The Best of Washington, DC

If Time Is Short: The Best of the Best
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In a city as rich in culture, history, and entertainment possibilities as Washington, D.C., it isn’t easy to narrow down the alternatives and come up with a "best of the best" list. What follows are our favorites, and we’re confident they won’t disappoint. We hope that you use this book to go out and find your own favorites as well.

Cultural and Historical Attractions
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (202-467-4600; 2700 F St., N.W., Washington). This elegant, expansive center located on the picturesque Potomac River is more than a venue: It’s an homage to the American performing arts. You’ll find the very best of the theater, opera, ballet, and symphonic music here. Ticket prices can be steep, but there are numerous free performances throughout the year that can help stretch your budget. Even if you aren’t up for a show, come to see the incomparable vistas from the terrace (views of the Fourth of July fireworks are tops here); get a tour of the opulent Opera House; or just head to the rooftop KC Cafeteria for an oversized chocolate chip cookie or a glass of wine and watch the planes skim the Potomac River as they head into Reagan National Airport.

Lincoln Memorial (202-426-6841; westernmost end of the Mall between Constitution and Independence Aves., N.W.). All memorials on the National Mall are must-sees, but the Lincoln remains our favorite. Whether you come to read the inscribed words of the Great Emancipator himself, stand on the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, or just remember film character Forrest Gump finding his beloved here, the Lincoln Memorial is a surprisingly moving experience. Come at dusk and watch the lights come up; or arrive late at night, sit on the steps, and enjoy the moonlight playing off the Reflecting Pool.

Mount Vernon (703-780-2000; 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon). Nowhere does history come alive more than Mount Vernon, the lovely home of our first president. Touring the meticulously restored mansion, expansive gardens, and poignant slave quarters allows visitors an intimate look at George and Martha Washington that goes beyond the pages of a textbook and provides a glimpse into what their genteel life must have been like. Don’t miss the chance to sit on the old-fashioned wooden chairs lined up on the back porch and gaze out at the peaceful Potomac River beyond.

National Air and Space Museum (202-633-1000; Independence Ave. and Seventh St., S.W., Washington). The National Air and Space Museum is by far the most popular museum on the National Mall—and with good reason. Exhibits in this inspiring gallery capture the imagination of adults and children alike and pay tribute to the ambitious human spirit and the seemingly limitless possibilities that science and engineering make possible. If your time is limited—and the crowds are discouraging—be sure to take time to touch the moon rock near the security checkpoint and lift your eyes to the Spirit of St. Louis, suspended in a place of honor near the front door. And if you can squeeze in another hour, catch an entertaining and educational IMAX film.


Nathan Borchelt is the lead editor for Away.com

Published: 29 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Washington, DC

$443
Average/night*
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#1
Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square
$349
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#2
Palomar Washington DC, a Kimpton Hotel
$463
Average/night*
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#3
InterContinental THE WILLARD WASHINGTON D.C.
$429
Average/night*
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#4
Park Hyatt Washington

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