Top Things to do in Washington DC in Four Hours

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My Brother in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on his birthday

Today is my brother’s 15th birthday.  Instead of going out to dinner or staying home and having a cake (which I can imagine is not the most exciting thing for you to do when you are a 15 year old

boy and it is your birthday), we decided to fly out to Washington DC for the afternoon.The first flight left later than I had anticipated (we didn’t depart MSP until 10:30am and our arrival time in Washington DC was closer to 2:00pm), so wasn’t sure how much we would be able to see.  We were pleasantly surprised by how much ground we were able to cover, largely because of Washington DC’s extremely efficient public transit system and DCA airport’s close proximity to the big sights.

The Capitol at Night
Taken from the Capitol mall upon exiting the Air and Space Museum

The subways were just as I remembered them-quick, clean and everywhere.  The subway runs right to DCA airport (though there were upgrades happening to the tracks on the day we visited, so extremely friendly, helpful DC Metro employees helped us onto a free shuttle bus and the onto the correct subway to get us directly to Arlington.)

Washington DC is a great place for a budget traveler or for a family with kids.  Many of the major attractions are free to see (all of the Smithsonian museums are free, as is Arlington National Cemetery, the Library of Congress, the Capitol, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, not to mention just the experience of wandering around the Capitol Mall…and these are just theones that I can name off of the top of my head.  I am sure a quick search on the internet would yield many more budget friendly results.)

In our four hours, we were able to see Arlington and John F. Kennedy’s grave

Arlington National Cemetary
Arlington National Cemetary

and the eternal flame (though we did not have enough time to get up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as we had arrived late in the afternoon and the Air and Space Museum which was the next stop on our list closed at 5:30 pm).

We continued our journey back onto the subway at the Arlington Metro stop (immediately outside of Arlington Cemetery) and alighted at the Smithsonian metro stop.  We were in the Air and Space Museum for about an hour and a half (which we felt was enough time to look through the important exhibits, but we might want to make another trip to experience the multitude of flight simulators they have there or to hit the IMAX theater or the planetarium.)

The White House at night
The White House at night

By the time we exited the Air and Space Museum, it was dark (daylight savings time and all) and we got a great view of the Capitol and the Washington Monument from the Capitol Mall on the way to see the White House which is also nearby.

The great public transit system, close proximity of many of the major attractions and the fact that many of the best things to see and do are free (a great boon to a budget traveler) make Washington DC a great place for a day trip, and we already have a list of things that we want to see next time we come back!

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