Visiting D.C. from Home: 10 Virtual Tours

High season for tourism here in Washington, D.C. is from Spring Break to Labor Day. We do get a few tourists in the middle of winter, but generally it’s a great time for us locals to see the sights without waiting in line. If you prefer hot toddies and fireplaces to trudging around in cold and snow just to avoid crowds, you’re not alone. You might be interested in a virtual visit to our nation’s capital.

Did you know that thanks to the Internet you can take virtual tours of many Washington, D.C. tourist attractions?

The White House

January 20th is the date of the 58th presidential inauguration ceremony in the United States. Check out this tour to see the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States.

Architect of the Capitol

In addition to a full tour, the organization that keeps Capitol Hill running offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Capitol Building, Grounds and Visitor Center, the Library of Congress (a MUST SEE!), House Office Buildings, Senate Office Buildings, the Supreme Court, and the US Botanic Garden.

Smithsonian Institution

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

African Lion

National Guard Educational Foundation Museum

The National Guard Memorial Museum is the first and only national museum dedicated to telling the story of the National Guard.

National Park Service Virtual Tours

  • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site — This exhibit showcases Frederick Douglass’ life at Cedar Hill, Anacostia, Southeast Washington, D.C., his last home. He lived here from 1878 until his death in 1895. His home provided the backdrop to his active political and warm family life. The spacious estate and well-furnished rooms are a testament to Douglass’ lifelong struggle to overcome entrenched prejudice. His personal belongings, home furnishings, books, photographs of family and friends can be seen in the very place where Douglass and his family used them. They provide a unique insight into his personal and public life, family, home, and interests.
  • Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial — This exhibit explores Arlington House and its most famous resident, Robert E. Lee, as well as three influential families: the Washingtons, the Custis’, and the Lees. It highlights the home as a memorial to President George Washington, its importance to the Lee family, and military traditions from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

Embassy Row

There are more than 170 foreign embassies in Washington D.C.  This tour will give you a feel for what you’d see if you visited a neighborhood with embassies in it.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate

Located about 15 miles south of Washington, D.C. along the banks of the Potomac River, this historic estate includes not only the Mount Vernon Mansion – George and Martha Washington’s home – but also a host of colonial era buildings, beautiful gardens, a working distillery and gristmill, and a museum and education center.

National Arboretum

They offer several virtual tours, with one covering the whole arboretum, followed (in alphabetical order) by tours devoted specifically to the Asian Collections, Fern Valley, the Gotelli Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifer Collection, and the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. There’s also one just for kids!

Bonsai tree by John Naka featured in the Arboretum's virtual tour
The Arboretum’s virtual tour includes this world-famous bonsai.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art was conceived and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon, a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington in 1921 to serve as secretary of the treasury. During his years of public service he came to believe that the United States should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations.

VR Tours (you’ll need Oculus Rift or Cardboard to make these work)

  • National Mall — Since many of D.C.’s biggest attractions are on or near the National Mall, this virtual tour includes the Tidal Basin, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, National WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Reflecting Pool. It also features a nighttime virtual tour. Neat!
  • American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

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