Last Updated on September 4, 2023
Washington DC is a city known for its seemingly endless activities and opportunities to explore. The area is full of museums, historical landmarks, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and so much more. It can feel overwhelming to decide on the top things to do and see in Washington DC, especially if you only have a short amount of time to visit. This Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary highlights some of the best sights the city has to offer, and is the perfect guide to experiencing Washington DC in just two days.
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Table of Contents
Is Two Days Enough in Washington DC?
Two days is the perfect amount of time to experience some of the top attractions in Washington DC. You’ll be able to see a lot of the most popular sights in the city, and you’ll also have time to explore the Georgetown neighborhood, which we consider a must-visit. However, due to the huge number of museums and monuments throughout Washington DC, two days is not enough to see everything that the city has to offer.
Is Washington DC Expensive?
Prices for lodging, transportation, and dining in Washington DC align closely to those you might find in other large cities throughout the United States. Washington DC does offer a lot of options for hotels, restaurants, and other major expenses, so you have plenty of flexibility to plan your trip around whatever budget you might be working with.
How to Get Around Washington DC
There are a number of distinct neighborhoods throughout Washington DC that are very walkable and pedestrian-friendly. To travel between these neighborhoods, we recommend biking! Washington DC is a fairly flat city, and there are a lot of great bike paths along the Potomac River. The city even offers a bikeshare service where you can rent bicycles during your visit! A single trip through Capital Bikeshare is $1 USD to unlock and then $0.05 USD per minute for a classic bike or $0.15 USD per minute for an e-bike. The most popular option, which is especially great for tourists, is a 24-hour pass which is $8 USD per day.
Another common transportation option throughout Washington DC is Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare service. This option is very popular all hours of the day so you never have to worry about not finding a ride. We recommend this transportation option for destinations that are too far to walk to.
Finally, Washington DC also offers a metro service that is very convenient and easy to use. We’ve always found the metro to be very safe and haven’t had any issues using it during our time in the city.
The Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary
While two days is not a lot of time given that there are so many great things to do in Washington DC, it is enough time to get a great feel for the city, see the best sights, and even have time for a museum or two!
The Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary: Day One
Day one of our Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary is all about visiting some of the most well-known sights throughout the city. We’ll be highlighting a lot of historical areas and monuments that are some of the most popular attractions in Washington DC. If you prefer, you can always swap day one with day two, depending on how you want to spend your first day in Washington DC.
Stop by the White House
We think the perfect way to kick off a Washington DC 2 Day itinerary is with a visit to the White House! The White House is probably the most famous building in all of Washington DC and is known for being the home and offices of the President and his family. Since 1800, every single US President has lived and worked in the White House during their time in office. We have to admit we were a bit surprised when we saw the White House in person for the first time, because it wasn’t quite what we were expecting! You always hear about how significant the White House is that it may feel a little underwhelming once you actually see the building for yourself. However, it’s still an incredible place and an amazing piece of history to experience in person.
Location: The White House
Hours: While tours of the White House are offered, you have to request and schedule them through a member of Congress (you can read more information on the National Park Service website). Otherwise, you can see the exterior of the White House any time of day.
Cost: If you’re able to book a tour of the White House, you’ll be delighted to learn it’s entirely free!
Helpful Tips: Despite the intense security measures in place at the White House that make it a bit of a challenge to photograph, such as fences and security guards, we still consider it a must-see on your Washington DC 2 Day itinerary!
Gaze at the Washington Monument
If you’re trying to see all of the top sights in Washington DC in 2 days, we highly recommend paying a visit to the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument is another landmark that is closely associated with the city of Washington DC. The monument itself is a massive obelisk that towers 555 feet (169 m) into the sky. Thanks to its incredible height, you can actually spot the Washington Monument all throughout Washington DC. Aside from experiencing the Washington Monument from the ground, you also have the option of going inside the monument and riding an elevator to the observation deck high above the ground!
Location: Washington Monument
Hours: The Washington Monument is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Cost: If you choose to do walk-up/same-day tickets, admission to the Washington Monument is free. If you reserve your tickets in advance, there is a $1 USD fee.
Helpful Tips: Photographing the Washington Monument from a distance is a great way to offer perspective on its large size as it towers above other buildings in the city.
Visit a Museum
Of course, a Washington DC itinerary would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s many impressive museums. Whatever your personal interests might be, we can almost guarantee there’s a museum in Washington DC that will appeal to you! Of course, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History or Natural History are classic options that are considered some of the best in the country. The National Gallery of Art is also another popular option for lovers of paintings, photography, sculpture, and other forms of art.
Other fun options include the International Spy Museum, a really unique and interactive museum that highlights the history of espionage, and the National Geographic Museum, which is perfect for lovers of journalism and photography. Depending on how much time you typically spend as you go through museums, you may even be able to visit more than one!
Location: Smithsonian Museum
Hours: Hours will depend on the specific museum, but many, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, are open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Cost: One of the great things about Washington DC is many of the museums are free to visit!
Helpful Tips: If you’re going to dedicate time to visit a museum, make sure it’s a museum centered around something you truly enjoy learning about! Otherwise, you’ll probably get a bit bored and wish you were spending your time elsewhere.
Admire the United States Capitol Building
Aside from the White House, the United States Capitol Budling is probably one of the most well-known buildings in all of Washington DC. The US Capitol Building plays a huge role in American politics, as it is the meeting place of US Congress. With its signature dome and imposing appearance, the US Capitol Building is a truly beautiful piece of architecture that is well-worth a visit. Tours are also available of the US Capitol Building which give visitors the opportunity to experience areas not available to the general public. Whether you just enjoy the US Capitol Building from the outside or book a tour of the interior, we guarantee you won’t regret adding this spot to your Washington DC 2 Day itinerary.
Location: United States Capitol Building
Hours: You can visit the exterior of the US Capitol Building 24 hours a day, but tours are only offered from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday.
Cost: The US Capitol Building is free to visit.
Helpful Tips: The front steps of the US Capitol Building are an amazing place to take pictures for your Instagram feed!
Visit the Library of Congress
Did you know Washington DC is home to the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress? The Library of Congress is a massive library system that serves the US Congress and is housed in not one, but three separate buildings! The main Library of Congress building that we recommend visiting is the Thomas Jefferson Building. The library is home to millions of print materials, videos, photographs, audio recordings, and so much more, and the building itself is beautiful both inside and out. The Thomas Jefferson Building was constructed in the late 1800s, and you’ll truly be in awe as you wander through its opulent interior. If you only have time to explore Washington DC in 2 days, you must plan a visit this incredible library so you can experience its grandeur for yourself.
Location: Library of Congress
Hours: The Thomas Jefferson Building is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday.
Cost: Timed-entry passes are required to visit, but they are free.
Helpful Tips: The Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building is one of the most beautiful areas of the entire Library of Congress.
Bike to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Another must for any Washington DC itinerary is to bike to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a very unique landmark because it’s actually situated on a manmade reservoir known as Tidal Basin. The architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is reminiscent of structures you might find in Rome, thanks to its open-air design and the impressive columns that border the outer perimeter. Biking to this monument is a great way to better acquaint yourself with the city and enjoy the beauty of the area. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is also known for its number of cherry blossom trees that bloom magnificently in the spring.
Location: Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Hours: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is open 24 hours a day!
Cost: This monument is free to visit.
Helpful Tips: Spring is an amazing time of year to visit Washington DC, though it’s also one of the most popular as visitors flock to the city for mild temperatures and a chance to see the beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom.
Continue Biking to the Lincoln Memorial
After taking some time to explore the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, we suggest continuing along your bike ride to visit the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial is a great addition to a Washington DC 2 Day itinerary, because it’s one of the most recognized landmarks in the city. Similar to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is another example of neoclassical architecture that you might typically find throughout Europe. The Lincoln Memorial is very impressive, with large columns and a massive statute of a seated Abraham Lincoln. Due to its large size, the Lincoln Memorial is a great place to wander around, and there likely won’t be excessive crowds.
Location: Lincoln Memorial
Hours: You can visit the Lincoln Memorial 24 hours a day.
Cost: The monument is free to visit.
Helpful Tips: Late afternoon is a beautiful time of day to visit to experience golden sunlight hitting the reflection pool in front of the memorial.
Spend the Evening at The Wharf
After a full day of adventuring, you’ve definitely earned yourself a delicious dinner and some drinks, and The Wharf is the perfect place to treat yourself! The Wharf is a very popular shopping and dining area that’s located right along the water. During warmer months, you may stumble across a number of events being held at The Wharf, such as live music, yoga classes, and food and drink festivals. The Wharf is full of shops and restaurants and is a great place to relax, wander around, and people-watch. We personally think that grabbing dinner and drinks and enjoying a view of the sunset from The Wharf is the perfect way to close out day one of your Washington DC itinerary.
Location: The Wharf
Hours: You can explore The Wharf all hours of the day.
Helpful Tips: We recommend grabbing dinner at Kaliwa to enjoy some delicious South Asian cuisine.
The Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary: Day Two
As you plan what to do and see in Washington DC in two days, we highly recommend dedicating at least one full day to exploring the Georgetown neighborhood. The Georgetown neighborhood is a very quaint and picturesque area of Washington DC that feels a little more removed from the hustle and bustle of the central downtown area. Georgetown is a great place to grab some food, do some shopping, and explore at a more relaxed pace, which will be much-needed after all the sightseeing you did in day one!
Enjoy Coffee and Breakfast
The perfect way to begin day two of your Washington DC itinerary is by grabbing coffee and breakfast at one of the many charming cafes in Georgetown. Farmers Fishers Bakers is without a doubt one of the most popular places in Washington DC to grab brunch. This café is located right on the water and offers rustic breakfast classics like waffles, egg scrambles, and combination plates. Another great breakfast option is Call Your Mother, a deli that serves up bagel sandwiches from a historic, bright pink house. While the food at Call Your Mother is delicious, the storefront itself is definitely a reason to visit as well, with its bubblegum pink walls and teal details that make for a picture-perfect breakfast spot.
Hours: Farmers Fishers Bakers is open 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Monday, 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM Tuesday through Thursday, 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM on Friday, 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM on Saturday, and 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Sunday.
Call Your Mother is open daily from 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM.
Helpful Tips: Brunch is a popular weekend activity in Washington DC, so be prepared for longer waits if you visit Saturday or Sunday!
Explore the Streets of Georgetown
One reason why we chose to dedicate a whole day of this Washington DC 2 Day itinerary to exploring the Georgetown neighborhood is because of how beautiful the area is. Georgetown is an incredibly historic neighborhood and the streets are full of old brick buildings, colorful homes, and towering trees. A great way to get acquainted with this area is by simply wandering the streets and enjoying the sights as you explore. One of the most scenic areas in Georgetown that will especially appeal to photographers is the canal and the colorful rowhouses that line the waterway. Georgetown University and the surrounding side streets are another great area to explore and take photos. We have a whole section in our Top 25 Most Instagrammable Places in Washington DC blog post dedicated to Georgetown, so make sure to read that post for more inspiration.
Helpful Tips: Remember to be respectful as you explore the streets of Georgetown, as many of the buildings are residential homes!
Go Shopping on M Street
A great way to experience Washington DC in two days is by doing some shopping on M Street. M Street refers to the intersection of M and Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of the Georgetown neighborhood. Along M Street you’ll find everything ranging from local shops and boutiques to internationally-recognized brands, and a mix of restaurants, cafes, and bars as well. M Street is a great place to spend an afternoon, especially if you’re looking for some fun items to bring home that you can remember your Washington DC trip by.
Location: M Street
Hours: You can explore M Street any time of day, though afternoon is an especially great time to ensure all of the shops and restaurants are open.
Helpful Tips: Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes on this day in particular!
Afternoon Pick-Me-Up at Ladurée
With another morning full of adventure, you might find your energy waning once late afternoon hits. The perfect cure for an afternoon slump is with a visit to Ladurée, a Parisian macaron shop that is a must-visit spot on any Washington DC 2 Day itinerary. Ladurée has a few locations around the US and internationally, and the Georgetown shop is an exceptionally charming location. Ladurée is known for its picture-perfect décor, and the café is truly beautiful both inside and out. While Ladurée is most well-known for its classic Parisian macarons, the café also offers some delicious coffee and tea concoctions that will give you plenty of energy to finish out your second day in Washington DC.
Hours: Ladurée is open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Helpful Tips: Ladurée is another great place to snap some photos!
Walk the C&O Canal and Georgetown Waterfront Park
Our last recommendation for this 2 Day Washington DC itinerary is to close out your trip by walking along the C&O Canal and Georgetown Waterfront Park. C&O Canal, which stands for Chesapeake & Ohio, is a beautiful urban oasis that is popular for walking, running, biking, and picnicking. The canal has a rich history and played an incredible significant role in the development of Georgetown and Washington DC’s economic and commercial industries. You can even embark on a boat ride down the canal to learn even more about the history of Georgetown! We also highly recommend walking over to the nearby Georgetown Waterfront Park after you explore the canal. The park is home to a number of fountains and gardens, and offers amazing views of the Potomac River. Georgetown Waterfront Park is the perfect place to bring a sunset picnic and watch as boats and kayaks cruise by.
Location: C&O Canal
Helpful Tips: If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch a glimpse of some competitive rowing teams training on the Potomac!
What is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC?
While Washington DC is truly beautiful year-round, we recommend planning your 2 Day trip for spring or summer/early fall to get the most enjoyment out of your visit.
Winter in Washington DC
Winter can be a fairly cold and rainy time to visit Washington DC, as temperatures range anywhere from 30 to 50 F (-1 to 10 C). However, the city is truly beautiful when decorated for the holidays, and will be much less busy than in warmer months.
Spring in Washington DC
Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Washington DC, and for good reason. Spring is when the iconic cherry blossoms begin to bloom throughout the city which is a truly gorgeous sight. Temperatures will be milder, ranging from 50 to 70 F (10 to 21 C), and spring also marks the start of the outdoor event season in Washington DC. As Washington DC has so many great parks and outdoor areas, visiting during a time when you can get out an enjoy the parks is the best way to experience Washington DC.
Summer in Washington DC
Summer in Washington DC can be quite hot, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 F (21 to 32 C). Summer is also undoubtedly the busiest season in Washington DC as many families plan vacations to the city during this time. Expect longer lines at museums and other attractions, as well as increased flight and hotel prices.
Fall in Washington DC
Fall is a great time to visit Washington DC because temperatures will be fairly mild, ranging from 60 to 80 F (15 to 27 C), and there will be significantly fewer crowds than summertime. There is still great weather early in fall, and there are also a lot of trees that change color during this time as well.
Where to Stay in Washington DC
There are plenty of hotel options in Washington DC to chose from no matter what your price point, however in general the
Budget Hotel Options
For a budget-friendly option in a great location, we recommend Beacon Hotel and Corporate Quarters. Beacon Hotel is just a short walk from tons of shopping, dining, and some of Washington DC’s top attractions, making it a great home base for your two days in the city. Rooms average $150 USD per night which makes Beacon Hotel one of the more economic hotel options in the city.
Mid-Range Hotel Options
A great mid-range hotel option in the Georgetown area is The Westin Georgetown. Rooms at The Westin Georgetown are typically around $200 USD per night, making this a good option if you don’t mind spending a little extra money on your accommodations. The Westin Georgetown is also in a very walkable location, which is definitely a perk.
Luxury Hotel Options
If you want to indulge in a luxurious stay during your time in Washington DC, we suggest the St. Regis Washington DC. St. Regis hotels are known for being upscale and beautiful, and the Washington DC location is certainly no exception. Though room prices are a bit more expensive, starting at around $500 USD per night, you’ll truly feel like royalty when you stay at the St. Regis. And, of course, you must enjoy afternoon tea in their lobby!
Another excellent luxury hotel option is the Rosewood Washington DC in the Georgetown neighborhood. The Rosewood is actually located right on the C&O Canal, and the hotel perfectly combines history and modern innovation. Staying at the Rosewood is a great way to experience Georgetown and Washington DC as a local. Although the $800 USD per night price tag may seem steep, we promise the experience is worth every penny.
The Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary Summary
As the capital city of the United States, Washington DC is known for being an incredibly significant place that is full of history and culture. There are truly endless options on where to go and what to see in Washington DC, but two days is plenty of time to experience some of the city’s best sights. This Ultimate Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary is jam-packed with recommendations to make the most out of your short time in the city, and we hope you find it helpful as you plan your visit.
If you only had two days to explore Washington DC, what would your top recommendations be? Let us know in the comments if we missed any must-visit spots!
Also be sure to pin this post to your East Coast USA Pinterest board to make sure it is easy to find when planning your next trip to Washington DC!