Confused by what sights to see on your short visit to Washington DC?
There are so many monuments, memorials, and museums. Where do you even start?
If want to know the absolute best of the best things to see in Washington DC, keep on scrolling. This guide is for you!
I’ve lived in the Washington DC area my entire life and in that time I’ve gotten to know the city very well. It has changed so much in the past few years that it may be hard to keep up with all the new and fun things to see. Sometimes I even think it’s hard to keep up with all that is going on. There have been new museums, memorials and points of interest that would be fun for a solo traveler as well as families all at the same time.
So in this guide, I will share some highlights of my favorite sights as a Washington DC native and photographer.
If you’re looking for the best spots to watch and photograph the sun setting in Washington DC, you’ve come to the right place.
The National Mall can get crowded, overwhelming and confusing. I’m here to help you navigate the park so you can get your best shots quickly and efficiently.
I’ve lived in the area my whole life and been photographing the National Mall for over 8 years. I’ve pretty much been to every one of these places at least 20 times. So here’s my complete list of the best to watch the sunset in Washington DC:
But First, Here’s What You Need to Get Ready for Your Sunset Shoot
Because of the number of people that visit the National Mall every day, sunset is a little more difficult to navigate than sunrise. There are far more people, we’re talking busloads of people, so be prepared. That means if this is your first time in Washington DC, I’d highly suggest public transportation either by metro, Lyft or even an electric scooter! All are very convenient ways to get you around the Nation’s Capital.
Also with the number of people, I’d even say try to get to your sunset location earlier than you think you should. Who knows what kind of hang-ups you could possibly run into. If it were a cold winter day, I say you could get by with going 30 minutes early. On a beautiful summer day, I’d go as far as saying an hour before sunset would not be a bad idea.
And my number one most asked question, are tripods allowed? For the most part, yes, but you may run into some complications. If you’re in a densely crowded area like World War II Memorial or Lincoln Memorial, you will probably be asked to take it down immediately by Park Police. They can be a walking hazard and just get in the way of people. But if you’re in a more spread out area like the Washington Monument grounds or even the Tidal Basin, there is a little more elbow room so you could get away with it.
The United States Capitol is unique because it’s technically not a part of the National Mall. The last time I spoke to Capitol police they said tripods are allowed. Since then, other photographer friends have told me that the Capitol police asked them to take down their tripods. So I’m still pretty if-y if they are actually allowed. I tend to just bring my tripod to the Capitol and if I’m asked to put it away, I do so politely.
Now on to The Top 5 Sunset Locations in Washington DC:
The Washington Monument is Always a Good Idea
The Washington Monument is so iconically Washington DC and the tallest structure in the city. So because of that, there is no best time to photograph it. It can be seen from so many different vantage points around the city that the possibilities are endless. However, if you catch it at the right time, it can glow orange. It’s absolutely amazing if you see it.
In order to capture the glow, I’d recommend getting to your sunset location early and face east towards the Monument. I would suggest standing either in front of the World War II memorial or along the grassy area in front of the west side of the monument and maybe 30-40 minutes ahead of sunset will work. I think the closer you are to the monument the better the imagery. But the key is to be patient. The way that the sun reflects off of clouds and on to the monument to glow doesn’t happen every day but if you see it, it will make your travel images very unique.
Here are my top 5 favorite GoPro Mounts and Accessories for travel and adventure photography.
If you are looking for a super simple way to capture water sports, time lapses or just have a different perspective for your images and videos, read on…
My personal GoPro journey started when I got the GoPro Hero 2 in 2011.
My husband, Andrew and I were starting to get more and more into scuba diving and I wanted to have an easy way to capture what we were seeing underwater. Of course, I could have gotten a housing for my DSLR camera, but it wasn’t really something I wanted to invest that much money in. In order to get quality housing for the camera, it had to cost as much as your actual camera. We don’t live near a beach so I was skeptical to pay thousands of dollars for something I could only use one or two times a year.
Plus who has time to mess with lighting, flashes, and settings when you’re just trying to scuba diving for fun. All the fishes would have swum away by the time you had your focusing correct.
So as an alternative I always had an underwater point and shoot cameras that lasted half a year. Or I would buy a separate underwater housing for point and shoot cameras. Even then the cameras never lasted as long as I thought they should have since they had been underwater. So that was reason number 2 why I didn’t want to risk the same thing with my DSLR camera.
But when the GoPro first came out, I remember being amazed. This tiny camera fits in the palm of my hand, it takes amazing pictures, AND I could take it underwater! Slap on an underwater housing with the red filter (to neutralize the color) and my underwater images were AMAZING! I was hooked ever since. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of those images of those early on videos. If I happen to stumble upon them one day, I’ll update this post. But this is not to say the quality of images will be the same as a DSLR camera underwater. This was just the easiest, solution for me. The DSLR images will be far superior.
I loved having a small adventure camera to go underwater or carry around with me and not worry about dropping or messing it up. Just the way that they are built they seem so rugged that can take falls, scrapes or pretty much anything you throw at it. Perfect to take anywhere if you just want to throw it in your backpack quickly.
Since the evolution of the GoPro cameras, you don’t even particularly need underwater housing anymore. The GoPro is waterproof and as long as you’re staying above 33 ft (10m), you should be good to go without any kind of underwater housing. But with housing, you can go down to 196ft!
The best part about GoPro cameras is all the different mounts and accessories that go along with the camera. OMG, the possibilities are endless and SO MUCH FUN.
I may have had the GoPro Hero 3 as well. Now I’m at the GoPro Hero 5 Black. I love this little camera.
So with all my adventure camera experience, here are my favorite mounts and accessories that I have used to capture some of my favorite travel images and videos:
Side note: In my opinion, I would skip out on the Accessory Kits you see on Amazon. There’s just so much in them and I’m pretty sure you won’t even end up using half of the screws and mounts that you get with them. It will just end up as a pile in your closet.
After using your camera a few times, you’ll get an idea of what kind of images you’ll want to capture and just purchase those mounts or straps that will help you accomplish that idea.
GoPro Head Strap and QuickClip
You may feel a little ridiculous walking around with this thing on your head but the unique perspective is my favorite part. I love how it keeps you hands-free PLUS you can include your hands in the shot. That way your viewer can see exactly what you’re doing. Perfect for any kind of tutorial videos or just giving your viewer a little more personal view of what it’s like being at your travel location. I used to use this strap a lot when we were scuba diving but now I use it for fun photo walks or on long hikes in mountains.
I just got back from my second trip to Chicago but my first real time visiting with a camera in my hand. I booked this trip with the intention to scout out photo locations for our upcoming photo workshop in Chicago. I wanted to get a feel for the city and the logicistics of getting around. So if you’re interested in joining me for a week in Chicago, click here.
In general, I loved visiting the city. Compared to New York City or even Washington DC, it’s a lot quieter as far as car noises and even people walking around. It’s so photogenic, meaning everywhere you turned could be a great new image. With the so many different elevated views, it was difficult to take a bad picture. I especially liked being among the skyscrapers. Even during the middle of the day, you can find some very interesting shadow play. Overall you can’t go wrong with a photo adventure in Chicago – even if it’s just for a few days.
Side note, they don’t call it the “windy city’ for nothing. Even on a nice, sunshining day, it can get really cold with the wind. I highly suggest packing at least gloves and a hat in your camera bag for those just in case moments. You don’t want to let being too cold be the reason why you don’t capture your shot. I was there at the very end of March and I wore my gloves everyday.
So we had a good 72 hours in Chicago packed full of photography. Here’s what we did:
Spring is my favorite time to be in Washington DC. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. What’s not to love? It’s a special time to be in the city where tourists and locals alike flock to the famous cherry blossoms to admire their beauty.
2019 Update: National Park Service and Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang are both predicting the first week of April as peak bloom so it sounds like a pretty safe bet that April is going to start off really pink <3
So if this is your first Cherry Blossom experience in the Nation’s Capital, let me try to break it down for you…