How to Spend a Long Weekend in Washington DC Itinerary


10 min read
A stone structure with a domed roof and green trees, grass, and a pond in front
The US Capitol is one of many renowned places to see during a weekend in DC

If you're looking for the perfect weekend getaway destination, Washington DC is a great choice! The US capital city is filled with famous landmarks, world-class museums, and numerous other unique and fascinating attractions.

By following this long weekend in Washington DC itinerary, you'll be able to see all of the city's top points of interest. Places to visit range from political landmarks and memorials to cathedrals and even a spy museum!

To discover what to do with 72 hours in DC, read on for a comprehensive Washington travel guide.

  • 3 day itinerary
  • Average of 8 stops per day

Disclosure: Destguides may receive commission for purchases made through links in this article at no cost to you.

Washington DC in a Weekend

Washington, D.C. Map

Using the map of Washington, D.C., you can explore all the days and stops.

Washington’s Top Attractions

A building with columns with a pond, greenery, and US flags in front of it
The Lincoln Memorial is one of the amazing places to see on your first day in DC

On your first day in Washington DC you’ll see some of the city’s most renowned places. Your first stop is the interesting International Spy Museum, where you’ll learn about the life of spies. Your next stop is the Museum of African American History and Culture followed by the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Your next stops will also commemorate famous individuals and events. The Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials commemorate those who fought for the US, while the Lincoln Memorial pays homage to President Lincoln.

After exploring these memorial sites, you’ll visit the United States Holocaust Museum before going to your last attraction of the day, the National Portrait Gallery. Your evening will be spent shopping and dining in the bustling Penn Quarter neighborhood.

Back to top

© grandbrothers via Depositphotos
A red and black museum with a sign that says "Spy Museum"
The International Spy Museum is a fascinating DC attraction

International Spy Museum

Washington’s International Spy Museum is an exciting place that is fun for kids and adults alike. The museum houses exhibits on espionage with topics covered, including the history of spying, famous spies, and the craft’s place in modern times.

There’s even an interactive exhibit that allows you to tackle spy missions as you explore the museum.

Back to top

© 3000ad via Depositphotos
A uniquely designed museum with a metal frame and trees and a path in front
A must-visit museum is the Museum of African American History and Culture

Museum of African American History and Culture

The Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the largest museums in the United States dedicated to African American culture. The museum is located on the National Mall and was established in 2003.

A unique way to see the museum is by going on an African American history tour of DC. This excursion takes you to various landmarks in the city, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and includes admission to the museum.

Back to top

© slickspics via Depositphotos
A stone statue of Martin Luther King Jr. with a blue sky behind it
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is one of the mot important statues in DC

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

A must-see landmark on your weekend in DC itinerary is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The four-acre memorial features a statue of the renowned Civil Rights leader and the Stone of Hope monument. Around the statue, you’ll also find 14 of MLK’s most inspirational quotes.

If you’re interested in seeing other DC landmarks, consider a Washington DC sightseeing tour. On the tour, you’ll go to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and over ten other attractions.

Back to top

© Sophie_James via Depositphotos
A must-see on your long weekend in Washington DC itinerary is the Korean War Memorial
The Korean War Memorial is a must-see on your long weekend in Washington DC itinerary

Korean War Memorial

Located in West Potomac Park, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is another significant landmark in DC. This memorial was constructed to commemorate those that fought in and were involved in the Korean War.

The two most renowned parts of this site are the Pool of Remembrance and the statues of 19 soldiers in combat. This landmark offers a look at the sacrifices involved in the Korean War to allow for US freedoms.

Back to top

A statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting on a chair with a stone wall behind it
One of the most well-known sites in DC is the Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The monument depicts President Lincoln and has been in Washington DC since 1922.

To get to the memorial, simply walk to the western end of the National Mall. Alternatively, consider a hop-on-hop-off DC trolley tour that will take you to the Lincoln Memorial and other attractions mentioned on your first day in DC itinerary.

Back to top

© dinhhang via Depositphotos
Statue of three soldiers with greenery, flower bouquets, and US flags surrounding
Another important place to see in DC is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Another historical landmark to see on a long weekend in DC is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This US national memorial commemorates the men and women who fought in the Vietnam War.

One of the most notable features of this attraction is the stone wall that has the names of over 50,000 soldiers who lost their lives in service to the US. There’s also a statue dedicated to the women who fought and assisted in the war, along with numerous other monuments.

Back to top

© grandbrothers via Depositphotos
A sculpture in front of a wall that says "United States Holocaust Memorial Museum"
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is an important place to visit

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is an educational museum covering Holocaust history. It's also the US’ official Holocaust memorial.

Exhibits in found here cover World War II, those affected by the Holocaust, and the long-lasting effects of the horrific period in time. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum frequently hosts events and talks too.

Back to top

© pngstudio via Depositphotos
A stone building with columns and a path and trees surrounding it
Portraits of every US president can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery that houses portraits of various famous figures. These individuals include every US president, as well as iconic US figures like Harriet Tubman and Benjamin Franklin.

In total, the gallery’s extensive collection includes over 23,000 works. Lovers of art and cultural attractions have to make a trip to the National Portrait Gallery during a weekend in Washington DC!

Back to top

Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter is a fun area of DC with an array of bars, restaurants, and shops. It's the perfect place to spend the evening, doing some shopping and trying some outstanding cuisine.

If you like sports, you can find Capital One Arena in Penn Quarter too. At the arena, you can watch both the Washington Capitals NHL team and the Washington Wizards NBA team play. Penn Quarter is also next to Chinatown, which is well worth exploring.

Back to top

A Trip to Mount Vernon and More DC Landmarks

A large brick building with a fountain in front of it and a US flag on the building
The City Hall in Old Town Alexandria is a beautiful structure to see near DC

The second day of your Washington DC three day itinerary will begin with a trip out of the city to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria. After exploring these attractions, you’ll head back to DC to visit the Arlington National Cemetery.

Your next stop of the day is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. In the afternoon, you can explore the fascinating Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and then move on to the breathtaking Washington National Cathedral.

The day will end at Dupont Circle. While here, you can get dinner at an incredible restaurant before getting some drinks at one of a plethora of exciting bars.

Back to top

A mansion with a red roof amongst green grass and trees
Going out of downtown DC to visit Mount Vernon is a fun day trip activity

George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon is a historic estate located about a 30-minute drive from central Washington DC. This attraction is notable as it was the home of the first president of the United States, George Washington.

During your visit, you can explore the house and gardens and learn more about the life of Washington. If you don’t have a car in DC, you can easily reach this attraction by going on a Mount Vernon tour.

This tour will also take you to the charming Old Town Alexandria. The quaint town features independent shops and interesting restaurants which are located on scenic cobblestone streets.

Back to top

Green and pink trees with white gravestones on the grass
Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for many notable US figures

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most famous Washington DC landmarks. The cemetery is the final resting place of notable figures, including John F. Kennedy.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is also a well-known feature here. This monument is dedicated to those missing in action and soldiers who have never been identified.

A great way to see this landmark during your 72 hours in Washington DC is on an Arlington National Cemetery walking tour. You also get to see the symbolic Changing of the Guards.

Back to top

A green statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt with his terrier dog
Another must-see monument is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

A quick trip to see the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is another highly recommended thing to do. This monument features a statue of the 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his Scottish terrier Fala.

The surrounding park also features manicured gardens, water sculptures, and other historic memorials.

Back to top

© f11photo via Depositphotos
Airplanes on display in a museum with a large glass window on one wall
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a fascinating educational attraction

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Established in 1946, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is another of the educational attractions found in DC. This museum includes exhibits on air transport and space exploration.

Exhibits to discover include those on commercial aviation, the US’ role in the development of flight, the mechanics of space flight, and much more. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a fascinating attraction that is sure to teach you something new!

Back to top

A Gothic-style cathedral surrounded by trees under a blue sky
Washington National Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture

Washington National Cathedral

Also known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, the Washington National Cathedral is a breathtaking cathedral found about 15-minutes from downtown DC. The cathedral was constructed in the early 1900s and is visited by over 270,000 people every year.

When visiting, you can explore the stunning church and take in the Gothic Revival design. Lovers of religious architecture must add a trip to the Washington National Cathedral to their Washington DC weekend itinerary!

Back to top

© sainaniritu via Depositphotos
A water fountain surrounded by greenery and bare trees in an urban park
Dupont Circle is a pretty part of DC with many outstanding restaurants

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is a bustling part of Washington known for its array of eateries and bars. Having dinner at Dupont Circle is one of the best things to do at night in DC, and you’ll find numerous options to choose from.

World-class dining options include Obelisk, a high-end Italian restaurant and Del Sur Cafe a South American hotspot. No matter which restaurant you eat at, you’re sure to have some amazing food and drinks!

Back to top

Washington’s World-Class Museums

An obelisk with stone buildings next to it under a blue sky
You'll visit more iconic landmarks and incredible museums on your last day in DC

Your three perfect days in Washington DC will include visits to some more of the city’s incredible museums and landmarks. The day begins with a trip to the US Capitol which you can explore on a guided tour.

Next, you’ll head to the National Gallery of Art before moving on to the National Archives Museum. At this attraction, you can see the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and more.

Two more museums are on the itinerary in the afternoon: the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History.

Your day will finish with visits to some of the most well-known places in DC, the White House, the National Mall, and the Washington Monument. If looking for a nighttime activity, you can explore these landmarks on a moonlit tour!

Back to top

A large white building with a dome roof and grass and trees in front of it
One of the must-see Washington DC landmarks is the US Capitol

United States Capitol Building

The US Capitol Building is one of the most significant political buildings in Washington DC. This site on Capitol Hill is where the United States Congress meets and is also the seat of the legislative branch of the US government.

When in Washington, you must at least walk past this building and take some pictures. If interested in learning more about the US Capitol, you can go inside and take a guided tour. A recommended one to try is the best of DC VIP tour that will also take you to some other world-renowned spots.

Back to top

© bloodua via Depositphotos
A Greek-style structure with columns and steps in front of it
You can view works by renowned artists at the National Gallery of Art

Art enthusiasts will be very excited to go to this renowned art gallery! The National Gallery of Art houses over 150,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more.

As you explore, you’ll come across pieces by famous artists, including Thomas Gainsborough and Johannes Vermeer. You can also take a private guided tour of the National Gallery of Art to learn even more about the works you see.

Back to top

A stone building with columns and steps leading up to it
The Declaration of Independence is on display at the National Archives Museum

National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum is a fascinating attraction to see during your weekend getaway in Washington DC. The museum holds various important documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

After viewing these significant pieces of history, you can explore other exhibits. These displays cover US politics, culture, and important events.

Back to top

© f11photo via Depositphotos
An elephant statue in an exhibit with stone walls surrounding it
There are lots of interesting exhibits on display at the Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Another world-class museum in Washington DC is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Exhibits to see here cover topics like the world’s wildlife, fossils, human evolution, and more.

To get the most out of your visit, opt for a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History guided tour. Exploring the museum is a great DC date idea too!

Back to top

National Museum of American History

If you want to learn more about US history, a trip to the National Museum of American History is a must. This educational attraction houses exhibits on American politics and culture, plus significant events in US history. You can even see the original Star-Spangled Banner here!

Taking a guided tour of the National Museum of American History is the best way to explore this museum. Your informative guide will provide additional commentary on everything you see to make your visit more memorable.

Back to top

The US White House with a US flag on the roof and trees surrounding it
The US White House is one of the most renowned buildings in the world

The White House

The White House is hands down the most well-known place in DC. It’s also one of the most famous landmarks in North America. The White House has been home to the US president since 1800.

A Washington DC weekend trip itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visiting this historical attraction! When visiting, you have the option to take a guided tour of the building. Going on a moonlit tour of Washington, which includes a trip to the White House, is another popular activity to try.

Back to top

A obelisk with a pond and greenery stretching out in front of it
Walking along the National Mall to the Washington Monument is laid-back DC activity

National Mall and Washington Monument

Located close to the White House are two other renowned sights, the National Mall and the Washington Monument. After wandering along the mall, which is kept in perfect condition thanks to the National Park Service, you can view the iconic Washington Monument.

The monument was installed in 1888 and commemorates George Washington. If you’re looking for a unique evening activity, another great experience to try is a DC after dark tour. This tour takes you to the illuminated Mall and Washington Monument, plus other attractions.

Back to top

In Summary

Washington DC is one of the best weekend getaway locations in the US. You can discover a multitude of political and cultural attractions to visit here that will appeal to all types of travelers.

By following this Washington DC weekend itinerary, you won't miss any of the must-see places in DC, even if you're only in the US capital for 72 hours.

For more interesting articles about United States, read:

  • 3

Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell WRITER Currently based in Canada, I've also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and travelled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I love finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever I go!