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Washington Mini Guide
What can you tell me about Washington?
For a start it hasn’t always been the capital of the US. Before it was purpose built as the capital, New York and Philadelphia had preceded it. People say that Washington isn’t so much about the buildings and sights of the city but about the people and the atmosphere. To an extent that is true. You get a feeling of the power of the place just from walking around but the buildings have their place too, from the seat of government to the monuments that are not so much memorials but focal points for the nation.
How do I get in to Washington?
Three airports serve Washington – Ronald Reagan National Airport, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International. Ronald Reagan Airport deals with domestic flights to the capital whilst Dulles is the closest international airport with flights from almost every continent arriving here daily. All of the airports have fast train or metro links to the city.
What should be on my list of things to see and do in DC?
Almost everything you must see in in one area, the National Mall. Having said that, it’s a huge area to cover but at least with good footwear, refreshment and plenty of breaks, it’s better than cars or trains. There, in what is designated a national park you’ll find the iconic White House, home to the president of the US and the Capitol Building, the seat of power for the country. There’s also the Washington Memorial, dedicated to the country’s first president amongst other memorials to past presidents and the very poignant Vietnam War Memorial inscribed with the names of all the soldiers who were killed in an unwinnable and some say, pointless war. A very different way to spend some time is to walk, hike or cycle in the Rock Creek Park. Another huge open space for the city, the park is part of a long trail that joins others in Maryland and Virginia. Deep in the park you won’t even be aware that a major world city surrounds you.
What is unique to buy in Washington?
You may want to avoid the cheap and tatty souvenirs sold from stalls on the Mall which include plastic White Houses and dozens of different sized US flags. Washington is renowned as a fashion and art centre and good buys include some high fashion clothes or a work of art, often inexpensive, to grace a wall in your home. Being home to the Library of Congress, you won’t be surprised to know that there are dozens of antique book shops and an ancient copy of your favourite book makes a great personal gift.
What about eating out?
The city is very multicultural and you’ll be spoilt for choice of food but specialities here include the hot dogs called ‘half-smokes’ which are half beef and half pork served in a hot dog roll. For the sweet-toothed, try a cupcake from one of the city’s many cupcake bakeries.
What about celebrations in the city?
Nowhere does Independence Day better than Washington and with good reason. It’s a massive celebration there with firework displays over the Potomac and processions through the street. A less well known festival is the springtime Cherry Blossom Festival when the whole city comes out to celebrate Washington at its prettiest.