Before this trip, I’ve been to Washington D.C. about two times. Which will make this trip my third time in DC!
The first time I went to DC was back in high school. My family and I took a Chinese tour that took us to about 4 cities in the East Coast; New York City, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC (there might be more but I’ve already forgotten). The second time was 2 years ago when I tagged along with my friend who was looking for an apartment in DC because she was going to Georgetown for her MBA. This time, I went for my friend’s graduation with our group of friends. Although, it was my third time in DC, it was all my other friends first time so I had to do a lot of things again twice. This itinerary would be probably perfect for those who have not been to DC before.
Before providing a 3 day itinerary; you might want to check out below for some info tips. I have to admit that 3 days is not enough for DC especially during the weekend. Some of the places are not even open and I tend to always miss some of the monuments (of course, not the important ones).
FREE: The best thing about DC is that ALL the Smithsonian National Museums are FREE! If you plan your trip ahead, you might be able to visit inside the White House and/or go up the Washington Monument.
White House – Public tours of the White House are limited to groups of 10 or more and must be requested through a member of Congress. These tours are self-guided. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. My friends and I tried to request through our Senator about 3 months in advance but to no avail. We should have done it 3 months earlier or maybe if we were lucky (not really sure on how they pick who gets to visit but there’s a whole process and background checks – they ask for your SSN#, the time you’ll be visiting, how many in your group, etc. Plus, it’s also on availability).
Washington Monument – Reservation is about 3 months in advance for peak season. However, you can go to the Monument the morning of around 8:30 am. The tickets are first-come, first-served. The line forms even before the ticket window even opens. My friends and I didn’t wake up that early or made reservations so we didn’t do this.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing – First-come, first-served as well. Ticket booth opens at 8:00 am, there are no advance tickets for this.
Airports: If you’re flying into or out of DC; they have 3 airports: Dulles International Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), and Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
From IAD: They have a Silver Line Express Bus that takes you to the Wiehle Avenue Metrorail Station. For less than $11, you can then take the Silver Line to the Metro then take the Metro to your destination.
DCA: You can take the Metrorail system from the airport. Either the Blue or Yellow Line (Rate depends on your destination).
BWI: There is a free shuttle that takes you to/from the airport to the BWI Marshall Rail Station. For about $7 each way, the MARC train takes you to Washington DC’s Union Station and from there you can take any other transportation system in DC. The MARC is on the Penn Line.
Transportation: The DC Metropolitan area has a very reliable Metrorail and bus system. They do have a day pass but since most of the places are about walking distances from each other, I don’t really recommend it. However, if you do decide to take it, you would need to purchase a $2 SmarTrip card which can be purchased at any Metrorail Stations.
Since I was with a group of friends (there were 4 of us), we spent most of our time taking Uber/Lyft. The cost of taking Uber/Lyft was equivalent to all of us paying the Metro. We really didn’t do long distances and our rides were usually under $10.
Hotels: Most places in DC costs approx. $150~$200 per night if you live in the Metropolitan area. However, you can get it cheaper with Airbnb or outside of the Metropolitan Area.
If you like to be close to everything, I recommend the Downtown area. My friends and I stayed at the Marriott Metro Center and it was pretty close to everything. However, I would also recommend the Georgetown Area or the Dupont Circle area depending on where you spend most of your days/nights. Apparently anything with NW in the address is pretty safe.
Weather: I’ve only been to DC in May and June. It’s relatively warm in May but hot in June! They do have the whole four seasons. My friend sent us a picture of the after effect of the snow storm during the winter; Although it looked pretty with the white snow, the cause didn’t sound so nice. It’s supposed to be nice during April because of the Cherry Blossoms and Fall is supposed to be good as well! However, it’s humid in the summer and snowing during the winter. So take your pick!
The last time I was there, I was there for about 4 days. One of those days was strictly for my friend’s graduation and as such, this is a 3 day itinerary. Also, the nice thing about DC is that you can split your days/nights; that is days are for museums and nights are for nightlife since the museums closes at 5/6:00 pm every day (weekdays depending on which museums you’re going to).
Food: There are some places that I am going to recommend in the itinerary. DC is a place where you need to make reservations or you won’t be able to eat there at all or there’s going to be a long wait. So if you know where you’re going to eat before hand, make a reservation!