One of the world’s greatest capital cities, Washington, DC lies at the heart of Capital Region USA, which makes it easy to organise a two or three centre holiday, spending a few days in DC at the beginning or end of a trip to Maryland and Virginia. As you explore DC, plug into the power of a city that makes history every day. Landmark monuments, memorials and museums rub shoulders with lively neighbourhoods, a sophisticated dining scene and a nightlife that’s second to none. A visit to one or more of the famous Smithsonian museums is a must, and, with free entry, it’s no wonder the world’s largest museum complex is one of DC’s top attractions.
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DC METRO FOOD TOURS:
Washington DC is best known for its museums and monuments but also did you know its historic neighbourhoods offer a wide range of cuisine that will change your expectations of this nation's capitol.
Open your mind and palate to the sights, sounds and flavours that the Washington DC area has to offer and join a DC Metro Food Tour.
DC Metro Food Tours offer a wide range of tours in many neighbourhoods on Washington DC including Georgetown, Capitol Hill, U Street, Old Town and Dupont Circle to name just a few but thats not all you can also take a wine tour, a pub crawl or arrange your own private event.
DC food tours believe their tours should be a striking harmony of a neighbourhood’s local cuisine, history, and architecture. The food you are served accurately reflects both the people and history of each neighbourhood as much as possible. Since the right combination is not easily achieved, they work to carefully develop each Food Tour in order to ensure the creation of a true culinary experience.
The dishes you will be served are offered in a logical manner, layering flavours, textures, and tastes throughout the food tours.
On the tours, you will not quickly grab a bite from a restaurant and leave; rather, you will sit down and support each place by enjoying a specially designed dish. Don't expect samples or tastes on the tours. Don’t expect a menu in any of the restaurants. Your selections have been carefully chosen for you in order to bring you the best each establishment has to offer. The end result is a VIP experience at each of the restaurants and throughout the tour that you will savour and be a great reminder of your stay in Washington DC.
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NEIGHBOURHOODS NOT TO MISS:
The centre of the city’s African-American nightlife for much of the last century – as well as the birthplace of Duke Ellington – U Street is back in favour as one of DC’s trendiest shopping areas and, on weekend nights, is abuzz with life in its bars and clubs. Stop for a bite to eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a favourite of President Obama.
Historic, hip Georgetown is where JFK proposed to Jackie (in Billy Martin’s Tavern) – and no wonder. Its trendy boutiques, fashionable homes of the city’s power elite, beautiful architecture and huge range of cafés, restaurants and bars still draw visitors, decades after that famous proposal. A popular location for films and TV – The Exorcist, Enemy of the State, Burn After Reading and The West Wing had scenes shot there.
There’s no shortage of attractions in Capitol Hill, with historic landmarks galore, such as the Capitol building and its new visitors centre, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and Union Station. The popular Eastern Market, newly restored, is great for unusual arts and crafts, fresh veggies and people watching – as are some of the classic DC bars in the area, where the buzz is all about politics, politics and more politics. Over the years, Barracks Row has had a major facelift and is now the place to hang out in the evening.
Another revitalised area of DC that has become a popular arts and entertainment district, with new restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, art galleries, trendy stores and theatres, such as the newly-renovated Ford’s, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. It’s also home to the International Spy Museum and the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Award-winning Café Atlantico is very popular with the locals.
POWERFUL MONUMENTS AND MEMORIALS:
The Capital Region is full of inspiring monuments and significant historic attractions. The most famous memorials are on or around Washington, DC’s National Mall. Four of the top ten are dedicated to former Presidents, with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington vying for top honours, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, better known as FDR, and Thomas Jefferson.
Honouring fallen American heroes is a constant theme in DC. Around four million people a year visit the World War II Memorial and slightly fewer pay homage in the Arlington National Cemetery on the south bank of the Potomac River, across from DC. It seems fitting that the serene setting of Arlington should also be home to the JFK Memorial, a simple flame marking the spot where visitors remember John F Kennedy and his family.
Nearby, visitors may honour the 184 people who died during the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon. The memorial on the Pentagon grounds consists of 184 illuminated benches arranged according to the victim’s ages, from three to 71. From this vantage point you can also witness the soaring arcs of the US Air Force Memorial. Both memorials, along with Arlington National Cemetery, are accessible by Metro subway from downtown DC.
Across the river, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the list of names of those who died is an emotional testimony to that controversial conflict and is also a hugely popular spot for visitors, although almost as many seek out the neighbouring Korean War Memorial.
Back on the Presidential front, the Jefferson Memorial honours the nation’s third President. In a dome-shaped rotunda modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, the 19ft bronze statue of Jefferson is located near the Tidal Basin and surrounded by groves of cherry trees, making the area particularly beautiful during DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival.
A hassle-free way to see most of the monuments is on a tour. One new two-hour programme leaves from Union Station and takes in the World War II Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument among others. Many monuments are open late and their illumination makes for a memorable evening visit. Biking and Segway tours around the National Mall are a popular and fun alternative.
GLORIOUS PARKS AND GARDENS:
The best-kept secrets in Washington, DC are the city’s exquisite gardens and parks.
Take the US Botanic Garden, a parkland garden and tropical paradise in the heart of America’s capital. Established by Congress in 1820, it is the oldest botanic garden in North America and is known as the ‘nation’s garden’. Divided into several distinctive sections, it includes a stunning collection of more than 10,000 varieties of orchids, while the conservatory’s impressive indoor garden houses 4,000 seasonal, tropical and subtropical plants.
A half-hour’s walk from the Capitol Building, the National Arboretum is another city-centre surprise, an example of a living museum of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Visitors are greeted by the Friendship Garden – full of inspirational ideas for the homeowner – before the gardens open into a series of themed areas, with the Asian Collections one of the most dramatic.
Potomac Park, reclaimed in the 19th century from nearly 700 acres of Potomac River land, stretches west and south from the Washington Monument and is home to some of the city’s most iconic sights, including the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial and the spectacle of the spring-time cherry blossom that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Rock Creek Park is one of America’s finest and largest city parks, welcoming DC locals and visitors who cycle its 29 miles of trails, play golf, ride and picnic in its 2,000 acres.
FUN ON THE WATERFRONT:
Washington, DC has its own waterside delights. There are spectacular views of the Potomac River at Washington Harbour, Georgetown, from which you can see the Kennedy Center, Washington Monument, Roosevelt Island and the Key Bridge. Sightseeing cruises also depart from the harbour.
The towpath of the 184.5-mile long C&O Canal, which starts in Georgetown and runs along the north bank of the Potomac River, is a big favourite with hikers, joggers and cyclists.
From the Thompson Boat Center in Georgetown, you can relax on the Potomac with a rented canoe or kayak and see DC’s monuments from a completely different perspective. As well as sailing, canoeing or kayaking on the river, evening dinner cruises are a superb, relaxing way to view the city’s monuments and architecture at night.
First stop for any museum enthusiast has to be the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the world’s largest museum complex and research organisation, with 19 museums (17 in DC, two in New York City), nine research centres and the National Zoo – all free to enter.
Make sure you wear comfy shoes for your visit as ten museums span an area from 3rd to 14th streets between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue along the National Mall. Hop on/hop off the DC Circulator Bus, plan ahead by logging on to the Smithsonian website (si.edu for all its museums) for ‘selected highlights’, or get your bearings with the orientation video at the Smithsonian Information Centre in the red sandstone ‘castle’, open daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
The National Museum of the American Indian is the first of its kind and has an extensive collection of Native American Indian arts and artefacts representing almost all of the tribes in the US. The National Museum of American History shows off the original 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner in a new gallery, and also includes exhibits such as Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Kermit the Frog and Muhammed Ali’s boxing gloves. The National Postal Museum traces the delivery of mail from early stagecoaches to the mail truck – and boasts one of the best views of the city.
DC does quirky, too. Visitors can hear about bugged flowerbeds at the International Spy Museum, try to crack a safe at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, or have their photograph taken with President Obama or First Lady Michelle at the interactive Madame Tussauds.
The Newseum is a six-storey temple to news reporting and broadcasting. More than 30,000 historic newspapers trace 500 years of news, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The new US Capitol Visitor's Center opened in late 2008 is housed underground (to preserve the view of the original building) in the instantly-recognised seat of the American Government, where the Senate and the House of Representatives have met for two centuries. The new centre offers a free tour of the Exhibitions Hall – which features an 11ft tall model of the Capital Dome, a focus on the history of Congress and the Capitol, and two ten-minute films showing the workings of Congress.
When it comes to art in DC, the National Gallery of Art holds works by Picasso, Rubens and Da Vinci, while the National Portrait Gallery (part of the Smithsonian) highlights major American cultural, scientific and political figures of the 20th century, and the Corcoran Gallery is one of the oldest and liveliest museums in the US, with significant photography and modern art exhibitions.