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Washington, D.C.

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Washington, D.C.

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The U.S. Capitol Building

Washington, D.C., [9] or the District of Columbia (the city and the district are coterminous), is the capital of the United States of America. It is a planned city, designed specifically to house the federal government, and is not part of any state. Its history, beautiful architecture, and excellent cultural centers attract millions each year. It is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland.


Washington, D.C. was established in 1791 by an act of the infant United States Congress. To avoid a dispute between the various states and regions about which city should be the capital of the new nation, Congress established a brand new city, outside any existing state. The District of Columbia was carved out of Virginia and Maryland, and the new city was built (the land taken from Virginia was later given back and formed into present-day Arlington County). Designed by architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant according to Enlightenment-era rationalist philosophy, Washington (named after the country's first president) was envisioned as a kind of Socratic wildlife refuge for America's new philosopher-kings.

Fast-forward two hundred years, and you'll see that the Founding Fathers' vision has been partially fulfilled. Washington, D.C. is a diverse city of native residents and transients from across the nation who come to serve as employees of the many federal government departments and government contractors. While some are legislators, executives, and judges, most of the population is impoverished or middle class. As home to federal decision-makers, the city's attention is sometimes on topics unique to the city such as advertisements for military technology from large defense contractors vying for brainshare among Pentagon employees. It is a very "young" city, with a huge percentage of the population under 30. Relatively few residents have lived here all their lives. Most recent census figures report that about 50% of the population has relocated in the past 5 years.

Meanwhile, Washington's non-transient population is primarily African-American, many of them living on low incomes. This has caused occasional tensions, as the theoretical ideals of a temporary governing population conflict with the needs of a real-world metropolis' permanent residents. As Washington doesn't belong to a state, its municipal government is required to provide all the services that would normally be provided by state governments. It is also subject to overrule by the U.S. Congress, a body in which its residents have no voting representation. Hence, the slogan found on many D.C. license plates, "Taxation Without Representation".

Get in

By plane

Washington, D.C. is served by three major airports.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA), [10] located in Arlington, Virginia on the west bank of the Potomac River just south of the city, is the closest and most convenient. Walkways connect the concourse level of the B and C terminals to the Washington Metro rail platform; the walk from the A terminal to the metro takes 5 to 10 minutes. To get downtown (10 minutes), take the Yellow Line toward Mt Vernon Square/UDC. For destinations to the west, take the Blue Line toward Largo Town Center.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA: IAD), [11] is located at Dulles (pronounced Dull-ess), Virginia, 26 miles west of downtown DC. To get into the city, the most convenient option may be the Washington Flyer coach [12], which operates every half hour to and from the West Falls Church Metro (Orange Line). It takes 20-25 minutes and costs $9 one way or $16 round trip. The Metro rail service from West Falls Church to downtown DC takes another 20-25 minutes. The cheapest option is the 5A Metrobus, an express bus which makes stops at Herndon, Tysons Corner, Rosslyn (Blue and Orange Lines) and downtown L'Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Blue, and Orange Lines). It departs hourly (though not on the hour) and takes 50-60 minutes; the fare is $3 each way. Ask the people at the information booth in the lower level of the airport terminal, near the baggage claim, which bus will be coming sooner. They also can direct you to the bus stop. (5A timetable and map (pdf): [13])

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (IATA: BWI), [14] is in Maryland and is 30 miles north-east of DC and 10 miles south of downtown Baltimore. Metro operates the hourly B30 express Metrobus to the Greenbelt Metro Station (Green Line). It boards on the lower level outside the International Pier. The fare is $3 each way and it takes about 30 minutes. The driver does not provide change. The Metro rail service from Greenbelt to downtown takes another 25 minutes approximately. There are also train services from BWI Rail Station (see next section).

By train

Amtrak services arrive from all over the country, particularly the Northeast Corridor (Boston-to-Richmond). All stop at downtown Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, on Metro's Red Line -- a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol steps. A few lines also stop in adjacent Alexandria, VA, very close to King Street Metro, on the Yellow and Blue lines. If you are coming from the south, it might be easier to stop there, depending on your destination.

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) [15] also provides rail from the southwest, starting in Virginia suburbs of Manassas and Fredericksburg, for those who do not wish to drive into the metropolitan area.

From BWI Airport, a free "Amtrak/MARC" shuttle bus runs from the airport terminal to the BWI Rail Station. MARC [16] local rail operates weekdays to New Carrollton (Orange Line) for $5 each way, or Washington Union Station (Red Line) for $6. Amtrak [17] provides access to Union Station (from $13; 30-35 minutes) and to nearby Alexandria, Virginia near the King Street Metro station on the Blue and Yellow lines (from $27).

By car

Washington, D.C. is primarily served by I-95 from Baltimore, MD or Richmond, VA. I-95 South is particularly bad on Friday afternoons and any time people are likely to be going to the beach. Other interstates of note are:

  • I-495 is the DC Beltway (or simply "the Beltway"). The Beltway is reviled across the nation for its traffic congestion (particularly during rush hour, when it rivals the Cross-Bronx Expressway in New York City as the most miserable highway in the United States). On the East side of the city, I-495 follows I-95. Particularly bad spots include:
    • the inner loop (clockwise) between I-66 and I-95 and also approaching the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the morning rush (Virginia)
    • the outer loop (counterclockwise) between I-95 Springfield and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge during the afternoon rush (Virginia)
    • the outer loop (counterclockwise) in Maryland between I-95 and I-270.

Again, only travel on the Beltway during rush hour if you absolutely, positively must.

  • I-270 connects from I-70 in Frederick, MD to I-495 in Bethesda, MD
  • I-395 connects downtown with the I-495/I-95 interchange in Northern Virginia.
  • I-295 connects downtown with I-495/I-95 at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Southern Prince George's County, MD.
  • I-66 starts at the western part of downtown and goes 75 miles west, ending near Front Royal, VA.
  • Route 50 traverses the city from east to west, heading east toward Annapolis, MD and Ocean City, MD (the latter by way of the Bay Bridge), and west across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge into Northern Virginia and parts west.
  • The Baltimore-Washington Parkway (also "B-W Parkway") starts at I-295, crossing central Maryland, passing near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and terminating in Baltimore.

Inside the beltway, I-66 is HOV-2 only eastbound from 7AM to 9AM and westbound from 4PM to 6:30 PM. The HOV-2 restriction applies to the entire highway, not just specific lanes. US-50, US-29, and the George Washington Parkway are the alternatives.

Interestingly enough, while MD/DC 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) will take you from Maryland right into the city, it doesn't allow you to directly connect to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway westbound. You can exit at Pennsylvania Avenue Eastbound and follow the throngs making illegal u-turns to then be facing westbound (towards downtown) or proceed to Howard Road and then cross the Anacostia River on South Capitol Street, which takes you to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. I-295 Northbound does connect to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway Westbound. The converse is also true: the Southeast-Southwest Freeway Eastbound does not connect to DC 295 Northbound- it only connects to I-295 southbound. To gain entrance onto DC 295 Northbound, stay left on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and exit onto Pennsylvania Avenue, which will then let you turn left and enter 295 North.

Driving in the city: Be warned that driving in Washington, D.C. is somewhat of a challenge even for native Washingtonians. The "multiple-sourced diagonals on a grid with interspersed circles for good measure" defensive street layout designed (with the express purpose of facilitating defense against an invading army) by L'Enfant provides for confusing intersections which are only then complimented by some of the nation's consistently worst traffic. The Metro system is an acclaimed public transport system that serves the majority of popular sites within and around the city and can be a much more rewarding experience.

By bus

  • Greyhound - The stop for Washington, D.C. is at 1005 1st St NE, which is a few blocks north of Union Station (where you can catch the Red Line Metrorail). Current fares are around $20 (or $35 for a return ticket) from New York City. There are other Greyhound stations located in Silver Spring, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.

A number of independent bus companies [18] run between New York City and Washington DC.

Get around

Washington D.C. map

City layout

The city is split into four quadrants centered on the Capitol Building: NE, NW, SE and SW. City roads are laid out in a grid, with east-west streets named for letters (then alphabetically single-syllable words, double-syllable words, etc.) and north-south streets named for numbers, all going "up" as you travel outward. For example, there is an M Street on the north side of town, and another M Street on the south side, both crossing from the east side to the west side. Likewise with 6th Street, running from north to south on both the east and west sides. The boundary lines between the quadrants are as follows: North Capitol Street between NE and NW, East Capitol Street between NE and SE, South Capitol Street between SE and SW, and the National Mall between SW and NW. To identify which side of town and which end of the street, the quadrant is included at the end of any proper street address. For example, the White House is properly "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW". The Northwest quadrant is the largest and home to most items of interest to visitors, although a few major tourist locations fall into the other three quadrants (e.g. Union Station and the Supreme Court fall in NE, the Tidal Basin and Bureau of Engraving and Printing are in SW and the Library of Congress is in SE)

Speaking of avenues, these are named mostly after the 50 states, and cut at various angles across the grid (several of them lining up on the White House or the Capitol, to draw attention to these democratic symbols). Many major intersections, especially those involving avenues, meet at circles named after historical figures. (Note: traffic may or may not flow through these circles like in a roundabout, depending on the particular circle in question, so don't try to drive them that way.)

The grid has a few peculiarities which are the legacy of Pierre L'Enfant's 18th century plan for the city. There is no J Street, since at the time L'Enfant considered the letters I and J to be essentially the same letter and not two distinct letters as they are today. (It is a myth that he had it out for statesman John Jay.) In the English language, the use of the letter J began to take its modern form in the 1600s but remained commonly interchangeable with I until the mid 1800s. Addresses on I Street are usually occasionally written "Eye Street" to avoid confusion with the number "1". Addresses on the first block of cross-streets crossing North, South or East Capitol Street are referred to as being on the "unit block" of those streets. Certain of the streets reflect the courses of present-day waterways: rivers (the Anacostia Freeway), creeks or creek valleys (Rock Creek Expressway, Beach Drive), and canals (Clara Barton Expressway [traveling along the C&O Canal], MacArthur Boulevard [running over of the Washington Aqueduct]).

Please also note that a few streets are one-way for specific hours of the day, in order to accommodate rush-hour traffic, and others will repurpose lanes during rush-hour periods for the same purpose.

Public transportation

Washington has one of the best public transportation systems in the country. The hub-and-spoke rail system is integrated with an extensive bus system, with all lines converging in downtown D.C. A car is often a hindrance in the District, particularly for tourists; public transportation is often the fastest way to get around.

New, red "DC Circulator" buses provide the cheapest way ($1) to travel crosstown along D.C.'s major axes: East-West from Union Station past the Convention Center to Georgetown and North-South from the Convention Center through the National Mall to the Southwest Waterfront.


For more extensive coverage, use the "Metro", operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Its five intersecting "Metrorail" subway lines stop in most major neighborhoods, with the notable exceptions of Georgetown and Adams-Morgan. Since parking downtown can be scarce and expensive (up to $15/day) and parking violations AGGRESSIVELY enforced, many attractions recommend using the Metro, and WMATA publishes a pocket guide indicating which line and stop to take for various landmarks. In addition, WMATA devotes a section of its website to visitor resources. All parts of the Metro system are extremely safe, reliable, and amazingly clean. Interestingly, the locals never refer to it as the "subway" or "underground;" calling it such is guaranteed to earn you strange looks from any Washingtonian in earshot.

The cleanliness of the Washington Metro is something in which its riders take considerable pride, to the point that rules regarding such are usually self-enforced. If you should happen to board the train with a cup of coffee or a sandwich, don't be surprised if someone asks you to toss it out at the next station.

  • Red Line - forms a long "U" from suburban Montgomery County, Maryland through downtown. Attractions on the Red Line include the Union Station, the MCI Center, the National Zoo, the National Cathedral and Cathedral of St. Matthew Our Apostle. The Red Line's Wheaton station boasts the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Yellow Line - links the Washington Convention Center to Alexandria via the Verizon Center, the 14th Street Bridge and Reagan National Airport.
  • Green Line - forms a "C" which swings through Prince Georges County from Greenbelt (and its BWI Airport shuttle) past the University of Maryland, the gentrifying U Street and Columbia Heights districts, the Southwest Waterfront, and historic Anacostia.
  • Blue Line - an "S" that meanders from Largo Town Center near FedEx Field (home of the Washington Redskins) to RFK Stadium (home of the Washington Nationals and the D.C. United), under the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery, and south to Reagan National Airport and Alexandria.
  • Orange Line - Runs from Fairfax County suburbs (and the Washington Flyer Dulles Airport shuttles at West Falls Church) along the Wilson Boulevard entertainment corridor, through downtown, and out again past RFK Stadium to New Carrollton (with onward connections to MARC and Amtrak).

Metrorail's Hours of Operation are as follows:

  • Monday-Thursday: 5AM to Midnight
  • Friday: 5AM to 3AM
  • Saturday: 7AM to 3AM
  • Sunday: 7AM to Midnight

When riding late at night, it is advisable to be aware of when the last train leaves each particular station (this will be clearly stated at each station and is also given on WMATA's website), and make sure you do not miss that train (you must also take into consideration any transfers you will need to make). However, unlike in some other systems, all trains continue to the end of their respective lines (usually until well after Metro's stated closing time), so you need not worry about a train stopping before it reaches your destination.

Parking is available at many suburban stations, particularly at the terminus stations, and costs a flat rate of $3.50 (as of January 3, 2006) at most lots, though a few cost slightly more. It is important to note that weekday parking at a Metro lot requires a "SmarTrip" card, which is a special rechargeable debit card. Cash, credit cards and checks are not accepted for parking. One must purchase a SmarTrip card for $10 at a vending machine (SmarTrip machines are located at all stations with parking). The card itself costs $5 and it is dispensed pre-loaded with $5 in value (hence the $10 cost). The SmarTrip can also be used to pay Metrorail and Metrobus fares, and to make paperless transfers from one to the other. If you park at a Metro lot on a weekday, make sure you purchase a SmarTrip card and not a regular farecard. Only the SmarTrip cards with microchips will be accepted by the parking gate. Parking on weekends and holidays is free.

As stated above, for ease of use, one can use the same SmarTrip card to pay for both the Metro trip and parking. In fact, at a few stations (though certainly not the majority), you can only get the reduced Metro customer parking rate if you use the same card (specifically New Carrollton, White Flint, and Twinbrook). Unfortunately, use of a SmarTrip card currently precludes customers from taking advantage of unlimited ride passes (which are mentioned below), though Metro has plans to eventually enable unlimited ride capabilities via SmarTrip.

If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing throughout the city, the Metrorail One Day Pass is a great deal - for a flat $6.50, you are afforded unlimited rides throughout the Metrorail system (the pass is valid after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays or all day on Saturdays and Sundays until closing (on Fridays and Saturdays, this means 3 a.m. of the following day). A "short-trip" 7-day pass is $22, but restricted to $2.20 rides during peak hours. An unrestricted and unlimited 7-day pass is $32.50. Note that you can only buy unlimited ride passes at the blue Passes/Farecards machines in each station, and not from the standard brown Farecards machines. Likewise, the blue machines are the only ones that accept credit and debit cards, but you can buy any farecard or pass type from these machines (including adding value to SmarTrip cards), so there is no real reason to use the standard brown machine unless you need to skip a long line. Furthermore, unlike in most other transit agencies, Metrorail passes are not valid for travel on Metrobus (nor is the fare structure identical).

Metrorail fares are based on distance, starting from $1.35. Peak fares are in effect on weekdays from (5:10 a.m.) to 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., during which time the maximum fare is $3.90. At all other times, lower fares are in effect, with a maximum of $2.35. Because the fare is based on distance, each passenger must have his or her own farecard (whether paper or SmarTrip) and use it both when entering and exiting the system. If the value on the card is insufficient to exit, it can be recharged using "Exitfare" vending machines.

If you have rented a bicycle, you can also take your bicycle on Metrorail outside of weekday peak hours, but you must use one of the end doors of each car (the center doors have stickers with a reminder for bicyclists to use other doors). All buses in the Metrobus system are also equipped with bicycle racks on the front.

The "Metrobus" system has a flat fare system of $1.25 for most routes, or $3 for express routes. Certain routes feature discounted fares. An all-day pass for Metrobus is $3 and valid until 3:00 a.m. on regular routes or for $1.25 on express routes. Metrobus accepts SmarTrip for payments and transfers, but does not accept Metrorail paper farecards or passes. To save money on your metrobus trips, you can also get transfer slips from other Metrobuses or from Metrorail (at your station of ENTRY) that allow you to take another bus within a two hour period at a discounted rate.

As mentioned above, there is no direct Metrorail connection to the popular neighborhood of Georgetown. However, the Georgetown Metro Connection provides convenient bus service throughout Georgetown directly from the Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle metro stations, in little blue busses. Fare is a flat $1.50 or, with a Metrorail transfer (obtained from the machine at the station where you ENTER the system), $0.35. For out-of-towners, it is recommended to use the Foggy Bottom bus route, as it runs all along Wisconsin Avenue throughout the heart of Georgetown. Buses leave from the top of the escalators at the Foggy Bottom metro station every 10 minutes during the following hours:

  • Monday-Thursday: 7AM - Midnight
  • Friday: 7AM - 2AM
  • Saturday: 8AM - 2AM
  • Sunday: 8AM - Midnight


Taxi cabs do not use meters, but charge fares based on zones traveled -- plus such surcharges as one dollar during rush hours (7 - 9:30 a.m. and 4 - 6:30 p.m.) and $1.50 for each additional passenger. This can cause a lot of confusion and tourists often think they're being ripped off. To be prepared, you can always ask about the fare in advance or view D.C.'s Taxi Cab Zone Map. Taxi drivers in DC have been known to charge fees that are not warranted to unsuspecting out of town visitors. Taxis in DC do not use a uniform topper system, so the light being on means absolutely nothing. Also, drivers can pick up additional fares even if there is an existing fare in the car.

During snow emergencies, D.C. taxis are permitted to charge extra fares, which is usually double the standard fare. From time to time, the D.C. City Council may also temporarily increase taxi rates to accommodate exceptionally high gasoline prices.

For taxis to/from D.C. suburbs, it is often better to call a suburban taxi service from where you're going to be picked in D.C. (if time permits) than to use a city cab. This is because D.C. taxi drivers are not always familiar with suburban directions or how much to charge to locations outside of the city. Many DC taxi drivers will also refuse to leave the city.(See local phone books for suburban options.)

There are ten taxis in DC that are pilot testing a meter system, so if you board a taxi with a meter, you won't be paying that charge. For years, taxi drivers have fought the meters by saying they make more on the zone system.

The taxi system in DC is centered on the government institutions. All federal buildings in the downtown area are located within one zone. This means crossing the entirety of the central city is extremely cheap, but if you cross the zone boundary your cost will go up. A 2 block ride across a zone boundary cost about $2.00 more than a 20 block ride across downtown.

By car

Downtown Washington's roads are well-signed and organized on a relatively predictable grid, but also heavily congested with aggressive drivers. Weekday parking can be scarce and expensive. The city RUTHLESSLY enforces parking regulations to a near-comical degree. Don't think you can ignore tickets if you're a tourist from far away; the city has hired collection agencies in the past to go after unpaid tickets and threaten the credit records of folks who ignore citations. Fines double if not paid by the stated due date (usually 15 days).

Many major intersections are formed into circles. The larger circles can be harrowing for inexperienced drivers—Dupont Circle links five roads running in ten directions with two traffic rings (with Massachusetts Avenue NW running in the inner circle) and an underground bypass for Connecticut Avenue NW.

Partly as a means to combat heavy rush hour traffic, a significant number of intersections and other locations are monitored by traffic cameras--either for red-light violations or for speeding. Drivers may wish to make note that some tickets around federal buildings, embassies, and parks, if issued by police other than the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, are federal violations. In addition to the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington DC also has Secret Service Police, FBI Police, Park Police, and DC Protective Services that can stop and issue citations.

Local opposition prevented the construction of interstate highways through Washington; the two freeways that feed into the city from Virginia, I-66 and I-395, both terminate quickly. Washington and its innermost suburbs are encircled by the Capital Beltway, I-495, which gave rise to the expression "Inside the Beltway."

Washington boasts several scenic drives:

  • Pennsylvania Avenue from 14th Street NW toward the Capitol
  • Rock Creek Parkway, which follows Rock Creek, then the Potomac to the Lincoln Memorial
  • Reservoir Road from Georgetown to the Clara Barton Parkway, continuing to the Capitol Beltway
  • Embassy Row, Massachusetts Avenue from Scott Circle to Wisconsin Avenue
  • the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which follows the Potomac on the Virginia side

Please note: cellphone use while driving inside the District of Columbia (without hands-free equipment) is subject to a $100 fine for the first offense.


Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill plays a central role in the country's political life, as two of the three branches of the federal government - the legislative and the judicial - are located here. Washington D.C.'s layout centers on Capitol Hill, with the city's four quadrants starting at the Capitol Building.

  • Capitol Building, (Metro: Union Station on the Red Line; Capitol South on the Blue or Orange Lines.), +1-(202)-225-6827. The Capitol Building is filled with impressive paintings, statues and historical exhibits. The Capitol is open to guided tours only, Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tours can be arranged for American citizens by calling or e-mailing your congressman or senator's office a few weeks in advance. These tours are well-guided by office staff, more personal, and connect you with your local government. Tours can also be joined by getting a free, first-come, first-served ticket from the Capitol Guide Service Kiosk located near First St SE, across from the United States Botanic Garden. Ticket distribution begins at 9am. Generally you will have to pick up a ticket and come back at a later time. It is quite a rigmarole getting in but at least the staff are helpful at the many steps along the way. Things may be more efficient when the new visitor center is completed in late 2006. This is one place very strict about what you can and can't take in (prohibited items). At the museums you can get away with food in your bags (despite what the signs say) but not here. If you have food it will have to be dumped. If that's a problem, nip over to a place such as the Library of Congress where you can deposit your bag and come back.
  • Supreme Court, First St & Maryland Ave NE (Metro: Union Station on the Red Line; Capitol South on the Blue or Orange Lines.), +1-(202)-479-3211, [1]. M-F 9AM-4:30PM.
  • Library of Congress - Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE (Metro: Capitol South on the Blue or Orange Lines.), +1-(202)-707-8000, [2]. It is worth a visit just to see the very elaborate and beautiful interior decoration. There are a number of rotating exhibitions from the Library's vast collection on display at any one time, as is a Gutenberg Bible. Free admission.
  • Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, +1-(202)-544–7077 (fax: +1-(202)-544–7420), [3]. M-Sa 10AM-4PM. Houses the world's largest Shakespeare collection and has a replica of Shakespeare's Globe theatre.
  • Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE (Metro: Union Station on the Red Line), +1-(202)-289-1908, [4]. Not just a train station or metro stop, the Beaux Arts architecture of the 1908 building makes it worth a look. Contains shops, restaurants and a cinema. A large monument to Christopher Columbus stands outside the building.
  • National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave NE (Metro: Union Station on the Red Line. Just west of Union Station.), +1-(202)-357-2700, [5]. Daily except 25 December 10AM-5:30PM. Exhibitions of how mail has been delivered throughout history, rare stamps, and other ways that the mail shapes culture. Free admission..

National Mall

World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial

The National Mall is not a shopping center but rather a long grassy expanse stretching from Capitol Hill westward to the Potomac River. The Mall's central location and the many famous museums and monuments which surround it make the Mall a popular destination. If you want an "only in Washington" moment, take the Metro to the Smithsonian stop and walk out of the National Mall exit. The view is memorable.

A great way to see a lot during a limited stay is to visit museums during the day and monuments at night. The Smithsonians are open until about 5-7pm. Afer finding a nice place to eat dinner, take a long walk to visit all the monuments by night when they are most beautiful. Quite a few companies offer tours of the monuments at night, so you won't be alone. Carry an extra flashlight, though, as some parts of the mall are rather dark for effect. Seeing the monuments at night is also advantageous during Washington's hot, humid summers.

A word of warning: the National Mall is deceptively large (over 2 miles end-to-end), an illusion that is reinforced by the sheer size of the Capitol building and the Washington and Lincoln memorials. Walking the mall is certainly a great way to see the sights, but be advised that what seems to be a short stroll can quickly turn into a long march in the sun.

The Smithsonian [19] is not a single museum; there are 18 Smithsonian museums, many of which are located on the Mall. Museums run by the Smithsonian Institution are free of charge and their gift shops do not have the 6.5% D.C. tax levied on items sold.

From east to west along Constitution Avenue (the north side of the Mall)

  • National Gallery of Art. [20] M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-6PM The east building of this museum focuses on modern art, while the west building showcases more traditional, mostly European, paintings and sculptures. The two buildings are connected by an underground walkway which has a store and a restaurant. Free admission, and unlike most art museums, flash photography is allowed. The sculpture garden's foot pool is an excellent way to cool off during the day.
  • National Archives. [21] Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial via the Green and Yellow Lines. Rotunda and exhibit hall, Open Daily except 25 December; 10AM-5:30PM (day after Labor Day through March 31), 10AM-7PM (April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day weekend), 10AM-9PM (Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day). In summer you can go in the evening and avoid the long queue (everything else in town is closed then anyway). See the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other displays. Gift shop. Free admission.
  • National Museum of Natural History. [22] Open Daily except 25 December. Regular hours 10AM-5:30PM, summer (May 26 to September 4) 10AM-7:30PM. This Smithsonian museum presents a variety of displays including world cultures, meteorites and mineral samples. It traces the evolution of life from its beginnings through fossil plants, dinosaurs and mammals. Be sure to see the Hope Diamond, the most famous blue diamond in the world.
  • National Museum of American History. [23] Open Daily except 25 December. Regular hours 10AM-5:30PM, summer 10AM-6:30PM A Smithsonian museum, it covers topics ranging from technology to social and political history. This museum will be closed from September 5, 2006 until Summer 2008 for renovations.
Washington Monument, the Ellipse, the White House
  • Washington Monument. 9AM-4:45PM The view from the 550 foot Washington Monument is great on a clear day, allowing you to see up and down the Mall, and out as far as the Shenandoah Mountains. Entrance is by timed ticket, which are distributed on a first come first served basis, and are available free from a National Park Service booth on 15th Street near the monument. It's worth stopping off early in the day (opens at 8:30 a.m. and collecting your tickets before visiting a museum or three, and then coming back later. Better still, book your ticket online in advance at the NPS Reservation Center. If you can't get tickets or don't want to spend the time, you can get a similar panoramic view of D.C. with no wait at the Old Post Office Tower (see below), just a block from the Mall.
  • Corcoran Museum of Art. [24] W & F-M 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM The oldest art gallery in the American capital. $6.75 individual admission, $4.75 seniors, $3 students with ID, $12 families with young children (donation on Monday and Thursday after 5 p.m.)
  • National World War II Memorial. Opened in 2004. [25]
  • Reflecting Pool. The view from the Lincoln Memorial, with the Reflecting Pool in the foreground and the Washington Monument just behind, and the Capitol Building in the distance, is famous and not to be missed.
soldier at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial. [26] There are three sections to this memorial, all in close proximity: a black marble wall engraved with the names of the deceased and missing of the Vietnam War; a statue of a trio of soldiers; and the Vietnam Women's Memorial. This is a very powerful monument by day or night.
Lincoln Memorial in late afternoon.
  • Lincoln Memorial. [27] This is an impressive monument in a commanding location at the end of the Mall, honoring the president responsible for ending slavery in the United States and for waging war against southern secessionists to reunite the nation.

From east to west along Independence Avenue (the south side of the Mall)

  • U.S. Botanic Garden. [28] Conservatory Open 10AM-5PM Bartholdi Park, south of the conservatory, is open dawn to dusk.
  • National Museum of the American Indian. [29] The newest of the Smithsonian museums displays the cultural traditions of the Native peoples of North, Central and South America. It focuses on 20th century and present day culture much more than pre-European and colonial periods. Free admission, but visitors who don't want to wait in line can obtain a free same-day timed entry pass at the museum's east entrance, or they can purchase a pass in advance by calling +1 866 400-NMAI.
National Air & Space Museum
  • National Air & Space Museum. [30] Daily except 25 December 10AM-5:30PM The most-visited museum in the world, this impressive repository covers the history of human flight, rocketry and space flight. It contains thousands of impressive artifacts, including the Wrights' 1903 Flyer, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo 11's command module Columbia, and the simulated bridge of an aircraft carrier. Free.
  • There is also a huge companion museum to the Air & Space Museum called the The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center [31] which is located near Dulles Airport outside of town. It houses the Enola Gay and the Enterprise space shuttle, among other planes and vehicles. There is a frequent shuttle bus between the main Air & Space Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Center.
  • Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. [32] Museum 10AM-5:30PM; Sculpture garden 7:30AM-dusk. International modern and contemporary art.
  • Smithsonian Castle. [33] 8:30AM-5:30PM This distinctive brick-red structure was the original Smithsonian museum. The building now presents an overview of the Smithsonian system as well as occasional exhibitions.
  • National Museum of African Art, [34]. Presents the diversity of African art. The Freer and Sackler Galleries can also be accessed through this museum.
  • Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, [35]. Every day except 25 December 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. These linked Smithsonian museums feature Asian art. There is also an underground passage to the National Museum of African Art.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW (Metro: Smithsonian via the Blue and Orange Lines) [36]. Daily except 13 October and 25 December 10AM-5:30PM Entrance is by free timed ticket on a first come, first served basis. Films, audio testimonies and historical exhibits tell about the Holocaust.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing. 14th St and C St., [37]. Not a museum, this is where the Treasury prints money. Free tours (tickets required) on weekdays, but no: they do not give out free samples.
Jefferson Memorial
  • Jefferson Memorial, on the Tidal Basin, [38]. Metro: Smithsonian is the nearest station, but it's not close by. A larger than life statue of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and key architect of the U.S. government, stands in the center of this open-air marble structure. Quotes from Jefferson's writings, including the Declaration of Independence, are reproduced on the walls.
  • FDR Memorial, on the Tidal Basin, [39]. A four-part memorial characterizing the four terms of Roosevelt's presidency in sculpture.

Make the effort to see the monuments at night when they are all lit up. If you can catch the Capitol as the sun is setting on a clear day, the colors as the building gets lit up are wonderful.

  • Voice of America, 330 Independence Ave., S.W (Metro: L'Enfant Plaza or Federal Center Southwest), +1-(202)-203-4990 (). Monday - Friday (except Federal holidays): 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours are conducted in English, but tours can be conducted in Spanish, if reserved. Free admission.


The White House
  • White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (North of the Washington Monument), +1-(202)-456-7041, [6]. The residence and office of the President of the United States. Tours are available only for groups of 10 or more and must be requested up to six months in advance through your member of Congress. Note that the standard tours focus on the social/residential part of the White House -- the East Wing. You don't get to see the working West Wing. The front door (the flat facade with the overhanging triangular pediment) can be viewed from Lafayette Square on the north side, and the back (the more distinctive curved facade) from the Ellipse on the south side. Political demonstrations typically take place at the front, though larger ones have been known to encircle the fence. Worth visiting even if you can only see the exterior, but you cannot drive any closer than two blocks away. Reservations must be made at least one month prior to the date you wish to visit. Free admission.
  • Old Post Office Tower, Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th St NW, +1-(202)-606-9686, [7]. Summer (1st weekend in June through Labor Day) M-W & F 9AM-7:45PM, Th 9AM-6:30PM, winter (Labor Day through Memorial Day) 9AM-4:45PM, Sa-Su and holidays 10AM-5:45PM (all year).. At 315 feet this is one of the tallest buildings in D.C. Enter through the food court and take the elevators to the 270-foot observation deck for excellent views of D.C. Bell-ringing practice is held on Th from 7PM-8PM Free. Free admission.
  • International Spy Museum, 800 F Street NW (Metro:Gallery Place/Chinatown), +1-(202)-393-7798 (), [8]. Admission: Adults: $$15, Seniors: $14, Children (5-11): $12, Children (4 & under): Free.
  • Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences. Corner of 6th & E St NW. [40] $5/adult, $3/seniors, children, students, active duty military.
  • National Building Museum. 401 F St NW. [41] M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM Highly Recommended. Free, suggested donation $5.
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts. 1250 New York Av NW. [42] $8/adult, $6/student, free/children (18 and younger).

Within the city limits

  • Phillips Collection 1600 21st Street NW. Metro: Dupont Circle. Variable admission charge, depending on what their temporary show is. They also have an important and great permanent collection of paintings.
National Zoo, Smithsonian Institution
  • National Zoo 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW. [43] Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams-Morgan or Cleveland Park via the Red Line. Note that the zoo entrance is about 1/2 mile from the metro. See the pandas, lions and many more at this branch of the Smithsonian. Free admission.
  • National Cathedral [44] Metro: Woodley-Park-Zoo/Adams-Morgan or Cleveland Park via the Red Line. This impressive example of Gothic architecture is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. One of its stained glass windows has a moon rock embedded within. Keep an eye out for the gargoyles around the edge of the exterior -- see if you can spot Darth Vader.
  • National Geographic Society - Explorers Hall [45] Metro: Farragut North via the Red Line. Open Daily except 25 December from 9AM-5PM This 3-building complex, headquarters for National Geographic Magazine and National Geographic Channel, shows exhibitions on art, culture, science, photography, geography, and technology. Free admission. Also features a National Geographic Store.
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception 400 Michigan Avenue NE. [46] Metro: Brookland-CUA via the Red Line. The second largest Catholic church in the United States. There are numerous chapels, as well as two gift shops and a restaurant.
  • Anacostia Museum 1901 Fort Place SE. Metro: Anacostia, [47] This is the Smithsonian's center for African-American history and culture. Free admission.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Memorial - Theodore Roosevelt Island. This is in a nature preserve on the Potomac River. You can either park off of GW Parkway, or walk in from the Rosslyn Metro station.
  • Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center) - Home to the NBA's Wizards, the NHL's Capitals, the WNBA's Mystics, and the Georgetown Hoyas.
  • RFK Stadium - Home to the MLB Nationals and the MLS DC United.
  • Rock Creek Park - one of the wildest city parks in the country and one of the true pleasures of living in the District. Take some time to explore and enjoy the city leafy, green space.


National Mall

  • National Kite Festival (springtime)
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March/early April) [48] Note that Washington's cherry blossoms do *not* necessarily bloom during the festival -- the bloom varies every year, depending on the winter weather. When the blossoms are out (and they don't stay out for long -- a good rain will wash them away), Washington is at its very prettiest. The best place to enjoy the blossoms is around the Tidal Basin. You will pay top dollar to visit during cherry blossom season.
  • A Capitol Fourth [49] (July 4th) A day of parades and other events, capped off by fireworks over the Potomac River and a large orchestral concert on Capitol Hill.
  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival [50] (late June and ending around July 4th) This annual festival normally has three topics: a country, a region of the USA and another subject, which varies from year to year. Previous festivals have featured the country of Oman, the ancient Silk Road and music in Latino culture.
  • Political Protests (year-round)
  • Screen on the Green (Mondays, July and August) Classic films, often with a political angle, are shown for free on the Mall. Watching 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' with the capital dome in the background is classic D.C.

Within the city limits

  • Rock Creek Park. NW. [51] Hiking and biking trails and coyotes. Nature Center (Wednesday through Sunday 9AM-5PM) has exhibits, weekend guided walks and details of self-guided walks.


  • American University [52]
  • Catholic University of America [53]
  • Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE. [54] The nation's leading and the world's only university for the deaf.
  • Georgetown University [55]
  • George Washington University [56]
  • Howard University [57]
  • Washingtoniana Division, Room #307, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (across from Gallery Place Metro stop). +1 202 727-1213. [58] Washingtoniana Division is the special collection division containing historical material related to both federal as well as "hometown" Washington, D.C.
  • Peabody Room, 2nd floor, Georgetown Branch Library, 3260 R Street, NW (corner of Wisconsin Avenue and R Street). +1 202 282-0214 [59] Peabody Room is the special collection division containing historical material related to the history of Georgetown, established in 1751 as Georgetown, MD.
  • Smithsonian Institute, The Smithsonian Institute offers classes to members.
  • Potomac College [60]
  • National Defense University [61]
  • Southeastern University [62]
  • Trinity University [63]
  • Regent University [64]
  • Institute of World Politics [65]
  • Corcoran College of Art [66]
  • Joint Military Intelligence College [67]
  • Dumbarton Oaks library and collection offers resources in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies.[68]


Certain career fields find a natural home in D.C. While everyone knows this is where politicians go, you can also find a fair share of diplomats, lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, NGO directors, defense contractors and civil servants. Many ambitious young people come to Washington for an internship, and the student-aged population peaks in the summer.

With so many high powered career types out to change the world, the need for child care is obvious. Nannies provide child care to many of Washington's elite; the city has the highest proportion of in-home child care in the country. US citizen nannies are especially sought out as government types carefully follow employment law to avoid problems with security clearances or negative publicity. Wages for legal US residents with experience can top $800 per week, room and board included. Several nanny placement agencies exist in Washington, they provide help for exasperated parents and a lucrative career for women young and old who love children.


Museum stores

All Smithsonian museums have gift shops and they are tax-free. The largest and can be found in the National Museum of American History (currently closed for renovations) and the National Air and Space Museum.

The gift shop in the National Building Museum is one of the best gift shops not run by the Smithsonian Institution. (6.5% D.C. tax applies.)

14th Street/U Street

Just a few years ago, this area was run down, but now it's booming, with hip nightclubs and restaurants and numerous boutiques, galleries, and designer furniture stores. Take the Metro Green line to the U Street/Cardozo station.


Georgetown [69] features numerous clothing and antique retailers as well as restaurants and bars and the upscale Georgetown Park shopping mall. Georgetown's main commercial corridors are M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, whose intersection may be considered its heart. No Metro stations are immediately accessible, although it is walkable from Rosslyn (Orange & Blue), Foggy Bottom/GWU (Orange & Blue) and Dupont Circle (Red). There is also a Georgetown connector shuttle from these three stations for $1 each way, or $0.35 with a rail transfer. During the warm season, bars on the Georgetown waterfront are often crowded with locals.

Friendship Heights

Washington's other main high fashion district is found in Friendship Heights, straddling the D.C.-Maryland border within two blocks of the Red Line station of the same name. It is home to many high-end stores (such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Dior, and Versace) in and around the Mazza Gallerie and Chevy Chase Pavilion shopping centers, as well as a concentration of day spas.


Downtown shopping is more dispersed, but there is a cluster of stores around the Metro Center station anchored by the large Macy's department store directly connected to the station. The Shops at International Plaza, located near the Farragut West station on the Orange and Blue Lines, is a three-level indoor mall featuring over 100 stores and restaurants. Additional shopping can be found at the Pavilion at the Old Post Office, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the Federal Triangle Metro station.

Within the city limits

Elsewhere in Washington, the Shops at Union Station include a variety of retailers. Politics & Prose is a notable bookstore on Connecticut Avenue several blocks north of the Van Ness-UDC Metro Station. Kramerbooks and Lambda Rising are notable local bookstores and Dupont Circle institutions; the Dupont Circle area also includes numerous art galleries and lesbian/gay/bisexual oriented retailers.


Washington has a little bit of everything, from really good inexpensive ethnic takeout (no problem getting Ethiopian or Afghani or Jamaican food here) to high-dollar lobbyist-fueled places that will cause your credit card to burst into flames.


  • Old Post Office Pavilion food court, Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th St NW. Close to the National Mall.
  • Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian, 4th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., on the southeast corner of the National Mall. Slightly more expensive than most museum cafeterias, but well worth it, the café features Native foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere.
  • Union Station Food Court - on the bottom level of Union Station, located NE of the National Mall. Metro stop: Union Station. The food is nothing special, and the setting is noisy and crowded, but the prices are often cheaper than what is available in nearby museums.
  • Vace's Pizza - Arguably the best pizza in D.C. Located near the Cleveland Park metro at 3515 Connecticut Avenue. There are no tables or delivery- Carry out only. A wide selection of Italian meats, cheeses and olives. Whole pizza or by the slice.
  • Ben's Chili Bowl[70] - A great local joint. Located at 1213 U Street, N.W.
  • Chinatown - H Street between 5th and 7th is all that remains of D.C.'s now-gentrified Chinatown. It still has some good, cheap places to eat, most notably Chinatown Express, Eat First, and Full Kee. Capital Q has excellent barbeque at similarly cheap prices.
  • Chu's Cafe (Georgetown area) - Chinese food at very moderate prices (but not absolute rock-bottom) and excellent food in a simple, inviting atmosphere. Just a few blocks from Georgetown University.
  • Rockland's Barbeque (Glover Park) - Voted best BBQ in the city numerous times. Traditional pit BBQ. Offers many traditional southern sides like homemade style mac and cheese and collard greens. Also offered grilled vegetarian options. Wide selection of small production hot sauces and BBQ sauces. Wiscosin Ave/Calvert St


  • 2 Amys, Macomb near Wisconsin in Cleveland Park. The best pizza in DC, perhaps anywhere. Party atmosphere and be ready for gourmet price tag. No reservations, so be prepared to wait. 3715 Macomb St. NW 202-885-5700.
  • Sala Thai, Dupont Circle branch at 2016 P Street NW, +1 202 872-1144; Cleveland Park branch at 3507 Connecticut Avenue NW, +1 202 237-2777. Thai food.
  • Marrakesh, 617 New York Ave, N.W. +1 202 393-9393. Moroccan Cuisine, belly dancers, eat with your hands. I found the food to be excellent, the serving staff to be good, and the atmosphere to be wonderful. The seven course meal is the only food served. There are some minor choices for main dishes, or if you want a vegetarian meal. The website lists the current meal choices. Be sure to check out the back hallway with pictures of all the famous visitors.
  • Jaleo, 480 7th Street NW, +1 202 628-7949. Many credit this loud, happy restaurant in the Penn Quarter for the current boom in Spanish tapas bars. Serves tasty tapas and wonderful sangria.
  • Hank's Oyster Bar, 1624 Q Street NW, +1 202 462-HANK. Small, cozy seafood restaurant. Fried clams, lobster roll and beer.
  • Fin, 1200 19th St. NW, +1 202 530-4430. A very nice looking seafood restaurant with great food. Recommendations: the oyster sampler, grilled calamari. their maki tuna. This restaurant is very reasonably priced. Worth calling and asking about their happy hour as it features specials like oysters for very low prices.
  • Hotel Washington[71], 515 15th Street NW, +1 800 424 9540 . The top level of this hotel features a restaurant that provides an unmatched view of the Washington Monument and the White House. You're so high and close that federal police will watch you eat through their binoculars from neighboring rooftops. The food isn't spectacular and the line to get a seat is long, but it's definitely worth it. Try going during non-peak times.
  • Pasta Mia, 1790 Columbia Road NW, +1 202 328-9114. Rustic, wonderful homestyle pastas. Watch out for the lines around the block.
  • Pasta Plus, 209 Gorman Ave. Laurel, MD 301-498-7878 About 20 miles north of DC, on the way to Baltimore. Without qustion the best authentic Italian food for the price in DC. Like eating at the owner's kitchen table in Valle San Giovanni Italy. Don't miss.
  • Bangkok Bistro (Georgetown area). Excellent upscale Thai restaurant with creative setting.


  • CityZen, 1330 Maryland Avenue SW. +1 202 554-8588. [72] Contemporary multi-course tasting menus by acclaimed chef Eric Ziebold at the city's sparkling Mandarin Oriental hotel. Expensive.
  • Olives, 1600 K Street, NW. +1 202 452-1866. Mediterranean/Italian style, steak and chop house featuring olive tapinades. Valet parking. Full bar. Noisy bistro-type atmosphere.
  • Marcel's, 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. +1 202 296-1166. [73] Self described French cuisine with Flemish flair. Expensive. Quiet, elegant atmosphere.
  • Michel Richard Citronelle, 3000 M Street NW. +1 202 625-2150. [74] World famous French-themed cuisine in Georgetown. Jacket required for dinner. Very expensive.
  • minibar by josé andrés, 405 8th Street NW. +1 202 393-0812. [75] Mr. Andrés' wild culinary ride. This six seat restaurant within a restaurant dishes up everything from cotton candy foie gras to lobster injection to beet tumbleweed. Expensive.
  • Butterfield 9, 600 14th St. NW (Metro: Metro Center) +1 202 289-8810. Chef Michael Harr creates the most intriguing and nuanced food in town. Expensive.
  • Tenpenh, [76] 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW +1 202 393-4500. Tastes and textures of the Far East influence the cooking here. Refreshingly eclectic dishes and startlingly new sauces. Expensive



  • ESPN Zone, 555 12th St. NW, +1 202 783-3776, [77] Metro Stop: Metro Center - Not a place to take a date, but a fun place that is a little expensive, but with over 200 TVs and 13 foot tall TV all tuned to sports, it is worth it.
  • Indebleu, 707 G Street NW, +1 202 333-2538. [78] Metro Stop: Gallery Place - Stunning decor, $15 drinks, and young D.C. types rubbing elbows with each other make Indebleu a hot spot not to be missed. Also a full service restaurant upstairs.


  • Clyde's, 3236 M Street NW, +1 202 333-9180. [79] Casual, popular place to grab a burger and kick back a beer while watching the Georgetown throngs scurry by.
  • Blue Gin, 1206 Wisconsin Ave NW, +1 202 965-5555. [80] Once the toughest lounge to get into in D.C., Blue Gin has settled into a more relaxed, yet still upscale atmosphere. Dress to impress and expect the crowd to start arriving around midnight.


  • Madam's Organ Restaurant & Bar, 2461 18th St NW, [81]. Su-Th 5PM-2AM, F-Sa 5PM-3AM. Live music every night - mainly blues but also jazz and folky stuff. Tuesday night is acoustic Delta blues. It has an atmosphere, with its stuffed animals, appliances and nick-nacks hanging from the walls and ceiling. Cover charge usually $3.
  • Pharaoh's Rock N' Blues Bar & Grill, 1817 Columbia Rd NW. Live blues at the weekend.
  • Tryst, 2459 18th Street NW, [82]. Very hip café/bar that has good food as well. The atmosphere is very friendly and encourages you to just hang out for a while. Free wireless Internet access during the week.
  • Chloe, 2473 18th Street NW, [83] Adams Morgan takes a stab at high end nightclubbing.
  • Millie & Al's, 2440 18th Street NW, Adams Morgan can be a bit much at times, too many drunk young things, too many shiny nightclub shirts, too many silly cocktails. Seek refuge at this dive bar that has been on 18th Street for over 30 years. Try the pizza and don't miss dollar beers on Wednesday.
  • Angles Bar and Billiards, 2339 18th Street NW, another fine spot for fleeing the nightclubbers.
  • Common Share, 18th Street just north of Florida Avenue, at the southern end of Adams-Morgan. If you really want to avoid the nightclub crowd, this is where you go. Loud music, nonexistent decor and very cheap ($2) beer.


It's worth noting that Washington is a relatively small city, acreage-wise, and it's very easy and quick to stay in the close-in suburbs and take mass transit into town. You can save meaningful cash this way; suburban hotels are often substantially cheaper and D.C.'s hotel tax is an eye-popping 14.5%. Parts of Arlington and Alexandria, Va., as well as Bethesda and Silver Spring, Md., have easy subway access into the District.


  • Hotel Harrington, 436 11th Street, N.W. (corner of 11th & E Streets, N.W.) Washington, DC 20004-4389, +1 800 424-8532. [84]


  • Comfort Inn [85]Offers a portal to four Washington DC area hotels.
  • The Swiss Inn, 1204 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20005, +1 800 955-7947. [86] The Swiss Inn is the smallest hotel in Downtown Washington D.C. This historic brownstone is within walking distance of the White House and the Smithsonian Museum. All rooms include a kitchenette and private bath.
  • The Carlyle Suites, 1731 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, (Short walk to DuPont Circle Red Line Metro.) +1 202 234-3200, (Toll free: +1 866 468-3532, TTY: +1 202 518-5000, Fax: +1 202 387-0085, Email: [email protected]), [87]. They call themselves "Washington's official art-deco hotel."
  • Wyndham Downtown Washington Hotel, 1400 M. Street, +1 202 (202) 429-1700. [88]
  • Wyndham City Center Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Avenue NW, +1 202 775-0800. [89] In the Georgetown and Dupont Circle areas - just minutes away from the city's landmark attractions.
  • Hotel George, 15 E Street NW. +1 202 47-4200. [90]
  • Hotel Helix, 1430 Rhode Island Avenue NW. +1 202 462-9001. [91]
  • Hotel Madera, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue NW. +1 202 296-7600. [92]
  • Hotel Rouge, 1315 Sixteenth Street, NW. +1 202 232-8000. [93]
  • Topaz Hotel, 1733 N Street, NW. +1 202 393-3000. [94]
  • Winsor Park Hotel, 2116 Kalorama Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008 1-800-247-3064 [95] A classic Washington, D.C. boutique hotel with Victorian charm and dignity.
  • The Days Inn Connecticut Avenue, 4400 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20008 ph #202-244-5600 [96]
  • Woodley Park Guest House, 2647 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, DC 20008, Ph. 202.667.0218, Toll free 1.866.667.0218, [email protected], [97] An elegant Washington DC Bed and Breakfast
  • L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, DC 20024, Ph. 2202.484.1000, [email protected] , [98] A downtown Washington D.C. hotel located on Capitol Hill, within walking distance to the Smithsonian, National Mall, Metro, and other attractions.
  • Hilton Embassy Row, 2015 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036 +1-800-695-7460" [99] Dupont Circle Hotel, two blocks from Metro, near monuments, White House


  • Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street NW (at Connecticut Av.). Phone: (888) 444-OMNI (6664). [100] Offers a resort-like hotel experience in the heart of D.C. Located in the scenic Rock Creek Park, and is near the National Zoo. Features high-speed wireless Internet access, an outdoor heated pool, state-of-the-art fitness center and over 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel was built in 1930 and has hosted several Presidential Inaugural Balls.
  • Hay Adams Hotel, 16th and H Street, NW. Tel +1 202 638-6000. (Fax: +1 202 638-2716. Reservations +1 800 853-6807.) [101] Small five star luxury hotel, with gorgeous White house and mall views.
  • Willard Hotel 1401 Pennsylvania Av NW. [102]
  • Mandarin Oriental 1330 Maryland Av SW. [103]
  • Four Seasons 2800 Pennsylvania Av NW. [104]
  • Ritz Carlton Two locations, in Georgetown and the West End. [105]


Stay safe

Washington, D.C. is covered by many law enforcement agencies. The main force is the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which has jurisdiction in most of the city. You will also see many federal officers, usually assigned to a specific institution, among them:

  • United States Park Police (patrols the Mall, Rock Creek, and other federal park lands)
  • United States Capitol Police (patrols the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding areas)
  • Metro Transit Police Department (patrols Metro trains and buses)
  • United States Secret Service (around the White House and embassies)
  • Federal Protective Service (scattered)

You will also likely encounter U.S. Marshals and Military Police, and a countless number of smaller official and private security forces.

For major events and protests, the MPD has a central command center where they can monitor actions through a network of cameras. For exceptionally large events (but not protests) such as Fourth of July Fireworks, they are likely to set up security zones where they can screen attendees.

While Washington claimed the title of Murder Capital of America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, violent crime has since fallen dramatically; what remains is concentrated in the residential areas of outer portions of Northwest east of 16th Street NW, Northeast and Southeast D.C. beyond the Capitol Hill neighborhood (especially those portions south and east of the Anacostia River), and inner areas of Northwest more than two blocks north of Massachusetts Avenue east of 7th Street.


Visitors to many buildings must pass through metal detectors and have their bags or packages inspected by hand or X-ray. Additionally, some buildings altogether ban mobile telephones and recording devices such as film or digital cameras, camcorders, and cameraphones. The visitor may be advised to carry a small bag to collect such items prior to screening, and to check them if necessary.

Please take security personnel seriously by not challenging their instructions or making jokes about the situation. Saying the word "bomb," even in jest, may cause you to be placed on increased scrutiny. You give implied consent for your property and person to be searched when entering a government building or public event (sports, music). If you are not comfortable with the searches, you can always elect to not enter.

Smoking and food and drink of any kind are prohibited on Metro trains and buses, a rule strictly enforced with fines and occasionally even arrests.

Get out

Northern Virginia

  • Arlington is the urban county directly across the Potomac river from Washington and was part of the original area of the District of Columbia. Today it is home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and the DEA. The Metro system seamlessly integrates Arlington with Washington; it can be cost advantageous and more convenient to stay at an Arlington hotel when visiting Washington DC.
  • The Pentagon is just across the Potomac River from downtown D.C. in Arlington. While lingering is not recommended for security reasons, you should know it is the largest government office building in the world, and covers 6 zip codes (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Joint Staff, and Department of Defense). Group tours are still available by advance arrangement, but the military no longer hosts other tours. It is considered the height of bad taste in Washington to stop your car on the road near the 9/11 attack site and take pictures (not to mention that you'll attract security attention and endanger yourself as traffic whizzes by). Also note: do not take photos anywhere on site - you may face a 4 hour interrogation by the Pentagon Police and will probably be asked to delete the images. On a lighter note, the interior courtyard is irreverently referred to by employees as "Ground Zero," as it was ostensibly the target of a number of Soviet missiles during the Cold War.
  • Arlington National Cemetery [106] is located adjacent to the Pentagon. Closes at dusk. This national military cemetery includes John F. Kennedy's tomb and the house of General Robert E. Lee. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you really want to experience the cemetery, which is enormous and hilly, spring a few bucks for a Tourmobile tour. There is also a large parking garage here that is a good place to dump your car and then catch the subway or Tourmobile into D.C.
  • Tyson's Corner Center is a great mall to shop at, it has a large selection of stores, and is considered the "hangout" of Northern Virginia.
  • Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - National Air and Space Museum. 14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy. Chantilly, VA 20151 +1 202 357-2200. [107] Located near Dulles International Airport, this museum houses many air/spacecraft, including the SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane, the Concorde supersonic jet and the space shuttle "Enterprise". Parking is available for $12/vehicle. Additionally, a shuttle is available from the Air and Space Museum downtown. Prices range from $5 to $7 depending on number of tickets bought.
  • Mount Vernon [108] was the home of George Washington, the first President of the United States. The mansion overlooks the Potomac River.
  • Great Falls Park [109] is a gorgeous national park with waterfalls and hiking trails, minutes from the beltway. Kayaking and rock climbing.
  • Alexandria [110] is a city located south of Arlington along the Potomac River. Alexandria's Old Town has some buildings dating back to the 1600s and is filled with shops and good restaurants. Some tourists use Old Town (or other parts of Alexandria) as a "home base" for D.C. trips and it's a popular weekend destination. Tour boats that go north to D.C. and south to Mount Vernon leave from Old Town. Many hotels in the area run free shuttle buses to the King Street Metro.
  • The George Washington Memorial Parkway [111] runs along the Virginia side of the Potomac River between Mount Vernon and Great Falls. The section near Old Town Alexandria is pleasant for walking, jogging or cycling on paths paralleling the main motorway as far as Reagan National Airport. For the motorist, there are scenic turn-outs along the Parkway north of the airport, all the way to where it meets the Beltway at its north end.
  • Manassas National Battlefield Park [112], near the outlying suburb of Manassas, preserves two major battlefields of the US Civil War. Visitor center ($3 fee, Park Pass applies) open 8:30-5 7 days; walking and driving tours of First and Second Manassas battlefields, respectively. A nice escape from the city hubbub, particularly in fall and spring (walking the grounds in the summer heat and humidity can be an ordeal).

Suburban Maryland

  • Bethesda nearby suburb with shopping, restaurants and cultural landmarks.
  • Mormon Temple. Kensington. Must see the amazing annual Christmas light display. A funny bit of inside-Washington lore: Graffiti artists often paint "SURRENDER, DOROTHY" on a highway overpass near the temple, which from a distance looks like Emerald City in "The Wizard of Oz."
  • Gaithersburg nearby suburb.
  • Silver Spring nearby suburb with the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre, as well as restaurants and retail. Home of Discovery Communications.

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