Discover Washington, DC in Just Three Days!

Discover Washington, DC in Just Three Days! 

Planning a trip to Washington, DC? We've got a perfect three-day itinerary ready for you. While three days might not be enough to explore everything, this guide highlights some of the city's must-see attractions and offers flexibility for your own adventures. Let's get started!

Day 1

3 PMCheck-In

Start by checking into your hotel or storing your luggage. Need recommendations? If you're keen on museum-hopping near the National Mall, consider the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Riggs, or Waldorf Astoria. For a vibrant nightlife scene, stay near Dupont Circle, 14th Street, or Adams Morgan with options like the Dupont Circle Hotel, Hotel Madera, The Line DC, or Viceroy. Prefer waterfront views? The Wharf, DC’s newest development, offers the InterContinental Washington, D.C, and the Pendry Washington, DC. Traveling with family? The Lyle provides suites with kitchenettes, perfect for a hassle-free stay.

3:30 PMMuseums and Galleries

Begin your cultural exploration at the National Museum of Natural History, the most frequented Smithsonian museum with 3.9 million visitors in 2022. It closes at 5:30 PM, giving you ample time to see the highlights. Next, take a 10-minute walk to the National Portrait Gallery, which stays open until 7 PM and offers one-hour docent tours starting as late as 6 PM with advance reservations. If you've already visited these, consider the National Museum of African American History & Culture (open until 5:30 PM, requiring free timed-entry passes) or the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, with the "One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection" exhibit (also requires a timed-entry pass). For something different, try the International Spy Museum (open until 7 PM) or explore what's on at the Artechouse (open until 10 PM).

Tip: The Smithsonian's map of museums is a handy tool for planning your route.

7:30 PMDinner Time

Ready for dinner? The Dabney, named the best restaurant in DC this year by our food editors, offers a Mid-Atlantic tasting menu that's perfect for special occasions. You can also opt for a more casual experience at the bar with their à la carte menu. For sushi lovers, Sushi Nakazawa at the Waldorf Astoria is a splurge-worthy choice. For a more relaxed meal, All Purpose serves up delicious Italian cuisine and brick-oven pizza, while Daikaya offers some of the best ramen around. Fans of chef José Andrés should visit his Spanish restaurant Jaleo, just a block from the National Portrait Gallery. Looking for vegetarian options? Head to Oyster Oyster in Shaw, led by James Beard Award-winning chef Rob Rubba.

9:30 PMNightlife

If you're up for some late-night fun, DC's comedy scene won't disappoint. The DC Improv is the largest comedy stage, and the Warner Theater occasionally hosts national acts. However, for this trip, we recommend Underground Comedy DC, with shows at 8 PM, 9:45 PM, and 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Alternatively, end the night with a drink and a view at the rooftop bar VUE at Hotel Washington. The cocktails are pricey, but the view is worth it.

Day 2

9 AM 

For a quick and delicious breakfast to fuel your busy day, try one of DC’s top spots for grab-and-go bites. The bagel scene is on fire with options like Bagels Etc. near Dupont Circle, Pearl’s Bagels downtown near the Convention Center, and Call Your Mother in Capitol Hill, Georgetown, or the West End. If you’re in the mood for a breakfast burrito, Baker’s Daughter (near the Eaton Hotel) and Surfside at the Wharf are excellent choices.

10 AM 

After breakfast, it's time for some sightseeing! Check if there are any festivals or parades happening during your visit. Then, choose your adventure:

  • Hiking and Wildlife: Take a hike through Rock Creek Park or spend the day at the National Zoo (the pandas are a must-see). Conveniently, one entrance to Rock Creek Park is just a few blocks from the zoo. For lunch, Duke’s Counter is located right outside the zoo’s main Connecticut Avenue entrance and offers burgers, beer, and casual favorites.

  •  National Cathedral and Georgetown: Challenge yourself with a Tower Climb at the National Cathedral for stunning city views (book your tour in advance). Afterward, take a cab or Uber to Georgetown. Grab a picnic lunch at Green Almond Pantry and relax at Georgetown Waterfront Park. If you prefer a sit-down meal, try Lutèce (a trendy French bistro), Filomena (a family-friendly classic), or Martin’s Tavern (where JFK proposed to Jackie). After lunch, enjoy shopping and strolling around Georgetown.

  • Water Activities: Enjoy DC’s extensive waterfront with various activities. Rent a picnic boat from Float DC, Vintage Yacht Charters, or the Potomac Tiki Club. For a more active experience, rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak at the Wharf Boathouse or Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown.

  • Museum Hopping: Continue exploring the city’s museums. If you missed any from yesterday, now’s your chance to visit them. Consider the Renwick Gallery for its colorful fiber and lighting installations, and then head to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (note that free timed-entry passes are required).

5 PM 

Before your evening tour, it’s time for an early dinner or happy hour! Depending on your location, here are some suggestions for happy hour deals available on weekends:

  • 14th Street: Salazar offers $1 chips and salsa, $4.50 tacos, and $26 pitchers of margaritas from 4-6 PM.

  • Dupont and Penn Quarter: Boqueria provides $4-10 tapas and discounted sangria.

  • Penn Quarter: Present Company has $5 English muffin pizzas and $5 Nashville hot fries, along with drink specials.

  • Shaw: Ghostburger features discounted beer and cocktails, and their build-your-own burgers start at $8.

(Note that these happy hours are also available on weekdays, but specials and hours may vary.)

7:30 PM 

The best way to see DC’s monuments is at night. This highly-rated TripAdvisor tour includes nearly a dozen stops and lasts three hours. Starting at 7:30 PM, you may catch the monuments in the moonlight midway through your tour.

Day 3

10 AM 

After an action-packed day, ease into your morning with a relaxed start and a leisurely brunch. Le Diplomate is a top pick for both tourists and locals (our food critic swears by ordering a single delicious pancake alongside your main dish), but reservations can be tricky. If you’re looking for alternatives, consider the newly opened Uncaged Mimosas, which offers over two dozen types of—you guessed it—mimosas, paired with eye-catching decor that's perfect for Instagram shots. Another great option is the patio at Iron Gate, which always provides a special dining experience.

12 PM 

A post-brunch stroll will help you shake off that food coma, and shopping makes it all the more enjoyable. If you brunch at Le Diplomate, explore the nearby shops along 14th Street (don’t miss Miss Pixie’s, a treasure trove of vintage finds). Alternatively, head to CityCenterDC, a shopping hub featuring luxury designer boutiques like Chanel, Dior, and Tiffany & Co.

1 PM 

Cap off your DC adventure with one of two fantastic options, depending on your preference for sports or the arts. Head to Nats Park to catch a baseball game or enjoy a matinee performance at one of DC’s many theaters. This summer, you can catch the new comedy Exclusion at Arena Stage through the end of June, The Lion King at the Kennedy Center through July, or Fun Home at Studio Theatre, also running through July.

Enjoy your stay a Washington, DC! 

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