Know Before You Go: Visiting Washington DC in Winter
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Perhaps surprisingly, winter is an excellent time to visit Washington DC. The weather is mild compared to many other parts of the US, and there’s much to experience—and smaller crowds to navigate—during this time. Here are some tips for making the most of a low-season visit to the nation’s capital.
Pack for cold weather
Those who embrace the cold will be rewarded in DC. Temperatures hover between 20°F and 40°F (-6°C and 4°C), but with freezing temperatures come lower hotel prices and the benefit of having the city’s top outdoor attractions—including the National Mall, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and National Zoo—almost all to yourself. Pack lots of layers (thermal underwear, a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf) and wear warm, waterproof boots for walking the sometimes snowy sidewalks.
Lace up your skates and hit the ice
Ice skating is a popular winter pastime in DC, and rinks pop up around town throughout the winter season. Choose between rinks at Canal Park, Washington Harbour, or the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Most rinks offer skate rentals and vendors selling hot chocolate and other warming treats.
Take advantage of indoor attractions
The cold isn’t for everyone, but luckily Washington DC has loads of indoor attractions perfect for warming up and shedding some layers. Head to one of the capital’s many museums—the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, International Spy Museum, and National Museum of Crime and Punishment, to name a few. Take a self-guided tour of the White House to learn about our government’s executive branch, or visit the Washington National Cathedral.
Attend a winter festival
While winter is one of DC’s quietest seasons, it packs the city’s calendar with a slew of fun events. The Washington DC International Food and Wine Festival showcases celebrity-chef meals and over 1,700 wines from around the world, while the Winter Arts Festival features local products, art, music, and food. Other seasonal highlights include Scottish Walk Weekend, Christmas on the Potomac, the Downtown Holiday Festival, First Night Alexandria, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, NatsFest, the DC Independent Film Festival, and the Chocolate Lovers Festival.
Washington DC Tours & Activities (4)
Experience the sights and sounds of Washington, DC in one day on this guided walking and riding sightseeing tour around the nation’s capital. Visit the city’s historic, iconic landmarks and monuments, like the White House, the United States Capitol, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. See and learn about the memorials of famous American leaders who helped shape the United States, like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few. Includes a seasonal Potomac River cruise.
Take in the city skyline during sunset in Washington DC on an all-you-can-eat buffet cruise. Board a luxury boat for a sightseeing cruise on the Potomac River with dinner and dancing while a DJ spins your favorite tunes. Pass by illuminated landmarks such as the Washington Monument and feast on a variety of delicious dishes during the cruise.
Meet all the US presidents with admission to the world-famous Madame Tussauds Washington, DC. With 14 themed rooms, there’s something for everyone — from presidents and first ladies to musicians, athletes, cultural icons, television personalities and more. See Barack and Michelle Obama. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson. Tiger Woods and Babe Ruth. Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. The list goes on. Madame Tussaud’s has become one of Washington, DC’s most popular attractions.
There’s something for everyone at Busch Gardens Williamsburg — the theme park with a European twist. Get your heart racing on dozens of thrilling rides and attractions inspired by Old World legends, including the Griffon, Loch Ness Monster and Alpengeist coasters, plus the Land of Dragons and other kid-friendly areas. Grab a pint at the Oktoberfest beer hall, dine at an authentic Italian ristorante, and catch live shows like the Celtic Fyre Irish extravaganza for a day of international fun!
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