Washington D.C. Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, is a city steeped in history, culture, and political significance. But it’s not all about politics. From iconic monuments to world-class museums, vibrant neighborhoods, and diverse culinary scenes, Washington, D.C. offers something for every traveler. In this Washington D.C. travel guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to prepare for and make the most of your visit to this incredible city.

And be sure to check out our vlog, which we filmed during our visit: What to Do, See, And Eat in Washington, D.C.

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What Do I Need To Know Before Visiting Washington, D.C.?

Before you pack your bags for D.C., it’s a good idea to get familiar with some key details to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Time Zone

ET (Eastern Time Zone) – UTC-5 during Standard Time and UTC-4 during Daylight Saving Time.


Washington, D.C. has wide variations in climate throughout the year. Summers are typically hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 90°F (32°C). Winters can be cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing, especially at night. Spring and fall provide milder weather, making them ideal seasons to visit.

Best Time To Visit 

Based on the above weather, it’s safe to say the best time to visit D.C. is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is pleasant. These are also the times you’ll find the most festivals and events hosted by the city. However, if you prefer fewer crowds and lower hotel rates and don’t mind the cold, consider visiting during the winter months.

How Much Money Should I Bring?

The amount of money you’ll need for your trip to Washington, D.C. depends on several factors such as your accommodation and dining preferences, and any planned activities. As a general guideline, budget travelers can expect to spend around $100-$150 per day on food, transportation, and sightseeing. Of course, if you’re like us, you can always find ways to spend even less while still enjoying all of those things. Those with a flair for the more luxurious experiences may budget $250-$400 per day. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to carry a little cash for unforeseen expenses and souvenirs.

Getting There

You have several transportation options to consider while planning your trip to Washington D.C.

By Air

The city is served by three major airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). From the airport, you can take taxis, ride-sharing services, or airport shuttles to reach your accommodation.

By Train

Amtrak offers train services to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, located near the Capitol Hill area. Union Station is also a hub for regional commuter trains.

By Bus 

Several bus companies operate routes to Washington, D.C., including Greyhound, Megabus, and BoltBus.

Getting Around 

Once you get to Washington D.C., navigating the city is relatively easy thanks to one of the best public transportation systems in the country.


The Washington Metro, commonly referred to as the Metro, is the city’s subway system. It consists of six color-coded lines serving various parts of the city and surrounding areas. Fares vary depending on the distance traveled, ranging from $2.25 to $6.00 for a one-way trip. You can purchase fare cards at Metro stations or use a SmarTrip card for convenient fare payment. 


The city’s bus network, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), covers extensive routes within the city and neighboring areas. Bus fares also vary based on distance and payment methods, with options for cash or SmarTrip card payment.

D.C. Circulator

This city bus runs between the main tourist areas for, get this, $1. The National Mall, Union Station, and the White House areas are included, and you can also pay with your SmarTrip card/app.

Bike Share 

Washington, D.C. offers a bike-sharing program called Capital Bikeshare, with stations located throughout the city. You can rent bikes using the Capital Bikeshare app or by purchasing a pass at any station.


Taxis are another great option and they’re available 24/7. You can either hail one from the street, walk to a taxi rank, or call one of these official phone dispatch companies. 

Diamond Cab Association: +1 (202) 387-6200
District Cab: +1 (202) 398-0500
VIP Cab: +1 (202) 269-9000
United Ventures Consortium: +1 (202) 269-1100
Yellow Cab Company: +1 (202) 544-1212


And if you’re not a fan of any of the above, you can always call up your preferred rideshare, like Lyft or Uber.

Things To Do and See

©2024 Stephen & Andie

Washington, D.C. has loads of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages and interests. Here are some of the most popular:

Visit the Smithsonian Museums 

Explore the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution, which includes museums such as the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Gallery of Art. Admission to most Smithsonian museums is free but some require timed-entry, so be sure to plan ahead.

Tour Washington D.C.’s Monuments and Memorials

Take a stroll along the National Mall to visit iconic landmarks and memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. If you like cramming in as much activity as possible into a day, here’s a great tour from Viator: DC in a Day: 10+ Monument Stops & Seasonal Potomac River Cruise.

Explore Neighborhoods

Venture beyond the National Mall to discover vibrant neighborhoods such as:

Get Lively in Adams Morgan

Situated in the heart of Washington D.C., Adams Morgan is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood that beckons visitors to explore its lively streets and diverse cultural offerings. As you stroll through Adams Morgan, you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and flavors that reflect the neighborhood’s rich history and dynamic energy. From colorful murals adorning the walls to bustling sidewalk cafes and boutiques, there’s something to pique every senses curiosity. Discover a melting pot of cuisines from around the world as you sample dishes at local eateries, or unwind with a craft cocktail at one of the neighborhood’s trendy bars. Don’t miss the chance to browse the unique shops and galleries showcasing local art and handcrafted goods. And when the sun sets, Adams Morgan comes alive with its vibrant nightlife scene, offering live music venues, dance clubs, and cozy lounges where you can dance the night away. With its eclectic charm and welcoming atmosphere, Adams Morgan is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the nation’s capital.

Roam Around Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle offers yet another vibrant blend of culture, history, and charm. As you stroll through this iconic neighborhood, you’ll be greeted by tree-lined streets, elegant row houses, and a lively atmosphere that beckons exploration. The centerpiece of Dupont Circle is its namesake park, a picturesque green space adorned with a stunning fountain and shaded benches, perfect for relaxing and people-watching. Art enthusiasts will be thrilled with the array of galleries and studios showcasing works by local and international artists, while foodies will find themselves spoiled for choice with an eclectic mix of cafes, bistros, and fine dining establishments. History buffs will appreciate the neighborhood’s rich architectural heritage, from its iconic Beaux-Arts buildings to its historic embassies and diplomatic residences. As day turns into evening, Dupont Circle comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene, offering everything from cozy wine bars to trendy cocktail lounges. Whether you’re soaking in the sights at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, browsing the shelves at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, or simply taking in the beauty of the neighborhood’s historic architecture, a leisurely stroll through Dupont Circle promises is another must-visit.

Stroll Along the Water in Georgetown

Strolling along the water in Georgetown, Washington D.C., offers a serene escape from the bustling city, inviting visitors to unwind amidst picturesque surroundings. The highlight is the historic Georgetown Waterfront Park, nestled along the banks of the Potomac River. As you meander along the park’s pathways, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the river, with its gently flowing waters and scenic vistas of the Key Bridge spanning across. Admire the elegant row of townhouses lining the waterfront, a charming blend of historic architecture and modern elegance. The park also features a delightful fountain and lush green spaces, perfect for picnics or simply soaking in the tranquil ambiance. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of dining options, from waterfront cafes to upscale restaurants, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the river over a delicious meal. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, a scenic spot for a morning jog, or a romantic evening by the water, Georgetown’s waterfront delivers.

Where To Eat and Drink 

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Washington, D.C. has an abundance of dining options thanks to its diverse culinary scene. Aside from the many upscale restaurants you’d expect in a city with some of the wealthiest dignitaries, there are also a lot of cheap eats all over town, too. Fine dining, casual eateries, food markets, food trucks – you name it, and you’ll find it in D.C. We’ll start with a few of our personal faves:

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Washington D.C. institution since 1958. Famous for their chili, of course, they’re most famous for their legendary half-smokes, which is the city’s signature dish. It’s a sausage that is smoked before it’s cooked. Burgers, shakes and other old-school diner fare round out the menu, and not only do they have vegetarian options, but their famous chili also comes in vegan. Ben’s is proudly black-owned and operated for over 6 decades and counting, and they’ve hardly changed a thing.

Kramers, a.k.a. Kramerbooks & Afterwords 

Kramers is a beloved independent bookstore and cafe located in Washington D.C.’s vibrant Dupont Circle neighborhood. Kramerbooks has been a cultural hub for locals and visitors alike since 1976. In addition to its extensive selection of books, Kramers offers a cozy cafe where patrons can enjoy specialty coffees, delicious meals, pastries, desserts, and a curated selection of wines and craft beers. With its welcoming atmosphere, eclectic charm, live music and literary events, Kramerbooks is a must-visit destination for book lovers and food enthusiasts exploring the nation’s capital.

Cactus Cantina 

This popular Mexican restaurant known for its vibrant atmosphere and delicious cuisine. It offers a diverse menu featuring classic Mexican dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas, served in generous portion sizes. Along with its wide selection of margaritas and cocktails, we’d argue that they’ve got the best chips and salsa in town. It’s a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike to enjoy a lively dining experience in the nation’s capital.

Compass Rose 

Located in Washington D.C.’s vibrant U Street corridor, Compass Rose is a popular restaurant known for its eclectic menu inspired by global cuisine. It offers a unique dining experience where guests can explore flavors from around the world. With its cozy and inviting atmosphere, delicious small plates, and inventive cocktails it’s no wonder why it’s a favorite of both locals and visitors. Whether you’re craving Moroccan tagine, Vietnamese pho, or the you-gotta-try-it Georgian khachapuri, the Compass Rose will take you on a culinary journey like no other restaurant in town.

Club House 

Club House is a vibrant restaurant and bar – think massive underground social house – in the heart of the Georgetown neighborhood. It offers a diverse menu of American classics with a twist, signature cocktails, craft beers, and an extensive wine selection. Large communal-seating tables (similar to a Bavarian bier garden), couches and lounge chairs, a fireplace, trivia nights and table games (Jenga!) all add to the relaxed social vibe. Whether you’re grabbing drinks with friends or having a meal with family, Club House is a fantastic option.

Madams Organ 

Madams Organ is located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. See what they did there? For those who like their fun on the more funky side, this is a true gem. To say the decor is eclectic is an understatement, and in the best way. What really sets it apart is its lively rooftop bar which offers stunning views of the city skyline. With a live music scene as eclectic as the decor, you can expect to find everything from blues and jazz to rock and reggae. And don’t let the funk fool you, the food is actually quite good here, too!

More Dining In D.C.

Below is a roundup of several other popular dining options, by category:

Fine Dining

Indulge in gourmet dining experiences at acclaimed restaurants such as Minibar by José Andrés, The Dabney, and Pineapple and Pearls.

Ethnic Cuisine

Explore the city’s multicultural dining scene with options ranging from Ethiopian and Vietnamese to Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Local favorites include Little Serow, Rose’s Luxury, and Rasika.

Food Markets

Visit food markets like Union Market and Eastern Market to sample a variety of local and international fare from vendors and food stalls.

Where To Stay 

Washington, D.C. has a wide range of accommodation options to satisfy every budget and style preference. Here are a few options covering different price points and types of stays.


Highroad Hotel D.C. – This small, hybrid hotel-hostel is in the lively Adams Morgan neighborhood, housed in a beautiful vintage Victorian mansion. It offers both private hotel rooms and shared hostel-style pod bed rooms. The shared rooms are available in two options: female-only with private bathroom or mixed gender with shared bathroom. There is a fully equipped kitchen and ample seating in the common area. Just outside, 18th Street is lined with restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, markets, and nightlife, along with city bike shares, bus stops, scooters and more for getting around the city. 

U Street Hostel – Located in the center of Washington, D.C. U Street Hostel is the first capsule hotel in the city, opened in 2021. Restaurants, bars, shops, and clubs are all within a block, and the Metro is right outside the building’s exit. Whether you Metro, bike, scooter, or rideshare, it’s just a few-mile trip to the White House, Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, and all the sites.

Budget Hotels

La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham (D.C. Metro Capitol Beltway) – La Quinta Inn & Suites is a pet-friendly hotel with complimentary breakfast. This location is connected to a shopping center in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Just a short drive from the Capitol, you can enjoy a clean, budget-friendly stay and still be close to all of the sites and attractions of D.C. When we had our two dogs along on our travels, we always found La Quinta to be an enjoyable, no-frills place to stay. Just be sure “Inn & Suites” follows “La Quinta,” as not all without that distinction are created equally.

Boutique Hotels

citizenM (Washington D.C. Capitol) – citizenM is a stylish and contemporary hotel offering  “Affordable luxury.” This location features modern amenities, a unique design aesthetic, and a rooftop bar with capitol skyline views. With access to L’Enfant Metro Station just outside its door, it’s easy to make the city your playground. citizenM provides excellent value for the money, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers looking for a trendy and centrally located stay in Washington D.C.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C. – Located in Penn Quarter, Hotel Monaco is known for its upscale amenities, stylish old-meets-new decor, personalized service, and complimentary evening wine receptions. This luxurious stay experience is often associated with 4-star hotels. With its convenient location near popular attractions such as the National Mall, Smithsonian museums, and Capitol Hill, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is a favorite choice for travelers seeking a sophisticated and memorable stay in the nation’s capital.

Bed and Breakfasts

Swann House Historic Dupont Circle Inn – How does staying in an 1883 mansion strike you?  Swan House is located in the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. This elegant bed and breakfast offers luxurious rooms, gourmet breakfast, and personalized service. It’s close to the White House, National Zoo, and several universities, including Georgetown, Howard, George Washington, and American (Andie’s alma mater!).

American Inn of Bethesda – This charming bed and breakfast offering cozy accommodations, complimentary breakfast, and easy access to the city – all at a reasonable price.

Luxury Hotels

The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. – Located in the heart of Georgetown, this luxurious hotel offers elegant rooms, exceptional dining, and unparalleled service.

The Watergate Hotel – Immersed in political history, The Watergate Hotel offers stylish accommodations, gourmet dining, and panoramic views of the Potomac River.

Vacation Rentals

And if you’re more of a vacation rental type of traveler, as would be expected in just about any city, Airbnb and Vrbo provide a wide assortment of apartments, condos, houses, and rooms, offered by local hosts.

Tips For Visiting Washington, D.C.

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As is the case with traveling in general, using comon sense, being respectful, and being aware of your surroundings goes a long way. Some of these tips are a little more specific to visiting Washington, D.C., and should be reviewed before you visit.

Plan Ahead: Research attractions and activities in advance and consider making reservations for popular tours and attractions to avoid long lines. Remember, some of the museums and such require timed-entry.

Metro Etiquette: When riding the Metro, stand on the right side of escalators to allow others to pass on the left. Be mindful of peak hours and avoid blocking doors during boarding and exiting.

Security Checkpoints: Expect security checkpoints at major attractions and government buildings, similar to airport security. Be prepared to pass through metal detectors and have your bags inspected.

Walking Shoes: Wear comfortable walking shoes. Exploring Washington, D.C. involves a lot of walking, especially when visiting the National Mall and monuments.

Stay Hydrated: If you’re not already in the habit, carry a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated – especially during the summer months when temperatures and humidity can be high in D.C.


In conclusion, Washington, D.C. is a city with an abundance of history, culture, and endless opportunities for exploration. By taking everything into consideration that we’ve covered in this travel guide and mixing it with a bit of planning, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in the nation’s capital.

Looking for more travel guides? Check these out, and come back monthly, as we’re continuing to grow this section of our blog:

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Mindo, Ecuador

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