Washington, D.C. may call to mind presidents, monuments, memorials, Republicans, Democrats and the Supreme Court, but you might be surprised to find that the city isn't the stuffy political town it once was. Trendier than ever, the District is becoming an exciting East Coast vacation destination — and not just for patriots. Although government is still the sun around which this city orbits, D.C. also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting ... continue»
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The best time to visit Washington, D.C. is from September to November. The sweltering summer is gone, taking with it most of the high-season tourists. All that’s left are crisp breezes and changing leaves, which, by the way, look great against all those marble monuments. Second to fall is spring, which is also a mini high season thanks to the Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April. Winter is definitely low season. And though the chance to find lowered hotel rates is high, you’ll pay for it by enduring whipping winds and freezing cold temperatures.Best Times to Visit Washington D.C.»
Washington D.C. Neighborhoods
Washington, D.C. is laid out on a grid pattern, with numbered and lettered streets intersected by diagonal avenues. Most of these diagonal avenues are named after states. Generally, streets running east to west have lettered names in alphabetical order as you travel north. So you would walk north to get from K Street NW to L Street NW. The numbered streets run north to south — and increase as you travel west in NW and as you travel east in NE. Therefore, you would walk west to get from 19th Street NW to 20th Street NW; you would walk east to get from 1st Street NE to 2nd Street NE.
Northwest is where you'll find most government office buildings, as well as the majority of the city's postcard-worthy attractions. This quadrant is also home to a bunch of the top nightlife and entertainment options, and a burgeoning restaurant scene.
Accessible via the Federal Triangle, Smithsonian and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter metro stations.
A beautiful green space that stretches for more than two miles and serves as a central point of the city, the iconic National Mall is anchored by the U.S. Capitol Building on one end, and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. In the middle, the Washington Monument marks the highest peak of the city. Numerous noteworthy (and mostly free) museums line the Mall's sides, including the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (one of the two — the other is in Virginia), the National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art. Keep in mind, the Mall sprawls over both the Northwest and Southwest quadrants.
Accessible via the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Judiciary Square and Gallery Place-Chinatown metro stations.
North of the mall, the Penn Quarter area has a flourishing group of art galleries and restaurants, as well as some of the city's most interesting museums. It's also home to the Verizon Center — where the NBA's Washington Wizards and the NHL's Washington Capitals play, and where many major recording artists perform. Museums here include the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and they International Spy Museum. The interactive Newseum is located south of the Verizon Center. In close proximity is the National Archives, which displays the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Accessible via the Dupont Circle metro station.
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut Avenues intersect at the Dupont Circle, a roundabout that lends its name to the surrounding area. This one of the hippest areas in D.C., and it's also the heart of the city's gay community. Restaurants, boutiques and bars surround the actual circle.
Accessible via the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan metro station and the 42, 90-series, X3, and S-series bus lines.
Despite its small size, the Adams-Morgan area just north of Dupont Circle is another one of the city's trendiest, busiest D.C. neighborhoods. Eclectic bars, clubs and restaurants are scattered throughout. D.C.'s Metro does not service Adams Morgan, but the area is within walking distance from the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park Metro stations.
U Street Corridor
Accessible via the U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo metro station.
To the east of Adams Morgan on U Street, between 9th and 18th streets NW is an emerging part of the city called the U Street Corridor. Once a historically black area where blues and jazz kings Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played soulful numbers in nightclubs and theaters, U Street brims with new jazz clubs, bars, shops and restaurants. Howard University, a well-known historically black university, is located to the east.
Accessible via the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station.
Picturesque with its stately residences and canopies of trees, Woodley Park is home to the National Zoo, a handful of antique shops and a collection of excellent restaurants. Located north of Adams Morgan, this neighborhood is accessible by the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station.
Accessible via the DC Circulator bus, the Georgetown Metro Connection bus, the 30-series, D-series and G2 bus lines.
Georgetown, just southwest of Dupont Circle, is another popular D.C. neighborhood. You can reach D.C.'s oldest (and priciest) neighborhood most easily by bus, though the Foggy Bottom metro station is approximately a 15-minute walk away. Georgetown's M and Wisconsin Streets have a large concentration of restaurants, bars, clubs and boutiques. South of M Street is the historic (though sometimes smelly) Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The area's sites are surrounded by restored residences and anchored with cobblestones streets. The prestigious Georgetown University lies west of Wisconsin Avenue.
Accessible via the Foggy Bottom-GWU metro station.
South of Dupont Circle is the Foggy Bottom area (accessible via the Foggy Bottom Metro station), which mainly consists of George Washington University. The neighborhood, which was originally the main industrial portion of the city, is now largely residential. The few restaurants and bars in the area mostly cater to the younger crowd that calls the area home.
Accessible via the Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW, Waterfront-SEU, and Navy Yard metro stations.
The smallest of the four quadrants, the southwest region of D.C. is home to a selection of museums right off the National Mall including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden — all part of the Smithsonian Institution. The United States Holocaust Museum is also nearby just south of the Washington Monument. On the most western end of the Mall are the majestic Lincoln Memorial and the beautiful Reflecting Pool. A few blocks south of the National Mall is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, located near the Tidal Basin. The dome-shaped memorial is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome and has a clear view of the White House.
Accessible via the Union Station, Stadium-Armory, and New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U metro stations.
Northeast D.C. is home to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and another pocket of universities, including Trinity Washington University, the Catholic University of America and Gallaudet University. Gallaudet, notably, was founded by Congress as the world's first school of advanced learning for the deaf. Other Northeast landmarks include the United States National Arboretum, a free botanical garden and research center located off the Stadium Armory Station Metro stop.
This district, which refers to a portion of H Street NE between 12th and 14th streets, is a small but increasingly popular part of town. The area is home to a number of trendy restaurants, as well as a hip nightlife that tends to be less expensive than spots in Northwest D.C.
The Library of Congress, Union Station, the Supreme Court, the Folger Shakespeare Library and a bunch of Victorian row house residences that surround the Capitol are part of a neighborhood aptly named Capitol Hill, or simply, "the Hill." Filled with many young professionals who work for U.S. senators and representatives, the area also has a good assortment of restaurants and shops. Travelers should note that Capitol Hill straddles both NE and SE quadrants.
Accessible via the Eastern Market and Capitol South metro stations.
The main point of interest in the Southeast quadrant is Eastern Market, located only a few blocks away from the Capitol next to the Metro stop of the same name. In addition to its meat and produce counters, the redbrick public market also plays host to an art gallery and a flea market.
Barrack's Row, located a couple blocks south of Eastern Market along 8th Street SE, is named for the Marine Corps Barracks, which have anchored the area since 1801. Local restaurants, bars, boutiques and even a classical acting academy line the street, which leads down to the Anacostia River. Charming row houses sit nearby.
The LEED-certified Nationals Park sits near the Anacostia River and is home turf for the Washington Nationals professional baseball team. Across the river from Barracks Row is Anacostia, home to the Anacostia Community Museum, which travel writers say does a good job of explaining the African-American experience. Travel writers note that Anacostia isn't the safest area, and travelers might want to steer clear after dark.
Located to the southwest of Washington, D.C. across the Potomac River, Northern Virginia is home to some of D.C.'s most iconic attractions. Visitors will find the area's hotels, restaurants and sites are most convenient through the Blue, Yellow and Orange Metro lines.
Accessible via the Clarendon, Arlington National Cemetery, Pentagon, and Pentagon City metro stations.
Arlington refers to a large swath of land across from the Potomac River in Virginia. The area is bursting with high-rise office and apartment buildings, streets lined with picturesque homes, as well as interesting shops, restaurants and bars. It is easily accessible by public transportation and has relatively more affordable hotel options. Arlington also shelters the Arlington National Cemetery's 600-plus acres of rolling hills and thousands of marble gravestones. The Pentagon and the September 11th Pentagon Memorial are located in Arlington, too.
Accessible via the Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, and Van Dorn Street metro stations.
Located west of the Potomac River and south of Arlington, Alexandria city is a mainly residential area. We recommend a visit to the shops, restaurants and bars of the city's Old Town, situated on the Potomac River. Just about eight miles south is George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, the former estate of inaugural president George Washington.
Accessible via the Bethesda and Silver Spring metro stations.
Washington, D.C.'s main Maryland suburbs are Bethesda and Silver Spring. For visitors, these cities are most conveniently accessed on Metro's red line. Bethesda is a mainly residential area, with open-air shopping and a handful of restaurants and bars. Silver Spring has a bit more lively downtown area, which is all about bright and shiny modernity. High-rise apartments and office buildings scream contemporary, as do the many open-air shops, restaurants, bars and particularly spectacular AFI Silver Theatre & Cultural Center.
Baltimore and Annapolis are approximately an hour's drive from Washington, and make for nice side trips from the area. Baltimore is also accessible by both the MARC and Amtrak trains. MARC is significantly cheaper, though it only runs on weekdays.
While you probably will not encounter any major crime as a tourist in D.C., it is still wise to be vigilant when exploring the city. Use common sense when walking around — avoid quiet side streets, especially when you are alone or don't really know where you are going, and be sure to keep your purse and wallet secure. Visitors should be particularly wary in the Capitol Hill, Atlas District and Southwest areas at night.
The best way to get around Washington, D.C. is via the clean, safe and efficient WMATA public transportation system. Most travelers (and residents too) use a combination of the metro trains, the buses and their own two feet to get around. You can even take a metro train or bus from the closest of the area's three airports: Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) of Arlington, Va. Renting a car isn't advised; D.C. is regularly ranked as one of America's worst cities for driving. If you must have your own wheels, you should primarily keep them parked at your hotel. You can also traverse the capital city by taxi, but it'll cost you.Getting Around Washington D.C.»