One Day Washington DC Tour From New York – Self Organised

Are you staying in New York for a while and planning a one day Washington DC tour from New York? Then I got you covered.

The capital city of the United States is only a (relatively) short train or bus ride away from New York. It is no surprise, that many people plan a visit for a day.

We planned the day trip ourselves – and it was quite a hassle to figure out how to get there and what to do with only one day in DC.

In the end – we had a lovely time. To help you plan your day trip, I have created this ultimate post for you!

Let’s get to it!

National Treasury of America with beautiful Magnolia Tree in front of it blooming in pink
National Treasury

Table of Contents

What To Expect On a Day Tour From NYC To DC

I will not lie, going to DC for only one day from New York is gonna be tight. We made the trip and I was glad we did, since it became the highlight of my vacation in New York.

But this included rising early, coming back late, and sitting on the bus forever. If you are not on a budget, you can make this trip pretty comfortable.

Washington DC is definitely worth visiting. Even for a day. Ideally, you have about 5 days in Washington DC to see everything. But if the main goal of your vacation is seeing New York, I still recommend making the trip to DC at least for one day.

Washington DC is beautiful and full of history. It is the capital city of the United States, so you can expect a lot of interesting monuments and museums.

How To Get to Washington DC from NYC

I will not lie, going from NYC to DC in a day, and back is a hassle. It was a long journey, but I do not regret it.

If you have the chance, stay overnight in DC to get the most out of your trip.

There are basically five options for you to go from NYC to DC:

  • Go from NYC to DC with the bus
  • Go from NYC to DC on an organised day trip tour
  • Fly from NYC to DC
  • Go from NYC to DC with the train
  • Go from NYC to DC with a rental car

1. Go from NYC to DC with the bus

We chose to go from NYC to DC by the bus because it was the cheapest option. Our hotel in NYC was right next to the Port Authority Terminal. This is also where the Greyhound Bus took off.

It takes about 5 – 6 hours to travel to DC and it is uncomfortable. There was barely any space in the bus and the WiFi was broken. But it was cheap.

Alternatively, you can try booking with MegabusBestBus, Peter Pan, or Flixbus. They have starting points at various locations.

The bus will take you right to Washington Union Station. From there, everything is within walking distance.

Despite the lack of comfort I do not regret choosing this option.

2. Go from NYC to DC on an organized day trip

This is probably the most comfortable option to go to DC for a day. You don’t have to plan anything, there is no hassle and someone will bring you to all the important sights.

Of course, this kind of tour comes in at a higher price point. Plus, you are not as flexible with your itinerary as with the other options.

You can book a private trip to avoid this and have more flexibility. If you are a group of between 2 and 6 people I recommend booking a private trip. When you can split the price between a couple of people it is just as cheap as a group tour.

Here are my favorite tours:

3. Go from NYC to DC by Train

Taking the train from NYC to DC is also an amazing option. It will only take you three hours to travel to DC in one of the high-speed Acela Express trains by Amtrak.

The trains leave from Penn Station in Midtown and run all day. You have full flexibility over your schedule with this option. You end your trip at Union Station in Washington.

Most trains have free WiFi, power outlets, and a restaurant car. It is more comfortable than the bus, and only slightly more expensive.

4. Fly from NYC to DC

Flying is the fastest way to go from NYC to DC. The flight takes about an hour and is usually even cheaper than the train.

The only downside is, that you will be landing outside of the city center, so you need to arrange for an Uber at the Airport.

5. Get a rental car to go from NYC to DC

Your last option is to get a rental car in NYC for the day and make the drive yourself.

If you wish for the most flexibility and are used to driving in the city, this is a great option for you. Personally, I am scared to drive in bigger cities with a lot of traffic, so we did not do that.

One Day in Washington DC Itinerary – Self-Guided Walking Tour

We have thought long and hard about how to get around Washington DC in order to see the most beautiful cherry trees and all the interesting monuments. Therefor, I have created an amazing walking tour beforehand.

It takes about two hours (only the walk) and is 6.4 miles long. With my suggested stops in between, this will keep you busy all day.

Google Maps Walking Tour of Washington DC in spring with all famous monuments
Washington DC One Day Itinerary Walking Tour Map

1st stop: Union Station

My Washington DC in spring walking tour starts at Union Station. This is where you will most likely be arriving by train or bus.

Union Station is also a great place to have some breakfast or lunch, depending on when you’ll be arriving. The station is quite beautiful by itself, so it is worth a visit.

Shot of the inside of the Union Station in Washington DC with a beautiful ceiling in focus
Union Station in Washington DC

Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court is a great and interesting place to see in Washington DC in Spring. There are sweet little flowers outside and it is a great photo op.

As young lawyers, we also had to go inside of course. I can recommend checking out the Supreme Court for everyone, there is a lot to learn.

The building is open to the public from 09:00 am until 03:00 pm. Tours and courtroom lectures are available free of charge. Make sure to check the website of the Supreme Court before you go, since it is not open to the public on days with hearings scheduled.

On the ground floor, you can see some interesting exhibitions on the history of the Supreme Court, the Justices, and the work of the Court. These exhibitions are self-guided.

We also participated in a 25 min presentation of the courtroom. They explain the judicial functions of the Supreme Court, the history of the building, as well as the architecture of the Courtroom. I found this super interesting and it was one of my favorite things to do in DC.

The United States Capitol

The US Capitol is only a few steps away from the Supreme Court.

It is another great place to learn about the history and politics of the United States. Different exhibits, guided tours, and virtual tours can give great insight into the workings of the Capitol and Congress.

Check their homepage for all current exhibits and reserve your spot.

If you proceed on my suggested walking tour, you will also get to see some beautiful cherry blossom and magnolia blossom behind the Capitol Building.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

As a lover of history, I decided to check out the Smithsonian National Museum of American History next. I had about two hours to explore the museum – and it was not nearly enough.

The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 05:30 pm. Admission is free.

There is such a wide array of exhibitions and topics within the museum. My favorite exhibitions were the American Culture exhibition, the 9/11 exhibition, and the women’s history exhibition.

Of course, it was also interesting to learn about World War II from an American perspective.

If you are not as much into history, I can recommend the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian Museum of National Air and Space instead.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument needs to be on every visitor’s Washington DC Bucket List. It was built in honor of George Washington and is constructed as a 555-foot marble obelisk tower.

George Washington was one of America’s founding fathers and the first president of the United States of America. He died in 1799.

If you book your tickets early enough, you can even get a spot on the express elevator that will take you up the monument.

National Mall and Memorial Parks

The National Mall is the preservation of thousands of acres of parkland in Washington DC. It includes several important monuments, such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

This is also a great spot to see some cherry blossom in Washington DC if you visit in spring.

If you wish to walk the 2.1 miles around the Tidal Basin on the Tidal Basin Loop Trail you can spot some important monuments.

Tidal Basin loop with cherry blossom trees in front
Tidal Basin loop in Spring

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is another great stop on this Washington DC spring walking tour.

The memorial was built in honor of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It took them nearly 60 years to be completed.

It was supposed to be a pyramid, but in the end they settled on a different shape. The reflecting pool in front of it is part of the memorial. You can also find the World War II Memorial at the other side of the pool.

The White House

On your way back to the Union Station you will pass by the White House and the National Treasury. Both look very pretty from the outside but we were kinda bummed that we could not see them from the inside.

You can request to participate in a public tour at the White House at least 21 days in advance. We did not do that so there was no chance to get in.

Other Things To Do in Washington DC in One Day

  • Take a day trip to Arlington and visit the Arlington National Cemetery
  • See The United States Botanic Gardens
  • See a Washington Nationals baseball game
  • Explore Georgetown and walk alongside the Potomac River
  • Attend Passport DC and visit embassy’s from all over the world (one of the coolest DC events in spring)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best month to visit Washington DC?

April is the best month to visit Washington DC. You will most likely see beautiful cherry blossom all over the city, and the weather is already quite friendly. There are less rainy days in April than in May.

Is a day trip to Washington Dc from New York worth it?

Yes, a day trip to Washington DC from New York is well worth it. DC holds so many interesting monuments and so much history and culture. I would absolutely recommend it.

Conclusion: One Day Washington DC Tour From New York

Washington DC is definitely worth a visit from New York City. If you only have one day, you can definitely do a day tour from New York to Washington DC.

The capital city has a lot to offer, so one day might be tight. But we did it – and loved it. So this post summarized the best options on how to plan the day tour yourself.

Whether you spend the day strolling around beautiful DC with my Washington DC Walking Tour Itinerary – or visiting as many museums as possible. DC is amazing – not only in spring!