Washington DC (formal name: District of Columbia, popular names: Washington, the District or DC) is the seat of the US government and capital of the United State of America. It is approx 7 and a half hours flying from Ireland and is a great US CityBreak alternative to the likes of the maybe more popular New York, Boston or Chicago.
There are no direct flights from Belfast to Washington (although you can fly from Belfast City via London) so the easiest way to travel is to fly from Dublin. United Airlines and Aer Lingus offer daily flights into Washington Dulles Airport. Upon arrival it takes approx 45 mins to get downtown. You can choose between all the usual services – taxi, bus, train, private carhire/transfers – but a very popular option now is getting an Uber straight to your hotel front door. The #NInja went all 21st Century and used this medium and it ended up costing $45 which was approx $20-25 cheaper than a taxi #NInjatastic
Similar to all the big cities in the United States, there are LOADS of accommodation options depending on your budget. There are the usual 3, 4 and 5 star chain efforts as well as boutique variants. As per usual, the #NInja advice is to shop around – Washington is very accessible and everything is pretty much within walking distance so you will have no bother getting something central and close to all the action. Washington is one of those places you probably wont spend a lot of time in your hotel room as there is so much to see and do in the city, so dont waste your money paying for a much more expensive hotel that has a slightly better looking room!
Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter .. ha!
It sounds very basic but genuinely the weather in Washington is pretty standard based on the 4 seasons. In the proper winter months (Nov-Feb) it can get very cold with snow and freezing temperatures but in contrast you are looking at temperatures reaching (and passing) 30 degrees in June-August. The #NInja just returned from a trip in mid-September and temperatures were still reaching the high 20s and it was gloriously sunny!
Things To Do
Ok where to start on this one!?!
Possibly the main reason people visit Washington for the first time is to see all the famous landmarks and monuments they have seen and heard about over the years.
The White House is maybe one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but the other monuments are right up there – The Washington Monument, the Lincoln /Jefferson/ WW2/ Martin Luther King/ War Monuments, the Reflecting Pool and Capitol Hill itself at the top of the Mall. Walk to them all, you wont regret it!
A great walk is from one end to the other through the Mall (start at the Capitol Building or Lincoln Memorial and walk toward the other). Fantastic if you get a good day weather wise
The easiest way to get around all these landmarks and also to get your bearings in a brand new city is to take a bus tour. There are the usual hop on/hop off options that you get everywhere but 2 that the #NInja would recommend are the Duck Tours and the Night Tours. The Duck Tours are great fun, last approx 90 mins and drive around the City before taking a plunge into the river for an alternative view. And in recent times the Night Tours have become very popular giving you the chance to view all the famous landmarks and monuments but when they are all lit up in the dark – a very different but enjoyable experience. Why not check both options out!?
The Smithsonian Museums make up 17 museums in DC, 11 of which are around the National Mall ranging from American History to Art. And the best thing is … they are all completely free!! Make sure to check out the Air & Space Museum – one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world!
Arlington National Cemetery is one of the largest resting places for fallen soldiers. A sombre and very thought provoking experience to see so many graves of lost men and women from over the last 100 years. Arlington is also the resting place for former President John F Kennedy – and his wife Jackie – who have a special memorial containing an eternal flame. Also at Arlington is the well known Marine Corps Monument depicting the famous scene at Iwo Jima when several marines lift the Star Spangled Banner.
For History Buffs there is also The Newseum. A history of journalism. It has a large part of the Berlin Wall and you can do a Virtual Reality tour of the Wall and Watchtowers (no additional cost). You can also tour the Capitol Building (again, free!) with an extremely knowledgable guide, whilst also visiting the National Archives (worth it to see the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence)
Washington has some real world class sporting options for you. Whether it be Baseball, Ice Hockey, American Football, Basketball or even “Soccer” there will always be a sporting event to take in no matter the time of year you go. Watching sport in the USA is more of an all round experience than anywhere else – you dont just turn up and watch a game, its all about the crowd, the food, the music, etc. Check online before leaving and book tickets to watch a DC team/side take to the field/ice/court – you certainly wont regret it!
#NInja Tips & Tricks
Wear comfy shoes!! Although everything mentioned above is walkable, it is spread out across the city. You could be walking around 15-18 miles in one day if you wanted to see it all so make sure you have those comfiest of shoes on, and make sure to stop and have a break every now and again!
The Subway is another great way to get around as well. Get a Smartip card at any station, costs $10 ($2 for the card and then $8 worth of fares). Really easy to top up at stations and the subway itself is very easy to navigate (much easier than NYC)
Get up early and catch the sunrise – especially overlooking the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pools – make sure to bring your camera!
So many food options to choose from – similar to many other worldwide cities, head back a block or two from the main landmarks to get the best choice and value on offer.
Heading over in the “Fall”? If you are visiting around October – November time make sure to check out the Cherry Blossom Trail!