What to Do in Washington DC (local’s tips)

Looking for advice on what to do in Washington DC? As part of our city guides series, we interviewed local DC resident Matt Long.

Matt shares with us his insider tips on things to do in Washington D.C. plus advice on where to eat, sleep, drink and explore.

What to do in Washington DC

Must See Monuments and Museums in Washington D.C.

DC is a city of great museums and monuments and it’s hard to go wrong.

Some of my favorites include; Udvar-Hazy extension of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, National Building Museum, and the International Spy Museum.

Another great thing about visiting DC is that all of the Smithsonian Institution museums (including the zoo) are free!

International Spy Museum are included in the Washington D.C. Sightseeing Pass, which will save you money on Washington D.C’s top attractions. See what else is included here.

Best Neighbourhood to Explore in Washington DC

Georgetown - Washington DC

A great area many tourists miss is Georgetown, because there’s no metro access. But this historic neighborhood is the poshest in the city, with stunning homes, great restaurants and the best shopping in town. You can see more in our 3-day itinerary to DC and things to do in DC in 48 hours

Getting Around DC

The metro is great for getting around town quickly and easily. I personally think it’s easy to understand, but I’m biased.

Parts of DC are walkable, but not all of course. The main tourist area around the National Mall is easy to navigate, but can be grueling on a hot summer’s day.

Where to Eat in DC

Washington DC food trucks
Food truck heaven

After years of suffering, DC is finally becoming a foodie town! Some of my favorite lower cost restaurants include; Good Stuff Eatery, We The Pizza, Ben’s Chili Bowl and Moby Dick House of Kabob.

On the higher end of the scale my picks are; Citronelle, Inn at Little Washington, Minibar, Vidalia and Bistro Bis.

Where to Drink in DC

For the best beer selection in town RFD Washington in Chinatown has everyone beat; they feature thousands of breweries from around the world.

Best Place to Drink with the Locals in Washington D.C.

Since DC is a political town, there’s no shortage of watering holes. To rub elbows with Congressional types, head to Hawk and Dove or The Capitol Lounge on Capitol Hill.

Best Area for a Night on the Town in Washington D.C.

Without a doubt it’s Dupont Circle, a mix of young Bohemians and polished professionals, there’s an abundance of restaurants, bars and clubs in this active neighborhood.

Where to Stay in DC

For the ultra-budget traveler, there are hostels in DC of course, but my advice for the moderate budget traveler is to stay outside of the District.

Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia is on the metro and a quick ride from the city. Because it’s not in DC though, the hotels tend to be less expensive.

Given the number of high-ranking officials who visit from around the world, there are plenty of high-end hotels:

You can use the map below to find more places to stay in DC

Markets & Shopping in Washington D.C.

People enjoying a Christmas market
DC Holiday Markets

Locals all know and love Eastern Market, a DC institution. Built in 1873, Eastern Market was in continuous operation until 2007, when a devastating fire closed the
historic structure until it reopened in 2009.

Located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, during the week the market offers fantastic fresh meats, cheeses, and produce from a variety of local farmers and vendors.

It is on the weekends though that Eastern Market explodes into a frenzy of food and art. Every Saturday and Sunday vendors from all over the Mid-Atlantic descend on Washington to sell their arts and crafts, antiques, and food. It can get quite busy, so be sure to visit early.

Events & Festivals in Washington D.C.

Since we’re the capital city, there are always major events and festivals going on, but my favorite is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This annual festival is a two-week international exposition of living cultural heritage and provided free of charge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The always changing Festival overlaps with the Fourth of July celebrations and together the events showcase Washington at its best.

Favorite Side Trip from Washington D.C.

One of my favorite day trips is to nearby Mount Vernon, the George Washington estate. (entry included in the Sightseeing Pass or you can book a tour here. )

It’s a beautiful property right on the Potomac and they’ve done a great job making the experience interesting and fun for everyone who visits.

For an overnight escape, Maryland’s Eastern Shore is only a couple of hours away. The Eastern Shore sits on the Chesapeake Bay and the many small towns lining this historic part of the state are fun to explore.

Best Time of Year to Visit DC

Abraham Lincoln Memorial - Washington DC
Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Fall is my favorite time in DC.

The weather is comfortable, many tourists have gone home and you can enjoy the city in a less-harried way. DC in the middle of summer is like walking through hell, avoid it if you can.

Getting There and Away

DC is lucky to be serviced by three major airports, although Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the most convenient. Southwest Airlines has a growing presence, but there’s not a strong budget airline in the area.

Train and bus are both extremely easy to take from New York or Philadelphia. Bolt Bus and Megabus both run frequently and feature some cool onboard amenities.

Best Insiders Tip for D.C.

Even though it’s located outside of DC, near Dulles Airport, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is one of my favorite area attractions. Founded in 1966 as the result of a gift of 100 acres of Northern Virginia farmland, Wolf Trap is the only National Park in the United States devoted to the performing arts.

This massive facility offers year-round programming through the Barns at Wolf Trap and the Filene Center. The best time to visit is in the summer when a variety of acts, from Bill Cosby to Chicago, all perform onstage at the Filene Center.

The least expensive tickets at the Filene Center are, in my opinion, the most enjoyable – the lawn seats. Over the years, patrons have made lawn seating a tailgating event, bringing elaborate picnics to enjoy before the evening shows.

I Love DC because …

The White House - Washington DC

It’s a big city that doesn’t seem like it.

We don’t have skyscrapers and Washington doesn’t feel like a concrete jungle. Instead, we have amazing historic buildings, lots of green space and neighborhoods that have tremendous character.

Read More posts on things to do in Washington D.C.

BIO – Matt Long, travel writer, blogger and photographer of LandLopers.com, one of the top blogs in the world. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook

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