What to do during your trip to Washington, DC

A photo of the water garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC
The National Arboretum in Washington DC is one of the city’s iconic spots. Daniel Diasgranados for Insider

From history aficionados and epicureans to outdoor enthusiasts and city slickers, Washington has something to pique every traveler’s interests. However, if you’re looking for experiences a step above the typical tourist to-do list, there are a handful of noteworthy activities and sights to see.

Keep reading for some of the must-do activities to add to your upcoming DC itinerary.

Kayak the Potomac River

For a unique vantage point of some of the district’s most famous monuments, take to DC’s waterways. Spend the day paddling down the Potomac River toward the Tidal Basin before heading back up to explore Theodore Roosevelt Island. This secluded oasis offers several scenic trails through forest, swamp, and marshland, as well as a memorial to the US’s 26th president.

View of the Potomac River and the verdant green forest of Theodore Roosevelt Island from the Rock Creek Parkway in Georgetown. The gleaming highrises of Rosslyn, Virginia, peek over the treetops.
Check out Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Potomac River as viewed from the Rock Creek Parkway in Georgetown. Christabel Lobo for Insider

US National Arboretum

The sprawling 446-acre grounds of the US National Arboretum offer an immersive nature experience of marked trails, lush evergreen conifer and bonsai groves without ever having to leave the district lines. If you visit in the spring, be sure to check out the cherry blossom trees that surround the former sandstone Corinthian columns of the US Capitol.

Side-by-side of three images with an exterior shot of the National Arboretum where trees surround one of the entry points and different plants on display.
The US National Arboretum provides an unforgettable experience in nature. Daniel Diasgranados for Insider

Dupont Underground

Housed in an abandoned streetcar station, Dupont Underground is an eclectic 15,000-square-foot art space situated directly under Dupont Circle. Events include interactive art showcases, poetry readings and comedy shows. Once a month, the space also plays host to a flea market featuring one-of-a-kind goods by local artisans.

A wall with a railing that has 'Dupont Underground' spray painted in pink and blue colors and bubble font
Dupont Underground is a great place for creatives to visit. Daniel Diasgranados for Insider

U Street Food and History Walking Tour

A food tour through the U Street Corridor, one of the city’s most historic and lively neighborhoods, is a great way to experience DC’s burgeoning dining scene. Knowledgeable guides explain the history behind the area, once famously known as Black Broadway, while you sample some of the district’s signature flavors like mambo sauce, chili, and spicy half-smokes.

Side-by-side of three outdoor shots U Street with business signs and people crossing a street.
The U Street area in DC is full of energy and spots to explore. Daniel Diasgranados for Insider

The Reach at the Kennedy Center

Playing host to contemporary art exhibits, live concerts and film screenings, the Reach at the Kennedy Center is an expansive new indoor-outdoor venue at the Kennedy Center. With an estimated 69,000 square feet of landscaped roof gardens, a grove of ginkgo trees, and a tranquil reflecting pool, the Reach is worth a visit even if you don’t have a performance to attend.

View Insider’s comprehensive guide to visiting Washington, DC.