35+ Things to do at/Near Reagan(DCA) Airport During Layover

Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), with its prime location just 4 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., offers travelers a wealth of activities both within the airport and in its vibrant surroundings. Whether you have a few hours or an extended layover, this guide covers everything from exploring historic landmarks and museums to enjoying local cuisine and shopping.

With easy access via Metro, taxis, and rideshares, you can effortlessly venture out to iconic sites like the National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Inside the airport, you’ll find comfortable spots to rest, unique dining options, and fascinating art exhibits. This comprehensive list ensures you make the most of your time at DCA, providing a blend of relaxation, exploration, and convenience.

13 Things at DCA Airport During Short Layover

If your layover is under 5 hours, we recommend staying at the airport and exploring different amenities and facilities. Below is a list of all the activities you can do as you wait for your next flight:

Explore Art Exhibits:

Take advantage of the DCA Art Program, featuring permanent and rotating artworks throughout all terminals. Visit the Exhibit Hall in Terminal A or the Abingdon Plantation between the Terminal A and Terminal B parking garages for a dose of history and culture.

Catch some Zs:

For travelers looking to catch some rest during a layover at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), there are several suitable spots. During the daytime, the cozy blue chairs with headrests and footrests near gates E49, E50, and E51 in Terminals B and C offer a comfortable option.

For overnight stays, consider “The Hangar” by Pepsi in the D Concourse, where padded benches and occasional blanket distribution by staff provide added comfort. Another quiet and less busy area is the third floor near the American Airlines ticketing area, which is particularly good for those needing a more secluded space. Regardless of the time, bringing noise-canceling headphones and extra layers is advisable due to frequent announcements and the airport’s cold temperature at night.

Check out our Reagan/DCA Airport Sleeping Guide for details on all spots to sleep and nearby hotels to consider

Relax in the Observation Areas:

Enjoy views of the runway from the terraces on the Departures level of Terminals B and C. Terminal A also offers rocking chairs, perfect for relaxing and watching airplanes.

Pamper Yourself at the Spa:

Treat yourself to a range of spa services at XpresSpa, located landside in National Hall, Terminal B. It’s a great way to unwind during your layover, with services available from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Rest in the Lounges:

If you need a quiet place to work or relax, consider purchasing a day pass for the American Airlines Admirals Club or United Club. The Delta Sky Club is also available for eligible travelers, offering comfortable seating and amenities. Here is a guide to all DCA Airport Lounges

Visit the USO Lounge:

Active members of the US military and their families can enjoy complimentary access to the USO Lounge in Terminal A, Concourse Level, across from Lost & Found. It’s a comfortable spot with refreshments and seating. Read about hours, amenities, and location of the USO Lounge at DCA here.

Shop for Last-Minute Essentials:

Browse the airport’s selection of shops for travel essentials, snacks, and souvenirs. The 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts near Terminal A is a convenient option for late-night travelers needing a quick bite or caffeine boost.

Shop for Souvenirs:

Browse through the airport’s shops for unique souvenirs, books, and travel essentials. The CNBC Smart Shop near Dunkin’ Donuts in the domestic terminal offers a good selection of items.

Take a Stroll:

Walk through the terminals and enjoy the various artworks and exhibits. This is a great way to stretch your legs and pass the time during a layover.

Catch Up on Work:

Utilize the free WiFi and numerous charging stations available throughout the airport to catch up on work or connect with friends and family. Quiet areas, like the atrium between Terminals A and B, are ideal for getting some work done. Connect to the “FlyReagan” network for free WiFi access throughout the airport. If you’re an international traveler, simply enter “YES” in the postal/zip code field to log in.

Grab a Coffee or Snack Anytime:

Visit the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts near Terminal A for a coffee fix or a quick snack, perfect for late-night or early-morning travelers.

Enjoy Local Cuisine:

Savor local flavors at airport outposts of popular Washington, D.C. eateries like Ben’s Chili Bowl, Lebanese Taverna, and Taylor Gourmet. These options offer a taste of the city without leaving the airport.

Use Baby Care Facilities:

For those traveling with infants, take advantage of the nursing rooms equipped with rocking chairs, power outlets, and changing tables. These are conveniently located in Terminal A and National Hall.

Check out our Guide to DCA Airport with 30+ Tips to Survive Layover at this Airport.

Activities to do During Longer Layovers at DCA Airport:

Visit the National Mall:

Just 4 miles from DCA, the National Mall is easily accessible via the DC Metro. Hop on the Yellow or Blue line for a quick ride to iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. Allow at least 5 hours between flights to explore these sites and take in the historic scenery.

Explore Arlington National Cemetery:

Located about 3 miles from the airport, Arlington National Cemetery is a poignant and historic site. It’s a short Metro ride on the Blue line. Plan for at least 2-3 hours to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Kennedy family gravesites.

Stroll Through Old Town Alexandria:

Just 5 miles south of DCA, Old Town Alexandria offers charming streets lined with shops, restaurants, and historic sites. You can take a quick 10-minute taxi or rideshare ride. Allow at least 3-4 hours to enjoy the waterfront, historic buildings, and local boutiques.

Tour the Smithsonian Museums:

The Smithsonian museums, including the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History, are located on the National Mall, about 4 miles from DCA. Accessible via Metro, you’ll need around 5-6 hours to explore a couple of museums.

Visit the Pentagon:

The Pentagon is only 2 miles from the airport and can be reached by the Metro Blue line. Plan for a 1-2 hour tour, but make sure to book your Pentagon tour in advance due to security requirements.

Enjoy Georgetown’s Waterfront:

Approximately 6 miles from DCA, Georgetown’s waterfront offers scenic views, dining, and shopping. A taxi or rideshare can get you there in about 15 minutes. Allocate 3-4 hours to explore the area and enjoy a meal by the water.

Walk Along the Tidal Basin:

Located around 5 miles from the airport, the Tidal Basin is perfect for a scenic walk, especially during cherry blossom season. Accessible via Metro, plan for 2-3 hours to stroll and see memorials like the Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials.

Visit the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial):

Just 3 miles from DCA, this iconic memorial is a quick trip by taxi or Metro. Allocate 1-2 hours for visiting and taking in the impressive monument and views of the city.

Explore Crystal City Shops:

Crystal City, located right next to the airport, offers a variety of shops and dining options. You can walk or take a short shuttle ride. Plan for 1-2 hours to browse and enjoy a meal.

Relax at Gravelly Point Park:

Less than 2 miles from DCA, Gravelly Point Park offers a unique spot to watch planes take off and land. It’s a short taxi ride or a pleasant 15-minute walk. Spend about 1-2 hours relaxing and enjoying the views of the Potomac River and the airport activity.

Explore The Wharf:

Located about 5 miles from DCA, The Wharf is a vibrant waterfront area with dining, shopping, and entertainment options. A quick 15-minute taxi or Metro ride will get you there. Plan for 3-4 hours to enjoy the lively atmosphere, dine at waterfront restaurants, and explore unique shops.

Visit the National Zoo:

Approximately 7 miles from the airport, the National Zoo is accessible via the Metro Red line from the Metro Center station. Allocate at least 4-5 hours to explore the diverse animal exhibits and enjoy the scenic zoo grounds.

Check Out the International Spy Museum:

Located around 5 miles from DCA, the International Spy Museum offers intriguing exhibits on espionage history. Accessible via Metro, you’ll need about 3-4 hours to fully explore the interactive exhibits and displays.

Tour the Library of Congress:

Just 4 miles from the airport, the Library of Congress is a short Metro ride away. Plan for 2-3 hours to explore the stunning architecture and extensive collections of this historic library.

Visit the U.S. Capitol:

Approximately 4 miles from DCA, the U.S. Capitol is accessible via the Metro Blue or Yellow line. Allow 2-3 hours for a guided tour and to explore the surrounding Capitol grounds.

Experience National Harbor:

About 8 miles from DCA, National Harbor offers shopping, dining, and the Capital Wheel for panoramic views. A 20-minute taxi or rideshare ride will get you there. Plan for 4-5 hours to enjoy the attractions and waterfront activities.

Tour the National Archives:

Located 4 miles from the airport, the National Archives houses the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. A quick Metro ride on the Yellow or Blue line will get you there. Allocate 2-3 hours to explore the historic documents and exhibits.

10 Things to Do Near DCA Airport

  1. Visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon:
    • Description: Tour the historic home of America’s first president, featuring beautiful gardens, stables, and a museum.
    • Time Required: 2-3 hours.
    • Getting There: A 26-32 minute taxi ride costing $65-85 or a 1 hour and 10-minute bus ride on Line 304.
  2. Take a Hop-on, Hop-off Big Bus Tour:
    • Description: Explore D.C.’s main attractions with the flexibility to hop off at stops like the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Castle.
    • Time Required: 2-3 hours for the full loop.
    • Getting There: Start at L’Enfant Plaza, a 10-minute taxi or Metro ride from the airport.
  3. Explore the National Air and Space Museum:
    • Description: Discover the world’s largest collection of historic air and spacecraft, including the Wright Brothers’ airplane and lunar exploration exhibits.
    • Time Required: 2-3 hours.
    • Getting There: A 10-minute taxi ride or a Metro ride taking just over 10 minutes.
  4. Dine at Founding Farmers D.C.:
    • Description: Enjoy a meal at this award-winning restaurant run by American family farmers, known for its waffles and eggs Benedict.
    • Time Required: 2-3 hours.
    • Getting There: A 10-minute taxi or Metro ride from the airport.
  5. Tour the Smithsonian Castle:
    • Description: Visit this iconic building, which serves as the Smithsonian Institution’s administrative headquarters and visitor center.
    • Time Required: 1-2 hours.
    • Getting There: A short Metro ride or 10-minute taxi ride from the airport.
  6. Explore the Wharf:
    • Description: Enjoy dining, shopping, and entertainment along the waterfront.
    • Time Required: 3-4 hours.
    • Getting There: A 15-minute taxi ride from DCA.
  7. Walk Along the Tidal Basin:
    • Description: A scenic walk with views of memorials and cherry blossoms.
    • Time Required: 2-3 hours.
    • Getting There: A short Metro ride or 10-minute taxi ride.
  8. Visit the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial):
    • Description: Explore this iconic memorial dedicated to Marine Corps members.
    • Time Required: 1-2 hours.
    • Getting There: A quick taxi or Metro ride, approximately 3 miles from DCA.
  9. Stroll Through Old Town Alexandria:
    • Description: Enjoy charming streets, historic sites, and waterfront views.
    • Time Required: 3-4 hours.
    • Getting There: A 10-minute taxi or rideshare ride from the airport.
  10. Relax at Gravelly Point Park:
    • Description: Watch planes take off and land while enjoying views of the Potomac River.
    • Time Required: 1-2 hours.
    • Getting There: A 15-minute walk or short taxi ride from DCA.

Your Transportation Options at DCA Airport During Long Layovers:

Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) is conveniently located just 4 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., making it easy to explore the city during a long layover. Here’s how new fliers can make the most of their layover with various transportation options:

Metro Rail:

  • Best For: Quick and cost-effective travel to downtown Washington, D.C., Chinatown, and Columbia Heights.
  • Details:
    • Blue Line: A 17-minute journey to downtown for a maximum fare of $2.25.
    • Yellow Line: A 14-minute trip to Chinatown and Columbia Heights, with fares up to $4.
    • Station Location: The airport’s Metro station is on an elevated level, connected to National Hall via walkways.
    • Recommendation: Ideal for visiting the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums, and other central D.C. attractions.

Taxi:

  • Best For: Direct and flexible travel to various city locations without needing public transport connections.
  • Details:
    • Availability: 24/7 with assistance from DCA customer service representatives.
    • Pick-Up Locations: Closest curb to gates A1-A9 and outside baggage claim door number 5 at National Hall.
    • Cost: Fares to downtown are approximately $20, excluding tips.
    • Travel Time: Between 9 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
    • Recommendation: Best for quick trips when time is tight or during non-rush hours.

Rideshare (Lyft, Uber, Via):

  • Best For: Convenient app-based travel with flexible pick-up and drop-off locations.
  • Details:
    • Pick-Up Locations:
      • Furthest curb at gates A1-A9.
      • Baggage claim curb (level 1) or ticketing curb (level 3) at National Hall.
      • Rental Car Center on National Avenue.
    • Recommendation: Suitable for easy access to various city destinations and nearby attractions like Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria.

Charter Buses and Off-Airport Shuttles:

  • Best For: Group travel or transport to specific destinations such as hotels or tour groups.
  • Details:
    • Charter Bus Location: Outside National Hall on the upper level.
    • Hotel Shuttles: Stop at both terminals; at National Hall, same location as charter buses, and middle curb for gates A1-A9.
    • Recommendation: Ideal for travelers with pre-arranged group transportation or hotel shuttle services.

Shuttle Bus:

  • Best For: Continuous transport to and from the airport, ideal for connections to car rentals or nearby hotels.
  • Details:
    • Operation: 24/7 service.
    • Recommendation: Convenient for those needing frequent trips to nearby car rental centers or hotels.

Bus to Union Station:

  • Best For: Accessing Greyhound bus services for further travel.
  • Details:
    • Connection: Ride the Metro Yellow line from the airport to Union Station.
    • Travel Time: Approximately 15 minutes.
    • Recommendation: Suitable for travelers continuing their journey by Greyhound bus.

Driving Directions to DCA:

  • From Downtown Washington, D.C.:
    • Route: Head down 14th Street NW/US-1 S, merge onto I-395 S, take exit 10B for George Washington Memorial Parkway S, and continue to the airport’s West Entrance Road.
  • From Baltimore:
    • Route: Take MD-295 S, continue on MD-201 to MD-295, exit towards I-695/Route 395/Downtown, merge onto I-395 S, take exit 10B for George Washington Memorial Parkway S, and continue to the airport’s West Entrance Road.

By using these transport options, new fliers can efficiently explore Washington, D.C., and return to DCA with ease, maximizing their layover time.

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Nathan helps travelers find the most comfortable sleep setups during layovers, from cozy airport hotels to futuristic sleep pods. His insights aim to transform layovers into rejuvenating sleepcations, offering travelers an alternative to costly hotels and uncomfortable benches.