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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.

 
The United States Capitol building as seen from the Library of Congress
 

Getting to Washington, D.C.

 
The National Mall as seen from above from an airplane window
 

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.

  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) - Arlington, VA is about 3 miles south of  downtown D.C. and is the only airport of the three currently accessible by Metro. Take the yellow line towards  Mt. Vernon Square/7th. Street Convention Center or the blue line towards Largo Town Center to make it downtown.
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) - a little further away, Dulles serves more international routes than DCA. Getting to D.C. will require either a bus ride (5A) into the city or the Silver Line Express bus to be brought to the Wiehle-Reston silver line Metro stop. This line will eventually serve the airport itself.
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) - commuter trains bring passengers into the heart of DC. Take the free airport shuttle at curbside ground transportation to Amtrak/commuter trains where you can purchase the next ticket into Union Station.

When to Visit Washington, D.C.

 
 

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!

Getting around Washington, D.C.

 
Marine One as seen from above the National Mall
 

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.

What to do in Washington, D.C.

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.

Washington, D.C. monuments

 
 

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.

 

 

Washington, D.C. museums

 
 

There are many free Smithsonian museums in and around D.C. on various subjects. We've all seen Night at the Museum right? Here's another handy map to help you navigate the museums. You won't be able to do them in one visit, but did I mention they are free?

 

 

Washington, D.C. Tours

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 PentagonBureau of Engraving and Printing, Supreme Court, National Cathedral, Library of Congress. Be sure to make a visit to the National Archives!

Other Washington, D.C. Area Attractions

 
 

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!

What to eat in Washington, D.C.

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 QuarterA 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!

Chris Fluitt
Chris Fluitt
I am an all around tech guy, a graphic designer and programmer, a car enthusiast, and a coffee and beer lover. When I'm not behind the keyboard I am probably exploring a national park.

2 Comments

  1. Darwin says:

    This is actually useful, thanks.
    Darwin recently posted…DarwinMy Profile

  2. Alva says:

    Thanks to the wonderful guide!
    Alva recently posted…AlvaMy Profile

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