Washington, DC

Destination Location

Overview

Whether you call it "the district" or just "D.C.", Washington is ready to welcome guests from all over the world. As the national capital of the United States, Washington is home to all three branches of the U.S. federal government as well as many of the nation's museums and monuments. Located along the Potomac River, Washington has a population of nearly 5.6 million, the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the country. Washington features an incredible array of things to do and see, most dedicated in celebration of America's proud history.

If you're looking to visit Washington's historic sites, you may want to start at the National Mall. While you won't find a Bloomingdale's, you will find an large, open area park which houses the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Pier, the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Close by you'll find the National Archives, a stunning building that displays thousands of documents of American history including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

You can learn, well, just about anything in Washington's many museums. Thanks to the Smithsonian Institution, some of the best collections can be found in Washington. Remember to bring a good pair of walking shoes as you stroll through the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African Art, the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian. Because the U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian, these museums are open to the public free of charge.

If you're looking for a museum experience, take a trip to Washington's Newseum. This interactive museum of news and journalism features a seven-level, 250,000-square-foot space with 15 theaters and 14 galleries. The Newseum's Berlin Wall Gallery includes the largest display of sections of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. As you enter, stop by the Today's Front Pages Gallery, a showcase of daily front pages from more than 80 international newspapers. Like the Smithsonian museums, the Newseum also does not charge admission and has become one of Washington's most popular attractions.

If the arts are what you're looking for, Washington, D.C. is a national center for the arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet.

Of course no visit to Washington is complete without a stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – better known as the White House. Home to President of the United States, it remains a rich piece of American history.

No matter how you take in the city, whether it's by car, by bus, by bicycle or by segway, there's always something to see in Washington, D.C.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Airport served by: Washington (Dulles), DC (IAD), Washington (Reagan National), DC (DCA)

Destination basics

The weather in Washington is most welcoming to guests in spring and fall where it is warmer during the day and cools off nicely in the evening. If you're planning to visit between April and June or September and October, a jacket with a little warmth will be perfect for a stroll through the National Mall.

Summers are hot and humid with a July daily average of 26.2 C and average daily humidity around 66 per cent. If travelling during the summer, think about investing in moisture-wicking apparel, especially if you plan to see Washington on a bike.

Winters bring milder temperatures to the area. With daily averages around 4 C during December and January – and snow to go with it – there's never a better time dig out your favourite matching hat and mittens.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Washington, DC

With its impressive monuments, famous museums, and stately government buildings, Washington DC is easily recognizable as the United States' capital. The city is mainly based on government, but its attractions bring millions of tourists each year. In fact, it is the second most visited city in the United States (after New York) and is among the top travel destinations in the world.

Adams-Morgan
Popular with the young, hip crowd, Adams-Morgan is considered one of Washington's most colorful neighborhoods. Though it is primarily home to Latinos and West Africans, the neighborhood is brimming with people of many diverse backgrounds. It's a great place to find cuisine from around the world. With its mix of nationalities, Adams-Morgan is one of the most interesting and cosmopolitan neighborhoods in the city. The cultural diversity is evident in its quirky shops and offbeat bars and clubs.

Anacostia
Just across the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington, Anacostia is a historically African-American neighborhood. The neighborhood, named after its Native American inhabitants, dates back to John Smith's arrival in the New World in 1607. Of particular interest are the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Woodlawn Cemetery and the Anacostia Museum: a Smithsonian Museum showcasing African-American culture.

Capitol Hill
"The Hill" is known not just for the imposing U.S. Capitol, but for its interesting blend of government buildings, Victorian row houses, restaurants and shops. While the Capitol dominates the neighborhood, the Supreme Court of the United States, the Library of Congress and Union Station are other prominent buildings. Here you'll also find Eastern Market, one of the city's oldest farmers' markets, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, which features theater, chamber music, baroque opera and other performances.

Chinatown
Chinatown is a small neighborhood that is easily accessible by Metro or on foot from downtown Washington. The neighborhood is marked by the colorful Friendship Archway and many of the city's Asian restaurants and shops are located here. Chinatown is the site of the festive and popularChinese New Year's Day parade.

Dupont Circle
Washington's gay neighborhood is equally popular with heterosexuals looking for lively nightlife, exceptional restaurants and funky shops. With its historic townhouses, art galleries and theaters, Dupont Circle is a great place to explore. At the circle, three of the District's major avenues—New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts—converge. With its large central fountain and shade trees, the circle is a great place to sit and watch the crowds or enjoy lunch.

Foggy Bottom
Once called Funkstown (after a German immigrant), Foggy Bottom derived its name during the late 19th Century when smoke from the neighborhood factories and the swampy air of the low ground combined to produce a permanent fog along the waterfront. Today the neighborhood has an institutional and bureaucratic air to it. It's the home of the Department of State, the Kennedy Center and George Washington University

Georgetown
Trendy, fashionable and fun describe the atmosphere in Georgetown, Washington's oldest neighborhood. It's a neighborhood of tree-lined streets and handsome brick houses, but it's also home to Georgetown University and is a popular place to shop, take in dinner and a movie, and, of course, enjoy the nightlife. Busy M Street is lined with trendy boutiques and upscale stores, restaurants and bars.

Southwest/Waterfront
The eastern shore of the Anacostia River is home to Arena Stage as well as Benjamin Banneker Circle and Fountain. The waterfront runs several blocks along Maine Avenue SW with piers, sailboats, yachts, fishing boats, seafood markets and restaurants to explore.

Alexandria & Arlington
These distinct Virginia communities across the Potomac River from Washington stand apart from other local areas. Alexandria's history stretches back to 1699, long before Washington DC was formed. Old Town Alexandria boasts hundreds of restored buildings, including homes, churches and taverns from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Visitors can walk along cobbled streets and visit the revitalized waterfront. Arlington, on the other hand, is clearly part of contemporary Virginia. This city boasts many major attractions including Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and the Pentagon.

During the day Washington appears to be a city of gray suits and serious politics, but after dark it has plenty to offer in the way of nightlife and culture. Locals and visitors flock to the finest theaters and concerts or choose to dance the night away in the nightclubs.

Theater
Washington is home to several fine theaters presenting everything from big Broadway hits to smaller productions featuring local playwrights and covering topical issues. The Kennedy Center is a showcase for theater, both old and new, incorporated among seven venues which include the Eisenhower Theater, the Concert Hall, KC Jazz Club, the Opera House, Family Theater, Theater Lab and Terrace Theater. The National Theatre is Washington's answer to Broadway, presenting many touring companies and occasionally premiering musicals before they move on to the Great White Way in New York City.

The Warner Theater has a multifaceted past. It opened in the 1920s as a vaudeville house, became a classic movie palace and then a venue for rock bands before closing its doors. Reopened in 1992, it now features big name plays and other entertainment acts. Another historic theater is Ford's Theatre, which has carefully preserved the 1865 scene where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Plays are produced on the same stage onto which John Wilkes Booth jumped after delivering the fatal shot. A visit to the theater is both a historic and cultural experience.

The Arena Stage and the Gunston Arts Center are two of the more eclectic and innovative theaters in the Washington area dedicated to the celebration of the dramatic arts. They both offer programs to educate and inform as well as entertain.

Cinema
Movie theaters throughout the metropolitan area show the latest offerings from Hollywood and international studios. The Uptown is easily the best place to see a film in the city. It is an opulent old-school theater with giant screens and all sorts of style.

Music
The premier venue for classic opera in Washington is the Kennedy Center's Opera House. This grand stage is the home of the Washington Opera, which performs seven operas in their November-March season, all in their original languages with English subtitles.

The National Symphony Orchestra calls the Kennedy Center home as well, performing in the Concert Hall from September–June. In the summer, the acclaimed orchestra can be heard at Wolf Trap Farm Park and playing from the steps of the U.S. Capitol on special holidays. Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University is another venue for classical music, often offering lesser-known works.

Outdoor concerts are popular in the warmer months when Washingtonians and visitors enjoy picnics and listen to free music on the National Mall, in Rock Creek Park or at the National Zoo. The official bands of the U.S. Armed Forces often have concerts featuring patriotic and popular tunes.

The city has many venues for popular and contemporary music acts as well. Jiffy Lube Live brings in big name artists for summer outdoor concerts. Constitution Hall and the Nightclub 9:30 have year-round shows with a variety of rock and roll, jazz, blues and pop.

Washington's international makeup provides a variety of music from around the world. Irish folk music can be heard nightly at several pubs including Kelly's Irish Times, while Cuban, African and Zydeco can often be heard at the Birchmere.

Dance
Whether it's salsa, swing, ballroom or the latest hip-hop, Washington has many great clubs to dance the night away. Habana Village gives Latin dance lessons before the evening gets under way. The club has three floors of dancers doing the salsa and tango. The Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers lessons and dances throughout the week in a variety of styles including Cajun and swing. There is also an elegant Sunday afternoon tea dance which often features waltzes.

Contemporary dance clubs are numerous in the Metro area, many staying open until the wee hours of the morning. Club Heaven and Hell offers an angelic atmosphere in the upstairs dance room and a darker pool hall downstairs.

From Washington Harbor to Capitol Hill, Washington is a city of people with tastes as varied as the opinions of Congress. At Washington's restaurants, diners will find everything from regional American specialties to varied ethnic food.

Adams-Morgan
Adams-Morgan is now one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city, a change that is reflected in its eateries. For tasty authentic Brazilian cuisine, the Grill from Ipanema is as good as its clever name suggests. Try one of their fun tropical-themed cocktails. Astor serves up delicious Mediterranean cuisine with dishes like gyros and shwarma. Numerous bars and coffeehouses. like Tryst, are open till late for after-dinner conversation and people-watching.

Capitol Hill

This neighborhood is home to establishments that count the nation's power players among their regular customers. Barrel is a neighborhood pub that specializes in hard-to-find whiskeys. For a perfectly cooked steak with some gourmet side dishes head to Medium Rare. And for some good old-fashioned comfort food, Rose's Luxury is hard to beat, especially when you can eat on their romantic garden patio. 

Chinatown/Seventh Street
Chinatown is a great area to have a bite or two. If in the area make sure to try Tony Cheng's. Seventh Street, once a fashionable shopping district, is emerging as a center for arts and culture and has great eateries as well. For tapas and sangria, head to Jaleo or, if you're in the mood for Irish stew and a Guinness, visit Fado.

Downtown/Foggy Bottom
There are lots of exciting restaurants in the downtown area that cater to office workers. Whether you're going for a power lunch, a business dinner or just want to have a great meal, Old Ebbitt Grill is a Washington favorite. Komi serves a set multiple-course Mediterranean dinner with an optional wine pairing. For time-tested American comfort food head to Founding Farmers, where the ingredients are all locally sourced. 

Dupont Circle
With its many restaurants, shops and bars, Dupont Circle is a fun area to be in the evenings. Most of the bars above Massachusetts Avenue and P Street attract mainly a gay crowd, but everyone is welcome. At The Palm you might catch a glimpse of a TV political pundit as you enjoy your steak and martinis. For a more calming environment, Teaism is an Asian teahouse with small meals and, of course, a wide selection of exotic teas.

Georgetown/Washington Harbor
Cosmopolitan and hip, Georgetown is full of student-oriented clubs. The older crowd can enjoy jazz at Blues Alley. Start down at the harbor area at Sequoia Restaurant for a drink as the sun sets over the Potomac. Stay for dinner, or head up to Georgetown for the best Ethiopian fare around at Zed's.

Washington DC

State: District of Columbia

Country: United States

Washington By The Numbers 
Population: 651,200 (city) / 9,625,400 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 200 feet / 61 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 41 inches / 104 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 14 inches / 36 centimeters
Average January Temperature:  39°F / 4°C
Average July Temperature: 81°F / 27°C

Quick Facts 

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 202 

Did You Know?

The city is home to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which coincides with their bloom in the springtime.

Washington DC residents were not granted the right to vote in Presidential elections until 1961.

Orientation

Washington DC is the capital of the United States of America. Located on the east coast of the country, the city is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Baltimore, MD and 204 miles (328 kilometers) from New York City. 

It should come as no surprise that Washington DC, America's foremost city of politics, was born out of political compromise.

Washington DC did not exist as either a city or a capital at the close of the American Revolution. At that time the federal government set up headquarters in eight locations, most notably New York City and Philadelphia. Congress wanted a home of its own and voted in 1785 to create a permanent federal city. Divisions arose, with the northern states wanting a northerly location and southerners wanting the capital farther south. Eventually, they compromised. It was decided if the northern states agreed to establish the capital on the Potomac, the federal government would assume the war debts of the colonies. Thus, Washington was created.

To establish the new nation's capital, Virginia and Maryland donated land to create the District of Columbia. George Washington, the first president, selected the site, at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. The new federal city was close to his estate, Mount Vernon, on the Potomac and near Georgetown, Maryland, an important tobacco market. The new federal enclave included Georgetown and another thriving community, Old Town Alexandria.

George Washington enlisted Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer who had served in the American Revolution, to create the capital. L'Enfant looked to Versailles for inspiration and created a magnificent city with ceremonial circles and squares, wide boulevards and streets in a grid-like fashion. He also laid plans for the National Mall.

Before the end of the century, construction had begun on the White House and the U.S. Capitol, but in 1800 Washington had just 3000 inhabitants. The capital was temporarily abandoned in 1814 when the British invaded. Though the invasion had little impact on the War of 1812, it solidified Washington as the nation's capital in the eyes of many Americans. Afterward, the city grew slowly. Early visitors were impressed by its wide avenues, but noted the roads seemed to lead nowhere and were void of houses, public buildings and people. The Civil War and successive wars changed that and Washington flourished. Thousands of new residents flocked to the city, sparking building booms in all directions.

Though construction of the Washington Monument began in the mid-1800s, it wasn't until the 20th Century that Washington truly emerged as a city of monuments and memorials. The Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial were built during the first decades of the 20th Century. The Federal Triangle, where thousands of government workers pass their days, was also created. The massive military office complex of the Pentagon was completed in 1943. In more recent years, the FDR Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial have been added to the Mall.

Throughout the late 20th Century, Washington has been the site of inspiration and turmoil. Who can forget Martin Luther King's stirring "I Have A Dream" speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963? The massive protest demonstrations against the Vietnam War came later in the decade. In the 1970s, the Watergate Hotel became a household name after the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters by aides to Republican President, Richard M. Nixon, who eventually resigned in the wake of the scandal.

At the start of the new century, Washington remains one of the most visited and most beautiful cities in the world. Visitors come to see the monuments and memorials and to revel in the nation's history. It is certainly more than a city of government and politics.

Points of interest in Washington, DC

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