Nicknamed the capital of the world, Washington, D.C. is a city unlike any other, with its low-profile skyline, green parks and open spaces, grand buildings, historic landmarks, marbled monuments, and world famous museums. Besides its world-famous sights, exploring this cosmopolitan city is a joy in and of itself, through eccentric neighbourhoods that support a thriving cultural scene, with scores of top-notch restaurants, shops, and night-time entertainment.
The US capital is an international hub of power and diplomacy, commanding the political centre stage for one of the most powerful nations in the world, and representing all the democratic ideals that the country takes pride in. After politics, tourism is the capital's main industry. The city plays hosts to millions of people annually who come to explore famous sights such as the domed US Capitol, the stately White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the soaring Washington Monument. The most well-known sights are located along the National Mall, a green park stretching from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial on the Potomac River, and include several memorials to great US presidents of the past, as well as the outstanding museums of the Smithsonian Institute. As an added bonus, almost all major attractions in the city are free.
Besides political and historic sights, Washington is a city of interesting neighbourhoods, each with its own character and culture. The most famous of these is historic Georgetown, with elegant colonial houses, boutiques, fancy restaurants, and a lively nightlife. One of the most colourful neighbourhoods is the bohemian district of Adams-Morgan with an assortment of funky shops and ethnic stores, while the arty suburb of Dupont Circle is an affluent business and residential area, with excellent restaurants, art galleries and shops that forms the centre of DC's gay community.
While it's possible to see all the sights of Washington that we've come to know from history in a day or two, it would take months to truly experience all the locals know and love about their city.
Extending for more than two miles (3km), from the US Capitol to the Potomac River, the tree-lined grassy strip known as the National Mall is the central hub of tourist activity in Washington DC, containing many of the city's most famous attractions. It is home to the tapering Washington Monument; the Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson Memorials; the Capitol building; the White House; the museums of the Smithsonian Institution; and the National Gallery of Art.
The Mall is at the heart of the city's social life, the site for many celebrations and festivals throughout the year, and used by scores of joggers, picnickers, food vendors, and strollers daily. It is also a popular site for rallies and protests ranging from a few dozen to a few million people. The Tidal Basin, a beautiful lake famous for the blossoming Japanese cherry trees in spring, lies to the south.
Situated on the top of Capitol Hill, with its giant white dome visible from all over the city, is the US Capitol, the heart of US government and Washington DC's most prominent landmark. It is one of the city's top tourist attractions, as well as one of the most recognised symbols of democracy in the world, and contains the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. Under the magnificent dome, US governmental policy is shaped and the law of the land is practiced.
The interior is richly embellished, with hundreds of statues filling Statuary Hall in honour of important people in the country's history, while paintings and murals decorate the hallways and walls of the Rotunda, depicting 400 years of American history. The enormous circular hall capped by the 180-foot (55m) high dome is the hub of the Capitol, with a symbolic fresco masterpiece at its centre. The Rotunda links the north and south wings, the two halves of the Capitol that contain the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, and flags flying over either wing indicate which part of Congress is in session.
The White House has been the private residence and administrative headquarters of every President of the United States since 1800. Today an American flag flies over the house whenever the president is in residence. Situated at the edge of the National Mall, the palatial building has undergone numerous alterations over the years, which have included refurnishing and expansion, the addition of the first toilets by Jefferson, and electricity added during Harrison's presidency, as well as personal inclusions by each of its presidential occupants. The White House was adapted to the needs of Franklin D. Roosevelt who suffered polio and a swimming pool was installed; Jacqueline Kennedy developed the famous Rose Garden; Clinton added a jogging track, hot tub and humidor; and the most recent addition is the vegetable garden planted by Barack and Michelle Obama.
Tours visit several rooms on the Ground and State Floors, including the Oval Office, the State Dining Room with seating for 140 dinner or luncheon guests, and the Gold and White East Room that is the publicised scene of presidential receptions and other social events. The top two floors are private. The visitor centre provides interesting historical information about the residence and its occupants. The custom that allows free public tours of the president's private home is only stopped during wartime.
Security is understandably very tight and travellers wanting to visit will need to provide personal details in their application through the appropriate Washington DC embassy.
Free guided tours are the only means of exploring the White House. American citizens can book these tours through their Member of Congress and foreigners must book through their embassy in Washington DC. Tours should be booked as far in advance as possible.
In recognition of his leadership in the fight for American independence, the Washington Monument was built to commemorate the 'Father of the Nation' and the first president of the United States, George Washington. As the tallest structure in the city, situated at the western end of the Mall, the gleaming white obelisk offers 360-degree panoramic vistas with some of the most familiar sights in the world in view, including the White House, US Capitol, Smithsonian museums, and the Lincoln Memorial.
Constructed out of loose granite blocks without the use of cement to hold them together, the monument is the tallest freestanding masonry structure in the world, a 555-foot (169m) marble obelisk that stood uncompleted for 37 years. A change in the colour of stone is visible about halfway up and marks the two building phases. In 1888 a steam elevator transported visitors to the top, a 20-minute ride that was restricted, for safety reasons, to men only. Women could walk up the 897 stairs. Today climbing the steps is prohibited, but a free elevator conveys visitors to the gallery that provides unparalleled views of Washington DC and across the Potomac River.
The grandiose Lincoln Memorial is a tribute to the 16th US president, who preserved the Union during the Civil War and ended slavery. It also serves as a Civil War memorial, symbolising the ideas of Freedom and American Democracy. The classical architecture modelled on a Greek temple, is intended to evoke the ideals of the Ancient Greeks, the first modern culture to have rule democratically. In the centre of the memorial, surrounded by 36 white columns representing the 36 states in Lincoln's Union, is a huge marble statue of Abraham Lincoln who stares out over the Reflecting Pool towards the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill. Carved in the walls of the memorial chamber around the statue are inscriptions of two of his most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, and above each is a painted symbolic mural.
The memorial is the site of numerous demonstrations committed to justice, most notably the Civil Rights March in 1963 when Martin Luther King delivered his classic 'I Have a Dream' speech. A bookshop and museum, detailing a photographic history of famous events that occurred on the steps, are nearby.
Officially named the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, after its notorious long-time director, this rather ugly concrete structure is headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI Experience, a self-guided tour, is open to the public and explores the Bureau's past and current work to protect the nation. The tour takes visitors through the Material Analysis Unit and crime laboratories where fingerprinting, DNA, and ballistics testing takes place; past displays of thousands of confiscated weapons and illegal items seized during narcotics operations; exhibits on crime fighting techniques and counterintelligence operations; as well as other presentations on terrorism, agent training, some famous cases, and photographs of the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted List'.
Due to security reasons, the tours are only available to U.S. citizens or valid green card holders. Visitors must request a visit to the Bureau from their congressional representative. The tour must be booked at least 4 weeks in advance and visitors must be given FBI clearance to enter the building. Those in search of espionage history, however, should go to the nearby International Spy Museum.
One of Washington's newest museums, the International Spy Museum features the largest collection of publicly displayed international espionage artefacts in the world. It is the result of years of planning and advice by former officials of the CIA, FBI, and KGB, as well as some of the nation's top experts in intelligence. It aims to educate the public about espionage and its significant impact on historic and current events.
Interactive exhibits cover the history of spying, famous spies, spying during the World Wars with an exhibit on unheeded intelligence that warned of the Pearl Harbour attack, sophisticated espionage techniques of the Cold War, and the latest spy trends and challenges of 21st century espionage. There is also a section dealing with high-tech gadgets such as bugs, tiny cameras and ingenious disguise techniques, with interactive stations exploring surveillance, disguises, code breaking, threat analysis, and more.
There are several interactive exhibits, including Operation Spy and Spy in the City that allow visitors to try their hand at spying; hands-on activities include safe-cracking and conducting polygraph tests, experiences which are combined with special effects and live action. The museum complex includes a restaurant, spy-theme café, and shop.
Nicknamed the nation's attic, the Smithsonian Institution is one of the world's finest research centres, incorporating 19 excellent museums, nine research centres, and a zoo spread over Washington DC, New York, Virginia, and Panama. Most of the museums are located in Washington DC. The centre was the brain-child of British scientist James Smithson who stipulated in his will that lacking heirs, his entire fortune would go the United States 'to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men'. The Institute's original home was in the red brick building known as The Castle that stands on the Mall. The need to accommodate facilities for scientific research as well as housing all the science and art collections amassed resulted in the construction of more buildings along the Mall. Today the Castle houses the Smithsonian Information Center, which provides an overview of all the museums and the zoo.
The museums contain collections of historical importance on almost every subject. Museums include the National Air and Space Museum, packed with full-size space and aircraft, including the Wright brothers' plane; the Natural History Museum, with the Hope Diamond and the world's largest stuffed blue whale; and the American History Museum, displaying the original Kermit the Frog. Other museums include the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art, the African Art Museum, the American Indian Museum, the Arts and Industries Building hosting changing exhibitions, the Hirshborn collection of modern art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Postal Museum.
The Smithsonian Museums are a fantastic attraction for families in Washington DC, and a wallet-friendly one as admission is free.
Two buildings, the West and East Wings, make up the visually stunning National Gallery of Art that is the most popular art museum in North America. Together they house one of the world's leading collections of Western paintings, prints, photographs, graphics, and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the 21th century. Walking from the West Wing to the East provides a near chronological display of European art.
The West Wing, the original building, is a marble architectural work of art with a domed rotunda over a fountain, housing most of the permanent collection. The one hundred or so collection galleries display modern and contemporary art with masterpieces by famous artists arranged by nationality, including what is considered to be the finest Renaissance collection outside of Italy, as well as an outstanding Impressionist collection. The gallery's newer addition is the ultramodern East Wing, composed of two glass-walled triangles, and is devoted to 20th-century paintings and sculptures.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is a large park outside the museum, which features a huge central fountain with some of the museum's permanent collection of sculptures on display.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum hauntingly commemorates the abuse and murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The permanent exhibition is divided into three floors, starting with the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Holocaust, and finally the after-effects of the war and liberation of the camps, with a moving film in which Holocaust survivors recount their personal experiences. The Hall of Remembrance is a quiet place of reflection, filled with dozens of burning candles lit in memory of the victims.
Exhibits vividly convey the scale and nature of the horrors of the Holocaust using films, voice recordings, personal belongings of Jewish victims, photographs, and Nazi propaganda. The permanent exhibition's graphic content can be disturbing and is not recommended for children under 11 years of age. A different section of the museum contains an exhibit designed for children, called 'Daniel's Story: Remember the Children'.
On April 14th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while watching a performance at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC. His killer, an actor named John Wilkes Booth who sympathised with the Confederates in the ongoing Civil War, then jumped to the stage and shouted 'Sic simper tyrannis' (Thus to all tyrants) before fleeing the theatre. The US Government bought the theatre and prohibited it from use as an amusement venue. It was used for various storage and clerical purposes until it was restored and reopened for performances in 1968. Today, Ford's Theatre is both an active performance venue and historical site, the Ford's Theatre Museum containing artefacts related to the assassination, including the Derringer pistol Booth used. Across from the theatre is the Petersen House, which is where President Lincoln finally died early the next morning.
A tour of the entire site lasts about 2 hours, lasting about an hour and limited to groups of 20 people at a time. Tours should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. Visitors must be sure to check out the website to see what is currently on stage.
While looking at historical papers may sound dull compared to some of Washington DC's more 'fun' museums, the National Archives is one of the most popular attractions in the city, housing priceless documents from US history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even the 1297 version of the Magna Carta. All these documents are displayed to the public in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, along with other collections of photography and historical memorabilia. Apart from the historic documents, the impressive building itself makes a visit to the National Archives worthwhile.
One of the largest cathedrals in the US, the Washington National Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is a magnificent Neogothic structure standing 301 feet (91m) tall. The interior of the cathedral is just as grand, with the long, narrow sanctuary framed by buttresses, chancels, transepts, and beautiful stained glass windows. The most famous of these is the Space Window, which contains a piece of moon rock brought back by Neil Armstrong from the Apollo 11 mission. The cathedral was finished in 1972, making it relatively young compared to most cathedrals of its stature. It is the final resting place of noted figures such as Helen Keller, President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, and Admiral George Dewey.
One of the most prestigious performing arts centres in the US, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is also its busiest, hosting roughly 2,000 performances each year for an audience totalling nearly two million people in its eight separate performance halls. It is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, and has commissioned hundreds of new works in various disciplines, including theatre, dance, jazz, popular, chamber, and folk music. The centre was first conceived by Eleanor Roosevelt as a way to employ actors during World War II, and opened in 1971 with the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Each year five artists or groups are awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contribution to American culture and the performing arts in a gala ceremony televised nationally.
There are a number of interesting tour options for those who don't have the time or money to take in a performance.
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is a wonderful attraction for families on holiday in Washington DC. As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the zoo has no entry fee and offers visitors the chance to explore 163 acres of habitats containing more than 1,800 animals, a fifth of which are endangered. The star attractions of the zoo are definitely the giant pandas. Other popular exhibits include the Great Ape House, Elephant Trails, Lion/Tiger Hill, Cheetah Conservation Station, and Seals and Sea Lions Exhibit. The National Zoo was the home of the original Smokey Bear, who was a symbol of forest fire prevention and lived at the zoo from 1950 to 1976.
While the city of Washington DC's humid subtropical climate has distinct seasons, with extreme variations between summer and winter, the weather is also known to be unpredictable. Summers (June to August) tend to be very hot and humid with average highs of 88°F (31°C); the conditions exacerbated in the heart of the city by all the concrete and steel. Autumn and spring are the best seasons to visit, when days are chilly but bright and clear; although sudden rain or snowfalls are possible. In winter (December to February) the city is subject to heavy snowfalls, averaging 17 inches (43cm) a year, and sudden arctic blasts or frozen rainstorms, with average low temperatures in winter around 27°F (-3°C).
The city's many politicians and their expense accounts ensure that Washington DC has some fantastic dining options to suit every budget and taste. From glamorous upmarket restaurants dripping with style, to roadside stalls and eateries, this city offers many kinds of cuisine for many different budgets.
Fresh seafood, crab, oysters and rock fish are among the most popular choices on restaurant menus, with special emphasis on dishes made with locally-caught crabs, such as crab cakes, blue crabs, crab legs, crab soup and even Crab Chips, a brand of potato chip unique to Washington DC. A popular spice is Old Bay, which is locally made and used to season just about everything from peaches to popcorn.
Most restaurants are centred around the Midtown, downtown and Penn Quarter areas with the very upmarket eateries close to Capitol Hill and frequented by businessmen and businesswomen. Dupont Circle and the West End are also great areas for restaurants. A tip of about 15 percent is expected in restaurants and it is customary to make reservations before dining out.
Located in an 18th-century federal townhouse, 1789 is divided into five themed dining rooms, resplendent with fireplaces and period furniture. The setting combined with the food to make this a premiere dining experience presided over by Chef Nathan Beauchamp. His 'keep it simple' approach is enhanced by the best quality ingredients, and complemented by excellent wine pairings. Fish and meat dishes are followed by a list of decadent desserts. There is also a good-value pre-theatre menu available, as well as an 'after hours' menu catering to those who prefer a post-performance dinner. Reservations essential. Open for dinner nightly.
Zaytinya is one of Washington D.C.'s top restaurants, Greek or otherwise. Travellers with adventurous palates can dig into mezze delicacies like goat flatbread, crispy veal sweetbreads, and grilled octopus, while vegetarians will find plenty to choose from. There is a reduced-price lunch menu offering sandwiches, salads, and shawarmas, and even a brunch menu available until 2.30pm.
For Belgian cuisine at its very best, look no further than Belga Café. This stylish eatery with tasteful décor is a favourite in Washington DC with locals and out-of-towners alike. With unforgettable dishes, it's hard to forget this trendy restaurant. There is also a large selection of Belgian beers and wines to complement your meal. Sample the four kazen korketten, two croquettes of 'four cheeses' with a frisee-bacon salad and balsamic dressing. The Lotte mit Jenever, bacon-wrapped monkfish fillet with Jenever beurre blanc, yellow potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli on a bed of red onion confit is also excellent. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday and Sunday brunch and dinner only.
By far the smartest Indian restaurant in town, the ambience created by the ceiling fans, wicker furniture, and potted palms is straight from the British colonial era. Bombay Club is known for its setting, as well as for its gourmet regional Indian cuisine and personalised service, and was a favourite spot for the Clintons when occupying the White House across the road. Delicious naan flatbread complements dishes ranging from fiery green chilli chicken and tandoori dishes, to rogan josh, biryanis, dhals, and lobster malabar. The Sunday champagne brunch is popular. Lunch Monday to Friday, dinner daily. Reservations essential.
If you're in the mood for a steak, there's no better place to go in Washington DC than the aptly-named Capital Grille. The elegant mahogany-panelled dining room creates the perfect backdrop for the restaurant's famous dry-aged steaks and fresh seafood, accompanied by an extensive wine list with thousands of choices.
Carnivores will be in heaven at Fogo de Chao, Washington DC's top Brazilian restaurant. Skewers of meat are paraded around as you eat the signature churrascarias beef. The name means 'Fire of Ground', and refers to the gaucho method of roasting meat. Vegetarians will have to content themselves with the salad bar and vegetable sides.
Serving the best American food in the most American city in the world, Birch and Barley is popular with locals and tourists alike for its delicious comfort food like pan-seared rainbow trout, honey-glazed duck breast, and their special bratwurst burger. The brunch menu is equally tasty with offerings that include waffles, French toast, sticky buns, and even grits. But the real star of the menu is the draft beer list, which stretches to an amazing 555 varieties! Brunch is served on weekends, dinner daily, but the restaurant is closed on Mondays.
One of Washington DC's most famous events is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival which celebrates the arrival of spring. Visitors flock to the city to admire the beautiful pink and white blossoms that surround the Tidal Basin, the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the city from the people of Japan in 1912 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
The festivities include a cultural blend of music, dance, art demonstrations, and performances from Japan and Washington, a fireworks display and parade. The parade is the festival's biggest event, with spectacular floats, marching bands, costumed dance groups, and giant helium balloons.
A Japanese Street Festival after the parade exhibits the traditions, arts, and food of Japan. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC claims to be the best place outside of Japan to see cherry blossoms.
The Folklife Festival is a unique Washington DC tradition and is the largest annual cultural event in the city. It is a living cultural exhibition that celebrates the heritage of different states and regions, as well as international communities, and includes music and dance performances, craft demonstrations, storytelling, exhibits, workshops, and traditional food and cooking demonstrations. Festival-goers should be prepared to spend plenty of time outdoors in the hottest part of the year, but visiting the air-conditioned Smithsonian Museums is a good way to cool off and further indulge all cultural impulses. Check out the official website listed below for more details.
One of the largest Fourth of July celebrations in the country, the capital puts on a grand show to celebrate the nation's birthday. The city celebrates the day with Washington's biggest and most impressive annual parade, music concerts, arts and crafts, an evening performance by the National Symphony Orchestra on the steps of the Capitol building, and one of the country's largest fireworks displays. The official website listed below includes all necessary details for planning attendance to the festival. As one would expect, there is no better place in the US to indulge in an extravaganza of patriotism than Washington DC on the Fourth of July.
While Washington has been described as the capital of the world due to its political status, one could just as easily describe it as the party capital of the world, with its wide range of nightlife activities.
Atlas District is arguably DC's trendiest bar and club scene. Other popular areas include the Adams-Morgan neighbourhood, Dupont Circle (along Connecticut Avenue), the Penn Quarter, and historic Georgetown. The city's hippest nightlife can be found in these areas, with just about everything on offer, including dance clubs, jazz bars, rock bars, and pubs. The best place to go for gay clubs is Dupont Circle.
Arlington Row is a more laid-back area that attracts a crowd of all ages, where excellent live music is the order of the day. If a comedy show is what you're after, check out the Warner Theatre to see who's on stage. If you can't decide what you want, the Boomerang Bus stops at half a dozen venues, giving tourists a chance to sample some of the best of Washington DC's nightlife.
Washington DC also has a first-rate performing arts scene, presided over by the renowned Kennedy Center. On any given night there is a wide variety of performances, both local and international, ranging from Shakespeare, opera and ballet to jazz, rock bands, and Broadway shows. Ticketmaster and InstantSeats.com offer tickets to pretty much any event, while TICKETplace at 407 7th Street offers discounted last-minute tickets to anything that isn't sold out.
Shopping in Washington DC almost competes with politics for attention. The USA's capital offers everything from trendy boutiques and shopping malls, to 24-hour bookshops and renowned farmer's markets. Visitors to Washington DC will walk (or fly) away with their bags full!
Some of the best shopping opportunities are in Georgetown, the nation's oldest neighbourhood, home to up-scale designer boutiques, or The Shops at Georgetown Park, containing designer labels like Ann Taylor, Polo, and Ralph Lauren. The Georgetown Flea Market is good for antiques, jewellery, books, rugs, toys, and linens. Dupont Circle, also an attractive historic neighbourhood, has designer boutiques such as Betsy Fisher and vintage shops like Secondi, as well as a good farmer's market. The Adams Morgan area, previously somewhat dilapidated, now contains a number of eclectic independent shops and boutiques. Penn Quarter is also a good shopping neighbourhood, particularly for antiques, art, home décor, and collectibles.
On Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House Visitor Center and Political America sell authentic and reproduction campaign buttons, signed photos, letters, and other American memorabilia, which make wonderful patriotic souvenirs. The National Mall has great gift shops and museum stores, and is the best place to find popular Washington DC souvenirs like miniature replicas of the White House and various monuments. The National Archives Gift Shop also offers reproductions of the Declaration of Independence and other famous documents.
Shoppers should keep in mind that a non-refundable sales tax is charged, but not included on the sticker price of items. Tax is added at the register in Washington DC shops, so prices will be a bit higher than first expected.
Getting around Washington DC is relatively easy as most attractions are within walking distance of one another and the streets are fairly easy to navigate. The city is laid out in a circle around the White House, with 'spokes' radiating out from it. Washington DC has an excellent public transport system that includes buses and the Metrorail subway, which has stations at or near almost every tourist attraction. The system operates until midnight. The efficient Metrorail subway system provides services throughout the city, and to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and is used by means of a computerised fare card.
The extensive Metrobus network fills in the gaps, but is more complex to use and is slower due to heavy traffic; bus transfers are free and valid for two hours from boarding. Bus, train, or combined one-day passes are available. Although most visitors to Washington DC arrive by car, it is often easier to use public transport as traffic is heavy, and parking in the city is difficult and expensive. Taxis are a good way of getting around for short distances and they are cheaper than most other major cities in the US.
The bustling and exciting city of Washington DC contains a multitude of must-see attractions, including the iconic statues, buildings, and museums that have become synonymous with Washington DC and have made regular appearances in TV shows and movies.
The National Mall, lined with important landmarks, museums, and monuments, is the best place to start. Iconic attractions along this stately stretch include the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol Building, and The Lincoln Memorial, all musts for history and politics buffs. Another world-renowned site in this area is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a thought provoking and hugely worthwhile exhibition. Culture lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Art and kids of all ages will love the International Spy Museum. Another popular attraction on any tour of Washington DC is a drive along Embassy Row.
On sunny days, the National Zoo is a great kids' activity in Washington DC, with rare giant pandas that make a visit particularly memorable. The city's many parks and gardens are also great for running off excess energy and enjoying the beautiful weather in spring and autumn. Children will love the cotton-candy pink Cherry Blossom trees in the Tidal Basin each April.
Visitors intent on lots of sightseeing should purchase the Washington DC Explorer Pass, which entitles the bearer to admission to many of the top Washington DC attractions at reduced rates. However, many of the best things to see in Washington DC, including the Smithsonian Museums, the National Archives, and Ford's Theatre, are free to the public, making sightseeing in Washington DC a very affordable activity.
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