As the capital city of the United States and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Washington D.C. offers enough things to do, that you could easily spend a week, if not more, checking everything out. From museums, history and culture, to outdoor recreation, shopping and fine dining, there is literally something for everyone to enjoy, no matter what your age, tastes or budget. But, if you find yourself in the District of Columbia with only 48 hours to spare, there are a few “must do” stops that you’ll definitely want to put on your itinerary.

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Visit the Lincoln Memorial (Nearby Hotels)

With so much to see, you’ll want to get an early start on your first day. So, grab some breakfast and coffee at your hotel and head out to the National Mall – the large grassy field in front of the Capitol building – to start your day of sightseeing. The Mall is a popular spot for walkers, joggers, picnickers and sunbathers, but it’s also surrounded by many of the city’s most famous historic monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, which sits at the west end. When you first arrive at the Memorial, you’ll be greeted by the Reflecting Pool – a large, shimmering body of water, as well as the grand marble columns, that represent the number of states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Inside, you’ll find a massive 19-foot tall statue of the President, as well as etchings of several of his most famous quotes and speeches.

Visit the Washington Monument (Nearby Hotels)

After you’re done enjoying the Lincoln Memorial, head to the center of the Mall to the Washington Monument. The massive 555-foot tall obelisk is the world’s tallest stone structure and is breathtaking to see up close. Although you can’t currently go up to the top since the inside has been closed until spring of 2019 for elevator repairs, you can still enjoy this national treasure from the outside and take plenty of Instagram-worthy photos at its base.

Pay Your Respects at the Korean War Veterans Memorial (Nearby Hotels)

Back toward the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, you’ll find another popular monument – the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Located in West Potomac Park, the memorial consists of 19 stainless steel statues of American soldiers including members of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. The soldiers appear to be walking across a field of rice patties, which are represented by long strips of smooth granite. Also located at the Memorial, are a mural wall, the Pool of Remembrance and the United Nations Wall, which lists the 22 nations that were involved in the Korean War.

Honor the Fallen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Nearby Hotels)

Also located on the National Mall, near Constitution Gardens, is another powerful war memorial – the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This moving exhibit consists of three parts – the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the most famous part, the Memorial Wall, which lists the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who perished in the war. If you want to see a particular name during your visit, you can check the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Virtual Wall online before you go or locate them on the on-site list.

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recounts the events of the Holocaust through photos, video and artifacts.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recounts the events of the Holocaust through photos, video and artifacts.

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Nearby Hotels)

You probably will have worked up an appetite after visiting the various memorials around the mall, so take some time to grab lunch at one of the area restaurants or from one of the food trucks that park near the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, before heading to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located across from the Washington Monument, between 14th Street and Raoul Wallenberg Place SW. This moving and internationally-acclaimed museum recounts the events of the Holocaust through photos, films and other artifacts. The museum is free, although you do have to get timed passes to view the permanent exhibition.

Have Dinner and Drinks on The Wharf (Nearby Hotels)

After a full day of sightseeing, it’s time to relax with some delicious food and drink and there’s no better place than the District’s newest and hottest community – The Wharf. This waterfront area is only four blocks from the National Mall and is home to the longest continually operating open-air fish market in the country, as well as music venues, shopping and more than 20 different restaurants and bars. For delicious Mediterranean cuisine, try LaVie. Or, for a waterfront seafood dinner, check out Hank’s Oyster Bar or Rappahannock Oyster Bar. Then, head up to Whiskey Charlie, the rooftop bar atop the Canopy by Hilton Hotel, for some after dinner drinks with an amazing view.

Hit the Smithsonian Museums National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC
National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC

Hit the Smithsonian Museums (Nearby Hotels)

For your second day in the city, it’s all about the Smithsonian Museums. This collection of 17 different museums, galleries and even a zoo, will both educate and excite you on everything from animals and science, to history and aviation. You can easily spend all day at any one of these museums, but if you can, try to hit up at least a few of the favorites like the National Museum of Natural History where you can see the Hope Diamond and an exact replica of a North Atlantic whale, and the National Museum of American History where you can see Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz and the actual American flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. All the museums have free admission and most have at least one on-site café or eatery, so there are plenty of convenient places to take a lunch break!

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