The Ultimate Guide To See Washington D.C. For Free In 1 Day

Hey y’all! As you probably know by now, I’m living in the Washington D.C. area! The past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to explore my new city & see lots of amazing things in our nation’s capital! Last week we took a day to explore & see the highlights of the city- all of the most popular monuments, memorials & museums. It was a packed day but it was the perfect way to see everything! And of course this patriotic outfit was the best way to see it all! Both this classic red top + stars and stripes shorts are from Lush Fashion Lounge’s American Summer collection. These shorts are seriously the perfect fit and will be cute for the 4th of July, Labor Day & everything in between. And you’ve seen me wear Piko’s from Lush Fashion Lounge many times on the blog but this is one of my favorite styles! Super soft & comfortable for walking all over the city! Be sure to shop their American Summer collection before July 4th- SO many cute things for whatever you may be doing to celebrate!

I wanted to share a great itinerary for seeing the highlights of Washington D.C. if you only have 1 day! This is the exact route we took & while it may be a decent amount of walking, it is very practical / do-able! We did it with Beckam [who is only one] in a stroller and it worked out perfectly. Even if you have more than 1 day in D.C., this is a great way to see all of the highlights in National Mall area and then you can spend the other days exploring other parts of the city [Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, etc.]. The best part of this schedule- EVERYTHING IS FREE!! Nothing costs – except lunch – so that makes it even better! So here is the best schedule for seeing D.C. in 1 day…. 

1 Day in Washington D.C. Schedule

Park your car somewhere along Ohio Drive SW. There is plenty of street parking, especially if you’re getting there around 9am, as well as a few small parking lots. 

Start at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and then walk along the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. You can get great views of the D.C. skyline along the way! Both of these memorials are gorgeous & a great tribute to these two men. They include lots of quotes from the legacy they each created!

Korean War Veteran’s Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
The Korean and Vietnam Veteran’s Memorials are absolutely breathtaking. It is one of the most raw, visible reminders of the sacrifice thousands of people have made for this country. The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most iconic in D.C. You will be able to take some incredible pictures here!

Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial & Washington Monument
After you leave the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, make sure you walk along the Lincoln Reflecting Pool. It’s a really pretty part of D.C.! The World War II Memorial is my personal favorite. It is also my favorite era of history to study [my Bachelor’s Degree is in History!]. All 50 states are recognized around the large circle and on either side of the memorial there are dedications to the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. The Washington Monument is a great place to visit. Although the inside is currently closed until 2019, you should definitely still visit / walk by!

There are tons of places between the Washington Monument and your next destination, The White House, to grab lunch. If you are visiting during a weekday keep in mind that everyone working in the area is also getting lunch which means it will be very busy. We went to Devon & Blakely which was perfect for us! It’s an affordable sandwich/salad place where you can eat inside or grab & go. If that’s not your style, this area has tons of options for you to pick from!

 The White House
If you are planning ahead, try to book a tour of The White House. I haven’t done a tour yet but hope to in the future. It’s still a really cool place to go, take some pictures and look around. Make sure you visit the North side. On this route you will first see the South view, make sure to walk around to the other side!

National Archives Building
My inner history nerd LOVES this place. Here is where you can see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. There is usually a line to get in the building but it moves very quickly. You will also have to go through security. Once inside there are rooms with lots of information about the documents and their history. You will then have to wait in a second line to actually see the documents. Again, the line is usually quite long but moves very fast! It is SO worth the wait.

Smithsonian Institution 
There are several different museums within the Smithsonian Institution. I would recommend picking the one that is most interesting for you to visit. [I have them all listed below!] If you are in D.C. more than 1 day, definitely check out others. But visiting just one can take a few hours if you want to see it all! My favorite is the American History Museum. It features so many stories, artifacts and historical articles! Yes, it might sound boring. It did to my husband until he got inside too. [ha!!] But they have done an amazing job of modernizing the Smithsonian to appeal to people of all ages and really making our history come alive!

 Thomas Jefferson Memorial 
This is definitely the best memorial to see towards the end of the day- even at sunset if possible! It sits right on the Tidal Basin with a stunning view of D.C.

Distances Between Each Destination

FDR Memorial to MLK Memorial: .2 miles
MLK Memorial to Korean Memorial: .3 miles
Korean Memorial to Lincoln Memorial: .2 miles
Lincoln Memorial to Vietnam Memorial: .2 miles
Vietnam Memorial to WWII Memorial: .4 miles
WWII Memorial to Washington Monument: .3 miles
Washington Monument to Lunch Area: about .8 miles
Lunch Area to The White House: .4 miles
The White House to National Archives: 1 mile
National Archives to Smithsonian: about .3 miles
Smithsonian to Jefferson Memorial: 1.2 miles

Total: About 5-6 miles

The loop this will take you on!

Things to Know

>> On the route between all of the memorials & monuments there are tons of restrooms and food stands. If you need a snack or drink, there will always be a place to easily stop!

>> Many museums close around 5. Keep this in mind in case you take longer at the memorials than scheduled!

>> If you are visiting D.C. during March or April, you’ve hit the jackpot! It’s Cherry Blossom season and everything will be even more beautiful!

>> Everything in this schedule is FREEExcept lunch.

>> Any tours you want to do must be scheduled well in advance!

>> If you ever get lost on this route or in D.C., look for the Washington Monument. It’s HUGE & serves as a great guiding point!

>> It is a long walk between The White House and National Archives Building! BUT, there are some really cool things to see on this walk: Ronald Reagan Building, J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, & more! SO worth it!

Alternative Stops

I know everyone’s interests vary and the National Archives Building & American History Museum that I included in this schedule might not be for everyone! However, there are SO many great museums in this immediate area that you can easily swap them out for something that appeals to you more. All of the following options are within this same route and aren’t going to add much more [if any!] distance to your trip! Here are other great options:

Smithsonian Museums: African American Museum, African Art Museum, Air & Space Museum, American Art Museum, American History Museum, American Indian Museum, Archives of American Art, National History Museum, Portrait Gallery

Other D.C. Museums & Things to Visit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ford Theatre, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, International Spy Museum, U.S. Navy Memorial 

What to Wear

Since I am a fashion blogger, I can’t complete a tour guide without sharing some outfit musts! 😉 Obviously the weather is a big determining factor in what you will be wearing. It does get pretty hot in the Summer so be sure to wear loose clothing and bring sunscreen since you will be outside a lot. It also makes for fun pictures if you wear red, white & blue or even something patriotic [hello, American Summer collection!]. However, the 2 fashion MUSTS, regardless of the weather:

1. Comfy shoes! This is a LONG walk. You will spend the majority of the day on your feet and you do NOT want to be worried about discomfort or blisters. I wore my Converse and they worked great for me! There are tons of cute tennis shoes you can get! I actually just bought these and these to wear when I do this again in a few weeks when my parents come to visit D.C. 

2. A crossbody or backpack! When you are walking this many miles, the last thing you want to be doing is toeing around a large purse or bag. If you can get by with just a crossbody {hint: no kids, lol] do it! Really all you need is your ID, phone and money! However, if you have kids or want to bring more than will fit in a crossbody, get a backpack. You might feel like you’re back to school shopping, but backpacks are pretty trendy right now! There are tons of cute, fashionable options out there. I picked up this one for our upcoming trip actually! 



Well… Today is my birthday so I am off to celebrate 27 years!!! xox


  1. June 16, 2017 / 12:04 pm

    Love all of the details that you gave us! I can't believe everything is basically free!!! I'll def have to check this out. Love your shorts too!

  2. June 16, 2017 / 12:22 pm

    What a great guide! Your outfit is so perfect for Washington D.C. and the 4th!

  3. June 16, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    Perfect timing! Going to be visiting for my first time in October! I'm definitely bookmarking this one! Thanks for sharing.

  4. June 16, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    What a fun post! It sounds like you had a blast!

  5. June 16, 2017 / 7:23 pm

    I haven't been to DC in years but love all the spots you recommended! Cutest patriotic outfit for capital sight seeing!


  6. June 16, 2017 / 10:45 pm

    I'd love to visit DC sometime!
    & I'm loving your patriotic outfit, so cute!
    xo, Lily
    Beauty With Lily

  7. June 17, 2017 / 2:35 am

    Such a great itinerary! I've never been to DC but would love to go! Also obsessed with ththe she shorts!

    xo megan

  8. June 17, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    This is such a great travel guide, so thorough and awesome information! xx Nina

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