Not everyone can get out to visit Washington, D.C., which is why virtual tours are the perfect way to experience the nation’s capital without ever having to leave your home. Virtual Washington D.C. tours allow you to roam the halls of Congress, cruise around the National Mall, walk along the Potomac River, and get up close and personal with a few predators at the National Museum of Natural History.
While we do hope you visit Washington, D.C. one day soon, here are a ton of sightseeing tours, museums, archives, historic homes, monuments and memorials you can tour from your laptop or mobile phone. No hop on hop off tour required.
If you have ever wanted to walk the National Mall, but just can’t make it down there (or you want to prep for your trip), this is the Washington, D.C. tour for you. Click through images of the memorials. Take a 360-degree tour that allows you to walk the paths from the Lincoln Memorial up to the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial. D.C. night tours and day tours are available on the site.
Take the tour: youvisit.com
Take a 360-degree tour inside the Jefferson Memorial. You can “walk” up to the statue of Jefferson and explore the memorial’s columns and dome. Pop outside to see the view from the Tidal Basin.
Take the tour: youvisit.com
National Cherry Blossom Festival Live
The National Cherry Blossom festival is now available virtually. You can watch kite flying, learn how to make your own kite, do five minutes of mindful meditation or take a tour of the Tidal Basin with a park ranger. Check out the live Bloom Cam, watch the cherry blossom opening ceremony in Japan and watch live musical performances.
Take the tour: nationalcherryblossomfestivallive.org
Tune into the Tidal Basin via an EarthCam, dubbed “Bloom Cam,” set up on a building looking over the Jefferson Memorial and D.C. cherry blossoms. You can view the blooms, learn about the women who planted the trees and learn how to help preserve the blooms for years to come.
Take the tour: nationalmall.org/bloomcam
The U.S. Capitol Building
Who better to teach you about D.C. building history than the Architect of the Capitol? The Virtual Capitol brings Capitol Hill to life through videos and interactive tours. These tours explain why the Capital was built the way it was, describe sustainability efforts and the people who worked in the building in the past, and include a time lapse video of the sunset. You can even watch the construction of the visitor’s center and get behind the scenes information about the building’s embellishments.
Take the tour: capitol.gov
U.S. Botanic Garden
Take a stroll through the U.S. Botanic Garden, where roses are in bloom outside and the green houses are bursting with color. Scroll through original photographs of the U.S. Botanic Garden while it was being built, and get a taste of its many annual festivals, including the Orchid Show. While the Google Map tour can be a bit clunky, you do get a good idea of what to expect when you visit the Conservatory, National Garden and Bartholdi Park at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Take the tour: usbg.gov
There are more than 170 foreign embassies within the Washington, D.C. city limits, making for a lot of virtual scavenger hunts and knowledge to explore. If you can’t make it to EU Days and Passport DC, you can dig into what makes each embassy unique, what services they offer and why they are in the U.S. via this Embassy Row tour with text and images.
Massachusetts Avenue and Dupont Circle are the main focus of the tour since that’s where many D.C. embassies are located, with other parts of the city popping in as well. The site is clunky and dated, but has some good information on it.
Take the tour: embassy.org
U.S. Supreme Court
Virtually tour the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., the highest court in the United States of America. Descriptions of all of the current and past Supreme Court justices are available, along with the latest news and current and past court cases.
Take the tour: oyez.org
NOTE: This tour requires Adobe Flashplayer.
Library of Congress
Library of Congress virtual tours are available of the Thomas Jefferson Building, James Madison Memorial Building and John Adams building. For those looking for details about the Main Reading Room, one of the most beautiful spots in Washington, D.C, you will want to click on the Jefferson Building tour. Detailed descriptions of the dome and bronze statues are available. Maps indicate some of the more significant works in the library, including the Gutenberg Bible. Be aware that this tour is mainly pictures, text and maps, not video or a 360-degree walkthrough. It’s still worth checking out when you can’t visit Washington, D.C. in person.
Take the tour: loc.gov
Get a 360-degree look inside Ford’s Theater, the famous site where John Wilks Booth assassinated President Lincoln. You can’t click around the space too much, but you do get a good sense of what to expect if you attend a performance (yes, this theater is still active) or take a guided tour. More detailed information and the history of the theater is available on fords.org.
Take the tour: artsandculture.google.com
U.S. National Archives
Dig into our nation’s history through the U.S. National Archives. Read the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Online exhibits include posters from WWII, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, and a record of the unique gifts given to twelve presidents from Herbert Hoover through Bill Clinton. You can also tour the National Archives via the National Archives YouTube channel.
Take the tour: archives.gov/exhibits
American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
Stroll through the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, clicking arrows as you view the walls and listen to the commentary. Tour the memorial through photos and in 360 degrees at dusk or during daylight.
Take the tour: youvisit.com
Get a 360-degree view of the Navy Memorial. This outdoor tribute is easy to miss, but certainly worth exploring when you take a D.C. tour.
Take the tour: 360cities.net
Take a look at the Rose window, Space window, Last Judgement rose window, and more of the stained glass that the Washington, D.C. National Cathedral is known for across the country. Bring the kids on a gargoyle hunt in this virtual tour. Our favorite moment: Darth Vader visiting and finding his own gargoyle on the “dark side” of the cathedral. Click through the interior and exterior “hot spot” maps to find more reasons to love this D.C. church.
Take the tour: cathedral.org
National Guard Educational Foundation Museum
Check out the audio/visual tour of the National Guard Educational Foundation Museum, the only museum dedicated to the National Guard. Your guide will bring you through the rooms and allow you to pick which exhibits you want to explore. Maps, videos and images of the actual exhibits bring this museum to life when you are at home taking a tour of Washington, D.C.
Take the tour: ngef.org
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
While we don’t recommend children under 9 visit this museum due to the graphic imagery and sensitive nature of the topic, you can explore virtually at any time. Online exhibits include Americans and the Holocaust, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, Life in the Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust, and Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story.
Take the tour: ushmm.org
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Walk along the grounds and through the doors of Cedar Hill in Anacostia, Southeast Washington, D.C., Frederick Douglass’ home before he died. Learn about the Douglass family and Frederick’s political life through their photos and belongings. Watch a video tour that leads you through the home and is filled with insight into this man’s incredible life in the late 1800s. Click on photos for full descriptions of items in the museum collection, or to read historical documents.
Take the tour: nps.gov
Note: Adobe Flash Player is needed to play the home tour.
Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tours
The Smithsonian Institute and all of the free Smithsonian museums are one of the biggest draws for people visiting Washington, D.C. Take a D.C. tour through some of our favorite museums, even when you can’t visit in person. These virtual tours will get you excited to start booking your own trip to Washington, D.C., whether you want to meet the resident pandas or catch a glimpse of a rocket that has been to space. These tours are great for all ages, with details even kids will love.
Take a deep dive into the Smithsonian Institution’s collection online, with the latest exhibits sorted by museum and medium. Whether you have always wanted to visit the American History Museum or the American Indian Museum Heye Center, you will find a piece of history that will surprise and delight your senses even from your home office. Past and present exhibits across the Smithsonian museum collections are available for browsing; some offer video while others are photos and text.
Take the tour: si.edu
National Gallery of Art
Listen to past lectures, participate in family activities and browse the National Gallery of Art’s collection from home. Video lectures by documentarian Ken Burns, architect Frank Gehry and panel discussions about the role of art in diplomacy are just a few of the ways you can experience NGA programming virtually. Exhibitions like Degas at the Opera and a Raphael retrospective walk you through the works these artists created and inspired, the thinking behind each piece, and how the artist’s life impacted his or her work.
Take the tour: nga.gov
National Museum of Natural History
Browse through the permanent, current and past exhibits and the research happening behind the scenes at the National Museum of Natural History. Our favorite place to start? The dinosaurs of course, although when my boys allow me to take over our tour, I like to pop into the gem room too.
Even though we live close enough to visit, you’ll often find my family jumping online to get a peek at each rock in the museum’s collection and the Jurassic plants, bugs and dinosaurs. I just wish there was a live feed in the butterfly pavilion so I could pop in on a cold winter’s day for a little spring pick-me-up. Click on the map that brings you through the ground floor, first and second floors to find an exhibit you would like to explore. Follow the arrows on the floor to walk around the exhibits. If you see a camera icon, click on it for an up-close look.
Take the tour: naturalhistory.si.edu
National Air and Space Museum
Time to jet off to space through the National Air and Space Museum’s virtual tour offerings. Watch videos like How Do Things Fly? and lectures by research scientists, along with online exhibits like Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity and America By Air. You can also tour the aircraft, spaceships and other vehicles and artifacts on display through photos and text.
Take the tour: airandspace.si.edu
Note: Adobe Flash Player is needed to play some tour.
National Postal Museum
One of our favorite Washington, D.C. museums is virtual on Google Arts & Culture. Just like street view on Google Maps, you can wander the halls and exhibits of the National Postal Museum. Check out the mail planes, trucks and even horse drawn carriages used to deliver the mail. Wander though the evolution of mail delivery, learn how postmen and women read all of our handwriting, and click on images to read and learn more about the artifacts in the collection.
Take the tour: postalmuseum.si.edu
Pandas and mole rats and lions, oh my! Wait…and elephants too. Now you can visit all of your favorite National Zoo pals via the Smithsonian National Zoo webcams placed in four of the most popular exhibits. We may not be able to say hello to Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, our resident pandas, but at least we can see them still frolic, play and…sleep. They sleep a lot.
But seriously, who doesn’t love watching an elephant take a bath. Leave the live feed on all day or just pop in when you need a pick-me-up. While you are on the site, dig into the National Zoo conservation efforts, learn a few critter facts and explore where you will go first when you visit.
Virtual Tours Outside of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. tours expand beyond the district boundaries. There is a lot of history just over the border in Maryland and Virginia as well. From presidential homes to war memorials and even an aquarium, you will never be bored when you step outside of the Nation’s Capital and into these historic and scientific hot spots in the DMV.
Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Discover the home that housed the Washingtons, Custises and Lees, from the American Revolution to the Civil War. No matter your political opinion, you can learn the stories and view the treasure left behind at Arlington House.
What were the military traditions in early America? How did the ladies pay social calls in Colonial and Revolutionary times? If you are a history buff and are especially interested in American wars, you’ll want to read through the historical documents, learn how the slaves played an important role in the evolution of the property, and even grab a few family recipes to recreate at home.
Take the tour: nps.gov
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
Wander back in time and across the grounds of George Washington’s 18th-century estate, Mount Vernon. Explore through video tours, historic paintings and factoids as you wander the grounds, pointing your clicker in the direction of what you want to learn about and where you want to go next. The entire Mount Vernon estate is your playground.
Take the tour: mountvernon.org
Did you know that you can cuddle up with a few friendly jellyfish, an octopus and some curious sharks at the National Aquarium? It’s true! The National Aquarium live webcams allow you to travel under the sea from the comfort of your couch. When you aren’t stalking the animal webcams, you can discover more facts about your favorite creatures, learn about the Chesapeake Bay waters and how you can help protect the ocean from home.
Take the tour: aqua.org
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Washington, D.C. Travel Resources
Your Washington, D.C. vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve got the resources you need to plan your trip and make the most out of your time in the city and surrounding area. If this is your first time to the capital region, check out our Washington, D.C. trip planner and itineraries.
For transportation, check out our D.C. driving guide and our guide on how to ride the metro. For those flying in, you’ll want to read our guides to BWI, DCA and IAD airports.
Dive into our things to do in D.C., which is always being updated and evolving to make sure you have the latest and greatest activities to fill your checklist of things to do. Don’t forget about food, the real reason we all travel, right? Our Washington, D.C. restaurant guide will get you started and lead you into neighborhoods full of delicious treats.
For more resources, check out our pages on Baltimore, Richmond and beyond.
Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.
Budget: When it comes to Washington, D.C. budget hotels, prices vary depending on the season. In the middle of October, a four-star hotel could be under $150, while in December it may be over $400. At any given time of year, though, Hotel Hive is a safe bet for value when it comes to resting your head. If you are looking for a hostel, Hi Washington D.C. Downtown is well located for exploring all of the D.C. museums, restaurants and bars at the fraction of the price of a hotel. Check rates and availability here.
Mid-range: Every USA hotel chain can be found in Washington, D.C., but stay at the St. Gregory Hotel when you want a local touch. The modern, light-filled rooms will welcome you to the city, whether you are in a studio or suite with wraparound terrace. The hotel is walking distance to Georgetown, the National Mall and Embassy Row, making it easy to explore without a rental car. Check rates and availability here.
Luxury: You are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Washington, D.C. We love cozying up at the Graham Georgetown, a sweet little boutique hotel in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Check rates and availability here. Major hotel brands like The Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. and St. Regis Washington D.C. all have outposts here as well. If you want something a bit more historic, we recommend The Jefferson, Washington D.C. Ninety-nine rooms in this luxury boutique hotel bring together an attentive staff, petite spa, and the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant with all of the history you could hope for when you are in the nation’s capital. Check rates and availability here.
Family-friendly: We always gravitate towards the Kimpton hotels whenever we are traveling with kids. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., once the General Post Office building, is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood just four blocks off the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art. Price point is mid-range, depending on the time of year you visit. Parents will love the nightly wine events and evening nightcap perks as well as complimentary coffee and a tea bar each morning. Kids will love that they can borrow a fish friend for their stay, and that there is always a treat on hand that they can enjoy, and the robes are just their size. Kimpton also has adult and child-size bikes to borrow so you can cruise around town during your stay. Check rates and availability here.
Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors; hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered. Check rates and availability here.
We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family is covered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robust if you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. I’ve been a customer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with the Allianz team.
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