The Best Things to See and Do in D.C. During Marathon Weekend

Washington D.C. offers visitors a rare combination of big city amenities and patriotic splendor. While there's a full theater and music scene, you could also spend days reflecting in front of our country's finest monuments and memorials, watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or strolling through Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, D.C. is home to the many Smithsonian museums, the finest and the largest in the country and all with free admission. To help you narrow down your options, here are the top sites and tours from our D.C. Ambassadors.

D.C.'s Top Monuments & Memorials

The Washington Monument is a must-see for anyone visiting Washington, D.C., especially for the first time. Completed in 1888, it was built as a dedication to George Washington. It is located near the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool and is both the world's tallest obelisk and the world's tallest predominately stone structure, at just over 555 feet tall.

To best enjoy the monument, take a slow, casual walk around the grounds, viewing the monument from various points of the National Mall.

Racertrips Tips

  • If you plan to take the elevator to the top, you'll need to wait until at least the Spring of 2019 while the National Park Service modernizes the elevator and builds a permanent visitor screening area. You can check the NPS website to see if it has reopened. If so, buy your tickets to the top in advance.
  • The easiest way to visit the monument is by taking the Metro to either Federal Triangle Station or the Smithsonian station. It is accessible from the Orange, Blue, or Silver lines.

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From the Washington Monument, you can walk over to the Lincoln Memorial, where you'll find a 19-foot-tall statue of a sitting Abraham Lincoln positioned staring out from the middle of a chamber constructed with 36 columns, each representing a different state in the union at the time of Lincoln's death.

The structure is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is free to experience. One of the best ways to explore this and other monuments all together is to find a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which will take you around to all of the major monuments.

Racertrips Tips

  • The structure is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is free to experience.
  • One easy way to explore this and other monuments all together is to find a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which will take you around to all of the major monuments.

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This monument is another must-see on the National Mall. It pays tribute to the brave members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought in the Vietnam War and were killed or went missing in action. The wall is made up of two identical sections, each being 246 feet, 9 inches long. In the wall is etched 58,000 names, listed in chronological order based on the date of casualty. Within each day, the names are listed in alphabetical order.

Racertrips Tips

  • The memorial is free to the public and is open 24 hours a day
  • If needed, there are rangers on duty to answer any questions from 9:30 am to 10 pm daily.

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The White House is another must-visit for both new and returning visitors to D.C. While many visitors begin and end their visit by snapping some photos at the observation area in front of  The White House, you can also schedule a free tour of the building that has been home to every U.S. President except George Washington. The self-guided tours are offered from 7:30 am to 11:30 am Tuesday through Thursday and from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Tour requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress or Embassy in advance. You can submit your request up to 3 months in advance of your visit, and there must be at least 21 days before your visit. (Here's a guide to getting your tickets.) Tickets are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so make your request early.

Racertrips Tips

  • Request your tour tickets sooner than later (and no less than 21 days in advance). Tickets are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • All guests 18 years or older will need to present valid, government-issued photo identification.
  • There is an extensive list of prohibited items not allowed on the tour including video cameras, cameras with detachable lenses, tablets, strollers, food, beverages, purses, backpacks or handbags. You will need to leave these items at your hotel as there are no onsite lockers or storage options.
  • To get to the White House, the closest Metro station is Metro Center which is a seven-minute walk and is accessible by the Red, Orange, Blue and Silver lines.

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Must-See Museums

The National Air and Space Museum is a must-see among the Smithsonian museums. It houses the world's largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts. The museum has two D.C. locations. One is the museum itself, which is located in the heart of the Smithsonian complex and was built in 1976. You can see the 1903 Wright Flyer constructed by the Wright brothers and the Spirit of St. Louis, which Charles Lindbergh used to make the first solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight in 1927. (It took him 33.5 hours to fly from New York to Paris.)

The second is the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is located near Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, VA. This massive hanger accommodates large aircraft and spacecraft, such as the Enola Gray and the Space Shuttle Discovery. (The Discovery is the oldest and most accomplished orbiter. From 1984 until 2011, the Discovery flew 39 Earth-orbital missions and traveled 150 million miles.)

The goal of this museum is to commemorate the past and educate and inspire the future of aviation and spaceflight, while maintaining the history, culture, and science of the fields. This is the largest of the Smithsonian's 19 museums, with some 60,000 objects ranging in size from microchips to Saturn V rockets.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • Want to check out the Udar-Hazy Center? You can drive (parking is $15) or take mass transit, and the museum website has step-by-step transit directions. The trip by transit takes about 90 minutes each way. If you're driving, the trip may be a short 15 miles on the open road or an exercise in patience (and frustration). It will all depend on D.C. traffic.
  • The D.C. museum location will be undergoing renovation for the next several years. The museum will remain open, but be sure to check their website to see which sections of the museum might be closed during your visit.
  • Both locations are open from 10 am to 5:30 pm daily (except Christmas) and admission is free.

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Visit the Udvar-Hazy Center: Map It | Call | Visit Online

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum in the country solely dedicated to the documentation of African American life, culture and history. Another Smithsonian museum, this one opened to the public in 2016 and houses more than 36,000 artifacts.

Some of the objects in the collection include photography, clothing, literature, military artifacts, education artifacts, instruments, political artifacts, and collections pertaining to religious groups, segregation and slavery. There are changing exhibits on topics like the Civil Rights Movement, notable African American figures, African American involvement in the military, and the role of music in African American culture and history.

Racertrips™ Tips

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Part of the Smithsonian Institute, the National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to advancing the understanding and knowledge of Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere. In partnering with Native people and others, the museum supports traditional values of the past, current culture and future transitions in contemporary Native life. The facility is located on the National Mall and was opened in September 2004. Like many of the Smithsonian museums, this one is vast: It takes up five stories and 250,000 square feet.

The museum houses one of the largest collections of Native artifacts, including media, archives, objects and photography. There are also spaces dedicated to performances, lectures, research and education. The full catalog includes more than 825,000 items representing more than 12,000 years of history across 1,200 indigenous cultures—just throughout the Americas. About 68 percent of the objects on record are from the United States, 3.5 percent from Canada, 10 percent from Mexico and Central America, 11 percent from South America and 6 percent from the Caribbean.

Racertrips Tips

  • Be sure to grab a bite to eat at the Mitisitam Native Foods Cafe, which represents traditional Native foods from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso-America and the Great Plains.
  • The museum is free to the public and the operating hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm daily, except for Christmas.

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Fun for Families

The brand new District Wharf is a must see and do. There are many many restaurants to visit, as well as activities that can get you off your feet for a bit. Enjoy a river cruise or a water taxi ride, or rent a kayak and explore the Potomac River. If you are staying for a while, consider a night of music at the Anthem theater. If you are coming with your kids, they will enjoy the oversized board games or playing in the fountains.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • Getting here by Metro is easy. Just take either the Green line to Waterfront Station or the Blue, Silver, Orange, Yellow or Green lines to L'Enfant Plaza Station.

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Get off your feet and see all of Washington D.C.'s iconic landmarks, rich history, striking architecture and beautiful parks with unlimited hop-on, hop-off access at over 40 stops throughout D.C. and northern Virginia. Along the way, you'll see the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the National Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Georgetown waterfront, Arlington National Cemetery and much more!

Racertrips™ Tips

  • Be sure to purchase tickets in advance from the below link to secure a seat.

The Details

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The Smithsonian National Zoo is not only considered one of the best zoos in the country, but it's also one of the oldest. It first opened in 1886 as the National Museum's Department of Living Animals.

The zoo is famous for its Giant Panda bears, not only for the bears themselves but also for what their arrival in 1972 symbolized for relations between the U.S. and China. The Giant Panda Habitat is a must-see for anyone visiting the park.

You can view the pandas from outside or stroll through the building where they're housed to catch glimpses of them napping. Inside, you can also watch as scientists observe the pandas on a number of video screens. Want a glimpse now? Check out the live Giant Panda Cam at the zoo.

In addition to the pandas, the zoo features the Asia Trail, Elephant Trails, Great Ape House, Great Cats, and the Reptile Discovery Center.

There are two campuses to the National Zoo, including the D.C. location, which houses most of the species on exhibit, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, which is located a couple of hours away in Front Royal, VA. This non-public facility is devoted to wildlife conservation and the propagation of rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • As with all of the Smithsonian museums, admission to the zoo is FREE.
  • Want to give the kids a glimpse before you go? Check out the zoo's live web cams: Lion Cam | Giant Panda Cam | Elephant Cam
    | Naked Mole-Rat Cam.
  • The zoo is easy to get to by Metro. Get off at the Cleveland Park Station and the zoo will be about a half-mile walk downhill.
  • Arrive early, pack water (and maybe some lunch), and give yourself 2-4 hours to explore all the park has to offer.

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Best Ways to Enjoy D.C. Outdoors

The United States Botanic Garden is near the top of Racertrips Ambassador Robert's "must-see" list. The mission of this living plant museum is to convey to visitors the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humans and to the earth's fragile ecosystems. Originally a vision of George Washington's, the museum was established in 1820, making it one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States.

The museum includes indoor and outdoor spaces, each dedicated to varying landscapes and climates. Indoors you will find the jungle, desert and primeval plants across a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes and smells. The National Garden outside features a regional garden of Mid-Atlantic plants, the First Ladies Water Garden and a Rose Garden.

There is also wide array of exhibits offered throughout the year, so consult their events calendar before visiting.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • The park is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and is free to the public.
  • The easiest way to visit the park is by taking the Metro to the Federal Center SW Station. It is accessible from the Orange, Blue or Silver lines.

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Another local experience with plenty of history is the Eastern Market. Recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Robert, the market was started in 1873 and was based off the 1791 plans by Pierre L'Enfant to have a space in Washington for local markets. Since then, it has carried on the tradition of being a community hub for the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where vendors offer local food, produce, and handmade arts and crafts. There is even dedicated space for community events.

The Eastern Market includes the South Hall Market (indoor vendors offering fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, cheese, meats and more), the Fresh Tuesdays Farmers Market (taking place 3 pm to 7 pm on Tuesdays with traditional farmers market fare), The Weekend Farmers Line (open-air, year-round market on weekends for local farmer offerings), The Weekend Outdoor Market (featuring local crafts and art), and the North Hall Event Space (community center that can be rented for events, weddings, meetings and more).

To find a complete list of all of the vendors that participate in the offering, check out the vendor list.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • Hours include Tuesday through Friday (7 am to 7 pm), Saturday (7 am to 6 pm) and Sunday (9 am to 5 pm). They are closed on Mondays.
  • Pre-plan your route by reviewing the weekend map.

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If you want to visit one of the city's most trendy, bustling neighborhoods, plan to spend some time in Georgetown. Recommended by Racertrips Ambassadors Kam and Darren, Georgetown is a great area to explore night or day for shopping, dining and drinks. (The area is not very popular for dance clubs but more casual nightlife.)

This historic neighborhood is located in northwest D.C. along the Potomac River. Some notable landmarks in the neighborhood are Georgetown University, The City Tavern Club (a private club housed in the City Tavern, one of the oldest buildings and the last remaining Federal-period tavern in the city), the C&O Canal and multiple historic churches.

When visiting, some of your options include an evening walk along the waterfront to grab some dinner with a view, shopping at some of the high-end designer stores, exploring Washington Harbor, touring Tudor Place, or simply walk around exploring some of the gorgeous homes with past and present famous residents. You can also step inside the infamous Watergate Hotel.

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Great Falls Park in Virginia is a gorgeous, 800-acre National Park Service site located on the banks of the Potomac River. Recommended by Racertrips Ambassador PheobeGreat Falls  and its sister park in Maryland are very popular among locals and tourists for its beautiful falls, cliff bluffs, rapids and narrow gorge.

Popular activities include hiking, biking and picnicking. For those interested in hiking, the park offers 15 miles of trails. (Download a trail map.) There is also an onsite Visitor Center where you can learn more about the history of this park and the Patowmack Canal, part of George Washington's grand vision to make the Potomac River navigable as far as the Ohio River Valley. In addition to hiking, the park offers climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding trails, and guided kayaking and rafting tours down the Potomac River Gorge.

The park is open every day from 7 am until 30 minutes after sunset. The Visitor Center is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • There is a $10 entrance fee for those who drive into the park. For those entering on foot, the fee is $5.
  • Please note, there is no swimming or wading of any kind allowed in the park.
  • Leashed dogs are permitted.
  • There is no public transportation to the park, so the best option is to drive.
  • Depending on where you're staying, you may want to visit the Maryland-side of Great Falls in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park and hike the rugged Billy Goat Trail. (Pets are not allowed on Section A of the Billy Goat Trail.)

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Visit C&O Canal National Park (Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center): Map It | Call | Visit Online

To walk the same streets and visit some of the same haunts as America's Founding Fathers, Racertrips Ambassador Darren recommends exploring Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. This is one of the countries most-voted travel destinations and is a nationally designated historic district.

Located just a few minutes from D.C. on the Potomac River, Old Town Alexandria was founded in 1749 and was the home to many famous national figures, including George Washington. The neighborhood is filled with cobblestone, tree-lined streets and red brick sidewalks, making it one of America's most beautiful neighborhoods. In the middle of the neighborhood is King Street, which is 1 mile long and features the King Street Trolley.

When visiting, some of the things to do include taking a sightseeing cruise, strolling down King Street, visiting an historic bar or restaurant or the tiny Hollensbury Spite House, shopping at one of the 100+ boutiques, or even taking a ghost tour.

Racertrips™ Tips

  • You could spend an afternoon or evening or in Old Town Alexandria. Allow plenty of time to explore and enjoy!
  • If the weather's nice, you should be able to choose from ample outdoor seating and have a go at people watching.

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Theater and Music

The Anthem is D.C.'s newest music venue and features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. For this reason, you can expect the find the biggest acts in hip-hop, rock, country and other genres coming through this venue.

Racertrip Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

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Still a working theater 150 years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln took place here, Ford's Theater puts on multiple productions each year and is a living museum dedicated to President Lincoln's life and death. You have the option of taking a tour during the day or seeing a show at night. Expect the show calendar to consist of plays and musicals ranging from history-based dramas to explorations of the American experience.

Racertrips Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

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The National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet all call this theater home. You can expect to find more high-class concerts and performances at this venue.

Racertrips Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

Map It | Call | Visit Online | Events Calendar

Since the 1920s, the Lincoln Theater has been known for its influence on the Harlem Renaissance by hosting acts such as Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington among others. Now, they host a wide variety of bands, magicians, comedians and more. You can expect their events calendar to offer a variety of family-friendly and adult-only events.

Racertrips Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

Map It | Call | Visit Online | Events Calendar

Located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C., Madam's Organ is the best place to catch live jazz music in the city. They are open seven nights a week and the venue has multiple levels. Start on the roof and work your way down.

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For the fans of Broadway, the National Theater has been home base for such shows for the past 200 years. You'll find well-known shows pass through this D.C. landmark at any given time, so be sure to check out their calendar for upcoming events. It's also a short walk from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue if you want to stroll by as part of your evening plans.

Racertrips Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

Map It | Call | Visit Online | Events Calendar

For those looking to enjoy additional stunning 1920s-style architecture, it doesn't get better than the Warner Theater. A $10 million renovation restored this landmark to its original beauty, down to the marble and gold leaf lobby. Similar to the Lincoln Theater, you should expect to find a variety of events, including rock concerts, jazz concerts and comedians.

Racertrips Tips

  • When looking for show tickets, first check the website www.goldstar.com. They feature last-minute discounted tickets to shows at theaters all around Washington, D.C. The discount is usually 25-50% off! You can even look for "Comp" tickets for free!

Map It | Call | Visit Online | Events Calendar

Meet our Washington, D.C. Ambassadors

Robyn Gault
Robyn is a local expert in the Washington, D.C. running scene, having owned a running store in the area for more than 13 years. She and her husband recently...
Darren Eaton
Darren has been running for 36 years and has run every type of race from 5Ks to ultramarathons. He has run the Marine Corps Marathon a total of eight times.
Jackie Cular
Jackie has run many 5Ks, 10Ks, a couple 10-mile races and a total of five half marathons. She enjoys running in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond.
Anthony Ashe
Anthony Ashe is in his early 40s and has been running marathons for over a decade. He has called Washington, D.C. his home for more than 20 years, although he has run marathons all over the country.
Phoebe Mortensen
Phoebe has run multiple half marathons, a total of five marathons and even an ultramarathon. When she's not running, she is a technology and art teacher...
Kam Yee
Kam started running marathons in 2008, with the Marine Corps Marathon being his first one! After that, he was hooked, completing four more marathons...
Robert David Sholtis
Bob, a former Marine, ran the Marine Corps Marathon as his first marathon in 2010, and he's run it three more times since then. He's run a total of 10 marathons and at least 15 ultras...
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