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Why Washington DC is a Great Year-Round Vacation Destination

By Edited Aug 16, 2016 1 0

Washington, D.C. is one of those locations that is a great place to visit any time of the year. This is because there is plenty to see and do, and the weather is not a big deterrent. Like any other destination, there are some things to see that can't be seen any other time of the year (like the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin) but, for the most part, many of the main attractions are year-round.

Most of the sights visitors generally flock to see in the District are open year-round. While the winters may be a little chilly and the summers can get warm, the energy that flows through the District is enough to make most visitors forget the temperatures. There is so much to see and explore, chances are the weather will take a back seat in favor of taking in all the scenes that surrounds visitors.

National Mall

One of the primary reasons why visitors come to D.C. is to see the majestic monuments built on the National Mall. There's the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National WWII Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Other lesser-known memorials include the George Mason Memorial and the District of Columbia WWI Memorial. 

There is also the widely recognized reflecting pool situated between the WWII Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial which makes for a beautiful site standing on one end of the mall looking towards the other, during any given season. While visitors will need to dress according to weather since there isn't much indoor shelter when walking along the National Mall, seeing the amazing detail that has gone into the memorials' architecture and care is definitely worth a visit any time of the year.

National Mall/Lincoln Memorial/WWII Memorial
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

I took this photo in Septemember 2015 while standing at the Washington Monument looking out towards the WWII Monument, Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial.

If there is opportunity and availability, I recommend taking the elevator up the Washington Monument to see the spectacular views. In the winter, we've been able to get tickets on the same day (they are free), but I recommend reserving tickets online and paying the $1.50 per ticket. More often than not, tickets go quick and, if you're only here once, you don't want to miss out (you can read more about getting tickets here: https://www.nps.gov/wamo/planyourvisit/fees.htm). The only days the Washington Monument is closed is on July 4 and December 25.

See or Tour the Capitol Building

The Capitol Building is the central hub of U.S. Government and is a big visitor attraction. Tourists can stand outside the Capitol and take photographs at various angles and/or take a tour inside this incredible landmark building. Visitors can contact their local representative for tickets or book a tour online. If possible, I recommend seeing the inside, however, just seeing the building close up is worth the trip to this side of the mall. It's relatively easy to reserve Capitol tickets, the availability doesn't go as quick as it does for places such as Washington Monument or Ford's Theatre. We were even recently able to add two extra tickets last minute when we unexpectedly had more company.

U.S. Capitol
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

U.S. Capitol is a must-see. Taken around 2012

Library of Congress and Supreme Court

If you do take the Capitol tour, there is a tunnel that connects to the Library of Congress where you can head straight over (or enter from the street if you want to go here first). This is another fabulous building(s) that has many interesting things to see. I've only been inside the Jefferson Building (which has the main attractions), but there are also two other buildings that are part of the LOC. There are free tours you can join if you are interested. Go to the visitor's desk when you arrive to be put on the list.

Also, if your visit falls on a Monday through Friday, next door to the LOC is the Supreme Court, which is open to visitors as well. You can sit in on a docent-led talk if Court is not in session or visitors are invited to walk around and see the exhibits.

U.S. Botanic Gardens

The United States Botanic Gardens are located near the U.S. Capitol and is open year-round. Throughout the year there are many permanent exhibits, such as the World Deserts Exhibit, and also seasonal ones, such as the "Seasons Greetings" display during the holidays. And, if you're lucky to be in town when it happens, you might even see something rare and unusual, such as the blooming of a corpse flower. I was fortunate enough to see the latter in 2013 and it was an exciting as I'd waited a few years to see one and was thrilled to get the chance. During the warmer months, there are also some beautiful outdoor gardens.

Corpse Flower (U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Corpse flower blooming in July 2013 at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

White House

Visiting the White House is another highlight for visitors. Every day, many visitors to the city walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to get a close up and personal view of this famous landmark. Tours of the White House need to be scheduled in advance, but if you book early enough, seeing the inside of the White House through a tour is a terrific outing at any time of the year. All buildings have strict security, but there are tighter restrictions with this tour on what visitors can carry inside the building, so be sure and check the official website before making any plans.

Smithsonian Museums

Another amazing aspect of Washington D.C. is the wealth of information and spectacular exhibits located at any of the Smithsonian Museums. Most of the museums are pretty close in proximity which makes an attractive all-weather activity to enjoy. There are 19 Smithsonian museums in Washington, and most of them are located between the U.S. Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. 

The most popular of the Smithsonian museums are the Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. However, there are many other less known, but amazing, museums such as the Freer & Sackler Gallery, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of African Art and the National Portrait Gallery. Additionally, the National Zoo, which houses several Giant Pandas, is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. (The Smithsonian also has the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a part of the Air & Space Museum, out in Chantilly, Virginia).

[ Related Reading: Best Museums in Washington, D.C. ]

Butterfly Pavilion at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

A butterfly landed on my finger during a 2015 visit to the Butterfly Pavilion housed inside the National Museum of Natural History.

In addition to the above attractions, visitors can take in a show at or tour Ford's Theatre, see an event at the Verizon Center, or simply enjoy sampling the various ethnic cuisines located in the numerous restaurants throughout the city. There is literally tons to see and do year-round.

One of my favorite things to do is to head over to the Old Post Office and take the elevator up the belltower to see the city views. (Currently, the elevator is closed as The Trump Organization recently took on a 60-year lease of the mostly unused government building and is in the process of turning it into a luxury hotel. However, once that construction is done - anticipated to be completed by fall 2016 - the National Park Service will once again be offering elevator tours).

Washington D.C. is often considered to be one of the best year-round vacation spots in the United States because so many attractions are not designed around the weather.

#3 on the map is the Library of Congress, most of the Smithsonian museums are located between point #5 and  #8

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