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10 Things To Know When Planning A Trip To Washington

Are you planning a trip to Washington, DC? There's no shortage of things to do and see in the nation's capital, but it can be overwhelming to plan a trip there.

Author:James Pierce
Reviewer:Frazer Pugh
Aug 04, 2023
4.1K Shares
275.8K Views
Are you planning a trip to Washington, DC? There's no shortage of things to do and see in the nation's capital, but it can be overwhelming to plan a trip there. To make your visit a success, it's important to know the best things to do, places to visit, and other tips for planning a trip to DC.
Here are 10 things you should know when you visit Washington DC.

1. DC Travel Tips

With so much to see and do, it's essential to ensure you're prepared for your DC trip. To make the most of your time, here are some travel tips on how to get around, where to find cheap parking and what public transport options are available.

DC Metro

The Metro can take you to almost any destination in the District. You can find routes and maps on their official website or pick up a printed map from the station.
The Metro operates from 5 am to midnight, 7 days a week, but some service hours may be limited during holidays. When riding the Metro, it's important to remember that you must pay your fare with a SmarTrip card. This can be purchased at all major stations for a nominal fee, and it's essential to have one if you plan on using the Metro frequently.

Bus and monorail

The Metrobus is an extensive public bus system that covers the entire city and its suburbs. The Metrobus provides frequent service to most major attractions and downtown areas. You can purchase fares using the SmarTrip card, which can be purchased at any Metro station.

Drive

Finding cheap parking in Washington DC can be challenging, but some options are available. Several lots offer hourly or daily rates, which can be a great option if you stay for more than a day. Street parking is also an option, but it can be hard to find and usually isn't free.
You can also take advantage of residential street parking if you walk a bit further. I recommend looking into monthly parking deals that are often 50% cheaper than daily rates to save money. Whereiparkoffers excellent deals in multiple locations across the city that will save money if you park in the same spot for longer periods of time.

Ridesharing

If you don't want to walk, several ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, can help you get from place to place quickly and conveniently.

Bike

Biking is a great way to explore Washington, DC. With its bike-friendly infrastructure, diverse neighborhoods, and many attractions, cycling in the nation's capital is an unforgettable experience. Whether you're looking for a leisurely ride along the waterfront or a more challenging ride through the city streets, there are plenty of routes to choose.

Walk

Exploring Washington DC by foot is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of the city. Most of the major attractions and monuments are within walking distance of each other. However, remember that Washington DC can be very hot during the summer months, so bring plenty of water with you when exploring the city on foot.

2. What to see in Washington DC?

If you're planning a trip to Washington DC, there are many fantastic tourist sightsand iconic buildings. The city has something for everyone, from free attractions to paid sightseeing and guided tours.
For Washington DC sightseeing, many guided tours are available that will take you around and give you insight into its history and culture. You can take a guided tour of the important monuments and memorials or go on a Segway tour to get an up-close look at the city. There are also walking tours available if you'd prefer to explore at your own pace.
There are also many unique bus tours for those looking for more interactive experiences. You can take a food tour, sample some of its delicious cuisines, or take a night tour and see the monuments lit up in the dark. There are also ghost tours available that will show you some of the spookier aspects of the city.
Some of the top attractions for first-time visitors are:
  • The White House
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • United States Botanic Garden
  • International Spy Museum
  • Smithsonian National Museum
  • The Capitol Building
  • Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials
No matter what type of experience you're looking for while traveling to DC, you'll find plenty of interesting places to visit and fun things to do.

3. Free Museums and attractions

Museums-and-attractions
Museums-and-attractions
If you are visiting Washington, DC and want to do it without breaking the bank, there are plenty of free museums and attractions in the nation's capital. From the Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo to the National Mall and Memorial Parks, there are dozens of free things to do in DC.
The Smithsonian Institution is a complex of 19 museums and galleries spread throughout the city. Some of the most popular Smithsonian Museums include the National Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History. Admission to all of these is entirely free!
Other popular attractions in DC include the National Gallery of Art; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which requires tickets for entry but is free for active duty service members; and the Library of Congress, which is open to visitors at no cost.
The National Mall is a large, open green space that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building and is filled with iconic monuments and memorials. Here you can find the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and much more. All of these landmarks are free and open to visitors.
Finally, if you're looking for a unique experience, check out one of the many walking tours of DC offered by Free Tours by Foot. These tour guides will take you around the city and tell you about its history, culture, and even some little-known secrets!

4. Where to eat in Washington DC?

You won't be disappointed by the variety of cuisines available. From classic American fare like hot dogs and hamburgers to international dishes from around the world, there's something for everyone when traveling to DC.
Many restaurants specialize in locally-sourced ingredients, offering unique flavors across the region. There are also plenty of vegan and vegetarian options for those who prefer plant-based cuisine. So whether you're looking for a cozy cafe or a trendy restaurant, you'll be sure to find a place that fits your taste when visiting Washington DC.

5. Where to stay in Washington DC?

Your choice of accommodation will depend on your budget, preferences, and needs. From budget-friendly hostels to upscale luxury hotels, there is something for everyone.
Hostels are a great choice for travelers on a budget and offer shared dormitories and private rooms.
Luxury hotels tend to offer a variety of amenities and range from well-known chains to unique boutique properties. Airbnb also has many listings for travelers who prefer something other than hotels when staying in downtown DC.
No matter where you decide to stay, the city has an abundance of museums, monuments, restaurants, and entertainment venues that will keep you busy. Explore Capitol Hill, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Museums.

6. What is the best time to visit Washington DC?

Best-time-to-visit
Best-time-to-visit
When planning a trip to Washington DC, the best time of year to visit depends on what you plan to do while there. If you're looking to take advantage of all that Washington DC, offers, spring and fall are great times to plan your trip.
Spring is cherry blossom season and makes the city even more beautiful. The weather is mild, making it ideal for visiting the many places to visit in Washington DC, like the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. The peak tourism season has yet to begin, so you can avoid crowds.
For those who don't mind cooler weather, fall and winter is also an excellent time for a DC getaway. You can make the most of your trip with fewer crowds and the famous holiday lights at the National Zoo or take in the beautiful national Christmas tree. No matter what time of year you decide to visit, you'll find something exciting and enjoyable!

7. What to pack?

Whether you're visiting the US capital for business or pleasure, you'll want to ensure you have everything you need to make the most of your stay. Here are some essential items to include in your suitcase for your visit to Washington DC:
1. Comfortable shoes: With so much to explore in this city, you'll want to ensure you have a good pair of comfortable shoes that can handle a lot of walking!
2. Layers: Washington DC weather can be warm in the summer and chilly in the winter, so it's always wise to layer up with items like sweaters, scarves, and jackets.
3. An umbrella: You never know when a surprise spring shower might come, so it's best to be prepared and pack an umbrella in case of rain.
4. A hat: Whether you prefer baseball caps or fedoras, hats are always a great accessory in the District.
5. Water bottle: This is especially important in the summer months. Be sure to always carry a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated while exploring the city.
6. Sunscreen: The sun can be intense in DC, so remember to pack some sunscreen and sunglasses if you plan on spending any time outdoors.
7. Camera: Last but certainly not least, remember to bring your camera to capture all the amazing sights in Washington DC!
These are just some of the essentials that you should consider packing. Planning and packing these items will give you a great time during your visit!

8. How to avoid the crowds at DC attractions?

One of the best ways to enjoy your time when visiting Washington DC, without dealing with big crowds is to plan ahead. The summer months are generally more crowded than other times of the year. It's also essential to plan your day around popular attractions and activities. Try to visit major attractions during the mid-morning or late afternoon.
If you're planning to visit museums or monuments, try going on Sunday mornings. The line is generally shorter, so you can get through the exhibits faster without waiting hours.
Try getting to purchase National Mall Pass if you want to see them all. It's only $30 per person and will allow access to 90+ sites in DC, including all the Smithsonian Museums, the National Gallery of Art and more!
You can also visit smaller, less well-known attractions, like the National Gallery of Art, which often have fewer crowds. Finally, if you plan on seeing some of the city's most popular attractions, such as the White House or Lincoln Memorial, try to get there early in the morning or late in the evening when it's less crowded.

9. Where to shop in Washington DC?

If you're looking for the perfect souvenir or a unique gift shops, then Washington DC has plenty of great options. The city has something for everyone, from iconic department stores to local boutiques and markets.
For a classic shopping experience, head to the historic Georgetown neighborhood and check out its many upscale stores, such as Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus. For high-end fashion, luxury goods, and designer labels, visit The Shops at Georgetown Park and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.
Many local boutiques are scattered throughout the city, offering unique items from handmade jewelry to vintage clothes. Head to Union Market in the H Street corridor for various artisanal products from local vendors.
DC also has some great outdoor markets to explore. Eastern Market is one of the city's oldest public markets and offers everything from antiques and crafts to fresh produce. Similarly, the Dupont Circle Farmers Market is the place to go for seasonal produce and other locally made goods.
If you're looking for something more affordable, take a trip to Chinatown for great deals on clothing and accessories. There are also several malls in the city, such as Tysons Corner Center, Westfield Montgomery Mall, and Arundel Mills Mall, where you can find the latest trends at more affordable prices..

10. How to get to Washington DC?

Getting to Washington is relatively easy! You can fly into one of the three main airports: Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI). You can also take Amtrak or the bus to get to Washington DC.
The Metro rail is a great way to get around the city. It runs through downtown DC and connects many neighborhoods, tourist attractions, and major landmarks. You can also take advantage of the Metrobus service, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Taxis are available all over the city as well.
No matter how you decide to get to Washington DC, you'll find plenty of options. You can easily plan your trip to the nation's capital from planes and trains to buses and cars!
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James Pierce

James Pierce

Author
James Pierce, a Finance and Crypto expert, brings over 15 years of experience to his writing. With a Master's degree in Finance from Harvard University, James's insightful articles and research papers have earned him recognition in the industry. His expertise spans financial markets and digital currencies, making him a trusted source for analysis and commentary. James seamlessly integrates his passion for travel into his work, providing readers with a unique perspective on global finance and the digital economy. Outside of writing, James enjoys photography, hiking, and exploring local cuisines during his travels.
Frazer Pugh

Frazer Pugh

Reviewer
Frazer Pugh is a distinguished expert in finance and business, boasting over 6 years of experience. Holding an MBA in Finance from Stanford University, Frazer's credentials underscore his authority and expertise in the field. With a successful track record in executive roles and as a published author of influential articles on financial strategy, his insights are both deep and practical. Beyond his professional life, Frazer is an avid traveler and culinary enthusiast, drawing inspiration from diverse cultures and cuisines. His commitment in delivering trustworthy analysis and actionable advice reflects his dedication to shaping the world of finance and business, making a significant impact through his work.
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