- Know the Peak Season
Stretching from spring break to the end of summer, you can expect our Nation’s Capitol to be at its busiest. For shorter lines and fewer tourists, plan your trip from September through February.
- Reach Out to Your State’s Representatives for Advanced Tickets
Touring the White House and Capitol Building requires advance planning. Public tour requests must be made through your member of Congress. Submit up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days prior to your visit. Tours are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. All of these tours are free of charge.
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, aka the “U.S. Money Factory”, is one of the most popular tours in D.C. Getting a ticket for this one can be done through your state’s representatives as described earlier, or by standing in line on the morning of the day you want to visit. The limited number of same-day tickets are free and given out on a first-come, first-served basis. The ticket booth opens at 8:00 am Monday-Friday with tours starting at 9 am and running every 15 minutes. The line forms early, especially during the first two weeks in April when Cherry Blossom/Spring Break occurs – some people line up as early as 5:30 am! Also, you’ll be waiting outside, so plan accordingly for weather.
- Book Lodging Close to Mass Transportation
Staying in a hotel near a subway line or bus route will make your time here much more convenient. Being a few steps to transportation will save you energy and time as well.
- Take advantage of the FREE attractions
The best part about a trip to the nation’s capital is it’s easy on the wallet. So many of the national museums offer free admission. Plus all the monuments are free and open 24 hours a day.
- Timed Tickets
Some of the most popular museums like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and National Museum of African American History and Culture offer timed tickets or tours for a nominal fee. Purchasing these tickets online can help you reduce time spent in long lines.
- Avoid History Overload
D.C. is full of historic attractions just don’t over do it. There are plenty of other attractions to break up seeing the historical themed attractions only. The International Spy Museum, Newseum, and National Geographic Museum are good attractions to add to your agenda.
- Utilize The Metro
The Metro is clean, efficient, and inexpensive. More importantly, it’s relatively safe. It’s best to leave the car parked because driving in D.C. is confusing and parking is nearly impossible to find. Prior to your visit, check out the Metro website for detailed subway maps. Learn routes from where you are staying to places you want to see.
- Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes
D.C. is a walking city, so it’s important to wear good supportive shoes. Maps can be deceiving too. From The Capitol steps to The Lincoln Memorial, the national mall spans almost 2 miles.
- Be Prepared for Security Checks
Everywhere you go, you can expect airport-style security checks, including metal detectors and bag checks. Factor the extra time into your itinerary.
- Try a Bike
Bikes are an especially fun way to travel around the massive National Mall. If you go with this mode of transportation, be mindful of the throngs of pedestrians. Bike-share stations are located throughout the city, so it’s easy to find two wheels.
- Get Out into a Neighborhood
In addition to all the museums and monuments, D.C. is a thriving city. Venture over to Dupont Circle, 14th Street Historical District or Georgetown, these city neighborhoods are bustling hubs filled with restaurants and shops.
- Visit the Monuments at Night
For a different perspective, roam the National Mall in the evening hours. All the monuments are open 24 hours, every day. During the summer, rangers are available until 11:00pm to answer questions.