Washington, DC at the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial during spring.
travel tips

Tips for planning a trip to DC - from a local

Lita Talisman

Contributing writer

Washington DC is the capital of the US and the place where history is being made every single day. There are plenty of tourists that come to see this amazing city and all of the important places within it. Here are some tips for visiting DC from a local.

There are lots of free things to do

DC is a wonderful city for tourists, because lots of things you’ll want to see are free. The National Mall is the main attraction in the city, because it is lined with important monuments, famous buildings like the Capitol and White House, and Smithsonian museums. All Smithsonian properties are free, so you can spend a day touring without spending a dime. Also, DC hosts plenty of free events for the city, like Jazz in the Gardens in the summer.

Entrance gates to the Smithsonian Institute Castle, Washington DC, USA

The city is expensive

The cost of living in DC is very high, which means when you visit you can expect steep price tags. Coffee costs around $4 at most shops and nice restaurants will run your bill up. Luckily, DC was also the city that started a lot of fast casual restaurants, so you can find some delicious food for less.

The metro can be very slow

If you’re coming from out of town, you may want to use the Metro to get around. However, the Metro constantly has construction or delays. If you’re going on a weekend, you can expect really long wait times. Build extra time into your schedule to get around using the Metro.

The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Summer humidity is dreadful

Most people don’t realize that DC was built on a swamp. Because of this, the summer humidity is overwhelming. During the summer, temperatures are usually in the high 80s or 90s with humidity hovering around 50 percent. Spring and Fall are much better seasons to visit with lower temperatures and nicer weather.

If you want to see cherry blossoms, expect to fight through crowds

The busiest time of the year in DC is cherry blossom season. Hundreds of tourists come to see these trees in bloom. You’ll have to walk through hordes of other tourists to see them and good luck getting a picture without others in them. Although, they’re still beautiful and worth seeing at some point.

Washington DC in Cherry Blossom season
The US Capitol building in Washington DC

DC has a fairly diverse population

One of the best things about DC is that it’s one of the most diverse places in the entire country. As they say DC is a “mixing pot” so you can expect to meet people from all over the world. This means you can also find amazing restaurants that feature these worldly cuisines (make sure to get some Ethiopian when you’re here!).

Expect traffic

Unfortunately, DC is often rated as one of the worst cities in the US for traffic. If you go anywhere during rush hour times, add more time to your travel plans. And if you have a car make sure that you know how to drive around traffic circles or you’ll frustrate all the other drivers around you.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington DC.

Not everyone here works in politics

Despite what people say, there are plenty of DC residents that are not connected to politics. DC is a thriving city with so much to offer like wonderful food, a vibrant arts scene, and beautiful parks. Make sure to explore areas other than the Mall, so that you can get to know this city better and see why so many people love calling it home.

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Lita Talisman

Author - Lita Talisman

Lita is a travel blogger and content creator that is currently based in Washington DC. She has traveled to over 35 countries and 35 states, and is currently converting a van into a tiny home. You can read in depth travel guides, van conversion tips, and posts about living with Multiple Sclerosis on her blog, Lita of the Pack.

Last Updated 2 October 2021

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