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Have you ever thought about taking a solo trip to Washington DC? Sure, several people contemplate taking a long solo trip to Italy or Spain, but at the same time, a lot of Americans (I live in the USA, so I would know) prefer to stay closer to home, especially if it’s their first time traveling alone.
I certainly don’t blame them! In particular, Washington DC is home to so many outstanding museums, including the famous Smithsonians.
With so many museums, the USA’s capital feels like a solo traveler’s dream come true. I never tire of wandering museums alone.
I wanted to write this guide to help other solo travelers plan an adventure in Washington DC. But first, I want to talk about why I loved Washington DC so much.
My Solo Trip to Washington DC
I took a weekend trip to Washington DC on a complete whim. I hadn’t been to DC since I was ten years old, and I barely remember anything that happened on that whirlwind bus tour several years ago.
Not to mention, I wanted to take advantage of living so close to an Amtrak station and enjoy a trip that didn’t require me to board a plane. I’ll fly, obviously, but as a fearful flyer, trips to the airport feel exhausting at times. It was refreshing to take a break from the skies.
Oh my god, I don’t know what took me so long to visit Washington DC. I had the absolute greatest time here, and would highly recommend this gem of a city to anyone.
Washington DC is no stranger to tourists. Actually, that would be an understatement, haha.
Washington DC has so, so, so many museums, government buildings, day trips, and guided tours that it’s literally impossible to see and do everything in such a short amount of time. You could visit Washington DC once a month and still only skim the surface.
On my solo trip to Washington DC, I met plenty of lovely people and learned a lot about American and world history in some world-class museums. I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and I would absolutely visit Washington DC alone in the future.
After having such a great time, I knew I wanted to share my experiences and suggestions with all of you.
Best Reasons to Travel Solo to Washington DC
So why should you choose Washington DC for your next solo trip? Despite the free attractions, it’s not a cheap city, so it’s still important to weigh the pros and cons.
I could talk forever about this topic, haha, but no one has time for a novel on the internet.
So, here are three reasons why you ought at least consider a trip to the District.
City for Personal Reflection
Washington DC is home to many monuments and museums, which will provoke deep thought that is more poignantly felt alone.
For example, I walked around the World War II Memorial at night, and thought about what it must have felt like for my grandparents growing up as the world seemed to fall completely apart.
While a more serious reason to take a solo trip, I still think having quiet time to contemplate our nation’s past is important, especially in a world that never seems to “shut up.”
Reflect. You’ll feel like a more aware person and even better citizen.
Easy First Solo Trip
Over all, Washington DC is an easy solo trip for new travelers. I talk a lot about wonderful cities to travel alone in the United States and think DC belongs on that list too.
Washington DC sees so, so, so many tourists. You won’t stand out as “weird” for exploring Washington DC alone. On the contrary.
Actually, I encountered quite a few solo travelers on my visit here! While I’ve been to some destinations that are popular for couples and friends, I didn’t feel the same vibe in Washington DC and was welcomed for my adventurous spirit.
So I suggest heading on a solo trip to Washington DC if you’re new to traveling alone and want to melt into the crowd.
Fantastic Tourism Infrastructure
In addition, Washington DC has an outstanding tourism infrastructure in place. You will find an endless amount of attractions and tours to keep yourself super busy.
If anything, Washington DC feels a little overwhelming, because there is so much to see and do in the capital of the United States. You won’t ever run out of things to do or experience boredom, even though you’re alone.
Your accommodation will give you suggestions too!
8 Things to Do on a Solo Trip to Washington DC
Do you need even more specifics? Never fear. These are some of the best things to do on a solo trip to Washington DC.
As always, I’m aware that every solo traveler is different and has different expectations for their trips. Feel free to dig deeper into a guidebook to Washington DC to plan even more specific details for your trips.
Eat Dinner in Georgetown
Do you want to see a cute neighborhood in DC with plenty of cobblestone streets and yummy eats? Then don’t skip Georgetown on your solo trip to Washington DC. I absolutely fell in love with Georgetown, everyone.
I personally think Georgetown is a great neighborhood to experience once you’re finished sightseeing for the day. You’ll have plenty of delightful mom and pop restaurants at your fingertips, but keep in mind that Georgetown is especially popular on Friday and Saturday. My advice is to eat early or late at a place that has plenty of bar seating.
On my own trip, I enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner at il Canale, which was bustling and super fun. However, if you want a small and tasty treat in Georgetown, then opt for the cupcakes. Georgetown has so many cupcake places including Georgetown Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and Baked & Wired.
Explore DC’s Monuments at Night
Even as a solo traveler, you’ll feel safe seeing the monuments at the National Mall at night. Nighttime in Washington DC will truly take your breath away. It’s … gorgeous.
Personally, I suggest joining a guided tour for your nighttime monument experience. The National Mall is incredibly big, and even on a guided tour with a bus, it can take up to three hours to see all the most important monuments.
I highly recommend booking a 3 hour small group tour of the monuments. While a little more expensive than the big bus tours, the smaller group will connect you more closely with people. I loved this tour so much.
Our guide was brilliant and in the process of earning a law degree from Georgetown. Furthermore, everyone I met on the tour was super sweet and kind. Another solo traveler and I even went for drinks afterwards!
Ultimately, seeing the monuments at night isn’t something you want to miss on a solo trip to Washington DC. It’s magical. Truly.
Go to the Holocaust Museum
While emotionally difficult, the Holocaust Museum is best experienced alone. It’s crucial that we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, and despite shedding tears, I appreciated learning from the exhibits in this museum and don’t know if it would have had the same emotional impact with another person talking to me.
The Holocaust Museum doesn’t hold anything back, which is important.
The Holocaust Museum now requires timed tickets and reserving a slot only costs $1. Be sure to reserve in advance as time slots book out, particularly in high season.
Grab a Cocktail at Allegory
Washington DC is home to one of the coolest bars that I’ve ever visited in my life. Allegory is a hidden bar inside Eaton DC. At an initial glance, you’ll see that the bar’s artwork, decor, and menu were inspired by Alice in Wonderland, but through the eyes of Ruby Bridges. Talk about creative and thought-provoking.
And don’t even get me started on the marvelous twists on the cocktails. Amazing. Allegory’s bartenders are talented, no doubt.
My other suggestion is to come to Allegory early. This amazing bar fills up and fast. How do I know? From experience!
Me and another woman (who I met on the monuments tour, haha) waited over an hour to get inside, and while we had a wonderful time hanging out in the lobby, I definitely suggest coming here as early as possible for your drink!
No reservations. Walk ins only.
See Cherry Blossoms (Seasonal)
In Washington DC, cherry blossoms usher in warmer spring months.
The timing for the cherry blossoms vary from year to year, although late March and early April are good bets for seeing the flowers. Just make sure to check the climate predications ahead of time to avoid disappointment. This official website predicts the peak bloom every year.
Keep in mind that Cherry Blossom season is one of the most expensive times to visit Washington DC, especially if you’re visiting on the weekends. Budget travelers need to be mindful about planning their visit and book well in advance to score the best deals on accommodation.
Tour the Library of Congress
No doubt about it. The Library of Congress is absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, my jaw feel on the floor visiting this majestic library. Book lovers, in particular, shouldn’t skip the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is a research library, and while you can’t wander the research area as a visitor, you can enjoy a stunning view looking down on students, professors, and intellectuals hard at work.
Like many other attractions, the Library of Congress is free for visitors, but you need to reserve a time in advance. I suggest booking far ahead of time during the busier months to ensure you have a time slot.
Lastly, if you have a tight itinerary and want to maximize your time on your solo trip to Washington DC, there are plenty of tours that will take you around Capitol Hill, but I recommend going inside. You won’t regret it.
Visit the Smithsonian Museums
Words cannot describe how much I love the museums in DC. Seriously, without a doubt, one of the best parts of taking a solo trip to Washington DC is spending as much time as your heart desires in the Smithsonian Museums.
Another bonus is the Smithsonian museums are free to visitors. Some museums do require a reservation – notably the new Museum of African American History – and it’s important to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Do your research.
Several Smithsonians are huge. You could easily spend hours in one museum, especially traveling alone without anyone telling you what to do and see (one of the bonuses, right?). So also stick to the topics that interest you.
Furthermore, if you want to learn in more depth, some private guides will do tours of the most famous Smithsonian museums, such as The Air and Space Museum and The Museum of Natural History.
As an important side note, I totally understand that you’ll want to see as much as possible on a solo trip to Washington DC. It sucks to miss out on the Natural History Museum or The Museum of the American Indian.
However, the Smithsonians are huge and “museum burn out” is totally a real thing. I suggest a two museum limit per day to avoid feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. You can always come back again. The Smithsonians are not going anywhere.
Wander the National Mall
The National Mall is truly spectacular. I arrived in Washington DC at night, and had a beautiful cab ride that went along the perimeter of the Mall. My heart skipped a beat.
I know I already suggested seeing the National Mall at night, but don’t miss out on wandering in the day time too. Rent a bike if you want to cover a lot of the Mall. It’s huge.
You won’t run out of sites to see at the National Mall. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, several war memorials, and so much more. The National Mall is part of the National Park Service, and therefore, completely free to visitors. Use their guide to plan your daytime sightseeing.
Solo Travel Washington DC: Essential Tips
Last but not least, I wanted to share some practical tips for your upcoming solo trip to Washington DC.
How to Get Around Washington DC
Washington DC is easy to navigate.
Personally, I think the best way to experience Washington DC is on foot, particularly if you have good weather. The city is pedestrian friendly with an abundance of wide and sprawling sidewalks and cross walks. Furthermore, Washington DC has an abundance of bike rentals such as Unlimited Biking and Capital Rideshare. Bike lanes are also common around the city.
For longer distances, take advantage of the metro. Just keep in mind that Washington DC’s metro doesn’t run 24 hours of day. Late a night, rideshares, such as Uber and Lyft, are readily available, as well as official city cabs.
All in all, Washington DC is a breeze for solo travelers to get around and explore on their own terms.
Is Washington DC Safe?
I don’t want to sugarcoat here. Washington DC is a large city, and crime rates aren’t exactly low. Violent crimes are down in recent years, but still higher than the national average. Furthermore, the political atmosphere in the United States is contentious, and as the nation’s capital, protests aren’t infrequent.
So, it’s understandable that some solo travelers will feel a little hesitation about visiting Washington DC without a partner or a buddy. I get it.
However, you’re unlikely to experience any serious issues as a solo traveler. On my own weekend getaway, I was only ever asked for money once, but otherwise, my solo trip to Washington DC was uneventful in the safety department. Common sense goes a long way here.
In my honest opinion, I think the most solo travelers will enjoy DC and not have to worry too much about crime.
Safety Tips for Your Solo Trip to Washington DC
- Avoid politically significant days. Personally, with the political atmosphere in the United States, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting Washington DC on Election Day or Inauguration Day. I fully respect anyone’s right to protest, but at the same time, don’t want to get caught in one as a solo traveler.
- Be mindful at night. It’s very safe around the National Mall at night due the monuments’ popularity. However, I wouldn’t suggest going for a stroll at 3 am. to see them. Furthermore, you’ll want to exercise caution in other parts of DC at night. Public transportation is great here, but still take an Uber if you ever feel uncomfortable.
- Get travel insurance. If you’re an international traveler, then I highly recommend insurance if you are visiting the United States. Healthcare is good but, uh, expensive. My personal favorite is World Nomads.
- Research neighborhoods. As a tourist, I suggest staying in popular areas, such as Georgetown, Dupont Circle, National Mall, Adams Morgan, and Penns Quarter. You will also want to check the street that your accommodation is on. Is it a brightly lit street that is crowded, or a small side road that’s not as well-trafficked? Your comfort and safety come first.
- Stay Aware at Union Station: Amtrak goes through Washington DC’s main station, Union Station. I suggest traveling at busy hours. I didn’t feel super uncomfortable waiting for my train. However, I still want to mention that a sizable homeless population lives inside Union Station and surrounding areas. While most will leave you alone, some of the homeless are aggressive. Honestly, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable if I was in Union Station at “off hours.” Keep an eye on your belongings and go to the Amtrak police if necessary.
- Watch your belongings. As with any popular tourist destination, keep a close eye on your valuables. If you want to take an additional precaution, then take a Pacsafe bag with you. These bags have anti-theft properties to stop pickpockets and other thieves.
Where to Stay in Washington DC
Washington DC has a ton of hostel and hotel options. I picked three choices for this guide, but make sure to do your own research and stay true to your budget.
I happened to splurge on this trip, but I realize that everyone has different expectations for their solo trip to Washington DC.
So plan accordingly.
Hotel & Hostel Ideas
- Eaton DC: This trendy boutique hotel is a welcoming place and cultural hub. Eaton DC is also ideally located near many Smithsonian museums and Capitol Hill. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- HighRoad Washington DC: This adorable pod hotel is perfect for young travelers who want to meet other people. Located right in the heart of the popular Adams Morgan neighborhood. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Park Hyatt in Georgetown: Haha, I stayed at the Park Hyatt, and it was honestly a big splurge for me. As a solo traveler, sometimes it feels great to be pampered. So, if you want to enjoy a sophisticated stay in DC, then look no further than here. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide for taking a solo trip to Washington DC. Are you planning on visiting DC in the near future? What are you most excited about seeing and doing?