13 Best Walking Tours in Washington D.C.

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Washington DC monuments, Lincoln, Washington and Capitol Building

From first-time visitors to area experts, there is always more to explore in Washington DC. Trust me; I have lived under an hour away from the capital for over 30 years and have visited dozens of times. From its famous museums to legendary memorials, diverse neighborhoods, and award-winning restaurants, Washington DC has an endless array of things to see and do–and eat!

The best part about DC is its walkability. All of the things I mentioned above can be explored on foot. Impressive! You could plan your walking tour, but a guided walking tour is a great way to ensure you don’t miss any hidden gems.

Below are some of the best walking tours in Washington DC. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the Washington Monument, Capitol Building, National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and the White House.

If you’re a museum lover, you won’t miss tours that include the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History or the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Popular tours also include local neighborhoods, like a historic Georgetown walking tour. Lastly, food lovers will want to book a food tour filled with local cuisine.

Most DC tours listed offer free cancellation and are stroller and wheelchair accessible. They’re easy to reserve and range from public to private tours and free to pricey adventures. No matter your budget and tastes, there are plenty of diverse walking tours in Washington DC.

Historical sights, educational exhibits, and much more await!

Best Walking Tours in Washington, D.C.

1. DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails

Federal Heritage Trail Sign in Washington DC
Rosemarie – stock.adobe.com

If you prefer self-guided walking tours, explore one (or a few) of the DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails. There are 18 heritage trails around Washington DC, all free of charge.

The heritage trails do not just focus on government buildings or monuments; many also give you an in-depth look at local neighborhoods and their history. You can learn about the experiences of immigrants in Adams Morgan and explore Civil War history in Brightwood.

The heritage trails showcase the city’s transition from the Civil War to an age of civil rights and beyond. It can be a great learning experience for adventurers of all ages.

Each DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail is one to two miles, so you could explore and visit several in one day if you’re feeling energetic. During your self-guided walking tour, keep your eyes peeled for large posters that combine stories and old photographs of the area. Plan time for reading the markers, snapping photos, and pausing to enjoy the historic surroundings.

See Related: Day Trips from D.C. by Train

2. National Parks Service Ranger Tours

Crowd walking around the Washington Monument
Roman Babakin / Adobe Stock

There is no better tour guide than a National Parks Service Ranger. You’ll find them stationed at most memorials and monuments in downtown DC. The ranger-guided tours of the National Mall and Memorial Parks are free.

The times and dates of the tours vary throughout the seasons. For example, you will find different tours of the Tidal Basin and the monuments when DC’s famous cherry blossom trees are in peak bloom.

The National Parks Service Ranger Tours typically include talks, walks, and even junior ranger activities. Stay up-to-date on upcoming tours by viewing the NPS calendar of events.

Speaking of cherry blossoms, did you know you can tour DC’s pretty-in-pink trees via bicycle? If you’re ever visiting the capital during springtime, the Cherry Blossom Bike Tour belongs on your to-do list.

It’s a unique way to view the blooms and learn about the Cherry Blossom Festival’s history, and it includes a few inspiring memorials and landmarks, such as the National Mall, along the way.

See Related: Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland

3. DC Metro Food Tours

Food in Washington

The best way to learn about a city’s food scene is by tasting as many local dishes as you can. DC Metro Food Tours can help you learn about Washington’s restaurant scene while chowing down.

DC Metro Food Tours offers 14 walking food tours throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods. That means there are plenty of options, suiting various tastes and price points.

Itineraries vary depending on which food tour you choose. Some favorite neighborhood food tours include Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and U Street.

If you love Ethiopian cuisine, you won’t want to miss the Little Ethiopia Food Tour. There is also a tour of culinary delights at Eastern Market.

Each tour is unique, with exquisite offerings. Different restaurants and menus reflect the area’s history and regional products. You will learn about neighborhood origins, food, and culture. DC Metro Food Tours are available for groups, private tours, and corporate events.

DC Metro Food Tours also offers a Washington DC pub crawl for those feeling more thirsty than hungry. Choose a pub crawl in Old Town, Capitol Hill, or U Street.

Guided pub crawls include stops at several pubs and bars. Guests have plenty of time at each location to order a drink and learn about local history.

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Washington D.C.? Things to Know

4. Washington Walks

Washington Monument Obelisk

If you want to explore Washington like a local, take a tour offered by Washington Walks. The company has been one of the leaders in walking tours since 1999. With over 20 years of experience, Washington Walks continues to get better, and better.

Washington Walks has a team of experienced guides that are extremely knowledgeable about the capital region. Several neighborhood tours are available, including Georgetown, U Street, and the National Mall. You can also take a step back in time on a historical tour. Some unique historical tours include Women Who Changed America, Rainbow Pride D.C., and Black History in Lafayette Park.

Washington Walks also offers seasonal walking tours, like the Blossom Secrets Stroll in spring and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens during summer. Autumn lovers won’t want to miss the fabulous foliage on The Washington Wilderness Hike, which takes place post-Thanksgiving.

Reservations are required for all Washington Walks tours and prices vary. You’ll find yourself enjoying one of the best walking tours in Washington D.C. no matter which tour you choose.

See Related: Family-Friendly Spring Break Ideas

5. Capitol Hill Walking Tour

A view of the east steps of the United States Capitol Building.
rrodrickbeiler / Adobe Stock

Join a small group of less than 20 guests on this walking tour led by expert guides. This special tour includes entry to the Library of Congress and the Capitol Building!

Offered by Guided Tours DC, The Capitol Hill Walking Tour begins outside of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. Admire the building’s architecture, both outside and inside, while learning about the largest public collection of knowledge in the world. A knowledgeable guide will discuss the library’s connection to founding father Thomas Jefferson and explain how to conduct research from the archives.

The tour continues to the US Capitol grounds. Get an up-close view of the exterior of the US Capitol followed by an even more impressive tour of the interior. Reserved entry passes include a docent-led tour of the rotunda, crypt, old house chambers, and other historic areas of the building.

Reservations are required for the Capitol Hill Walking Tour, so plan accordingly.

6. DC Ghosts Tour

Blair House Building Second White House Night Washington DC
Bill Perry / Adobe Stock

Washington DC is full of history, stories, and maybe even a ghost or two (or dozens)! Explore the paranormal side of the city on the DC Ghosts Tour.

This haunting walking tour lasts for one to one-and-a-half hours. During that time, you’ll be immersed in spooky stories from the past that include drama, tragic events true crime, and even murder.

The tour stops at eight historic locations that are said to be haunted. You’ll wander to The Blair House, the site of Harry Truman’s failed assassination. It’s said that Truman’s would-be-killer still haunts the horrifying halls.

Another note-worthy tour location is Hey Adams Hotel. Listen closely, and you may hear the cries of Henry Adam’s wife, Clover, who took her own life in 1885.

The ghost tour ends with a creepy recap of DC’s haunting history. Tour guests are then encouraged to ask questions and share paranormal photos snapped during the eerie excursion. Be sure to charge your phone–spooky specters may strike a pose.

7. D.C. Design Tours

Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont Memorial Fountain in Washington, USA
truba71 / Adobe Stock

Enjoy an insider’s look at the design of the District with D.C. Design Tours. Get an opportunity to see the architectural marvels and hear about the conflicts and controversies involved in the development of the Capital City.

You will learn about everything Neo-Classical to Brutalist and get details about the history behind the buildings on these design-focused tours. D.C. Design Tours offers walking tours in various DC neighborhoods, including historic Georgetown, Cleveland Park, and Dupont Circle & Embassy Row.

These one-of-a-kind tours are an architecture lover’s dream. You can join a group on a scheduled tour, or take a private tour. D.C. Design Tours take place from mid-February through November. Reservations are required and can be booked through the website.

See Related: Where to Stay in Washington D.C.: Best Areas & Places

8. Arlington National Cemetery Guided Walking Tour

Guards at Arlington National Cemetery

You can make the most of the Changing of Guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery Guided Walking Tour is ideal for the whole family will give great views of the moving ceremony.

Post-ceremony, you can explore important memorials and grave sites at the cemetery, including places dedicated to the USS Maine, John. F. Kennedy, and Audie Murphy. You’ll also pass by the former home of Robert E. Lee.

Group sizes are limited to 15 people to ensure a more personable experience. You can reserve a walking tour at 9 am, 12 pm, or 3 pm. You’re in for a memorable and inspiring experience no matter what time or day you book.

9. Washington Museums Self-Guided Walking Tour & Scavenger Hunt

Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC
f11photo / Adobe Stock

This self-guided walking tour is only 2.5 miles; it’s not quite a physical challenge but more of a mental challenge. It involves a scavenger hunt that usually takes around 3-hours to complete.

The scavenger hunt includes 20+ stops along the way; you’ll need to solve a challenge at each location–think your brain is up to the task? You won’t have to face the mental challenges alone; the scavenger hunt fee covers a group of up to six people. Bring your most trivia-savvy friends and have a blast solving the answers together.

This walking tour and scavenger hunt includes some of the most famous museums around the National Mall, like the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as well as the Smithsonian Castle. You will also see the Capitol and learn historical facts about DC. The best part is that after paying for the scavenger hunt, you can complete the self-guided adventure any time you choose–you just need your smartphone!

This activity is fun for all ages (kids included) and is wheelchair and stroller accessible throughout. Remember to fully charge your smartphone before your journey so you have plenty of battery power to make it to the end.

10. Walking Tour and African American Museum

National Museum of African American History and Culture Building
Ryan – stock.adobe.com

See three of DC’s iconic landmarks during this guided tour. The tour guide will meet you outside of the White House, where they’ll discuss America’s past and the influence of African American history.

You’ll then move on to the Capitol and learn about the building’s fascinating history. The last landmark is the Washington Monument but the journey doesn’t end there.

The tour ends with reserved entry to The National Museum of African American History and Culture. You and the tour guide will part ways so that you can explore the museum at your own pace.

The museum includes exhibitions inspired by African American history, community, and culture. The most popular exhibits are Slavery and Freedom, Power of Place, Sports, and Musical Crossroads. 

The guided tour duration lasts for approximately three hours; remember to make time to explore the museum afterward as well. 

11. Secrets & Scandals Private Half-Day Walking Tour

Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters, on Pennsylvania avenue sign with traffic reflections at night
Kristina Blokhin – stock.adobe.com

There’s a reason the television show Scandal was such a hit–people are fascinated by drama. The Secrets & Scandals Walking Tour is full of drama, including untold political scandals and other sordid stories from around the capital city. 

The tour includes a professional guide who will lead your private group to the White House, US Capital, and even FBI Headquarters. This isn’t an ordinary sightseeing tour; you’ll discover a side of the city that most people don’t know about. You’ll learn about shocking behind-closed-door moments and political secrets.

From assassinations to affairs, you’ll leave with plenty of fascinating tidbits that you’ll immediately want to share with your friends and family. Channel your inner Olivia Pope and prepare to gossip about all you’ll learn on this entertaining and informative tour.

This scandalous tour is approximately three hours and is not suited for younger children.

12. Monuments Self-Guided Walking Tour

Tourists touring Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC USA. Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

This self-guided walking tour around the city can be done by yourself or a group. All you need to do is download the $10 app, which also includes audio and a map. 

The journey begins at Pershing Park, located across from the White House. You’ll then head toward major attractions and hidden gems, including Constitution Gardens, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and more.

While following directions to each location, you’ll learn stories about DC’s monuments and landmarks. The route eventually finishes at the Supreme Court building.

The self-guided walking tour app offers an offline map, meaning it works without a signal or wifi after downloaded. There is also convenient all-day support if you need to call, chat, or email for help.

13. Animal Adventure Guide at Smithsonian National Zoo…

Entrance of the Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington, DC, USA
Refrina / Adobe Stock

The Smithsonian National Zoo in DC has a convenient and free Animal Adventure Guide that supplements your visit to the zoo. Follow along on your cell phone through each location; there are nine stops along the way. The Adventure Guide provides facts and tidbits about the animals at every exhibit that you wouldn’t learn from basic exploring and signage. 

The Adventure Guide provides animal names (both the species and their actual names), from big cats to elephants, bears, otters, tropical birds, pandas, and more. You’ll also find trivia, quizzes, and fun activities to do along the way. The entire experience is very family-friendly, with all ages able to participate.

The animal-filled route is less than a mile and is stroller and wheelchair friendly. Remember to charge your phone before visiting, not only for the Animal Adventure Guide but for the many animal photos you’ll snap along the way.

See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in the USA

FAQ

What are the best walking tours in Washington DC?

The best walking tours in Washington DC are provided by Washington Walks. The company has been a leader in DC tours for over 20 years.

An impressive number of tours are offered, including National Mall Memorials, Memorials by Moonlight, U Street, and Georgetown. Washington Walks also specializes in history-based tours such as Black History in Lafayette Park, Rainbow Pride D.C., and Women Who Changed America. 

How much do DC walking tours cost?

Washington DC walking tours vary in price range, from free self-guided tours to private tours that cost over $100. There are plenty of Washington DC tours for any budget.

Food tours and insider tours tend to cost more because they include extras like restaurant cuisine or specialty passes. Basic walking tours around main attractions like Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are usually affordable or free.

Are there any free walking tours in DC?

There are free walking tours in DC, including National Parks Service Ranger Tours and DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails. The ranger-guided Tidal Basin Tour is a fan favorite during springtime, and there are plenty of other sightseeing tours to take with the rangers year-round.

The DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails are self-guided and are one to two miles. There are 18 heritage trails to choose from, all infused with hidden history.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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