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12 Best Tours in Washington DC to Book Today

The worst thing that can happen to your vacation is something drastic.  This could be anything from the wrong hotel booking, or a bad restaurant experience, to sitting in traffic for hours getting to your next tour reservation.

If you and your family have plans on having an amazing getaway in Washington, D.C. but are reluctant in making a mistake in booking, this article is going to help you avoid different problems!

Sitting in traffic, eating up your vacation time is not the way you want to spend your trip, is it? Not to fear, that is why we are here, to help you avoid all of these disastrous “what-ifs”!

Let’s get into the top mistakes to avoid when booking a Washington, D.C. tour. Make sure to check out this site to find tours in Washington, D.C., and learn what to know in place for traveling to and from the Washington D.C. area.

Best Tours in Washington DC

Washington DC is one of the most iconic cities in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. The city’s location, right on the Potomac River, makes for a stunning backdrop when you’re looking out at monuments and memorials like Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Memorial. There are plenty of museums to visit too.

After all, what better way to learn about American history than by exploring historical artifacts? If you’re planning a trip with friends or family members, these are the best tours that will help everyone get their fill of learning about Washington D.C.’s past.

Smithsonian National Museum of Air & Space: Guided Tour

SmithsoniaSmithsonian National Museum of Air & Space Tourn National Museum of Air & Space Tour, Washington, DC
image by GetYourGuide

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a must-visit when you travel to Washington DC. With professional guides, you will discover the most fascinating places in the museum. The expansive location with a great collection, your guides take your time to provide valuable insights into exhibitions. Professional guides can provide valuable insights into exhibitions.

The guides are knowledgeable and friendly, answering questions throughout the tour. The museum is huge, so it’s great to have an expert lead you through the exhibits.

African American History Tour

Washington African American History Tour
image by GetYourGuide

The local guide for the African America History Tour narrates your expedition through the streets of Washington DC. You’ll learn about buildings, monuments, and other sites that connect you to African Americans’ history in this city.

The tour covers many of the most important locations in D.C., including George Washington’s Mount Vernon Square, where Frederick Douglass lived as a free man, Union Temple Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral took place, and the Lincoln Park Cemetery, the final resting place for several famous African-Americans.

Monuments by Moonlight: Washington DC Nighttime Trolley Tour

Nighttime Trolley Tour, Washington, DC
image by GetYourGuide

This nighttime tour is the most famous tourist attraction in Washington DC and is put on by Old Town Trolley Tours. The tour takes you through many of the most beautiful buildings on the Washington DC trolley.

The amazing sight of darkness creates a memorable memory that you will always cherish. This guidebook teaches you much about the history of both the capital and the country. Beautifully lit, all the city’s monuments are very good, and this trip will give you a new perspective on the city’s capital.

Washington DC Monuments by Night Bike Tour

Biking in Washington, DC

The Night Cycling Tour starts at the Washington Monument and takes you to many of the major monuments in DC including the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and more. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours and goes through 6 miles of beautiful scenery. At night many of the best landmarks and structures of the city can be seen in spectacular lighting.

This night tour takes you through the most amazing places. Cycling around National Mall and Lincoln Memorial is among other attractions, it is beautifully illuminated and is suitable for everybody. This nighttime cycling adventure provides an unforgettable opportunity to experience everything that DC has to offer. It’s fun and informative!

Old Town Trolley Tour of Washington DC & Arlington Cemetery

Washington Old Town Trolley Tour
image by GetYourGuide

The Old Town Trolley Tour of Washington DC & Arlington Cemetery is a great way to get some insight into the history and culture of the city. The tour lasts two hours, during which you’ll learn about all sorts of interesting things like how Abraham Lincoln was assassinated or how Thomas Jefferson designed his home at Monticello.

You’ll also see Arlington National Cemetery, where many famous American war heroes are buried. If you’re interested in seeing some of the most famous landmarks in Washington D.C., then this tour is for you!

Washington DC: Full-Day Tour and Boat Cruise

Boat Tour in Washington

This full-day tour will be a whirling ride through the nation’s capital with stops in the White House, US Marine Memorial, and the U.S. Navy Yard. Whether your guide teaches or entertains you, they are guaranteed to make you learn countless valuable things about the city. It ends with an overnight boat cruise on the Potomac River.

Washington DC: 3-hour Segway Tour

Segway Tour, Washington, DC
Andriy Blokhin – stock.adobe.com

Segway tours can be a fun and invigorating way to explore Washington, DC in a new light. This is highly recommended by visitors. As you travel through town, you will see many beautiful buildings, as well as numerous monuments. The most significant attractions in Washington are the Pentagon and Washington Monument.

You will also see many parks and gardens, which are great places to relax during your trip. As you travel through town on your Segway, you will see many beautiful buildings as well as numerous monuments. The most significant attractions in Washington are the Pentagon and Washington Monument.

Washington DC: Politics & Pints Capitol Hill Tour

Capitol in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Capitol Hill is where all the Congresspeople meet to make laws. They also have a Supreme Court there, so it’s like all the important stuff happens here.

On this tour, you’ll get an overview of all these places and learn about their history too! You’ll also get to see some other stuff like the Library of Congress which is really cool because it has books from all over the world, plus there are paintings on its walls that are worth millions of dollars! I mean literally: one painting sold for $450 million USD in 2013!

The tour provides a good overview of the Washington, D.C. political landscape in general. Take a tour of Washington DC’s Capitol and find out how politics work through the tour guide. The Library of Congress and the Supreme Court can be visited in an interesting way. Afterward, we head to the Capitol for some historical sights then go out to a local bar where it is possible to chat about current and past American policy issues.

Georgetown Walking Tour with a Local Guide

Georgetown University

One of the most popular ways to see the historic neighborhood is on a walking tour with a local guide. A Georgetown Walking Tour with a Local Guide lasts two hours and covers approximately one mile, so it’s perfect for people who want to learn about the area but aren’t interested in doing too much walking.

The tour starts at 3057 M Street NW, which was home to George Washington from 1797-1800 while he served as president. The house itself may not be open, but you can still get your fill by taking photos outside or peeking through its windows—and if you’re lucky, there might be someone else who has already gone inside!

Next up: St. John’s Churchyard Cemetery where JFK’s grave is located (if you’re into visiting celebrity graves). You’ll also pass by Dumbarton Oaks Park where Robert E Lee used to live with his wife and children before they moved back South during The Civil War (Robert E Lee being this guy).

Washington DC: Capitol Building and Capitol Hill Walk

Washington Capitol Hill Walk

If you want to visit Washington D.C., you should definitely take this tour. It’s one of the most charming neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., Capitol Hill has lots of wonderful sights. With professional guides telling you everything about the city, the place will become alive before your eyes.

The trip to Washington, D.C.’s capitol building is the most enjoyable part of it. This is amazing to think of what major decisions have come about in that area, as well as the impact they have had on the whole world.

Washington DC Classic, Premium, or Deluxe Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour, Washington, DC
image by GetYourGuide

If you want to see the highlights of Washington D.C., but don’t have much time (or energy), hop onto one of these bus tours.

A hop-on hop-off bus tour is a good option if you are looking for a way to save money and time in your travels. They offer an easy way to access sights like the Lincoln Memorial and Smithsonian museums, letting you choose where you want to stop on each loop through town.

If you want to see everything in the city, you can buy a multi-day pass that lets you hop on and off as many times as you want. You’ll also get discounts on tickets for museums, restaurants, and other attractions along your route. You can choose from several different routes that cover all of the major sights in D.C., including Arlington National Cemetery, Georgetown, and more.

Washington D.C. Day Trip from New York

Washington DC Day Trip
image by Viator

If you’re looking for a fun and exciting trip from New York City to Washington D.C., this is definitely the one for you! The day’s journey starts out in New York and goes through one infamous political center; you leave tired and satisfied from this day of sightseeing. You can stay at Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Capitol, and the White House during the tour. The trip was efficient and well-thought and offered great opportunities to visit some of DC’s best sights.

The trip was a great way to see the city and get more out of it than just a few hours on your own. The tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and the buses were comfortable. The price was also very reasonable considering how much time we spent in each location.

See Related: Most Beautiful Cities in the World

Travel Tips for Booking Washington DC Tours

Here are some tips for your next Washington DC group tour, walking tours, or just a general visit to the nation’s capital.

1. Familiarize Yourself With the City

White House and surrounding city

Getting the lay of the land is your first step in a successful Washington D.C. trip. If this is not accomplished in the beginning, the majority of your vacation in D.C. will be spent in a car sitting in traffic. We don’t want that to happen to you!

A lot of tour guides and agencies will recommend a bus tour for your very first day.  This alleviates having to navigate an unfamiliar city, letting the tour company do the work for you. The idea of a tour bus is not always the most exhilarating, but trust us, this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the city without having to worry about getting completely lost.

There are also plenty of different ways of exploring D.C. if tour buses aren’t your thing! It’s a city where you may not need to rent a car if you like walking and don’t mind public transportation.

Tour the city on an electric golf cart.  Upgraded from your regular golf cart, take an eCruiser around the city with friends and family.  Big enough to fit six people plus a driver, these silent carts are an efficient way to tour the city.

Trollies, bikes, and segways are a few other less common options, but will usually have a much lesser group of people.  So talking to the tour guide and asking in-depth questions is a possibility rather than with a large group of bustling people.

We suggest you explore these walking tours in Washington, D.C. that the whole family can enjoy. The kids will also enjoy exploring these museums in the place. Check out this website to book your tour of Washington D.C. for your first day so you are familiar with the city for the rest of your trip.

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2. Choosing the Right Airport

Ronald Reagan Airport

Choosing the wrong airport could cost you both time and money.  Make sure to map out which section of D.C. you are staying in, this way you can choose the airport that is most convenient for your trip.

There is actually a multitude of options for airports in the surrounding area, but we will be looking at the main three airports near Washington D.C. If you are staying in the heart of the downtown area, your best bet is going to be Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

This is the closest airport to downtown, which has easy access to several hotels. The airport has often been recognized as one of the most convenient airports in the United States.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is by far the busiest airport in the D.C. metro area as compared to Ronald Reagan National Airport. This is a good airport if you are flying internationally, which services some 57 nonstop flights to countries such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.  Plus another 87 nonstop routes throughout the United States.

A quick forty-minute Uber ride will cost you around $60 to get to the heart of downtown.  But if you are staying in one of the surrounding suburbs or cities near D.C., this would be the perfect choice for you.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) is the least chosen out of the three airports.  It is, however, less busy than the other two airports listed above.  For this reason, it is the top choice for some travelers going to D.C.

If you are staying downtown, your best bet is going to be taking the Amtrak train to Union Station in D.C., this will cost you a mere $17 and takes about thirty minutes. (Do not eat on public transit in Washington D.C., you will be fined.) Check out these other amazing day trips by train from DC.

Otherwise, you are looking at a forty-minute Uber ride without traffic. The trek to the city makes this the least chosen of the three airports, but if you don’t mind public transportation or a drive through the city; with cheaper flights and fewer crowds in the airport this could mean saving a bit of money in the long run. Make sure to check out these airports near Washington D.C. for your convenience and easy travel.

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3. Avoid Wasting Time Standing in Lines

Lines to Washington Memorials

This is a topic you will definitely want to avoid, especially during the summer or winter months when the temperatures are very hot or cold.

Spending two hours in line to see one of the many memorials does not sound like the type of vacation I want to have. Instead of choosing one of the more popular monuments, check out a few of the less popular options. These are almost guaranteed to have fewer crowds, and lesser wait times.

Save the trip to the Washington Memorial or the White House, many other options are just as impactful as the popular choices. Check out the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument.

These memorials all have significant value and are much less crowded, and do not have the usual line times at the Washington Memorial or White House. Check this tour out to avoid lines altogether and visit some of Washington D.C.’s most famous memorials.

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4. Choose The Right Restaurants in Food Tours

Busboys and Poets Meal

This is an important section of the article, especially if you’re a foodie like me! Without scouting local, hidden gems, your taste buds will be subjected to the normalcy of big chain restaurants…boring!

Don’t let you or your palate suffer from a lack of variety on vacation. You will want to make sure you avoid the high-trafficked, big chain restaurants, as they have thousands of customers in a single week.  

A high-quality meal and pleasing your refined taste is not something that is on the top of their priority list. Washington D.C. is home to quite a few different local food spots, each unique with its own charm.

Busboys and Poets:

This quaint establishment is described as a community gathering place.  Andy Shallal, an artist, activist, and restauranteur, wanted to open a restaurant that was open and accessible to all people.

This is a safe place to eat good food where artists, activists, writers, thinkers, and dreamers can all come together in a single space. The food and atmosphere must be good, seeing as how Shallal has now opened seven different spots in the D.C. metro area.

After eating at Busboys and Poets, head down to the wharf in Washington D.C, to experience more of what the city has to offer and take in the scenic views that overlook the beautiful marina.

Little Red Fox:

Need a nice breakfast plate before heading off on your adventure in D.C.?  Look no further, depending on where you are in D.C. if you are anywhere near the Little Red Fox, according to the locals you must go. Serving seasonal dishes year-round, this establishment offers a constantly rotating menu.

With rustic decor and a friendly atmosphere, it feels as if you are having lunch at an acquaintance’s house.  This is one of the locals’ favorites for many reasons.  Little Red Fox holds the importance of serving their community, which they actively participate in.

Duccini’s:

Do you have a hankering for a midnight snack after a night on the town? Located conveniently between U Street and Adam Morgans, this pizza spot will never leave your belly unsatisfied.  If you’re at all familiar with D.C., then you know I’m talking about the jumbo slice!

With many jumbo pizza slice places popping up in the Adam Morgans area, there is no shortage of massive pizza slices twice the size of your head.  But Duccini’s is the standout, go-to option for both locals and visitors.

Their jumbo slice is truly jumbo, with massive amounts of cheese, sauce, and whatever toppings you prefer.  The atmosphere, the ingredients, and the sheer size of the slice will leave your taste buds and soul truly satisfied.

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5. Find the Perfect Hotel for You

Jefferson Hotel

Finding the right hotel can be a very tricky process when looking for places to stay in D.C.  But don’t let this deter you from finding the perfect choice. There are loads of beautiful, vintage hotels in the surrounding downtown area.  If you do a little research you could end up staying in a gorgeous hotel for a minimal price. But beware, not all hotels are going to be up to par as some.

The hardest part is going to be the location. If you don’t need every amenity there is under the sun and a “fancy” stays with five-star room service, then you can find minimally priced options that are close to downtown.

But the fancy five-star hotels can be a bit of a hassle when trying to book the perfect stay.  They are almost always advertised as “fifteen minutes” from downtown, but a majority of the time this is simply untrue.

Some of the “fancy” hotels are located in the suburbs outside of D.C. and require a trek to get back downtown, most of the time taking much longer than fifteen minutes with traffic. Always research before booking a hotel room. You want to make sure the rooms are as advertised.

One picture could look very enticing, but once you get there it could be completely different than what was actually pictured.  Make sure to read reviews of people who have actually stayed at the hotel before.

This will be a true testament to what your hotel stay will actually be like.  If most of the reviews are negative, you most likely want to listen to those reviews and avoid that option for a hotel. Book your stay and save money now.

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6. Make Your Reservations in Advance

United States Capitol

Especially in today’s world, reservations are everything.  No matter if it is for food, tours, hotels, or whatever the situation may be; make sure to plan ahead and make reservations.

If you are looking to get into the White House for an actual tour, you will be sorely disappointed if you try and pop in for a quick tour.  For a successful tour of the White House, you must submit a request to a member of congress, no less than 21 days before your proposed tour.

Other tours might not be as long of a process to make said reservation… but it doesn’t mean planning isn’t important! Most tours in D.C. do require some sort of time slot reservation.

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7. Find Ways to Save Money

Smithsonian Art Institute

Make sure to take advantage of the free museums and monuments in D.C.  This will save you tons of money in the long run if you are looking to save as much as possible. Besides money for food, transportation, and hotel accommodations, Washington D.C. can actually be done for quite cheap.

All Smithsonian museums are free, along with the National Zoo.  Many other art museums and galleries are free as well. These options include the National Gallery, the Hirshorn, the Freer Gallery, and the Sackler Gallery.

Along with many of the parks and luscious green lawn areas surrounding the metro area, D.C. has plenty of free options to enjoy the scenery and maybe have a picnic on one of the sprawling lawns. Make sure to bring a lot of water if you plan to walk, the city is quite spread out!

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8. Avoid Overplanning

Washington D.C. is known to be quite hot and sticky in the summer, so make sure you plan accordingly! You don’t want your vacation to be running frantically from one place to another, making sure you pack as much as you can in a single day. D.C. is a huge city, and there are so many options for things to do, that trying to fit it all into one vacation is nearly impossible.

It is recommended to stick with less than five activities in a day. And that is quite a lot for some people. Especially if booking a lot of tours, if you don’t get to a tour on time most of them will leave anyways, and most of the time are non-refundable.

Always make sure to check the weather as well. D.C. has very mild spring and fall, but the summers are hot and humid and the winters can be very wet. Plan your trip around the weather, and whether or not you want to spend your vacation indoors or outside. If you don’t mind walking outside, then spring and fall are the perfect times for you.

Fall is especially nice since most kids are back in school, so the tours are much less likely to be as crowded. But if you aren’t planning on walking, and will use an Uber or public transportation to get from destination to destination, then both summer and winter trips could be viable options.

So don’t wait any longer and come visit the nation’s capital city.  There is so much to see and learn!  If you can’t fit it all in the first trip that just means you’ll have to come back again to enjoy the people, food, culture, and history. Follow these tips to ensure you don’t make any mistakes booking your adventure through Washington D.C.

See Related: Where to Stay in Washington, DC: 12 Best Areas & Places

Final Thoughts

The Washington, DC area is a prime destination for travelers. Not only do you get to explore the history of this iconic city, but there are also many other things to do while visiting such as attending sporting events or concerts at the Verizon Center (formerly known as MCI Center).

It’s also worth mentioning that there are some amazing restaurants located along 7th street NW which is just a short walk away from Chinatown on H Street NE. While there are many options for food around DC check out our favorite restaurants in Chinatown with unique dishes like Peking duck pancakes!

FAQs

What is the best way to tour Washington DC?

There are many different ways to tour Washington D.C. depending on what interests you. If you want to see all of the major sights, a bus tour or walking tour is a good option. If you’re interested in history, the Smithsonian museums are a must-see. And if you want to enjoy the city’s restaurants and nightlife, the downtown area is the place to be as opposed to suburban areas such as old town Alexandria, Virginia.

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