• 15 October 2019

Washington DC is the U.S. state capital and a charming east coast city. Nestled along the Potomac River, the city is a modern metropolis steeped in history. It’s one of America’s biggest cities and is renowned for its history, museums, and government buildings. However, there are plenty of other attractions to explore in the city as well. 

To help you make the most out of your precious travel time in Washington DC, we’ve laid out the perfect way to enjoy your day. 

Colorful houses of Mount Vernon Square in Washington
Colourful houses of Mount Vernon Square in Washington

If you’re spending 24 hours in Washington DC, here are the things you really shouldn’t miss.

Breakfast or coffee at the Eastern Market 

For over 136 years the Eastern Market in DC has served as a neighbourhood hub. This lively market offers food, drinks, crafts, unique gifts, music, and more. 

Start off your 24-hour DC timeline perusing the stalls and rubbing elbows with the locals. You’ll find a lovely assortment of tasty local food favourites including numerous breakfast items, and of course, coffee! 

Historic Eastern Market in Capitol Hill neighborhood
Historic Eastern Market in Capitol Hill neighbourhood
Tour the United States Capitol 

The United States Capitol Building is one of the most recognizable symbols of representative democracy in the world. Touring the Capitol Building is one of the top things to do in DC, and tours are completely free. 

Advance reservations are highly recommended, as tours tend to fill up fast – especially during spring and summer. Without a reservation, simply head to the U.S. Capitol Visitors Centre and try to pick up a same-day ticket. All tours are guided and cover the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. Tours last approximately 90 minutes. 

The United States Capitol building at sunset
The United States Capitol building at sunset
Explore the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is the most popular of the Smithsonian Museums. It chronicles the fascinating history of the mechanisms and processes that have led to some of the greatest achievements in aviation. 

You’ll find lots of interesting exhibits and artefacts, including Apollo 11 lunar artefacts and exhibits on the Wright Brothers’ first journey. All of the 17 Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC are free to visit. 

The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution
Discover the Smithsonian National Museum of American History 

The National Museum of American History is one museum not to be missed on your 24 hours in DC itinerary. The museum houses a massive collection of all things American — from the original Star-Spangled Banner to the Nintendo Game Boy. 

It brings together the span of American History in a meaningful way. You can spend hours in both of the museums, so pick the sections you are most interested in and focus on those. 

The National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
See the views from the Washington Monument

Washington DC is full of popular American landmarks, and the Washington Monument is one of them. This 168-meter obelisk was built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the United States, and the most essential Founding Father. 

Tickets to enter the Washington Monument are free, however, it is recommended to reserve a ticket online beforehand and pay the small reservation of US$1,50. There is an elevator inside that will take you to the top of the monument for the best views in Washington DC.

The famous Washington Monument
The famous Washington Monument
Visit the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool

Abraham Lincoln was the United State’s 16th president and undoubtedly one of the most remembered. The Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool pays tribute to one of the nation’s greatest leaders. 

Marvel at the nearly 6-meter marble statue of Lincoln and take in the views looking across to the Reflecting Pool and the National Mall.  

The Lincoln Memorial and the mirror reflection on the pool
The Lincoln Memorial and the mirror reflection on the pool
Reflect on the past at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong advocate for civil rights in the United States from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial commemorates his influence in American history. 

The memorial stands 9-meters tall and is beautifully decorated with inspirational quotes carved into the wall behind him. When in DC, make sure to check out this newer DC memorial that pays tribute to one of the nation’s greatest voices for social justice. 

The Martin Luther King JR statue in West Potomac Park
The Martin Luther King Jr. statue in West Potomac Park
Visit the White House

The White House is a symbol of national pride. It’s one of the most historic sites in the U.S and is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States. The building was constructed in the late 18th-century and has been the home of nearly every U.S. president since. 

The White House is free to tour, but you will need to apply for a ticket far in advance. If you’re not able to secure a tour beforehand, the building is visible from the street and perfect for a photo opportunity.

The White House in Washington
The White House in Washington
Step back in time at the Historic Ford’s Theatre 

The infamous Ford’s Theatre is the site of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination that took place on 14 April 1865. The theatre is wonderfully preserved and looks very much the way it did that fateful night. The President’s Box, where the assassination occurred, is still decorated just as it was in 1865.

The theatre offers museum exhibits, performances, and tours. In the museum, you’ll see several artefacts related to the assassination, including the very gun used to kill the President.

The stage and seating of Ford's Theatre
The stage and seating of Ford’s Theatre
Stroll the streets of the Adams Morgan District 

Cap off the perfect day of exploring Washington DC with a trip to the Adams Morgan District. This multicultural neighbourhood contains DCs happening nightlife scene. The streets are lined with eclectic eateries, buzzing bars, live music venues, and countless international restaurants. 

The heart of this district is 18th Street. Take a stroll down here and admire the quirky murals, artisan cafés, and independent bookshops. Soak in the unique charm of the city as you finish your 24 hours in Washington DC itinerary! 

Colorful townhouses on Main street in Adams Morgan district
Colorful townhouses on Main street in Adams Morgan District

From visiting marble monuments to exploring historic buildings and modern museums, we hope you enjoyed our list of 10 things to do in DC in 24 hours. 

If you’re touring the east coast of the United States, Washington DC is a great city to visit. It’s filled with culture and packed with history. We’ve covered the top highlights in this 24 hours in Washington DC guide so you can explore the city with ease. 

Luckily, discovering Washington DC in just 1-day is totally doable thanks to its fairly compact city centre, easy to navigate transportation systems and tourist-friendly vibe.

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