How To Spend A First Time Visit To Washington, D.C. In 24 Hours

A place full of rich history and purpose Washington D.C. is a place that must be visited at least once in every American’s lifetime.

It is a place I often visited throughout my tween and teen years, and I have to say it still remains one of my favorite places. My parents love the history behind D.C. and several of my school trips headed there for educational purposes. This past fall I headed up to Washington with a new itinerary. One I completely made myself. A great part about growing older is that adults trust you more. I was given a fully paid trip to Washington D.C. and the choice to see whatever I wanted too.

If I were given 24 hours in D.C. I would only see the highlights. The key to seeing everything you want in a short amount of time is planning your walking distance. I have had to do this a couple times when I know I am only going to be in a place for a day.

Here are some things you can do that are close to one another.

Visit A Smithsonian Museum

Even if you are not a museum person you will not want to miss the Smithsonian. They are unlike an other museum I have been too. Most museums open at around 10am. I would say getting there are early as possible will ensure you have the most time to do other things. I hate only picking one and limiting the time I spend in it, but with only 24 hours you won’t want to spend all day in one museum. I have seen every Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. (except a couple of the newer ones). The one you will like that most depends on your interests.

Here is a list of some Smithsonian Museums you may be interested in.

With exhibitions ongoing every year there is always some interesting art to see.

This museum is the one with the rare blue diamond and giant squid. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one of the most famous museums in the United States.

The North Carolina native is me is always impressed with the Orville and Wilbur Wright display in this museum (they were the first people to fly a plane). It space and aircrafts interest you like they do me, this would be a fantastic museum for you to see.

The North Carolina native is me is always impressed with the Orville and Wilbur Wright display in this museum (they were the first people to fly a plane). It space and aircrafts interest you like they do me, this would be a fantastic museum for you to see.

This museum is one of the newest additions to Washington D.C.. It is still a little more difficult to get into (or at least it was when I went) because it is so new.

This modern art museum has some very funky art pieces. While I am not sure I understand modern art as well as I do renasssiance I think this museum is worth checking out simply because the pieces are unlike anything you will ever see.

The National Gallery of Art of one of my favorite places to visit because it houses many of my favorite impressionist painters such as Rembrant, Van Goh, and Monet.

If you are not a fan of museums don’t worry keep scrolling!

Get Lunch From A Food Truck/ Eat Around The Washington Monument

I don’t know about you but I am a simple eater. When traveling I typically just try and find places with healthy food options (considering I am a vegan). The food trucks are inexpensive and quick. I bought a vegetarian gyro and walked around the mall. It is a great way to experience the city and still get to see everything.

Check Out The Famous Memorials

There is nothing that makes me prouder of my country than to honor the lives that were lost  fighting for it. Seeing the memorials is something everyone should do when visiting the Capitol of the United States. Many of the Memorials are fairly close to one another. Start with the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. It is about a five minute walk from the Washington Monument.


  • Abraham Lincoln Memorial


  • Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial


  • Martin Luther King Memorial


  • Koren War Veteran Memorial


Here are some other memorials close by that I visited but did not take pictures of!

  • World War I Memorial
  • World War II Memorial
  • Vietnam War Memorial

Take A Stroll By The Capitol Building 

The Capitol Building is about a ten minute walk from the Washington Monument, and about a fifteen minute walk from the memorials.


The United States Capital Building

See The Declaration of Independence

Yes, see the building from the movie National Treasure. No, the Declaration of Independence has never actually been stolen. The Library of Congress is right across from the Capitol Building. You can see the Capitol Building when standing on the steps of the Library of Congress. You don’t need a ticket to get into the Library of Congress either.


The Library Of Congress


Grab Some Local Grub

Washington D.C. has tons of great eateries all over the city. My personal favorite is Hip City Veg, naturally because I am a vegan. Here are some great non-vegan restaurants as well as some great vegan ones.

Vegan Hot Spots , Washington D.C.

Traveling as a Vegan


Autumn Buddha Bowl


Other things you can do in D.C. visit these sites. 

Must Sees Of D.C.

Guide to the art museums of Washington D.C.