Washington, D.C., the capital city of the U.S., is located on the Potomac River, next to the states of Maryland and Virginia. If you have any interest in history or politics, there are countless things to see here. Even if you aren’t, the city is a culturally diverse and sophisticated destination offering many worthwhile attractions.
Highlights of Washington, D.C.
Many of the most famous landmarks in Washington, D.C. are related to the federal government. Even if you don’t make a special trip, you will almost certainly catch sight of landmarks such as the White House, Washington Monument and the United States Capitol. Aside from this, the city has recently developed a reputation for its contemporary arts scene and foodie culture.
- Museums -When in the nation’s capital, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit at least a few of the city’s great museums. These include the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We might also include the Library of Congress on this list, which has more than 500 miles of bookshelves and over 100 million items.
- Memorials and Monuments -If you have a fascination with American history, there is no shortage of statues and memorials to visit here. These include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, to name just a few.
- United States Botanical Garden -One of the nation’s most beautiful botanical gardens, you’ll find all kinds of landscapes here, including tropical rain forests, deserts and even a simulation of Hawaii. Some highlights include the Orchid Room, the Children’s Garden and a section featuring winter plants.
- City Tours -You can get around the capital city in a number of ways. You may want to explore on your own, either on foot, by car or via public transportation. However, if you want a guided tour that will help you learn the lay of the land and where all the attractions are, you also have lots of choices. D.C. Ducks provides an amphibious tour of the city that go from the Potomac River to many famous land-based landmarks.
- Neighborhoods -In addition to seeing the major landmarks, you should learn a little about the city’s many neighborhoods. Georgetown, a historic area by the river, is a trendy spot for shopping and fining great restaurants. For more exotic dining, the U Street Corridor is a good place to visit. It’s especially known for Ben’s Chili Bowl and a variety of Ethiopian restaurants nowadays.
Washington also has its own Chinatown, though considerably smaller than the ones in New York or San Francisco. Still, it’s a good place to find Chinese restaurants and shops. Another hip section of town is Dupont Circle, which has many hotels, shops, a farmer’s market and a thriving gay community.
Dining and Nightlife
Washington D.C. has just about every type of cuisine and entertainment imaginable. As already noted, certain neighborhoods are known for certain types of food, but you can find a good selection in just about every area. The following are just a few notable restaurants.
- The Capital Grille in the Georgetown area is a good choice if you want a traditional steakhouse in an elegant atmosphere. They also have an extensive wine list.
- If you’re staying near Dupont Circle (or are exploring this neighborhood), a good place for spectacular views as well as food and drinks is Bar Dupont. It has a casual and lively atmosphere and serves a good selection of appetizers and entrees in addition to its full bar.
- Fiola, located right between the Capitol and White House, serves gourmet Italian food, with a menu that changes with the seasons. There are several options for multi-course meals, culminating in Decadence, which has 5 full courses and dessert.
- A reliable choice for seafood is always Grillfish on New Hampshire Avenue NW, which offers selections such as local oysters, mixed grill fish, monkfish as well as fresh greens and salads.
- For a full selection of perfectly prepared pizzas, try &Pizza, which has multiple locations around the city, including H Street, Dupont South, E Street and K Street. Among the usual meat and cheese toppings, they serve flatbread, vegetarian and gluten-free pizzas.
- For great burgers, fries, shakes and other basic lunch staples, Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania Avenue SE in the Capitol area, is the place to go.
- If you’re in the mood for something Spanish or otherwise Mediterranean, Jaleo, near Chinatown, has some of the city’s best tapas, as well as other Spanish specialties such as paellas, sangrias and Spanish wines.
For entertainment, the capital city has several first rate venues for concerts and plays, including John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Ford’s Theatre, The National Theatre, The Lincoln Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company, to name just a few.
DC also has many bars where you can often hear amazing blues and other types of live music, such as Madam’s Organ Blues Bar, a three-level bar on 18th Street NW. Blues Alley on Wisconsin Avenue offers jazz and blues in a small, intimate setting. Another popular jazz club is Twins Jazz on U Street NW, where you can get food as well as drinks and entertainment.
For political satire, a fun performance you might want to catch while in town is the Capitol Steps, a traveling group that plays at different venues around the city. They do, however, play every Friday and Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Where to Stay
You first have to decide where you want to be situated, as Washington D.C. has lots of great hotels, inns and B & B's scattered all over.
The Jefferson, Washington D.C. is a good choice for stylish and luxurious accommodations in a convenient downtown location. In addition to top-notch service and comfortable rooms, they have a piano bar, a large library and excellent food.
Another upper end hotel that’s centrally located is The George, a Klimpton Hotel on E Street NW. Attached to the hotel is Bistro Bis, one of the city’s finest restaurants. This hotel is also notable for its upbeat decor, wine tastings and free bike rentals.
If you’re seeking a more budget-conscious hotel, you also have quite a few choices, including Best Western Georgetown Hotel & Suites, close to Georgetown University. This is a good place to stay if you want to do a little of your own cooking, as some rooms have their own kitchenettes. Another good choice for economical accommodations is Comfort Inn Downtown DC/Convention Center on 13th St. NW, an easy walk to major downtown attractions.
DC has lots of inns and B & B's as well, such as Kalorama Guest House, near the Woodley Park Metro on Cathedral Avenue NW, a cozy guesthouse in a nice area. The Inn at Dupont South, just one block from Dupont Circle, is a convenient and comfortable B &_ B if you want to be in this fun part of town. For a beautiful, historic B & B right in the middle of the city, you might Chester Arthur House B & B at Logan Circle, an easy walk to the White House and many other attractions.