Washington, D.C.

Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States Washington, D.C.



Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

© Utrecht

Washington, D.C. is America's capital city, and in addition to being the center of the country's politics, it is also home to a large number of significant cultural institutions, memorials and historic monuments. The city lies on the banks of the Potomac River, between Virginia and Maryland, on the east coast of the US. The city was built in the 18th century to serve as the national capital and lies within its own federal district, the District of Columbia (D.C.).




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 you haven't really been to D.C. until you've been out and about the city.

For travellers, Washington, D.C. can be divided into 4 main areas:

  • Downtown (The National Mall, East End, West End, Waterfront) - 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.
  • North Central (Dupont Circle, Shaw, Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights) - 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, Meridian Hill Park, U Street, and lots of nice hotels.
  • West (Georgetown, Upper Northwest) - 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.
  • East (Capitol Hill, Northeast, Anacostia) - 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.

Foggy Bottom

One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Washington, the Foggy Bottom neighbourhood encompasses the areas roughly in between 17th Street/White House (east) and Rock Creek Park (west), and Pennsylvania Avenue (north) and Constitution Avenue (south). The George Washington University main campus, the DAR Constitution Hall, numerous embassies, the American Red Cross National Headquarters, the Watergate complex, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Federal Government (including the Old and New Executive Office Buildings and Department of the Interior) are some of the notable occupants of Foggy Bottom. The George Washington University in particular has grown in the last decade, and has come to dominate much of the neighborhood, although numerous old and historic townhouses and residences still remain. The neighbourhood is served by several bus routes, and a Metro stop on the Blue and Orange lines (called Foggy Bottom-GWU).



Sights and Activities

The White House

The building on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the residence of every American president since John Adams. While the White House was completed in 1800, it was already expanded a year later. In 1814 the White House burned down during the War of 1812, when it was burned by the British Army. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe could move into a partially reconstructed house in October 1817.

White House

White House

© Darell

Over the year's many additions were made to the building, including the famous oval office. Tours of the White House are available for American citizens, which can be requested up to six months in advance, at his or hers member of Congress. Non-Americans have to make a request at their embassy, which can help to request a tour.

The Mall

The Washington D.C. Mall is one of the most amazing sights in city. In this wonderful park located in the heart of Washington, D.C. is home to several amazing sights. Some of these sights are the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and several of the of Washington D.C.'s finest museums are located around the edge of the mall. If anything the mall is just nice green space in the heart of the city.

The Lincoln Memorial

The first plans for the memorial date back to 1867 when a commission was formed to work out plans for a memorail in honour of Abraham Lincoln, but the build was not commissioned until 1911, as a suitable piece of land couldn't be found before 1902. The first stone of the memorial was layed on February 12, 1914, the birthday of the President. While Henry Bacon worked on the memorial, Daniel Chester. French designed the statue of Lincoln, which would become the center piece of the memorial. The statue is made from white marble, that was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers in New York, and looks towards the relecting pool and the Washington monument in the distance.

Other Memorials and Monuments

The Lincoln Memorial is just one of many memorials in Washington, D.C. and most are located at the western half of The Mall and around the Tidal Basin, south of The Mall. The biggest and nicest are the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, The Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, The Korean War Veterans Memorial, The World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Other smaller ones are about the relationship with Japan (in the form of a pagoda) and the Albert Einstein monument/statue.

The Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Cemetery

The Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Cemetery

© Vic_IV

  • Capitol Building - together with The White House probably one of the most famous buildings in the city and still one of the most beautiful and characteristic ones. It marks the eastern end of The Mall, 3 kilometres from the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Arlington National Cemetery is one of the nicest national cemeteries in the country and the changing of the guard can be very moving. There is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as John F. Kennedy's grave, but walking around all the other graves is probably just as nice and much more relaxed and less crowded.

The Smithsonian Institutions

Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral

© Utrecht

Other Museums

Gardens, Farmers Markets and Wineries

Do something different in Washington, D.C. Visit historical and contemporary gardens, farmers markets and even wineries are within driving distance of the city. Have a look at the Mycapitalgardens USA website for more information.



Events and Festivals


  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.


  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Passport DC - This annual event hopes to offer visitors the sensation that they've traveled around the world without leaving Washington, D.C. Featuring exhibits from over 40 worldwide embassies, this event will feature a European festival, an Asian cultural festival, children's events, and much more. This will be a great family event and a wonderful learning experience for all.
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival - - One of the more famous festivals or events in Washington, D.C., the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held every spring in Washington, D.C. The festival dates vary slightly every year because the event is planned as close to the Peak Bloom Date as possible, which is highly dependent on weather that refuses to conform to any sort of scheduling. For the dates of the current year's Festival, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival homepage. The festival is a celebration of the original 1912 gift from Japan to the United States of more than 3,000 cherry trees as a show of friendship. Activities are held throughout the city, but the main events take place on the Mall, and around the Tidal Basin, where you can see most of the trees. Many of the events showcase Japanese culture, and if you're interested in learning more about the trees themselves, you can partake in tours led by the National Park Service. The festivities culminate in the National Cherry Blossom Parade, which travels down Constitution Avenue with floats, local and international clubs and organizations, and lots of marching bands. Plan ahead if you're traveling to Washignton, D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and be prepared for any kind of weather. Spring in Washington, D.C. can bring one day of sun and 25 °C weather, followed up by a day of wind, rain, and temperatures in the 5 °C-10 °C range.
  • Capitol Pride - The Capitol Pride event is the 4th-largest GLBT event in the country. This festival is a nine-day celebration of love, diversity, and civil rights advocacy for the GLBT community. This event is held every year in May/June.
  • National Capital Barbecue Battle - Voted as one of the top food events in the country, this BBQ event is full of food, fun, and tons of barbecue! Popular BBQ restaurants from all around the country flock to this event to showcase their culinary skills. Visitors can expect to sample many different kinds of BBQ; cooking demonstrations and some cooking classes will also be available. The highlight of the event is the great BBQ battle, where chefs compete for the winning title.
  • Independence Day (04 Jul 2013) - One of the best Independence Day celebrations occurs rightfully in the heart of the nation's capitol. Known for its dynamic parade, with incredible marching bands and great displays of patriotism. Popular music artists are invited to perform during this event, and visitors can choose from an array of music concerts held throughout the day. In the evening is the finale event, where a beautiful fireworks display takes over the night sky.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

© Utrecht




Washington is in the humid subtropical climate zone and exhibits four distinct seasons. Its climate is typical of Mid-Atlantic U.S. areas removed from bodies of water. Spring and fall are warm, while winter is cool with annual snowfall averaging 39 cm. Winter temperatures average around 3.3 °C from mid-December to mid-February. Summers are hot and humid with a July daily average of 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 41 °C on July 20, 1930, and August 6, 1918,] while the lowest recorded temperature was -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 32 °C and 64 nights at or below freezing.

Avg Max5.7 °C7.7 °C13.6 °C19.3 °C24.6 °C29.3 °C31.4 °C30.5 °C26.7 °C20.6 °C14.6 °C8.3 °C
Avg Min-2.9 °C-1.6 °C3.2 °C8 °C13.7 °C19.2 °C21.9 °C21.1 °C16.9 °C10.2 °C5.1 °C-0.2 °C
Rainfall69.1 mm68.8 mm80.5 mm68.8 mm93 mm85.9 mm96.5 mm99.3 mm84.1 mm76.7 mm79.2 mm79.2 mm
Rain Days7.87.387.



Getting There

By Plane

There are three major airports that serve the Baltimore-Washington Area. Getting from each of these airports into town is a mixed bag. They all have the standard taxi, shuttle services and rental cars. Public transportation on the other hand is lacking.

1. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) - This airport is located 25 miles (40 kilometres) west of Washington, D.C., in Dulles, Virginia. United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and American Airlines are the main airlines in this airport.

To/from Dulles Airport

  • Washington Dulles Airport is served by a private bus company that picks you up at the terminal and drops you off at a Metro station in DC. For a cheaper option, one can take the Metro Bus, which runs on a slightly longer schedule, every hour or so. This 5A express bus makes two to three stops on its way from the airport to downtown Washington, depending on the time of day. Stops include the Herndon–Monroe transfer station in Herndon and the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington.
  • Loudoun County Transit provides bus service which runs from the Dulles Town Center shopping center, to the airport, then to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum.
  • Taxis, shuttles and rental cars are widely available and byc ar Dulles is accessible via the Dulles Access Road/Dulles Greenway (State Route 267) and State Route 28.

2. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) - This airport is located three miles (5 kilometres) south of Washington, D.C. in Arlington County, Virginia. US Airways is the carrier with the most flights across the country.

To/from Ronald Reagan Airport

  • Rail: The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metro station is located on an elevated outdoor platform (with a canopy) connected to the concourse level of Terminals B and C, and offers service to the Yellow and Blue lines.
  • Bus: Metrobus provides service on weekend mornings before the Metrorail station opens. Door-to-door service is available from several providers.
  • Car: Taxis from DCA to Virginia are metered. Taxis from DCA to the District of Columbia now run on a metered system as well. DCA is located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and connected to U.S. Route 1 by the Airport Viaduct (State Route 233). Interstate 395 is just north of DCA, and is accessible by the G.W. Parkway and U.S. Route 1. There are numerous car rental facilities and parking places at the airport as well.

3. Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) - Located 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Baltimore and 30 miles (48 kilometres) north of Washington, D.C., this airport's main carriers are Southwest Airlines and US Airways.

To/from Baltimore-Washington Airport

  • Rail: The airport's station is located about a mile from the airport terminal; a free shuttle bus connects the train station and airport terminals. The station is served by Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains and, on weekdays, by the MARC Penn Line. Travel time by train is about 10 minutes to Baltimore's Penn Station and 35 minutes to Union Station in Washington, D.C. Trains depart at least once an hour seven days a week, with departure times during rush hours and business hours being significantly more frequent. The Maryland Transit Administration's Light Rail line has a stop just outside the entrance to the airport's International Terminal. Passengers can take the Light Rail to a variety of destinations in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County, and can transfer to the Metro Subway in Baltimore. A ride downtown takes approximately 30 minutes. Trains run every 20 minutes during peak hours, and 30 minutes all other times.
  • Bus: Bus service between the airport and the Greenbelt station of the Washington Metro and MARC Camden Line is provided by WMATA's Metrobus on Route B30 every 40 minutes 6:00am-10:00pm weekdays and 9:00am-10:00pm on weekends. The Maryland Transit Administration's Bus Route 17 serves the airport 24/7. During the hours when the Light Rail operates, buses operate to the Patapsco Light Rail Stop. When the Light Rail is not in service, buses operate to Downtown Baltimore. Howard Transit's Silver route operates between BWI and The Mall in Columbia hourly at most times except overnight. Annapolis Transit's Route C-60 operates between the airport and Annapolis.
  • Car: parking places, rental car facilities and plenty of taxis are available at the Baltimore-Washington Airport.

By Train

Amtrak runs many regularly scheduled trains from Washington, DC to Boston, Chicago and many other cities. The trains are:

  • The Acela Express between Washington and Boston.
  • The Capitol Limited between Washington and Chicago, via Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
  • The Cardinal/Hoosier State between Washington and New York and Washington and Chicago, via Cincinatti and Indianapolis.
  • The Carolinian/Piedmont between Washington and New York and Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • The Crescent from New York via Washington to Atlanta and New Orleans.
  • The Northeast Regional between Boston and Newport News, via New York and Washington DC.
  • The Silver Service/Palmetto between New York and Tampa/Miami, stopping in Washington DC, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville.
  • The Vermonter between Washington DC and St. Albans, Vermont, via New York City.

By Car

Washington, D.C. is primarily served by the coastal superhighway, I-95 from Baltimore or Greyhound runs regular bus between all the major cities. Many other bus companies offer services throughout the Northeast of the USA, including Peter Pan Buses, Megabus, BoltBus, DC2NY, Tripper Bus and Vamoose Bus. There exist on the East Coast a system commonly referred to as the 'Chinatown Bus'. These buses are run by several companies, some use old retired buses, other brand new ones. Tickets go from $10 to $20 roundtrip between Washington, D.C. Chinatown to New York, with an optional stop in Baltimore.

By Boat

There are no official public connections, though there are some boats plying the Potomac River south towards Mount Vernon, and also between the waterfront and Georgetown to the northwest.



Getting Around

By Car

Driving and parking in Washington, D.C. can be hectic and difficult. 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, 6:00-10:00am and 4:00-8:00pm), 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 and towed!

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Washington Metro Station

Washington Metro Station

© Utrecht

The public transportation system in the District consists of the Metrorail and Metrobus (see the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), and the DC Circulator. These, along with several regional transit systems, such as MARC, VRE, ART, CUE, DASH, and Fairfax Connector, serve Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas of Virginia and Maryland. While the Metrorail and Metrobus serve stations both inside and outside of the District, most of the regional systems listed above do not serve the District itself. Rather, they connect to the Metro system at various points in Virginia and Maryland.

By Foot

Much of Washington, D.C. can easily be navigate on foot, with the occassional metroride for slightly longer distances or across the river into Virginia. 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. Complicating the grid are 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.

By Bike

Cycling is an increasingly popular form of transportation among Washington, D.C. residents. Bicycling has become a great way for tourists to visit Washington, D.C.'s neighbourhoods as well. Washington, D.C. also became the first city in North America to start a bike-sharing service. That pilot program was replaced in 2010 by the new Capital Bikeshare network, which has over 1,100 bicycles available at more than 100 stations across the entire city and in neighboring Arlington, Virginia. Visitors may use the service for $7/day or $15 for 3 days, payable by using a credit card at the automated kiosks attached to every Capital Bikeshare station.




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 $250.

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, and this is one of the best places in the world to try the cuisine. 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 D.C.'s own Little Ethiopia.

Despite featuring cuisines from all over the world, D.C. seems to lack a cuisine of its own. The city, realizing this, went through a brief period of soul-searching, wondering why it lacked any unique regional culinary traditions, and realized that it indeed has one: the D.C. hot dog stand. They are common around the National Mall, and they sell the unique-to-D.C. smoked half-beef, half-pork sausages appropriately named half-smokes. They have a firm "snap" when you bite into one, are served on a hot dog bun, and are often topped with chili. Most hot dog vendors are mere shells of the half-smoke greatness served out of WWII-era aluminum shacks. If you want a true, quality half-smoke, you should visit Ben's Chili Bowl in Shaw.

Cupcake fever has hit D.C., fueled by tourists lured by TV shows such as Cupcake Wars and DC Cupcakes. The subject of the latter show, Georgetown Cupcakes, sometimes has lines running around the block. Other cupcakeries that do not have their own TV shows, however, easily give Georgetown Cupcakes a run for their money in terms of quality. If you're in Georgetown and not up to the lines, try the delicious Baked & Wired, Red Velvet Cupcakery, or LA transplant Sprinkles instead.

Ben's Chili Bowl

  • Ben's Chili Bowl - - A Washington institution since 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl, located in the U Street corridor, is one of those places that makes a trip to Washington, D.C. complete. A landmark of African American history in DC, Ben's Chili Bowl has hosted the likes of Bill Cosby, Martin Luther King, Jr., sitting Presidents Clinton and Obama, as well as decades of Jazz luminaries like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Cab Calloway. Occupying a space once dedicated to the arts (Minnehaha Theatre), Ben's walls are filled with memorabilia of their decades and decades of service. Plus, the food is good. Ben's serves up chili (obviously), but also fantastic burgers, hot dogs, half smokes, a few vegetarian options, and even a breakfast menu.




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. 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. 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.

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. Arena Stage and Pearl Street Warehouse in Waterfront also bring in internationally-known acts. 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. The Villain & Saint hosts local jazz and rock bands. It is also just outside the city in Bethesda, Maryland (Red line to Bethesda Station).

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.




Hotels of all classes and price ranges can be found in many neighborhoods of D.C., as well as in the nearby suburbs. If you are coming by car, be sure to factor the cost of parking, which can be free in hotels outside the city limits but can cost over $35 per day in hotels in the downtown area. The hotel tax in D.C. is 14.5%, while the tax is 13.0% in the nearby suburbs of Arlington and Bethesda, and 12.00% in Tysons Corner, Reston, and most of Herndon. Hotels in the D.C.-area are generally most expensive on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, when business travel reaches its peak, and cheapest on the weekend.

The hotels of the East End, the business-centric West End, and the charming boutique hotels of Georgetown are the most popular accommodation options due to their proximity to the tourist attractions and top dining spots. If booking in these areas, be aware that the West End mainly consists of office buildings and is generally dead after dark, and Georgetown is not accessible by Metrorail, although it is easy to travel to/from Georgetown by bus or a ride-hailing service.

Better bargains may be had in the nightlife-centered districts of Dupont Circle, Shaw, Near Northeast, and Capitol Hill, all of which are a short metro or bus ride to, or, when the weather is nice, a nice walk to, the National Mall. These areas may actually be preferable because their nightlife options make a late night out more convenient. Moreover, it is easier to find street parking on the weekend.

There are also many hotels of all classes located close to metro stations just outside the city limits in Arlington and Alexandria, Bethesda, and Silver Spring. If you are flying into or out of Dulles Airport, you may want to look into hotels in the nearby areas of Tysons Corner, Reston, or Herndon, although the ride to D.C. via public transport can take up to an hour. These hotels are generally much cheaper than hotels in D.C., especially on the weekends.

  • Hostelling International Washington DC, 1009 11th St NW (between K St & L St), ☎ +1 202 737-2333. The building is old and somewhat dingy-looking from the outside, but inside it's clean and in good shape. Nice kitchen and a comfy common room. Great service. Dorm bed: $29-49, breakfast included.
  • Hotel Harrington, 1100 E St NW, ☎ +1 202 628-8140. Odd to see such a cheap hotel next to the Mall! It's not clear how they've managed to maintain this old clunker here in such a high-value real estate zone for so long, but if you don't mind your hotel looking a little older and shabby, this is a great budget option. From $135.
  • Hampton Inn - Washington DC Convention Center, 901 6th St NW (between Massachusetts Ave & K St), ☎ +1 202 842-2500. Average location of an average hotel chain, with average prices, and slightly above average continental breakfast. Small indoor pool, jacuzzi, fitness center, free coffee in lobby. From $180.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Washington, DC/Downtown, 500 H St NW, ☎ +1 202 289-5959. Next to the Capital One Arena. From $130.
  • Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 638-5200. A nice, small, historic, non-chain hotel amidst the big chain monsters. Its amenities are fewer, but its charm obviously greater. Free WiFi. From $160.
  • Marriott Courtyard Washington Convention Center, 900 F St NW, ☎ +1 202 638-4600. This location caters more to business travelers than the other options in the area. Free lobby coffee, 24 hr fitness center, small pool, & jacuzzi. Rooms are a little small. Make sure you get a good deal, otherwise consider one of the two other more upscale Marriotts also in the neighborhood. From $169.
  • Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th St NW (between G St & H St), ☎ +1 202 737-2200. Nice lobby, large rooms, a really good gym, and a small pool + jacuzzi. From $189.
  • Renaissance by Marriott Washington, DC Downtown, 999 9th St NW, ☎ +1 202 898-9000. From $179.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Washington, DC Downtown, 1199 Vermont Ave NW (At 14th St & L St NW), ☎ +1 202 898-1100. Features suites with pull-out sofas, and desks with ergonomic chairs. Breakfast is included daily and a basic dinner is also included on some nights. From $179.
  • Grand Hyatt Washington, 1000 H St NW, ☎ +1 202 582-1234. Full-service business center, 32 meeting rooms, in-lobby Metro Center access, and a nice fitness center are the pluses. A rather absurd downside, though, is that they make you pay to use their gym. Another hotel that you should only use if you get a good deal. From $290.
  • JW Marriott Washington, DC, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 393-2000. From $199.
  • Hotel Monaco by Kimpton, 700 F St NW, ☎ +1 202 628-7177. Kimpton hotels are almost always lovely, and this one benefits from its location in a grand old nineteenth century building (though this means the halls are a bit old), weirdly mixed with very modern decor. Huge pool and jacuzzi. Free wine-cocktails hour. And don't forget to request your free in-room goldfish! From $279.
  • The Morrison-Clark Inn, 1015 L St NW, ☎ +1 202 989-1200. An independent hotel with a little Southern flair in a Civil War-era mansion. As you would expect, the amenities cannot quite compete with the Hotel Monaco, but this is a charming, unique place to stay, and a good spot to sip a mint julep on the porch. From $210.
  • Trump International Hotel Washington DC, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, ☎ +1 202 695-1100. Luxury accommodation with great views in the 3rd tallest building in the city.

View our map of accommodation in Washington, D.C.




Certain career fields find a natural home in D.C. While everyone knows that this is where politicians go, you can also find a fair share of diplomats, lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, defense contractors, and civil servants. Good fields for international visitors to pursue include the various NGOs, national lobbying groups, and for the select few, embassies and consulates. Many ambitious young people come to Washington for internships, and the huge student-aged population peaks in the summer.

With so many high-powered career types out to change the world, the need for child care is obvious. Nannies and au pairs, mostly placed through agencies, provide child care to many of Washington's elite; the city has the highest proportion of in-home childcare in the country. U.S. citizen nannies are especially sought after as government types carefully follow employment law to avoid problems with security clearances or negative publicity. Wages for legal U.S. residents with experience can top $800 per week, room and board included.




Keep Connected


There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.


See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.


The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.



  1. 1 Mid-2008 estimate, U.S. Census Bureau

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 38.892091
  • Longitude: -77.024055

Accommodation in Washington, D.C.

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Washington, D.C. searchable right here on Travellerspoint.


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Washington, D.C. Travel Helpers

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