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Although Washington DC is a great American travel destination, it can be overwhelming to plan a visit. The city has more than fifty museums, monuments galore, over a dozen distinct districts, and hundreds of restaurants to choose from. Even if you don’t plan in advance, you’ll find plenty to do, but these simple tips will help you make the most of your trip.
Do Visit Museums Other Than the Smithsonians
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With all due respect to the Smithsonian museums, the independent museums in Washington DC are unique, interesting collections on one-of-a-kind topics. The Newseum is so big that two-day admission comes standard to learn about the press and media, current events, and noteworthy news stories from history. The International Spy Museum is another favorite, with interactive spy experiences as well as more traditional style exhibits.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Visiting the Mall
The National Mall is a great place to start your visit to Washington DC, but if you don’t head to the district’s neighborhoods, you’re missing out on many of the city’s best features. Shaw is home to art galleries and jazz music, Adams Morgan has eccentric shopping, and Georgetown has great historical attractions. With more than fifteen neighborhood heritage trails, you can easily guide yourself through different parts of the city.
Do Choose a Hotel Near the Metro
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Washington DC is a great city for walking and biking, so it’s to your advantage to choose a central place to stay. However, if you’re looking for cheap Washington DC hotels, save money by staying a little farther out and still get around easily by metro. Since traffic to and from the city is insane during rush hour, avoid it by doing your travel underground.
Don’t Retreat to Your Hotel Room After Dinner
Seeing the monuments in Washington DC at night is one of the best things to do in the city. Not only will you avoid most of the crowds, but seeing these icons all lit up literally puts them in a different light. Take time to see the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial, and more. You can see the highlights by foot in about two hours or save your feet by joining a bus tour.
Do Consider Leaving the City
If you have extra time in your agenda, visit lots of great places just outside the district itself. Hiking at Great Falls National Park is a fun change of pace to the city atmosphere and history lovers should tour Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. Also nearby is Alexandria, Virginia, best reached by water taxi from Georgetown.
Don’t Forget to Pack Your Appetite
One of the best ways to experience the cultural diversity of Washington DC is by sampling ethnic food from around the world. In addition to commonly found cuisines, you’ll discover new surprises like Haitian restaurants, Tibetan dumplings, and Nigerian platters. Round out your visit with deluxe desserts and great street food.
Do start planning a trip to Washington DC and don’t miss out on all the city has to offer!
3 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts For Washington DC”
No doubt that the best advice for seeing DC is to visit at night! It is absolutely a beautiful place when the city, museums, and monuments light up at night. Also, if anyone visits the city on the 4th of July, pick-out a spot on the west bank of the Potomac to see the fireworks as they are shot off behind the memorials. Crowds are big; but, you do not have to deal with security nor have issues with parking like going to the National Mall.
Our favorite location is to park in one of the garages in Crystal City (Arlington), or stay in one of the hotels there, then walk through one of the pedestrian tunnels under the George Washington Parkway and sit along the bank of the river.
I completely agree that the monuments are a must at night. Personally, on the 4th of July, I’d suggest going up, up, up! Find yourself anywhere that you can be on a rooftop for the evening of Independence day! You can see fireworks in DC, Alexandria, Bethesda, encompassing all around you! Plus, it’s even prettier to see fireworks and monuments in the same view.
@Carissa, I never thought about seeing the fireworks specifically over the monuments – really great idea!