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Home to American history, national museums, and the government of the USA, Washington DC is one place in America worth visiting. Despite popular belief, you don’t need a whole week to explore the city’s highlights either; in this Washington DC 2 day itinerary, you’ll learn how to see DC in a weekend.
Planning a weekend in Washington DC can be difficult, but luckily this post is here to help. By the end, you’ll have your 2 days in Washington DC thoroughly planned, including where to stay, when to visit, and even where to eat during your trip.
I was lucky enough to visit Washington DC for the first time in June 2021 to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday, and the city truly blew me away. I can’t wait to go back and explore more, and I’m excited that you’ll be witnessing the city’s beauty, too.
Let’s start planning your Washington DC two day itinerary!
Best Time to Visit Washington DC
Despite popular belief, the best time to visit Washington DC is during the shoulder seasons!
So many people rush to visit the city during the summer, but you can have the best experience possible in either the fall or spring.
In fact, one of the best times to visit is Washington DC during Cherry Blossom Festival in March.
You can also opt to visit in the winter, which is Washington DC’s off-season.
During the winter months, you can expect to find cheaper flights and accommodation prices, which can make your trip even more affordable.
If you plan to visit in the summer, be sure to book everything well in advance. Hotels downtown will book out quickly!
How to Get to Washington DC
For a weekend in Washington DC, there are a few ways to get there. Below are some of the most popular ways to travel to the city!
Fly to Washington DC
There are two different airports in the DC area that you could consider flying into. The first is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport which is the one located right in DC.
This is the most popular one to fly into, and you should be able to get a flight here from your nearest airport.
Many people also opt to fly into Dulles International Airport, which is located in the DC area.
From here, you can take public transportation to get downtown. This airport often has cheaper flights which is why it’s a popular option.
Drive to Washington DC
You could also drive to DC from wherever! The great thing about driving is that you’ll have a lot more freedom and control of your time during your trip.
Know that it may be harder to find parking if you plan on getting around the city with your car.
Take the Bus to Washington DC
A few different bus companies in the USA have options to take a bus right to the city.
Consider looking at buses with companies like Greyhound, Peter Pan, and Megabus. This is a reasonably affordable way to get to the city if you’re visiting DC on a budget.
Take the Train to Washington DC
Lastly, you can consider taking an Amtrak to Washington DC. The Vermonter and Capitol Limited Lines will both bring you right to Washington Union Station, where you can then explore the city.
Amtrak tickets fluctuate in price depending on how long you’ll be on the train and where you’re coming from.
How to Get Around Washington DC
Truthfully, it’s pretty easy to get around using public transportation in Washington DC. I visited and didn’t rent a car and had to rely on public transport, so I can truthfully vouch for it!
The most popular way to get around Washington DC is by foot.
As a whole, the city is pretty walkable, especially if you’re staying pretty close to the downtown area.
Once you get to the main attractions in the city for your Washington DC 2 day itinerary, it’s dumb not to walk if you can!
There are also many scooters throughout the city.
These are popping up worldwide and are run by companies like Uber and Lyft, among others.
All you have to do is download the appropriate app on your phone for the scooter you’d like to ride, scan the scooter’s QR code, and you’re good to go!
For getting around near the top places to visit, like the National Mall and Capitol Hill, you can hop on the DC Circulator bus for just $1. You can pay with cash or using a SmarTrip card that you can download right onto your phone.
Lastly, the WMATA has both the Metrorail and the Metrobus. The Metrorail is a swift way of getting around, and it’s basically DC’s version of the subway.
If you’re traveling further out of the downtown area, like to the Arlington National Cemetery, the Metrorail is what you’ll want to use.
The Metrobus also travels around the city and has extensive route options. These are more likely to get stuck in traffic because they use the road, but overall are relatively reliable for getting around the city.
To get around the city using public transportation, you’ll want to download the SmarTrip app on your phone and make an account.
You can either add money each time you want to ride or get an unlimited pass.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect pass for a Washington DC 2 day itinerary, so you’ll have to purchase a pass for either one day or three days.
Other ways to get around the city include renting bikes, using taxis or ride shares, or even renting a car.
During your first day on the Washington DC 2 day itinerary, you’ll be doing some of the top things to do in Washington DC as you dip your toes into what the city has to offer!
Keep reading to learn about what to do in Washington DC in 2 days.
Have breakfast at Urban Roast
Start your day weekend in DC by heading straight to Urban Roast. This new breakfast place serves up delicious coffee and food boards served on wooden slabs. Talk about photo-worthy food!
Prices are mid-range, and there are spots to eat both inside and outside.
If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday or Sunday, be sure to try to book a reservation right when you wake up or the day before, as this is now becoming a popular spot for brunch in DC!
You get a lot for your money if you purchase one of the shared plates. My girlfriend and I split a board between the two of us, and there were still leftovers!
Visit Ford’s Theater
After breakfast, take a quick 3-minute walk over to Ford’s Theater. It’s only around the corner from Urban Roast, so it’s the perfect place to start your Washington DC 2 day itinerary.
Ford’s Theater is the infamous location where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Take the time to visit and at least see it from the outside while you’re there. It’s a weird feeling to see it in person!
Check Out the White House
Once you’re done, make your way to the White House.
You can either take a 15-minute walk from Ford’s Theater if the weather is pleasant during your visit, or you can take the 33 bus towards Friendship Heights and get off at 15th St NW & F St NW.
As the official home of the President of the United States, the White House is one of the must-visit places in DC. John Adams was the first to live in the White House back in the 1800s, and it’s been the official residence ever since!
If you’re interested in going on one of the White House tours, just know that you have to make a request through your member of Congress. You can learn more about that here.
Now it’s time to leave the National Mall until tomorrow and head to Georgetown! Georgetown is a historic neighborhood in Washington DC that has buildings built in the Federal style of architecture.
The area is exceptionally charming and is filled with quaint shops, restaurants, and more. It has a very different feel than other neighborhoods in the city and is frequented by college students because of its amazing bars.
Spend a little bit of time exploring Georgetown. Consider stopping by the popular Georgetown Cupcakes, one of the best bakeries in DC. The line is usually wrapping around the sidewalk, but that’s because it’s so worth it!
Eat Lunch in Georgetown
While you’re still in Georgetown, be sure to grab lunch at one of the best places to eat. Below are some top recommendations located right in the area!
Clyde’s of Georgetown
First up is Clyde’s of Georgetown, a local American restaurant that’s been in DC since the 1960s. They have indoor and outdoor seating, as well as mid-range pricing.
The ambiance is very casual and laidback, making this the perfect place to eat during 2 days in Washington DC.
For a quicker meal, consider stopping by Bandoola Bowl. This restaurant serves bowls and salads with southeast Asia flavors.
They do have seating inside, but it’s a lot quicker to eat here than if you were to eat at Clyde’s.
Pizza is excellent any time of day, especially at Pizzeria Paradiso!
This is one of the best restaurants in the DC area, and they serve classic pizzas in addition to fun ones featuring topics like spicy garlic pesto. Most pizzas cost around $15 each but can be split between parties!
Visit the Arlington National Cemetery
Spend the afternoon visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, a cemetery that’s over 600 acres large where those in the military have been buried since the Civil War.
To get there from Georgetown, you’ll want to utilize public transportation again. The quickest way is to take the 38B towards Ballston and get off at Rosslyn Metro Bay.
Then walk to the Rosslyn Metro stop, take the blue line towards Franconia-Springfield, and get off right at the Arlington Cemetery. From there, it’s a short walk to the security line.
When you first get to the cemetery, you will have to wait outside and go through security. If you’re visiting during peak season, this line can be pretty long, so definitely prepare yourself. The area is not shaded at all!
The cemetery is massive, but be sure not to miss out on visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards change every thirty minutes.
Find the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
After you’ve spent time visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, make your way to the MLK Jr. Memorial. The quickest way to get there is either by car or to take the Metro from Arlington Cemetery towards Largo Town Center. Get off at the Smithsonian.
From there, you can either walk 20 minutes to get to the memorial or ride the DC circulator towards the Lincoln Memorial and get off at West Basin Drive!
The central part of the memorial is a giant stone sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. in granite. The memorial area covers about four acres and is worth walking around and exploring.
Watch the Sunset Over the Tidal Basin
While you’re at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, it’s most likely around the time that the sun is setting.
Because the memorial is right next to the Tidal Basin, be sure to pop over by the water and take in the beauty of the sun setting over the water. It’s truly magical!
See the Lincoln Memorial at Night
The first day on the Washington DC 2 day itinerary isn’t over yet!
Take a quick 18-minute walk to get over to the Lincoln Memorial, one of the main attractions located in DC. The memorial is most popularly visited during the day, but it’s great to visit in the evening and see it all lit up.
The Lincoln Memorial was built back in the 1920s in memorial to President Abraham Lincoln.
As you walk up the main staircase at the monument, you’ll see a massive statue of Lincoln sitting down. It’s popularly featured in many movies and television shows.
Be sure to walk over to the wall and check out Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and see if you can spot the mistake that was fixed!
Walk Along the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
Right near the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. It’s another popular spot during the day that isn’t often visited once the sun goes down. It’s lit up pretty well, so it’s worth walking along it.
This memorial pays tribute to those who were lost during the Vietnam War.
Eat Dinner Near the Lincoln Memorial
Finish off the first of your two days in Washington DC by eating dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. Below are a few great options if you’re wondering where to eat.
The Capital Grille
The Capital Grille is a fine-dining establishment has high prices, but the food is incredible. The main entree is steak, but they also have great drinks to pair with them.
Bartaco is a popular USA chain that has mid-range pricing and great tacos! The atmosphere is very casual, and the food is mouth-watering.
GCDC Grilled Cheese
For great grilled cheese and charcuterie boards, make your way to GCDC Grilled Cheese. They have mid-range pricing and both outdoor and indoor seating. If you’re visiting during the colder season, don’t worry; they have heaters outside!
Woohoo, it’s time for the second day in DC! During this day, you’ll be spending a lot of time around the National Mall and popping into some famous museums in the city.
Enjoy Breakfast at Cafe du Parc
Begin your morning by stopping at Cafe du Parc, a popular spot for breakfast near the National Mall. They have tons of outdoor seating, and it’s a perfect spot to eat in the warmer months because of that!
Their pricing is mid-range. You can opt to order from their sit-down menu (which I recommend), or you can go inside and participate in the buffet if you’d prefer.
Visit the World War II Memorial
After breakfast, take a quick 15-minute, walk over to the World War II Memorial, your first attraction of the day. This memorial features a huge fountain as well as stones situated all around it with different states. It was built in honor of those who fought in WWII.
While you’re at the memorial, be sure to also stop by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. You’ll notice you’re right by the Lincoln Memorial that you visited last night.
Snap a Photo at the Washington Monument
Continue walking along the National Mall to the Washington Monument, one of the most popular landmarks in Washington DC. The Washington Monument is just shy of 600 feet tall, and it’s impossible to miss when downtown.
The monument was built to commemorate George Washington in the 1800s. It was paused for a while and was finished being built later on.
If you look closely at the stones that make up the monument, you’ll notice they change color about halfway through; that’s how you can tell where it paused construction.
Go Inside One Museum
While you’re along the Mall, take the time to visit at least one museum. Some popular museums include the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, or the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Keep in mind that as of 2022, some museums do have to be reserved ahead of time for you to enter. Be sure to check the website for the museum you’d like to visit to see if reservations have to be made ahead of time!
Eat Lunch Near the National Mall
Time for lunch! Here are a few of the popular places to eat near the National Museum before you continue along your Washington DC 2 day itinerary.
L’Enfant Bar & Grill
First is L’Enfant Bar & Grill, an elegant restaurant serves up entrees using locally sourced ingredients and is located at one of the downtown Hilton hotels.
Cafe Riggs is open all day and has a wide range of dishes available. The interior is very swanky and has entrees under $30. There’s also a children’s menu if you’re traveling with your family.
Ella’s Wood Fired Kitchen
For a quick pizza lunch, head to Ella’s Wood Fired Kitchen. The inside is very rustic but stylish and the pizza is all thin crust. Plus, they serve great craft beers to pair with the pizza.
Have Fun and Learn at the International Spy Museum
Make your way to the International Spy Museum by taking the 52 bus towards L’Enfant Plaza Station from 14th Street & Constitution Ave NW and get off at 12th St & C St.
Easily one of the most underrated museums in Washington DC is the International Spy Museum. Most people may think it’s for kids, but even as a 23-year, old, I had an absolute blast at this museum during my trip!
When you enter, you’re given a “spy identity,” and you can do fun missions throughout the museum as you learn about tons of different spies through history. Each person has their own storyline tied to their identity, which makes it super fun!
Plan on spending at least two hours or so at this museum to experience it fully. As of November 2021, you do have to book a timed entry ticket. Check their website to see if you have to or not for your trip, and be sure to reserve your ticket in advance if you do.
Stop By the United States Capitol
After you’ve had fun and learned about spies at the International Spy Museum, get on the Metro and take the silver line towards Largo Town Center from L’Enfant Plaza. Get off at Capitol South Station.
The US Capitol Building is the central meeting place of Congress. For the sake of spending just 2 days in Washington DC, you’ll most likely just want to snap some pics from the outside, so you have time to see more spots in the city on your last day.
Marvel at the Library of Congress
A short five-minute walk away is the Library of Congress, one of the most underrated places to visit on this Washington DC 2 day itinerary. The Library of Congress has hundreds of millions of items inside, and you are allowed to enter it!
The library was started in the 1800s and the inside is incredible. When writing this article in November 2021, you do have to make a reservation to enter, but it’s completely free.
Be sure to check out their website to see if you need to make a reservation for your visit.
See the Supreme Court of the United States
Pop next door with a four-minute walk to see the Supreme Court of the United States and snap a photo from the outside. This is the last stop on your Washington DC 2 day itinerary before dinner!
Last but not least, finish off your weekend in Washington DC by grabbing dinner nearby. Below are some great recommendations!
The Monocle Restaurant
The Monocle Restaurant is an American restaurant known for its excellent steaks. Many people at the Capitol eat here throughout the week, so you never know who you may see here! Prices are high-end, and the interior is elegant.
Cafe Berlin serves traditional German food and has been in the city since the 1980s. Pricing is mid-range, and there’s both indoor and outdoor seating.
Where to Stay in Washington DC
Below are some of the most popular places to stay in Washington DC by budget.
Capitol Hill Hotel – $
The Capitol Hill Hotel is located right near the Capitol, so it’s super central if you’re planning to visit DC. It’s a popular place to stay among couples following a Washington DC 2 day itinerary.
Amenities at this hotel include coffee machines in each room, access to a fitness center, and parking. Plus, it’s right by the Capitol South Metro Station, so you can easily get around the city without a car if needed.
Lyle Washington DC – $$
Another place to stay during your Washington DC itinerary is the Lyle Washington DC. It’s located in Dupont Circle, a part of DC filled with a little something for everyone.
Amenities are abundant at the Lyle Washington DC, including a bar and restaurant, laundry services, and access to a fitness center. Choose between a variety of rooms, including double, queen, and king.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC – $$$
For a luxury stay during 2 days in Washington DC, stay at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC. Located right next to the National Portrait Gallery, this hotel is very centrally located and is a great place to stay when visiting because you can walk to some of the most popular DC attractions.
There are many amenities, including wifi, access to a restaurant, free bike rentals to get around the city, and more.
Tours of Washington DC
A great way to see many places quickly with just two days in Washington DC is to go on a guided tour. Below are some of the best Washington DC tours, most of which take place in the evening.
This tour costs around $60 per person and is a great way to explore the city at night by stopping at major attractions. The coach van can only hold up to 30 people, so it’s a smaller tour where you can ask questions along the way.
I took this very tour during my trip and highly recommend it. At $45 per person, it’s relatively affordable. During the tour, you’ll get driven around the city in a trolley while your guide stops at places and informs you of the city’s history.
Consider taking this tour that stops at places including the Lincoln Memorial and the White House for a great half-day tour. Your guide will be informing you of history around the city, and there’s even an option to add an afternoon trip to the Arlington Cemetery. This tour is perfect for 2 days in DC.
Travel Tips for Visiting Washington DC
Wear Sneakers, Not Sandals
So many people make the mistake of trying to wear “cute” shoes for their trip to DC. Don’t be like them! Instead, make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes. If you don’t, you’ll truly regret it.
We’re a huge fan of Adidas sneakers for comfort. Here are a few pairs similar to the ones we have + love:
Bring a Water Bottle
If you’re visiting during the warmer months or any time of the year really, bring a reusable water bottle. Most attractions have water fountains to easily fill up your bottle, and then you won’t have to pay to get drinks everywhere.
We wholeheartedly recommend 32 oz Hydroflask water bottles for exploring. These study water bottles keep water cold and hold a lot of water! Click here to learn more about the 32 oz Hydroflask.
Take Advantage of Free Museums
A lot of the museums throughout DC are free! So, take the time to visit some free attractions in addition to paid ones to save yourself money.
Keep in mind that some of the free museums do require you to make reservations in advance, which brings me to the next point!
Make Reservations in Advance
Make all of your reservations the second that you know you’re going to follow this Washington DC 2 day itinerary!
This includes hotels, museums, attractions, car rentals, and more. This is a popular place to visit in the United States.
Add Extra Time for Security
The majority of monuments and other attractions in Washington DC require you to wait in line and go through security for obvious reasons.
Don’t make your schedule so jam-packed that waiting in line makes you feel behind. Instead, plan your days knowing that you will have to wait in line at some attractions.
Hopefully, this post has helped you plan your Washington DC 2 day itinerary. Don’t forget to save this post for later by sharing it on social media or pinning it!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days should you spend in Washington DC?
Two days in Washington DC are all you need to see the top highlights.
There are many reasons why two days in DC is the perfect length of time to explore the city.
It gives you enough time to see all of the major sights and attractions without feeling rushed. Additionally, two days is just long enough to get a feel for the city and its unique culture without becoming overwhelmed.
When is the best time to visit Washington DC?
The best time to visit Washington DC is in the springtime when the weather is mild and the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Where should I stay when visiting Washington DC?
Stay centrally in order to be near the top sights in the city. Or, stay in a place near public transportation so you can get around easily without hassle.