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30+ Favorite Travel Photos of Washington, D.C.

Get inspired for a visit with my favorite travel photos captured in Washington, D.C.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

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My first visit to Washington, D.C. was in celebration of my birthday in 2013. It started a trend I followed for many years, spending four or five days a year around my birthday exploring different areas of the city. Those first adventures were amazing but exhausting – and I walked away with a lot of great photography.

Since then, I have road tripped through Washington, D.C. several times. It’s a sort of hub for road trip adventures so I always find myself spending a few extra days there.

Check out some of my favorite travel photos of Washington, D.C. I have captured over the years. Leave me a comment below and tell me which of these is your favorite!

My first stop on my first day in Washington was the Capitol Building. I had a piggy bank shaped like this building when I was a kid and it was one of my favorite things in my room. But until this visit, I had no idea the grounds surrounding the building were like an urban park.

One of the benefits of visiting in late August was seeing some of the shrubbery and flowers in bloom. It was about the only benefit – otherwise it was swelteringly hot and miserable.

Capturing this photo got me in trouble. I left my hotel before sunrise and walked to the Capitol Building. I set my camera on a tripod and started dialing in the settings for a long exposure of this water feature. Before I could capture the finished photo, a Capitol Police officer told me tripods were not allowed anywhere on the Capitol property. Oops.

The World War II Memorial was one of my favorites in the city because of the water fountains. Split between Pacific and Atlantic, the memorial wrapped around a large concrete pond with jets and streams of water bubbling everywhere. Nobody fussed at me for using a tripod there.

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I think the one thing that shocked me the most about visiting Washington was the city surrounding the White House. I’d only ever seen tight photos from a particular angle that made it seem like the White House was on a hill all by itself. That couldn’t have been further from reality.

People. So many people. The Reflecting Pool at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial is one of the most popular places to visit in Washington – even on a balmy summer day.

I thought the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was absolutely monumental. Carved from granite, the monument resembled King as a door that had been opened – paving the way for racial equality in America. Definitely one of the most beautiful memorials in the city.

The Washington Monument kinda dominated the skyline at all times. I don’t know how many photos I captured have a glimpse of the towering monument in the background. Construction stopped during the Civil War. When it resumed, the stone was brought in from a different quarry. If you look closely, you can see a point where the color of the granite is slightly different – marking the change in quarries.

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It’s easy to see how tall the Washington Monument is – it’s probably the tallest structure in Washington, D.C. But what you can’t tell until you’re standing next to it is just how wide the base is.

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The Jefferson Memorial was one of the most intriguing. It was a gargantuan domed memorial – the only one like it in the city – open to the air and easy to explore. One of my favorite things to do was sit on the steps and watch people pedaling across The Basin.

Every day I spend in Washington, D.C. ends with a scramble to chase the sunset. I’m always looking for the best place to capture a great photo in the warm rays just before they disappear for the day. The Jefferson Memorial was a great place to visit for this.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is my favorite in Washington, D.C. The open air monument is almost like a maze with a route that twists and turns through the years of Roosevelt’s administration – all 12 of them!

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There are hundreds of monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C – I’ve probably only seen 20% so far. Above, the Koren War Memorial featured larger than life statues of soldiers who fought in the war. Below, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial depicted a moving scene of a fallen comrade.

The DC War Memorial is the only thing in the city dedicated to World War I. I found this curious because the memorial is tucked away in a little corner near the World War II Memorial – and it was a profound war of its own. Seems like there would have been more?

The Washington Zoo was a fascinating place to explore. Bamboo forests provided much needed breaks from the summer sun. I don’t know what had the Bengal tiger upset, but the roars were interesting to experience and photograph.

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

The National Museum of the American Indian was interesting to explore – but my favorite photo was from the ground floor of the lobby looking up at this domed ceiling.

I could not believe the exhibits I saw on display at the National Postal Museum – and I also couldn’t believe such a museum existed! Everything from horse drawn mail carriers to modern USPS trucks filled the museum.

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The Smithsonian Museum of American History was like walking through a history book. The transportation section of the museum was my favorite – they had old public buses, classic cars, and this entire locomotive on display!

For thousands of residents, Union Station is a transportation hub for getting into, out of, and around the city. I hurriedly walked through those halls more times than I can count to catch the train to the next Metro station. But it was also an architecturally beautiful building to explore.

Locals love the outdoor markets in Washington, D.C. Above, the FRESHFARM Market in Dupont Circle and below, the Eastern Market, are great places for finding local produce, baked goods, and arts and crafts.

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The National Arboretum was a delightful place to visit – and the first place you should visit on a rainy day. I couldn’t believe these palm trees were growing inside a building!

The U.S. National Arboretum is located just outside the city and requires a car to get there. I didn’t have much time to explore the entire museum – but I did fully explore the Bonsai Exhibit.

The Friendship Arch in Chinatown is one of the beautiful anythings in Washington, D.C. But do you have any idea how long I had to wait and how many photos I had to capture to finally have something like this that I was happy with? Hint: a long time and a lot of photos.

The National Mall is big and my favorite place to watch sunset in Washington, D.C. This was one of the last photos I captured during my last visit in 2016. I hope to return to the city again soon. I know how to put politics aside and just enjoy the city for the immense culture, history, and entertainment it offers.

And I know I have many more amazing travel photos I want to capture there.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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