Here you'll discover one of the world's safest, cleanest and most efficient transport systems. The Metrorail and Metrobus provide regular services to popular tourist destinations, while a new bus service, the Circulator, provides easy connections between the major neighbourhoods and offers a seasonal service around the National Mall. Purchase a set value Farecard, a rechargeable SmarTrip card or a daily pass.
With wide sidewalks and flat roads, Washington DC was recently ranked the best US city to walk around in. Aside from wandering and exploring, be sure to check out Cultural Tourism DC's many self-guided neighbourhood heritage trails with their informative stories, historic photos and maps. DC By Foot also offers free walking tours six days a week from February to November.
With limited parking and congestion, hiring a car isn't recommended for regular city sightseeing, unless of course you plan to escape the city for some daytrips. All the major brands have locations throughout the city and most have offices at the airports. Rates are reasonable, but it's still best to try to book ahead. Just be sure to get a good map.
In a city with one of the highest ratios of taxis per person, getting a cab is easy. Hail one on the street or pre-book via telephone – the three major companies are Diamond, Yellow and Capitol. All vehicles are fitted with a meter, with fares beginning at around US$3.50. Late night journeys incur extra costs – and don't forget to tip your driver.
With summer the peak season to visit DC, it's not only particularly busy with tourists, but can also be extremely hot and humid during July and August. For cooler mornings and afternoons, opt to visit in spring (April to May) or autumn (September to October). Winters are cold, when temperatures often linger around freezing point, and snowstorms aren't unheard of.
With strict national controls, it's important to contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America to get the latest information relevant to your circumstances before arriving. If staying in the country for 90 days or less you may be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you wish to stay longer, work or study, a visa is required.
There are a number of different time zones in the US. Washington DC operates on Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). Daylight Saving Time (DST) is also observed in DC, when the time is shifted forward by one hour to Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-4).
It is customary to tip, from wait staff to hotel room attendants and valet parkers. Often workers depend on these tips for their livelihoods. Tipping 15 per cent in restaurants is the standard minimum, while 20 per cent is the average. For hotel room attendants and baggage handlers, $1 per guest per day or per bag is acceptable, as is a 10 per cent tip for taxi drivers.
Fly out of Sydney and you can get to Washington DC in 20 hours, 40 minutes via Los Angeles with Qantas.
Get to Washington DC in 24 hours, 50 minutes via Sydney and Los Angeles with Qantas – or in around 21 hours total flight time with a more direct route.
Take one the daily flights to Washington DC from Brisbane and you can get there in less than 20 hours via Los Angeles with Qantas.
The Super Shuttle provides regular door-to-door services from all three airports, with pick-ups and set-downs from any home, office or hotel address. Pre-purchase a shuttle ticket online or over the phone, or visit the ticket counter on the lower level after collecting your luggage. The counter is open from 6.00am to 2.00am. Outside these hours, call the number listed at the counter to arrange travel.
The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is linked directly to the city via the Metro (Yellow or Blue Line). For the Baltimore-Washington International Airport get the Metrobus (B30), which connects you with the Metro (Green Line) at Greenbelt Station. For Washington Dulles International Airport get the Metrobus (5A) to Rosslyn Station to get the Metro (Orange or Blue Line) to the city.
Taxi ranks are located on the ground level outside the baggage claim exits of terminals at all three airports. Taxicab dispatchers are always on hand to assist passengers with questions and for those requiring extra assistance. They'll help you choose a taxi based on your destination. Prices vary greatly depending on which airport you're travelling to/from and current traffic conditions.
If you prefer to avoid the hassle of public transport, or the costs and potential frustrations of hiring a taxi to get you everywhere, consider hiring a car for your holiday. Not only will you be able to drive directly from the airport to your accommodation, you will also be able to take exciting trips around and outside the city whenever you wish.
At the heart of DC, and many would say the nation, lies the majestic National Mall, a vast public green potently dotted with symbolic American buildings, memorials and sculptures. Stretching two miles from the US Capitol Building, past the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, the park is also home to the Smithsonian, an enormous collection of the nation's best (and free) museums.
With one of the largest concentrations of museums in the world, picking which ones to visit isn't easy. The National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, International Spy Museum, National Museum of African Art and the National Portrait Gallery are just a few. While they're spread across the city, the National Mall is home to many.
The White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court are three important government buildings that provide insight into the nation and its history. Each impressive in its own right, the White House and the Capitol have a visitor centre open daily, but guided tours must be booked in advance. Visitors can self-tour around the Supreme Court, taking advantage of educational programs onsite.
The many generals, politicians, poets and statesmen who helped shaped the nation are remembered across the city in the form of monuments and memorials, with the most famous along the National Mall, including the Washington Monument. Standing 555ft tall, it's the most prominent structure in the city, built in honour of George Washington who led the nation to independence and became the first US President.
For a quintessential DC dining experience, head to 1789 – President Barack Obama did. The enticing menu proudly touts 'sustainable seafood' and 'humanely farmed animals' for the meaty main options. The menu, however, changes regularly and the wine list is extensive. The refined atmosphere maintains traditional American country-inn elegance in a Federal-style home, with antiques, beautiful prints and fine silver and china.
The award-winning Founding Farmers is a unique establishment owned by a collective of American family farmers. They take pride in sourcing fresh and sustainable products from family farms, ranches and fisheries, buying locally wherever possible. Offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch menus, the options are far-reaching. Housed in a modern farmhouse, the atmosphere is modern, casual and always buzzing.
Serving up an interesting interpretation of Southern Lowcountry cuisine, Georgia Brown's offers succulent fare to please. Think Southern fried chicken, black-eyed pea cake and fried green tomato. The fixed-price Sunday brunches are particularly popular – a Bill Clinton favourite in fact – with live jazz to accompany. The dining room is unique, warm and inviting, the service friendly and the desserts superb.
Having entertained presidents, generals and politicians, as well as journalists, celebrities and theatre-goers since its establishment in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill oozes history. Whipping up classic American recipes, the fare is hearty and the menu varied, with oysters a popular pick. The mahogany and velvet booths, mirrored bar, dark wood and brass finishes set off the atmosphere with class.
Offering at least 50 wines by the glass and 160 bottles, dark and cozy Cork Restaurant and Wine Bar is all about the wine. Offering bi-monthly wine tastings and classes, it's as much about learning as enjoying every mouthful. Great tasting plates and an excellent selection of cheeses make for a perfect match.
Located in the heart of Adams Morgan sits Madam's Organ – the name alone tells of the cheekiness, randomness and funkiness you'll find here. Featuring live music seven nights a week, from blues to R&B and jazz, there's plenty of fun to be had amongst the funky décor spread over two levels.
Looking Glass attracts a happily coexisting crowd of young party-goers and forever-returning old-timers. Downstairs is mellow and laidback while upstairs gets rowdier. The interior is warm and cosy, the walls covered in funky frames. A mix of DJs, a jukebox, comedy and Tuesday night trivia give every night a unique vibe.
The friendly and cheap Mr. Smith's lies not far from the White House, with a chilled out vibe and zero pretentiousness. The garden patio out back is a winner – the largest in Georgetown – and seats over 150 patrons. Attracting all types, the nightly deals are a hit and the live music much-loved.
While you could easily spend a number of days exploring America's identity along the fresh green lawns of the National Mall, start with just one. Really take your time to absorb what you find. Start at the US Capitol Building, admiring from the outside and learning from the Visitors Center inside. Then amble up the mall, past the many museums, memorials and monuments, including the renowned Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. If you'd like to visit a museum, choose just one or you'll never make it to the end. Finish the day with dinner and maybe some drinks in Georgetown, with its beautiful cobblestone streets and Federal architecture.
Start the day at The White House and be sure to explore the visitor centre inside, then head to the Supreme Court to complete your introduction to America's political history. Self-tour around the Supreme Court, taking notice of the educational programs, exhibits and videos. Then stroll along Cultural Tourism DC's African American Heritage Trail to get an insight into the city's black history and visit completely different sites to the your typical Washington DC visit. Then go home and get ready for a stunning performance at the National Theatre (best to book ahead), or else take in a free performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, which shows every night at 6.00pm.
With so many museums throughout the city, there's sure to be more than one that piques your interest. Whether you're intrigued by the International Spy Museum, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Textile Museum or the U.S. Navy Museum, each is unique. The traditional standout choices include the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery. Make sure you don't miss the Smithsonian, the world's largest museum and research complex. Boasting 19 museums and galleries, nine research facilities and the National Zoological Park, you could spend days here. When you can't stand the sight of another exhibit, head to Adams Morgan for a multicultural eat and some live music to follow.
Forget sites – take in the feel of the city. Wander past the many lavish embassies of Dupont Circle just for the sake of looking then stop by a trendy gallery in the area, or head downtown for more theatres and galleries followed by lunch. Return to Georgetown or Adams Morgan by day if you wish, but don't miss a visit to U Street and Shaw. Once DC's version of Harlem, today it poses an interesting mix of cultures without loosing its roots. Full of history, this was the centre of the riots action that followed Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. Finish the day here with a drink at one of the local jazz venues, maybe some karaoke, and then down some delicious soul food.
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