What better way to experience American history and culture up close than with a visit to the heart of the United States Government? Washington, District of Columbia is the capital of the United States and is steeped in history. In its inception, the states of Maryland and Virginia both donated land to form the district which would become home to all branches of the United States government along with a plethora of notable monuments and museums ripe for exploration.
Being such an important place, it isn't a surprise that it is largely accessible. The District can be accessed easily from three major international airports in the region along with a major rail and bus hub located at Washington Union Station.
This is tough to answer because there are sacrifices to be made no matter when you visit. The honest best time to visit is in the winter. Not only is airfare cheaper, you will have a much better time not fighting the crowds that exist in the other seasons. But the crowds aren't there for a reason, D.C. is susceptible to bone-chilling and humid winter weather. Spring calls for the Cherry Blossom Festival (a must see) and summer calls for busloads of field trips (a must avoid). If you can brave the cold, come in the winter!
D.C. has a decently comprehensive (albeit expensive and unreliable) metro system. I find it best to load $10 or so on a Metrocard and refill it as I use it. It's very rare that purchasing a ride pass be worthwhile.
The city is largely a walking city so expect to do your fair share of that. An excellent way to get around the sights is by bike. There is extensive docked and dockless bikeshares all around the city. Pick up a bike from one location and leave it at your destination when you arrive. Cheap, fast, and convenient.
The District has become a hip and urban city with many unique neighborhoods and suburbs. But we will delve into that in a later post. If you have never visited, you must visit the "touristy" areas and experience the rich history that the city has to offer.
To do a walking or biking tour of the monuments, I recommend starting near Smithsonian Castle and work your way down and around Tidal Basin ending near the White House. In case that doesn't make any sense, here's a handy map I created with the highlights that you must see.
What's better than more free stuff? If you are United States citizen, the office of your local representative can arrange various tours on your group's behalf. Make sure you request these tours way in advance as tours like the White House and the Pentagon require prior security screening and others fill up fast. You can also book some of these tours yourself. Tour the Capitol, the Pentagon, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Supreme Court, National Cathedral, Library of Congress. Be sure to make a visit to the National Archives!
Be sure to check out Arlington National Cemetery while you are in the area. Being in such a somber place where so many of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice is chilling.
In addition, D.C. is a short hop away from wonderful natural features like Great Falls and Shenandoah National Park. If you exhaust everything within The District, head on out to connect with nature!
There are many great places to eat in D.C. from all types of cuisine. Some of my favorite restaurants are Ted's Bulletin, Far East Taco, b DC Penn Quarter, A Baked Joint, and Founding Farmers.During the week, check out a great and affordable lunch at the USDA South Cafeteria building.
There is seemingly endless things to see and do in and around the District of Columbia. From beautiful monuments etched in history to the many museums, there is something for everyone to see and do!