20 Things To Do In Washington DC At Night

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The beating heart of the United States, Washington DC, might be small, but the city is packed with some of the USA’s most important monuments, museums, federal buildings and historical landmarks. So, you’ll easily find lots to do both day and night.

A world-class city that’s much more than just the White House and the Capitol Building, the District of Columbia region and Downtown DC has many exciting sights and activities to enjoy after dark. From moonlight tours of the National Mall to catching a live game, DC has plenty in store, even if you’re not a fan of museums or monuments. Here are the best things to do in Washington DC at night.

Washington DC At Night

Top 3 DC Tours

washington dc safety at night
The fountain at the south side of Congress House.

20 Things To Do In Washington DC At Night

things to do in washington dc at night
During the festive season in Washington DC at night, look for the Christmas tree.

Originally opened in 1962 by the US Congress, the National Portrait Gallery is one of Washington DC’s best art houses, exhibiting thousands of portraits of some of America’s most influential people in politics, sports, business and beyond.

Housing a portrait of every United States president to date, the National Portrait Gallery forms part of the larger Smithsonian Institute’s national museum complex in the nation’s capital.

Open to the public until 7 pm, the National Portrait Gallery is a delightful early evening attraction worth visiting in Washington DC.

The National Portrait Gallery is at 8th St NW & G St NW, Washington, DC 20001. Check it out on the Monuments by Moonlight tour – an open-air trolley tour of the landmarks.

2- Pass By The Lincoln Memorial

washington dc at night tours
The Abraham Lincoln Memorial is one of the top spots to admire in Washington DC at night.

One of the most prominent and famous landmarks in DC, the Lincoln Memorial is right in the heart of the capital city’s National Mall.

It overlooks the iconic Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

Built in honour of the 16th President of the United States, the Lincoln Memorial is beautifully lit at night, making it a peaceful nighttime attraction if you want to experience the landmark away from the large daytime crowds.

Check out the Lincoln Memorial and other top landmarks on the Monuments by Night tour, riding and walking through the capital. 

The Lincoln Memorial is at 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20002. 

3-See An Evening Parade At The Marine Barracks

Performed on Friday nights during the summer, The United States Marine Corps at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC puts on a 75-minute precision marching performance accompanied by music played by the “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band.

Steeped in history and tradition, the ceremonies kick off at 8.45 pm sharp, just like it has since 1957.

While the evening parade at the Marine Barracks is free to attend, guests are encouraged to reserve seating before the actual event so they’re guaranteed a spot when the proceedings start.

The Marine Barracks is at 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20390.

4- Indulge Your Inner Thespian At John F. Kennedy Center

Standing out among other cultural landmarks in a city renowned for its historical landmarks and monuments, the majestic John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is DC’s go-to destination for live concerts and theatrical and dancing performances.

With a programme of over 2,200 performances throughout the year, there’s always something to see at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts when you’re in town.

Perched on the banks of the Potomac River, the centre’s geographic setting is just as beautiful as the live performances inside the venue, making it a fantastic late-night attraction in DC.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is at 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566.

5- Join A DC Ghost Tour

skyline washington dc at night
In Washington DC at night, the Smithsonian Castle takes on a spooky aura.

Washington DC’s national monuments and museums housing centuries-old artefacts and historical sites make the US capital a beautiful and culturally-vibrant city to visit, but it also makes the city a hotbed for paranormal events.

Ghost tours are some of the city’s most popular alternative late-night activities, and various tour companies operate ghost tours throughout Washington DC at night.

Ghost tours transport visitors through the city’s history to visit haunted landmarks, including sites such as the Blair House and the Hay Adams Hotel. You may like these:

6- Visit the Smithsonian National Zoo

fun things to do in washington dc at night
A clouded leopard in the National Zoo.

The Smithsonian Zoological Park or Smithsonian National Zoo was one of the first zoos established in the United States, dating back to 1889.

Spanning a total area of over 66 hectares (163 acres), the Smithsonian National Zoo is home to many interesting animal species from across the world, such as elephants, flamingos and pandas.

While the zoo closes at 4 pm, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Zoo Lights event draws in the crowds after dark.

The annual lights display between 29 November and 1 January (5 pm to 9 pm) is one of the biggest draws to DC, dazzling crowds with over 500,000 individual LED lights. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo is at 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008. 

7- Stroll around the Georgetown Waterfront Park

Located in the Georgetown Historic District, the Georgetown Waterfront Park is one of over 30 National Parks in Washington DC.

Covered in lush trees, shrubbery and flowers, the Georgetown Waterfront Park has views of the Potomac River, the Lincoln Memorial, the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and across the Potomac River into Virginia.

Open to the public (free admission) all day long, the Georgetown Waterfront Park is the perfect destination to go jogging, biking or picnicking in the evenings.

Treating visitors to some of the best vantage points in the District of Columbia, the Georgetown Waterfront Park is one of DC’s best free attractions.

The Georgetown Waterfront Park is at 3303 Water St NW, Washington, DC 20007.

8- Join A National Mall Night Tour

washington dc white house at night
One of the best things to do at night in Washington DC is to tour the National Mall, where you will see all the capital’s top landmarks, including the White House.

The National Mall is DC’s top attraction, drawing over 25 million tourists to the nation’s capital every year.

You can find most of the city’s historic landmarks and sites straddling the Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Complex, US Capitol and the White House.

While the Mall is free to explore all day long, various tour operators run nightly tours of the National Mall for visitors who desire an in-depth guided tour of the Mall and its landmarks.

Take a guided tour of over 20 of the capital’s top landmarks and memorials along the Mall. These are two extremely popular tours:

9- Ride The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

washington dc skyline at night Illuminated ferris wheel at National Harbor
After you’ve had your fill of monuments, a fun thing to do in Washington DC at night is to ride the Capital Wheel.

Situated a stone’s throw outside the District of Columbia area, the Capital Wheel is a 180-foot (55 m) tall rotating observation wheel which first arrived in the nation’s capital in 2014.

Inspired by the Roue de Paris in Paris and built in Wichita, Kansas, the Capital Wheel is complete with 42 climate-controlled cabins providing stunning views of the National Harbor, Georgetown University and the Washington Monument.

Open until 10 pm, the Capital Wheel takes about 15 minutes to make a complete revolution, giving you plenty of time to take in all the sights of the DC area.

The Capital Wheel at National Harbor is at 141 American Way, Forest Heights, MD 20745.

10- Explore The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial

washington dc at night
The WWII Memorial in Washington DC at night is a spectacular sight.

Honouring the fallen US Armed Forces service members of the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial has two black granite walls with the names of every service member who perished (or was never found during the war) engraved on them.

Situated right next to the National Mall inside the Constitutional Gardens, the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial was completed in 1982.

The Three Soldiers Statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial are later additions.

Maintained by the National Park Service, the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial is open all day long and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial is at 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20002.

11- Visit The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

night at the museum washington dc
Elephant replica in the Natural History Smithsonian Museum.

The sprawling Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall is a stunning neoclassical structure that is free to tour and is open 364 days out of the year.

One of the Smithsonian Institution’s flagship museums, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is open until 5.30 pm, however, the museum hosts regular late-night events when you can tour the facility after hours.

Seeing over 7 million visitors walk through its doors every year, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is the 11th most-visited museum in the world, a testament to its fantastic reputation as a world-leading natural history museum.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is at 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560. Treat yourself to a private guided tour.

12- Watch The NHL’s Capitals Zip Around On Ice

what to do at night in washington dc
Watching an ice hockey game is one of the fun thing to do in Washington DC at night.

One of Washington DC’s nine professional sporting teams, the Washington Capitals is DC’s professional hockey team, competing in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Established in 1974, the Washington Capitals, or Caps for short, play their home games in the Capital One Arena in Downtown DC and have won a Stanley Cup.

Immensely popular and always drawing large crowds to home games in the nation’s capital, watching the Capitals live during a late night home game is a great DC nighttime activity that is always a fun and energetic affair.

The Capital One Arena is at 601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004.

13- Visit The Washington Monument

washington dc monument at night
The Washington Monument stands behind the fountain of the National World War II Memorial. Both are places you’ll see on most Washington DC night tours.

One of the National Mall’s most iconic monuments, the soaring and world-famous Washington Monument is a 555-foot (169 m) tall Egyptian-style stone obelisk commemorating the first President of the United States and one of the nation’s founding fathers.

Built between 1848 and 1884, the hollow monument can be toured day or night, with visitors able to travel up to the monument’s observation deck at the tip of the Washington Monument.

Free to enter and open until 10 pm, the Washington Monument is one of DC’s must-visit attractions that is bound to be one of the highlights of any trip to the US capital. You can visit several landmarks by electric cart.

The Washington Monument is at 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024.

14- Enjoy The Phillips Collection’s Modern Artwork

Established in 1921 by prominent philanthropist and avid art collector Duncan Phillips, the sizeable Phillips Collection has expanded its vast art collection for over a century.

Located inside Phillips’ former residence in the famous DC neighbourhood of DuPont Circle, the Phillips Collection today houses some 5,000+ art pieces spread across permanent and special exhibitions.

America’s first modern art museum, the Phillips Collection, is DC’s premier contemporary art house open to the public until 6 pm.

The Phillips Collection is at 1600 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20009.

15- Take An Evening Stroll Around The Tidal Basin

places to see in washington dc at night
A scenic night view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin is something you’ll see on a Washington DC at night tour.

The man-made Tidal Basin reservoir is sandwiched between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River.

It forms the banks on which the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are situated.

The Tidal Basin comes to life with a beautiful array of colours every spring as the Japanese Cherry Blossom trees bloom, signalling the start of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC.

Spanning a total area of 107 acres (43 ha), the Tidal Basin is open to the public all day long and is completely free to visit.

The Tidal Basin is at National Capital Parks, West Potomac Park, Washington, DC 20024.

16- Take A Dinner Cruise On The Potomac River

The Odyssey hosts one of Washington DC’s top dinner cruises, located in the Southwest Waterfront district, which takes passengers out on a one-level glass observation boat for a royal dining experience like none other.

Operating on the Potomac River, the Odyssey’s glass windows provide guests with stunning vantage points of the capital’s top monuments and landmarks, from the Lincoln Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Odyssey is at 580 Water St SW, Washington, DC 20024. Book your table here. Don’t miss out. 

17- Explore Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

washington dc monuments at night
The memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King is America’s 395th national park; gazing at it is one of the must-do things in Washington DC.

Situated on the banks of the Tidal Basin and surrounded by the memorials of Thomas Jefferson and FDR, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the ultimate tribute to the US civil rights leader who dared to challenge the norm.

While the monument itself and the surrounding monuments around the Tidal Basin are free to enjoy, the best way to see the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument is by booking a 2.5-hour nighttime trolley tour.

The trolley tour whisks passengers past the MLK Memorial and several other DC memorials, with tour guides providing fascinating information about each monument.

You may be interested in this tour to delve into African American history.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is at 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003. 

18- Join An Escape Game

washington dc monument tour at night
Another beautiful Washington DC monument at night – the old post office but if you’ve had your fill of monuments, test your skills at an escape room.

Experiencing the rush of solving riddles and figuring out a way to get out of a set-up room is always a fun and exciting experience with friends or family.

Escape games are becoming increasingly popular, and Washington DC has several escape rooms spread out across the District of Columbia area.

There are several escape room locations dotted across the nation’s capital.

Whether you try their Submarine, Spy, or Jurassic-themed escape rooms, it’s another way to have fun with friends and family. 

19- Listen To Live Jazz and Blues

what to do in washington dc at night Caucasian men at a concert playing jazz and blues on saxophone and contrabass.
Don’t fancy a night at the museum in Washington DC? Don’t worry, there are plenty of attractions in the capital and going to a jazz club is one of the fun things to do at night in Washington DC at night.

The famous Blues Alley Club is one of the DC area’s most popular live music venues, specialising in Blues and Jazz music genres.

First opened in 1965, the Blues Alley Club hosts live music most nights of the week and is the country’s longest-running jazz supper club.

Apart from being a fantastic music venue, the Blues Alley Club serves tasty meals alongside live music, making the club a destination to both grab a bite to eat and enjoy great music at one convenient location.

The Blues Alley Club is at 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007.

20- See the MLB’s Nationals live at Nats Park

is washington dc safe at night Washington DC buildings neon sign
Wondering what to do in Washington DC at night? Check out our top 20 attractions.

DC’s professional baseball team, the Washington Nationals, who play in the MLB’s National League East Division, has won a World Series title as recently as 2019 and enjoys a strong fanbase at the team’s home games in Nationals Park.

Commonly known as Nats Park, Nationals Park is a wonderful baseball venue capable of seating over 46,000 fanatic Nats fans on game day.

A fantastic sports venue that’s well worth visiting to see a late-night Nats game live, Nats Park in Downtown DC is the place to be when the Nationals are in town.

Nats Park is at 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003.

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.