Washington Day Trip vs Weekend Trip from NYC

If you have some free time in New York and are thinking of using it for a getaway, Washington is an excellent option. I'll help you compare the one-day and two-day tours, so you can see which is more convenient for your plans.

Cecilia Gaitán

Cecilia Gaitán

7 min read

Washington Day Trip vs Weekend Trip from NYC

Thomas Jefferson Memorial | ©Ron Cogswell

Travelling to Washington is a plan I recommend you make if you have time to spare during your visit to the Big Apple. If, for example, your plan is to visit New York in 15 days, this is one of the essential excursions to do from New York. You will be able to see first-hand the places where the most important political decisions in the world are made. No more, no less.

My advice without hesitation is to book a trip to Washington from New York. You'll save yourself the hassle and logistics of travelling and focus all your energy on enjoying American sightseeing.

To help you manage your trip from New York to Washington, here are the advantages of doing the tour in a day or two. Prices, sightseeing spots and key information so you can choose to keep everything organised.

Do I need a day or two to see Washington?

Amish Community| ©Víctor Fitzpatrick
Amish Community| ©Víctor Fitzpatrick

There are several options for visiting Washington. And if you opt for an organised trip, you can choose between a one-day tour or, if you prefer, you can also visit the city in two days. Both options will give you enough time to get a good overview of the capital of the United States. But it is true that there are several differences between the one-day and the two-day tour of Washington. Mainly in the itinerary and the tours included.

On the one-day tour you will tour Washington exclusively and on the two-day trip, you will also visit Philadelphia and get an inside look at the Amish community. This means that, although it may seem counterintuitive, you won't necessarily see more on the longer tour.

Compare Washington tours

Top attractions you'll enjoy if you go for one day

Standing Obelisk on the National Mall| ©Jacob Creswick
Standing Obelisk on the National Mall| ©Jacob Creswick

If you decide to visit Washington in a day, you should know that the tours last around 15 hours. You'll leave very early in the morning and arrive late in the afternoon, so you should expect to have a full day of sightseeing in the US capital between trips and sightseeing.

The most important visits and points of interest you will see on the tour are:

  • Arlington Cemetery: The largest military cemetery in the United States, where the remains of veterans of the most important wars such as the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Civil War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
  • Iwo Jima Memorial: Monument depicting the Marines on Mount Suribachi during World War II.
  • Jefferson Memorial: Iconic work of architecture dedicated to President Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's founders.
  • Lincoln Memorial: Famous marble statue immortalising Abraham Lincoln.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Monument honouring the men and women who gave their lives for their country in that history-making war.
  • Korean Veterans Memorial: Very close to the Lincoln Memorial is this work that names each and every one of the fallen in this conflict.
  • Washington Monument: The obelisk built in the name of Commander George Washington, the first president.
  • White House: Official residence of the president of the United States and all the presidents in history.
  • Martin Luther King Memorial: Monument inspired by the African-American leader and his struggle.
  • National Mall: The mythical garden park you've seen in countless movies.
  • World War II Memorial: Memorial commemorating those who died and served in the conflict.
  • National Archives Museum: Home to the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. More than 15 billion records and documents are housed in this building.
  • Air and Space Museum: Museum dedicated to the history of aviation.
  • The Capitol: One of the city's most iconic buildings and home to the Legislative Branch.

Book your Washington day trip

Top attractions you'll enjoy if you go for two days

Rocky Statue in Philadelphia| ©Pierre Blaché
Rocky Statue in Philadelphia| ©Pierre Blaché

If you have more time, two-day tours are an excellent option. Not only will you get to see Washington, but you' ll also get to see Philadelphia. So you'll get a two-for-one, plus the chance in many cases to visit the Amish community along the way.

If you choose to book a two-day tour, some of the sights and attractions you will see are:

In Philadelphia:

  • Liberty Bell: Historic area of the city and one of the symbols of the American Revolutionary War
  • Rocky Statue: A work in honour of the boxer's films and in front of the most famous steps of all the scenes.
  • Amish Country Tour: Tour in a typical Amish buggy to get an in-depth look at how this curious community lives.

In Washington:

  • Jefferson Memorial: Iconic piece of architecture dedicated to President Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's founders.
  • Arlington Cemetery: The largest military cemetery in the United States and home to the remains of veterans of major wars such as the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Civil War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Capitol Hill: Scenic viewpoint and residential neighbourhood overlooking the Capitol.
  • White House: Official residence of the President of the United States and all the presidents in history.

As you can see, the differences are in the purpose of the getaway. If your intention is to see and tour Washington in depth, I recommend taking a day trip. If, on the other hand, you want to walk around and see as many attractions as possible, I recommend a two-day trip, which will also take you to Philadelphia and the Amish community.

Book your two day tour Washington and Philadelphia

Washington by night, a sight to see on a two-day tour

US Capitol at night| ©John Brighenti
US Capitol at night| ©John Brighenti

One of the advantages of a two-day tour is that you'll be able to see Washington by night. While most two-day tours departing from New York spend the first day in Philadelphia, you'll arrive in Washington in the evening. There you'll have free time to stroll, dine and experience the city when the lights come on.

I recommend this experience if you're going as a couple or with friends, as you'll get to see the other side of the city, its nocturnal attractions and warm up for the next day's sightseeing.

But then... is it worth going to Washington if I only have one day?

Sightseeing in the great outdoors| ©Elvert Barnes
Sightseeing in the great outdoors| ©Elvert Barnes

Of course it's worth it! If your main interest is to get to know the city, its museums and monuments and soak up the political history of the country, the two-day tour may not be enough. I recommend a day trip so that you don't leave out any of the sights.

If you prefer to see less but still see more in depth and with more time, a day trip is ideal. It will give you a more complete picture of the cradle of American politics.

Travel to Washington in the comfort of the train

If you're travelling as a family or just like to ride the train, you can also get to the nation's capital by train. This tour, which also includes a bus tour of the city, lasts half a day and includes lunch at the Hard Rock Café.

A comparative overview of a one-day and a two-day trip to Washington, D.C

View of the Capitol in Washington DC| ©Jorge Alcala
View of the Capitol in Washington DC| ©Jorge Alcala

Washington day tour prices and two-day tour prices

A one-day trip to Washington costs around €95, while a two-day tour costs around €300. If you feel like it, you can also calculate what it would cost you to do the trip on your own - my advice is that in this case, the numbers aren't worth the logistics involved. Also, all tours are generally free to cancel, which allows you the freedom to regret it if you don't have the time or the money.

And here's a tip: Most of the museums and monuments you visit have free admission.

Washington day tour schedule vs. two-day tour schedule

Departure times for the tours are very similar and leave from New York between 6:00 and 6:30 am. Very early, I know! But at those times there is less traffic and less time is spent getting around. Plus, the buses are super comfortable, so you can sleep in and arrive refreshed and energised to enjoy the destination.

Services included in the Washington day tours vs. the two-day tours

The services and extras included in each excursion are according to the type of trip. In the case of a day trip, the aim is to make the most of the city of Washington and visit as many points of interest as possible.

To this end, a day trip to Washington generally offers:

  • Professional tour guide
  • Air-conditioned bus with on-board toilet and WiFi

Two-day tours to Washington and Philadelphia are longer and therefore usually include:

  • 1 night accommodation including taxes
  • Continental breakfast
  • Professional guide
  • Transfer by 15-passenger van or bus (with WiFi)
  • Sightseeing in Philadelphia and Washington DC
  • Amish farm buggy tour
  • Entrance fee - Jefferson Memorial

Sightseeing times on the Washington Day Tours vs. the Two-Day Tours

The White House| ©Jonathan Cutrer
The White House| ©Jonathan Cutrer

In general, the time you have to visit attractions and points of interest, whether on a one-day or two-day trip, is around 20 minutes. With the exception of a few specific visits, you will need to spend more time there.

There are many places where you will just be passing through and will not be able to stop.

  • Washington 1-Day Tour
  • From $96
  • 15 hours duration
  • Dalida between 6:00 and 6:30 hours
  • Includes transfer and guide
  • 2-Day Washington and Philadelphia Tour
  • From $308
  • 2 days duration
  • Departure between 6:00 and 6:30 hours
  • Includes transfer, guide, bed and breakfast and entrance to Jefferson Memorial