IHG Travel Blog

Discover the arts and culture of Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. Arts & Culture

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Washington, D.C.? The White House? Maybe the president of the United States? Or perhaps you think more broadly and politics comes to mind?

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital and a lot of government officials live and work there, so it’s normal for people to only think politics when they think of the city. But D.C. is also a great place to visit for it’s cultural aspects and attractions, and several hotels in Washington, D.C. put you near many of the city’s cultural attractions.

Museums and galleries

Corcoran Gallery of Art

Source: Flickr

500 Seventeenth Street NW
Open: Wednesday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Thursday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed: Monday & Tuesday

This was the first art museum to open in Washington, D.C. It has a permanent collection of some of the finest works of art from the 20th century from famous artists like Claude Monet, John Sing Sargent and Mary Cassatt. The Corcoran Gallery of Art is only one block away from the White House so you can see both in one morning or afternoon, and it only requires a short walk on your part.

National Gallery of Art

Source: Flickr

6th St. and Constitution Avenue NW
Gallery Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sculpture Garden Summer Hours: Monday – Thursday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The National Gallery of Art was given as a gift to the American people by financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon, who believed the American people needed a national art museum as grand as other nations. He donated his collection, and then more people began donating their pieces and collections. Art here is displayed by period and national origin, and the galleries are decorated accordingly. Besides wonderful works of art, you can also see its outdoor gallery for monumental sculptures, which sits on six acres of garden. Keep an eye out for special programs, events and loan exhibits going on while you’re in town.

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The Phillips Collection

Source: Flickr

1600 21st Street NW
Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. with extended hours Thursday from 5 – 8:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed: Monday

The Phillips Collection was the first museum of modern art opened to the public back in 1921. Since it’s first opening, wonderful impressionist and modern works continue to fill this intimate museum. The Phillips Collection likes to keep things lively and fresh for its new and recurring visitors, and does so by bringing in unique exhibitions and switching up the arrangements of pieces from its permanent collection.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Source: Flickr

F Street NW, 8th Street NW
Open: Wednesday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Thursday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed: Monday & Tuesday

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum you see, learn and come to understand the American way of life over the past several hundred years with stories told through art. On display is art in the form of folk art, paintings, photographs, decorative arts and sculptures from the colonial period up to today.

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Theaters and Performing Arts

Arena Stage

Source: Flickr

1101 Sixth Street SW

Producing, presenting, developing and studying American theater is what goes on at Arena Stage and has been their tradition for six decades. They produce American classics but also premier new American plays for their audiences. Join the nearly 300,000 annual visitors and enjoy a play.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Source: Flickr

2700 F Street NW

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a well-known institution amongst the theatergoers, so for those of you who haven’t gone, here’s why you need to. It’s a living memorial dedicated to President Kennedy sitting on 17 acres of land. There are thousands of performances each year, and the types you can see are theater and musicals; dance and ballets; chamber, folk, jazz, orchestral, popular and world music; and multimedia performances. A bonus is they offer more than 400 free performances every year.

Woolly Mammoth Theater Company

Source: Facebook

641 D St. NW

Although a smaller theater company, the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company is one of the most influential ones in America and has been influencing theaters around the country for more than 30 years. They believe in more than just preserving theater’s past. The goal of their shows is to do that but also take some risks, challenge new American theater and forge the future of performing arts. You don’t want to miss a chance to see all that live at one of their shows.

Religious sites

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Source: Flickr

400 Michigan Avenue NE

Residing in Washington, D.C. is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and all of North America. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a place to go for spiritual reflection or to see the artistic value the church brings. The “Christ in Majesty” mosaic is a big crowd pleaser to all who visit. There are also smaller side chapels from other cultures and nations you can check out. You have the option of walking through on your own or taking a tour.

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Washington National Cathedral

Source: Flickr

3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW

The Washington National Cathedral is a Gothic-style cathedral known for its amazing architecture, gorgeous stained glass and inside artwork and exhibits telling America’s story of faith. Outside the Cathedral are quaint but beautiful gardens to walk through. Take a self-guided tour to consume it all at your own pace.

As you can see, Washington, D.C. brings a lot more to the table than just politics. Even if you’ve been to DC many times, it’s difficult to run out of culturally rich things to experience.

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