Libby McMillan Henson
Washington, D.C. insider tips

The District of Columbia is a fabulous city for new residents. As home to the federal government, foreign embassies and the headquarters to many international organizations, the city offers a vibrant place to live, work and play. Here are some D.C. insider tips, to help you get happily settled into the nation's capital.  

Take Advantage of Free Entertainment – With dozens of free museums, memorials, historic sites, concerts, cultural festivals and events, there’s always something fun going on in "The District."  The Smithsonian museums, The National Gallery of Art, the national memorials, the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court offer free tours and special events throughout the year. The Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage offers free performances nightly.  During the summer months, there is an extensive line-up of free outdoor movies and concerts throughout the city.

insider tips for new D.C. residents
Using public transportation options helps avoid D.C.'s nerve-wracking traffic

Ditch Your Car and Use Public Transportation –  Traffic is unpredictable throughout the region. Avoid driving in weekday rush hour traffic (6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.) or anytime on holiday weekends. Metrorail, Metrobus and the DC Circulator offer the easiest ways to get around the city. Beware that Metro is among the priciest rail lines in the nation, but it is clean and convenient. The city is also very bike-friendly with more than 40 miles of bike lanes and the extensive Capital Bikeshare program. You might want to choose an apartment near public transportation or bike lanes. 

Learn About the D.C. Local Government – The District is not a state and its government structure is unique. There is a mayor, a 13- member city council and Advisory Neighborhood commissions who represent residents of the city. The city is divided into 8 wards, areas that are established for political districting purposes. D.C. has no voting representatives in Congress. The federal government determines what tax dollars are allocated to support local issues such as health care, education, Social Security, environmental protection, crime control, and public safety.

Get Outdoors and Enjoy the City’s Green Space – D.C. has more parks and green space than just about any city in the nation.  Outdoor experiences such as hiking, biking, picnicking, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and ice skating are great for your physical and mental health.  The largest parks are the National Mall, Rock Creek Park and East Potomac Park. The scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway connects many attractions and historic sites along the Potomac River.

SEE ALSO: Bike Storage in a Small Apartment

Avoid Crowds – While the local economy depends heavily on tourism, as a resident you can learn how to avoid some of the nuisances of crowds. The largest crowds flock to the city for the Cherry Blossom blooming period (early April – exact dates are variable), Rolling Thunder (the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend) and the 4th of July fireworks display. Throughout the year, weekends are busy and weekdays are preferable for sightseeing. Crowds will be lighter early and late in the day. Walk or ride a bike and avoid driving or public transportation during peak travel times.

Join a Neighborhood Club or Activity Group – The best way to meet new people and make new friends is to get involved in local activities. If you like outdoor recreation, join a hiking, biking or kayaking club. If you are the creative type, take an art, music or drama class. Join a book club at the library or volunteer at your child’s school. DC is home to hundreds of non-profit organizations that offer endless opportunities to volunteer and meet new people.

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About The Author

A contributing editor and video producer at ApartmentGuide and, Libby McMillan Henson has created award-winning content for radio, tv, print and digital for over two decades. Libby recently authored a book about her home base of Greenville, SC, and has also lived in Austin, San Francisco, Nashville, Boston and Sanibel/Captiva Islands. A lifelong traveler and photographer, Libby loves exploring new places and sharing her finds.