Combined Suggestions, Washington D.C.
One day in Washington DC will give you just enough time to see the general layout and the exterior of buildings and monuments, but very little time to visit museums and important buildings.
Fortunately, most of the attractions are concentrated in and around the Mall, and are within walking distance, if you plan your day carefully.
I would start off from Capitol Hill, then down to the Mall. Pick a couple of museums (belonging to the Smithsonian) depending on your main interests, one of them definitely the Air and Space Museum which is unique, the second museum either art / natural history / holocaust / ethnography; then the Vietnam Memorial, Washington Monument (elevator to the top, great view), White House (exterior only), Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments.
Spend the evening and have dinner in Georgetown.
Dan Brown, author of Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, released a new book in late 2009 called The Lost Symbol. This book takes place almost entirely in Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virgina. Here is a list of each of the locations in the city where the characters in the book end up:
US Capitol Building & Visitors Center
Library of Congress
Folger Shakespeare Library
US Botanic Garden
Freedom Plaza (aka Pulaski Park)
The DC Metro
King Street Station & the George Washington Masonic Monument
Washington National Cathedral
Tenleytown Cathedral College
Franklin Square - I Street between 13th and 14th Streets
Almas Shrine Temple
Kalorama Heights neighborhood
Smithsonian Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD and the Suitland Parkway
House of the Temple
CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA
This year I took my 15 and 12 year old children and my 6 11/12 year old Girl Scouts to Washington, D.C.
Here are my suggestions to you, based on those experiences :)
1. Stay at the Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion. It is 5 miles outside the city "Center", but right on top of the Friendship Heights Metro station, and located in an upscale mall with a kid-friendly Cheesecake Factory restaurant on site and other amusing lower-cost stores such as Cost Plus World Market and SteinMart. DC after-dark was not something I was comfortable with, so having the mall/restaurants right there was great.
For approx $200, you get a suite with a separate bedroom (two double beds), and a living room with a couch (queen pull out), a table/chairs and a wet bar area with microwave and refrigerator and coffee maker. Your room rate includes a really nice cooked to order breakfast (eggs/pancakes, bacon/sausage, juices, coffee, milk, pastries/bagels/toast) each morning and also a 'reception' with light appetizers and free sodas for the kids each evening. It's my number one 'pick' of places to stay in DC!
Foggy Bottom is an area I would stay in if I were single or traveling without kids. It does have some great restaurants and some fun shopping.
The cheapest way to get from Dulles is the Bus to the Metro. The easiest way is via taxi or limo.
There is no way to visit 'all' of D.C's main sites, even if you were there for 6 months... there are 50 free museums, and so much more!
Here are my children's top picks: "The International Spy Museum & Operation Spy", The Newseum, The Spirit of Washington lunch or dinner cruise to Mount Vernon, The "Monuments at Night" tour (though you cannot get good pictures at night)
If you will be there for the 4th of July, make plans early..that's my best advice!
Fondest memory: The cruise down the Potomac was my favorite!
although the city is relatively young and modern, the history is omnipresent, which is great. Besides, it feels a bit like being in London, however not even half as 'homy' as there :)
Fondest memory: getting lost in the huge parking lot around the Pentagon
I found a site that clarifies what is open, and what is closed for renovations or security .....
Let me tell you, this little website was a huge help in my planning as I only had 2 days to tour this historical place. The info I received from the website helped me prioritize my days quite efficiently - as I was able to avoid taking time to go to some sights which were closed :)
The cop with the flares parked at Independence and Washington Ave every night - just in case. (Ok, the sarcasm is uncalled for but I'd rather he be patroling the neighborhood and VT made me start this with "my favorite thing:".)
Many government buildings have increased security since September 11, 2001. Keep that in mind as you read tips about DC.
It's harder to get into the Capitol than it used to be. Check out the Architect of the Capitol web page for the latest story http://www.aoc.gov/
The Whitehouse has just resumed tours this fall (2003) but only if arranged thorugh your Member of Congress' office. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/tours/ Find your representative at http://www.house.gov/ and contact them. They claim to be pretty quick about it (hours, not weeks). It's worth giving it a try even if you are already here. Hey, at least there's no more getting up at 6am and waiting in line at the White House.
Here is my top 10, off the cuff (there are so many though I am sure I am missing many)
1. Walking on the mall and seeing all the monuments
2. Taking time to go into the many free museums throughout Washington (Many are scattered along the Mall between Washington Monument and Capitol)
3. Seeing an outdoor festival or street fair
4. Going out for a night of drinking and dancing in Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, or the 18th and M area (technically Dupont but really different)
5. Making a day trip out of town to Harpers Ferry, Annapolis, Shenandoah National Park, or Baltimore
6. Seeing live music at 9:30 club, Black Cat, Nation, or a music festival like HFStival.
7. Seeing a concert or free show at the Kennedy center
8. Cherry Blossom Festival
9. Boating on the Potomac river, water skiing, fishing, or simply relaxing and drinking a beer
10. Shopping and people watching on a sunny day in Georgetown
Fondest memory: The special times I have spent with friends or lovers, any time I discover something new and enjoyable, and showing a new friend something that they enjoy.
The great thing about DC is the myriad of museums, great buildings, and lifestyle of its cosmopolitan population. You must see our great art galeries (National Galery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Natural History, and the collections of the Library of Congress), as well as our music scene (Kennedy Center, the Birchmere, the Warner & National theaters). When it comes to lifestyle, though, you just need to remember 3 places: Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Old Town Alexandria. The many restaurants, shops, and trendy people will keep you quite occupied during your stay here.
Fondest memory: Some images of DC you'll never forget. First, there's the experience of watching the sunrise over the imposing monumets at the Mall. Second, the Tidal Basin in early Spring sorrownded by the Japanese Sherry Blossom trees in full bloom.
Go jogging through the district - it's a great way to get your bearings and see a lot of the District.
This was one of my favorites: start at the US Capitol, then run through the mall (can veer off to see the Jefferson memorial on the tidal basin), passing the Washington Monument, Vietnam and Korean War memorials, then down to the Lincoln Memorial, up the stairs (the view is fabulous over the reflecting pools in the morning), then back down to 23rd street or so (right by the State Department, then north on 23rd through Foggy Bottom, then either make your way to M street and jog through beautiful Georgetown, or continue on to P street, where you go right and hit Dupont circle (see all the men playing chess), then you can cruise down to the White House and back to Constitution Avenue, and follow it till you're back at the Capitol (will pass the Dept. of Justice, National Gallery, and other interesting places).
Obviously there are lots of variations but this is my favorite - you see tons of the district and it's so beautiful. It's a pretty long trip though and there are lots of intersections and stops so it's not terrific for a serious runner.
Favorite thing: DC is a great city to visit. As everyone reading this page should know, it is the capital of the United States of America, the seat of government (which seat needs a kick every now and then to get into gear). When in DC, you MUST see the White House, Capital Hill (if you are a U.S. citizen please try to arrange a visit with your Senator or Representative, and if you don't know who those people are LOOK THEM UP RIGHT NOW!!!), the Smithsonian Institute, Washington Monument, National Library, the Pentagon (at least what is available for tourists to see), a random department (again to the extent tourists are accommodated, the Department of Agriculture was a nice safe choice for us), the National Space Museum, the National Art Gallery, the National Zoo, Arlington Cemetary (and former President Kennedy's everburning flame), and all the other national monuments you happen upon along the way. DC is a very fascinating city. While driving is reasonably smooth (you still have traffic and construction as in any major city) parking is scarce anywhere downtown. The subway system is really great, probably the best in the U.S., so please take the trains. Once downtown, I find walking to be the best means to get around. Of course, you will have to plan your days carefully so you don't tire out. There is a LOT to see and a LOT of walking to be done. In fact, if you do walk your way around town, you can enjoy absolutely anything from any of DC's restaurants completely guiltfree because you really will be expending every one of those calories!
You absolutely must take in the monuments. I have been to the Lincoln Memorial at 3 AM, the Jefferson Memorial at midnight, all the Smithsonian including the Air and Space annex in Suitland, all spectacular. Don't forget a nice lunch at the Old Post Office building just north of the Science and Technology museum.
Fondest memory: Drinking bourbon from a congressman's snifter watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the House Office building.
Everyone should see the nation's capitol at least once and everything is a must see. Go to all the monuments, museums, the zoo, the White House and, for adults & children be sure to go to the Smithsonian. If you have never seen the Washington Monument in person, you have no idea how truly impressive it is.
Fondest memory: All of D.C. was my favorite. I loved it! Just being where all the country's decisions are made was a thrill for someone who enjoys politics. Not to mention it's home to my football team...the Redskins.
Washington D.C.'s sales tax is considerably lower compared to NYC and California. So, it's a good idea to do most of your shopping here. There are some really good shops and boutiques at the Pentagon City Shopping Complex (wow!!); or how about heading to Georgetown to shop at Georgetown Park.
Later, you can also hop onto the tube and head towards Friendship Heights station where you can do some more shopping at the Chevy Chase Pavilion and Mazza Galleria Shopping Complex. There's even a factory outlet shop there selling American designer clothes and accessories (oops! Forgot the name!! I think it's called ---something 'Basement'... Help! My memory's failing me.... ) which has another branch along Connecticut Avenue.
Fondest memory: Yeah, I think you can tell that I loooove shopping in DC. ;-)
You reeeeally wouldn't blame me for getting so excited if I were to tell you how much the same item costs back home in Asia!
see all the monuments and museums and art galleries on the mall. So much history, so much art, so much to see. The Smithsonian alone can take days to see. You MUST get a tour of the Capitol building, so you can find out about its rich history. Fascinating, even for someone like me who isn't a history nut.
Fondest memory: We were short on time, so we ran into the National Gallery of Art (both wings), asked the information person where the Van Gogh paintings were, and visited the all. (I'm a Van Gogh fanatic.)
visit the Holocaust, Air & Space, & Natural History museums, along with the Vietnam and Iwo Jima memorials.
Fondest memory: There is something special about flying into the city. Whether by night or by day, the monuments and government buildings give DC a noble, almost regal feel. You know you are in a special place.