Washington, D.C., has emerged as one of the hottest dining destinations in the country. There's never been a shortage of sites, museums and monuments, but now there are even more diversions to enjoy while you're here. That makes the District a perfect destination for families, couples, and even groups of friends looking for a combination of culture and nightlife in one accessible locale.
Must see in Washington, D.C.
With a walk around the National Mall, you'll swiftly encounter the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial all at once. Visit the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian most likely to please visitors of all ages. No visit to D.C. is complete with a trip to The White House and the obligatory photo out front.
Where to stay in Washington, D.C.
- Travelers with Children: Stay in Georgetown, where you'll find a range of great accommodation choices, the best shopping in the city, access to the waterfront, and beautiful neighborhood streets to explore. You're a quick cab ride away from the National Zoo, or the major D.C. sightseeing destinations and museums, but removed from the commotion.
- Nightlife-Seekers: Stay in Dupont Circle, and you'll find limitless bars for all ranges of interests, from sleek spots like Eighteenth Street Lounge, to dives like the Big Hunt, and everything in between. Dupont also puts you right on the Metro's Red Line, providing easy access to other bustling corridors, including Adams Morgan, one stop away, or Metro Center, two stops in the other direction.
- Deal-Finders: Stay in Capitol Hill, which extends south and east from the U.S. Capitol Building. You'll be close to historical Eastern Market, as well as the revamped Navy Yard neighborhood surrounding Nationals Park. Don't miss Bluejacket, a fantastic new brewery with an in-house restaurant, The Arsenal.
Best and worst time to go to Washington, D.C.
The best time to visit Washington, D.C., is in September after Labor Day, as both temperatures and tourist crowds decrease from their respective summer peaks. The worst time to visit unfortunately coincides with one of the area's biggest draws, the Cherry Blossom Festival at the end of March to early April. Don't be fooled, as D.C.'s winter will not yet be finished, and traffic becomes even more unmanageable - as do hotel prices. Unless that's your must-do, skip the period.
Where to get lost in Washington, D.C.
Get off the U Street Metro Station on the Green and Yellow Lines and explore the U Street and 14th Street neighborhoods. Get your obligatory Ben's Chili Bowl half-smoke right off the Metro, and proceed to visit any number of hot spots such as Masa 14, Lupo Verde or Doi Moi. Finish the night with live music at The Black Cat, or pop into The Gibson, if you can find the speakeasy style joint, for a nightcap.
The best deal in Washington, D.C.
D.C. is the king of free to-dos. Every Smithsonian Museum, as well as every memorial along the National Mall, offers free admission or access. In the summer, enjoy free live jazz at the Sculpture Garden every night.
Transportation in Washington, D.C.
Avoid renting a car unless you must. Traffic and parking are both unwanted headaches. However, the Metro brings delays, outages and crowds. The good news is that Washington, D.C., is such a small city that walking is surprisingly effective, if the weather allows. If you're active, you could even rent a bike for the day or weekend from Capital Bikeshare. Otherwise, hop a cab, or better yet, an Uber.
Getting in From Reagan (DCA)
Fly into Reagan National (DCA) if possible. It's on the Blue and Yellow Lines of the Metro, which can quickly and cheaply get you anywhere from Arlington to Georgetown to the heart of the National Mall.
Local tip for Visitors to Washington, D.C.
Skip a Metro transfer between different lines whenever you can. Pick the closest destination on the line you're already on, get out, and walk. You'll get there faster, decrease your stress, and actually have a chance to explore the local neighborhood you're walking through.
Jake Emen is a freelance writer based in the D.C. suburbs. He runs a local food, drinks and event blog, ManTalkFood.com. Follow him and his site on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.