Washington DC Holidays

Monunental America

Named for the United States of America’s first commander-in-chief, General George Washington, Washington DC (District of Columbia) was chosen as the nation’s capital as it represented a valuable tactical position during the American Civil War, strategically situated between the north and the south with easy access to the sea by means of the Potomac River. Nowadays though, Washington DC holidays are much more relaxing affair!
Unlike many popular American holiday destinations, Washington DC has a fairly subdued skyline which, free from skyscrapers and bright neon lights. This gives the area a more relaxed ambience which compliments the region’s wide open spaces, green parks, marble-esque monuments and grand buildings. This was no accident either; the area’s aesthetic was purposely designed by French architect Pierre L’Enfant with a view to creating a peaceful and sobre locale worthy of America’s great political institutions.

The historical buildings in DC are literally monumental (sorry). Though you can’t help but be impressed, there’s so much more to DC than the White House and the Lincoln Memorial. Behind its well known image of memorials and politics, life in Washington DC is wonderfully eclectic. Where else are you going to see nuclear missiles, a cursed 45 carat diamond and a stomach shaped hairball (yep) in one afternoon? DC is a city you can walk around easily. Designed by a French architect, Pierre L’Enfant, it has wide boulevards and plenty of sky. Pop in to one of the many outstanding museums, most of which are free. Savour blueberry pancakes at Eastern Market or stop for a late night beer and crab cakes in the city’s oldest bar, the Old Ebbitt Grill. Influences from local punk and jazz acts have shape the city’s passion for live music – DC was Duke Ellington’s home town – but like any city, each neighbourhood in DC has its own unique vibe and nightlife scene. And if you need a change of pace, there are hundreds of miles of stunning views and walking trails in the greater Washington, DC area. With so much to do and see, a weekend just won’t cut it. You could spend seven days in Washington and still not experience it all.

While Washington DC has a great many iconic buildings, monuments and landmarks, there can be no denying that the most well-known of these is the White House, home of the President of the United States. Many great leaders have called this most famous of houses their home, office and base of operations, from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama.

Not to be missed is the Presidential Inauguration Preview Tour where you can follow in the footsteps of your favourite American Presidents and see exactly how their inauguration works from start to finish. There you will be regaled with many a surprising, and often humorous, anecdote about the US Presidents who have graced these great halls in the past. As a bonus, you will also be taken to see the area’s other awe-inspiring monuments, including the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.

Be sure to pair up your White House visit with that other famous white American political building, Capitol Hill. Perhaps the most prominent symbol of modern Democracy on the planet, Capitol Hill is where he US Senate, Supreme Court and House of Representatives meet to discuss every aspect of American political policies, both domestic and foreign, so you’d never know who you might catch a glimpse of when you pay it a visit. For all of you bibliophiles, Capitol Hill is home to the world’s largest library – this, and much more, can be viewed during a guided tour of Capitol Hill.

While the White House is the most famous of Washington DC’s buildings, it is far from being the only spectacular sight that you must see on your travels. One of the most instantly recognizable monuments in the region is the beautiful Abraham Lincoln Memorial Statue. Housed under the cover of an ancient Greek-styled building (a powerful symbol of the democracy which Americans so adore) sits Honest Abe, the man who made slavery illegal across all of the United States. While Lincoln has become something of a mythic figure (in one popular movie depiction, he is shown to be a vampire hunter), his amazing contributions to American history and society cannot be understated.

The only American President who can challenge Abraham Lincoln in terms of historical significance and overall recognisability is General George Washington, the very first United States commander-in-chief. While General Washington has many things named after him (including the whole state!), the most instantly recognizable tribute is the aptly named Washington Monument which is located in the National Mall, a three-kilometer-long, 309-acre national park which stretches from the steps of Capitol Hill, all the way to the Lincoln Memorial statue. Standing an impressive 555 tall, the Washington Monument is the world’s tallest obelisk as well as the tallest stone (it’s made from a combination of granite, marble and bluestone gneiss) structure on Earth. Fun fact: when completed in 1877, the Monument was the tallest man-made structure, until France’s Eiffel Tower surpassed it in 1989.

There are a lot more memorials, monuments and statues in Washington DC which are worth checking out, including the Iwo Jima, Vietnam Veterans, FDR and World War II Memorials. With so many worthwhile sights to see, it can be difficult to see them all in a single trip. In order to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time, you should consider taking the Memorials in Washington DC Bus Tour where an experienced tour guide will take you to, and explain the significance of, the many different sights that you will see.

There is a lot more to Washington DC than commemorating the history of American politics. The area is also home to a number of top quality museums and galleries. Chief among these are the museums of the Smithsonian Institute. The Institute’s mission statement is to share as much knowledge as possible with the rest of humanity, and they certainly live up to that promise. Two of the most popular Smithsonian collections are the National Air and Space Museum, which contains several life-sized aircraft restorations including one of the original Wright Brothers Glider, and the Natural History Museum which boasts the Hope Diamond and the largest mounted blue whale on display anywhere in the world.

Art afficionados will fall in love with the US National Gallery of Art, which contains over 100 galleries which display some of the world’s finest modern and contemporary works of art. Theatre lovers should ensure that they check out a show at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts which hosts somewhere in the region of 2,000 performances each and every year, welcoming nearly 2 million visitors per year across eight lavish performance halls.

Visitors to Washington DC can even take a tour of the FBI’s offices where you will see how the Federal Bureau of Investigation go about their modern crime fighting and counter-terrorism measures. If you’re into some more old fashioned espionage, you should pay a visit to the International Spy Museum which is home to all sorts of artefacts and trinkets related to the CIA, FBI and even the KGB. Many of these items date back to before the Cold War, making the museum a must-see for 20th Century history buffs. If World War II sparks your interest, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is a sobering, but thoroughly fascinating, look into one of history’s darkest times.

Savour blueberry pancakes at the world famous Eastern Market or stop for a late night beer and crab cakes in the city’s oldest bar, the Old Ebbitt Grill – and don’t forget to make the most out of your evening by taking part in the 14th Street ‘Happy Hour’ Food & Drink Tour where you will get to experience the very best of local cuisine and hooch. Best of all, a percentage of the tour’s proceeds are donated to charity, directly helping to feed local residents who have fallen on hard times, so you can do some good for the world while you enjoy your holiday.

Influences from local punk and jazz acts have shape the city’s passion for live music – DC was legendary show man Duke Ellington’s home town – but like any city, each neighborhood in DC has its own unique vibe and nightlife scene, meaning you can have a completely different experience each and every night of the week. With so much to do and see, a weekend just won’t cut it. You could spend seven days in Washington and still not experience it all!

From
€74pp
From
€37pp
From
€38pp

Gallery

Our Recommended Washington Offers

  • From
    €889pp

    Washington & Boston

    This holiday is the perfect combination of two major city breaks
    • More Detail
  • From
    €635pp

    Washington Weekender

    Washington is a city of history but it also buzzes with lively cafes and restaurants, great shopping and lots of fun ...
    • More Detail
  • From
    €1999pp

    Eastern Discovery Escorted Tour

    A great way to see some of the beautiful sights of the East Coast of the US
    • More Detail
  • From
    €899pp

    New York & Washington

    Experience 3 nights New York & 3 nights Washington with our tailor made twin centre holidays.
    • More Detail
  • From
    €719pp

    Washington in September

    Washington is a city of history but it also buzzes with lively cafes and restaurants, great shopping and lots of fun ...
    • More Detail

Blog

By Terry Sheehan

Things to do in Washington DC with kids

By Denise Walsh

JFK100 at Presidential Library & Museum, Boston

By Karen Whyte

Best things to do at night in Washington DC