Washington, D.C. Travel Guide
Washington D.C. is so much more than the political epicenter of the U.S. and the top cherry blossom destination in the country. The District is home to charming neighborhoods lined with historic row houses, legendary museums (including the 20 odd museums under the Smithsonian that offer free admission), and a vastly underrated fine dining scene. And of course, politics dominates the professional energy of the city much like the tech population shapes San Francisco to a certain extent.
But the country's capital is also a college town, with universities like Georgetown, Howard, George Washington, and American all within the city limits. This city feels as academic as it does political—but more than the atmosphere being tinged by politics or education, it is weighted with the gravitas of history. Here, our official guide to the best things to do in Washington D.C., including where to stay in Washington D.C., the best D.C. restaurants, and the city's most essential museums and historical sites.
Eastern Standard Time, Daylight Savings Time observed
Best Time to Go
The best time to go to Washington D.C. is between April and June, or from September to October. In the late spring and early summer, temperatures will be warm and welcoming, and in September and October, you'll still catch some warmth, without having to deal with the intense heat and crowds of tourists that come in the summer.
Washington's famous Cherry Blossom Festival happens from late March to early April (the blooms tend to peak in the last week of March and first week of April). May brings graduation season to this university town, booking up the hotels with proud family members. And, of course, the Fourth of July is a joyous spectacle, but as a result, a rather crowded weekend in the city. The high season in Washington D.C. is considered July and August, which are also the hottest months of the year.
Things to Know
Washington D.C. is our nation's capital and is not considered a state. It is home to some of the most famous landmarks in America, including the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Washington Monument.
Admission is free to all the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, which consists of 17 museums, galleries, and the zoo. Museums include the Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American HIstory, National Portrait Gallery, and the Natural History Museum.
Washington D.C. has an excellent public transportation network, making it an easy city to get around without cabs and rideshares.
Washington D.C. is set on two rivers, the Anacostia and the Potomac. The Potomac River, which is 405 miles long, separates Washington from Virginia. The nation's capital sits on the north shore of the Potomac.
Theater lovers must visit the John F. Kennedy Performing Center for the Arts, which is not only one of the best known theaters in the U.S., but is a fixture of JFK's legacy situated along the Potomac River.
How to Get Around
Trains: The metro system in D.C., run by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), operates across Washington D.C. and into Virginia and Maryland. The metro has six lines—yellow, orange, red, blue, green, and silver. Find a downloadable metro map here. Metrorail rides cost between $2 and $6, depending on where you're traveling and when. You can also buy a one-day pass for $13, a three-day pass for $28, and a seven-day pass for $58.
Buses: WMATA also runs the D.C. bus system. The WMATA Metrobus has 11,500 bus stops and 325 routes across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Find all bus maps here. Regular bus fare costs $2. Bus fares are included when you buy an unlimited metro pass, whether it's a day pass or a monthly pass.Taxis and Car Service: Uber and Lyft service greater Washington D.C., and there are taxi stands in the city. To schedule a cab in advance, book through a local company like D.C. Yellow Cab. You can also schedule a local black car through services like ExecuCar.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Georgetown: The neighborhood around Georgetown University is more than just your classic college enclave. You'll find upscale restaurants, and hotels along the C&O canal, luxury shopping on M Street, and historic homes dating back to the 18th and 19th century here.
Downtown: Downtown is home to the most important address in America: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition to the White House, you'll find a number of D.C.'s most famous museums downtown.
Foggy Bottom: Foggy Bottom is nestled between the Potomac River and Georgetown. Tourists generally come to Foggy Bottom to take in a show at the waterfront John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Adams Morgan: This neighborhood is lined with historic row houses and lively restaurants and bars on 18th Street. You'll find art galleries and Michelin-starred culinary talent here, as well as trendy cafes.
Capitol Hill: Home to the U.S. Capitol building, the Supreme Court building, and the U.S. House and Senate, this neighborhood is the political epicenter of our country. You'll find plenty of tourists here as well as the political working crowd, many of whom reside in the lovely 19th-century Capitol Hill rowhouses.
Dupont Circle: A chic neighborhood known for its restaurants and shopping, Dupont Circle offers a relaxed elegance. In Dupont Circle, you can spend an afternoon finding the District's trendiest brunch spots, or exploring upscale art galleries on Dupont's First Fridays.
Spring and autumn are recommended times to visit D.C. because of the temperate weather. The heat climbs significantly in the summer, reaching into the high 80s in July. By September, the heat peters off, leaving behind mild temperatures for the fall. Washington D.C. doesn't have a bitterly cold winter, but temperatures can still dip below freezing in December, January, and February.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month. Average annual precipitation 19.3 inches.
January 29 - 44
February 31 - 47
March 38 - 56
April 47 - 67
May 57 - 76
June 67 - 85
July 72 - 89
August 70 - 87
September 63 - 80
October 51 - 68
November 41 - 58
December 33 - 48