memorial.

Walking past the Washington Monument
Iconic view from the Lincoln Memorial

Spend the evening in Georgetown. 

You could certainly spend the rest of the day just in D.C., but we decided to head to Georgetown for something a little different. Wandering around the cobblestone streets and admiring the east coast-style buildings made me giddy. Georgetown is home to The Old Stone House, built in 1765 and the oldest structure on its original foundation in D.C. It’s a quick visit but very cool to see something so historic. We also stepped foot on Georgetown’s campus and drank at a few of the college bars which was cheap (oh the days of being a poor student) and a lot of fun.

Georgetown waterfront
Cute building in Georgetown
Georgetown University
Georgetown being beautiful
Georgetown wanderings
The cutest row of houses in Georgetown

I feel like spending the day this way was a really solid D.C. introduction and would work well for most first timers. I was satisfied with the mix of mind-blowing history, wandering around, and relaxing in bars to talk about it all and recharge. D.C. is a really special place where history is inescapable, and I loved every minute of taking it all in. Huge shout out to Emily Alyssa Photography for hosting us!