- Washington, D.C. is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Washington, D.C., , formally the District of Columbia, is the capital of the United States of America. It is a planned city, designed specifically to house the federal government, and is not part of any state. Its history, beautiful architecture, and excellent cultural centers attract millions of visitors each year. Washington, D.C., is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland.
Virtually all of D.C.'s tourists flock to the Mall—a two-mile long, beautiful stretch of parkland that comprises many of the city's monuments and museums—but the city itself is a vibrant metropolis that often has little to do with monuments, politics, or white, neoclassical buildings. The Smithsonian is a can't miss, but don't trick yourself—you haven't really been to D.C. until you've seen some of the neighborhoods.
Washington, D.C., was established in 1790 by the United States Congress, as a federal city exclusively under the control of the national government. The District of Columbia was originally carved out of both Virginia and Maryland. The land ceded by Virginia was returned to that state in 1846; the city's current territory is comprised of only land ceded by Maryland. The city was subsequently named for George Washington, who selected the city's exact location on the Potomac River. Designed by architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Washington was built to have wide avenues radiating from traffic circles, providing for maximum open space and landscaping. Laws to regulate building heights provide Washington with a low skyline devoid of skyscrapers present in other cities.
Relatively few residents are native Washingtonians. Most recent census figures report that about 50% of the population has relocated in the past 5 years. Virtually all cultures, languages and religions are present and accepted. Spanish-speaking Washingtonians are overwhelmingly Central American, mostly from El Salvador. Most of D.C.'s African immigrants hail from West African origin, but there are also significant and visible Somali and Ethiopian communities. Most of the city's native born population is comprised of African-Americans, who are in turn a clear majority within the District. In the immediate metro area, a whopping one third of the population is foreign born.
The District of Columbia is under the ultimate control of the U.S. Congress. Since 1973, city residents have been able to elect a Mayor as well as representatives to the D.C. City Council. However, Congress retains the right to overturn laws passed by the city council. The nearly 600,000 citizens residing in Washington, D.C., do not have voting representation in Congress because the District is not a state. As a reminder to visitors that D.C. residents are taxed but are unable to vote for Congress, District license plates feature the slogan "Taxation Without Representation", reflecting the Revolutionary War motto used as a protest against British rule.
D.C. suffers from some very serious cultural divides within its population. For example, the city is a sometimes uncomfortable blend of its semi-transient professional population and those who have chosen the District as their permanent home. But the huge divide is the general rift between the city's poorer east side, which is in large areas nearly 100% African-American, and its wealthier west side (west of Rock Creek), largely white. This divide has caused some tension as a citywide wave of neighborhood rebuilding and improvement is riding in the wake of young professionals, whose tight budgets and distaste for long daily commutes have in recent years driven them to move into poorer D.C. neighborhoods in search of low rent and easy access to city amenities.
In a number of ways, D.C. has been and remains a significant and outstanding center of African American culture at least as important as Harlem (NYC). It is home to Howard University, one of the most important historically black colleges. U Street was once known as "Black Broadway", with Duke Ellington performing in many of its venues. D.C. has been the hometown of many other significant Black figures of history and culture, including Fredrick Douglass.
Washington, D.C., is also a center of deaf culture, as hometown to Gallaudet University, one of the few universities in the world with a primary mission to educate the hearing impaired. The District is also home to one of the country's most prominent GLBT communities, centered around Dupont Circle.
Planning your visit
Before heading to Washington, D.C., you may want to check out what events will coincide with your visit. Showing up during an international conference, protest, or march may affect your ability to visit attractions that you want to see, as well as impact dining, lodging, and transportation. The period from Thanksgiving to shortly after New Year's is when many of the government bodies have little activity, resulting in fewer official visitors, elected officials, and their staff members being in town. This translates to easier transportation and overall fewer people in the city. On New Year's Eve, at the Old Post Office, they lower a new commemorative stamp at midnight.
Washington, D.C., is served by three major airports.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA),  located in Arlington, Virginia on the west bank of the Potomac River just south of the city, is the closest and most convenient. Walkways connect the concourse level of the B and C terminals to the Washington Metro rail's Blue/Yellow Line platform; the walk from the A terminal to the metro takes 5 to 10 minutes, or you can take a shuttle bus to the main (B-C) terminal. To get downtown (10 minutes), take the Yellow Line toward Mt Vernon Square/UDC (off-peak toward Fort Totten). For destinations to the west, take the Blue Line toward Largo Town Center. A taxi trip to downtown costs about $15.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA: IAD),  is located at Dulles (pronounced Dull-ess), Virginia, 26 miles west of downtown Washington. To get into the city, the most convenient option may be the Washington Flyer coach , which operates every half hour to and from the West Falls Church Metro (Orange Line). It takes 20-25 minutes and costs $10 one way or $18 round trip. The Metro rail service from West Falls Church to downtown D.C. takes another 20-25 minutes. The cheapest option is the 5A Metrobus, an express bus which makes stops at Herndon, Tysons Corner, Rosslyn (Blue and Orange Lines) and downtown L'Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Blue, and Orange Lines). It generally departs every 40 minutes on weekdays and hourly (though not on the hour) on weekends and takes 50-60 minutes to the city; the fare is $3 each way. Ask the people at the information booth in the lower level of the airport terminal, near the baggage claim, which bus will be coming sooner. They also can direct you to the bus stop. (5A timetable and map (pdf): ) A taxi trip to downtown costs about $50.
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (IATA: BWI),  is in Maryland and is 30 miles north-east of D.C. and 10 miles south of downtown Baltimore. Metro operates the hourly B30 express Metrobus to the Greenbelt Metro Station (Green Line). It boards on the lower level outside the International Pier. The fare is $3.10 each way and it takes about 30 minutes. The driver does not provide change. The Metro rail service from Greenbelt to downtown takes another 25 minutes approximately. A taxi trip to downtown Washington costs about $60. There are also train services via MARC or Amtrak from BWI Rail Station. From BWI Airport, a free "Amtrak/MARC" shuttle bus runs from the airport terminal to the BWI Rail Station. MARC  local rail operates weekdays to New Carrollton (Orange Line) for $5 each way, or Washington Union Station (Red Line) for $6. Amtrak  provides access to Union Station (from $13; 30-35 minutes) and to nearby Alexandria, Virginia near the King Street Metro station on the Blue and Yellow lines (from $27).
Amtrak services arrive from all over the country, particularly the Northeast Corridor (Boston-to-Richmond). All stop at downtown Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, on Metro's Red Line — a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol steps. Amtrak's Capitol Limited comes from Chicago, passing through Pittsburgh, before arriving in D.C. A few lines also stop in adjacent Alexandria, Virginia, very close to King Street Metro, on the Yellow and Blue lines. If you are coming from the south, it might be easier to stop there, depending on your destination.
Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC)  provides service to Baltimore, via either the Camden or the Penn Line. The two lines run to separate parts of Baltimore with different stops along the way, and limited reverse service from Washington. Only the Penn Line stops at BWI Airport. The MARC Penn line shares trains, tracks and ticketing with Amtrak on the high-speed Northeast Corridor between Washington Union Station and Baltimore Union Station, which also serves New Carrollton and BWI Airport. Only Amtrak runs on weekends. MARC also provides service on the Brunswick line towards western Maryland, all the way past Harpers Ferry, with stops also at the Rockville and Silver Spring, in Maryland. Virginia Railway Express (VRE)  provides rail service from the southwest, starting in Virginia suburbs of Manassas and Fredericksburg, for those who do not wish to drive into the metropolitan area.
Washington, D.C., is primarily served by I-95 from Baltimore, MD or Richmond, VA. I-95 South is particularly bad on Friday afternoons and any time people are likely to be going to the beach. Other interstates of note are:
- I-495 is the D.C. Beltway (or simply "the Beltway"). The Beltway is reviled across the nation for its traffic congestion (particularly during rush hour, when it rivals the Cross-Bronx Expressway in New York City as the most miserable highway in the United States). On the East side of the city, I-495 follows I-95. Particularly bad spots include:
- the inner loop (clockwise) between I-66 and I-95 and also approaching the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the morning rush (Virginia)
- the outer loop (counterclockwise) between I-95 Springfield and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge during the afternoon rush (Virginia)
- the outer loop (counterclockwise) in Maryland between I-95 and I-270.
Again, only travel on the Beltway during rush hour if you absolutely, positively cannot leave your car and walk.
- I-270 connects I-70 in Frederick, MD to I-495 in Bethesda, MD.
- I-395 connects downtown with the I-495/I-95 interchange in Northern Virginia.
- I-295 connects downtown with I-495/I-95 at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Southern Prince George's County, MD.
- I-66 starts at the western part of downtown and goes 75 miles west, ending near Front Royal, VA.
- Route 50 traverses the city from east to west, heading east toward Annapolis, MD and Ocean City, MD (the latter by way of the Bay Bridge), and west across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge into Northern Virginia and parts west.
- The Baltimore-Washington Parkway (also "B-W Parkway") starts at I-295, crossing central Maryland, passing near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and terminating in Baltimore.
Inside the beltway, I-66 is HOV-2 only eastbound from 7AM to 9AM and westbound from 4PM to 6:30 PM. The HOV-2 restriction applies to the entire highway, not just specific lanes. US-50, US-29, and the George Washington Parkway are the alternatives.
Interestingly enough, while MD/DC 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) will take you from Maryland right into the city, it doesn't allow you to directly connect to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway westbound. You can exit at Pennsylvania Avenue Eastbound and follow the throngs making illegal u-turns to then be facing westbound (towards downtown) or proceed to Howard Road and then cross the Anacostia River on South Capitol Street, which takes you to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. I-295 Northbound does connect to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway Westbound. The converse is also true: the Southeast-Southwest Freeway Eastbound does not connect to DC 295 Northbound- it only connects to I-295 southbound. To gain entrance onto DC 295 Northbound, stay left on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and exit onto Pennsylvania Avenue, which will then let you turn left and enter 295 North.
- Greyhound, . The stop for Washington, D.C., is at 1005 1st St NE, which is a few blocks north of Union Station (where you can catch the Red Line Metrorail). Current fares are around $20 (or $35 for a return ticket) from New York City. Please note that these prices require a 3 day in advance purchase. There are other Greyhound stations located in Silver Spring, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.
- Apex Bus, . The stop for Washington, D.C., is on 610 Eye St. NW. Prices are $20 ( or $35 for a return ticket) from New York City. No advance purchase is required.
- Vamoose Bus, . At $25, Vamoose runs from Penn Station in New York to Bethesda MD, (10 steps from the Washington Metro),  , which will take you all over the city, and continues to Arlington VA; also Metro accessible. The buses are very clean, and stop right on the street, avoiding the chaos of D.C. bus terminals, and the New York Port Authority. Make sure to make a reservation online because this service is popular!
- Megabus  provides service from New York City; fares start at $1 when ordered far enough in advance. Buses arrive and depart at the southeastern corner of 11th St NW and G St NW, in front of an entrance to the Metro Center metro station.
- BoltBus  provides service from New York City; fares start at $1 when ordered far enough in advance. Buses arrive and depart at 11th St NW and H St NW, near Metro Center.
- Goto Bus, . You can search several carriers through this site. Sometimes discounts are given from this site.
The city is split into four quadrants of unequal size, whose boundaries extend from the United States Capitol building: Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). City roads are laid out in a grid, with east-west streets primarily named with letters, and north-south streets named with numbers. Further, diagonal avenues named primarily after states extend from traffic circles and squares.
Due to the fact that street names extend into all four quadrants, all street addresses include the quadrant suffix to indicate its location (e.g. M Street NW). The Northwest quadrant is the largest and home to most places of interest to visitors, although a few major tourist locations fall into the other three quadrants; for example, Union Station and the Supreme Court are in the Northeast quadrant, the Tidal Basin and Bureau of Engraving and Printing are in Southwest, and the Library of Congress is in Southeast).
The grid has a few peculiarities which are a legacy from Pierre L'Enfant's 18th century plan for the city. There is no J Street in Washington because at the time the letters I and J were easily confused.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, known as WMATA, operates the city's public transportation system. The hub-and-spoke rail system is integrated with an extensive bus system. A car is often a hindrance in the District, particularly for tourists; public transportation is often the fastest way to get around.
The city's subway system is most commonly referred to as "the Metro." The system includes five intersecting rail lines, which stop in most major neighborhoods and multiple locations downtown. The Metro system is widely considered to be safe, reliable, and clean. Metro publishes a pocket guide indicating which line and stop to take for various landmarks.
There are several rules and tips to keep in mind while traveling on Metro:
- Absolutely no food or drink is allowed on trains or in stations. Metro employees and police officers will ask you to dispose of any food before entering. Violators are subject to fines or arrest.
- On escalators it is customary to stand to the right to allow other passengers to pass on the left side.
- Allow riders to exit a train before attempting to board.
- Do not attempt to prevent sliding doors from closing. Unlike elevator doors, train doors do not reopen automatically.
Metro rail lines are color-coded. In some areas, two different color train lines may share the same track. Additionally, trains may terminate before reaching the end of the line, especially during rush hour. Therefore, be careful to note the color and final destination indicated on the electronic displays and train cars before boarding.
- Red Line — forms a long "U" from suburban Montgomery County, Maryland through downtown D.C. Attractions on the Red Line include the Union Station (Amtrak), the Verizon Center, the National Zoo, and the National Basilica. Every other outbound Red Line train terminates at the Grosvenor and Silver Spring stations on weekdays from 7-9:30AM and 4-6:30PM.
- Yellow Line — links Fort Totten station to Alexandria via the Washington Convention Center, the Verizon Center, the 14th Street Bridge, and Reagan National Airport. Yellow Line service operates between Mt. Vernon Square and Fort Totten stations EXCEPT on weekdays from 5-9:30AM and 3-7:00PM.
- Green Line — forms a "C" linking Greenbelt and Suitland, Maryland through downtown D.C. Destinations include the University of Maryland, Columbia Heights, U Street, the Southwest Waterfront, Nationals Stadium, and historic Anacostia.
- Blue Line — links Largo Town Center, Maryland to Franconia, Virginia through downtown D.C. Destinations include the city of Alexandria, Reagan National Airport, Arlington Cemetery, Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, the National Mall, Capitol Hill, and RFK Stadium.
- Orange Line — links Vienna, Virginia to New Carrollton, Maryland through downtown D.C. Destinations include the Wilson Boulevard entertainment corridor, Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, the National Mall, RFK Stadium, and the New Carrollton Amtrak station.
When riding Metro late at night, be aware of when the last train leaves each particular station. This information is available both online and within Metro stations. All trains continue to the end of their respective lines, even after the system has technically closed; there is no need to worry that a train will stop before you reach your destination. The last train in each direction will pause at major transfer stations to allow riders to board the appropriate line.
The Metro fare system  is complicated and varies based on the day, time, and distance of the trip. During peak times, weekdays between 5-9:30AM and 3-7:00PM and weekends from 2AM to closing, fares cost between $1.65 and $4.50. At all other times, fares cost between $1.35 and $2.35. Posted guides will help you calculate the appropriate fare.
Fares are paid by purchasing a farecard at automated machines within stations. Riders use the card at the faregates once to enter the system and again to exit. Riders must have enough money on their farecard in order to leave the system. A number of flat-rate Metro passes  are available that give riders an unlimited number of trips within the system for a set number of days. These passes eliminate the need for riders to calculate their own fares and are available in each station at many of the automated machines that sell standard farecards.
Parking is available at many suburban stations for a flat cost of $4.50-4.75 per day, depending on the station. The Anacostia, Franconia-Springfield, Largo Town Center, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, Shady Grove, and New Carrollton metro stations accept payment with a credit card. All other stations require the use of a commuter "SmarTrip" debit card in order to leave the lot. Parking is free on weekends and federal holidays.
The "Metrobus" system has a flat fare of $1.35 for most routes. There are weekly unlimited passes available for Metrobus for $11. New, red "D.C. Circulator" buses provide the cheapest way ($1) to travel crosstown along D.C.'s major axes: East-West from Union Station past the Convention Center to Georgetown and North-South from the Convention Center through the National Mall to the Southwest Waterfront.
Washington, D.C., taxicabs use standard time and distance meters to calculate fares. The cost is $3.00 for the first 1/6th of a mile and 25 cents for each additional 1/6th of a mile. The maximum fare within Washington is $19.00, excluding standard fees such as $1.50 for each additional passenger 6 years or older, and a 25% fee during declared snow emergencies. There is no longer any standard rush hour fee; however, meters do charge 25 cents for each minute stopped in traffic or traveling under 10mph. Cabs do not typically accept credit cards, so having the appropriate fare in cash is required. All D.C. taxicab meters have the ability to print receipts on request.
Taxicab drivers are required to take passengers anywhere within the Washington Metropolitan Area. D.C. cab fares for interstate trips are the same as the standard rates, except that there is no maximum fare. Please note that with the exception of rides to and from the airport, it is illegal for non-D.C. cabs to pick up passengers within the District; the same rule applies for D.C. cabs in Maryland or Virginia.
Driving in D.C. can be difficult. Downtown Washington's roads are well-signed and organized on a relatively predictable grid, but driving in the District is somewhat of a challenge even for native Washingtonians. Limited parking, ruthless parking enforcement, street direction changes, congestion, and street closures are all good reasons to take Metro.
Local opposition prevented the construction of interstate highways through Washington, steering resources instead towards building the Washington Metro system. The two freeways that feed into the city from Virginia, I-66 and I-395, both terminate quickly. Washington and its innermost suburbs are encircled by the Capital Beltway, I-495, which gave rise to the expression "Inside the Beltway."
Washington boasts several scenic drives:
- Pennsylvania Avenue from 14th Street NW toward the Capitol
- Rock Creek Parkway, which follows Rock Creek, then the Potomac to the Lincoln Memorial
- Reservoir Road from Georgetown to the Clara Barton Parkway, continuing to the Capitol Beltway
- Embassy Row, Massachusetts Avenue from Scott Circle to Wisconsin Avenue
- the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which follows the Potomac on the Virginia side
Washington, D.C., has a number of tour operators that can offer a good alternative to taking on city traffic and parking hassles. These companies are:
- Old Town Trolley 
- D.C. Ducks 
- Monuments by Moonlight 
- Bike the Sites 
- Capital Segway 
- City Segway Tours 
- Washington Walks 
- Washington D.C. Party Shuttle 
If you are sightseeing, chances are you are on The Mall. The National Mall is a unique National Park, filled with an intense concentration of monuments, memorials, museums, and monumental government buildings instantly recognizable to people all over the world. The White House, the US Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, the Air and Space Museum, the National Natural History Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the International Spy Museum, the National Portrait Gallery—just a few of the top national attractions here, all within walking distance of each other. The tourist-designated sights are just half of the attraction here, though—to walk down the National Mall is to thread the halls of world power in the modern era. Here the world's most powerful politicians their staffs fill the grand neo-classical buildings of the three branches of US Government, where they make decisions every day that reverberate in the remotest corners of the world.
There are ample maps along the Mall, especially by metro stops, but the place is so jam-packed with things you'll want to see, you should probably take a map with you to avoid missing highlights, obscured by other highlights. For a more detailed & larger map than the Wikitravel version, print out the official National Mall map (pdf) . The Mall is deceptively large, and a walk from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial or the Tidal Basin will take a while and may wear you down a bit. Plan ahead what you want to see and concentrate your activities in one section of the Mall for one day. The eastern section, home to the majority of the museums is covered in the National Mall article, as is the western portion of the Mall and the Tidal Basin. The White House is located in the West End, and Capitol Hill gets its own article.
While the Mall has more than enough sights to keep a traveler busy for a while, the city itself has plenty of big attractions for a visitor who wants to leave behind the sandy paths and flocks of tourists and pigeons of the Smithsonian. The National Zoo in Woodley Park is one of the nation's most prestigious; the nearby National Cathedral is an awe-inspiring mammoth. Embassy Row is an impressive stretch of some 50 foreign-owned historic and modernist mansions along Massachusetts Avenue throughout Dupont Circle and Woodley Park. The historic neighborhood of Georgetown is another great sightseeing destination, full of beautiful old colonial buildings, the 300+ year-old Jesuit campus of Georgetown University, a pleasant waterfront, and the infamous Exorcist steps. By car (i.e., taxi) you can get to some of the capital's more far flung and less frequented attractions, like the magnificent Catholic National Shrine in the Northeast, the National Arboretum in the Northeast, or the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in northeastern Anacostia.
The District is home to many large parks that offer hiking and biking. Many of the downtown parks are crowded with soccer, football, rugby, kickball, baseball, and ultimate frisbee players. Most parks are covered in their respective districts (see especially the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens), with the exception of the following three very large parks:
Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park, ☎ +1 202 895-6070(fax: +1 202 895-6015), . Rock Creek, if you look on a map, is evidently the district's central respiratory system, bisecting the district north of the Anacostia River, and covering nearly 2,000 acres of thickly forested hills. It's a national park, full of deer (who overpopulate, due to lack of predators), squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, birds, and even a few coyotes. The paved biking/running trail is one of the nation's best, and it extends all the way from the Lincoln Memorial way out into Maryland (it also connects with the Mount Vernon trail in Northern Virginia. But there are tons more paths, from the hiking trail network to bridle paths, to be enjoyed.
To see the Rock Creek Park in greater detail, the official map is available here (pdf): .
- Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, 5200 Glover Road, NW, ☎ +1 202 895-6070, . W-Su 9AM-5PM. Deep inside the park, the Nature Center offers hands-on exhibits, guided nature walks, an "observation beehive," and a full planetarium.All free.
- Rock Creek Golf Course, 16th St & Rittenhouse St, NW, . dawn-dusk daily. 18 holes of golf in Rock Creek Park.9 holes: $16, 18 holes: $23.
There are plenty of regular festivals throughout the year, many of them on the National Mall. Some highlights include:
- National Kite Festival (springtime)
- National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March/early April)  Note that Washington's cherry blossoms do *not* necessarily bloom during the festival -- the bloom varies every year, depending on the winter weather. When the blossoms are out (and they don't stay out for long -- a good rain will wash them away), Washington is at its very prettiest. The best place to enjoy the blossoms is around the Tidal Basin. You will pay top dollar to visit during cherry blossom season.
- A Capitol Fourth  (July 4th) A day of parades and other events, capped off by fireworks over the Potomac River and a large orchestral concert on Capitol Hill.
- Smithsonian Folklife Festival  (late June and ending around July 4th) This annual festival normally has three topics: a country, a region of the USA and another subject, which varies from year to year. Previous festivals have featured the country of Oman, the ancient Silk Road and music in Latino culture.
- Political Protests (year-round)
- Screen on the Green (Mondays, July and August) Classic films, often with a political angle, are shown for free on the Mall. Watching 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' with the capital dome in the background is classic D.C.
- American University 
- Catholic University of America 
- Corcoran College of Art 
- Dumbarton Oaks library and collection offers resources in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies.
- Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE.  The nation's leading and the world's only university for the deaf.
- Georgetown University 
- George Washington University, one of the leading political universities in America. Also home to the George Washington University Hospital, where doctors worked on Ronald Reagan following his attempted assassination, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney's medical procedures. 
- Howard University 
- Institute of World Politics 
- Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies 
- Joint Military Intelligence College 
- Peabody Room, 2nd floor, Georgetown Branch Library, 3260 R Street, NW (corner of Wisconsin Avenue and R Street). +1 202 282-0214  Peabody Room is the special collection division containing historical material related to the history of Georgetown, established in 1751 as Georgetown, MD.
- National Defense University 
- Potomac College 
- Regent University 
- Southeastern University 
- Trinity University 
- University of the District of Columbia
- Smithsonian Institute, The Smithsonian Institute offers classes to members.
- Washingtoniana Division, Room #307, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (across from Gallery Place Metro stop). +1 202 727-1213.  Washingtoniana Division is the special collection division containing historical material related to both federal as well as "hometown" Washington, D.C.
Certain career fields find a natural home in D.C. While everyone knows this is where politicians go, you can also find a fair share of diplomats, lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, NGO directors, defense contractors and civil servants. Many ambitious young people come to Washington for an internship, and the student-aged population peaks in the summer.
With so many high powered career types out to change the world, the need for child care is obvious. Nannies provide child care to many of Washington's elite; the city has the highest proportion of in-home child care in the country. US citizen nannies are especially sought out as government types carefully follow employment law to avoid problems with security clearances or negative publicity. Wages for legal US residents with experience can top $800 per week, room and board included. Several nanny placement agencies exist in Washington, they provide help for exasperated parents and a lucrative career for women young and old who love children.
The Chevy Chase shopping district is Washington's upscale fashion district found near the Friendship Heights Metro stop, straddling the D.C.-Maryland border within two blocks of the Red Line station of the same name. It is home to many high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Dior, and Versace in and around the Mazza Gallerie and Chevy Chase Pavilion shopping centers, as well as a concentration of day spas.
Georgetown  is well-known for its variety of mid-range to high-end retail shops that line M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. The Georgetown Business Improvement District's website (noted above) has the most comprehensive list of retailers.
The Shops at Union Station  include a variety of retail operations selling clothing, stationery, and shoes, among other things.
The downtown Verizon Center/Chinatown area has experienced a recent boom of late. Along 7th Street, NW between H Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, numerous new restaurants and stores have opened creating a bustling shopping district. Adjacent to the Verizon Center, a new bowling alley and multiplex cinema have also opened.
Around the Capitol Building and the White House, there are shops that sell souvenirs (postcards, t-shirts, etc.). There are also many street vendors near the tourist destinations, such as along the National Mall, which will hawk similar items.
The Smithsonian museum shops sell many souvenirs that are more upscale and diverse than those sold by street vendors and tourist shops, but they are usually more expensive, as well. The National Building Museum's shop has a notable shop that focuses on modern design.
- Kramerbooks  and Lambda Rising  are notable local bookstores and Dupont Circle institutions; the Dupont Circle area also includes numerous art galleries and lesbian/gay/bisexual oriented retailers. Second Story Books  carries used books, prints, and music in its Dupont Circle store; it also has two stores in Maryland.
- Reiter's Scientific & Professional Books  is the leading scientific, medical and technical bookstore on the east coast. Recently relocated to 1990 K Street NW (Entrance on 20th). Reiter's is Washington's oldest bookstore, established in 1936. For many visiting scientists and scholars a visit to Washington isn't complete without a stop at Reiter's. Closest metro station is Farragut West on the Blue & Orange lines, and Farragut North just a block further on the Red line.
- Capitol Hill Books  is located next to Eastern Market. It is housed in a small, old rowhouse, but is jam-packed with used books on every imaginable subject. For a delightful surprise, be sure to open the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- Politics & Prose  is a notable bookstore with frequent lectures and book signings, but it is located about a mile north of the Van Ness-UDC Metro Station, far from most tourist sites.
- The two major national chairs, Borders  and Barnes and Noble , have a number of locations. Of most interest to visitors are the Barnes and Noble downtown at 12th and E Streets NW, the Borders near the White House at 14th and F Streets NW, and the Barnes and Noble in Georgetown on M Street.
Eclectic & Vintage
Along the U Street corridor, many independent boutique stores, vintage clothing shops, home furnishing stores, and antique retailers have sprung up. Most shops can be found along U Street, NW between 12th and 18th Streets, with a few south of U Street along 14th Street.
Adams Morgan is better known for its nightlife, but it has an active shopping scene during its daylight hours. Included among the small shops are vintage clothing shops, cooperatives of independent local designers, international grocery stores and importers (especially catering to the Central American and African populations), shoe stores, and antique home furnishings. To make an afternoon of it, stroll from the U Street Metro (stopping by the shops that line the U Street Corridor) to 18th Street, then head north (uphill) into Adams Morgan.
Eastern Market  near the Capitol is open every Sunday for antiques dealers, secondhand book dealers, and local artists, photographers, and craftspeople to showcase their wares. It also hosts a local farmers' market and indoor food vendors selling fresh meats, pastas, produce, and cheeses sporadically throughout the week and every weekend.
Nearby Bethesda and Takoma Park, Maryland are known for eclectic, locally-owned shops, mostly hidden away on side streets. Likewise, Virginia's Arlington  and Alexandria  neighborhoods are just across the Potomac and feature their own shopping, nightlife, and historic hot-spots.
Washington has a little bit of everything, from really good inexpensive ethnic takeout (no problem getting Ethiopian or Afghani or Jamaican food here) to high-dollar lobbyist-fueled places that will cause your credit card to burst into flames. Most of the high end cuisine is available in Penn Quarter, Georgetown, and Dupont Circle—all offering dining experiences from steakhouses packed with powerful suits to a science-powered, six-seat restaurant offering a $120, 30-course meal.
For cheaper dining, there are endless options scattered around the city. The two most notable "ethnic" enclaves include wonderful Ethiopian food in Little Ethiopia, and some solid Chinese in what remains of D.C.'s now-gentrified Chinatown. Salvadorian food is near ubiquitous throughout the northern reaches of the city, with an unbelievable concentration of pupuserías in Columbia Heights (pupusa = thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, fried pork, refried beans, or all sorts of other things). But truly, you can find just about any cuisine you want in this city if you look for it—D.C.'s international might draws representatives from all corners of the globe, and they all need ex-pat cafes and restaurants to haunt. A few cuisines seem to be missing (notably Southeast Asian & Korean), but they are in fact just across the D.C. borders in Maryland and Virginia (see below).
But despite having cuisines from all over the world, D.C. seems to lack a cuisine of its own. The city, realizing this, went through a brief period of soul-searching, wondering why it lacked any unique regional culinary traditions, and realized it indeed has one: the D.C. hot dog stand. They're utterly ubiquitous, especially around the Mall, and sell the unique-to-D.C. half-smoke. No one can really provide a convincing explanation of why it's called a half-smoke. Despite vendors' claims to the contrary, it's not possible to smoke meat "halfway," and in any rate, they're not smoked, they're grilled. And yes, they are sometimes split in half, but more often not. No need to worry about this too much though, it's a tasty grilled sausage, with a firm "snap" when you bite into it, on a hot dog bun, and often topped with chili. The hot dog vendors around the city tend to be a mere shell of the half-smoke greatness served out of aluminum shacks immediately post-WWII. If you want a true, quality half-smoke, you'd best visit Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street, which is universally understood to serve the best.
Whichever bar or club scene you favor, D.C. has it aplenty. The hottest clubbing spots are in Adams Morgan around 18th Street, Dupont Circle, and nearby Logan Circle. Adams Morgan's scene is the edgiest (and likely most exciting) of the three, and draws a really young, diverse crowd. Dupont Circle's scene is probably the biggest and most established, with sometimes frighteningly upscale clubs catering to extremely wealthy foreign clientèle's, as well as a more happy-go-lucky gay scene. Logan Circle is less established as a nightlife hotspot than Dupont, but they otherwise resemble one another.
If these destinations are all a little too high-octane, you should definitely explore the clubs around U Street and 14th Street in Shaw, which cater to an older, diverse, and self-regardingly more sophisticated crowd. Shaw's also a fantastic destination for live jazz, with the echoes of Ellington ringing out from nearly every last restaurant, bar, and not a few world-class music venues on a Saturday night. Georgetown is another major nightlife destination, although the emphasis here is less on dancing, more on drinking. It's got tons of bars, most of which have a "privileged" & sometimes rowdy collegiate atmosphere. And back on the topic of live jazz, Georgetown is home to the city's most prestigious venue, Blues Alley.
But that's hardly the end of things. D.C. at the end of the 90s and into the current decade went from being one of the blandest, shut-down-at-ten-o-clock American cities to having a thriving nightlife scene pretty much city-wide. Aside from the north of downtown neighborhoods listed above, Barracks Row, Woodley Park, and Chevy Chase each have their own nice "strips," mostly filled with upscale bars, that are worth visiting. The downtown nightlife is lacking, to put it mildly. Foggy Bottom, despite the huge quantity of students, remains pretty quiet, K Street shuts down altogether, and the Penn Quarter is a den of tourist traps. If you're looking for nightlife downtown, research carefully.
Long lacking anything even resembling a bohemian neighborhood, a successful Adams Morgan club owner decided to manufacture one along H Street around the newly renovated Atlas Theater in the Near Northeast. The result is strange. It would at the least be very premature to call it "bohemian," but the Atlas District is plenty interesting. It's a poor, relatively rough neighborhood, and is dead quiet most of the week, but then there are a handful of crazy dining/clubbing options that fill the street on Friday & Saturday nights. The biggest attraction has to be the Palace of Wonders, a vaudeville/sideshow/burlesque bar with sword swallowing bartenders & a "museum of oddities," but there's also a pirate bar and a surprisingly cool rock club.
Gogo clubs (the funk/hip-hop genre, not dancing in 60's miniskirts) were probably D.C.'s most distinctive nightlife scene, concentrated in Anacostia, but today all indoor gogo performances have been banned in D.C. east of the river, due to a backlash at the staggering number of homicides occurring at clubs and events. If you're looking for live gogo today, look for big outdoor events, check to see whether Chuck Brown is performing (he performs all over the place), and maybe check out the Takoma Park Station in a homicide-free section of the Northeast.
Most tourists in D.C. look for accommodations close to the Smithsonian, and accordingly the East End(Penn Quarter area) is where most tourists wind up. There are lots of restaurants and nightlife options in the immediate area, you can walk to The Mall, and you'll feel like you're at the center of town.
But keep in mind that proximity to The Mall is really not so useful as proximity to a Metro stop. For a more authentic Washingtonian experience, visitors might prefer to stay in one of the numerous hotels just a little further north in Dupont Circle or near Logan Circle. Both of these neighborhoods are real hot spots among locals for their upscale dining and nightlife scenes.
The West End also offers upscale hotels close to The Mall, which cater especially to the business travelers who bustle along K Street during the day. The downside to the West End is that the downtown commercial area is deserted after dark. A bit further west is Georgetown, which is perhaps D.C.'s most charming neighborhood, with a wealth of smaller, expensive hotels in the midst of a great dining and nightlife scene. Take note, though, that Georgetown lacks a metro stop (to keep out the riffraff), so you'll find yourself taking taxis or buses to get to The Mall and to other neighborhoods.
It's worth noting that Washington is a relatively small city, acreage-wise, and it's very easy and quick to stay in the close-in suburbs and take the metro into town. You can save meaningful cash this way; suburban hotels are often substantially cheaper and D.C.'s hotel tax is an eye-popping 14.5%. Parts of Arlington and Alexandria, Va., as well as Bethesda and Silver Spring, Md., have easy subway access into the District, and are worthwhile destinations in their own right.
- Washington, D.C., Convention & Visitors Bureau 
While Washington rivaled New Orleans for the Murder Capital title of America in the early 1980s-1990s, violent crime has since fallen dramatically. Washingtonians regularly warn against any forays into the Northeast and Southeast sections of the city, but this is a bit overblown. Certain neighborhoods in these areas are the main contributors to D.C.'s high murder rate, but as a visitor to the city you are extremely unlikely to be victim of a homicide—the vast majority of homicide victims in the U.S. are acquainted with their murderer long before the crime.
The trickiest aspect of staying safe in D.C. lies in the fact that the most dynamic neighborhoods, sporting great nightlife, dining, and diversity, are home to the majority of the city's muggings. Muggings are a serious problem in the North Central neighborhoods of Shaw/U Street and Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights. That's not to say that visitors should avoid these areas—on the contrary, some of the best times to be had in D.C. are in these neighborhoods—but that visitors should be vigilant. In particular, avoid walking at night on side streets—stick to the well-lit main commercial strips, travel in groups, and you shouldn't run into trouble.
Note that when visiting federal buildings and even museums, everybody must pass through metal detectors and have each visitor's bags or packages inspected by hand or X-ray. Additionally, some buildings (such as courts, etc) altogether ban mobile telephones and recording devices such as film or digital cameras, camcorders, and cameraphones. Most federal buildings, such as the U.S. Capitol and The White House, usually also require an appointment or tour request. Tours of the U.S. Capitol building and the White House can be arranged by contacting the office of a member of Congress. The Capitol Visitor Center, an addition to the complex opened in December 2008 to facilitate tours of the historic Capitol complex.
Please take security personnel seriously by not challenging their instructions or making jokes about the situation. Saying the word "bomb," even in jest, may cause you to be placed on increased scrutiny. You give implied consent for your property and person to be searched when entering a government building or public event (sports, music). If you are not comfortable with the searches, you can always elect to not enter.
Smoking and food and drink of any kind are prohibited on Metro trains and buses, a rule strictly enforced with fines and occasionally even arrests. Fare evasion is considered a criminal offense and you will get charged with a C-Class misdemeanor for doing such. Given recent events throughout the world, transportation security on Metro has also been increased. When traveling through the city, on Metro or otherwise, allow extra time for the occasional security hiccup.
For health emergencies, the George Washington University Hospital  is located on Washington Circle in Foggy Bottom, adjacent to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. This is where Vice President Dick Cheney went in 2004 for his irregular heartbeat, where the President would go in event of a medical emergency. Other hospitals in the city include the Howard University Hospital  in the Shaw neighborhood, the Georgetown University Hospital , the Washington Hospital Center  in the north-central part of the city, and the Children's National Medical Center .
Here's a list of all foreign embassies in Washington, D.C.:
Alexandria is located south of Arlington along the Potomac River, yet inside the 10 mile square boundary of what used to be the District of Columbia. The main street of Alexandria's Old Town is King Street. Old Town's cobble stoned steets have nearly 4,000 buildings dating from the 1800s and 1700s, with some dating back to the 1600s and is filled with shops and good restaurants. Some tourists use Old Town (or other parts of Alexandria) as a "home base" for D.C. trips and it's a popular weekend destination. Tour boats that go north to D.C. and south to Mount Vernon leave from Old Town. Many hotels in the area run free shuttle buses to the King Street Metro.
Arlington County is located directly across the Potomac river from Washington and part of the original area of the District of Columbia. Today it is home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Metro system seamlessly integrates Arlington with Washington; it can be cost advantageous and more convenient to stay at an Arlington hotel when visiting Washington, D.C.
- Arlington National Cemetery  is located adjacent to the Pentagon. Closes at dusk. This national military cemetery includes John F. Kennedy's tomb and the house of General Robert E. Lee. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you really want to experience the cemetery, which is enormous and hilly, spring a few bucks for a Tourmobile tour. There is also a large parking garage here that is a good place to dump your car and then catch the subway or Tourmobile into D.C.
- Fashion Centre at Pentagon City - 1100 South Hayes St., Arlington. A large upscale mall, accessible via the Pentagon City Metro station. Additional shopping and an outdoor skating rink during winter is available at Pentagon Row, accessed by going through the food court on the lower level of the mall, and though an underground walkway.
- Pentagon is just across the Potomac River from downtown D.C. in Arlington. While lingering is not recommended for security reasons, you should know it is the largest government office building in the world, and covers 6 zip codes (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Joint Staff, and Department of Defense). Group tours are still available by advance arrangement, but the military no longer hosts other tours. The Pentagon Memorial  is open 24 hours to visitors on the Washington Boulevard side, where Flight 77 hit. Photography is allowed at the memorial, but not permitted anywhere else on the Pentagon grounds. If you take photos anywhere else on site, you may face a 4 hour interrogation by the Pentagon Police and will probably be asked to delete the images. On a lighter note, the interior courtyard is irreverently referred to by employees as "Ground Zero," as it was ostensibly the target of a number of Soviet missiles during the Cold War.
Other Northern Virginia destinations
- Annandale is D.C.'s Koreatown, with some of the best Korean BBQ (open 24hrs!) you'll find anywhere outside Seoul. There's no metro stop, so this is a hard place to get to, but the meals are phenomenal.
- Charlottesville, located a couple hours southwest of Washington, D.C., is home to the University of Virginia, as well as Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe.
- Great Falls Park  is an impressive national park with several fast moving waterfalls of the Potomac River and hiking trails, minutes from the beltway. Kayaking and rock climbing. Accessed from the Maryland and Virginia sides off I -270.
- George Washington Memorial Parkway  runs along the Virginia side of the Potomac River between Mount Vernon and Great Falls. The section near Old Town Alexandria is pleasant for walking, jogging or cycling on paths paralleling the main motorway as far as Reagan National Airport. For the motorist, there are scenic turn-outs along the Parkway north of the airport, all the way to where it meets the Beltway at its north end.
- Manassas National Battlefield Park , near the outlying suburb of Manassas, preserves two major battlefields of the US Civil War. Visitor center ($3 fee, Park Pass applies) open 8:30-5 7 days; walking and driving tours of First and Second Manassas battlefields, respectively. A nice escape from the city hubbub, particularly in fall and spring (walking the grounds in the summer heat and humidity can be an ordeal).
- Mount Vernon  was the home of George Washington, the first President of the United States. The mansion overlooks the Potomac River.
- Reston - Nice restaurants & shops
- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - National Air and Space Museum. 14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy. Chantilly, VA 20151 +1 202 357-2200.  Located near Dulles International Airport, this museum houses many air/spacecraft, including the SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane, the Concorde supersonic jet and the space shuttle "Enterprise". Parking is available for $12/vehicle.
- Tyson's Corner Center - McLean - two malls Tysons I & Tysons II (not connected), Tysons II is more upscale - Tysons I has a larger selection of stores. America's 12th largest retail and office district, scheduled to get Metro service in 2013.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor is home to the National Aquarium, the U.S.S. Constitution, as well as numerous shops and restaurants. During the spring or summer, Camden Yards is a good place to see a baseball game, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is near the ballpark. The Fell's Point neighborhood also has many popular bars and restaurants. From spring to fall, you can take a water taxi from the Inner Harbor to historic Fort McHenry.
- Annapolis - the Maryland state capital is home to the Naval Academy. It's historic district has numerous shops and restaurants along the waterfront. Annapolis is a good place to go for a sail on the Chesapeake Bay.
- Bethesda - suburban city served by the Red Line with shopping and tons of upscale restaurants.
- Great Falls Park  - an impressive national park with several fast moving waterfalls of the Potomac River and hiking trails, minutes from the beltway. Kayaking and rock climbing. Accessed from the Maryland and Virginia sides off I -270. Includes C & O Canal National Park, a scenic hiker-biker trail from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland.
- Kensington - The amazing annual Christmas light display at the massive Mormon Temple (which looks a lot like the Emerald Palace of Wizard of Oz fame) is a must see. That and antique row.
- Takoma Park - bohemian Victorian suburb (straddling the D.C. line) with eclectic shops near Metro, and the Takoma/Langley International Corridor on University Blvd.
- Silver Spring - suburban downtown with the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre, as well as restaurants and retail. Home to Discovery Communications. Fading second hand stores, ethnic restaurants and music shops being replaced by upscale, urban redevelopment with parks, fountains and well-known eateries.