Washington, D.C.

George Washington dubbed it “The Federal City,” Thomas Jefferson envisioned it as “America’s Paris,” and JFK described it, jokingly, as “a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” However you regard Washington, D.C. (or as local residents call it, the “DMV"—for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia), it fulfills its reputation as an imperial city with a vibrant energy. Visitors love the United States Capitol, White House, National Mall, Smithsonian museums, and the memorials. But the city’s exciting food and theater scenes also beckon, along with dozens of privately owned museums showcasing everything from art to espionage, and dynamic neighborhoods like U Street, 14th Street, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights. Should you seek temporary escape, the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley lie to the west, and to the east is the Eastern Shore, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean.

WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES - AUGUST 15, 2013 -   Architecture of picturesque area of Georgetown, Washington DC, United States

Architecture of picturesque area of Georgetown, Washington DC

Photo by Diego Mariottini/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Washington, D.C.?

D.C.’s high travel seasons coincide with the nicest weather—mid-March to mid-June and mid-September to early November. The most perfect time to come is mid-September to mid-October: The weather is wonderful, the crowds have dwindled, and museums and landmarks are still keeping summer hours.

How to get around Washington, D.C.

Travelers flying into D.C. have a choice of three airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). You can then make your way into the city via taxi or shared van service. SuperShuttle serves all three airports. From Reagan National, travelers also have the option of taking the Metrorail into town. From Dulles, Metrobus 5A is an express bus that delivers passengers to L’Enfant Plaza, D.C. Metro station. From BWI, arrive in the city via a MARC train or Amtrak train, which takes you to the Union Station D.C. Metro station.

D.C. is an extremely walkable city, but many options exist for getting around town. The Metro is often the fastest and most efficient way to move between neighborhoods. And the DC Circulator, at $1 a ride, offers an economical fare on six routes through town. Cabs are readily available, but if you need one and there’s none in sight, your mobile device can connect you either to a dispatcher or directly with a taxi. If you’re driving, you can use your smartphone to pay for parking by signing up with Parkmobile. The system will send you an SMS when your park time is about to expire, and you can add time using your smartphone. You can also rent a bicycle to ride around the city, through Capital Bikeshare.

Can’t miss things to do in Washington, D.C.

Along the historic C&O Canal, start your morning off with a visit to Baked & Wired, a family-owned café that offers a cozy atmosphere adorned with work by local artists. Head to the left counter for muffins and breads (the “baked” side) and then to the right for coffee (the “wired” side). Venture outside, and you’re not far from central Georgetown—or Georgetown Waterfront Park, with a scenic path running along the natural curve of the river. It’s perfect for strolling and is popular with joggers and bicyclists heading to the connecting Capital Crescent Trail.

Food and drink to try in Washington, D.C.

With a multicultural population like a microcosm of the world, Washington, D.C. is a foodie town bound to have something to tantalize your taste buds. Two locations in particular offer a plethora of dining options: 14th Street and Georgetown in the northwest section of town. Between these two neighborhoods, you will find sustenance in the capital!

Culture in Washington, D.C.

D.C. is a great museum city. Some of the world’s most-visited museums are here, and many national galleries and museums are publicly funded, so they’re free to visit. A few others, like the Newseum and the International Spy Museum, are worth paying to see. Elsewhere, in its neighborhoods, D.C. is a melting pot of cultures. During the entire month of May, D.C. celebrates its global community with embassy tours and events that take place throughout the city.

There’s always a festival of some sort going on in D.C. One of the most popular annual events is the Fourth of July fireworks celebration that takes place on the Mall. You can crowd in with the masses on a sultry July night. Or, take a boat cruise and see the fireworks from the water—the view is just as spectacular, and you can duck inside to cool off.

Local travel tips for Washington, D.C.

The Kennedy Center stages at least one free performance every day, 365 days of the year, and neither tickets nor reservations are required! You just show up and take a seat. Launched under the Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the daily performances take place on the Millennium Stage, located in the Grand Foyer, every day at 6 p.m. and last about an hour. The best place to sit is on the carpeted steps just to the left of the stage. Find the right spot, and there’s no one to obstruct your view.

Guide Editor

Susan Mason is a producer, writer, and digital strategist who is passionate about telling stories that inspire people to connect with one another and their surroundings. She has worked with brands including National Geographic, and produced Webby Award-winning #EverestNoFilter, a breakthrough project in expedition journalism. Susan is always ready for a hike, road trip, or a good meal, and you can follow her adventures at @soozyn.

Julee Khoo had a long and successful career as an IT Project Manager at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and is now spending her days pursuing interests including cooking, gardening, beekeeping, and, of course, traveling to destinations near and far.

Christian Mirasol is a Licensed Washington, D.C. Tour Guide and also works with business owners as a marketing arm for a number of Fortune 1000 and other online companies. He’s a D.C.-area native who loves his hometown and exploring his “backyard” but at the same time has the travel bug in him—always planning his next adventure. Aside from work and travel, he delights in both eating and cooking food, reading, history, hiking, swimming, and football (soccer, that is) whether it’s playing pick-up or cheering on his favorite club, Chelsea FC.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Although D.C. style has historically leaned conservative, it doesn’t mean that shoppers can’t find the latest clothes, home furnishings, or food items. The nation’s capital has a number of high-end stores, independent boutiques, and outdoor markets to satisfy the shopaholic, whether you’re looking for designer suits, crafts, or vintage whatnots.
Washington D.C. Is home to some of the most incredible collections of art, scientific, and historic artifacts in the United States as well as the world. In addition to the Smithsonian Institution, more than 200 museums are contained throughout the DC area such as historic homes, small art museums, and headquarters of patriotic organizations.
Regularly ranked as the most literate city in the US, DC houses attractive independent and used bookstores for the bibliophile. Let’s not forget to mention that DC is home to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, which comprises of three buildings containing over 158 million items (36 million of them books in 460 languages) and the Folger Library, the world’s largest Shakespearean library. Definitely plenty of shelves and stacks for the literary nerd to get lost in.
DC folks seem to be in a rush all the time, but there’s no excuse to skip a meal. Also, with so many big-name chefs opening up exciting, premium restaurants, it can be tough to find cheap bargain eats. Luckily, there are eateries with deli offerings, pizza, burgers, and even lobster takeout that can help save locals and visitors time and money.
Second only to New York City in number of theater productions annually, DC has a respectable performing arts scene where each season, nearly 80 professional area theaters stage more than 350 productions. Spearheading this movement is the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts which hosts approximately 3,000 events a year to more than two million people. In recent years, DC has experienced a growth of independent theaters, performance spaces, and troupes with more compelling productions.
DC has a love affair with all things sugary and sweet, especially for cupcakes or “cakecups” which often result in long standing queues outside the doors. No matter the neighborhood, gourmet doughnuts, frozen pudding, gelato, ice cream, and macarons highlight the talent and creativity of DC’s dessert scene and are within easy reach.
More than 230,000 acres of parks and green spaces as well as approximately 40 community gardens dot DC. Not only do most serve as gathering places for people to eat, play and socialize, they possess an abundance of flora and fauna, such as the display of 10,000 orchids at the US Botanic Garden, and natural formations in Rock Creek Park. As peaceful, refreshing sites, DC’s parks and gardens are a welcome respite from the stresses of everyday living and long hours of sightseeing.
Happy hour is a beloved D.C. institution, and there are storied bars like Jack Rose as well as newer hot spots where you can raise a (discounted) glass with locals. As with restaurants, the nightlife scene has gotten better and more varied in recent years. Head to trendy areas like the U Street Corridor and 14th Street for creative cocktails, sleek wine bars, and craft beer. For live music, try a jazz club in Georgetown or eclectic favorite venues in Adams Morgan.
Brunch in D.C. is a serious obsession. DC’s brunch scene fittingly captures the best of what’s found across the U.S., from farm-to-table restaurants focused on fresh local produce to greasy spoons where dishes come out nice and greasy paired with bottomless bloody marys, mimosas, and bellinis. Catering to a blend of young professionals and seasoned politicos. DC’s brunch spots are excellent in balancing the trendy with traditional, meaning it’s not too difficult to find suitable options.
Georgetown is a beautiful and historic neighborhood, a short distance from the museums and parks in the heart of Washington, D.C., as well as from the Potomac, offering the best of both worlds—small-town feel with all the amenities of the big city.
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