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Holiday Guides for North America - United States

Washington DC Holiday

Washington DC , home to one of the world's most famous houses, is the epicentre not only of US politics but of political decisions that have worldwide resonance.

The clean, spacious city of Washington combines a pulsating vibrancy with a stateliness which does justice to the fact that it houses some of the world's best-known sights.

Washington DC is a grand city, full of imposing white buildings, green spaces and American history.

The city offers a wealth of sites, attractions and museums for the thousands of tourists that flock to the US capital every year. The building regulations are strict and the city has no skyscrapers, making its clean white lines and wide, green spaces unique.

Washington DC is a separate federal district in its own right. The District of Columbia is sometimes known simply as 'the district' and is sandwiched between the states of Maryland and Virginia, on the Potomac River, in the east of the United States.

Named after George Washington, military leader of the American Revolution and the first US president, the federal district was founded on July 16th 1790 and the cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13th 1792. The city now houses the three branches of the federal government, federal agencies and numerous international organisations.

Recommended Sights And Attractions

Washington is the seat of the US government, home to the US president, Congress and the House of Representatives and its major focus is politics. No trip to the city is complete without a tour of the most important political sites, which include the National Mall, the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the White House.

A trip to the White House is probably top of most tourists' checklists. However, it also may be the most disappointing thing they will do. Peering through some iron bars down a long lawn at essentially what is just a grand house does not make for the most exciting of excursions.

Those looking for some real action would be better advised to pay a trip to the Smithsonian Institute, where there are 16 top-quality museums, including the National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum and Newseum, which is an interactive museum of news.

After working up a mental sweat in the museums holidaymakers may want to take a lighter option and head over to the National Zoo, where more than 5,000 animals are on display.

History fans are also in for a treat in Washington DC. The Vietnamese Veterans Memorial and the Washington Monument, which stands in appreciation of the first US president, both offer a unique insight into North American history.

Other noteworthy places to visit include the US Capitol building, which is considered to be one of the most complex architecturally in the world, and the US Supreme Court, where the public can visit on weekdays.

The same political heart of Washington is also home to the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Other key sights around the district include Arlington Cemetery, just outside the city, Chinatown, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and the National Spy Museum.

Most of Washington's major attractions, including many of the city's parks and museums, are free or charge very little for admission. The National Mall also houses several affecting monuments to US soldiers, including the National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the DC World War I Memorial.

Washington also has a vibrant arts scene and an array of lively night time venues, with an staggering number of bars and clubs for a city of just half a million people. Shopping in Washington tends to be targeted squarely at tourists, though there are also some upscale boutiques and bookshops catering to the well-dressed politicos.

One of DC's quirks is its specialising in Ethiopian cuisine, which has become a staple in the city due to its large Ethiopian community. A typical dish consists of spicy stewed and sautéed vegetables and meat, served with an accompanying bread to mop it up with.

Weather In Washington DC

Hot and humid summers come to Washington DC in July and August, so tourists are well-advised to visit in the cooler months of April, May, September and October.

The weather can be harsh during the winter months, with snow storms so dramatic the city sometimes grinds to a halt.

Destination Checklist For Washington DC

  • The official currency is the US dollar.
  • Washington DC is five hours behind of GMT.
  • It uses the international dialling code +1.
  • The city has a population of around 650,000.