Washington DC is an incredible city, and if you’re in town for only a few days, then you’re probably only really going to get a chance to focus on exploring the National Mall. You can find my suggested itinerary for a 2 day visit to the city here.
However, if you’re in town for longer, DC has lots more to offer which is definitely worth exploring. Here are 5 of my favourite things to do outside of the National Mall.
1. Visit Arlington Cemetery
The American National Cemetery in Arlington is under the jurisdiction of the US army. The grounds honour those who have given their lives in service to the country, and around 30 funeral services are still conducted daily. It is common to see funeral processions and mourners at graves while visiting, so always be respectful. Visiting the grounds is a really touching experience – even as someone who isn’t from the US.
Also at the site you can visit the grave of President John F Kennedy, and watch the honoured tradition of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, first brought to Arlington from the battlefields of France after WWI. The tomb symbolised the sacrifice made by so many Americans, and is still a special site today.
Overall a visit to the cemetery is a very moving experience, and one which deserves at least a few hours of your time for both exploring and reflection.
2. Cruise the Potomac River
Washington DC sits on the Potomac River. Spend a couple of hours on the water with the Potomac Riverboat Company to take in the monuments from the water, see the Pentagon (from a distance), or even make a special trip of it and board the boat for lunch or dinner as you watch the sunset.
3. Explore historic Georgetown
Georgetown is an area just to the North West of The National Mall. Georgetown is home to cobbled streets, great shopping and dining options and a waterfront park which is a good spot for a stroll along the river. We particularly liked discovering JFK’s previous home, the place where Julia Childs’ taught her cooking lessons and the famous cakes of Georgetown Cupcake didn’t disappoint.
4. Taste the incredible food on offer
DC has so many incredible food options for all budgets, and if you’re spending a bit more time in the city then it’s really worth exploring the food scene.
5. Watch some sport
One of the best things about America (especially if you’re English) is the sport. We don’t play basketball, football, baseball or ice hockey widely in England. We’re all about football ‘soccer’, rugby and cricket. It’s great to see other sports, learn a bit about them and enjoy them as entertainment – which is exactly what sport is in the US.