Things to Do in Washington DC When it Rains (Popular Indoor Activities)

Although rainy weather isn’t ideal for sightseeing, Washington, D.C. is not a bad place to be when it rains. It’s a very walkable city, and their mass transit system (the Metro) is easy to navigate and can get you from place to place — conveniently underground and out of the rain.

Fortunately for you, the District is also full of fun things to do when it rains, so you aren’t forced to cancel plans or avoid going out altogether.

To help you plan a delightful rainy vacation day, we’ve put together a list of our top recommendations.

Looking for some fun things to do indoors?

Admission to a bunch of the below activities are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass®.

Choose as you go from a number of fun attractions and save up to 47% off combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

A few of the available activities include…

  • Newseum
  • Madame Tussauds Washington DC
  • a Smithsonian Museum
  • The National Geographic Museum
  • and more!


Wondering what to do in DC on a rainy day? Save on admission to the Newseum with a Washington DC Explorer Pass

Visit one of DC’s most impressive museums, the Newseum, where you’ll learn that “there’s more to every story”.

Visitors can explore how news coverage has evolved over the years, the impact of photojournalism, and how the media has covered major historical events of the past and present through high-tech, interactive exhibits.

This museum houses seven levels of 15 powerfully emotional exhibits that feature interactive multimedia exhibits, galleries, theaters (including a 4-D theater), historic artifacts, and more.

Insider tip: The museum was designed for visitors to start at the top level and work their way down.

Getting In: Admission to the Newseum is included as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass®.

Madame Tussauds Washington DC

Pose with your favorite president in the Hall of Presidents at Madame Tussauds in Washington DC on a rainy day.

Take a walk through history at Madame Tussauds in DC, where visitors can pose with life-like wax figures of each of the 44 U.S. presidents in chronological order for an interactive and informative experience.

In addition to getting up close and rubbing elbows with U.S. presidents, visitors can schmooze with their favorite celebrities, athletes, and cultural icons in Madame Tussauds other galleries.

There are plenty of amazing famous folks to mingle with here, and a visit is a delight for kids and adults alike. It’s a popular international attraction chain, so be sure to scope it out on your rainy day!

Getting In: Admission to Madame Tussauds DC is included as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass®.

National Geographic Museum

125 Anniversary of National Geographic Exhibit

Visit this iconic institution and explore the world through its high-tech and interactive exhibits.

Inspired by the work in the natural and cultural history of the globe being conducted in their renowned magazine, the National Geographic Museum’s exhibits feature only the best when it comes to exploring the world.

You’ll be able to see a variety of artifacts, photographs, relics, and more that tell a fascinating story — and best of all, the subject matter is frequently changing!

Be sure to check in advance to see what exhibits are currently being offered, as the museum constantly rotates exhibitions and subject matter will vary.

Getting In: Admission to the National Geographic Museum is included as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass®.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Image credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon website.

Image credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon website.

No history buff’s trip to D.C. is complete without a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Home to our first president and his wife Martha, this expansive eighteenth-century estate is remarkable preserved.

On what is still an impressive amount of land, you’ll find their stylishly appointed home, lovely gardens and grounds, and several historic outbuildings like a distillery and gristmill. It’s all been carefully preserved, and in some cases extensively restored, and it remains a fascinating look into the way wealthy Americans lived in the period.

While this attraction is comprised of a few distinct buildings and does require some outside time, you’ll be able to spend the bulk of your experience in these lovely historic venues to avoid the rain.

Getting In: Admission to George Washington’s Mount Vernon is included as an option with the Washington DC Explorer Pass®.

Visit a Smithsonian Museum

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Triceratops

By Robert Herschede [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You haven’t experienced DC until you’ve visited at least one Smithsonian. Take advantage of a rainy day and pop in to some of the Smithsonian Institutions around the National Mall.

If you’re interested in science, the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum are both top choices. For those of you with access to a car and willingness to drive a bit, the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar Hazy Center out in Chantilly houses all the massive aircraft that couldn’t fit into their DC space.

Art lovers will enjoy the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of American Art, or National Gallery (not a Smithsonian Museum, but also free). You’ll also find smaller art galleries like the Freer and Sackler, which offer specialized artistic themes.

Or, if history is more your style, then the Museum of American History is a popular favorite with visitors of all ages.

Getting In: Admission to all Smithsonian Institution Museums is free.

Explore the DC Culinary Scene

grab a quick and delicious bite to eat at Le Pan Quotidien in Washington DC

There’s nothing wrong with eating your way through DC’s top sites. Put on your elastic waist band pants and head to one of DC’s top spots for foodies (and general fans of food alike).

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, like a sugary doughnut or a healthy alternative, DC’s up-and-coming food scene has something satisfying for everyone.

Go Shopping

Image credit: Georgetown neighborhood Facebook page.

Image credit: Georgetown neighborhood Facebook page.

From high-end boutiques to steals and deals, Washington DC was made for people who love to shop.

Some of the best shopping areas in DC neighborhoods are worth exploring on their own, such as Georgetown (home of Georgetown Cupcake), Old Town Alexandria, and Dupont Circle. You’ll find a nice balance of local artisan shops sprinkled in with mid to high end national brands in each of these areas.

For a one-stop shopping experience, head to Pentagon City or Ballston Common, where you’ll find typical mall name brands. Bonus: You can get to Pentagon City via the Metro without ever having to step outside!

See Byzantine and Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks

This old-English style estate is filled with art from the Byzantine and Pre-Columbian periods. Dumbarton Oaks has become a research institute focusing on Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art since it was given to Harvard University in 1940.

Dumbarton Oaks is free to visit and an excellent place to visit while in DC!

Quick Rainy Day Recap

See? You can stay dry all while having plenty of great options for things to do in Washington, D.C. when it’s raining out.

In addition to packing an umbrella, consider getting a Washington DC Explorer Pass® or two for your trip.

We hope these ideas helped inspire you to create a fun-filled indoorsy itinerary.

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.


  1. Beatriz Maafs says

    I really enjoy Reading the activities you suggest. Hopefully, this year I’ll be able to do some of them!!

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