Washington DC is an incredible city with so many family-friendly things to do. This Ultimate 4 Days in Washington DC Itinerary covers a bit of everything, from visiting significant historical sites and monuments to the best museums, and other fun family activities.
I live in Maryland which is right next to Washington DC, and so my family and I head over to DC to explore a lot because there is just so much to do there! Because there is just so much to do, I know planning a trip to Washington DC can seem a bit overwhelming.
I decided to narrow down the list of the best places to hit If you only have 4 days to spend in Washington DC to make it a memorable experience.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Washington, DC?
Washington DC has so much to do that you could spend weeks there. However, as a visitor, 4 days is an ideal amount of time to spend in DC.
Having a full 4 days will give you plenty of time to visit the major sites and some of the best museums, as well as do a few fun activities.
Getting To & Around Washington, DC
Washington DC is a large metropolitan area, but there are many easy transportation options to get to and around the city.
Getting to Washington DC
To get to Washington DC, you will likely need to fly, drive or take a train. As it is such a large city, parking can be hard to find and traffic can be crazy in the downtown area, so it is best to use public transport when possible.
If you fly in, the nearest airport to downtown is the Reagan National Airport. However many domestic and international flights will fly into Dulles International Airport (IAD), which is about 25 miles from downtown.
Several trains go into Washington DC, from cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and more. The main train station in Washington DC is Union Station Washington.
Getting Around in Washington DC
The most popular method for getting around Washington DC is the extensive public transportation system. This includes a metro subway and bus system and is the most affordable way to get around Washington DC, with most fares costing between $1.85-$3.85.
Tickets for the metro can be bought at the station, or you can download the SmarTrip app or purchase a rechargeable SmarTrip card.
The metro is open from Monday-Thursday, 5 am-12 am; Fridays from 5 am-1 am; Saturdays from 7 am-1 am; and on Sundays from 7 am-12 am.
Additionally, there are taxi services and rideshare services like Lyft and Uber available in DC. These services will cost more than using public transportation but may be useful especially if you are coming to/from the airport with luggage.
Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days
There are so many options for a 4-day Washington DC Itinerary because DC is full of interesting museums and fun activities. Below is a great family-friendly Washington DC Itinerary for 4 days that includes a mix of history, sights, and fun activities.
Day 1: The White House and Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Stop #1: The White House
Start your visit to Washington DC with one of the most famous monuments in the world, the White House. Home of the President of the United States, the White House is a symbol of American Democracy and a must-visit spot on any Washington DC itinerary.
Depending on your level of interest, you can admire the White House from the outside or visit the White House Visitor Center. The White House Visitor Center is open daily from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm and includes around 100 historical artifacts, photos, video footage, and other interactive elements.
It is also possible to take a free, 45-minute tour through a portion of The White House, but tours must be booked in advance online.
Stop #2: The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Another highlight to add to your 4-day Washington DC itinerary is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This museum is full of fun and fascinating exhibits for both kids and adults.
Travel back in time and see some life-size dinosaur fossils, discover what life was like for the Ancient Egyptians, learn about the stars and the Milky Way, visit the butterfly pavilion, and much more at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm and admission is completely free with no reservations required.
Stop #3 Take an Evening Tour of DC
For a fun nighttime activity, take an evening tour of Washington DC to see all the famous monuments lit up at night. There are a variety of tour options from bus tours to bicycle tours so there is sure to be something for everyone.
Some tours include:
Big Bus Washington DC Night Tour: A 2-hour fully narrated nighttime bus tour of Washington, DC to see the sights lit up for the night.
Moonlight Tour of Washington DC: A three-hour moonlight tour of the city to see some of the nation’s most famous sights including the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and the National Archives.
Washington DC night tour: Explore the monuments, war memorials, and famous sites of Washington DC by the light of night
Washington DC Evening Tour: Explore the city’s moving memorials to the Marine Corps and Korean Veterans, then see the World War II Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial.
Day 2: The US Capitol Building and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Stop #1: The US Capitol Building
Start your day by visiting the US Capitol Building Visitor Center. The US Capitol Building is home to the United States Congress and is a must-visit site on any Washington DC itinerary.
At the US Capitol Visitor Center, you can explore the Exhibition Hall which has several fun and interactive exhibits. Participate in hands-on learning activities in the Democracy Lab, try your hand at passing legislation, or see the rooms of the Capitol in a virtual tour.
You can also take a guided tour that goes to the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. Tours are free for US citizens, but reservations should be made online in advance.
The US Capitol Building Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Stop #2: The Library of Congress or United States Botanical Gardens
Next up, make a quick stop to check out the Library of Congress which is the largest library in the world and the research arm of Congress. The Library is free to enter, but an advanced timed reservation is recommended.
The library is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are a few different exhibits here, one of the most interesting is to walk onto the floor of the grand Main Reading Room which is open to visitors Tuesday– Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Another option is to spend some time at the United States Botanical Garden instead of the Library of Congress. The Botanical Gardens and Conservatory have both an indoor and outdoor area, full of unique plant life exhibits.
The gardens are a great option to relax and enjoy beautiful surroundings.
Stop #3: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Spend the afternoon exploring one of the world’s most popular museums, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of human flight and space exploration.
The museum is super cool and a fun place to go with kids that are interested in flying and space. Exhibits include exciting things like models of the first aircraft all the way to space exploration and astronaut suits.
The museum is open daily from 10 am – 5:30 pm. Entry is free, but you need to reserve an entrance time in advance online.
Day 3: See the Classic Washington DC Monuments at the National Mall
Stop #1: Walk the National Mall and See the Classic DC Monuments
The National Mall is a 2-mile-long, grassy space that is famous for being the home to Washington DC’s most important monuments and memorials. The National Mall also borders the Tidal Basin Resivor and some beautiful cherry blossom trees.
Start your day at the famous Lincoln Memorial, which honors the 16th president of the United States. On one side of the Lincoln Memorial, you can visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Constitution Gardens.
On the other side, you will want to visit the Korean War Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Then, continue down the National Mall to get to the famous Washington Monument.
We went to the National mall for my daughter’s school field trip and it was truly enlightening to learn more about history.
Stop #2: The National Museum of African American History and Culture or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Nearby the Washington Monument are two of DC’s best museums: The National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
If you have time in your itinerary, it is great to visit both, but if not you can choose to visit one after walking the National Mall.
Both museums are open from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Admission is free but both require an online reservation time to be selected before your visit.
Stop #3: Take a Dinner Cruise down the Potomac River
A dinner cruise is a perfect and relaxing way to end a day full of sightseeing. Enjoy some scenic views of Washington DC, great music, and good food during a two-hour cruise down the river. There are a few different cruise options, but most last for about 2 hours.
Day 4: International Spy Museum, ARTECHOUSE DC, and The Warf
Stop #1: International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum is a fun and interactive museum perfect for kids and teens. The museum has many interesting videos, artifacts, and interpretive copy that brings the world of international spies to life.
There is also the option to participate in the Undercover Mission, a fun and interactive experience that will test your spy skills!
The International Spy Museum is open daily from 9 am through 7 pm and until 8 pm on the weekends. Tickets should be purchased in advance, and start at $25 per adult and $16 per child.
Stop #2: ARTECHOUSE DC
For another fun and immersive experience, check out ARTECHOUSE DC. This is an art exhibit that will take you through illuminated rooms with art sculptures and pieces of various themes.
It is an interesting experience and a great option for art enthusiasts. Tickets are $25 for adults and $17 for children ages 4-17.
Stop #3: The Warf
End your 4 days in Washington DC at The Warf, which is a waterfront area with over 80 different restaurants and shops. Eat a nice dinner and take a walk along the waterfront, stopping for some sweet treats like ice cream of course!
The Warf also hosts many events throughout the year, such as Sunset Cinema which is a free family-friendly outdoor movie shown that takes place once per week in the summertime.
Stop #4: A Brewery
If you have some extra time on day 4, you can check out some great breweries in Washington DC. The city is home to a variety of craft breweries which can be really fun and relaxing to visit especially if you have adults in your travel group.
Where to Stay in Washington, DC
There are several great options for where to stay during your 4 days in Washington DC, but below is a list of highly-rated options that are conveniently located.
The Holiday Inn Washington Capitol is a perfect place to stay as it is conveniently located within walking distance of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, International Spy Museum, and The Warf.
They also have a great rooftop pool, perfect for the summertime.
Mid-Range Option: Hyatt House Washington DC / The Wharf
Hyatt House is an excellent place to stay in DC. It is located right on the waterfront area called The Warf, which has lots of great restaurant options. They also have suite-style rooms with kitchenettes, as well as a rooftop pool.
Luxury Option: Park Hyatt Washington DC
Park Hyatt is a 5-star hotel in the West End, neighboring Georgetown. This highly-rated hotel has several different suite options and amenities such as a spa, restaurant, and pool. It’s a great option for a luxury stay.
FAQS: Washington DC Itinerary 4 days
What month is best to travel to Washington DC?
The best time to travel to Washington DC is usually between April and May, as the temperatures tend to be mild and the spring blooms create beautiful scenery. The National Cherry Blossom Festival also takes place in March or April, which is a great event for travelers who want to experience the city’s culture. Tourists should avoid visiting during summer months due to high heat and humidity levels. The fall season (September through November) is another popular time for visitors since it brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
How walkable is Washington DC?
Washington DC is quite walkable to several places. Many neighborhoods in D.C. are designed with walkable streets, well-maintained sidewalks, and easy access to various amenities, attractions, and public transportation.
Is Washington DC a day trip from NYC?
Yes, Washington DC is a day trip from NYC. The two cities, NYC and Washington DC are widely known especially by travelers to the East coast and frequently visited for their rich culture and histories, shopping experiences, and more.
It does take about 2.5-4 hours to get there via train or car so that is something to consider as a chunk of your day will be spent driving.
Conclusion: Washington DC Itinerary 4 days
There are so many things to do in DC, and the above Washington DC Itinerary for 4 days is the perfect way to spend a trip to DC with kids.
This 4-day Washington DC family itinerary covers a mix of everything, from seeing the top sites like The White House, Capitol Building, and the National Mall to important museums like the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
It also includes fun and kid-friendly activities like the International Spy Museum. This is a great family-friendly itinerary, especially for first-time visitors to Washington DC.