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Get your bearings by wandering from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building along the 2-mile centrepiece National Mall, home to the majority of the city’s 17 Smithsonian museums. The cast-iron dome of the Capitol marks the geographic heart of the city, from where all neighbourhoods radiate outwards. With a population of just 600,000, Washington DC is smaller than almost any major capital city you can think of, making it easily navigable on foot, by bike or via its easy Metro system.... Read more
Get your bearings by wandering from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building along the 2-mile centrepiece National Mall, home to the majority of the city’s 17 Smithsonian museums. The cast-iron dome of the Capitol marks the geographic heart of the city, from where all neighbourhoods radiate outwards. With a population of just 600,000, Washington DC is smaller than almost any major capital city you can think of, making it easily navigable on foot, by bike or via its easy Metro system.
Beyond all the glittering white marble and neoclassical architecture, shopping and entertainment options abound. Georgetown and Dupont Circle both offer stylish stores and speciality boutiques of the mainstream and indie variety, with a buzzing dining and nightlife scene, or sample local produce and people-watch at the Eastern Market in Capitol Hill. Further north, Adams Morgan brims with coffee shops, bookstores and galleries and caters to a young, hip crowd.
Music and theatre are huge, with venues like The Kennedy Center and Warner Theatre attracting large audiences. Free summer concerts and a year-round calendar of festivals add to the rich culture of the city.Read less
Washington DC is home to an eclectic dining scene, with restaurants varying considerably depending on the neighbourhood. If you want to hang out with lobbyists and lawmakers, check out swanky Capitol Hill venues. There are also a string of good value ethnic options at the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road, including Peruvian and Mexican restaurants. Georgetown and Dupont Circle rival each other for variety, with a reliable selection of contemporary American and Italian fare. And don’t forget to try a chili dog – it’s a DC institution!
Few cities in the world are as welcoming to kids as Washington DC – your only problem will be narrowing down what to see and do. For a double dose of entertainment and education, visit the Butterfly Pavilion and Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History, learn to read the news on TV at Newseum, or dream up a world-beating invention in the American History Museum’s Spark! Lab. For a kid-centric hotel, the Omni Shoreham is hard to beat. It’s moments away from the National Zoo, and pint-sized guests receive milk and cookies and a special backpack upon check-in.
Despite being best known for its politics and power suits, Washington DC is also a surprisingly good choice for a romantic city break. Enjoy a picnic surrounded by the works of Rodin and Matisse at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, or stroll through the rare orchids of the Botanic Garden to the illuminated fountain of ‘secret’ Bartholdi Park. There’s plenty going on after dark too. Get starry-eyed at one of the regular stargazing nights at the Air and Space Museum’s Public Observatory, or hunker down on the velveteen banquettes of W Hotel’s roof terrace with a cocktail or two.
If you want to tie the knot in Washington, there are some superb hotels and venues in which to exchange your vows. The luxury Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels offer grand or intimate settings for a regal city wedding, not to mention a fantastic selection of stunning suites for your honeymoon. And there’s no shortage of postcard-worthy locations for your photographs either. You could even choose to have an open-air ceremony at the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, with all the beautiful cherry trees as a backdrop.
Washington DC offers politics and history at every turn, but there’s real intrigue and secret stuff to discover too. The International Spy Museum contains the world’s largest collection of espionage artifacts, including a lipstick pistol and the Enigma cipher machine, with interactive spy missions available for would-be James Bonds. Fans of the mysterious and macabre can view mummified heads and the bullet that assassinated Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, or unravel some crimes of passion from the city’s darker past on a nightly ghost tour of Lafayette Park.
Springtime is one of the most popular seasons to visit Washington DC, when the famed cherry blossoms erupt into life across the city’s parks and gardens (late March to early April). Pack plenty of layers as the days can still be cool, though it’s not long before glorious warm weather returns in May and June. Summers can be steamy, but the numerous air-conditioned museums provide a welcome respite from the heat, and the sultry evenings are a great time to explore the floodlit monuments. Washington is wonderful in the autumn, with a still-warm climate and brilliant fall foliage right through to mid-November. Winters are cold and crisp as the city is bedecked in festive decorations for the holidays.
Those looking to exercise their muscles as well as their minds will find no shortage of options in Washington DC. One of the most popular activities is kayaking on the fast-moving waters of the Potomac or Shenandoah rivers, with challenging whitewater tubing and rafting available for the extra bold. Beginners can learn to paddle on the calmer waters of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, or hire a bike and cycle along a section of the 184.5 mile towpath. For the ultimate adrenaline rush book a tandem skydive at DC Skydiving Center, with widescreen views of northern Virginia and the Capitol included with every freefall.
You can’t have tea with the President but you can still admire his Georgian mansion and the seat of his government – the White House and the US Capitol building are the most recognised symbols of power and democracy in the world. It’s hard to pick just one of the Smithsonians, but the spaceships (including Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 command module) and flying machines of the National Air and Space Museum are a must, as is the Washington Monument and the poignant war memorials along the National Mall. In spring the National Cherry Blossom Festival reinvigorates the entire city, and there’s simply nowhere better than Washington DC to celebrate the Fourth of July.
With the White House, the US Capitol and 11 free Smithsonian collections on the National Mall alone, it would be impossible to run out of things to see and do in Washington DC. But there’s much more to DC than museums and political showpieces, so hit the streets and explore the high-end shops and restaurants of historic Georgetown, the bars and nightlife of the revitalised Penn Quarter and the live music venues and diners of trendy Adams Morgan. Slightly further afield, take a day trip across the Potomac to visit old town Alexandria or the stately antebellum Woodlawn Plantation, part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.Back to top