Travel Guide of Washington, D.C., United States for: Mandarin Oriental Washington DC Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Southwest, Washington, D.C., United States

Washington D.C. Summary

Pros

  • More than a dozen Smithsonian museums, all of which are open 364 days a year, and all of which are free
  • Other phenomenal museums like the International Spy Museum, the Phillips Collection, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and the newly opened Newseum
  • Home to most of the nation's iconic monuments: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and many more
  • Beautiful weather in the spring and fall
  • Dense city center; easy access to most noteworthy sights and attractions
  • Excellent public transportation: Metro is cheap, efficient, and expansive
  • Great city for joggers and bicyclists
  • Generally quite safe -- no longer America's "murder capital"
  • The premier place for celebrity-politician spotting
  • Several fun, lively neighborhoods with scores of great shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants -- Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, the U Street Corridor
  • Easy to find cabs
  • Everyone talks politics, everywhere, all the time.

Cons

  • Cold winters and hot, muggy summers
  • Relatively expensive hotels, with few budget hotel options compared to other major cities
  • Large homeless population; vagrancy is common (though panhandling is not)
  • Traffic can be brutal, and street parking is often tough to come by.
  • Very little nightlife five nights a week
  • Taxis are expensive, and often charge extra for luggage.
  • Everyone talks politics, everywhere, all the time.

Areas

  • Georgetown and Foggy Bottom: Two neighborhoods, both bordering the Potomac River, both home to major universities; charming, tony Georgetown has much more appeal to tourists than office-filled Foggy Bottom
  • Dupont Circle: An appealing blend of residential and commercial life that includes art galleries, embassies, historic brownstone homes, bars, and restaurants; also the center of D.C.'s gay life
  • Downtown: D.C.'s business center; most of the luxury hotels are here
  • Penn Quarter: A business-oriented but less sexy version of downtown; home to the Washington Convention Center and the Verizon Center
  • Capitol Hill: The neighborhood encompassing the Hill itself is generally sleepy and occasionally sketchy.

What It's Like

Many people use their first trip to the East Coast to visit two cities. The first, of course, is New York, America's financial and cultural capital. The second is Washington, D.C., the actual capital. Because of its status as the seat of the government, D.C. boasts more landmarks than any city in the country save New York. Most of them sit along the two-mile-long rectangle known as the National Mall, bookended by the Lincoln Memorial on one end and the Capitol building on the other. The monuments and memorials, named for America's greatest heroes (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln) and some of its bloodiest wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam), are most tourists' starting points. Also high up on the list: the incomparable Smithsonian museums. Nowhere else in the country can you visit so many world-class institutions without dropping a dime. It makes museum-going something it too rarely is: guilt free. Simply walk in and check out a few exhibits, and if you get bored or tired or hungry, you can leave without worrying about whether you got your money's worth.

It's also worth spending some time outside the Mall. Strolling through Foggy Bottom or downtown, it seems as though every other building you pass on the street is the national headquarters for one thing or another. On your left, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On your right, the Labor Department and FBI Building. Toss in several colorful neighborhoods, an up-and-coming food scene, and a dense, easily navigable geography, and the result is a city that should also be known as one of America's tourism capitals.

Where To Stay

In general, you don't get as much hotel for the dollar in Washington as you do in most other major American cities. We also found relatively few budget options or independently operated hotels (one manager we interviewed referred to D.C. as "Marriott Town"). The good news, though, is that if you're not visiting on business, prices drop dramatically on weekends (except during the summer), so good deals can be had.

The vast majority of D.C.'s hotels are bunched in the southwest part of the district, in about a half-dozen neighborhoods, four of which -- Foggy Bottom, downtown, Penn Quarter, and Capitol Hill -- essentially border the Mall. (Georgetown and Dupont Circle are farther out but still within walking distance, at least if you're a hearty walker and it's a nice day.) You'll find a disproportionately high percentage of the city's iconic luxury hotels downtown, within blocks of the White House: the Jefferson, Hay-Adams, St. Regis, W, and Intercontinental Willard are all superb choices if you can spare the cash. Georgetown is best if you want to get away from things a bit, but that also means not having access to the superb Metro system. Dupont Circle offers a nice compromise: a "real" neighborhood with locals, fine dining, and great nightlife, with the convenience of the Metro.

Washington D.C. Hotel Guides

 

Map of Hotels -- Southwest, Washington, D.C.

Map of Southwest, Washington, D.C. Expand Map ›

Facts

Languages:

English

Airports:

Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Reagan National Airport (DCA)

Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI)

Peak:

March 15 - June 30

Currency:

U.S. Dollar

Electricity:

120 V, 60 Hz

Tipping:

15-20% at restaurants

Oyster Travel Guides

Capitol Hill Travel Guide
Capitol Hill Travel Guide
Characterized as the area surrounding the iconic building for which it's named, Capitol Hill, the… Read More
Downtown Travel Guide
Downtown Travel Guide
Roughly bordered by Massachusetts Avenue to the north, 14th Street to the east, 21st Street… Read More
Dupont Circle Travel Guide
Dupont Circle Travel Guide
It's not a stretch to say that Dupont Circle is the most famous traffic hub… Read More
Foggy Bottom Travel Guide
Foggy Bottom Travel Guide
Though geographically closer to D.C.'s primary tourist attractions and the real business of government, Foggy… Read More
Georgetown Travel Guide
Georgetown Travel Guide
With its cobblestone streets, two- and three-story brightly colored brick rowhouses, and historic, treelined C&O… Read More
Georgetown and Foggy Bottom Travel Guide
Georgetown and Foggy Bottom Travel Guide
Located along the southern and western edges of D.C. are the adjacent neighborhoods of Georgetown… Read More
Penn Quarter Travel Guide
Penn Quarter Travel Guide
The compact, urban Penn Quarter stretches north of Pennsylvania Avenue to New York Avenue, and… Read More
West End Travel Guide
The West End is an affluent area in northwestern D.C., with Foggy Bottom to the… Read More
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