Washington, DC, is much more than the capital of the USA. The city offers something for almost everyone, from history and museum lovers to fine dining, exciting nightlife, and wide-open parks.
A city of over 700,000 people, Washington sits on the east bank of the Potomac River and was named for founding father, George Washington. Washington DC tourism attracted over 21 million visitors annually to sights like the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the National Mall.
When to go
When to go Most tourists visit Washington, DC, between September and November or March and May for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washington summers are hot and humid, but the heat dissipates by fall. If you love fall foliage and fewer crowds, autumn is an ideal time to visit DC. Winter is the low season, but freezing temperatures and snow storms are common.
The closest airport to Washington, DC, is the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), located across the Potomac River in Virginia. DC is a 15-minute ride away, and the DC Metro Yellow and Blue Lines connect to the airport.
Other airports in the Washington, DC, area include Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). The Washington Dulles is only 26 miles west of DC and offers Metro connections. Further out, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) connects to Washington through Amtrak and the MARC train systems.
Things to do in Washington, DC
Washington, DC tourism tends to focus on the major attractions: the White House, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Lincoln, Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials. While these attractions are well worth visiting, the experienced traveler knows there’s much more to the city:
- Constitution Gardens is a 50-acre park. Signers Island sits in the middle of the lake, with a memorial to the 56 original signatories of the Declaration of Independence.
- Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens combines 13 acres of formal landscaping with Marjorie Merriweather Post’s extensive French and Russian art collection.
- Looking for fun things to do in Washington, DC, with kids? Inside Ski lets kids experience skiing on a large, water-coated treadmill.
- Smokey the Bear’s office at the US Forest Service Headquarters boasts interactive forest service maps, an indoor mini-forest, and a chance to meet Smokey himself.
- Take a trip to a more violet time at the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds in Colmar Manor, just outside of DC. The park was notorious for duels until the beginning of the Civil War.
- The Folger Shakespeare Library is a must for literary lovers. Check out the great hall's ceiling for stunning depictions of animals and mythological beasts.
- The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum celebrates the creative and scientific geniuses responsible for groundbreaking technological and scientific marvels.
Where to Stay When Visiting Washington DC
The best area to stay in Washington, DC, depends on your budget and what you want to do. Downtown and Capitol Hill offer easy access to attractions, restaurants, and nightlife if you prefer more budget-friendly accommodations, book hotels or Airbnb’s just outside the city.
How to get around DC
You can rent a car to explore DC, but Washington’s DC Circulator Bus and Metro lines will get you anywhere you want to go -- so why bother? The city is designed for walking, especially around the National Mall, and you can use taxis and ride apps for longer distances.
Where and what to eat
No matter what type of food you crave, DC provides it. The city is known for its Ethiopian restaurants. Seafood and oysters are popular. Consider these:
- The Wharf is home to a wide selection of fine dining, cozy cafes, and take-out food.
- The DC Half-Smoke is a local favorite: a beef and ground pork sausage served on a soft bun and slathered in cheese, onions, or chili.
- Allegory is a hidden bar behind an unmarked door in the Eaton Hotel. Enjoy cocktails inspired by famous books and irresistible bar snacks.
- Hank’s Oyster Bar serves some of the city’s best oysters in the capital alongside top-shelf whiskey and gin.
- Shagga is a multi-generational restaurant specializing in traditional Ethiopian food.
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