Despite being one of the few museums in DC with an admission fee ($20), the Newseum is well worth the ticket. Plan to spend a few hours here, and be sure to check out the view of the National Mall on the top floor.
Contrary to popular belief, the Smithsonian is actually a system of 19 spectacular museums and entry to each is free. I highly recommend a visit to the Museum of American History to see the Star Spangled Banner and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers; the Museum of National History to see the Butterfly Pavilion; the Air and Space Museum to see real rockets and early planes; and the National Portrait Gallery to see some of the most prolific portraiture in America.
Sure, you could take a Segway tour of the National Mall, but it will never mean more than when you see it on foot. Gaze up at the Washington Monument, the WWII memorial, the new MLK memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. For an alternative view, visit the monuments at night.
The U.S. Capitol has a great tour/visitors center, but it requires advance reservations.
In my humble opinion, The White House is best viewed from H St. and 16th St. NW. Unless you’ve managed to get coveted tickets for the White House tour, the next best option to snap a few pictures in front.
The Library of Congress is a spectacular monument to the well-read intellectual.
The Kennedy Center hosts a free performance each day at 6 PM on the Millennium Stage. Take your camera; the observation deck has great views of the city from the waterfront.
Take a weekly evening tour of US Naval Observatory where you’ll get a chance to check out the huge telescopes. (Advance reservations required)
Union Market is the new food epicenter in DC. It’s a bit of a hassle to get there, but your efforts will be rewarded with some of the best food stalls in the city.
Although the National Cathedral is not metro accessible, it’s well worth the trip. On the tour you can see a piece of moon rock embedded in the stained glass windows and search for the Darth Vader gargoyle.
Georgetown is the place for shopping in the District. You’ll see the usual stores, but be sure to get the Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipty and the best cupcake in the entire city at Baked and Wired.
Check out the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide to see events/festivals that are happening while you’re here.