What to do with only 4 hours to tourist in Washington D.C.

If you truly want to experience the heart of what The United States of America are all about, you must visit Washington D.C.

There are so many cool things about Washington D.C. – the historic architecture, the wealth of public FREE knowledge, the symbolism intertwined with everything about our nation’s history. There is a ton to see and experience, so much that you could spend several days here taking it all in, and taking your time to enjoy and learn about everything.

However, on this trip we were not lucky enough to have a lot of extra time. My family lives in Upstate New York and my sister in Washington D.C. We were all home visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday when we came up with the genius idea (at least we thought it was smart at the time) to drive my sister back to D.C. and fly out of there instead after spending the day doing tourist activities. Our plan was a little miss-managed (sadly) as we both did not correctly judge how badly we would not want to get up early in the morning for the drive, and also what a pain it is to drive for 6 hours straight with a toddler. Our intent was to have a full day to tourist in Washington D.C., but in reality we had about 4 hours!

We checked into our hotel around 3pm, and though it was late and we were burnt out, decided to still give it a go. The great thing about Washington D.C. is that there are Ubers to be had everywhere, so making it from our hotel to the heart of the city was easy. Our hotel location choice ended up being a smart one; we stayed at the Embassy Suites, which was only about a 10-15 minute drive with traffic to Reagan airport.

Our Uber zoomed us off to the Smithsonian museums at the National Mall first. There are 11 Smithsonian museums at the mall, and 17 in D.C. total… now are you starting to understand why I said you could spend DAYS here?? With a 2 1/2 year old in tow, we wanted to hit the more kid-friendly museums, so the Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History were the ones we decided on. I personally thought Air and Space was okay – it seemed dated, though there were some really cool old planes and spaceships. However, the Natural History Museum knocked our socks off! The building itself was beautiful, and the exhibits were both interesting and visually stimulating! The dinosaurs were our favorite part. We didn’t get to spend as much time there as we wished because they were closing, but we still enjoyed our visit.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Inside
A view of the foyer at the National Museum of Natural History

From the mall we had a nice a sunset walk with a view of the Capitol Building on one end, and the Washington Monument on the other. If you are walking towards the Washington Monument from the mall, you will also be headed towards the World War II Monument, the Reflecting Pool, and Lincoln Memorial… all of which we visited. The Lincoln Memorial is by far my favorite. It is a truly humbling and powerful feeling to stand at Lincoln’s feet in this massive marble monument.

Washington monument mall sunset 1
This is the most composed photo we could get of our group… we were tired to say the least!
Photo Nov 27, 3 50 31 PM
By the time the Smithsonians closed the sun was starting to set. Once we arrived at the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial it had set completely making for a very beautiful view!
Lincoln Memorial DC 2

From there, we decided we had enough time to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial (a newer monument), which we passed through the Korean War Memorial to get to. The MLK Monument was another favorite, as his quotes lined a large wall that you could walk the length of. Again, a very moving experience. Sadly, our toddler pooped out on us as we walked past the Reflecting Pool, so she missed what I would call the best parts of our quick tour of monuments. Thank goodness that I remembered our Lillebaby toddler carrier so she was able to get in a good nap without being too heavy to carry.

Martin Luther King Monument DC 3
Martin Luther King Monument DC 6 (2)
The front of the MLK Monument, a very moving place I would suggest spending time to walk the wall and read all his quotes.

Of course, we had to end the experience with a great dinner in the city! My sister who has lived in D.C. for years, declared that the restaurant “Founding Farmers” is the non-negotiable place you take out of town guests to. They are a self-declared “urban farmhouse” with a farm-to-table concept. Founding Farmers is not a stranger to publicity, and has been featured countless times by sources such as the Washington Post, Eater D.C., the Washingtonian, Thrillist, among countless others. We agreed it was an obvious choice and set off to dinner!

One fun thing about Founding Farmers is that it is only 3 blocks away from the White House… which my husband unfortunately refused to see based on the current state of our presidency. We however were held up by a presidential motorcade which I thought was a fun experience, regardless of our thoughts on the person IN the car. Our dinner was great – I can’t say that I went big with my menu order… a grilled cheese and tomato soup, haha! What can I say, I was cold and tired and ready for some comfort food before a long day of travel kicking off at 4am the next day. My husband however had some good looking steak frites, and my sister’s pot roast dish was the most impressive.

After dinner, we were very tired from our excursions and headed back to the hotel to retire early. I think we accomplished this all within the time span of 4pm-8pm! We did leave the city with plenty that we were still wishing we had the chance to do. The Jefferson Memorial is one of my other favorites, and we did not have the opportunity to pay it a visit. I would also love to dive into all the Smithsonian museums at the mall, the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum catching my interest the most. The American Holocaust Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Arlington National Cemetary and a few others on my D.C. ‘bucket list’, if you will.

Luckily, with family in D.C. I am sure we will be back soon!

I hope you enjoyed reading and are able to plan a few well-used hours in D.C. with some help from it 🙂

X.O. – Abbey Co.

P.S. – If you are thinking of getting a toddler carrier for travel, I would absolutely suggest the Lillebaby Toddler carrier I am using here! It is good for 20-60 LBS and has been a LIFE SAVER for us, especially with a kid in the 99th percentile on growth charts… she out grew our baby carriers FAST and we have been using the Lillebaby ever since!

LILLEbaby 3 in 1 CarryOn Toddler Carrier – Air – Mist

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4 Replies to “What to do with only 4 hours to tourist in Washington D.C.”

  1. Great post!! I spent three BUSY days in D.C. last year and still didn’t get a chance to see everything! It’s such a great city and I think your fam hit some great spots in such a short amount of time.

  2. I can’t believe how much you fit in! I was in DC this summer for a few days and still felt I missed tons. I loved all of the monuments and museums!

  3. Great post! I went to the holocaust museum back in September and it was amazing, we spent most of the day there!Definitely recommend 😊

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