Top 5 Tips for Your D.C. Experience

The Washington Monument at Sunset

  1. Plan ahead. D.C. can be a great weekend getaway, but if you want to see the whole city, plan your trip at least a few months ahead of time. Write your Congress representative three to six months before your trip to plan a tour of the White House; you can't get a tour without the letter. Book a hotel room close to the things you want to see the most because it saves you time. If you're looking to see all of the monuments, stay in Penn Quarter. If you're looking for nightlife, stay in Georgetown or Adams Morgan. And if you're looking for a central location with family-friendly sites like a movie theater and bowling alley, stay in Chinatown.

  2. Take a bus tour on your first day or night in the city. It's a great way to see the city, gain your bearings and pick out the things you want to see most. The city's especially beautiful when it's lit up at night.

  3. Wake up early. Although many of the attractions in D.C. are free, if you try to go to a lot of places around noon, the lines will be excrutiatingly long, especially during summer months. Pick your most important site for the day, check its Web site, then go there first to miss the lines. If you can, eat a late breakfast and early dinner so you can hit some more monuments and museums when other people are eating. Again, check online to find out the hours of the attractions you wish to see.

  4. Tackle the city in sections. The National Mall may look like a managable area on the tourist map, but it stretches quite a distance. Walking to all of the monuments in one day would be exhausting. Plan your trip so that you can stategically see attractions in the same area on the same day and break up the big sections like the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums.

  5. Get a Metro pass. It's the best way to get through the city. It's easy to use by following the numerous Metro maps scattered throughout the city. Also, the Metro site allows you to plan your specific route and what time you want to be there. Just remember: stand right, walk left.