This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Washington D.C.
While America’s big cities can feel like capitals in themselves—Washington D.C. is the single real deal. It was here that in 1790, George Washington planned to make a capital city for the great nation. From ceremonial spaces to endless museums and monuments, this capital is a melting core of culture & historical drama.
If you’ve got a stopover, we’ll cover here what to do in Washington Reagan on a layover. Luckily for you: downtown is just 4 miles away (14 minutes by taxi)—giving you easy access to some of the world’s most iconic attractions and quintessentially American fare.
If you only have a short layover, you are better off staying at the airport. There you will find free WiFi, a few lounges and lots of dining/shopping options. Sleep wise: airside closes at 11 PM but you can nap away at landside. For more airport information, check out our Washington Reagan Airport Guide.
Washington D.C. Sightseeing Attractions
Below are a few of the top things to do in Washington D.C. during your layover at Reagan Airport:
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
For history buffs & non-history buffs: visiting the home of America’s first presidential family will be hard to beat. But maybe the first thing you’ll notice is how stunning everything is. Overlooking the Potomac River, George Washington’s mansion is surrounded by sweeping gardens, outbuildings, stables, and all-around beautiful views.
You’ll get the chance to tour the ground with a guide before heading indoors and hearing all about the Man himself—his vision, contribution, and how he lived in Mount Vernon. If your layover allows: check out the boat tour, the museum exhibits & theaters, and the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant (to try out re-creations of Washington’s favorite dishes!)
- Time Required: 2-3 hours would do you well—though try getting here early (and bring along good walking shoes!) since queues can get quite long. Opening times are from 9 AM to 4 PM.
- Getting There: A taxi ride from the airport will get you there in 26-32 minutes for $65-85. There’s an option to take the bus (Line 304) but expect a longer journey of 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Hop-on, Hop-off Big Bus Washington DC
If layover time is tight, this hop-on, hop-off bus tour should be at the top of your to-enjoy list. You’ll have the flexibility to explore any of the capital’s main attractions—or stay onboard, listening to educational commentary, as you take in all the sites in under 3 hours.
Stops include the Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King Memorial—of course, The White House—the Smithsonian Castle, and more. If you’re stopping over at night, you can join a 2-hour night tour to see DC dressed in lights.
- Time Required: If you stay on-board, the full loop will take 2-3 hours. Your 1-Day ticket will let you get off at any stop, explore as much as your layover allows you, then hop right back on.
- Getting There: While you can get on at any of the bus stops, the very first stop will be at L’Enfant Plaza & International Spy Museum (a 10-minute taxi or metro train ride away)
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about hop-on hop-off bus tours in Washington D.C., book a tour or read traveller reviews.
National Air and Space Museum
For all its history, Washington DC has a unique way of mixing in the modern too. At the National Air and Space Museum, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of historic & cutting-edge air and spacecraft (with free entry!)
Highlights include the Wright Brothers’ actual airplane, the paid planetarium shows, and the exhibits on lunar exploration. You’ll also get the chance to see a live, above-view of a plane being restored—or for a more immersive experience—a show on an Imax screen.
- Time Required: 2-3 hours (and too easily more). While tickets are free, make sure you reserve yours in advance.
- Getting There: You can get here easily via a 10-minute taxi ride from the airport—or taking the metro train for just over 10 minutes too.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the National Air & Space Museum, book a tour or read traveller reviews.
Eating at Founding Farmers D.C.
When you’re stopping over in DC and are tourist attraction/museumed out: it’s time for food. Just 3 blocks away from the White House, Founding Farmers D.C. is an award-winning eatery & bar that—true to its name—is run by American family farmers. It serves up everything from exceptional waffles to eggs Benedict like you’ve never seen.
- Time Required: As long as you make reservations beforehand, 2-3 hours will be great.
- Getting There: Like other downtown locations, getting here is as fast as hopping on a 10-minute taxi or metro train.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting Founding Farmers D.C., book a tour or read traveller reviews.
With Washington Reagan Airport being just 4 miles away downtown and its eclectic attractions, it’s easy to get there by either public or private transport. A word of note though: during rush hour, its short distance certainly won’t feel short.
Your public transit options:
- Metro Rail: Making it all the more convenient to go to Washington, DC on your layover, the airport has its own Metro train stop. For downtown, take the Blue Line (a 17-minute journey, for max $2.25). To get to places like Chinatown & Columbia Heights, take the Yellow Line (a 14-minute journey for max $4). For more information, visit the WMATA website.
- Shuttle Bus: A 24/7 shuttle bus operates right outside Washington Reagan Airport. For more information, visit the airport’s official website.
Your private transit options:
- Taxi: Heavily depending on whether it’s traffic-jammed or not, a taxi from the airport can take you downtown in 9 to 45 minutes, for a cost of $19-23. If you have some choice over your stopover times, plan to be here at midday!
- Car rentals: There are plenty of options for car rentals at Washington Reagan Airport. Check out the airport’s official website for complete, up-to-date information.
Before You Go: Layover Tips
Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.
- Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
- When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
- What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
- What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. There is no luggage storage at Reagan Airport.
Other Useful Resources
Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: