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. After living in DC for years I have enjoyed sunrise in many locations.

Here’s my list of the best sunrise spots in DC, if you’re visiting Washington 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: 6:15 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 Exposure

The 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 Memorial

After 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.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Google Maps

DC Skyline from Netherlands Carillon

Sunrise from Netherlands Carillon with a 300mm lens.

One of the few places to see DC’s skyline is from the Netherlands Carillon in Virginia. This is the best place to see all 3 of the DC monuments lined up perfectly.

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.

Netherlands Carillon on Google Maps

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 an 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 a sunrise.

Sometimes the Capitol reflecting pool will be drained. I recommend checking recent Instagram photos if you plan on going to see if water is in the pool.

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 a credit card of the ParkMobile app.

Colorful Dc Sunrise At The Us Capitol
Us Capitol Sunrise Long Exposure
US Capitol Reflecting Pool on Google Maps

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 Blossoms

The 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 to DC 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.

MLK Memorial on Google Maps

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Sunrise DC
Sunrise at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors troops who died in service during the Vietnam war. Thousands of names are engraved in a large black granite wall that lines the memorial. Remember to be respectful when visiting.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Google Maps

The US Capitol from Freedom Plaza

Looking down Pennsylvania Avenue at sunrise from Freedom Plaza

Pennsylvania Avenue connects Freedom Plaza to the US Capitol making it a great place to view sunrise if you have a long lens. This spot can vary depending on the conditions but earlier in the year sunrise will be stunning from this location since it slightly faces southeast.

It is quite some distance to the Capitol from here so I recommend at least shooting with a 100mm lens here.

Freedom Plaza on Google Maps

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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2 thoughts on “Best Places to View Sunrise in Washington DC”

  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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