The Perfect Washington DC in 2 Days Itinerary [2024]

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms

Exploring Washington DC in 2 days?  This perfect planning itinerary covers what you need to know for an exciting visit!

Washington DC glitters in the moonlight of the east coast.  Its vibrant architecture illuminated along the Reflecting Pool each evening is brilliant in real life!

The United States capitol is a popular annual vacation destination.  International and local visitors love to learn about United States history.

But DC is so much more than that!  Come for the monuments and stay for the urban lifestyle, quirky neighborhoods, and mountainous landscape.

The district’s location on the United States east coast makes it a prime leaping off point for road trips through the Blue Ridge Mountains!

From rich history to outdoor adventures, there is truly something for everyone in DC.

DC Planning Details

Planning 2 days in Washington DC can be easy with the right tips!

Getting There

DC has three major airports: Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Dulles International Airport is the closest airport to the National Mall.

Weather in DC

The east coast of the United States is known to experience all 4 seasons.  Overall year round temperatures in DC are considered relatively mild.

Summer: DC summer is known to be hot and humid seeing average high temperatures between 80s to the mid-90s°F.

Fall: DC in fall is mild with average high temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 70s°F.

Winter: Winter temperatures range from the 40s to the 50s°F, while lows can drop below freezing.  Snowfall is infrequent.

Spring: Spring temperatures gradually increase from the 50s to the 70s°F.  Rain is common during this time.

Always check the local weather forecast prior to your trip.

During my most recent fall visit, there was a huge storm that prevented many outdoor activities.

How many days

I recommend spending 1-3 days in DC in order to experience the most popular stops.

Washington DC in 2 days makes for a perfect weekend getaway on the east coast.

Best things to do in DC

The best things to do in DC include visiting internationally acclaimed monuments and charming, historic neighborhoods.

The United States capital has so much to offer!

National Mall

Visiting the US Botanical Gardens during a DC in 2 days trip
US Botanical Gardens in DC

You will be hard pressed to find ANY DC itinerary that does not include the National Mall.  And nope, it’s not a shopping mall!

Capitol Hill’s National Mall refers to the whopping 146 acres of green space between the nation’s iconic monuments.

The National Mall in DC today gains its origin from the late 1700s.  During this time period, a green space to walk and socialize with friends was referred to as a mall!  (Love a good party fact).

The National Mall and its monuments are protected through the National Park Service.

There is no entrance fee to the National Mall itself and no national parks pass is required.  However, a handful of museums require entrance tickets.  The vast majority of museums in DC are completely free.

Enjoy the serenity of the Reflecting Pool, the towering Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

Museums

Did you know that most museums in DC are free?  Go museum hopping and explore to your heart’s content!

There are so many museums to choose from ranging from history to modern art.

My favorite museum architecture in DC is Smithsonian.  The red brick buildings and castle-like structure give mega Hogwarts vibes!

Some of the best free DC museums are:

  • United States Botanical Garden
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Museum of the Native American

The cafe at the Museum of the Native American comes highly recommended.  It is known to stand out among other museum cafes!

United States Botanical Garden

Botanic Gardens of Washington DC
US Botanical Gardens

This is my favorite museum in DC and rightfully deserves its own section!

Conveniently located within the National Mall, it’s easy to combine a visit to the United States Botanical Garden with other top activities in Capitol Hill.

It also happens to be my FAVORITE botanical garden in the world!  (I have visited a grand total of… 5).  At a whopping 85,000 square feet and two levels, It is HUGE!

They also have an incredible outdoor landscape.  It is stunning and transports visitors into another universe.

Georgetown

Historic streets in Georgetown, DC
Historic Streets in Georgetown, DC

Imagine red cobblestone roads lined with candle-lit street lanterns and 1800s architecture.

Georgetown made me feel like I had stepped back in time, but with a modern twist!  It’s something out of a historic fairytale.

After strolling this historic fairytale, grab a refreshment at one of the neighborhood’s many local businesses.

Perhaps most famous is Georgetown Cupcakes, featured on TLC!  (You KNOW I sampled a few)!  Chocolate Ganache Surprise and Oreo Cheesecake.. I could go for another right now.

Charming meets modern in Georgetown, DC!

Tip: I recommend coffee at Coffee Republic!

Exploring Georgetown in DC
Strolling through Georgetown, DC

Eat at Union Market

Located in DC’s NoMa neighborhood, Union Market provides delicious food stalls from local businesses.

Hungry visitors have their choice from ramen, Southern Comfort Food, and fresh Italian food.  This is just to name a few!

Desert options include macaroons, artisan donuts, and ginormous cookies.  There are also a couple of small shopping vendors like a map shop and jewelry stand.

Union Market is smaller than Seattle’s Pike Place but worthy of a visit in its own right.  It actually is about the same size as Time Out Market in Chicago and also features a lovely rooftop!  (Can you tell I love city markets?)

Tip: Union Market is approximately 20 minutes by train from the National Mall (take the red line from Judiciary Square to NoMa).  Alternatively, it is an 8 minute car drive.

Green Spaces in DC

Lady Bird Johnson Park in DC
Lady Bird Johnson Park in DC

DC’s urban landscape features several hidden gardens and parks.  I find green spaces in cities are highly underrated!

I think it’s so important to unwind from any urban bustle in quiet nature.  Some of the best green spaces in DC are:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Rock Creek Park
  • Georgetown Waterfront
  • Lady Bird Johnson Park

My personal favorite DC green space is Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Just across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge over the Potomac River, its location tucked away makes it feel far from the urban city.

Kayak the Potomac River

Kayaking the Potomac River in DC
Kayaking the Potomac River

Alternatively, escape the city life by taking to the calm waters of the Potomac River.  There are several local boat rentals.

Tip: Personal kayak launch is permitted, so consider bringing your own.

Boat Tour

Not into kayaking?  There are several highly rated boat tours within DC:

  • C&O Canal
  • Potomac River Cruise

I haven’t personally haven’t had the opportunity to take a boat tour, but can’t wait to join one on my next visit.  I LOVE to immerse myself in the culture of any new city by learning from locals.

Spring Cherry Blossoms

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms
Washington DC Cherry Blossoms from James A. Molnar via Unsplash

DC is home to one of the most famous annual cherry blossom festivals.  Travelers make their way to the vibrant, pink flower gardens at Tidal Basin Reservoir in the National Mall each spring.

The blooms open at a different time each year, so be sure to do your research prior to visiting.  I can’t wait to make it here one day!

Tip: Flight prices are high during this time.  Book in advance!

Best Hiking near DC

DC is highly underrated for its neighboring mountainous landscape, which makes for beautiful hiking.

It is located near the Blue Ridge Mountains and less than 2 hours by car from the nearest national park.

Some of the best hiking near DC includes:

  1. Harpers Ferry
  2. Weverton Cliffs
  3. Click here for the full list of the best hiking near DC.  

DC Nightlife

DC nightlife brings culture, history, and shows alive.  Like most cities, nightlife options vary by neighborhood.  One of the most popular tourist things to do at night is visit the glowing monuments.

Glowing Monuments

Explore a different vantage point of the National Mall after dark!  All of the monuments on Capitol Hill are lit up after dark.  You can’t miss their shining glow throughout DC.

Shows

Like any major metropolitan area, DC is home to a variety of shows.  Consider comedy clubs, concerts, and theater.

Cirque Du Soleil was in town during my visit!  While it’s no Chicago Broadway, there are a variety of unique shows keeping things lively.

Restaurants

Dupont and Georgetown are known to be two of the most fun neighborhoods in DC.

Georgetown features a variety of restaurant cuisines like Austrian, Mexican, and Mediterranean.  Some of the most highly rated restaurants in Georgetown include:

  • Chez Billy Sud
  • 1310 Kitchen & Bar
  • Falafel Inc

Dupont also features several cuisines like French, Italian, and Argintenean.  Some of the top rated restaurants in Dupont include:

  • Zorba’s Café
  • Thai Chef Street Food
  • Agora DC

Most of my DC trips have not involved extensive restaurant trips so I have not personally dined at any of these restaurants myself.

Where to stay in DC

DC is filled with lavish, chic hotels.  It’s easy to find extravagant options for luxury travel.  With a bit of research, you will find several hostels and budget friendly options.

Budget options are typically located outside of Capitol Hill and may require a drive or train ride into the city.

  • Budget: Highroad Hostel DC
  • Mid-Range: CitizenM
  • Luxury: Conrad Washington, DC

Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary

This Washington DC 2 day itinerary is built in order to accommodate a variety of budgets.  As always, you can add or take away activities to fit your needs.

Day 1

Morning: Capitol Hill

Begin your day in DC’s Capitol Hill.  Spend the morning exploring museums and admiring the beauty of the National Mall!

Afternoon: Georgetown

Take the 25 minute red line bus from the National Mall to Georgetown for a quaint afternoon.  Pack a picnic lunch to eat at the Georgetown Waterfront.  Grab a sweet treat at Georgetown Cupcakes (featured on TCL!) for dessert.

Evening: Dupont

Hop on the blue line bus from Georgetown to Dupont to explore another DC neighborhood as you wind down your first day.  Alternatively, spend the rest of your evening strolling through Georgetown.

Day 2

Morning: Great Lakes

Begin your day with fresh air at Great Lakes Park.  Stop at each of the viewing platforms and admire the rushing waterfalls.  Alternatively, complete a hiking trail like River Trail Loop for a moderate hike.  (There are more DC hiking options here).

Tip: Bring your National Parks Pass to avoid entry fees at Great Lakes Park.

Afternoon: River Cruise

Enjoy a leisurely lunch aboard the C&O Canal while immersing yourself in local history.

Evening: Glowing Monuments

Return to Capitol Hill to admire the monuments illuminating the night sky.  You can join a walking tour but I recommend exploring on your own or downloading a self-guided walking tour to save money.

Road Trip from DC

Extend your Weekend trip to DC by exploring more of the east coast:

  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • New York City
  • Boston
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Alyssa

As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).