Washington, DC Visitor Guide 2021: Everything you need to know

26 January, 2021by Bounce

A city without a state, Washington DC occupies a unique place in American geography. The nation's capital is home to some of the country's most impressive monuments and national institutions. Essentially, Washington is a company town. But when the company in question is the federal government of the United States, you can expect grandeur.

Washington DC's location on the banks of the Potomac River is no accident. The city was chosen from the outset to be the capital of the new nation of the United States. Lying just south of the Mason-Dixon line during the Civil War, Washington is a city where the separate cultures of the North and the South continue to meet to this day. This cultural collision makes the city an interesting place to explore, even apart from the monuments of government.

A weekend in Washington DC

Close to several other major cities — at least by North American standards — Washington DC makes an excellent location for a weekend away. You can see many of the city's most interesting sites in just a couple of days. Start checking off those bucket list items now.

  • See the building that houses one of the most powerful institutions in the world at the United States Capitol. Home to the US legislature, this architecturally impressive building is made even more interesting by knowing what it is used for. Tours of the capital will help you better understand the intricacies of government and drink in this grand monument's atmosphere.

  • The home of the US president, the White House needs no introduction. A tour of the White House lets you see many of the quirks of this unique building that has been the home of every US president since John Adams in 1800. Security is understandably tight, so don't forget to drop off any bags at a Washington DC luggage storage locker before you visit.

  • The Smithsonian is one of the world's great institutions of learning. A group of museums, a zoo, and a research facility, this complex can easily eat up a whole day by itself. See dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum or explore outer space at the Air and Space Museum. Whatever you're curious about, you'll learn more about it here.

Washington DC lockers

The monumental architecture of Washington DC is best seen on foot. This grand city seems so much grander when you can wander it at will unencumbered. Make things easier on yourself by dropping your unneeded bags at a luggage storage service in Washington DC. Large bags aren't allowed in many of the city's government facilities, so you'll be making things much easier on yourself by not carrying more than you need to.

Off the beaten path in Washington DC

Washington DC is one of those cities that are so famous, visiting can feel unreal. The city's famous buildings have appeared in countless movies and TV shows, so they can seem familiar even when you're seeing them for the first time. But away from the halls of government, Washington DC has plenty of quirky attractions to offer.

  • Explore the history of slavery with a walk along the Underground Railroad Experience Trail. As a city close to the antislavery states of the North, Washington was an important location for away slaves. Follow this two-mile self-guided trail to learn more about the hardships faced by those seeking freedom during the dark days of slavery.

  • Check the schedule of the Smithsonian for some unique after-hours events. These popular events are for adults only and combine food, drink, music, and culture. See exclusive artistic exhibitions or witness thrilling late-night performances at these fun-filled events.

  • Journey into the history of punk rock with a DC punk walking tour. The knowledgeable guide will explain the vibrant punk scene that existed in the city back in the 80s and 90s, and point you towards its lasting legacy today. Drop off any unneeded bags at a Washington DC bag storage to make this walking tour easier on yourself.

What to do alone in Washington DC

With so many great museums and cultural attractions, Washington DC is a great place to explore by yourself. Whether you're in town on business with some time to kill or have decided to treat yourself to a solo holiday, you'll find lots to do in Washington that doesn't require company.

  • Washington DC is absolutely crowded with museums, and you can take your pick. The National Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery keep art lovers happy, while the curious will love the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum. History buffs can choose from the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African-American history, the International Spy Museum, and dozens of others.

  • Dive into Washington DC's culinary scene with a food tour. Due in part to the presence of so many foreign diplomats and dignitaries, Washington DC has an international food scene that rivals any city on earth. See for yourself on a walking tour, and don't forget to drop off heavy bags at a luggage locker in Washington DC before you go. Make sure to bring your appetite.

  • Even the nation's capital resisted prohibition. The city housed many speakeasies during the early 20th century when alcohol was criminalized, and lots of them still exist today. Bars like The Gibson are the perfect place to explore this side of the city and people-watch in fascinating surroundings.

The best souvenirs in Washington DC

As the center of the federal government, Washington DC is the place to pick up government-themed memorabilia. A Lego White House or some Supreme Court cufflinks from the Supreme Court gift shop will always remind you of your trip to the nation's capital. Alternatively, if you've ever wanted to dine like a president, you can get a replica of Martha Washington's China set from the Mount Vernon shop just outside the city. Finally, at the National Cathedral, you can pick up a gargoyle of your very own to give your home a more Gothic look.

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