Local traditions and culture in Washington D.C.

  • Embassy Events / Other Festivities
    by Ewingjr98
  • A silent protest for freedom of speech
    A silent protest for freedom of speech
    by Faiza-Ifrah
  • Cherry trees in bloom
    Cherry trees in bloom
    by besbel

Most Viewed Local Customs in Washington D.C.

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    The Corner Office

    by GentleSpirit Written Aug 7, 2013

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    Everywhere, powerful people like to have the nicest office on a sunny corner of the building.

    In Washington you will see a lot of powerful people (and a lot of wannabees too!)

    I saw this corner office on the way from the White House back to the Farragut Metro.
    Gives new meaning to having the corner office, I thought!

    Would you like to have this office?

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    National Cherry Blossom Festival

    by travelfrosch Updated Feb 4, 2012

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    The National Cherry Blossom Festival occurs annually every spring, commemorating the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees by the City of Tokyo to replace the American trees wiped out by a catastrophic blight. The event usually occurs in early late March and/or early April, though the exact dates are determined by National Park Service horticulturalists depending on the predicted time the cherry trees will bloom (March 20 - April 27 in 2012).

    Various events occur all around Washington, to include a parade and many concerts. The center of the action is the Jefferson Memorial, with many cherry trees all around the Tidal Basin. Our recommendation to see the best blossoms is around the FDR Memorial.

    The best way to get to the festival is by Metro. The two closest stops to the Tidal Basin are Smithsonian (Orange and Blue Lines) and L'Enfant Plaza (Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Green Lines). You can also use the Arlington Cemetery stop (Blue Line) and walk across the Memorial Bridge.

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    National Christmas Tree

    by travelfrosch Updated Dec 4, 2010

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    Every December, the Ellipse (an area just south of the White House) is set aside for the National Christmas Tree. The tree is normally officially lit by the President of the United States on the first Thursday of December. The area remains open daily from 11 AM to 11 PM through New Year's Day.

    In addition to the tree, there is normally a giant model railroad set with working trains running around the tree. There are also smaller trees, one for every State and US territory. There's also a stage where various musicians perform concerts most evenings during the Christmas season.

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    autumn pumpkin patch

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 25, 2010

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    I grew up in the northeastern US and one of the great customs is the putting out of pumpkins in autumn. It is a Halloween thing but it's also about the season of the harvest and it is a great colorful addition to what can be a dreary area in the fall if the weather is gray. It can be very pretty if the weather is fine and the light is low in the sky. We were lucky to see the latter and especially in Georgetown the custom seems to be in full swing.

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    Visiting the White House

    by risse73 Written Oct 22, 2009

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    Access to the White House has been severely restricted after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Not a lot of visitors are permitted entry. Only if you go through a US Senator OR a Congressman/Congresswoman's office can you be given the free tickets needed to go into the White House, but the process of obtaining said tickets takes a while. If you're coming from an international destination, I'm not sure who you can tap to get information for WH ticket acquisition. Please check this web link for further info:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/tours_and_events/

    Good Luck!

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    Presidential Inaugurations

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jan 18, 2009

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    DC has an odd tradition every four years of having a huge celebration of the incoming or returning president. At the same time, the rest of the country often hardly cares. So if you live in a place that couldn't care less, you should converge on the capitol and celebrate with a handful of your like-minded political party members. The other 350 million Americans will be happy to catch the highlights on the six o'clock news.

    The inauguration ceremony is actually rather simple, taking place in front of the US Capitol Building with the new/returning President taking the oath of office in front of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the Chief Justice has not always administered the oath, three associate justices of the Supreme Court, two New York state judges, and notary public have also administered the ceremony. The only band that plays during the inauguration is the The United States Marine Corps' "President's own" band from nearby Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill.

    George Washington's inauguration was held on April 30th 1789 in Washington, DC. Thomas Jefferson was the first President sworn in in Washington DC, though the city wasn't officially named the capitol later that year. Later the inauguration was set for March 4th, but the Twentieth Amendment set the inauguration date on January 20th each year after the election. Since 1937 the Vice President has taken the oath of office in the same ceremony as he President.

    I lived in the Washington area during the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, but I plan to not brave the crowds and the cold, not to mention the security nightmare. Instead we might watch the ceremonies at home, or at best wander to Alexandria's Market Square where they will show the festivities on a big screen.

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    First a familiarisation tour

    by kenHuocj Written Jun 5, 2008

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    the Mall is mind boggling, for me
    I believe one needs a bus or private quick drive around to see the actual size and location of the many landmarks that one see in the Capital city /region
    USe the Interactive Birds eye map of the Mall

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    Cherry Blossom Festival

    by besbel Updated Mar 30, 2008

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    If you are in Washington DC during the last week of March and the first week of April, please go to the Tidal Basin, where the Jefferson Memorial is. Around the basin you will see hundreds of cherry tree flowers blooming, giving the area a lovely whitish/pinkish spring color. Those cherry trees were a donation from Japan to the US back in 1912, and during the week in which these trees use to bloom there are several activities to commemorate the US-Japan friendship and the start of spring in DC. Among these there are parades, kite flying contests, lectures, exhibitions, family events, etc. More information about the activies is available in http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/ The blooming period is patiently awaited (there are live broadcasting of the blooming online!) and lasts only a very few days. More information about the activies is available in http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/

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    The Jumbo Slice - A Washington Institution

    by Greatwalk0 Written Feb 5, 2008

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    Walk around Adams Morgan after the bars close and watch hundreds (thousands on a good night) stumbling down the sidewalk with a peice of pizza larger than the size of their face. Welcome to the Washington DC Jumbo Slice Pizza. Sold at a number of all-night pizza places throughout Adams Morgan, the jumbo slice is $3.00 of heaven for drunks on their way home! This food is uniquely Washington and something worth trying when visiting DC.

    Attempt to finish the jumbo slice ... if you dare!

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    Taxes in the Beltway!

    by machomikemd Written Aug 15, 2007

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    Sales Tax:

    Washington, DC: Sales tax is 5.75%. Total hotel tax including sales tax is 14.5%. Food and beverage tax is 10%.

    Maryland: Sales tax is 5%. Hotel tax varies by county with most counties averaging between 5% and 8%.

    Virginia: Sales tax is 4.5%. Hotel tax varies by county with most counties averaging between 9.5% and 10%.

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    Parking in the Beltway!

    by machomikemd Written Aug 15, 2007

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    Parking is restricted during rush hours and some weekend hours (check posted hours on street signs). If your vehicle is towed Friday after 7 pm, or any time on weekends, you won't be able to retrieve it until Monday after 9 am For details, contact the DC Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 301 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20001; phone: (202) 727-5000.

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    Tipping in the Beltway! (wash DC)

    by machomikemd Written Aug 15, 2007

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    Tip only if you are satisfied with the service. Tips are seldom added to bills, if they are included as part of your tour package you will be informed of this. Occasionally restaurants will add a service charge, in which case there is no need for an additional tip, unless the service is exceptional, and you can afford to give more. The following rates serve only as a guideline. Tip what you feel comfortable with.

    * 15 to 20 per cent on meals depending on standard of service
    * $1 for each piece of luggage carried by a porter * 10 to 15 per cent of the bar bill to bartenders
    * $1 to the rest room attendant
    * $1 to the car park attendant
    * $5 a night minimum to the chambermaid, more for stays over a week
    * $10 to the bellhop for bringing you to your room with luggage
    * 20 per cent of the bill to limousine drivers
    * 15 per cent of the fare for taxi drivers depending whether or not they assist you with baggage etc.

    If any service personnel go out of their way to assist you, it is always a nice gesture to offer them a gratuity. In many cases they will not accept it, but will very much appreciate the offer.

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    4th of July Fireworks

    by besbel Updated Jul 26, 2007

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    Fireworks are commonly found in any national celebration. But I found that in DC, it's much more than that! There is a kind of collective ritual for the 4th of July aiming to watch the fireworks. You either go to the National Mall for a picnic and then observe the lights in the sky at night, usually after 9 pm. Or, if not fond of joining masses of people, you gather with your friends on your rooftop and observe the fireworks. It doesn't matter how far you are from downtown, because you will always spot the fireworks. Metro lines and buses even change their routes that day, as to allow more people to go and return safely.
    We watched the fireworks from our neighbor's rooftop. It was simply impressive.

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    Liabilities

    by jamiesno Updated Mar 2, 2007

    No Ice Skating
    I include this tip for some humor, in Ottawa, Canada we are aloud to skate the Rideau Canal, so it came as a bit of a surprise that the American’s couldn’t skate on their reflecting pool between the Washington Monument an d the Lincoln Memorial.

    As you can see from the pictures I later found people skating over in the National Mall area so it wasn’t all bad.

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    4th of July Fireworks

    by travelfrosch Updated Nov 12, 2006

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    As you would expect, every 4th of July, Washington DC puts on a spectacular show, to include a parade, a concert, and finally, fireworks on the National Mall. People gather all the way from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial (with the exception of the area around the World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool, which is closed off for safety reasons) to watch the display. Security is tight, with multiple checkpoints to get into the National Mall area. No alcoholic beverages or anything remotely resembling a weapon is permitted. Depending on the type of camera you own, you may find it closely scrutinized as well.

    To get there, it's best to take the Metro. The Metro runs extra trains and re-arranges the routes specially for the holiday -- check their website before setting out. Note also that all Park and Ride facilities are free on weekends and major holidays (such as the 4th of July). Our recommendation for the best place to see the fireworks is around the Lincoln Memorial. You can't hear the concert, but the views of the fireworks are tremendous. The best way to get there is to use the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop, then walk across the Memorial Bridge.

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