Washington DC has a huge tourist crowd, so it can be hard to see all of the historic and artistic gems among the hordes of people posing for pictures, crowding around memorials, and trying to figure out which street to walk or metro line to take to get to the next hot destination. Once you have had your fill of museum-scouting and monument-hopping, follow these eight tips to escape the T-shirt-matching, selfie-stick-carrying throngs.
Avoid tourist times
What they say is true; timing is everything. If you want to plan a trip to DC, these are the peak times you should avoid: National Cherry Blossom Festival (end of March-beginning of April), 4th of July, Easter weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas week, and Memorial Day weekend. January, February, and August are the quietest months due to weather and weekdays are better than weekends for sightseeing, and many of the memorials are open 24/7, so go early or later in the day, when the crowds are lightest.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
After you’re done snapping photos at the well-known bucket-list spots, head to historic Georgetown, via car or metro, to get lost on the 19th-century estate Dumbarton Oaks, which includes 10 acres to walk around and admire the peaceful landscaped gardens, pathways, and reflecting pool.
Dumbarton Oaks Park, R St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 895 6000
What could be cooler than a secret slumber party at the International Spy Museum with your family? It’s the perfect way to spend a night in DC as a family and your kids will forever remember the night they got to go on a secret mission before bedtime.
International Spy Museum, 800 F St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 393 7798
Join Night of the Museum
There are not one but two museums that offer after-dark soirees; the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn and the Freer Gallery. Hirshhorn has plenty of conversational pieces hanging all over the place, so in that sense, it’s a terrific environment to mingle and dance. The Freer Gallery is a full-out party that’s Asian art-themed, with well-crafted cocktails and live performances.
Freer Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 633 1000
…instead, avoid them entirely by going to drink some wine in Charlottesville. It’s a two-hour trip outside of DC, and wine isn’t its only crowd pleaser (don’t worry, this is a much smaller crowd). It has a downtown mall, almost a dozen art galleries, outdoor concerts, and art festivals going on throughout most of the year. Then, there is the comprehensive Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation, a World Heritage Site, research institute, museum, and presidential library, and the operator of a wine trail which has nearly 30 wineries. There are also wine tours offered on horseback by Cville Hop On Tours. Don’t care for wine? Get aboard the Brew Ridge Trail for a unique beer-tasting experience instead!
Monticello, 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA, USA, +1 434 984 9800
Hang with the locals
Despite what you may have heard, there are more relaxed places to eat than the overly promoted lavish restaurants downtown. If you want an authentic taste of some local grub, go to the revived Columbia Heights. There are not only diverse independently owned restaurants and bars throughout the urban area, but local community art spaces and brewpubs as well. Walk along 11th Street, the heart of the neighborhood, to find The Wonderland Ballroom, a hipster haven beer garden, and El Chucho, a standout taqueria you can go to for dinner, brunch, or just a few superior cocktails.
El Chucho, 3313 11th St NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 290 3313
Getting in and out
As all the locals know, you should fly in and out of the Washington Reagan National Airport instead of Dulles or BWI. It’s easy to get to or from the city by Uber or taxi and is only about 15 minutes away from the heart of DC.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.