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Washington, D.C.

TRAVEL GUIDE

Washington, D.C.

TRAVEL GUIDE

The Fodor's Five

The five things you need to know before traveling to Washington, D.C.

# 1

There's so much to see in Washington, D.C., so you really need a plan.

The sheer number of things to see and do in Washington, D.C., can be overwhelming—you could spend all week at the Smithsonian museums, for example, and still not see everything, much less the rest of the city. So you need a plan. Assess the interests of your group—U.S. history, art, natural history, nature, food and drink, kid-friendly, etc. etc. etc.—and finetune your itinerary that way. First-timers will want to highlight the top-tier sights, including the Smithsonian museums, U.S. Capitol, and White House, but limit your time in each place to a morning or afternoon, or you will be zapped. Don’t forget D.C.’s booming neighborhoods, possibly for a meal. And remember: Whatever you don’t see this trip can wait until next time.

# 2

Driving in D.C. is a nightmare.

Driving (and parking) in the nation’s capital is, to put it bluntly, a nightmare. Fortunately, the efficient Metro system can transport you about town, including to/from Dulles International Airport (thanks to the recently added Silver Line). While you’ll be walking a lot around the National Mall and all of the famous sights there, you can take the Metro to other interesting sights. For example, the Red Line’s Cleveland Park stop brings you to the National Zoo. The Blue Line whisks you to the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. And the Green Line’s U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo stop opens up funky U Street, including the world-famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.

# 3

Don't forget to wander around D.C.'s many neighborhoods.

There’s more than politics going on in the nation’s capital. D.C. is a city of neighborhoods, each one with its own restaurants, small museums, unique shops, and personality. You have the old-timey ones, including classic Georgetown; bohemian Adams Morgan; and family-friendly Capitol Hill. But there are new vibrant ones as well, including hip Shaw, food-trendy NoMa, and the glitzy Southwest Waterfront. As tempting as it is to stay around the National Mall, you’ll get a more rounded trip (and better meals) if you venture beyond, where the locals go.

# 4

Washington, D.C., actually has world-class arts scene.

Arts in Washington, D.C.? Yes! Top-tier theaters include the Kennedy Center and Shakespeare Theatre Company, but there are also experiential theaters pushing the limits, including Arena Stage and Woolly Mammoth. Visual arts are booming, in museums such as the National Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection, as well as murals and galleries sprinkled throughout the city, including U Street and Georgetown respectively. And if you’re into music, U Street is called the historic Black Broadway, where Duke Ellington once performed, and Chuck Brown invented go-go music. Put 9:30 Club, The Anthem, and Black Cat on your list for starters.

# 5

Don't settle for a chain hotel.

Sure, you can stay in a plethora of lookalike chain hotels, but D.C. boasts a mosaic of unique hotels that promise a memorable stay. A retinue of historic hotels, for example, including the Mayflower, Hay-Adams, and Willard, are full of tales of the city’s past. Some have more recent history, including the Watergate, which plays up the infamous break-in to perfection in its decor. And then there are the whimsical ones, including Mansion on O Street, a labyrinth of uniquely decorated rooms that has been called the coolest place in D.C.

Recommended Fodor’s Video

Top Neighborhoods

Why is Capitol Hill the best neighborhood in Washington, D.C.?
  • You can tour the iconic sites: U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress
  • Restaurant-hop along 8th Street SE
  • Shop fresh at Eastern Market, founded in 1873
  • See a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Extremely walkable
What makes Foggy Bottom so great?
  • You can tour the White House 
  • Have a drink at the historic Willard Hotel and Hay-Adams Hotel
  • Catch a show at the Kennedy Center
  • Admire modern art at the Renwick Gallery
  • It's a mix of high-powered government officials and laidback GWU students
What's there to do in Georgetown?
  • You can dine at a variety of global, elevated, and trendy restaurants
  • Dive into history along the leafy C&O Canal, the Old Stone House), Dumbarton Oaks, and Tudor Place
  • Go kayaking or SUPing on the Potomac River from Key Bridge or Thompson Boathouse
  • Shop at fashionista-forward boutiques, galleries, and shops
  • Always bustling
What's special about the National Mall?
  • You can admire the marble-clad monuments and memorials in West Potomac Park
  • Visit the Smithsonian museums
  • Stroll along the Tidal Basin, especially during spring cherry blossom season
  • Attend one of the many festivals or other events taking place here year-round
  • Enjoy a variety of cuisines
Why visit Adams Morgan?
  • You can dance at Habana Village, one of many dance spots
  • Listen to late-night music at intimate venues, including Madam’s Organ Blues Bar
  • Dine at eclectic restaurants and cafés
  • Go on an art walk
  • A nightlife go-to

Hotels

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Mall
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Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The Mall
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The Phillips Collection
Dupont Circle
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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Mall
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National Gallery of Art, East Building
The Mall
National Gallery of Art, West Building
The Mall
Tidal Basin
The Mall
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Washington National Cathedral
Upper Northwest
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Language

English

Nearby Airports

IAD, WAS, DCA, BWI

Electrical Outlets

120 V/60Hz; Type A plugs have two flat prongs. Type B plugs have the same two flat prongs with a third round prong; together the three form a triangular shape.

Currency

US Dollar

Local Weather

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Historic Weather: Powered by Dark Sky
Weather info provided is using averaged daily data within the given month of the previous year.

Language

English

Electrical Outlets

120 V/60Hz; Type A plugs have two flat prongs. Type B plugs have the same two flat prongs with a third round prong; together the three form a triangular shape.

Currency

US Dollar

Nearby Airports

IAD, WAS, DCA, BWI

Local Weather

{{monthAverage.f_high}}° {{monthAverage.c_high}}° {{monthAverage.f_low}}° {{monthAverage.c_low}}°
{{monthAverage.month}}
Historic Weather: Powered by Dark Sky
Weather info provided is using averaged daily data within the given month of the previous year.

Discover the best neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. with curated recommendations from our editors.

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Local Weather

{{monthAverage.f_high}}° {{monthAverage.c_high}}° {{monthAverage.f_low}}° {{monthAverage.c_low}}°
{{monthAverage.month}}
Historic Weather: Powered by Dark Sky
Weather info provided is using averaged daily data within the given month of the previous year.

Discover the best neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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