The ultimate guide to the coolest things to do and see in Washington, D.C.
Sure, it’s the political capital of the United States, but Washington, D.C. is so much more than its politics. With one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the USA and a hub for the country’s best art and historical collections, there are so many things to do and places to explore, you could spend weeks in just the museums and still not see it all. Start here with my basic Washington, District of Columbia travel tips, or jump down below to read my latest DC travel blogs.
When to Visit
Home to countless political and government events, meetings and international organizations, Washington D.C. seemingly never shuts down. The city’s temperate location makes it especially comfortable for summertime tourists, when people from around the world flock to the city. Visit in the off-seasons though, especially in the autumn, for a great climate and plenty of beautiful photos of Washington’s marble monuments against the fall foliage. In the Spring, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is worth traveling for.
Cool Things To Do
With the Smithsonian collections are always free, there are also many other museums and institutes operating in Washington, D.C., including the increasingly important and dynamic Newseum. Also, in D.C. — it’s all about the food. Explore the city’s restaurants in Georgetown and Adams Morgan featuring every type of ethnic and international cuisine you can imagine. Or go for local D.C. favorites like Ben’s Chili Bowl or Comet Ping Pong.
Newseum — The Newseum promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Headquartered on historic Pennsylvania Avenue, the Newseum’s compelling, dynamic and engaging exhibits, programs and education initiatives help ensure that these fundamental freedoms remain strong and protected both today and for future generations.
International Spy Museum— The International Spy Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage and intelligence. Open since July 2002, the Museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. The mission of the International Spy Museum is to educate the public about espionage and intelligence in an engaging way and to provide a context that fosters understanding of their important role and impact on current and historic events. The Museum’s collection chronicles the history of espionage, from its inception, to the modern day challenges facing intelligence professionals worldwide in the 21st Century.
Washington, D.C. Tours
Because the city was built as the nation’s capital, the city is relatively well laid out making it easy to explore on foot and/or using public transportation. But visiting the monuments on the National Mall may take several hours, or even days if you stop into some of the Smithsonian museums as well. There is just so much to see and do in Washington D.C., sometimes it’s simply easier to book a walking tour.
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LGBT – Gay Washington, D.C. Travel Tips
Washington D.C. has a number of distinct neighborhoods each with their own atmosphere. In the city center, just north of the National Mall, the districts of Shaw, Logan Square, U-Street Corridor and Dupont Circle are home to a number of gay bars. Trade is a popular dive bar choice for bearded hipsters every Thursday night with affordable beer choices and pornographic wallpaper plastered in the toilets. The nearby Number Nine gay cocktail bar and lounge caters to high-end, stuffy politicians and just down the U-Street, Nellie's Sports Bar hosts drag events and a dance floor popular with local college students.
Look out for Capital Pride each June when the city streets come alive with LGBTs and their allies.
Finding affordable accommodation in Washington, D.C. isn't always easy, but the following are some great hotel deals I've found using Booking.com. You might also try Agoda.com for other last-minute deals. If you're looking for affordable accommodation outside of the city, look for rooms available on the outer edges of the DC metro system—for example, in Alexandria, Virginia or in Maryland where you can still reach the city center in under a half hour on public transportation.
Top Hotel Recommendation: Kimpton Hotel Palomar is located conveniently within walking distance to some of Washington D.C.'s best neighborhoods—just a short walk to Georgetown in the east or Dupont Circle and U Street within 10 minutes walk. This 4-star hotel makes for an excellent base in Washington D.C. and features a number of great amenities, including a day spa, fitness center, heated pool and a beautiful lobby (with complimentary wine each evening). Also make sure to check out the hotel's restaurant Urbana serving Italian food and hearty, healthy breakfasts. Check rates for Kimpton Hotel Palomar here.