Washington DC (District of Columbia) is the capital of the United States of America, and as a capital district it is not part of one of the states. This is where the government and president carry out their duties and where you will find a hub of US political establishments as well as monuments and museums. The city, named after President George Washington, was established as the capital in 1791. Consider getting the hop-on-hop-off bus ($40.5) for unlimited use during 24 or 48 hours. The bus will bring you to 50 points of interest.
The National Mall900 Ohio Drive Southwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20024
202-426-6841 Hours of Operation: 24 hours a day Entrance Cost: Free
The Mall is the place to head to when you arrive in Washington DC, the Mall is officially a National Park but it is really an area of monuments and important buildings set in landscaped gardens which make up the core of the city. President Washington commissioned Pierre Charles L’Enfant to design 10 square miles of the capital with the Mall being a mile long avenue from the Capital Building to just south of the White House. Under the McMillan Plan of 1901-02 the space was reorganized and expanded to what we know today as the Mall.
Here you can find the US Capitol Building, the Reflecting Pool (remember the scene in Forest Gump), Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials as well as major museums. The Mall museums are the National Gallery of Art, National Air and Space Museum, Holocaust Museum, International Spy Museum and the Natural History Museum among others.
The Mall has been the site for many historic events such as the 1963 Protest March where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream…” speech, the Vietnam War Moratorium Rally of 1969, the 1995 Million Man March, the 2007 Iraq War Protest and this is the site of the Presidential inauguration.
I have highlighted some of the Mall sites below but in general the Mall is a great place to start your exploration of the city. It is possible to walk through the Mall although it is big and you will probably get tired before you have seen all you want to see. There is also such a high concentration of sites that you need to plan carefully as not to miss ones that you are really interested in. Consider taking a guided tour or choosing a few highlights and seeing those first. You could also visit the Mall at night when parking is less of a problem and there are fewer crowds.
The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
202-456-2121 Hours of Operation: Sun-Mon Closed
Sat 7:30am-1pm Entrance Cost: Free
Unfortunately for foreign visitors unless you are extremely organized you will probably not be seeing the inside of the President’s residents. US citizens may request a tour through their congressman and foreign visitors must request a tour through their embassy in Washington DC. The White House was completed in 1800, it has 132 rooms and is built in the neoclassical style. It is a 6 storey structure with 2 floors being underground. John Adams was the first President to make this his home and since then each successive President has lived here. The Cabinet Room and Eisenhower Executive Office Building are part of the complex but most know the White House as the President’s home. The West Wing is where the President works together with his staff and the East Wing is where the Presidential home is and where the First Lady’s office is. The house holds many valuable and historic works of art and outside the 18 acre grounds include beautifully kept rose gardens, lawns and for the most part the original 1935 garden plan is still adhered to. You can see the White House (and it is worth it even if it is only from the outside) at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, or see it on the back of the American twenty dollar note!
The Smithsonian MuseumHours of Operation: Daily 10 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Entrance Cost: Free
The Smithsonian Institute is actually a collection of 19 museums and galleries as well as the National Zoological Park, this makes it the world’s largest museum so when planning your visit you need to consider which branch of the museum interests you most. The museums are open daily from 10am to 5:30pm and entrance is free. A few of the most popular museums are the African American History and Culture Museum, American Indian Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. If you have limited time try the Air and Space Museum. Here you can see aircrafts, rockets, spacecrafts and more throughout 23 galleries. There is also the 1903 Wright Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module. This museum is conveniently located on Independence Ave at 6th Street.
The Natural History Museum is great especially if you are traveling with kids. The museum covers human origins, cultural development, dinosaurs, geology and there is a butterfly pavilion. The highlights are the 45.5 carat Hope Diamond, prehistoric white shark and the 80 foot dinosaur skeleton. This museum is at 10th Street and Constitution Ave.
Rasika633 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
202-637-1222 Hours of Operation: Lunch: Mon – Fri 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner: Mon – Thu 5:30pm – 10:30pm, Fri 5:30pm – 11pm, Sat 5pm – 11pm Lounge & Bar Hours: Mon – Thu 11:30am – 11pm, Fri 11:30am – Midnight, Sat 5pm – Midnight
Closed on Sunday. Cost: $$$
This Traveler’s Choice restaurant tops the Trip Advisor list of DC restaurants they serve modern Indian cuisine. Their showcase dishes are Tawa, Sigri which is an open barbeque and tandoori dishes. Located at 633 D Street and is an elegant and classy restaurant.
Ray’s the Steaks2300 Wilson Boulevard
On the Corner Of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Wayne Street
Arlington, VA 22201
703-841-7297 Hours of Operation: Daily 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Cost: $$$$
The no frills attached attitude towards traditional classic American food has made this a favorite among those seeking “typical” American food. The restaurant at 2300 Wilson Blvd boasts excellent quality meat and carnivores will love this place. The specialties in this establishment are diablo, all-breast turkey burgers and full beef burgers, steaks and ribs. Portions can be ordered “big” or “little”. The slightly less expensive Ray’s Hell Burger at 1725 Wilson Blvd has the same high quality meat, large portions and a similar menu.
Ben’s Chili Bowl1213 U Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
202-667-0909 Hours of Operation: Monday thru Thursday: Breakfast from 6am – 10:45am, Main Menu from 10:45am – 2am
Friday: Breakfast from 6am – 10:45am, Main Menu from 10:45am – 4am
Saturday: Breakfast from 7am – 10:45am, Main Menu from 10:45am – 4am
Sunday: Main Menu from 11am – 11pm Cost: $
Making it onto the Urbanspoon.com’s top list and Trip Advisor’s restaurant list this down to earth establishment serves sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and chilli con carne. The prices are very reasonable and the quality of the ingredients make these basic foods delicious. Find Ben’s Chili Bowl at 1213 U Street NW.
Graffiato707 6th St NW
Washington DC 20001
202-289-3600 Hours of Operation: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am – 5pm, Sat 12pm – 5pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm
Dinner: Sun-Tue 5 – 11pm, Wed–Sat 5pm – midnight (Kitchen closes an Hour before closing, but the bar & pizza oven are open till late night) Cost: $$$
This is Urbanspoon.com’s pick for top DC restaurant, located at 707 6th Street NW they serve casual Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The top dishes include sweet corn agnolotti, crispy lamb, spaghetti carbonara, meatballs and roasted cauliflower with pecorino and mint. The restaurant belongs to Chef Mike Isabella of Top Chef fame.