Getting to Know Washington, D.C.
On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act was passed, creating the Federal District of Columbia, or Washington, D.C., home base to all three branches of the United States federal government and more than 680,000 residents. The District" is comprised of eight separate wards, each featuring vibrant neighborhoods along with eclectic dining, shopping and entertainment.
Attractions and Landmarks in D.C.
No trip to D.C. is complete without a visit to the National Mall, home to renowned monuments, including the White House and the Lincoln Memorial. Book-lovers should be sure to stop by the Library of Congress, which houses over 164 million books and maintains the largest law library in the world.
Washington, D.C. neighborhoods represent a wide range of options, as you'd expect in such a culturally diverse city. Some notable neighborhoods include:
Adams Morgan: Noted for its diversity, this area hosts the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival, a must-see local event featuring live music, art, food and more. DuPont Circle: Named for Civil War Union general, Samuel Francis DuPont, this neighborhood comprises the "Old Town“. Queen Anne and Richards Roman revival architectural styles define the area's rowhouses. Columbia Heights: This area is home to the renovated Tivoli Theatre, Howard University and George Washington University. Downtown: This is the official business district, located in the northwest, with numerous attractions, including International Spy Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Verizon Center. Georgetown: With its cobblestone walkways and Georgetown University, Georgetown is a picturesque neighborhood and a go-to for fine dining and shopping.
- Foggy Bottom: Home to George Washington University, this is a favorite for students and the younger crowd. The area has been responsible for much of the industrial development of D.C., with a large concentration of breweries, glass makers and gas works.
Public Transportation and Commuting in D.C.
The Metro connects all four quadrants of D.C. to parts of Maryland and Virginia, making it ideal for commuters. There are three airports in the area, including Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Fun, Free Things to do in D.C.
Check out our top picks for free attractions in D.C.:
Lincoln Memorial: Read the words of the famous Gettysburg Address etched into the side of this iconic monument. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Check out the planetarium and aircraft collections on display at this family-friendly museum. National Gallery of Art: From Henri Matisse to Claude Monet, the National Gallery of Art is filled with must-see works by renowned artists. National WWII Memorial: Stop by this breathtaking memorial which honors the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in World War II.
- The White House: Tour the historic home of the nation's first family and learn about the history of such famous rooms as the Red Room, State Dining Room and the East Room.
Top Washington, D.C. Adventures
Check out six of our favorite adventures as you get to know the city:
Rub elbows with your legislators (or at least eat in the same restaurant) at The Capital Grille, one of the city's top restaurants. The DuPont Circle Citizens Association promotes the circle traffic area and offers tours of historical buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Capture great photos of the 555-foot Washington National Monument at Washington National Monument Park. Visit the 17 museums and galleries owned by the Smithsonian Institution for an afternoon of discovery and exploration. Head to FedExField to catch the Washington Redskins in action for an NFL football game.
- Grab the peanuts and Cracker Jacks to watch the Washington Nationals play at Nationals Park.
Did You Know?
The Washington Nationals are the third Major League Baseball team to be based in Washington since 1901. The two previous teams, both called the Senators, moved out of the city to become the Minnesota Twins (1961) and Texas Rangers (1971).
- Do you know why American foreign policy has been described as "foggy?" The U.S. Department of State is headquartered in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.
Family and Family Fun in D.C.
Kids have a blast exploring the interactive exhibits at the International Spy Museum, or spend the day at the Smithsonian National Zoo. D.C. is home to 59 different school districts, providing families with excellent school choices throughout the District.
Don't miss the world-renowned cherry blossom trees lining Tidal Basin that bloom every spring. Yards Park features a waterfall, gardens, a dog run and a boardwalk. The venue often hosts outdoor entertainment such as live music, free movies and fitness classes.
Getaways from D.C.
D.C. is close to the beaches of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. Cape May, New Jersey is a 3.5-hour drive and offers a variety of family-friendly weekend activities.