Monuments and Museums: a Weekend in Washington, DC with Go City Card

A classic weekend in DC for first time visitors or locals who just want to play tourist includes monuments, museums, and the Potomac River. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed especially when the monuments feel so spread out on the map. Plus, how can you be sure you’ve seen all the best landmarks? Well, we’ve mapped out a weekend of sightseeing for you! Plus, save some money off the gate price when you package the activities below (plus more on the site) with Go City Card. We’ve also used Go City Card as tourists in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia so we know it’s great for visitors.

These activities are open daily but check the websites for most accurate times.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase with one of our links, we’ll make a few extra bucks to help run this blog.

washington monument with cherry blossoms

Friday Night: Monuments in the Moonlight

Big Bus DC Panoramic Night Tour: This is not a hop on hop off Big Bus tour like during the day. Instead, catch the bus at Union Station at 7:30 pm nightly to catch the monuments lit up in all their glory. The tour includes the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the US Capitol, and more! Plus, there’s a tour guide to narrate your ride.

Tour Time: 2 hours 

Where to Eat near Union Station

Cheap Eats (under $20/person): Shake Shack (in Union Station)
Mid-range (under $35/person): The Dubliner; Sixth Engine
Fancy Pants (over $35/person): Art and Soul

Closest Metro to Union Station

Union Station: red

Saturday: Museum Day

Most of the museums in Washington, DC are free but the paid admission Newseum and International Spy Museum make the extra cash worth it. Both museums are located in Penn Quarter so it’s easy to visit both in a day. Make it a museum day by planning to spend 2 to 4 hours in each depending on how quickly you typically stroll through museums. The Newseum covers a bit more material but the Spy Museum is very interactive. You’ll want to leave time to try all the spy activities!

Newseum: Explore how freedom of the press and journalism has evolved over the years. There’s something for every kind of news reader at the Newseum. You’ll see everything from editorial cartoons to pictures of the year to the history of civil rights. To me, one of the most moving topics in the Newseum is our 5 Freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment. There is also a colored map illustrating the state of free press across the world. Plus, you can read about how our freedoms have evolved in the digital age.

Time per visit: 2 to 4 hours 

International Spy Museum: Fans of spy novels, movies, and even real life professionals will love the Spy Museum. Re-discover the history you thought you knew, learn stories of real spies, and enjoy pieces from 50 years of James Bond films. Plus, see if you have what it takes to stay undercover but adopting a secret identity. If you really want to practice your spy skills, add on the Spy in the City ticket (ages 10+). Explore the surrounding area on a 1 hour “secret mission” with clues and GPS tracker provided by the Spy Museum.

Time per visit: 2 to 4 hours 

Where to Eat in Penn Quarter

Cheap Eats (under $20/person): Shake Shack (right next to the Spy Museum); &pizza; Luke’s Lobster
Mid-range (under $35/person): Oyamel; Hill Country BBQ
Fancy Pants (over $35/person): Dirty Habit – if the weather is nice, just enjoy drinks on the patio

Closest Metro to Penn Quarter

Archives: green, yellow
Gallery Place Chinatown: green, yellow, red
Federal Triangle (a little longer walk): orange, blue, and silver

Sunday: Washington, DC Sightseeing

You’ve see the monuments by night but now enjoy them by foot, bus, and river!

DC Highlights Tour: Explore some of DC’s most iconic landmarks on a time budget. This 4 hour bus and walking tour begins at the Navy Memorial (also in Penn Quarter) and will take you to spots including the US Capitol, the White House, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Tours are daily at 10 am.

Tour Time: 4 hours 

Washington Monuments Cruise: After the highlights tour, enjoy the monuments from the water with Potomac Riverboat Company. This tour runs daily with multiple departure times between Georgetown and Alexandria. Take great photos from the water of the Washington Monument, Kennedy Center, and Jefferson Memorial. If you attend on a Sunday after the DC Highlights Tour, catch the 3:30 pm departure in Georgetown, enjoy dinner in Alexandria (and shop!), and depart Alexandria as late as 8:30 pm. Keep in mind this cruise does not run in the winter!

Tour Time: 45 minutes each way; 90 minutes round trip

Where to Eat in Old Town Alexandria

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Closest Metro to Penn Quarter

Cheap Eats (under $20/person): Bugsy’s Pizza
Mid-range (under $35/person): Union Street
Fancy Pants (over $35/person): Chart House