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Washington, D.C.

Washington-DC

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

7.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

All Authentic types like it most and Centric-Venturers; lower ratings from true Venturers

Did You Know…?

  • Washington’s cherry trees, 3,000 of them, were a gift from Tokyo’s mayor in 1912.
  • President John Quincy Adams swam the Potomac in the buff; once, someone stole his clothes.
  • In 1800, D.C.’s first year as the capital, the government had 131 employees.
  • The Washington Monument sinks a quarter inch every 30 years.
  • President Washington fired the capital’s designer, Pierre-Charles L’Enfant.

A planned city

Washington, the U.S. capital, is a striking low-rise city of monuments, museums and countless government buildings, generally built on a grand scale. The Greek Revival architectural style of the late 18th and early 19th centuries is obvious. Visitors come to walk where history was made and where it will be made again.

Washington was built specifically to be the capital city. Citizens believe, with reason, the capital not only belongs to the nation, but to each one individually, that there is no other place that speaks to the citizenry in that unique American voice. Regardless of how they rate the destination, visitors agree every American should visit at least once.

It is a city unlike all others. The Constitution specified that Washington, D.C., would be the capital. Maryland donated land that included farms, dense forests and flood plain so the new nation could build its capital from scratch; it was designed by French-born city planner Pierre-Charles L’Enfant. It remains a low-rise city by law, so the Capitol and monuments will not be overshadowed.

The imposing size and scale of the public buildings — the Capitol Building, the Treasury, the Supreme Court, the FBI building, the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments and the Smithsonian complex — add to the sense of wonder and appreciation for this extraordinary place that houses and displays America’s history.

When people say they’re vacationing in Washington, they also usually mean adjacent areas in Virginia and Maryland, where important historical sites are also found.

Across the personality scale, visitors remember how easy it is to get around the city, especially citing the clean, safe metro system. They agree on the quality and extent of the museums and exhibits. Many pairs of shoes are worn out touring the Smithsonian complex, and still there is always something new to see.

Admission to most attractions is free or nominal, another very attractive feature for all. Washington will continue to be a magnet for American visitors who enjoy exploring their history, and also for international travelers who want a feel for what the U.S. is all about.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Rent canoes and kayaks at the Thompson Boat Center. Or, go sailing on Chesapeake Bay.
  • Walk down the 897 steps in the Washington Monument to see 188 carved memorial stones. Warning: Descending stairs is work, too. This is not for the physically unfit.
  • Come for the Smithsonian Folklore Festival, which occurs over two long midsummer weekends and highlights traditions from around the world. Then, stay on to celebrate Independence Day in the capital.
  • Visit the International Spy Museum and test your skills as a spy.
  • Go hiking or biking on the Towpath Trail along the Potomac. Or pick up the pace, and run in the spring marathon, or start with the half marathon. The routes are described as putting D.C. history “on display.”
  • Look for ghosts. Washington Walks offers two guided tours with exactly that in mind. Also, in the weeks near Halloween, the National Building Museum offers lantern-lighted ghost tours of the facility, led by costumed war veterans.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Tour the U.S. Capitol Building; tickets are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Groups of 10 may visit the White House for free self-guided tours; request entry through your representative in Congress. Also, hop on the metro to get to Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon (which nowadays for security reasons only admits select groups for tours).
  • Sign on for a walking tour, or a biking tour, of the city. Or, jump on a Segway and, with a guide, see more of the city than you could see in a day of walking.
  • Take an unguided wander through Georgetown, a charming historic neighborhood. Keep an eye out for celebrities, and look for open houses, which will let you see more of Washington’s history.
  • Come to the nation’s capital for the two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival. The parade is huge.
  • For some of your trip’s more moving experiences, visit the Holocaust Museum and the Vietnam War Memorial.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Visit the Supreme Court and hear a lecture in the courtroom (when the court is not in session).  And, at the Lincoln Memorial, use your cell phone to call (202) 747-3420 to hear one of several free interpretative Ranger talks about President Lincoln and the memorial itself.
  • Attend a performance at the Kennedy Center on the Potomac, one of the country’s most beautiful venues for theater and music.
  • Take the metro to Alexandria in Virginia for a walk in the town’s historic center (see George Washington’s church, among other things).  Also, go a bit farther afield in Virginia to see the fine homes of two early presidents, those of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) and George Washington (Mount Vernon). Drive or join a tour.
  • Drop in at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, a former incinerator. Eat in the Fahrenheit restaurant where you see the ceiling pulley that brought trash bins into the incinerator.
  • Look for the herb garden (and Herb Cottage to buy herbs and herb-flavored vinegar) at the Washington National Cathedral, which is on 57 acres and has other gardens, too.
  • Watch the Washington Nationals play baseball in the new Nationals Park (debuted 2008) which seats 41,222 and is equipped with the latest in video and audio technology.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Destination D.C. at www.washington.org