we’ll cover all you need to know before traveling to Washington, D.C., including where are all the major attractions, the best time to visit, where to stay and for how long, how to get around the city, how much things cost, best apps to use, best views of the city and other practical information.
. We also created a mobile-friendly .pdf document covering all the things in this video, plus the Top 20 things to do in D.C. including multiple maps. Here are 15 essential tips to know before you visit Washington, D.C.:
MAP OF DC Washington is situated along the Potomac River, between Virginia and Maryland. With over 20 million tourists every year, it is among the world’s most visited cities. For orientation, let’s start with the Washington Monument on the National Mall. North of this obelisk is the White House, the official residence of the U.S. president.
If you go north of the White House, you’ll find Adams Morgan, a multicultural neighborhood famous for its eclectic dining scene and vibrant night life. Further north is the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. East of the Washington Monument,
you’ll find the United States Botanic Garden. This free admission living plant museum established in 1820 is one of North America’s oldest botanic gardens. On the east end of the National Mall is the United States Capitol, the seat of the federal government’s legislative branch. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture, the Capitol is both an office building and an art and history museum.
The National Archives Museum, which is home to the Declaration of Independence, is about a 20-minute walk northeast of the Washington Monument. You can enter this museum and most other museums on the National Mall for free.
Northwest you’ll fing Georgetown, Washington’s oldest neighborhood. Two attractions you can visit here are the Waterfront Park and Georgetown University. Standing on the National Mall’s west end is the Lincoln Memorial.
In the southwest, you’ll find the Tidal Basin, which is surrounded by other impressive memorials such as the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Arlington National Cemetery is located farther SW, across from the Potomac River in Virginia.
The largest military cemetery in America, it is the final resting place for over 400,000 military personnel, veterans, and their families. South of the cemetery is the Pentagon, the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters. Farther south, you’ll find Mount Vernon.
Normally, you will arrive in D.C. at one of the following international airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Washington Dulles International Airport or Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport Union Station is also a major hub for arrival from Boston, NYC, and Philadelphia by train.
To get a better sense of distances, a 2.3 mi. or 3.8 km walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol takes about 50 minutes.
Washington has a humid subtropical climate. Rain falls more or less evenly throughout the year. Winters are typically chilly, with temperatures ranging between 27 and 46 °F or -3 and 8 °C. Snow is most likely to fall in January and February. Summers are hot and humid.
Temperatures range between 66 and 87 °F or 19 and 31 °C. In spring and fall, the weather is mild, with relatively low humidity. Temperatures are between 44 and 66 °F or 7 and 19 °C in spring, and between 47 and 70 °F or 9 and 21 °C in the fall. Of course, these are all just averages.
The weather and temperature can be different at the time of your visit, so remember to check the weather forecast before you travel. NUMBER 13: BEST TIME TO VISIT The best times to visit Washington are in spring from March to May, and in fall from September to November, when the weather is pleasant.
The National Cherry Blossom festival is a popular spring event, during which you’ll see beautiful cherry trees blossoming all over downtown. However, the festival attracts the largest crowds, so be prepared and book your accommodations early. If you want to skip the crowds, you can choose to visit in the fall, when the leaves changing colors against the background of marble monuments are a sight to behold.
The cheapest time to visit Washington , D.C. is from late August to early September. Probably, the worst time to visit is July, when the summer heat and humidity are most intense. Also, school is also out, so families and groups flock to the capital at this time.
Washington has many impressive historical sites and world-class museums and tourist attractions, so you’ll have a great time regardless of the season. And how can you figure out the best days and hours to see the attractions?
Just check Google to see how crowded a specific location is at a certain time of day. Of course, we recommend going early during the week and/or in the morning.
We recommend staying in Washington for at least 5 days. This way, you’ll be able to see most of its major attractions.
If this is your first time in the city and you want to do a lot of sightseeing, you can choose accommodations in Downtown D.C. or Foggy Bottom, where you’ll be close to most monuments, museums, and federal sites. If you’re on a budget, Logan Circle is ideal for you. For lively night life, choose Dupont Circle, and for a hip experience, stay in H Street Corridor.
For families, the best neighborhood is Georgetown. If you want to save money, you can choose to stay in nearby suburbs like Bethesda and North Arlington. However, be sure to check if there is a metro station nearby so you can easily reach Downtown D.C.
A mid-range hotel double room in D.C. costs between 175 and 275 USD per night. Of course, the price can easily go higher or lower depending on the type of accommodations, as well as the location and season. With planning and research, you can get good deals, especially if your dates are flexible and don’t travel in peak season. Check out our travel guide for more information on where to stay.
Washington is one of the world’s most visited cities. With the huge tourist crowds and long lines at attractions, exploring the capital can be a challenge. Even if you can’t avoid the crowds, you can do some things to make your trip to D.C. a more pleasant experience. You can: avoid peak seasons, avoid taking the subway during rush hours, get up early in the morning to explore the city without the crowds use Google Maps or similar apps to check how crowded
To get from and to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport you can use: Metrorail or Amtrak Shuttle buses Taxi Private car and van transfers Uber and Lyft Car rentals For Washington Dulles International Airport use: Silver Line Express Bus and Metrorail Metrobus Shuttle buses Washington Flyer Taxi Private car and van transfers Uber and Lyft and car rentals.
For Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Intl. Airport use: Amtrak or Maryland Area Regional Commuter Metrobus Shuttle buses Taxis Private car and van transfers Uber and Lyft and car rentals Check out our travel guide for links and additional information on how to get from and to all three Washington airports.
Located in NW Washington, Union Station is the main train station in DC. Many train lines operated by Amtrak, MARC, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE), as well as intercity bus lines, serve the station.
You can use Google Maps or a similar app to get driving directions to DC. You’ll also want to know where to park in advance. An app like SpotHero or ParkWhiz will help you find and book parking locations in the city. Alternatively, you can book one of the many hotels in Washington that offer parking.
Washington has one of the world’s cleanest, safest, and most efficient transportation systems. The most convenient ways to explore the capital are Metrorail and Metrobus, with Metrobus providing connections to areas not serviced by Metrorail. Meanwhile, bikes and electric scooters are the fastest way to travel around the city. A popular option for both residents and visitors is the DC Circulator, which offers free hop-on-hop-off access to the National Mall and several neighborhoods. Of course, you can also take taxis, which are abundant and cheap in DC. Finally, you can use Uber or Lyft or drive a car to get around. Check out our travel guide for timetables, prices, links and additional information.
Here are some other things you should know for a nice and easy experience in Washington: DRINKING WATER It is perfectly safe to drink tap water in DC. As part of the TapIt Metro DC program, you can get free tap water not only from fountains or near attractions, but also from restaurants and establishments, and even on the go! TOILETS There are dozens of bathrooms at National Mall, museums and monuments and in other downtown locations.
You can also use the toilets at restaurants and coffee shops you visit. See our travel guide for more information. We’ll also cover apps for finding restrooms later. FREE WIFI D.C. residents and visitors can get free WiFi at more than 600 locations all over the city, including on the National Mall, at numerous parks, and at all public libraries. We’ll cover apps for finding free WiFi later.
You should always tip at restaurants, bars, and hotels in the United States, and therefore in Washington, D.C. Servers in the US are usually paid minimum wage or less and rely heavily on tips. The normal rates are between 15% and 20% pre-tax for wait staff at restaurants, and $1 to $2 per drink. At hotels, tip the porter at least $1 per bag.
For the housekeeper, the rate is $2 to $5 per night, and you should leave the tip each day when leaving the room instead of at the end of your stay. For hotel room service, go with 15 to 20% of the bill. You’re not expected to tip the concierge, but it will be appreciated if you tip at least $5 if they made reservations or booked tickets for you.
You should tip taxi drivers as wel. from 10% to 20% of the fare, depending on the quality of service. For Uber and Lyft drivers, 10% is standard.
If you’re coming from outside the US, you will probably need a special US travel adapter to charge your phone and other devices. This is what US power plugs look like. If you travel a lot, consider buying a universal travel adapter that you can use in other countries too. PREPAID SIM CARDS You can purchase a prepaid SIM card to access the internet on your phone.
Local carriers include T-Mobile, AT&T;, Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile, and Straight Talk. See our travel guide for more information. Alternatively, you can consider renting a pocket WiFi or mobile hotspot. Check out our travel guide for links, prices, and more information. TIME ZONE Washington uses Eastern Daylight Time or GMT-4. It is 14 hours behind Sydney and 6 hours behind Paris. So, if it’s 8 AM in Washington, then it’s 10 PM in Sydney and 2 PM in Paris.
Washington is a generally safe city. However, purse and mobile phone snatching can be an issue at tourist sites and on the Metro. Typical for all major cities around the world, beware of pickpockets. Watch your valuables, and use common sense. Also, mugging can be a problem in nightlife areas. It is best not to go to these places alone and to avoid poorly lit areas between bars, especially at night. Check out our pdf guide for the list of areas to avoid in DC. For emergency services, dial 911.
You self phone can be your best buddy in Washington, D.C. Use Google Maps or Apple Maps for walking, driving, and using public transportation. Google Maps also lets you download maps, which is a great option if you don’t want to use roaming.
MetroHero for live Metrorail line maps, train and station details, and real-time commuter reports on train and station problems Citymapper or Moovit for information on public transportation, such as departure and arrival times, fastest routes, etc.
DC Metro and Bus or Washington DC Metro Route Map for public transit info with maps and route planner WiFi Map or WiFi Finder for finding Wi-Fi throughout Washington Lime or any other provider to rent an electric scooter Jump for electric bikes and scooters Capital Bikeshare to rent a bike, find station locations, and get route suggestions Uber or Lyft to get quick, reliable, and 24/7 rides TripAdvisor
Yelp for restaurant, hotel, museum, and tour reviews Smithsonian Mobile for Smithsonian museum locations, hours, floor plans, tours, and collection highlights TAP to locate the closest water fountain Flush to find public restrooms or toilets even without an Internet connection Check out our travel guide for links to download these apps on iOS and Android and for more app suggestions.
A great way to discover Washington, walking tours are organized by professional guides who know a great deal about the city’s rich history. Some providers even offer free and pay-what-you-wish tours. See our travel guide for links to websites of free guided tours and other interesting tours of DC.
There are two passes to choose from in Washington: the Sightseeing Pass and Go Washington DC. See our travel guide for current prices and links. FOOD PRICES
We suggest using Yelp or TripAdvisor to find nearby places to eat and drink with good reviews. Try to avoid restaurants at or next to major tourist sites; you will often get a much higher price-quality ratio at local restaurant away from the mai attractions. In Washington, the price of an inexpensive restaurant meal ranges from 7 to 12 USD for lunch and 10 to 18 USD for dinner.
A burger can be as cheap as $4 at a fast-food joint and as expensive as $23. As for drinks, a coffee costs between $1.5 and $5, a bottle of soda from $1.5 to $3, a pint of beer between $4 and $7, and a glass of wine at least $4 during happy hour. There are also some great cheap eats in DC.
Check out our travel guide for a list of the best inexpensive dining places. Food trucks are a popular choice for hungry Washingtonians. Over 240 trucks offer a wide variety of affordable grub.
You can enjoy amazing views of Washington, D.C. from one of the following places: Washington Monument National Mall Lincoln Memorial The Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Check out our travel guide for more places with amazing free and paid views of the city and maps to easily locate them.
Our travel guide is a mobile-friendly .pdf document that you can store on your phone for offline use. It covers the top 10 things to do in Washington, D.C. plus 10 additional attractions, maps, links, opening hours, and other information that will help make your trip to DC stress-free.
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