Washington Day Trips from New York

Washington DC is undoubtedly one of America's major cities and can be visited in just one day from New York.

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

10 min read

Washington Day Trips from New York

One of Washington DC's main thoroughfares | ©Jorge Alcala

The illustrious city of Washington embodies the spirit of the United States with its streets and museums dominated by the Capitol. On a trip to Washington you can see, among other things, the White House and the Pentagon.

A trip to Washington from New York is one of the best trips you can take from the Big Apple, and in fact, there are several types of tours to suit all budgets and trip lengths. Here are the ones I think are the best:

The best option

Washington D.C. Day Trip From NYC

The best of Washington, in one day, at the best price.

Perfect if you want to leave New York for a day to see Washington DC and its most popular attractions, such as the White House, the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

Duration: 15 hours

The best way to visit Washington from New York in one day and learn about the history of every monument in the city with a professional guide is with an organised tour. The Washington tour is a full day tour with round trip bus transportation and takes about 4 hours.

During the city tour you will see the highlights of Washington, such as The White House, the US Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, The Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial, among others. All entrance fees to monuments are included and you will have free time to explore at your leisure and eat where you choose.

Why I like this tour: In addition to its good value for money, I recommend this activity because it includes a very complete tour of Washington and you'll get the most out of the tour.

Recommended if... you want to visit Washington DC and see the main attractions but don't want to spend too much time or budget.

Two days

Philadelphia and Washington DC 2-Day Trip from New York

The most complete getaway to Washington

If you're looking forward to seeing Washington DC but are afraid that one day might be too short, join this tour that also stops in Philadelphia. Accommodation included.

Duration: 2 days

If you prefer to make the most of your time and combine two tours in one, I recommend you book the two-day tour of Washington with a visit to Philadelphia. In Washington you will discover all the essential attractions such as the White House, the Capitol, the Pentagon and the Vietnam and Korean Veterans Memorials.

On tours to Philadelphia from New York you'll also see an important part of American history by visiting the Liberty Bell. You'll also get to see the legendary 'Rocky' Statue and its famous staircase and visit a traditional Amish Community.

Why I like this tour: This is a more comprehensive tour and takes you to the main points of interest, not only in Washington, but also in Philadelphia. It's a great way to make the most of your trip and get to know the major cities on the East Coast.

Recommended if... you fancy a couple of days break during your trip to New York and don't want to have to worry about organisation, transport or accommodation.

The premium option

America 4-Day Tour from New York City (Niagara Falls, Washington and Philadelphia)

The best of the East Coast in four days

The United States is much more than New York and this tour to Washington, Philadelphia and Niagara Falls will take you to the highlights of the East Coast. Accommodation included.

Duration: 4 days

If you have time to spare for a tour of the East Coast of the United States, this trip is for you. In four days, you can tour Washington, Philadelphia and Niagara Falls from New York, seeing the highlights of each place.

In Washington you'll tour the city with a guide who will take you to the White House, the Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial, among other things. While in Philadelphia, you'll visit the Liberty Bell and the Rocky Statue, as well as a traditional Amish community to see how members of the Amish colonies still live.

Finally, in Niagara, the wildest and most natural jewel of the East Coast, you will visit the National Park, Watkins Glen State Park and She-Qua-Ga Falls.

Recommended if... you have extra days on your trip to New York, because this tour will offer you four days of contrast to what you will have seen in the Big Apple. The nature of the Falls, the history of Philadelphia and the stately spirit of Washington will seem like another world.

Why I like this tour: If you were to do this tour on your own, it would be impossible to fit it into such a short time, so this seems like the most efficient way to make the most of your time.

We compare the three options

What to see in Washington

The White House| ©Rene Deanda
The White House| ©Rene Deanda

Seeing Washington's major monuments is easy, as most of them are located within the National Mall. As you might imagine, the main interest of these monuments is related to the political history of the United States and its presidents. Most day trips to Washington and two-day tours follow a similar itinerary:

National Mall

The National Mall (also known as the National Mall) is the expanse that contains the Capitol, the famous Obelisk, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution building, and other points of interest.

Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress

Start the day with a visit to the iconic Capitol, home of the United States Congress, and the Library of Congress, which is free to enter at your leisure and marvel at its spectacular interior.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

You'll know this memorial statue when you see it. It depicts American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and if you're lucky you'll see a military parade passing in front of it.

Lincoln Memorial

Located at the west end of the National Mall, the memorial dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln has been the site of numerous historically significant speeches, including Martin Luther King's famous speech in 1963.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

To the southeast of the Lincoln Memorial you'll find a series of steel statues depicting a group of soldiers, arranged in the shape of a triangle in front of a wall of Korean War imagery.

The White House

A must-see if you take a trip to Washington. Even if you don't take a tour of the interior, you can still see the distinctive building from the outside fence (except on some occasions, such as official events).

Martin Luther King Jr

Unveiled in 2011, the monument consists of a granite statue of the leader of the Civil Rights Movement carved out of a boulder on its back, which bears a series of inscriptions relating to Martin Luther King Jr.

Arlington National Cemetery

This military cemetery is home to the remains of more than 14,000 veterans of wars as old as the American Civil War. Arlington National Cemetery is quite unique, with headstones rising out of the ground along a grove of trees.

Book your Washington tour from New York

Plan your Washington tour from New York City

Sunset over Washington DC| ©Casey Horner
Sunset over Washington DC| ©Casey Horner

First of all, it's worth bearing in mind that the round trip will take you about seven hours. If you're reading this, you know that discovering new places is always worthwhile, and Washington is an interesting enough city in general to justify the long trip from New York. Plus, with an organised tour you won't have to worry about how to get to Washington from New York.

That said, one day is enough to see the sights and buildings of interest in Washington, so some tours combine a visit to Washington with a tour of Philadelphia.

Book your Washington tour from New York

Best day of the week for a Washington tour from New York City

American flag at the Department of Commerce| ©Brandon Mowinkel
American flag at the Department of Commerce| ©Brandon Mowinkel

As you might imagine, it's best to visit Washington during the week and avoid Saturdays and Sundays. In particular, the best days to do this tour are Mondays and Wednesdays, and the sights tend to be less crowded after 2pm. Many of the museums and monuments are closed on holidays, so try to avoid public holidays to see as much as possible.

Book your Washington tour from New York

Best time of year to tour Washington from New York City

Lincoln Memorial| ©Ian Hutchinson
Lincoln Memorial| ©Ian Hutchinson

If you happen to be visiting New York in spring or autumn, you'll be lucky to be able to take a trip to Washington at the best time of year. Winter in Washington is quite cold, and the problem with summer is that it usually rains at least once a week and is quite hot. The best time to visit Washington is in spring, when you'll have the chance to enjoy the city's almond blossoms.

  • Winter
  • December - March
  • Weather: Occasional blizzards
  • High 7ºC
  • Low -7ºC
  • Spring
  • March - June
  • Climate: Changeable
  • Maximum 25ºC
  • Minimum -2ºC
  • Summer
  • June - August
  • Climate: Hot
  • Maximum 28ºC
  • Minimum 13ºC
  • Autumn
  • September - November
  • Climate: Sunny
  • High 23ºC
  • Minimum 1ºC

Where to eat on your trip to Washington from New York City

Gourmet Burgers| ©Peter Dawn
Gourmet Burgers| ©Peter Dawn

Beware of restaurants in the more touristy areas! A meal for two can easily run up to US$50. If you're on a tight budget, it's best to pack food in your backpack or look for cheaper dining options, as most tours to Washington from New York don't include food.

Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Pho 75 - near Arlington National Cemetery you'll find this Vietnamese restaurant, which ranks 7 out of 712 on TripAdvisor.
  • Five Guys, Swizzler Burger Truck or Proper 21 - Washington is known for its all-American food and especially its burgers, so any of these options will delight any meat lover.
  • Lincoln's Waffle Shop - another option is to have a hearty, American-style breakfast. If the combination of pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs makes your mouth water, this is the place for you.
  • Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken - if doughnuts are your thing, head here and take one (or more) of these treats to go.

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What should I take with me to Washington?

Another stop in Washington DC| ©Zetong Li
Another stop in Washington DC| ©Zetong Li

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend that you wear comfortable clothes and footwear suitable for a full day's walking, as even if you take public transport you'll still have to walk a little to visit each monument. Washington DC is an elegant city and the locals reflect this: the style of dress tends to be smart rather than casual. You won't find too many people wearing flip-flops, shorts or T-shirts, so if you don't want to look like a tourist it's best to avoid this type of attire.

Check the weather before you travel

With this in mind, it makes sense if you're visiting the city in summer to dress as cool as possible as temperatures are quite high. As you know, it tends to rain, so it's a good idea to pack a mackintosh or umbrella just in case. Winters are cold and temperatures rarely go above freezing, so be prepared for some pretty extreme temperatures.

Alex's Traveler Tip

If you're visiting Washington during the warmer months, Arlington Cemetery will be full of mosquitoes - take repellent with you if you don't want to be massacred!

Latest tips

Vietnam War Veterans Memorial| ©Ian Hutchinson
Vietnam War Veterans Memorial| ©Ian Hutchinson

You'll love Washington if you're interested in American politics and history, if you enjoy strolling through cities full of monuments, parks and imposing squares, and if you're interested in architecture and urban planning as Washington has a somewhat unique floor plan. If this isn't your style, since you're in New York, try some of the hundreds of tours of New York City that exist.

Washington with kids

And if you're visiting with kids, don't worry: it's easy to get around the city using public transport, which is safe and good quality. You won't have to walk too far and thanks to the abundance of parks and esplanades you'll be able to take a break from sightseeing when you need to.

Don't forget

A few tips we can give you before your trip is not to carry too much cash to avoid having it stolen or lost, but be aware that some restaurants and local shops do not accept credit cards (for example, at Pho 75, you can only pay in cash). For the same reason, avoid carrying valuables and leave what you don't need at your hotel or flat.

Remember to carry your passport and be prepared to go through the occasional security check, especially at monuments and points of interest such as Arlington Cemetery. Washington DC takes security quite seriously, not least because of the city's political importance.

Get travelling!

Book your Washington tour from New York