Washington, D.C., named after George Washington, the first President of the United States, was founded in 1791 after Congress passed the Residence Act that approved the creation of a national capital along the Potomac River. The city is located on the East Coast of America, and nearly 1/5th of its total area is parkland. In true East Coast fashion, Washington has four distinct seasons: Spring and fall are warm, winter is brisk and snowy, and summers are hot and very humid. But thanks to the variety of indoor and outdoor activities, no matter the weather, there’s always something interesting to do and see in D.C.
Places to Visit in D.C.
- The Capitol Building
- The White House
- The Wall (the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial)
- Washington Monument
- National Building Museum
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- The Library of Congress
Unique Things to See and Do in D.C.
- Wonder around the first ever espionage museum, the Spy Museum
- Catch a concert at the Kennedy Center
- Admire 2000+ animals at the National Zoo
- Tour Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived
- Relax at the Reflecting Pool next to the Lincoln Memorial
- Visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
- Check out Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated
- Treat your nose at the United States Botanic Garden
- Walk around the capital’s historic waterfront, Georgetown
What Makes D.C. Unique
When visiting D.C., take note of the city’s architecture and planning. Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French-born architect and city-planner, designed the capital, taking inspiration from Paris, Amsterdam, and Milan, and their broad streets and avenues, and ample open space. Those who don’t enjoy being towered over by imposing city structures will appreciate D.C.; the Heights of Buildings Act of 1910 prevents buildings being taller than the width of the adjacent street, plus 20 feet. The result: the city’s skyline is low and sprawling. D.C.’s architecture alone is worth visiting the city for. Many of D.C.’s buildings have earned top places in the American Institute of Architects’ rankings of “America’s Favorite Architecture,” the White House, the Washington National Cathedral, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, to name just three.
D.C. is also home to some epic ghost stories, notably told around Lafayette Square at the White House. Rumor has it the former Commodore of Decatur House still roams the premises, and Dolley Madison, the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817, is still said to rock on the porch of her old house. The bottom line: D.C. city is steeped with history, and the fascinating stories are endless.
Getting Around D.C.
First things first, be prepared to walk, and a lot! D.C. is extremely pedestrian-friendly, and with all the engrossing sites, memorials, and parks to see, you won’t even notice how much mileage you’re actually covering. To achieve optimal efficiency, however, be sure to check out the Metrorail and Metrobus, one of the safest and cleanest transportation systems worldwide. You can get pretty much anywhere in D.C. via these systems; the Metrobus runs a total of 338 routes, and it operates from 5 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, and from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends. A similar mode of transport is the DC Circulator, which takes you to some of the spots the metro doesn’t, and comes at convenient 10-minute intervals. The most popular DC Circulator bus route is the Smithsonian – National Gallery of Art loop that goes around the National Mall.
For those with more of an agenda to stick to, there’s also the taxi system, which is super; DC has one of the highest taxi-to-citizen ratios in the country, so you can count on being well provided for.
Did you know…?
Residents of Washington, D.C., are called Washingtonians.
Did you ALSO know…?
To repaint the White House, you’d need 570 gallons of paint!
Best Time of Year to Travel to D.C.
To experience the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin, a stunning man-made reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel, at their finest, visit D.C. between mid-March and May; during this period, the Cherry Blossom trees are in full-bloom, which makes the area magical. This time of year — Spring — also sees milder weather; it’s the sweet spot right after the biting cold leaves and the sweltering heat arrives. To avoid crowds, as is true for any tourist destination, visit D.C. outside school vacations. That said, if you don’t mind the heat and humidity, a good time to tour the city is in the summer after July 4th; kids are out of school, but most head to cooler destinations or summer camp.
Ready to plan your visit to Washington? Check out these popular guides and trips.