Things to do in Washington, DC

More About Washington

Pulsing with life and constantly in flux, America's capital city is an eclectic entity, fueled by politics and tourism. The District, as it's fondly called, centers on the Capitol and then spreads out into a variety of distinctive neighborhoods. They include funky Adams-Morgan and its diverse ethnic groups, Downtown with its art galleries and nightlife, Dupont Circle with its hip clubs and Connecticut Avenue shopping, and upscale Georgetown, whose rows of brick town homes shelter first-class restaurants and boutiques. Capitol Hill and the National Mall feature many of the city's most prominent buildings and museums, including stately presidential monuments and most branches of the world-famous Smithsonian Institution.

For history-lovers and culture fans, DC is replete with world-class museums and arts venues. The Smithsonian alone includes 15 distinct museums with vast collections of art and artifacts, including the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History. At the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, visitors can catch live theater and music performances, and the Folger and Shakespeare Theatres stage classics that resonate with modern audiences. Even annual events take on a cultural approach, as proven by celebrations like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Well-planned from its inception, the city was provided early on with beautiful parks, gardens and public spaces. The National Mall, in particular, grants lovely views of the Capitol on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. Walking the length of the Mall, visitors can take in these green spaces and even relax on a park bench as the hustle and bustle of the big city continues beyond. Also showcasing DC's natural beauty are Rock Creek Park and the US Botanic Garden.

Since DC's population includes residents and visitors from around the globe, the city enjoys thriving and diverse dining, nightlife and retail scenes. The bulk of this activity can be found in four neighborhoods — Downtown, Adams-Morgan, Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Great restaurants that highlight the town's multiculturalism and culinary quality include Luigi's Pizza, Ben's Chili Bowl, Obelisk and upscale Citronelle. After-hours, nightlife awakens in the policy-making town, and folks flock to hot spots like Madam's Organ and 9:30 Club and 18th Street Lounge. Although most neighborhoods boast great restaurants and clubs, Georgetown leads the pack in shopping. Not only does it feature stately antique stores, but it also throws in independent boutiques, upscale chains and the much-frequented Shops at Georgetown Park.

If you relish physical activity, DC delivers that as well. For pro sports enthusiasts, the Washington Redskins get fans riled up when autumn approaches, playing to packed houses at FedEx Field; the NBA Washington Wizards dominate headlines during basketball season; and 2005 saw Major League Baseball return to the capital thanks to the Washington Nationals.

Undeniably, the District is on the go. Its metro-area population exceeds 5 million, and thousands of visitors come in each year, so the city constantly regroups, reinvents and reissues its welcome. And whether folks come for political matters or simply to marvel at museums, memorials and gardens, they find plenty to entrance and delight them. The city defines America and puts on a pedestal what makes it tick and what it holds dear.

It comes as no surprise, then, that DC has an allure all its own. The city unites politics, cosmopolitan energy and culture with first-class dining, shopping and nightlife, crafting a melting pot of international influence and homegrown practicality that's not only a perfect destination spot but a chunk of the American experience itself.

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Things to do in Washington

Washington is known for...

Five of Washington's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Government:

There's no denying that the one thing that most defines Washington, D.C. is the government. The White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court — the three branches of government which impact the lives of every single American — all sit within a few blocks of each other. From there, the list grows with the hundreds of office buildings where the many departments, agencies and administrations that guide our nation reside. Walking through these hallowed halls — where presidents, cabinet secretaries, senators and representatives past and present have toiled to lead and guide our nation — is truly awe-inspiring.

2. Museums:

Washington, D.C. may be the museum capitol of the world. A quick search turns up nearly 75 different museums offering their own unique collections. They range from the famous (and we might add enormous) National Museum of American History and the National Air & Space Museum, both part of the 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution, to the Hillwood Museum, the International Spy Museum and even a Madame Tussauds wax museum. Whether the collections are diverse and all-encompassing or small and eclectic, each offers an important view into a compelling part of American and world history.

3. National Mall:

The very heart of Washington, D.C. and perhaps the nation itself, the National Mall sees some 24 million visitors each year. Many of the city's great museums line the eastern portion of the mall, before giving way to some of America's great monuments. The iconic Washington Monument towers over the mall. The powerful World War II Memorial pays homage to one of our greatest generations. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its deep, black surfaced etched with thousands of names, still brings tears to the eyes of many. And then there's the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the famed Reflecting Pool. The site of some of D.C.'s most famed moments, the backdrop in hundreds of movies and television shows, it's perhaps the single place that tops most visitor's "Must See" lists.

4. Pandas:

When kids think of Washington, D.C., they might first think of the President of the United States. But often their second thought is of the National Zoo's famous panda bears. On loan from China, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the zoo's main draw. The rare black and white bears come from the bamboo forests of central China. Extremely endangered, a mere 1,600 are still believe to exist in the wild, with another 300 or so in zoos and animals parks around the world. One of the National Zoo's most popular features is a webcam that allows people around the world to watch Mei Xiang and Tian Tian live as they go about their daily lives.

5. Cherry Blossoms:

In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Japan gave the first of what would be hundreds of Japanese cherry trees to the people of Washington, D.C. Fast forward a few decades, and the beloved pink and white trees had become an iconic part of the downtown D.C. landscape (and much of the surrounding region for that matter). Today, more than 100 years since the first official trees were planted, the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge event, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to ooh and ahh over the delicate blooming blossoms as they stroll around the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument.