Washington DC Travel Tips: 10 Things to Know Before You Go to DC

Things you NEED to know BEFORE you go to Washington DC. DC is often referred to as “The District.” You could easily spend a week in DC, especially if you want to see George Washington’s house in Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s house in Monticello. The City is laid out in a grid pattern with lettered streets running east-west, numbered streets running north-south. Diagonal streets — usually named after states — often intersect at circles (30 circles)
Dupont Circle is my favorite circle. Comprised of four quadrants (NE, NW, SE, and SW), which spread out from the U.S. Capitol.

Getting in
There are three Airports — none of them actually in DC
Reagan (DCA) — right next to DC — connected by Metro or $20 Cab Ride
Washington Dulles (IAD)
Baltimore-Washington (BWI)
Amtrak to Union Station
Or Drive

Transportation in DC
Walk
One of the 10 of the most walkable cities in the USA
Travel + Leisure rated D.C. as the third rudest city in America,
Metro
Smart Trip Card

Capital Bike Share
175 stations across the city
Sign up for a day, or three
Taxis/Uber plentiful
Driving: Beware — traffic is miserable and oneway streets abound
Parking is expensive — Use parking panda

Museums
Smithsonians are free
Most on the national mall
Air and Space has 2 locations — one by Dulles
Newseum and Spy Museum are expensive
My favorite is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
No reservations required September 5, 2017 through March 2, 2018
Washington Monument elevator is really cool — but it’s often broken
Best gift shops are in the museums

Government Stuff
Capitol Building or the White House, make sure to book your tickets in advance.
Capitol tour, reservations online or through your Congressional representative or senator.
Capitol Visitor Center provides a limited number of day-passes starting at 9 a.m.
White House, reserve a few months before your trip. Thru congressional representative.

Time to visit
Cherry Blossom Season
Not the summer when all the school kids are there
And the Summer is oppressively hot and humid, especially in August
And maybe not when the govt is in full swing
I like Winter — no crowds at all

Hotels
Can be really expensive, as can parking
My favorites are the Park Hyatt and the Mayflower
Stay outside of DC in Arlington or Alexandria for cheaper hotels
Just a short metro ride in to the city

Food
The national mall and monument area has almost no food
Union Station and Le’fant plaza good for lunch, or around the white house
Avoid the Chinese food in Chinatown — it’s all really awful
But George Bush’s favorite Chinese restaurant is just 20 minutes driving outside of DC
Peking Gourmet Inn in Fall Church — Awesome Peking Duck
My Favorites: Potbelly
My Favorites: Moby Dick House of Kabob
My Favorites: Ben’s Chili Bowl

DC is more than just monuments and the National Mall
Get out and see the real DC
Georgetown
Penn Quarter
Adams Morgan
Smithsonian Zoo
U Street
Walk the red line

Timecodes:
DC General: 00:27
DC City Layout: 01:37
Getting in to DC: 02:35
Transportation in DC: 03:59
DC Museums: 06:02
Government Stuff: 08:51
Best time to visit DC: 10:05
DC Hotels: 11:43
DC Food: 13:51
The Rest of DC: 18:20

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10 Comments

  1. I live in Arlington and think this video offers some really good tips! Here are some extras:
    Museums: The Newseum is an incredibly well done museum. The name sounds boring to me, but it’s far from boring. Teens and adults will definitely enjoy this one! You can spend half a day here. I’ve been a few times and sometimes you can find discounted tix on Groupon or Living Social. The Arlington National Cemetery including the Kennedy grave site, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Arlington House are sites you should try to visit. Bring water and snacks to the cemetery and anticipate a lot of walking. https://www.arlingtontours.com/ offers a paid hop on – hop off service that will save you walking and trekking up the hills.
    Travel: Capital Bikeshare bikes are easily adjustable to the rider and an awesome way to get around! Download their app to locate the different bike stations to plan your trip; there are a lot of stations and every METRO station has one too. They don’t provide helmets, so you have to bring your own or assume the risk. There are a lot of great bike trails and paths in DC, Arlington, and the connecting bridges, just be cautious driving on the roads. If you’re not looking for a healthy travel option, Uber and Lyft are very easy to use.
    Government tours: Visit the Capitol Building and don’t miss the National Library of Congress. It’s free and a beautiful building to visit. Next door is the U.S. Supreme Court which can also be toured. If you will be in town when the Court is in session, try to schedule a visit to listen to an argument. You will hear history in the making and get to see all of the Justices.
    Safety and Parking: If you stay in touristy areas, you should definitely be safe. There are plenty of police and they are helpful resources if you’re lost or need help. Arlington and Alexandria are incredibly safe! Keep your phone close and eyes up; be aware of your surroundings. Don’t park illegally or you’ll get ticketed or towed; on some streets Sundays and evenings are free. Garages are often your best bet when in downtown D.C. The homeless have incredible resources available to them, such as shelter, food, clothing, employment support, and medical care. Don’t feel bad about not contributing to their panhandling, which is often supporting alcoholism or drug dependence. The best advice is to not engage them at all, or politely say you don’t have any money and keep walking. The weather fluctuates, so plan accordingly.
    Enjoy your trip to the DC area! It should be a blast!

  2. I’ve been to DC for 3 days in end of july this year and I don’t know what to think. Beautiful city ruined by I guess people who let the homeless and drug addicts take over a city.. go north with 7th avenue and few blocks from white house u see people sleeping on streets, beggers and drug addicts. Really shocking view in this allegedly clean and classy city

  3. One more thing:Only northern Virginia is considered part the dmv area, mostly just fairfax country and some other places too I think

  4. I’m a D.C. native and this guy absolutely nailed 99.9 percent of everything about D.C. I agreed with almsot everything he said. Trust him, he’s right.

  5. How do you get a tour of the White House if you’re from another country? Since it requires arranging through your congressional representative. I’m an Aussie and will be visiting early next year.

  6. This video and your many other travel videos have been such a great help to my recent trip around the east coast. Thank you so much, sir. Keep the content going!

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