Best Places to View Sunrise in Washington DC

Sunrise is a magical time in Washington DC. The feeling of sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial watching sunrise with no one around is quite calming.

Here’s my list of the best sunrise spots in DC, if you’re visiting DC or a local I highly recommend waking up early for sunrise.

Use this handy clock below for the exact sunrise DC time for tomorrow.

When is Sunrise in DC?

Tomorrow’s Sunrise: 6:51:43 am

Here are the best places for Sunrise in DC:

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Orange Sunrise At The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool Andy Feliciotti
Sunrise on the west side of the Reflecting Pool.

There is something magical about sitting at a sunrise on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The sun cascading over the water with the Capitol and Washington Monument in the distance is a classic DC view.

Sunrise Lincoln Memorial Long ExposureThe end of the Reflecting Pool sits at the base of the Lincoln Memorial’s steps. There are plenty of angles to photograph with the columns of the Memorial. You also might see running groups jogging up and down the steps.

If it’s a cold weekday there won’t be many people at the Lincoln Memorial making it even more magical since you’ll be one of the few people there.

Lonely At Lincoln MemorialAfter enjoying sunrise you can also walk around the Lincoln Memorial and take photos of Lincoln on his chair.

Typically when going to sunrise I park on Rock Creek Potomac Parkway NW near the Arts of Peace Sculpture or on Ohio Dr SW. I’ve never had an issue parking in the morning plus it’s about a 0.3 mile walk from these spots.

A 200mm lens will get you great photos of the Capitol, but I also enjoy shooting on a wide angle lens (16mm) right on the water.

DC Skyline from Netherlands Carillon

Washington DC Skyline
View from Netherlands Carillon with a 300mm lens.

One of the few places to see DC’s skyline is from the Netherlands Carillon in Virginia.

The best way to capture this view is to use a long lens (100mm+). You can get a view of the entire skyline of Washington DC. Best of all the view faces east to fully capture the sunrise.

While up here you can also capture a photo of the Iwo Jima Memorial which is located at the same spot.

US Capitol Reflecting Pool

Us Capitol Sunrise Red
Sunrise on the west side of the US Capitol Reflecting Pool.

The United States Capitol Reflecting Pool gives you a unbelievable view of sunrise on the National Mall. With the Capitol building lining up with the sunrise and water at all angles you can easily capture the pure beauty of sunrise.

I typically Park on Madison Dr NW or on 3rd St SW when visiting the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There are typically plenty of parking spots fairly close to the pool. There is a parking meter which can be paid with credit card of the ParkMobile app.

Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin Sunrise Cherry Blossoms
Sunrise at the Tidal Basin during Cherry Blossom Festival.

Most of the Tidal Basin is beautiful during sunrise. I especially love being at the MLK Memorial since you can see the sunrise over the water, plus see the Jefferson Memorial in the distance.

Jefferson Memorial Peak Bloom Cherry BlossomsThe Tidal Basin becomes incredibly popular when the cherry blossoms are in peak bloom. With trees lining the entire area it’s easy to get a great shot without anyone in it since the main focal points are the monuments over water.

Planning a trip during peak cherry blossom bloom can be difficult since the date can change just a couple weeks before they bloom.

Granted it doesn’t matter what season it is; visiting the Tidal Basin for sunrise is an incredible DC experience.

And that is it for the best places for sunrise in Washington DC!

To fill the rest of your day I recommend grabbing a coffee and hitting up these other awesome DC photo spots.

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  1. Hi Andy…
    Beautiful pics. Is it possible for you to share the camera and lens settings for the images? Also, how long was the exposure for the capital hill? I am interested to understand how you create the moving sky art?

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