Washington DC – Hollywood for Ugly People or Chocolate City
From captivating memorials to some of the best performing art theatres in the country, Washington DC will leave you spoilt for choice with a multitude of options. You could easily spend a week here and still not have time to visit all that this city has on its platter! So, pack your bags and be ready with a carefully prepared itinerary for a trip to Washington DC soon enough! The charm of this place will stay fresh in your memory long after you’ve departed from Dulles International Airport.
1. History of Washington DC
Founded on July 16, 1790, Washington DC is unique among American cities because it was established by the Constitution of the United States of America to serve as the nation’s capital. Another factor that makes it unique among cities is that it has a high percentage of Afro-Americans. As a result, Washington DC became both a centre of Afro-American culture and of the civil rights movement. In fact, right from the time it was established, it has been embroiled in political manoeuvring, sectional conflicts and issues of race, national identity, compromise, and of course, power.
George Washington, the first president and namesake of the city, chose the site and appointed three commissioners to help prepare for the arrival of the new government in 1800. Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed the city as a bold new capital with sweeping boulevards and ceremonial spaces reminiscent of Paris in his native France. Benjamin Banneker, a self-taught Afro-American mathematical genius, provided the astronomical calculations for surveying and laying out the city. The full development of Washington DC as a monumental city, however, did not come until a hundred years later when the McMillan Commission updated its plan to establish the National Mall and monuments that most visitors to Washington DC now know.
2. Nightlife of Washington DC
DC’s nightlife scene includes swank nightclubs, posh bars and restaurants with great rooftop decks for some real summer fun. Happy hour starts in the District around 5 pm with bars and restaurants offering special discounts on food and drinks. On weekends, the late-night fun usually begins to pick up around midnight and cruises towards the wee hours of 3 a.m. and beyond. And don’t let business suits, button downs, ties and ballet flats fool you- this city knows how to unwind to recharge their batteries. Whether you have $10 or $1,000, there would be a place for you to socialize for sure!
Nightlife revolves around the bustling K Street Corridor, Georgetown, Dupont, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Cleveland Park, U Street, H-Street NE, depending on your age, music preference, and mood. Most places in DC are within walking distance of each other (or at least a short cab or Metro ride apart), providing party-hoppers with several options, and it is guaranteed that hitting up to six spots in one night will become an art form for you and your friends.
3. Safety in Washington DC
Of course, as in any big city, there are areas to avoid in Washington DC. In fact, back in 1991, D.C. was dubbed the murder capital of the nation, with nearly 500 murders. But this title was given to Washington on the basis of the number of murders per 1,00,000 people. The areas of D.C. that still experience the majority of murders, according to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police’s crime-mapping application, are the Sixth and Seventh police districts of D.C. that lie east of the Anacostia River. Some neighbourhoods that are unsafe in Third Police District are Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Cardozo-Shaw, Kalorama and Dupont Circle. Wandering into poorly lit, isolated side streets can lead to becoming a victim of a crime. Hence, always have 911 on your speed dial.
Washington DC is a fairly expensive city with monthly expenses of a single person close to $1,163.91, and $4,296.91 for a family of four. The rent for a 1BHK apartment in the city centre is $2044 while a similar one outside the city centre will cost you around $50 less at $1590.
A one-way ticket via public transport is cheap at around $3. You’ll have to shell out approximately $139 every month to fulfil your basic utilities (electricity, heating, water, garbage).
5. Cuisines of Washington DC
Fried chicken, Half Smoke and Pizza, chicken in pepperoni sauce, Senate bean Soup at Capitol Hill, Palak Chaat at Rasika, T Bone, Stoney’s super grilled cheese, Khachapuri….the list of must-try dishes in Washington DC is endless! So, contrary to popular belief, Washington DC is not just about half smokes. There are innumerable dishes cooked to perfection in DC’s posh and suburban restaurants and eateries which highlight the burgeoning culinary scene of the city. However, your foodie friends or relatives from Washington DC may argue that nothing comes close to Half Smokes and pizzas, and for that, look no further than U Street.
Some restaurants promise to offer you some excitement along with their finger-licking food. At Ristorante Tosca, for example, you can be sure to rub shoulders or atleast be able to greet Senators and Representatives. Another ‘power’ dining spot is Willard InterContinental Washington, which is a political landmark where the term ‘lobbyist’ was popularised. Equinox, popularised by President Obama himself, is known for its earth friendly practices, local farmers and seasonal ingredients. Antique and equestrian prints in a place called ‘1789’ will leave you spellbound. Article One-American Green and Lounge is another place where you can catch the “who’s who” of America enjoying delicious American fare on the next table!
The best thing about Washington DC’s culinary scene is that you don’t need deep pockets to relish all that you want to, owing to a dizzying number of new eateries, celebrity chef hotspots, internationally acclaimed restaurants and budget friendly food trucks.
6. Statistics of Washington DC
The District had a population of 672,228 people, as of 2015, with a density of 11,000 people per square mile. In 2010, the population distribution was: 50.7% blacks, 38.5% whites, 9.1% Hispanic (of any race), 4.4% others (including Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), 3.5% Asian, and 1.6% mixed. The Afro-American community has been the city’s largest ethnic group since the 1950’s. But, in recent years, the number of European Americans in the city has increased.
The area covered by Washington DC is 177 sq. km. Dialectically, the city is quite heterogeneous. Only about 80% of the population (age 5 and above) speak only English at home. The rest speak Spanish, French, African languages, Chinese, et. Al.
7. Public Transport in Washington DC
The heart of Washington DC’s public transportation is the Metro Rail system. It provides service to the entire city and has numerous stations within walking distance of museums, monuments and other places of interest to tourists. It’s generally safe, relatively clean and easy to use. It is economically priced too. On weekdays, it operates from 5:30 AM to 12 AM, and on the weekends, from 7:00 AM to 3:00 AM. Trains typically arrive every 6 to 12 minutes except during rush hours and weekends. Single fares start at $1.70 while one day passes are available for $14, and 7-Day Fast Passes are available for $57.50. Fare cards can be purchased at any station.
Other than the Metro, tripper buses, Washington Deluxe, DC circulator and metro buses provide good connectivity to every nook and cranny of the city. Cabs are also easily available. Cycling enthusiasts need not fret because there is a network of lanes of nearly 45 miles dedicated to cycling.
Pollution in Washington DC: It boasts of wonderfully low levels of PM10 and PM2.5 at 19 PPM and 12 PPM, respectively.
8. Weather of Washington DC
Washington DC lies in the humid subtropical climate zone with four distinct seasons.
Spring: March-April; Average high: 14.8°C; Average Low: 4.2°C
Summer: May-June; Average high: 25.5°C; Average Low: 14.6°C
Monsoon: July-October; Average high: 24.5°C; Average low: 14°C
Winter: November-January; Average high: 8°C; Average low: -1.5°C
9. Culture of Washington DC
Culture is quite varied in Washington, District of Columbia. There are different cultural places. One of the more significant places is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where artists perform different shows every day. Another important institution in the District of Columbia (D.C.) is the Smithsonian Institution, which works with more than 10 public museums in the city.
10. Places to Visit in Washington DC
Washington DC is a city booming with the best of both Northern and Southern cultures – from food to the music, theatre to arts. Washington DC has its own native music genre called Go-Go, a post-funk, percussion-driven flavour of rhythm and blues that was popularized in the late 1970s. The Marine Barracks near Capitol Hill houses the United States Marine Band which is the country’s oldest professional musical organization.
People who love theatre would surely appreciate Washington DC’s local theater tradition. Founded in 1950, Arena Stage achieved national attention and spurred growth in the city’s independent theater movement that now includes organizations such as the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the Studio Theatre.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the busiest performing arts facility in the United States and hosts approximately 2,000 performances every year. It is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the Washington Ballet. One of America’s oldest continually operating theaters, National Theatre features tours of Broadway favorites, pre-Broadway shows and American premieres.
Things to do in Washington DC: There is so much to see and do in Washington DC that you can’t see it all in just one visit. The nation’s capital is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States and offers a wide range of attractions and activities. A well-rounded trip should include exploring the region’s historic landmarks, parks and neighbourhoods.
The Three Houses of Government are key places to visit when sightseeing in Washington DC. The White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court are impressive buildings and visiting them will help you understand more about the U.S. government and its history. You can visit the White House Visitor Center where you can see a short video and learn about the White House architecture, furnishings, the Presidents and first families. The Capitol is open to the public for guided tours only, for which, you can obtain free tickets online. Interested in law? Do attend one of the session proceedings at the Supreme Court.
Washington DC is not just about history. Georgetown, Washington DC’s historic waterfront, is always bustling with activity. The area is a shopper’s paradise and the streets are lined with restaurants offering dishes from all across the globe. You can also stroll along Washington Harbour and take in beautiful views of the Potomac River. Live theatrical productions at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts are entertainment at its finest. Purchase tickets in advance for performances ranging from musicals to concerts by the National Symphony, or enjoy a free show at the Millennium Stage (every day at 6 p.m.).
Museums and Art Galleries: Every summer, Smithsonian Folk life Festival is held for two weeks in June and July in Washington Mall. At this favourite Smithsonian museum, kids enjoy examining a wide variety of artifacts including an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton, an enormous prehistoric white shark, and a 45.5 carat jewel, also known as the Hope Diamond. The Discovery Room is a great hands-on display for young children. Feel the skin of a crocodile, examine the jaws and teeth of different animals or try on clothes from around the globe.
Does the word ‘spacecraft’ make you jump with excitement? If your answer is in the affirmative, then remember to put the Air and Space Museum at the top of your priority list while planning your itinerary. Visit with the whole family and learn about the history, science, and technology of aviation and spaceflight. For an additional fee, there are IMAX films, planetarium shows and simulators you can climb inside and experience the thrill of flight. Children will marvel at the lifesize exhibits such as the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. The Spark! Lab too, is worth a visit for its hands-on science and invention center and America on the Move where you’ll see how transportation shaped America.
The National Archives houses thousands of documents important to American history including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Located in three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress is the largest library complex in the world with a collection of over 147 million books, manuscripts, and other materials. Your general knowledge is sure to go a few notches higher upon visiting these institutions!
Things to do for Kids in Washington DC: It is a great place to explore with kids. The capital of USA has dozens of attractions to spark the interests of children of all ages. Plan ahead and enjoy a wide range of museums, monuments, historic sites, live entertainment and outdoor recreation activities.
One of the most kid-friendly places to visit in Washington DC is the National Zoo where you can see more than 400 different species of animals. The National Zoo is set within the beautiful Rock Creek National Park and is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. What’s more? Admission is FREE! Favourite animals include giant pandas, elephants, Komodo dragons, lions, giraffes, bears and orangutans. Daily programs include animal training and feeding demonstrations.
If your kids enjoy classic stories and folktales narrated through puppet shows, dancers, musicians, and mimes, take them to Smithsonian’s Discovery Theatre. This is located in the Ripley Centre on the National Mall in Washington DC.
Washington Monument would give your kids an unforgettable experience by giving them a bird’s eye of the whole city.
Places nearby: Concerts at Wolftrap Farm Park will not disappoint you at all. It is a crowd-puller because it manages to keep lovers of all music genres- pop, country, folk, blues and many more- enlivened and on their toes! The park is located in Virginia, just 20 minutes away from Washington DC. You could also go for a picnic and enjoy spectacular views of the Potomac River at Great Falls National Park, located just miles from Washington DC. Great Falls offers a variety of things to do including hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, bicycling, and horseback riding.
Six Flags America offers a full day of fun and is just 30 minutes from downtown Washington DC. This theme park features more than 100 rides and innumerable shows, and is the area’s largest water park. It is open from April to October.
Offbeat: To really capture the essence of the city, you should look beyond the obvious attractions and spend some time exploring some of the smaller and more unique destinations as well. Which of you wouldn’t be interested in watching real money being printed! See how U.S. paper currency is printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects. Tours are conducted in the Bureau of Engraving and printing every 15 minutes, Monday through Friday.
Author’s Conclusion: No matter what your choices and preferences are, Washington DC is sure to exceed all your expectations. A tourist will definitely fall short of time with all the history lessons, great food, cultural attractions and engrossing performances. You must visit this place atleast once in your life.
|Area||177 sq. km|
|Population||672,228 (approx.) as of 2015|
|Languages||English, French, Chinese, African languages, Spanish|
|Time Zone||Eastern Time Zone (UTC – 05:00)|
|Driving||Right Hand Traffic, Left Hand Driven vehicles|
|Emergency||Police, Fire, Ambulance: 911|
Don’t forget to PROMOTE your Incredible Washington DC using the Share buttons.