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Info Washington, D.C
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as "Washington", "the District", or simply "D.C.", is the capital of the United States.
The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are in the District, including the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.
The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state.
The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.
Washington had an estimated population of 672,228 as of July 2015. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is a part, has a population of over 6 million, the seventh-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.
|POPULATION :||• Federal district: 672,228|
• Metro: 6,033,737
|FOUNDED :||• Approved: 1790|
• Organized: 1801
• Consolidated: 1871
• Granted limited self-government: 1973
|TIME ZONE :||• EST (UTC−5)|
• Summer (DST): EDT (UTC−4)
|LANGUAGE :||English (official), Spanish, Indo-European, Asian and Pacific island|
|AREA :||• Federal district 68.34 sq mi (177.0 km2)|
• Land 61.05 sq mi (158.1 km2)
• Water 7.29 sq mi (18.9 km2)
|ELEVATION :||• Lowest elevation 0 ft (0 m)|
• Highest elevation 409 ft (125 m)
|COORDINATES :||• 38°54′17″N 77°00′59″W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.20%|
• Female: 50.80%
|ETHNIC :||• 49.5% Black or African American|
• 43.4% White (35.8% non-Hispanic White)
• 3.9% Asian
• 3.2% Other
|AREA CODE :||• 202|
|POSTAL CODE :||• ZIP code(s) : 20001-20098, 20201-20599|
|DIALING CODE :||• +1 202|
Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States of America and the seat of its three branches of government, has an unparalleled collection of free, public museums, and the lion's share of the nation's most treasured monuments and memorials. The vistas on the National Mall between the Capitol, Washington Monument, White House, and Lincoln Memorial are iconic throughout the world.
Beyond the Mall, D.C. has in the past two decades shed its old reputation as a city both boring and dangerous, with shopping, dining, and nightlife befitting a world-class metropolis. Travelers will find the city new, exciting, and decidedly cosmopolitan and international.
The architecture of Washington varies greatly. Six of the top 10 buildings in the American Institute of Architects' 2007 ranking of "America's Favorite Architecture" are in the District of Columbia: the White House; the Washington National Cathedral; the Thomas Jefferson Memorial; the United States Capitol; the Lincoln Memorial; and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The neoclassical, Georgian, gothic, and modern architectural styles are all reflected among those six structures and many other prominent edifices in Washington. Notable exceptions include buildings constructed in the French Second Empire style such as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Outside downtown Washington, architectural styles are even more varied. Historic buildings are designed primarily in the Queen Anne, Châteauesque, Richardsonian Romanesque, Georgian revival, Beaux-Arts, and a variety of Victorian styles. Rowhouses are especially prominent in areas developed after the Civil War and typically follow Federalist and late Victorian designs. Georgetown's Old Stone House was built in 1765, making it the oldest-standing original building in the city.Founded in 1789, Georgetown University features a mix of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture. The Ronald Reagan Building is the largest building in the District with a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet (288,000 m2)
Washington, D.C., is a national center for the arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet. The Kennedy Center Honors are awarded each year to those in the performing arts who have contributed greatly to the cultural life of the United States. The historic Ford's Theatre, site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, continues to operate as a functioning performance space as well as museum.
The Marine Barracks near Capitol Hill houses the United States Marine Band; founded in 1798, it is the country's oldest professional musical organization.American march composer and Washington-native John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band from 1880 until 1892. Founded in 1925, the United States Navy Band has its headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard and performs at official events and public concerts around the city.
Historic sites and museums
The National Mall is a large, open park in downtown Washington between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. Given its prominence, the mall is often the location of political protests, concerts, festivals, and presidential inaugurations. The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier are near the center of the mall, south of the White House. Also on the mall are the National World War II Memorial at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Directly south of the mall, the Tidal Basin features rows of Japanese cherry blossom trees that originated as gifts from the nation of Japan. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the District of Columbia War Memorial are around the Tidal Basin.
The National Archives houses thousands of documents important to American history including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Located in three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress is the largest library complex in the world with a collection of over 147 million books, manuscripts, and other materials. The United States Supreme Court Building was completed in 1935; before then, the court held sessions in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol.
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation chartered by Congress in 1846 that maintains most of the nation's official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian and its collections open to the public free of charge. The Smithsonian's locations had a combined total of 30 million visits in 2013. The most visited museum is the National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall. Other Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries on the mall are: the National Air and Space Museum; the National Museum of African Art; the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of the American Indian; the Sackler and Freer galleries, which both focus on Asian art and culture; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Arts and Industries Building; the S. Dillon Ripley Center; and the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as "The Castle"), which serves as the institution's headquarters.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are housed in the Old Patent Office Building, near Washington's Chinatown. The Renwick Gallery is officially part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum but is in a separate building near the White House. Other Smithsonian museums and galleries include: the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington; the National Postal Museum near Union Station; and the National Zoo in Woodley Park.
The National Gallery of Art is on the National Mall near the Capitol and features works of American and European art. The gallery and its collections are owned by the U.S. government but are not a part of the Smithsonian Institution. The National Building Museum, which occupies the former Pension Building near Judiciary Square, was chartered by Congress and hosts exhibits on architecture, urban planning, and design.
Washington, D.C., is a city born of politics, by politics, and for politics. It wasn't the first national capital: Baltimore, Lancaster, York, Annapolis, Trenton, and even New York City all tried their hand at hosting the national government. For a time, it seemed like Philadelphia would stake a claim as home to the federal government. However, Congress soured on the "Cradle of Liberty" after disaffected American soldiers, with the tacit sanction of the Pennsylvania government, chased the legislators out of the city to Princeton. That incident made clear that the nation's capital would need to be independent from the then-powerful state governments and that the southern states would refuse to accept a northern capital.
Three of the nation's founding fathers, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton, agreed in 1790 to a compromise location for a new national capital on largely uninhabited land along the Potomac River in the Mid-Atlantic. The exact location was left up to George Washington, who carved a diamond-shaped federal district out of land donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, which just so happened to be near his plantation at Mount Vernon. The new territory also included two existing settlements: Georgetown, on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and Alexandria, Virginia, at the district's southern tip.
The French-born architect Pierre L'Enfant was charged with planning a new federal city located on the north side of the Potomac, next to Georgetown. L'Enfant's plan, modeled after some of the leading cities in Europe, envisioned large parks and wide streets, including a grand boulevard connecting the "President's House" to the Capitol building. However, L'Enfant was an eccentric and fought bitterly with the commissioners appointed to supervise the capital's construction. President Washington ultimately dismissed L'Enfant, but the problems didn't end there. Issues with financing and a lack of skilled craftsmen slowed the construction of the city. The commissioners ultimately relied on African slaves lent from nearby plantations to complete construction. The federal government finally moved to the new capital in 1800, which by then had been named Washington in honor of its founder, though he still preferred to call it the "Federal City."
British forces invaded the city during the War of 1812, burning and gutting the Capitol Building, Treasury, and White House. And things didn't get much better for the new national capital. When he founded the city, President Washington originally thought that a flourishing trade would help support the capital, but the idea was short-lived. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was built in 1831 to bypass the treacherous rapids of the Potomac River and move goods from the western territories along the Ohio River all the way to Georgetown, where they could then be loaded onto ships. However, the canal was unable to compete with the more efficient Baltimore & Ohio railroad, which was completed around the same time as the canal. Alexandria suffered disproportionately, since the government's plans favored the port at Georgetown and all government buildings were, by law, built within the City of Washington. The economic stagnation, combined with fears that the federal government would ban Alexandria's thriving slave trade (and it eventually did), caused Congress to return all the District's land originally donated by Virginia. The 1846 "retrocession", as it is now known, spoiled the city's fine diamond shape, leaving only the land originally donated by Maryland under federal control.
Washington's compromise location on the border of North and South proved precarious during the Civil War. Caught between Confederate Virginia on one side of the Potomac, and southern sympathizers in surrounding Maryland, President Lincoln established a network of forts surrounding the capital. As the center of war operations for the Union, government workers, soldiers, and runaway slaves flooded into the city. Despite the city's growth, Washington still had dirt roads and lacked basic sanitation. After the war, some members of Congress suggested moving the capital further west, but President Ulysses S. Grant refused to consider such a proposal.
In 1871, Congress created a new territorial government for the whole District of Columbia charged with modernizing the capital. Sewers and gas lines were installed, streets were paved, and the town was transformed into a modern metropolis. However, the high cost of the initiative (and alleged cronyism) ultimately bankrupted the District government and later public works projects could not keep up with the city's growing population. By the early 1900s, L'Enfant's vision of a grand national capital had become marred by slums and randomly placed buildings, including a railroad station on the National Mall. A plan enacted by Congress in 1901 beautified Washington's ceremonial core, re-landscaping the Capitol grounds and the National Mall, clearing slums, and establishing a new city-wide park system, finally developing the city into L'Enfant's intended grand design. The New Deal spending of the 1930s under president Franklin Delano Roosevelt led to the construction of even more federal buildings, memorials, and museums. With the start of World War II, government spending in Washington increased, a trend that has continued over the decades.
In 1957, Washington became the first city to have a majority African-American population and the population of the city exceeded 800,000. The March on Washington and the I Have A Dream speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 were major events in the civil rights movement. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, riots broke out at the intersection of 14th St and U St and 1,200 buildings were badly damaged or destroyed. Many businesses were forced to permanently close and thousands of jobs were permanently lost.
The influx of crack cocaine marred the District in the 1970s and 1980s. Government services and the public school system went into disrepair. The expanding suburbs, with excellent schools and lower crime and tax rates, became more desirable places to live by many. The population of the District fell below 600,000, shrinking the tax base. The arrest of Mayor Marion Barry on drug charges in 1990 also hurt the city's reputation. In 1991, D.C. led the country in homicides and many of the buildings destroyed in the 1968 riots still remained in rubble. Several government agencies, including the Patent and Trade Office, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), moved their offices to the suburbs.
A wave of change began in the late 1990s. The construction of the Verizon Center and the nearby Metrorail station in 1997 led people to return to the East End for the first time in years. Further revitalization efforts in the late 1990s, supported by President Clinton and Mayor Anthony Williams, led to D.C. becoming one of the fastest improving cities in the U.S. and the population once again began to climb.
Washington is in the humid subtropical climate zone and exhibits four distinct seasons.
Spring and fall are warm, while winter is chilly with annual snowfall averaging 15.5 inches (39 cm). Winter temperatures average around 38 °F (3.3 °C) from mid-December to mid-February.Summers are hot and humid with a July daily average of 79.8 °F (26.6 °C) and average daily relative humidity around 66%, which can cause moderate personal discomfort. The combination of heat and humidity in the summer brings very frequent thunderstorms, some of which occasionally produce tornadoes in the area.
Blizzards affect Washington on average once every four to six years. The most violent storms are called "nor'easters", which often affect large sections of the U.S. East Coast. Hurricanes (or their remnants) occasionally track through the area in late summer and early fall, but are often weak by the time they reach Washington, partly due to the city's inland location. Flooding of the Potomac River, however, caused by a combination of high tide, storm surge, and runoff, has been known to cause extensive property damage in Georgetown.
The highest recorded temperature was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 20, 1930, and August 6, 1918, while the lowest recorded temperature was −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 11, 1899, during the Great Blizzard of 1899. During a typical year, the city averages about 37 days at or above 90 °F (32.2 °C) and 64 nights at or below freezing.
Climate data for Washington, D.C.
|Record high °F (°C)||79|
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||65.5|
|Average high °F (°C)||43.4|
|Average low °F (°C)||28.6|
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||12.9|
|Record low °F (°C)||−14|
Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast. Due to the District of Columbia retrocession, the city has a total area of 68.34 square miles (177.0 km2), of which 61.05 square miles (158.1 km2) is land and 7.29 square miles (18.9 km2) (10.67%) is water. The District is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland, to the northwest; Prince George's County, Maryland, to the east; and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, to the south and west.
The Potomac River forms the District's border with Virginia and has two major tributaries: the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. Tiber Creek, a natural watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s. The creek also formed a portion of the now-filled Washington City Canal, which allowed passage through the city to the Anacostia River from 1815 until the 1850s. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in Georgetown and was used during the 19th century to bypass the Great Falls of the Potomac River, located upstream (northwest) of Washington at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line.
The highest natural elevation in the District is 409 feet (125 m) above sea level at Fort Reno Park in upper northwest Washington. The lowest point is sea level at the Potomac River. The geographic center of Washington is near the intersection of 4th and L Streets NW. Contrary to the urban legend, Washington was not built on a reclaimed swamp, but wetlands did cover areas along the water.
Washington has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs. The gross state product of the District in 2010 was $103.3 billion, which would rank it No. 34 compared to the 50 U.S. states.
As of June 2011, the Washington Metropolitan Area had an unemployment rate of 6.2%; the second-lowest rate among the 49 largest metro areas in the nation.
In 2012, the federal government accounted for about 29% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. This is thought to immunize Washington to national economic downturns because the federal government continues operations even during recessions.Many organizations such as law firms, independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government.
Tourism is Washington's second largest industry. Approximately 18.9 million visitors contributed an estimated $4.8 billion to the local economy in 2012. The District also hosts nearly 200 foreign embassies and international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization. In 2008, the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington employed about 10,000 people and contributed an estimated $400 million annually to the local economy.
The District has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children's National Medical Center and Howard University are the top five non-government-related employers in the city as of 2009. According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the largest 500 companies in the country were headquartered in the District.
Virtually all of D.C.'s tourists flock to the Mall—a two-mile long, beautiful stretch of parkland that holds many of the city's monuments and Smithsonian museums—but the city itself is a vibrant metropolis that often has little to do with monuments, politics, or white, neoclassical buildings. The Smithsonian is a "can't miss," but don't trick yourself—you haven't really been to D.C. until you've been out and about the city.
The center of it all: The National Mall, D.C.'s main theater district, Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian museums galore, fine dining, Chinatown, the Verizon Center, the Convention Center, the central business district, the White House, West Potomac Park, the Kennedy Center, George Washington University, the beautiful Tidal Basin, and the new Nationals Park.
D.C.'s trendiest and most diverse neighborhoods and destination number one for live music and clubbing, as well as loads of restaurants, Howard University, boutique shopping, beautiful embassies, Little Ethiopia, jazz on U Street, and lots of nice hotels.
|The prestigious, wealthy side of town, home to the historic village of Georgetown with its energetic nightlife, colonial architecture, Georgetown University, and fine dining; the National Zoo; the massive National Cathedral; bucolic Dumbarton Oaks; the bulk of D.C.'s high-end shopping; more Embassy Row; American University; and several nice dining strips.|
Starting at the Capitol Building and Library of Congress, and fanning out past grandiose Union Station and the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, to the less often visited neighborhoods by Gallaudet and Catholic University, historic African-American Anacostia, D.C.'s "Little Vatican" around the National Shrine, the huge National Arboretum, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, offbeat nightlife in the Atlas District, and a handful of other eccentric neighborhoods to explore.
The D.C. government operates a network of free, public WiFi hotspots across the city. Free WiFi is also available at D.C. public libraries and many local coffee shops, which are also nice places to relax. If you need to use a computer, the libraries have public computer terminals. As in most of the U.S., Internet cafes are a rare phenomenon.
The one telephone area code throughout the District is 202, although you will also see a lot of Maryland (301 and 240) and Virginia (703 and 571) area codes. Pay phones are non-existent.
Prices in Washington, D.C.
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.75|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$14.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$48.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$73.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$92.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$7.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$6.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$12.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$18.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.54|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$8.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$3.45|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$52.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$39.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$82.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$2.50|
70 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
320 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Washington, D.C. (IATA: WAS for all airports) is served by three major airports. All three airports offer unlimited free WiFi.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA)
Is the closest and most convenient airport to D.C., located 3 miles south of the city in Arlington,Virginia, just across the Potomac River. However, there are no customs clearance facilities and therefore it can only serve destinations in the United States or airports in Canada and the Caribbean that allow U.S. customs pre-clearance. Moreover, due to the noise created by planes flying directly over a heavily populated area, the number of non-stop long-haul flights is limited. At Gravelly Point Park, directly north of the runway, you can watch planes takeoff and land, providing some great photo opportunities. DCA has 3 terminals, which are connected by walkways and by shuttle bus:
- Terminal A (gates 1-9) - Air Canada, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country
- Terminal B (gates 10-34) - Alaska, American, Delta, United, Virgin America
- Terminal C (gates 34-45) - American
To get to D.C. from the airport:
- WMATA operates Metrorail service to the airport via the Blue and Yellow lines. The trip to the East End takes approximately 15 minutes and costs approximately $2. Metrorail operates from 5AM to midnight weekdays (to 3AM Friday night), 7AM to 3AM Saturday, 7AM to midnight Sunday.
- Metrobus 13F & 13G operate between the airport and the East End from 5AM to 8AM.
- Taxi service to the East End takes approximately 10 minutes and costs about $15.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA: IAD)
Is located 26 miles west of D.C. in Sterling,Virginia and serves as D.C.'s primary international and intercontinental airport. The main terminal is an architectural masterpiece, with a curved roof that arcs gracefully into air, suspended over a huge open ticketing and check-in area. Unfortunately some functionality was scrapped in pursuit of aesthetics—the layout includes lengthy corridors and long escalators and you will have to take a train between the main building and the concourses - expect that you will need some extra time to get to the gate. Many carriers serve the airport, which serves as an East Coast hub for United Airlines.
If you have extra time to kill at Dulles, consider taking Fairfax Connector Bus #983 to the free Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, which includes an unrivaled collection of spacecraft and aircraft. The bus departs from the airport every 20 minutes daily, costing $1.75 and taking 12 minutes to reach the museum.
To get to D.C. from the airport:
- The Silver Line Express Bus operates every 15 minutes between the airport and the garage near the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station (Silver Line). The bus journey takes 10 minutes and costs $5. From there, after crossing the pedestrian bridge over the highway to reach the Metrorail station, the journey by Metrorail to the East End takes another 45 minutes. A cheaper but slower option to get from the airport to the garage near the Metrorail station is to take Fairfax Connector Bus Routes 981/983 which depart the airport every 20 minutes from 9AM-7PM and every 40 minutes from 6AM-9AM and 7PM-11PM. The bus journey takes 30 minutes and costs $1.75. Note that the Silver Line of the Metrorail is in the process of being extended to the airport; however, the projected completion date is in 2020.
- Metrobus 5A makes stops in Herndon, Tysons Corner, Rosslyn Metrorail Station (Blue and Orange Lines), and L'Enfant Plaza Metrorail Station (Green, Yellow, Blue, and Orange Lines), a few blocks south of the National Mall. It generally departs from the airport every 40 minutes on weekdays and hourly (though not on the hour) on weekends, taking 40-50 minutes to the Rosslyn Metrorail Station and 50-60 minutes to the L'Enfant Plaza Metrorail Station. The fare is $7 one-way (no change given). The bus stops near Curb 2E outside of the airport terminal.
- Uber is a popular method of transport between the airport and the city due to the complexity of public transport. A trip to the East End costs around $45 using UberX or around $35 using UberPool and takes about 40-60 minutes. The pickup point can be reached by walking up the ramp after exiting the baggage claim area.
- Washington Flyer Taxi is the exclusive provider of taxis from the airport. A taxi trip to the East End costs around $75 and takes about 40-60 minutes. The taxi stand is down the ramp from the baggage claim area.
- SuperShuttle and Supreme Airport Shuttle operate door-to-door shared ride services to anywhere in the D.C. area. The fare to D.C. is $29 for the first passenger in your party, $10 for each additional passenger. The ticket booths are down the ramp from the baggage claim area. Shuttles leave when full or 20 minutes after the first passenger bought a ticket.
Is 30 miles northeast of D.C. and 10 miles south of downtown Baltimore, near Glen Burnie, Maryland. Compared to IAD and DCA, BWI is the farthest from D.C., but also offers the nicest in-airport experience.
To get to D.C. from the airport:
- Metrobus B30 operates between the airport and the Greenbelt Metrorail Station (Green Line). The fare is $7 one-way (no change given) and takes about 40 minutes. From there, the Metrorail to the East End takes another 25 minutes. The bus makes 2 stops on the lower level of the airport: outside Terminal A (Southwest Airlines) and Terminal E (the international terminal).
- ICC Bus 201 operates hourly service between the airport and Gaithersburg, with a stop at the Shady Grove Metrorail Station (Red Line). The fare is $5 one-way (no change given) and takes about 70 minutes. From there, the Metrorail to the East End takes another 35 minutes. The bus makes 2 stops on the lower level of the airport: outside Terminal A (Southwest Airlines) and Terminal E (the international terminal).
- MARC commuter-rail train and Amtrak operate between BWI Rail Station and Union Station on Capitol Hill, also stopping at the New Carrolton Metrorail Station (Orange Line). A free "Amtrak/MARC" shuttle bus runs from the airport terminal to the BWI Rail Station every 12 minutes. The journey takes 10 minutes. If you are in a rush, you can can take a taxi for $8–9. MARC service to BWI is available on the "Penn" line and costs $6 one-way. MARC service is infrequent on the weekends; check the online schedules. Amtrak service costs $13-22 and is cheaper if purchased online in advance.
- Uber is a popular method of transport between the airport and the city due to the complexity of public transport. A non-surge rate trip using UberX to the East End costs around $50 and takes around 45-75 minutes.
- Taxi service to the East End takes around 45-75 minutes and costs around $100.
- SuperShuttle operates a door-to-door shared ride service to anywhere in the D.C. area. The fare to D.C. is $37 for the first passenger in your party, $12 for each additional passenger. Shuttles leave when full or 20 minutes after the first passenger bought a ticket.
Amtrak trains arrive from all over the country, particularly the Northeast Corridor (Boston-to-Richmond). All stop at Union Station in Capitol Hill (Red Line Metro), a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building. The Capitol Limited comes from Chicago, passing through Pittsburgh. A few lines also stop in adjacent Alexandria, Virginia, very close to the King Street stop on the Blue/Yellow Metro lines. If you are coming from the south, it might be easier to get off there, depending on your destination.
Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) provides weekday service to/from Baltimore's Camden Station and daily service to Baltimore Penn Station, via the Camden or the Penn Line, both of which operate from D.C.'s Union Station. Only the Penn Line stops at BWI Airport. MARC also provides service on the Brunswick line towards western Maryland through the suburbs of Silver Spring, Kensington, Rockville,Gaithersburg, and Germantown, on the way out to Frederick and on to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on Monday through Friday.
Virginia Railway Express (VRE) provides weekday rail service between Union Station and points southwest, starting in the Virginia suburbs of Manassas and Fredericksburg.
The fabled Chinatown Bus, which served the thrifty immigrant populations of the various East Coast "chinatowns," revolutionized intercity bus transit throughout the region by advertising a bus going to New York City for as little as $10. The bus of legend has been replaced by a host of competing services offering a similar deal—a cheap, direct ride with a scheduled street corner pick up and drop off point. This has forced the bus giant, Greyhound, to adjust its rates downwards to stay competitive, although it remains the only real choice for anyone going to smaller cities off the well-traveled D.C.–Philadelphia–New York City–Boston corridor. Most bus companies pickup/dropoff at Union Station in Capitol Hill; however, you have a lot of bus choices if coming from New York City - there are bus companies that dropoff at Dupont Circle, Bethesda, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia and these may be much more convenient to your accommodation - check where you are staying before you book a bus. You do not need to book in advance, although it can be much cheaper to do so. Buses tend to be fully booked on Friday and Sunday evenings since weekend trips are popular among the locals. Most buses have power outlets and Wi-Fi access on board, although the Wi-Fi is not always reliable.
- BestBus, +1 202-332-2691. Operates service to/from Penn Station in New York City ($30-45) and, in the summer, weekend service to Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware ($39); Pickup/dropoff at Union Station and Dupont Circle. The buses to/from New York also pickup and dropoff in Manassas and at the Silver Spring, Vienna, Franconia-Springfield Metrorail stations.
- BoltBus, +1 877-265-8287. Operates service to/from New York City and Newark, New Jersey; Pickup/dropoff at Union Station. Fares range from $1-45 depending on advance purchase and departure time.
- Eastern Shuttle, +1 212-244-6132. Operates service to/from Penn Station and Allen St in New York City ($21 weekday, $25 weekend). Pickup/dropoff in D.C. is at 715 H St NW, near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station in the East End, with limited pickups from Rockville.
- Focus Travel Bus, +1 215-625-7999. Operates service to/from New York City ($21) and Philadelphia ($15). Pickup/dropoff at 513 H St NW, near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station in the East End.
- Greyhound, +1 800-231-2222. Operates service to/from almost every major city in the United States. Pickup/dropoff at Union Station. Fares to New York City range from $11 if purchased in advance on the internet to $45 on the departure date. There are other Greyhound stations in Silver Spring and Arlington, with limited service.
- Megabus, +1 877-462-6342. Operates service between Washington DC and 20 major cities including New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Toronto,Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Fares start at $1 when reserved far in advance. Pickup/dropoff at Union Station. Power outlets. Wheelchair accessible.
- Peter Pan, +1 800-343-9999. Operates service to/from New York City, with onward connections to several cities in New England. Fares to New York City range from $11 if purchased in advance on the internet to $45 on the departure date. Pickup/dropoff at Union Station.
- Royal Sprinter, operates 2 daily luxurious 8-seater buses between Washington and New York. The cost is $95 each way, but the services include comfortable seats with plenty of leg room, seven-inch flat screen monitors with DirecTV at every seat and bottles of water. Pickup/dropoff in DC in near the Foggy Bottom and Friendship Heights Metrorail stations. The stop in New York is at 61st Street & Park Ave.
- Tripper Bus +1 877-826-3874. Operates service to/from Penn Station in New York City. Pickup/dropoff near the Metrorail station in Bethesda, Marylandand the Rosslyn Metrorail station in Arlington, Virginia. $27 one way with discounts possible for advance purchase. Power outlets. Free one-way ticket with every 6 tickets purchased.
- Vamoose Bus, +1 301-718-0036. Operates service to/from Penn Station in New York City. Pickup/dropoff near the Metrorail station in Bethesda,Maryland and the Rosslyn Metrorail station in Arlington, Virginia. $30-40. Free one-way ticket with every $120 spent. Operates a "Gold Bus" once per day which features large leather seats with plenty of legroom ($60 each way). Power outlets.
- Washington Deluxe, +1 866-287-6932. Operates service to/from New York City. $22 on weekdays with advance purchase, $26-34 weekends or walkup. Free ticket with every eight purchased. Pickup/dropoff at Dupont Circleand Union Station in DC and Penn Station, Times Square, and limited dropoffs at Prospect Park in New York City. Power outlets. No advance purchase required.
D.C. is primarily served by the coastal superhighway, I-95 from Baltimore or Richmond. It does not go into the city itself, dodging the District by running along the eastern portion of the Beltway (I-495). Coming from the south, I-395 serves as a sort of extension of I-95 going past the Beltway into the city. The intent was to run I-95 straight through the city towards Baltimore, but locals scuttled the plan, leaving this section's terminus in the East End.
I-495 is the Capital Beltway. The Beltway is reviled across the nation for its dangerous traffic patterns and impressive 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). Still, the Beltway is often the only practical way to travel between suburbs. The Beltway also symbolically represents the divide between media and politicians in Washington and people and media outside of it, with the Beltway sometimes jokingly referred to as having reality warping capacities. Because the Beltway is a circle, the direction of travel is often referred to by which "loop" is being used. The Inner Loop runs clockwise around the city, and the Outer Loop runs counter-clockwise around Washington, DC.
Other particularly notable routes include: I-270, which connects I-70 in Frederick to I-495 in Bethesda; I-66 starts at the western part of downtown and goes 75 miles west, ending near Front Royal, Virginia; US-50 traverses D.C. primarily along city roads east–west, heading east toward Annapolis and Ocean City (the latter by way of the Bay Bridge), and west across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge into Northern Virginia and then all the way cross-country to Sacramento, California; the Baltimore-Washington Pkwy (also "B-W Pkwy") starts at I-295 in Anacostia, crossing Central Maryland, passing near BWI Airport and terminating in Baltimore.
Inside the Beltway, I-66 is HOV-2 only (all cars must have at least two passengers) eastbound 6AM-9:30AM and westbound 4PM-6:30PM. The HOV-2 restriction applies to the entire highway, not just specific lanes. US-50, US-29, and the George Washington Pkwy are the alternatives.
If you are coming from Florida, Amtrak's "Auto Train" might be an option for you, as its Northern terminus, Lorton, Virginia was designed to be easily reachable by car from the DC area. The Southern terminus, Sanford (Florida) is within driving distance of Orlando. The train runs daily and takes about 17 and a half hours overnight to complete the one way trip.
Parking regulations are complicated in D.C. on weekdays. Metered parking is available throughout commercial areas, but meters limited to 2 hours during the daytime. Zoned parking is free, but you are limited to parking for two hours in each designated zone per day, although there is no parking time limit between 10PM and 7AM. Check the signs! Presumably, you could move your car to a different zone every 2 hours during the day and then find a metered spot to ditch your car overnight, but that would not be practical. Weekends and federal holidays are more accommodating to guests as there are less parking restrictions.
So if you are coming by car during the week, what do you do? There are plenty of public parking garages and many hotels have garages but the cost will be $15-30 per day. The 2,194-space, $24/day, Union Station parking lot in Capitol Hill is convenient to many attractions. If you have a friend in the city, they can go to their local district police station to get you a temporary visitor parking permit, good for 15 days.
There are garages offering parking for as low as $4.35 per day near several metro stations. Three stations have a very limited number of multi-day parking spots, up to ten days: Greenbelt, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield. And if you just don't want to pay for parking at all, head over to a residential area in the suburbs outsideof D.C. near a Metro station to ditch your car, then walk or catch a bus to the station and head into D.C.! However, if you are staying for a while, be aware that enforcement is strict on "abandoned" cars in the outlying counties.
Transportation - Get Around
Be prepared to walk until your feet hurt! It's no surprise that D.C. has been cited as the fittest city in the country; residents and visitors get a lot of exercise simply getting around the city! Even if you plan on taking public transport or driving, you will often find yourself walking or biking for a large portion of the day. Most of the city's attractions, such as the museums and monuments along the National Mall, are located near each other, which makes driving or taking Metro between the sights either impractical or impossible.
Therefore, when touring around Washington make sure to wear good walking shoes and, especially during the spring and summer, wear comfortable and light clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, apply sunscreen, and drink lots of water. During the summer, visit air-conditioned museums during the day, and save the monuments, neighborhood tours, and other outdoor attractions for the cooler early morning and evening hours.
The city is split into four quadrants of unequal size, which radiate out from the Capitol Building: Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). The NW quadrant is by far the largest and SW the smallest. Addresses in the city always include the quadrant abbreviation, e.g., 1000 H Street NE. Take note of the quadrant, otherwise you may find yourself on the exact opposite side of town from your destination!
City streets are generally laid out in a grid, with east-west streets primarily named with letters (A–W) and north-south streets named with numbers. The street numbers and letters increase as the distance from the Capitol building increases. The numerous diagonal avenues, many named after states, that serve as the city's principal arteries. The street numbers and letters increase with distance from the Capitol. The grid has a few peculiarities that are a legacy from the city's foundation. The City of Washington originally occupied only a portion of the total area of the District. As a result, outside of what is now often called the "L'Enfant City", streets do not strictly adhere to the grid system. However, you will find that many street names were simply extended where practical and, past the letter "W", for east-west streets, two-syllable street names (e.g., Irving Street, Lamont Street) follow the single-letter streets in alphabetical order, followed by three-syllable street names.
Curious to note, visitors to Washington will quickly discover that there is no "J" St. This is because, until the mid-nineteenth century, the letters "I" and "J" were indistinguishable when written. Following that same idea, "I" Street is often written as "Eye" Street, to distinguish it from the letter "L" and the numeral "1", and "Q" Street, is often written "Que," "Cue," or "Queue."
By Public Transport
For tourists, it is usually much easier to get around the city using public transportation, since parking is expensive and driving in a crowded city is not easy. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the city's generally excellent public transportation system. Trains, buses and bikes are affordable and widely used. The District Department of Transportation provides information about all modes of public transportation available in the city on the tourist-friendly website goDCgo, and there are a number of Transit Apps available with planning and real time information.
The Metrorail is D.C.'s intra-city train system. It is composed of six color-coded rail lines that run primarily underground within the District and above ground in the nearby suburbs. It's clean, safe, user-friendly, and sports a surprisingly elegant and pleasing brutalist aesthetic.
However, on nights and weekends, constant track maintenance can cause wait times of up to 30 minutes, making getting around the city by Metrorail significantly more difficult. The Metrorail also attracts very large crowds during major public events; expect jam-packed stations and trains during any major event in D.C. such as the July 4th parade.
Metrorail fares depend on the distance traveled and whether the trip starts during a peak or off-peak time period.
Peak fares are in effect Monday thru Friday from 5-9:30AM and from 3-7PM as well as Friday and Saturday nights from Midnight-3AM. Off-peak fares are in effect Monday thru Friday from 9:30AM-3PM and from 7PM-midnight and Saturday and Sunday from 7AM-midnight.
Peak period fares range from $2.15 to $5.90, while off-peak period fares range from $1.75 to $3.60, depending on distance traveled. Up to two children ages four and younger may ride free per paying adult. Seniors can purchase a Senior SmarTrip Card (see below) from a Metrorail office for $2, and get reduced Metrorail fares of $1.25-$2.65 per trip, but the hassle of purchasing the card may not be practical or worthwhile unless staying in the city for quite some time.
Riders enter and exit the Metrorail system by tapping a refillable SmarTrip debit card ($10 cost with $8 transportation credit) at the fare gates. The card can be purchased and refilled at machines at every Metrorail station. The card can be used on the Metrorail as well as on Metrobus, the D.C. Circulator, and many other suburban bus systems, saving you the headache of having correct change and also providing a discount on transfers between buses and rail.
Posted guides will help you calculate the appropriate fare for your ride, but since the SmarTrip cards are reusable and refillable, it's often easier to not worry about the fare; just refill when you are running low on funds. SmarTrip cards are also required for parking on the weekdays in almost all Metro lots. Parking at Metro lots is free on weekends and federal holidays.
Flat-rate Metrorail passes, good for an unlimited number of trips for 1, 7, or 28 days, are available for purchase at Metrorail stations. However, the passes are rarely a good deal for most tourists due to their high cost; a 1-day pass costs $14.50, which is usually more than you would spend by paying as you go.
Tips for riding Metrorail
Metrorail lines are color-coded and, in some areas, two or three different lines may share the same track. Additionally, trains may terminate before reaching the end of the line, especially during rush hour. Therefore, be careful to note both the color and final destination indicated on the electronic displays and train cars before boarding.
You will encounter dense platform crowds and jammed train cars during weekday rush hours, especially on the Red and Orange lines, as hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians daily use the system to get to and from work.
When riding Metro late at night, be aware of when the last train leaves each particular station. This information is available both online and within Metro stations. The last trains of the evening continue to the end of their respective lines, even after the system has technically closed; there is no need to worry that a train will stop before you reach your destination.
Absolutely no food or drink is allowed on trains or in stations. Metro employees, police officers, and even fellow riders will ask you to dispose of any food before entering. Violators are subject to fines or even arrest. If you are carrying food/beverages, keep them closed and in a bag.
Rider etiquette is key to smooth travel in the heavily-used system. Try not to obstruct train doors when passengers are leaving the train. Keep belongings off of the seats. When using escalators in stations, stand on the right, and leave the left side free for those who want to pass. Strollers must be folded at all times on the trains and in elevators. These rules are especially important during the summer months when commuters are sharing the Metro with large numbers of out-of-town visitors.
Metro train doors do not auto-retract, and are somewhat notorious for pinning passengers and their belongings. Use caution; it's normally a better idea to wait for the next train than to attempt boarding at the last second. If you or your belongings are caught in the door, wait for the train operator to re-open them. Do not try to block the doors or force them open; this often breaks the doors and forces the operator to take the entire car out of service.
If riding standing up, be sure to grab a stanchion or overhead bar when the train pulls into a station. Braking is currently manual, and depending on the train operator's skill level can be quite abrupt, causing some passengers to lose their footing.
D.C.'s bus system is visitor-friendly and reaches destinations that are hard to reach by Metrorail.
By Circulator bus
The tourist-friendly D.C. Circulator buses operate between main attractions and the city's most popular neighborhoods for visitors. All D.C. Circulator routes run every ten minutes and cost $1 per ride, payable either in cash or by using a SmarTrip debit card. It is useful to print the handy route map. The next arrival time for a bus at any stop can be checked online. There are six routes:
- Dupont Circle - Georgetown - Rosslyn "Blue" Line — operates service between the Rosslyn Metrorail Station in Virginia to Georgetown and Dupont Circle Su-Th 7AM-midnight, F-Sa 7AM-2AM.
- Georgetown - Union Station "Yellow" Line — runs between Georgetown and Union Station in Capitol Hill Su-Th 7AM-9PM, F-Sa 7AM-9PM with additional night hours of 9PM-2AM between Georgetown & McPherson Square Metrorail Station in the West End).
- Woodley Park - Adams Morgan - McPherson Square "Green" Line — runs a limited-stop route through the "Liquorridor" between the National Zoo, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, U Street, Logan Circle, and McPherson Square in the West End Su-Th 7AM-midnight, F-Sa 7AM-3:30AM. These neighborhoods are home to some of the best restaurants, shopping, art galleries, local theaters, and nightlife in Washington.
- Union Station - Navy Yard "Navy" Line — runs from Union Station past Eastern Market in Capitol Hill to the Navy Yard Metrorail Station near the Nationals Stadium in Waterfront M-F 6AM-7PM between October 1 and March 31, M-F 6AM-9PM & Sa 7AM-9PM April 1 - September 30. Extended and weekend service is provided on Nationals game days.
- Potomac Ave Metro - Skyland via Barracks Row "Orange" Line — runs between Capitol Hill and the Skyland Shopping Center in Anacostia via Barracks Row and historic Anacostia M-F 6AM-7PM between October 1 and March 31, M-F 6AM-9PM & Sa 7AM-9PM April 1 - September 30.
- National Mall Route "Red" Line — circumnavigates the National Mall including the museums, monuments, and the Tidal Basin, with a stop at Union Station. M-F 7AM-7PM & Sa-Su 9AM-7PM between October 1 and March 31, M-F 7AM-8PM & Sa-Su 9AM-8PM April 1 - September 30.
D.C.'s bus system is visitor-friendly and reaches destinations that are hard to reach by Metro.
Metrobus operates hundreds of routes throughout the D.C. metro area. Metrobus will take you places hard to reach via Metrorail or the Circulator, and can be a really convenient, comfortable way to travel. In addition, some Metrobus lines operate later into the night than Metrorail. WMATA's website publishes maps and timetables for all routes, as well as system maps for its entire network. Most routes cost a flat fare of $1.75 if paying with cash or SmarTrip card, with a free transfer if paying by SmarTrip card. Seniors pay only $0.85 by showing an idenification card to the driver and up to two children ages four and younger ride free per paying adult.
Every bus stop has a number written on it, which you can enter on the WMATA Next Bus Arrivals website or by phone (+1 202 637-7000) to get a highly accurate estimate of when the next bus will arrive to that stop, including active tracking on Google Maps. Free iPhone and Android apps that provide live Metrobus data are also available.
The following important routes provide reliable and direct service along the city's most well-traveled corridors, running about every ten to twenty minutes:
- 16th St Line (S2, S4, S9) — north-south service on 16th St between the Silver Spring Metro Station on the Red Line and East End. It's the route of choice to reach the Fitzgerald Tennis Center and Carter Barron Amphitheater at Rock Creek Park.
- Massachusetts Ave Line (N2, N4, N6) — runs along Massachusetts Ave between the Friendship Heights and Farragut West Metro stops. The bus provides an excellent view of the 50+ embassies located along Embassy Row. It's also a good way to go from Dupont Circle to the hard-to-reach National Cathedral, as well as to American University.
- U St-Garfield Line (90, 92, 93) — runs a great cross-town route from the Zoo at Woodley Park through Adams Morgan/18th St, U St, Gallaudet University, and then on to Eastern Market.
- Pennsylvania Avenue Line (31, 32, 36) - another good cross-town route along Pennsylvania Avenue through Capitol Hill, downtown, Georgetown, and neighborhoods along Wisconsin Avenue. These buses run around the clock and will take you to areas not serviced by Metrorail such as Georgetown, Glover Park, and the National Cathedral.
There are approximately 6,500 licensed taxicabs in D.C. Despite the increasing popularity of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft, use of taxis in D.C. has actually increased in recent years. Unlike rideshare services, taxis are able to be hailed from the street and the have ability to provide wheelchair-accessible transportation.
Roof lights on all D.C. cabs have LED text that explicitly state whether or not the cab is available for hire.
An alphabetical list of all licensed taxi companies is available online. The largest taxi operators are Yellow Cab (+1 202 544-1212 or +1 202 TAXICAB) in D.C.,Barwood (+1 301 984-1900) in Montgomery County, and Silver Cab (+1 301 277-6000) in Prince George's County. In Virginia, Red Top (+1 703 522-3333) is the largest operator in both Arlington County and Alexandria.
Taxicab drivers are required to take passengers anywhere within the D.C.-area. With the exception of rides to and from the airport, it is illegal for cabs to pick up passengers outside the jurisdiction in which they are based.
All cabs are required to accept credit cards and provide receipts on request.
Taxi rates for all D.C.-area taxicabs are fixed by the jurisdiction in which they are based and the rate does not change when state lines are crossed. Rates for DC-based taxicabs are fixed by the DC Taxicab Commission, currently $3.50 for the first eighth of a mile and 27¢ for each additional eighth of a mile. There is a $1.00 surcharge for additional passengers, regardless of the number of people. There is no rush hour fee, although meters do charge 42¢ for each minute the car is stopped in traffic or traveling under 10 mph.
Rates for cabs based in Montgomery County, Maryland include a $4.00 initial charge plus a $2.00 per mile distance fee. Rates for cabs based in Virginia include a $2.00 initial charge plus a $2.00 per mile distance fee.
Driving in downtown D.C. is difficult, particularly during rush hour, where traffic can make it take 10 minutes to drive a couple city blocks. In addition, limited and expensive parking, ruthless enforcement of complicated parking rules, sadistic traffic circles, fines from automated red light cameras and absurd speed traps, potholes, frequent street direction changes, and street closures without warning make driving in D.C. a headache. A 2012 report showed that D.C. drivers were the most prone to accidents of any city in the U.S.. Washingtonians will proudly tell you that the plan was intended to confuse invading armies, though it's actually a myth.
If for whatever reason you ignore all the above advice and do choose to drive in Washington, here are a few tips: Street parking downtown is limited to two hours only (even at meters), so be prepared to park in a private lot or garage, which cost anywhere from $10–25 per day. Avoid driving and parking during rush hour (weekdays, 7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM), since this is when the majority of the city's traffic congestion, street direction changes, and parking restrictions are in effect. If you do park on the street, pay close attention to traffic signs. Most streets downtown restrict parking during rush hour and visitors often return to the spot where they parked only to find that their vehicle has been ticketed or towed!
Local opposition prevented the construction of interstate highways through Washington, steering resources towards building the Washington Metro system instead. 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". (meaning something like "only relevant to political circles; the different reality federal politicians and Washington media perceive")
Washington has several classic drives:
- Pennsylvania Ave from Fourteenth St NW toward the Capitol.
- Eastbound Independence Ave from the Lincoln Memorial, from the right lane of which you can continue in a loop around the Tidal Basin.
- Rock Creek Pkwy, one of the world's earliest highways, and which was planned as part of an inner beltway, follows Rock Creek through D.C.'s own central park, then traces the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial. This roadway becomesone-way (and terribly confusing) during weekday rush hour (6:45AM–9:30AM southbound only, 3:45PM–6:30PM northbound).
- Canal Road heading west from Georgetown's M St, which turns into the leafy Clara Barton Pkwy alongside the C&O Canal, continuing to the Capital Beltway.
- Embassy Row, Massachusetts Ave between Scott Circle and Wisconsin Ave.
- George Washington Memorial Pkwy, which follows the Potomac on the Virginia side of the river to Mount Vernon.
Bicycling is a great way to explore D.C.'s neighborhoods, as bikes allow tourists to cover more ground, can be less exhausting than walking, and are more pleasant and cheaper than metro or taxi rides. Many streets, including the iconic Pennsylvania Avenue, have dedicated bike lanes and there is plenty of bike parking available. Bicycling.com rated D.C. #13 on its list of top cities in the U.S. for bicycling.
- Capital Bikeshare operates an extensive bike sharing network that has over 3,000 bicycles available at over 350 bike stations throughout the area. You can take a bike from any station and return it to the same or any other station. Membership fees are $8/day or $17 for 3 days, payable by using a credit card at the automated kiosks attached to every Capital Bikeshare station. On top of membership fees, usage fees vary, but the first 30 minutes are free. This is intentional to encourage people to use the system for short place-to-place trips; however, you can simply return your bike to a station and take another to restart the timer. Download the spotcycle app to find your nearest station, available bikes, and return slots in real time. Bikes have a rack and strap for storage on the front, but they don't have a lock.
- BikeStation allows visitors to rent bikes, have their bikes repaired, or arrange for temporary storage in a controlled environment at Union Station. Cycling information can be obtained here as well.
- Bike Shops are plentiful and may be a better option if you plan on using a bike for an extended period.
Tips for cycling in Washington, D.C.
- To the uninitiated cyclist, traveling by bike on some of D.C.'s streets may be downright harrowing. Locals all have horror stories of cycling through quiet, residential streets only to come across extremely-busy traffic on some of D.C.'s main commuter thoroughfares. Ride The City: DC can help you plan your routes to avoid the most dangerous areas for bicyclists.
- Bicycling on the sidewalk is legal in D.C. except in the downtown Central Business District, which generally consists of the area between Massachusetts Avenue and the National Mall. However, biking in the street is perfectly legal everywhere in the city and bike lanes are available on many downtown streets.
- Helmets are advised, of course, but traffic in DC is actually slow enough -- and the drivers considerate enough of cyclists -- that lacking a helmet is a poor reason not to avail yourself of this excellent way to see the city.
- The downtown core, including the Mall, is largely level terrain, with more hills and steeper streets generally as one rides west and north (although many neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River are also quite hilly).
You may also take advantage of some of the Washington area's fantastic biking trails:
- The Capital Crescent Trail connects Georgetown to Bethesda and Silver Spring, Maryland.
- The Metropolitan Branch Trail connects Union Station to Silver Spring, Maryland.
- The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) towpath offers shaded trail from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland, passing through the waterfalls at Great Falls, 15 miles up-stream from Georgetown.
- The Mount Vernon Trail (18 miles) offers a direct bike connection between downtown Washington, Alexandria, VA, and George Washington's former estate.
- The W&OD Trail (45 miles), the jewel of Northern Virginia, offers a tour of the Virginia suburbs from dense urban Alexandria, through the leafy tech-company suburbs of Reston and Herndon and Ashburn, into bucolic Purcellville on the very fringe of the DC metro area. For an ambitious all-day ride, try branching north at Leesburg, crossing the Potomac on White's Ferry, and using the C&O Canal towpath to return to DC.
Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft are extremely popular in D.C. and, although most rideshare drivers work only part time, there are more rideshare cars than taxis operating in D.C. Base rates for UberX and Lyft in the D.C.-area are much lower than those of taxis, and if there are more than 2 people in your party, rideshare is often cheaper than Metrorail!
If you'd rather relax than pedal, there are several pedicab (bicycle rickshaw) tour/ride companies in DC. Tour rates are generally negotiable, but are usually in the range of $60-$80 per pedicab per hour. Each pedicab generally holds 2-3 adults (up to 2 children under the age of 10 can sit on laps). Pedicab rides from one location to another ("destination rides") are a great way to get between different parts of the city and to avoid fatigue and getting lost while learning about the sights and relaxing along the way.
Advanced bookings are strongly suggested for tours and reserved rides as these services do get busy and sell out particularly in the late afternoons and evenings.
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Souvenirs are easy to find at stands and stores near the National Mall and East End. However, these offerings tend to be tacky (shot glasses, Obama t-shirts, etc...). The gift shops of the Smithsonian museums have unique offerings and are great places to buy gifts.
Eastern Market in Capitol Hill is a favorite Saturday or Sunday afternoon shopping destination for locally produced food and artwork. Even if you're not buying, it's a great time.
Eclectic boutiques and vintage stores abound in Georgetown, Adams Morgan,Upper Northwest, and Shaw. However, prices are high; you are not likely to find many bargains.
Art galleries are plentiful throughout the city and make for great browsing, although the prices are on the high side.
Specialty book stores are also common in D.C. due to the educated populace. Although it is out of the way of the tourist attractions, Politics & Prose in Upper Northwest has a rightful claim to be the city's favorite. Other popular book stores includeKramerbooks and Second Story Books in Dupont Circle. There are also some great options in Capitol Hill and the East End.
For cheap groceries and household items, try the Walmart on 1st & H Street NW, near Union Station, and the Target at the Columbia Heights Metrorail Station.
Clothing and household goods
- Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets in Leesburg, 17 miles northwest of Dulles Airport and 40 miles northwest of Washington D.C., has the best bargains in the area but is not accessible by public transport.
- Potomac Mills is a humongous shopping mall in Woodbridge that contains over 200 stores. It is a 25 minute bus ride ($3.25 each way with SmarTrip card, M-Sa only) from the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail Station.
- Tanger Outlet Mall at National Harbor is accessible by MetroBus from the Southern Ave Metrorail Station.
- Marshalls is the best bet for discounts within the city limits, with stores in Columbia Heights and Upper Northwest.
- Macy's is the most centrally located department store and is in the East End, which also has several brand-name clothing stores such as H&M, Urban Outfitters, Zara, and Guess.
- Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has over 170 generally high-end stores is adjacent to the Pentagon City Metrorail Station in Arlington.
- Tysons Corner Center contains over 300 stores and is adjacent to the Tysons Corner Metrorail Station in Tysons Corner.
Washington has a little bit of everything, from really good ethnic takeout to high-dollar lobbyist-fueled places that will cause your credit card to burst into flames.
Most of the high end cuisine is available in the West End, the East End,Georgetown, and Dupont Circle—offering dining experiences ranging from steakhouses packed with powerful suits to Minibar by Jose Andres, a 12-seat restaurant offering a 30-course meal for $275.
D.C.'s international might draws representatives from all corners of the globe, and they all need ex-pat cafes and restaurants to haunt. Notable "ethnic" enclaves include wonderful Ethiopian food in Shaw and decent Chinese food in what remains of D.C.'s disappearing Chinatown.
Salvadoran cuisine such as the pupusa is common in Columbia Heights. Pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, optionally fried pork, refried beans, or all sorts of other things, then topped with a tart cabbage salad and an Italianesque red sauce.
Ethiopian food is a D.C. staple due to the city's large Ethiopian community. Ethiopian food is a wild ride of spicy stewed and sautéed meats and vegetables served atop a plate covered with a spongy bread called injera. You eat the dishes with your hands, using an extra plate of injera (similar to bread) as your sole "utensil"—rip off a piece of the injera and use it to pick up your food. It's proper in Ethiopia to use only the tips of your fingers in this exercise, and with good reason: you'll have a messy meal otherwise. It's also perfectly proper to feed your date, making this a fun cuisine if you know your date well. The best places to try Ethiopian food are in Shaw, which includes Little Ethiopia
Chinese food can still be found in D.C., though with much of the ethnic Chinese community having moved to the suburbs, most of the restaurants in Chinatown are tourist traps. While good authentic Chinese food is certainly available in the metropolitan area, these days the best Chinese restaurants are located in the suburbs.
The closest thing that D.C. has to a unique local cuisine is the half-smoke: smoked half-beef, half-pork sausages. They have a firm "snap" when you bite into one, are served on a hot dog bun, and are often topped with chili. They are commonly sold at food trucks on the National Mall. If you want a true, quality half-smoke, you should visit Ben's Chili Bowl in Shaw.
Cupcake fever in D.C. is fueled by tourists lured by TV shows such as Cupcake Wars(2009-present) and DC Cupcakes featuring Georgetown Cupcakes (2010-2013). The cupcake bakeries sometimes have lines running around the block. In addition to Georgetown Cupcakes ($3.25 each), popular cupcake establishments include Baked & Wired ($3.75 each), and Sprinkles in Georgetown and Red Velvet Cupcakery($3.25 each) in the East End.
There are currently only two kosher restaurants in D.C., and they are very casual: Char Bar (meat) near West End and Silver Crust (dairy) inside the JCC. However, there are several other options for kosher dining in neighboring Montgomery County. Metro accessible kosher restaurants in Montgomery County include: Max's Kosher Café(meat) and Nut House Pizza (dairy) in Wheaton; Blue Star (meat) near the White Flint metro station; and Siena's Restaurant (dairy) and Cafe Shawreen (meat) near the Twinbrook metro station. There are also a number of other kosher restaurants in Montgomery County accessible by car, mostly in Rockville and Kemp Mill.
Sights & Landmarks
Most of the attractions in D.C. are on the National Mall, the West End, and Capitol Hill. While there are many maps on display throughout the city, you should print out and carry with you the official National Mall map (pdf), which also includes most of the West End and Capitol Hill. For a map that encompasses a larger portion of the city, print out the DC Circulator Route Map (pdf).
The National Mall is a unique National Park, filled with an intense concentration of monuments, memorials, museums, and monumental government buildings instantly recognizable to people all over the world. The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, theVietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Holocaust Museum, are just a few of the top attractions on the National Mall. To walk down the National Mall is to thread the halls of world power in the modern era. Here the world's most powerful politicians and their staffs fill the grand neo-classical buildings of the three branches of US Government, making decisions that reverberate in the remotest corners of the world. The National Mall is larger than it looks, and a walk from one end of the National Mall to the other will take a while and may wear you down a bit. Plan ahead what you want to see and concentrate your activities in one section of the National Mall each day.
The East End, just north of the National Mall, includes many more museums and attractions, including the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the American Art Museum, and the home of an original copy of the Constitution at the National Archives.
The White House, as well as Textile Museum and the Kennedy Center, are in the West End. The Capitol Building and the Supreme Court are on Capitol Hill. Another attraction here that shouldn't be missed is the Library of Congress, which has some of the most beautiful architecture that can be seen in the city.
The free National Zoo in Upper Northwest is one of the nation's most prestigious zoos, and the National Cathedral is an awe-inspiring mammoth. Dupont Circle is home to much of Embassy Row, an impressive stretch of some 50 foreign-owned historic and modernist mansions along Massachusetts Ave, as well as several brilliant small museums, such as the Phillips Collection and the Woodrow Wilson House.
The historic neighborhood of Georgetown is the oldest part of the city, full of beautiful old colonial buildings, the 200+ year-old Jesuit campus of Georgetown University that resembles a Harry Potter film set, restaurants along the waterfront, the C&O canal, and the infamous Exorcist steps.
By car or bus, you can get to some of the capital's more far-flung and less-frequented attractions, like the National Arboretum in the Near Northeast, or the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in eastern Anacostia. By taking the Metro red line to Brookland-CUA, you can easily visit the magnificent Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is the largest Catholic church in North America.
While many attractions and museums are free, there are several that aren't. The Washington DC Explorer Pass includes admission to your choice of 3 ($54) or 5 ($84) popular attractions at a discounted price.
Views and panoramas
D.C.'s famous building height restrictions—no taller than the width of the street the building is on plus 20 feet—have resulted in a skyscraper-less downtown, giving D.C. a distinctly muted feel for what is actually the heart of a huge metropolis. The obvious downside to this law is that it limits the supply of housing and office space and tax revenues and results in very high rents. Since many buildings downtown are of the same height level, many rooftop terraces offer great views.
There are several classic spots to get a look out over the city:
- Kennedy Center Rooftop Terrace (free), in the West End, provides a nice skyline somewhat removed from the city, with the Lincoln Memorial prominent in the foreground.
- Washington Monument (free), on the National Mall, though as a vista point its small, bunker-like ports covered with scratched plastic make it less inspiring than might be expected.
- Newseum ($20), in the East End), is a good place to see a remarkable museum and get a close up view of downtown.
- W Hotel, in the West End, just a block from the White House, has a rooftop terrace, bar, and lounge called POV (Point of View). While the bar and lounge are expensive, a single cocktail gets a table for several people long enough to take in the view, and suave cheapskates can simply wander around long enough to get a load of the White House from above (close enough to make out the Secret Service overwatch) before heading back to the elevator.
- The Old Post Office Tower at the Trump Hotel Washington DC is closed for renovations until late 2016.
- Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel in the West End is a rooftop bar with great 360-degree views.
Things to do
Outdoor activities and parks
D.C. is 21.9% covered in parkland, one of the highest ratios among U.S. cities. Many of these parks are crowded with soccer, football, rugby, kickball, baseball, and ultimate frisbee players. The National Mall may be the most famous park, but there are several other large beautiful parks in the city.
The 2,000 acre Rock Creek Park, a national park, bisects the city north of the Anacostia River. The park is full of deer (who overpopulate, due to lack of predators), squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, birds, and even a few coyotes. The park includes paved biking/running trails that extend from Maryland to the Lincoln Memorial and connecting with the Mount Vernon trail in Northern Virginia. There are also plenty of hiking trails, picnic spots, a golf course, a variety of Ranger-led/educational programs, and boats can be rented for kayaking and sailing at the Thompson Boat Center on the Potomac River. There are plenty of nice outdoor spaces just beyond the park. South of Massachusetts Ave, you can take a path west out to the beautiful Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, and then on to enormous Archibald-Glover Park, where the trails can lead you as far south and west as theChesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Palisades Park. Following the main trail along the creek all the way south will take you under the Whitehurst Freeway and down to the National Mall, where joggers avail themselves of the incredible path right along the Potomac beneath the monuments.
Roosevelt Island is one of those gems just far enough out of the way that it is missed by most tourists. The Teddy Roosevelt Memorial is at the center of the island, which includes a couple fountains and several stone obelisks inscribed with his quotes. The rest of the island is a nice natural park of woods and swamp with a boardwalk in the center of the Potomac, with great views of Georgetown University on the northwest side and of the Kennedy Center on the east. What could be better befitting the "conservationist president" than an island park memorial? To reach the island, walk down the stairs at the Rosslyn side of the Key Bridge—which connects Rosslyn withGeorgetown—then head east on the trail (the Mount Vernon Trail) to the footbridge to the island. Rosslyn is the nearest Metro stop. By car, you can access the parking lot just north of the Roosevelt Bridge from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Pkwy only.
There are several other parks worth visiting, including the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Anacostia, the National Arboretum in Near Northeast, Meridian Hill Parkin Columbia Heights, and the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown.
Free in DC, DCist, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, and the Going Out Guide by the Washington Post are websites that will keep you up-to-date on current events in the city. Look for unique events that can only be experienced in the nation's capital - many embassies offer regular events open to the public that showcase their country's music, theatre, and culture, sometimes for a fee. These events are listed on the websites noted above as well as on this site.
D.C. has a bustling live music scene, most of which takes place at small and medium sized bars and clubs.
The Kennedy Center, which is in theWest End and is administered by the Smithsonian, offers a free 1-hour show every day at 6PM on its Millennium Stage. Shows range from poetry to plays to music to dance and are always top-notch. The Washington National Opera and National Symphony Orchestra also both perform here, although these events are rarely free.
In the summer, the weekly Jazz in the Garden on Friday evenings on the National Malland the Sunday Drum Circle in Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights are both free events that are extremely popular with the locals and tourists alike.
Major concerts and gatherings are held at the 18,200 seat Verizon Center in the East End. There are more intimate classical music concerts in various locations. Try the Dumbarton Concerts by Candlelight in Georgetown!
Well-known Broadway shows are generally performed either at the Kennedy Center or at one of 3 theatres in the East End: Ford's Theatre, the National Theatre, and theWarner Theatre.
There are also multiple options for seeing top-notch performances of Shakespeare's works; the Shakespeare Theatre Company performs at both the Lansburgh Theatre and Harman Hall in the East End, while smaller performances are held at Folger Shakespeare Theatre on Capitol Hill.
Avant-garde, intensely physical, dance-heavy renditions of well-known plays are performed at the metro-accessible Synetic Theater in Arlington. The performance troupe was named one of the most innovative physical theatre companies in the world and was founded by Georgian immigrants Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, who were named the Washingtonians of the Year in 2014.
Other great theatre options that generally show lesser-known plays include Woolly Mammoth Theatre in the East End, the Atlas Theatre in Near Northeast, the GALA Hispanic Theatre @ The Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights, or the Studio Theatre inShaw.
Free Outdoor Movies
During the summer, there is generally a free outdoor movie shown every weekday evening on a large outdoor screen at one of several locations in D.C. There are also similar movie showings in nearby suburbs such as National Harbor, Columbia,Bethesda, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Ellicott City. It's good to show up as early as possible to stake out a good spot, lay down the picnic blanket, and socialize. People start arriving at 7:00PM and films generally start at sunset, approximately 8:30PM. The movies being shown as well as the days of the week and locations change yearly but are aggregated on this site.
Festivals and events
D.C. is awash in free public events all throughout the year, but especially in the summer. A few highlights include:
- A Capitol Fourth. 4 July. The nation's capital is the best place to celebrate Independence Day! Fireworks over the Potomac River, the National Independence Day Parade, and a huge orchestral concert on Capitol Hill all make for a big time celebration. Expect enormous crowds.
- Cultural Tourism DC. First 2 Saturdays of May.. You can go into most of the embassy buildings, learn about the countries, view presentations and performances, and usually take home a free souvenir from the country!
- National Book Festival, National Mall. One Saturday in early September.Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this festival celebrates books, authors, and reading. Highlights include listening to your favorite author speak, queuing up to have a book signed, taking the kids to visit their beloved PBS Kids characters, and collecting stamps from all the US states and territories in the Pavilion of the States.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival. Late March–early April. 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 in bloom, which lasts for about a week, Washington is at its prettiest. The traditional cherry blossom promenade is around the Tidal Basin, although you will have to go very early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You will pay top dollar to stay at hotels during cherry blossom season.
- National Kite Festival (at the Washington Monument). Late March. The main attraction is of course all the people showing up to fly their kites by the Washington Monument, but there are also a bunch of tent exhibits on topics from things like West Indian kitemaking to U.S. wind power projects. There are several kite flying competitions throughout the day, the most popular being the Rokkaku Kite Battle.
- Shakespeare Free for All, 610 F St NW (Harman Hall), . Early September. Free performances of a different Shakespeare play every year by the renowned Shakespeare Theatre Company in the Harman Center for the Arts. You can get free tickets via the online lottery or same-day tickets available at the door (via queue) in the morning.
- Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Late June–around 4 July. This annual festival normally has three topics: a country, a region of the U.S., 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.
- DC Blues Festival, Carter Barron Amphitheater - 16th Street & Colorado Avenue NW. Early September. This annual festival features performances by blues legends.
The Washington Redskins are one of professional football's most established and storied clubs, boasting five NFL championships. Valued at $1.6 billion, the team is the second most valuable franchise in the country. The team plays at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. To get there using public transport, take the Blue Line Metrorail to the Morgan Blvd stop, then walk one mile straight up Morgan Blvd to the stadium.
The team name has so far survived movements and lawsuits to change the name that some consider an offensive term for Native Americans. However, pressure to change the name is still strong, especially from Washingtonians, and some journalists will not use the name, referring to the team solely as 'Washington'.
The University of Maryland Terrapins, representing the main campus of the University of Maryland, also has a large following in the area. The team plays just outside D.C. in College Park.
The Washington Capitals, under coach Barry Trotz and led by superstar Alexander Ovechkin, are having their best years yet. The team plays at the Verizon Center, in theEast End.
The Washington Wizards also play at the Verizon Center. The Wizards were known as the Washington Bullets until 1995, but the name was changed by then-owner Abe Pollin due to the unpleasant irony in the homicide-heavy 1990s.
The Washington Mystics are the WNBA women's basketball team, and are (in)famously the league's regular "attendance champions." That is, they don't actually have winning seasons, but they do have plenty of fans. The team also plays at the Verizon Center.
The Georgetown Hoyas men's basketball team are far and away the most popular college sports team in the city, and they often sport a more exciting season than even the Wizards. The team also plays at the Verizon Center since the crowds for the Hoyas' games are too big for the University to hold.
The University of Maryland Terrapins also have a large following in the area. The team plays just outside D.C. in College Park.
Three other NCAA Division I teams play in the District, and a fourth plays in the immediate metropolitan area. The District also has the George Washington Colonials in Foggy Bottom, the American Eagles in Tenleytown, and the Howard Bison in Shaw. The George Mason Patriots are in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The Washington Nationals, a.k.a. the Nats, formerly the Montreal Expos, have been playing in DC since 2005 and at a stadium by the Waterfront since 2008. Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg brought baseball fever back to DC for the first time in 100 years, selling out games (at least until being sidelined by Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow) and leaving the city abuzz with baseball talk. After Strasburg's return, the emergence of superstar outfielder Bryce Harper and acquisition of another pitching star in Max Scherzer increased the buzz around the team. Previous D.C. baseball teams include the 1901–1960 Washington Senators, who later moved to Minneapolis as theMinnesota Twins. Both the original Senators and their second incarnation in the 1960s (now playing in Arlington, Texas as the Texas Rangers) suffered from a singular inability to win, though. The first incarnation was quite successful for its first twenty years, but by WWII they earned the city the slogan "first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League."
Americans often forget that the country has a professional soccer league, but that's not the case in D.C. D.C. United is the MLS' most dominant team, with 4 MLS cups under its belt (out of the league's 13 seasons), as well as successful international competition in CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, where the club has both a CONCACAF championship and a Copa Interamericana. D.C. is a big soccer town, owing to the metropolitan area's very international population and its big Latino communities, as well as to a home-grown affection for soccer in this section of the Mid-Atlantic, and the games are high-energy and well attended. United plays at the worn down RFK Stadium in Capitol Hill, although a new $300 million stadium is being constructed at Buzzard Point.
The Washington Kastles have won 5 consecutive Mylan World TeamTennis titles. Since the franchise's launch in 2008, the Kastles have featured many stars including Serena & Venus Williams, Leander Paes, Rennae Stubbs, and Victoria Azarenka. With an exciting team format, music between points, no-ad scoring and dramatic overtimes, attending a Kastles game can be a fun experience.
The legal drinking/purchasing age is 21 and it is strictly enforced in D.C. Be prepared to have your identification checked, even if you appear to be well over 21.
Bars and dance clubs
The downtown nightlife is lacking - many bars in the East End are tourist traps and the West End is generally quiet at night despite the student population.
Bars and dance clubs, many of which have live music, are plentiful along 18th St in Adams Morgan, along 14th St and along U St in nearby Shaw, and in Near Northeast, which are the 3 main areas of the city for going on a pub crawl. Several hotels inGeorgetown include very classy popular bars.
D.C.'s classiest dance clubs are along Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle. Music genres played at clubs here include pop, hip hop, and Latin. Many of these bars and clubs have a dress code. Dupont Circle and Shaw also have many bars/clubs that cater to a gay crowd.
Live music clubs
Pop and rock
There are several 500-1,500 person music venues in Shaw including 9:30 Club, Black Cat, DC9, U Street Music Hall, and Velvet Lounge. Other medium-sized music clubs are located in Capitol Hill. The Fillmore Silver Spring, which also features international acts, is located just outside of the city limits in Silver Spring, and is Metro accessible.
Jazz and blues
Live jazz is very popular in D.C. Jazz legend Duke Ellington frequently played at clubs in Shaw, centered around U St. Blues Alley in Georgetown is the city's most prestigious jazz club - the interior looks like it is from a Spike Lee movie - straight from the 1920s! There is a weekly $5 blues performance called Blue Monday Blues at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Waterfront and there is a weekly Saturday night jazz/swing band performance at Glen Echo Park in Potomac.
Go-go is a musical genre related to funk and early hip-hop that originated in D.C. in the 1960's. Go-go clubs were once probably D.C.'s most distinctive nightlife scene and were concentrated in Anacostia. Chuck Brown, “the Godfather of Go-Go,” lived in D.C. However, many clubs now refuse to host go-go bands due to the staggering number of stabbings and homicides that occurred at these events. If you're looking for live go-go, look for big outdoor events or head out to Takoma Station Tavern near Takoma Park, the only venue in D.C that still has regular go-go acts.
Things to know
D.C.'s culture is in no small part defined by a divide between black and white, native and transient, as well as cultural diversity from around the world.
According to the 2010 census, D.C.s population is 51% black, 39% white, and 9% Hispanic.
As a result of its large black population, D.C. has long been a national center of African-American, notably Ethiopian-American culture. Known as the "Chocolate City" due to its black heritage, it was the first black-majority city in the country, and until the 1920s (when it was surpassed by New York) D.C. was home to the largest black population of any city. The famous U Street inShaw was known as Black Broadway, with native Washingtonian Duke Ellington performing in the jazz clubs on this street. The District was long an attractive destination for African Americans leaving the South, as it was both nearby and a bastion of tolerance and progressivism in race relations. It was the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the first of the formerly-segregated U.S. cities to integrate its public schools in 1954. D.C. is also home to Howard University in Shaw, one of the nation's most important historically black colleges. The persisting influence of African American culture upon D.C.'s identity is obvious in the popular consciousness, the city government, local sports, popular and high culture, and, above all, the local intellectual and philosophical movements.
Compared to other American cities, relatively few residents are home-town natives, rather than transplants from elsewhere. According to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, only 37.3% of D.C. residents were born in D.C. The transient population is overwhelmingly professional, young, white, affluent, and highly educated—drawn to the city for its government-related work and booming economy. This is in stark contrast to the local African-American population, which has deep roots in the community, leading to socioeconomic diversity—some areas of the city rank among the nation's poorest, most alienated, and underprivileged, plagued with serious problems in the public schools and violent housing projects.
The sometimes uncomfortable blend of the semi-transient professional population and permanent residents is often the source of controversy, especially as D.C. has been experiencing a wave of neighborhood rebuilding and "gentrification." Young professionals with tight budgets and distaste for long daily commutes have, in recent years, been driven to move into poorer neighborhoods in search of low rent and easy access to city amenities. But while there is inevitably some conflict around neighborhood change, these changes have also created D.C.'s most diverse, culturally vibrant, and exciting neighborhoods—just walk up U St or 18th St in Shaw or Adams Morgan, and you'll see that it's not a vain hope that the city's various cultures can come together to create something greater.
D.C., and particularly the metro area beyond the city limits, is impressivelyinternational. In the immediate metro area a whopping one third of the population is foreign born. The biggest immigrant group is no doubt from Central America, mostly from El Salvador. Latino culture finds its home in the city in Columbia Heights—where you'll find all the various cultures of the city intermingling. D.C. also has a big African immigrant population, with an exceptionally large Ethiopian community (the second largest in the world after Addis Ababa), which has bestowed the city with a love for Ethiopian food, and which finds its urban center in D.C.'s own Little Ethiopia. The international culture extends well beyond the immigrant communities, though, to the big foreign professional population, as well as the brain drain of Americans from all around the country looking for work in the international relations field—D.C. is, simply put, the nation's most international town.
Local politics, and local anger at the relations between the city and the national government, are perhaps the glue that binds all Washingtonians together. The District of Columbia is under the ultimate control of the U.S. Congress. District residents are able to elect a Mayor as well as representatives to the D.C. Council, although Congress retains the right to overturn laws passed by the city. The city lacks representation in congress since the over 630,000 citizens residing here are not in one of the states of the union, although they have been granted electoral college votes for the presidential elections. District license plates bear the Revolutionary war slogan "Taxation Without Representation" as a contemporary reference to their lack of voting rights.
Smoking is banned within almost all enclosed public spaces, including shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Most, but not all, restaurants allow smoking in patio seating. If there are no ashtrays, ask for one to double check. Businesses relying principally on tobacco sales are exempt, so smoking is allowed in tobacco shops, cigar bars, and hookah bars.
The possession of up to 2 oz. of marijuana is legal, however the sale of marijuana by anyone except licensed dispensaries is illegal. Anyone must be 21 or older to consume or possess marijuana - it doesn't matter if its for recreational or medicinal reasons and the laws are strictly enforced. Consumption of marijuana in public is illegal and enforced; therefore, you should consume it only in private. It is illegal to smoke/consume marijuana on someone else's private property without their consent. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so you could still be under scrutiny. DO NOT bring marijuana out of D.C., or you will be charged under federal law.
Talking on your phone while driving carries a $100 fine, a rule that is strictly enforced within D.C. Hands-free devices are permitted to be used while driving, but if you get pulled over for another violation while using one, expect a hard line from the police, who are sick of dealing with accidents caused by distracted drivers.
When visiting federal buildings and museums, you will pass through metal detectors and have your bags inspected. Some buildings (such as courts, etc.) even ban mobile telephones and recording devices. Security personnel have no sense of humor. If you so much as utter the word "bomb," you will be in for a bad time. You give implied consent for your property and person to be searched when entering a government building or public event such as a concert or sports match.
- Washington Post. The Post is both one of the country's preeminent newspapers and a great source of information for what is going on in the city. The Going Out Guide section of its website has listings for virtually every known restaurant, bar, theatrical production, music concert, etc. in the city.
- Washington City Paper. The City Paper, an alternative weekly newspaper distributed on Thursdays, is easy to find around Metro stations and in hotels, and has a listings section in the back that serves as a good, quick reference for what live music, DJ events, theater, gallery openings, etc. will be going on over the weekend (and the following week). The calendar on their website is particularly handy. The cover story can give you a good taste of the sorts of issues actually on the minds of locals—well detached from the culture and priorities of the national politics features in the Post!
- Washingtonian Magazine highlights events in the city as well as dining recommendations.
- Where Magazine. "Where" is a monthly glossy geared towards tourists, and is a fantastic source of information on upcoming happenings, particularly useful for listing the current exhibitions in the city's museums in a convenient fashion (this information is often overlooked by journals tailored to locals, jaded and spoiled from living in a city full of free museums).
Safety in Washington, D.C.
The number of reported incidents of certain types of crime, but not all types of crime, within a certain proximity to any street address can be tracked on the DC Crime Map
The number of annual homicides has declined from 479 in 1991, when Washington was known as the "murder capital", to 105 in 2014. As a visitor, you are extremely unlikely to be victim of a homicide; the vast majority of homicide victims in the U.S. are acquainted with their murderer long before the crime. The majority of homicides occur in the less-traveled parts of the city, especially near public housing projects.
Muggings and robberies
Muggings are a problem in the nightlife-centered neighborhoods of Shaw, Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights, and Near Northeast and the area around the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. However, visitors should not avoid these areas—on the contrary, it would be a shame to miss out on them—but visitors should be vigilant. In particular, avoid walking at night on side streets—stick to the well-lit main commercial strips, travel in groups, and maintain a basic level of sobriety.
Be extra vigilant with your mobile phones; they are a very popular snatch-and-grab item around the Metro stations and on the trains.
For health emergencies, George Washington University Hospital is on Washington Circle in Foggy Bottom, adjacent to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. This is where former Vice President Dick Cheney went in 2004 for his irregular heartbeat, and where the President would go in event of a medical emergency. Other hospitals in the city include Howard University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, and the Children's National Medical Center.