10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Washington DC

A female runner by the empty reflecting pool by the Lincoln Memorial.
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    What to Do on a Rainy Day in Washington DC

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    Don’t let rainy weather get you down! There are plenty of fun things to do indoors on a rainy day in Washington DC. While there are some obvious choices for fair weather entertainment, keep in mind that some of the most popular tourist attractions are especially crowded on weekends, holidays and concurrent with a major event. Following are suggestions to appeal to a wide range of interests.

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    Visit a Museum

    Exhibits at the Newseum
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    The nation’s capital is home to dozens of world-class museums that can easily keep you entertained for hours. On a rainy day, your best bet is to visit one of the larger ones so that you can stay dry, but they are likely to attract a larger crowd than some of the lesser known attractions. Be sure to purchase an IMAX movie ticket in advance to beat the crowds. Here is a guide to the largest museums:

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    Take a Bus Tour

    Sightseeing bus at the U.S. National World War 2 Memorial
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    The weather may not be ideal for sightseeing when the weather is rainy, but you can stay dry aboard a bus and still take in the city sights. Take a guided tour and you will learn about the history of the nation’s capital and get oriented to the city so that you can plan where to spend time on a sunny day.  For suggested tours, see a guide to the Best Sightseeing Tours in Washington DC.

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    Visit the Torpedo Factory

    Torpedo Factory Art Center
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    The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA is a great place to visit on a rainy day. The historic building is one of the largest visual arts centers in the U.S. with 84 working studios, 5 galleries, 2 workshops, the Art League School and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. This is an interesting place to explore as you can talk with the artists and watch them at work. Read more about the Torpedo Factory.


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    Shop and Dine at Union Station

    Interior of Union Station in Washington DC, USA
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    Union Station is one of Washington’s most interesting historic buildings and offers great places to eat and dozens of upscale shops. You can easily spend hours shopping for unique gifts at shops like America, Smithsonian and Lost City Art or see what’s new at your favorite clothing boutiques such as Anne Taylor, Chicos or H & M. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at a sit down restaurant or take the kids to the Food Court for an inexpensive meal. Read more about Union Station.

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    Play at an Indoor Amusement Center

    Indoor Play
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    Unfortunately most of the indoor play places in the Washington DC area are in the suburbs which is not very convenient for tourists who are staying in the city. If you have a car there lots of options, see a guide to Indoor Playgrounds and Amusement Centers.  The best destination for toddlers and preschoolers within the District Columbia is the Playseum at 545 8th St SE. Washington DC. The Smithsonian has several interactive exhibits that are especially geared to kids: How Things Fly (National Air and Space Museum), imagiNATIONS Activity Center (National Museum of the American Indian), and Q?rius Discovery Room (National Museum of Natural History)

    See also Best Things to Do with a Toddler in Washington DC

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    Go Bowling or Play Bocce

    Bowling balls
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    Head to Georgetown to check out Pinstripes, a unique dining, bowling and bocce venue that includes 14 bowling lanes, six bocce courts, an Italian America bistro and extensive wine cellar, overlooking the C & O Canal. Or hang out at Lucky Strike in Gallery Place. The unique bowling alley features 14 state-of-the-art lanes, three tournament-quality billiard tables and a 50-foot bar.

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    Go to the Movies

    IMAX at the Smithsonian
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    Rainy days are popular times to go to the movies and Washington DC has plenty of state-of-the-art theaters.  See a guide to the movie theaters in Washington DC. For something different check out an independent film at the E Street Cinema, Bethesda Row Cinema or the AFI Silver Theatre. See a movie on a huge screen at one of the IMAX Movie Theaters at the Smithsonian.

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    Tour the National Cathedral

    Interior of Washington Cathedral in Washington, DC
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    The National Cathedral is English Gothic in style with exquisite architectural sculpture, wood carving, gargoyles, mosaics, and more than 200 stained glass windows. You can take a guided or a self-paced tour of the National Cathedral and explore its dramatic art and Gothic architecture. Guided tours are offered on an ongoing basis throughout the day. A Tour and Tea program is offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If its not too rainy, the gardens are fun to explore as well. Read more about the Washington National Cathedral.


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    Hang Out at a Bookstore

    Kramerbooks interior in Washington, D.C.
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    Washington DC has a few unique bookstores that offer a selection of mainstream bestsellers and more eclectic titles, food and drink and a variety of book talks and signings. In Dupont Circle, stop by Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, further up Connecticut Avenue, check out the famed Politics & Prose, or visit Busboys & Poets at their U Street or Mt. Vernon Triangle locations.

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    Pamper Yourself at a Day Spa

    Young woman giving a massage
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    Spending the day at a spa can be a great way to cheer yourself up on a gloomy day.  Enjoy a wide range of services including massage, facials, manicures, pedicures, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, skin treatments and much more. See a guide to the Best Day Spas in Washington DC.