3 Ways to Avoid Crowds in Washington DC

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    How to Explore Washington DC and Avoid the Crowds

    Washington D.C. skyline
    Joseph Gruber / EyeEm / Getty Images

    As Washington DC welcomes millions of visitors each year, the prime tourist attractions seem to be getting busier all the time. You can avoid crowds while exploring the city and preserve your personal space if you know how. Here are some suggestions to make your sightseeing more fun and reduce the hassles of waiting in long lines.


    The National Mall and the Downtown area has many metro stations that are very close to one another. When planning your route, you may not need to go to the closest metro station, as you may be able to easily walk to the area from another nearby station. Personally, I avoid changing trains whenever possible. Grab a map or use a GPS to navigate on foot. You’ll enjoy seeing more of the sites, get some exercise and avoid the crowds on Metro.

    If you are attending a crowded event and taking Metro, be sure to arrive and depart from a station that is not the closest to your destination. The closest station will always be the most crowded and if you walk a little further away you may escape the long lines. Another tip, be sure to put enough money on your SmarTrip card in advance. Most visitors do not plan ahead and long lines form by the fare machines before and after a large event.

    Washington DC is a very walkable city and it is usually pretty easy to walk your way out of a crowded area. If you are at an event or visiting an attraction that is just too crowded, walk away and plan to come back at another time. There are plenty of interesting places to visit throughout the city and you can easily find an area of town that is less crowded.

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    Visit Lesser Known Attractions

    Frederick Douglas National Historic Site
    Frederick Douglas National Historic Site

    If you prefer to avoid crowds altogether, head away from the National Mall and explore some of the lesser known attractions in the city.  There are plenty of interesting museums, monuments, parks and neighborhoods throughout Washington DC. Visit historic house museums around the city or spend some time at some of the unique museums in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.  Take a walk on Embassy Row and marvel at the architecture. Spend some time in a park or taking in views of the Potomac River.

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    #3. Avoid Peak Times

    Timing is everything. To avoid crowds in Washington DC, there are certain peak times that you should be aware of. The busiest times of the year are during the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March-Early April), Memorial Day weekend and 4th of July.  Other busy times are Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas week and Easter weekend. Note that the Smithsonian is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. So, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are actually good days to visit the museums when many people are busy celebrating with their families. Throughout the year, weekends are busy and weekdays are preferable for sightseeing. Crowds will be lighter early and late in the day. Many of the memorials are open 24 hours, so the evening is a good time to visit. January and February tend to be quiet months due to unpredictable weather.  August is quiet too – Congress takes a recess and many locals vacation to escape the hot and humid weather. September through November are great months to explore the nation’s capital.