Exterior Veiw -Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater ,Washington, D.C., Mid-AtlanticCourtesy of Nic Lehou

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

The country’s first regional theater to win a Tony Award, Arena Stage is a wonderful national repertory company with a theater-in-the-round. It’s known for its fabulous sets and special effects, and productions often begin their journey to Broadway here. The arts complex reopened in 2010 after a major renovation and now includes state-of-the-art technology, a café and a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the Potomac River and the Washington Monument.

Exterior View  at Blues Alley ,  Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic

Blues Alley

Yes, it’s literally in a back alley in Georgetown, but this has been one of the great jazz and blues venues in America since it opened in 1965. Over the years, it has hosted giants like Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn and Ray Charles. Music aficionados will likely know of it because of all the Live at Blues Alley albums out there—Eva Cassidy’s is a classic.

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Dumbarton Oaks

On a quiet hilltop on the northern end of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks, a 19th-century estate, is one of the city’s hidden treasures. The late and hugely influential American landscape architect Beatrix Farrand spent thirty years working with former owners Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to perfect the fifty-three acres, which encompass formal gardens (open seasonally for a fee) and woodlands (open year-round for free).

Surrounding the Federal-style home is a series of intimate “garden rooms,” each with a theme: 1,000 rose bushes, which peak in late June; an Italian-style pebble mosaic; an orangery. They are absolutely lovely and well worth a visit. Just to the east of the walled part of the property is Lovers’ Lane, which leads down a steep hill to the woodlands, laced with winding paths and streams, where locals like to picnic and walk their dogs. The main house, now a library owned by Harvard University, hosts wonderful chamber-music concerts in its Music Room. (The Blisses were serious about music and even commissioned a concerto by Igor Stravinsky for their 30th wedding anniversary.) The gardens are open from March 15 to October 31; call ahead for times.

Editors' Picks

Folger Shakespeare Library and Theater

Featuring the world’s largest collection of printed works by William Shakespeare, this historic library and research center across from the Library of Congress was opened in 1932 by the Folger family. It runs a number of educational programs, and is home to the Folger Theater, which produces three plays by the Bard each season.

Interior veiw - Ford’s Theater Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic, Courtesy of Maxwell MacKenzie

Ford’s Theater

Infamous as the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, Ford’s is a historic site as well as a running theater (the plays and musicals staged here oftentimes focus on American history). Museum tours guide visitors through the premises, showcasing artifacts like the clothing Lincoln was wearing the night of his death and gun John Wilkes Booth used.


Freer and Sackler Galleries

Part of the Smithsonian, these two galleries, which are connected underground, specialize in Asian art: Japanese screens, ancient Chinese bronzes and jades, Biblical manuscripts, illuminated Islamic manuscripts, ancient Egyptian statues. (A lot of the artworks on the walls of the Mandarin Oriental are reproductions from these two museums.)

Estate and Garden at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens , Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic , Courtesy George Washington's Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

With vast gardens and more than a dozen outbuildings, George Washington’s 8,000-acre estate makes a wonderful historic day trip from D.C. It’s on the Potomac River, sixteen miles south of the city. Kids will enjoy seeing the staff decked out in period costumes.

Georgetown Garden Tour

Explore the beautiful gardens Georgetown has to offer during this annual springtime tour, which is sponsored by the Georgetown Garden Club (it’s been running since 1928). Different homes and private gardens are showcased each year.

Museum and garden at Hillwood Museum and Gardens  ,Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic Courtesy Alex Jameson

Hillwood Museum and Gardens

It’s off the beaten track, in the Cleveland Park/Forest Hills neighborhood, but a visit to Hillwood, the former home of Post Toasties heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, is worthwhile. Situated in Rock Creek Park, the estate was built in the 1920s and has lovely formal gardens with elegant French parterres. You can tour Post’s very grand house, which is full of Louis XVI furnishings and Russian imperial art, and admire such treasures as Fabergé eggs, Beauvais tapestries and a diamond crown once worn by Empress Alexandra. It’s best to make a reservation. Reservations are required on Sundays.

International Spy Museum

Some people complain that the Spy Museum is campy, but I think it’s a blast. It’s more tightly orchestrated than most museums; you start in a room where you are told to pick and memorize a cover identity, which you will be quizzed on later through interactive exhibits. More fun are the exhibits that allow you to polish your spy skills, such as finding the two H-6 bombers in an actual satellite photograph from China, or learning the sound of a sub on sonar. There are short clips on subjects like how to pick a lock, along with plenty of vintage spy paraphernalia, much of it from the Cold War era: a cufflink compass, a camera disguised as a cigarette lighter, examples of invisible ink, a tweed coat used by the KGB in the 1970s with a camera hidden inside one of the buttons (look closely and you can see the lens) and “spy dust” used by the KGB to track the movements of U.S. officials in the 1980s. While kids crawl through an actual airshaft and practice eavesdropping, their parents can ogle James Bond’s tricked out Aston Martin. Tip: Save yourself a wait by buying your tickets online ahead of time. Tickets are time specific (e.g. 9 A.M.). 

Fountains at Jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ,Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic

Jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

For a pre-dinner activity in D.C., stroll through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden for live jazz performances any Friday night during the summer. This annual summer concert series is a favorite among D.C. residents looking for a place to unwind with friends and family. The Sculpture Garden is located on the National Mall across from the National Gallery of Art. Surrounded by a tall, cast-iron fence, it is filled with contemporary, large-scale sculptures by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Joan Miro that are situated among beautifully planted hydrangeas and magnolia trees. Performances are held in front of the Pavilion Café, where you can stop in for cocktails or snacks. You can then wander among the garden while enjoying the music or relax on one of the impeccably kept stone benches that encircle the fountain. From any location, you will see the unique backdrop of the National Mall’s monuments and buildings behind the sculptures and greenery. From the end of May through the beginning of October, rain or shine.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The Kennedy Center, as it’s known, opened on the Potomac River in 1971 and houses three main theaters: the Opera House, Concert Hall and the Eisenhower Theater. Besides the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Opera and the Washington Ballet, the Kennedy Center also hosts numerous concerts, both jazz and classical, as well as musicals. Ballet lovers in particular have a lot to explore at the Kennedy Center, which is home to the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, the wonderful small company run by the former Balanchine muse, and has drawn such renowned companies as London’s Royal Ballet and Moscow’s Bolshoi.

Statue -Monuments by Moonlight Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic

Monuments by Moonlight

Yes, it’s touristy, but what fun! Offered seasonally by Trolley Tours, this two-and-a-half-hour tour leaves from Union Station and stops at the following memorials: Iwo Jima, FDR, Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans and Korean War. They look simply stunning in the moonlight. Call for times (a typical run might be 7:30 to 10 P.M.). Plan to be at Union Station a half hour ahead to purchase your tickets.

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Museum of the Bible

No expense was spared in the construction or design of the Museum of the Bible that displays the history and global influence of the Bible in state-of-the-art exhibits.
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National Archives

Filmmaker Ken Burns calls this building “our national attic.” In addition to housing America’s Charters of Freedom—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—it contains 9 billion historical records, including scientific documents, patents and family histories. A visit here starts with a short, well-done film about the practical applications of the archives, including how they were used to break the Nazi-gold story a few years ago. The Big Three are housed in the rotunda, where they are kept under low light for preservation; be prepared for a long line if you want to see them up close. There are also interesting exhibits, including letters from ordinary Americans to government officials. My favorite: a missive from a man returning $1 in cash to the Treasury to make up for an extra loaf of bread he took as a soldier during the Civil War thirty-six years earlier. The Archives make a wonderful pair with the Newseum.

Editors' Picks
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National Building Museum

Honoring architecture, design and building, the National Building Museum is set in an imposing—and impressive—19th-century building, which features a grand, colonnaded entrance. There are frequent exhibitions appropriate for children and adults, and some temporary shows worth seeing, covering topics ranging from memorials to gardens. The gift shop is not to be missed.

National Mall & Monuments

Washington D.C.'s National Mall and park contain the United States' most significant monuments and government sites, connecting the Capitol Building with the White House. The central reflecting pool leads to the famous obelisk of the Washington Monument, and surrounding highlights include the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Smithsonian museums and many important art galleries also encircle the area. Nearby, the Tidal Basin reservoir attracts scores of visitors year-round, but especially during the cherry blossom season in March and April—and here you can also find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.

An unforgettable experience for children, history buffs and lovers of architecture and nature walks alike, the National Mall is something every U.S. citizen and visitor to Washington, D.C., should see in their lifetime. Depending on whether it is your first or fifteenth visit, we recommend allocating at least a couple hours to explore, if not a half-day tour—or a full day, if you intend to visit the museums.

To book private, expert-guided tours and other special experiences at the National Mall, contact your Trip Designer or email info@indagare.com to learn more and inquire. A wonderful way to enjoy the National Mall and monuments is to run or walk from Georgetown along the waterfront. The two-mile route will bring you to the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and then the World War II Memorial, which is always humbling.

Indagare Intel: Currently under construction is a $69-million renovation of the Lincoln Memorial, with the addition of a new museum within the caverns that sit underneath it. The new museum will uncover how the famed memorial was built and explore its important role in the civil rights movement—and national celebrations up to present day. It is expected to be unveiled in 2026.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

At a ceremony led by President Barack Obama, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September 2016 as a monument and celebration of African America. Designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye and constructed out of recycled aluminum panels, the museum recreates the three-tiered structure of a crown. Exhibitions begin underground in the basement and work their way up into the light, mirroring strength and hope rising out of struggle. The museum provides an extensive look at many aspects of African American history from the slave trade and segregation to Obama’s election and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as multimedia displays that feature African Americans in sports and the arts. Throughout each of these compelling exhibits are 35,000 artifacts that speak to resiliency, such as a railroad car that carried slaves, the dress that Rosa Park wore when she protested moving to the back of the bus in 1955, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and an Obama campaign office that was dismantled and rebuilt inside the museum. The building also holds a Contemplation Room, a quiet space where visitors can digest the powerful history in the exhibitions.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

The National Museum of Women in the Arts was reopened in the fall of 2023 after a two-year renovation. The first major museum in the world that is dedicated solely to women artists, the collection includes works by such icons as Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner and the Guerrilla Girls, as well as up-and-coming artists from diverse communities.

Interior veiw at Old Town, Alexandria  ,Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic Courtesy R Kennedy

Old Town, Alexandria

Just across the Potomac from downtown D.C. is Old Town, Alexandria, a lovely neighborhood full of charming brick houses, a bit like Georgetown in vibe. The main drag, King Street, is lively and a pleasant place for a stroll, although you won’t find too many distinctive shops. Before dinner at Restaurant Eve, walk down King Street past tapas bars and coffee shops to the marina.

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Dedicated to American crafts and decorative arts (and part of the Smithsonian), the Renwick is small and easily manageable. It’s great to just drop in for a few minutes if you are walking by. Some highlights of its permanent collection are Larry Fuente’s clever Game Fish (made of pieces from toys, like Scrabble tiles) and Kim Schmahmann’s mesmerizing Bureau of Bureaucracy, full of mysterious drawers within drawers. Free admission. 

The Rubell Museum

Rubell Museum DC

Opened in the fall of 2022, the Rubell Museum is a unique contemporary art collection housed within a former school near the Navy Yard. Sister to the Rubell Museum in Miami, the pioneering space presents the many treasures of the Rubell family's private holdings (which include works by Keith Haring, Kehinde Wiley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst). The rotating exhibitions on display at the D.C. museum feature a diversity of artists who are perhaps a bit less blockbuster, but the experience is thought-provoking.

Exterior Veiw -Smithsonian Institution  , Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic ,Courtesy of Ken Rahaim

Smithsonian Institution

This magnificent cultural collection encompasses sixteen museums in the D.C. area, including the Renwick Gallery (American Art), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Portrait Gallery and the National Air and Space Museum.

Editors' Picks
Air and Space meuseum at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum , Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Parents with kids in tow should make a beeline to the Air and Space Museum on the National Mall (there is another branch in Virginia). The museum, which claims the largest collection of historic air- and spacecraft in the world, is a slam dunk for all ages, with a multitude of cool planes dangling overhead, not to mention rockets, cruise missiles and satellites. I still remember the thrill of seeing the Apollo 11 command module and Buzz Aldrin’s space suit for the first time when I was a kid. Equally fascinating are gems like Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. The interactive displays for kids are fun and interesting. And, yes, the famous IMAX film To Fly! is a must. Open daily, except Christmas. 

Editors' Picks
Interior Veiw -The Phillips Collection Museum  Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic ,Courtesy of Robert Lautman

The Phillips Collection Museum

Renoir’s impressionist Luncheon of the Boating Party is the most famous painting on display at this exquisite museum, which features American modernism works and contemporary art. Sunday concerts are held October through May, and art classes are also offered. Closed Monday.

Editors' Picks
Exterior view at Tudor Place , Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic

Tudor Place

Georgetown is full of National Historic Landmark homes, but most are privately owned. If curiosity gets the better of you and you want a glimpse inside one, take a self-guided or docent tour of Tudor Place. Set on 8.5 acres, the neoclassical house, designed by William Thornton (who created the first design for the U.S. Capitol), was in the same family for seven generations.

Exterior View - U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., Mid-Atlantic - Courtesy Ralf Roletschek

U.S. Capitol Building

If you only have time to see one thing in Washington DC, head to the U.S. Capitol, where the country's biggest decisions are made and laws are passed. There is an excellent visitors' center and regular tours are bookable online. Important stops include the Rotunda and Exhibition Hall, which depicts the construction of the building. Reach out to your Congressman or –woman or Senator for passes to the guest sections of the House of Representatives or Senate.

Editors' Picks


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