Our nation’s capital is one of the largest tourist magnets in the country, and also happens to be my home! Trust me when I say learning how to navigate D.C. like a native saves you a lot of endless walking in the muggy swamp of the Capital. So here are a few tips and trick as well as inside scoops of Washington D.C.
So first of all let’s talk about transportation. In D.C., you never drive or take an uber unless absolutely necessary. The only time you should ever be on the road is if you’re walking across it or if you decide to go on a bus tour of the city (not a very native thing to do but still very fun!). To get around D.C. use the Metro; it has many convenient spots that are very short walking distances from anything and everything you would want to see in D.C. Now, the metro is kind of trick if you’re a first-timer. I suggest finding a picture of the map on google and saving it to your phone.
One of the great things about D.C. is that the Metro reaches so far out into the suburbs. It is infinitely cheaper to stay at a Marriott in Bethesda or Rockville than to stay in a D.C. hotel. You may have a small commute to your desired location but it shouldn’t be longer than 20-30 minutes. The suburbs of D.C. also have much cheaper dining options and the food usually arrives faster (whether it is take-out or a restaurant). My suggestions: stay in the suburbs and visit the city.
Ok, so we have transportation and a place to stay down. Now, we move on to places to go! Any D.C. native knows that Georgetown is much better than most of downtown (mostly because we have seen all the monuments and museums a hundred times). Georgetown has a great mix of shopping, dining, nightlife and sightseeing! One of my favorite things to do in Georgetown is to rent kayaks or paddleboards and go sightseeing on the potomac river. You get a view of D.C. that is breathtaking and really fun to get to. If you’re not into watersports you can also take a watertaxi on the river for a similar effect. There are also some more indoorsy type people reading this; if shopping and dining are something you look forward to then you have to go to M Street in Georgetown! It has every type of shop and restaurant in every price range.
Now that we’ve gotten to the topic of food and Georgetown, I’m sure some of you are thinking of the famous Georgetown Cupcake shop. Well, Georgetown Cupcakes are great and all (if you want to spend an hour waiting in line for a cupcake), but true D.C. residents know that Baked and Wired is the place to go for good cupcakes and coffee. They have larger cupcakes that are cheaper (though still a little overpriced) and their cupcakes taste so much better! They also have really entertaining names for their cupcakes and there is a very small line.
Moving on to downtown D.C., some basic rules to live by when touristing in the capital:
- Everything is overpriced, so make sure you are prepared to spend $20 on a small lunch.
- If it requires payment (museums, White House, tours) buy the tickets well in advanced.
- Many of the streets look the same, but the streets are very linear and comprehensive: Diagonals = states, numbers = north, south, letters = east, west
- The capital is quite literally a swamp (it’s sinking every year, especially the Washington Monument) this means that if you’re there in the summer it is muggy and not pleasant. I suggest going in the fall if possible (its gorgeous)
- If you ever are trying to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival, it is ridiculously crowded and the trees have either bloomed and been rained on (causing the flowers to fall off) or they have not yet bloomed, so don’t necessarily go on the festival to see the Cherry Blossoms.
- Not every car with an official seal is a high ranking member of our government (neither are the helicopters). The way to know if it’s the President or Vice President is if there are more than four helicopter or more than four SUVs in a row.
- Any Museum you have to pay for may be worth it based on your interests, but unless you really love journalism or recent history, the Newseum will just seem boring (in my opinion). Same thing goes for the International Spy Museum.
I know this was a very broad post, because in reality, people who live in D.C. don’t go downtown to sightsee almost ever. We get to see it too much, so we take it for granted. Georgetown is my favorite place to go and you will find less tourists, but still get a D.C. experience if you explore that beautiful part of the city. I hope this was helpful! Comment below if you have any tips about your native city.