As the seat of the U.S. government, Washington, DC is a magnet for politicians, advocates, lawyers, eccentrics, intellectuals, workaholic business types, save-the-world do-good types, diplomats, immigrants, and a hodgepodge of everything in between.
At first glance, DC is a formal, structured city where every local wears a suit and tie, owns a Blackberry, drives a BMW, and works on the Hill (the nickname for the political powerhouse neighborhood, Capitol Hill). But don't be fooled by first impressions. Sure, you'll find the type described. But you'll also find young, hip, old, poor, artsy, dapper, intriguing mixtures of people from all walks of life and all over the world.
Most Popular Places to Go
DC is the best place in the country for a dose of culture. It boasts 19 world-class Smithsonian museums, plus about a hundred other unique museums, ranging from the Spy Museum to the newly opened Newseum (a museum of journalism). It's also an impressive place to catch a play at one of the many theaters, attend an opera at the Kennedy Center, or sample a special cultural event at one of the many embassies.
Monuments and memorials run the scene as the must-do attractions for visitors. Wave hello to President Obama at the White House or pay your respects at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. In fact, you might as well cross off every point of the National Mall, as it's the park area that's central to the nation's Capitol building on one end, the Lincoln Memorial on the other, the Jefferson Memorial to one side, and the White House on the other.
Neighborhoods to Visit
Music lovers will want to visit U Street, where jazz legend Duke Ellington ruled the scene in the peak emergence of African American jazz culture in the '60s.
Trend setters will adore shopping in Georgetown. The area — one of the oldest spots in town — still has cobblestone streets, quaint Victorian row houses, and all the hottest shops around. Looking for vintage, quirky shopping spots? Try U Street Corridor. Or the best place to buy all your Louis Vuitton and Gucci gear? You'll find that in Friendship Heights.
If you're the outdoorsy, sporty type, look into the many ways you can enjoy yourself. If you're a biker and jogger, there are several trails along the Potomac and right throuh the city in Rock Creek Park. A unique hiking experience is on Roosevelt Island. It's a purely pedestrian island in the middle of the Potomac, with splendid city views of Georgetown and a memorial sculpture of Roosevelt in the middle.
Want time on the water? In season, there's kayaking from Georgetown Harbor. There's also ferry tours from Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor.
Late Night Trends
Nightlife is hot in the DC area. The city is full of young people and the young at heart. Many students come out to attend the local universities, and others come interns and new hires to try their hand at either Capitol Hill or the many nonprofits and businesses.
Best places for a night out? The younger crowds choose Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle - two neighborhoods with ultra hole-in-the-wall yet trendy hangouts for late nights of dancing. Dupont is also a big place for gay clubs, sleek-style bars, and a whole mix of tourists and locals. U Street Corridor tends to see the post-college, twenty-, thirty-, and maybe forty-something crowds.