So simple, yet so confusing for some.
This is the White House.
It sounds so obvious, but a tourist asked me the other day if the Capitol was the White House. Yes, they are both white. Yes, they are in DC. But that’s about where the similarities end. It was also cold when I took this photo.
In case you forget which is which, take out a $20 bill and look at the back.
This is the Capitol.
It has scaffolding because restorative work is being done on the dome. Yes, it is reminiscent of something else.
This is the Washington Monument.
The giant obelisk in the middle of the Mall is a monument to George Washington – not a monument to Egyptian architecture. A friend recently told me of a story where a tourist was convinced that was the case, and even argued their point with a native DCer. Considering there are signs at the base of the Monument that pretty clearly say what it is, I can’t even.
The National Mall doesn’t have an Abercrombie. Or a Gap.
Except there’s a gap in the mall (but you can still get a pretzel at a snack stand).
The National Mall (not to be confused with Minneapolis’ Mall of America) is the 2-mile strip of land that runs east-west from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It has lots of museums (all free!) that are some of the world’s best. There is no Gap – but for the next year or so, there’s a gap in the middle of it where the Park Service is doing construction.
It’s probably also one of the only malls you’ll find that has horses every day. With police.
If you want to go to a shopping mall, go to Pentagon City (conveniently on the Metro).
Important: the Smithsonian is an institution, not a museum.
When people say ‘we went to the Smithsonian!,’ I cringe a little. Only because there are 19 museums (and the zoo) that are Smithsonian museums. Acceptable terms are “we went to the Air and Space Museum!” or “we went to the National Archives and saw the Constitution!” or “we went to the Portrait Gallery!”
Spend the $2 for a Metro card.
If you ride the Metro twice, it’s worth it: paper tickets cost you an additional $1 per trip (not per card!), and hold up the turnstile lines. Stop at the machine, dip your credit card, and $10 later, you’ve got a $2 card and $8 in fare.
IT’S WORTH IT TRUST ME
Speaking of Metro…
On escalators, stand on the right (when they’re working).
The escalators are dual purpose: those who want to stand do so on the right. If you want to walk, make room for those people walking on the left.
That said, it’s your lucky day if the escalator works.
— MetroEscalators (@MetroEscalators) March 4, 2015
If it’s on the Red Line, add travel time.
Weekend metro is the best metro pic.twitter.com/COsLjb0shz
— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) June 21, 2015
For whatever reason, the Red Line is run by the devil himself – meaning that if you experience delays, you’ll want to add 15 minutes (best case) to 2 days (in the hospital in case it catches fire). Kinda kidding. Kinda.
Not driving isn’t weird. And walking isn’t weird.
I’m from San Diego. We drive everywhere. While some have cars here in DC – make friends! – it’s such a small town that you really don’t need one. If you’re feeling like moving faster, get a bike.
Capital BikeShare is awesome.
If you’re a tourist, get a 3-day pass. First half-hour is free on every ride.
If you live here, $8/mo gets you a BikeShare key. First half-hour is free on every ride.
Take a bike somewhere to a monument or attraction, dump the bike at a bike stand, and be done with it. Don’t feel like riding back? Don’t worry – just leave it and Uber or Metro home.
All hail Uber.
Cabs are everywhere. So is Uber. Use Uber.
Fly into DCA.
There are three airports that service the greater DC area – Reagan National, Dulles, and Baltimore.
National is across the river and is very close. Very close. Baltimore is an easy 25-minute, $15-25 train ride or $60 Uber, and Dulles is located somewhere roughly near Rio de Janiero (not to mention $100 roundtrip in an Uber/cab). American Airlines is the predominant airline at DCA; Southwest at BWI.
I saw something on Twitter a few months back that pretty succinctly described your airport options, in order:
Preferred area airports, in this order:
1) National (DCA)
2) Baltimore (BWI) isn’t bad
4) Enlisting in the Air Force and learning to fly Air Force One and/or becoming President and having someone fly Air Force One is next best.
6) Driving from wherever you’re coming from
50) Dulles (IAD)
New York isn’t close, but it’s not that far.
“OMG you’re on the east coast. Can we go to New York for the weekend?”
The answer is yes, if you want to take a $200, four-hour train or a 40-minute flight.
Do I want to go to New York? No.
Go walk around Georgetown.
Yuppies (yuccies?) live in Georgetown. The brick roads are nifty, and the homes are beautiful. And it’s nice to visit – and conveniently located a quick bike ride down the Potomac or Uber away from decent civilization when you’re over it.
Get a cupcake while you’re at it, if you’re into that sort of thing:
— Georgetown Cupcake (@GTownCupcake) June 9, 2015
You can leave the country without leaving the District.
With so many embassies in DC, there’s always some event going on. During the late spring / early summer, many open their doors on certain weekends and welcome you to try their food, drinks, or even hammocks.
Not everyone in DC works in politics.
There are a lot of people in the booming DC startup scene — it’s becoming a huge thing — who have (and want) nothing to do with politics. It’s also not House of Cards left and right, but that goes back to the previous sentence.
That said, the White House sometimes has special events that everyday people can go to – like the Garden Tour. If you get a chance, of course you’ll take it!
The best time to come to DC is…
There are four weeks a year that are perfect to come to DC, and they are the two between spring and summer (April-Mayish) and the two weeks between summer and fall (September-Octoberish). Otherwise, it’s hot and gross or cold and rainy/snowy.
But from the very moment I stepped foot into this roughly 8-by-8-mile square it’s-not-state-but-is-a-state land, I knew it was a magical place. Other than southern California, this is the only other place in the country I could imagine living.