- Home to the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court, as well as the National Mall – a beautiful collection of monuments
- Parts of the city date back to 1751
- DC has 3 electoral votes but only a non-voting Congressperson and no Senator
Metro population: 6.1 million (#6 in U.S.)
When To Visit: Year-round. If possible, go during the Cherry Blossom bloom in March/April (exact dates vary each year).
Climate: Seasonal – with a hot summer, cold winter with some snow, and cool to warm spring and fall. Precipitation and humidity are fairly frequent throughout the year.
More than just the nation’s capital, Washington DC is a cultural masterpiece – with dozens of free museums, incredible and diverse cuisine, and hundreds upon thousands of stunning homes and buildings dating back to the 19th century. While you’d be remiss not to enjoy some tourist sites, be sure to put your travel guide down and spend some time in one of the many cool neighborhoods frequented by locals.
Photo: National Archives
Where To Go in DC
The epicenter of American politics, this historic neighborhood hosts three of DC’s most important landmarks.
U.S. Capitol: If Congress is in session, you won’t get to see the House or Senate floors, but you can see the ornately decorated interior of this iconic building, including a creepy below-ground crypt. Free tours should be reserved far in advance. Free. (202) 226-8000
Library of Congress: The largest library in the world, the Library of Congress has stunning architecture and rotating exhibits. Be sure to walk up to the reading room overlook for the best view. You can explore on your own or free tours are available. Free. 101 Independence Avenue SE. (202) 707-5000
Supreme Court: The headquarters of the judiciary branch, this grand neoclassical building was completed in 1935. You can gaze in awe at its spiral staircases and sneak a peek into the room where the nine justices sit. You can explore on your own for free or complimentary Courtroom Lecture tours are offered. Free. (202) 479-3000
The National Park Service administers this large park and is undoubtedly home to a greater concentration of tourist attractions (including dozens of free museums and monuments) than anywhere else in the country.
Smithsonian Castle: This visitor center is a great place to start and plan out your day on the National Mall. The 19th century architecture is worth the stop on its own. Free. 1000 Jefferson Drive SW. (202) 633-1000
National Archives Building: There’s some serious history in this museum, which has the original Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Magna Carta. There are additional great exhibits on American history. Free. 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. (866) 272-6272
National Gallery of Art: One of the grandest art museums in the country, the National Gallery of Art has rotating exhibits with a variety of themes and a Sculpture Garden. Free. 6th & Constitution Avenue NW. (202) 737-4215
National Museum of American History: History buff or not, you’ll find something to enjoy in this huge three-story ode to our country’s past. There’s hundreds of artifacts – ranging from every First Lady’s inauguration dress to ancient coins. Free. (202) 633-1000
The White House: If you plan ahead, you can reserve a tour on your congressperson’s website (there’s a background check process involved); if not, simply walk up and enjoy a view of the most famous home in America. Free. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. (202) 456-1111
Washington Monument: The elevator to the top of this super tall, thin landmark is currently under construction, but you can’t leave DC without taking a moment to appreciate a view of this special place. Free. 2 15th Street NW. (202) 426-6841
Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool: The jaw-dropping 2,000 foot long Reflecting Pool leads directly to the Lincoln Memorial and features several powerful war memorials. The Lincoln Memorial is a DC must-see, with an incredible statue of a seated Lincoln and great views of the National Mall. Free. 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle CW. (202) 426-6841
Starting from the Lincoln Memorial, you can take a delightful loop walk around the Tidal Basin, which is surrounded by the following three memorials. This is the ideal place to see Cherry Blossoms in their short blooming period (usually around March-April).
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: I often hear this referenced as people’s favorite monument, which is not surprising considering the beautiful white granite Stone of Hope MLK statue and dozens of inspiring and thought-provoking quotes carved onto the wall. Free. 1964 Independence Avenue SW. (202) 426-6841
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial: Built in 1997, this tranquil memorial features stones engraved with classic FDR quotes, a peaceful waterfall, and plaques highlighting some of this influential four-term President’s accomplishments. Free. 1850 West Basin Drive SW. (202) 426-6841
Thomas Jefferson Memorial: This dome-shaped monument was modeled after Rome’s Parthenon and is a classic can’t-miss DC landmark. 701 East Basin Drive SW. (202) 426-6841
This upscale neighborhood is the oldest in DC and has colorful old homes and a large bustling shopping district.
Georgetown University: Take a walk through this prestigious college’s stunning campus overlooking the Potomac River. Don’t miss National Historic Landmark Healy Hall, which dates back to 1877. Free. 3700 O Street NW. (202) 687-0100
Dupont Circle & Logan Circle
These neighborhoods centered around tranquil tree-lined traffic circles are popular among locals and host some of DC’s most unique eats and nightlife.
Washington National Cathedral: This stunning Neo-Gothic church is the 2nd largest in the country and 6th largest in the world. The architecture is reminiscent of Europe’s grandest cathedrals. 3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW. (202) 537-6200
DC Cheap Eats
Washington DC restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.
Keren Restaurant: There’s usually a line out the door for this incredible Eritrean/Ethiopian eatery because of its amazingly high quality food for low prices. Order a combo with an entree and a series of veggie dishes – everything they serve is packed with delicious flavor. 1780 Florida Avenue NW, Dupont Circle. (202) 265-5764
El Tamarindo: This Salvadoran/Mexican restaurant is famous for their $2.50 pupusas (choose from 8 fillings) and $3 tamales (I recommend the corn tamale). It’s a very homey and fun vibe inside. 1785 Florida Avenue NW, Adams/Morgan. (202) 328-3660
Bullfrog Bagels: Whether you want a simple bagel or a creative breakfast sandwich, this casual breakfast spot will serve you great food real quick. Try their bialy, a Polish roll that many say is much better than a bagel. 317 7th Street SE, Capitol Hill. (202) 494-2609
Beefsteak: This ironically named (mostly :() vegan restaurant has three locations in DC and a variety of veggie bowls and sandwiches at delightfully low prices (almost everything is under $10). 800 22nd Street NW, Foggy Bottom. (202) 296-1421
Florida Avenue Grill: Super cheap, super hearty soul food is the draw to this longtime favorite spot for locals which has been around since 1944. Most of their large all-day breakfast plates are under $10 and they have a great dinner menu as well. 1100 Florida Avenue NW, Columbia Heights. (202) 265-1586
Sundevich: Each sandwich on this deli’s menu pays homage to the cuisine of a different world city in a creative way. There’s limited seating so you may have to enjoy your meal on the street. 1314 9th Street NW, Shaw. (202) 319-1086
Baked & Wired: Georgetown is home to several cupcake shops, but this spot off the main grid is probably the best. Their rotating menu is sure to have a few things you’ve never tried on a cupcake before. Expect at least a 15-30 minute wait on weekends. 1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Georgetown. (703) 663-8727
Washington DC bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view
Off The Record: This old-school swanky bar in the Hay-Adams Hotel was named one of the world’s best hotel bars and is a great place to spot politicians. Their coasters feature fun political caricatures. 800 16th Street NW, Downtown. (202) 638-6600
The Fireplace: A classy gay bar with stone floors, lots of seating, and cheap drinks. 2161 P Street NW, Dupont Circle. (202) 293-1293
Little Miss Whiskey’s: A self-described “lousy bar for rotten people,” this bar has creepy purple lighting, New Orleans decor, and a small dancefloor. 1104 H Street NE, Atlas District. (202) 555-1212
Dodge City: A fun, casual two-level bar that’s great for dancing and has an R&B/soul room on the weekends. 917 U Street NW, Shaw. (202) 588-9080
Black Jack: A lively bar with creative twists on cocktails and a large food menu that even has a bocce court. 1612 14th Street NW, Logan Circle. (202) 986-5225
Marvin: This lounge pays tribute to Marvin Gaye and has old-school/hipster decor with a great rooftop patio. 2007 14th Street NW, Shaw. (202) 797-7171
Rock & Roll Hotel: This former funeral parlor is now of the best places to dance in DC. There’s multiple floors and a great rooftop bar. 1353 H Street NE, Atlas District. (202) 388-7625
Nearby Side Trips from DC
New York City: The largest city in the U.S., New York (3.5 hours north) has some of the best (and most trendy) food, nightlife, and entertainment in the country as well as five boroughs to explore. Read more.
Great Falls Park: A huge waterfall on the Potomoc River is the centerpiece of this natural area only a half-hour out of the city.
Shenandoah National Park: This national park only 1.5 hours from DC showcases the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains and includes a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
Philadelphia: The nation’s 5th largest city is only 2.5 hours north and has a wonderful mix of historical landmarks, trendy areas, and of course – amazing cheesesteaks.