Before Visiting Washington, DC: 10 Things You Must Know

Library of Congress- Roads and Destinations,

Most of the visitors spend hours planning their Washington, D.C. itineraries. It doesn’t come as a surprise, as the place is huge, and so is its legacy. However, not many travelers pay attention to a few important things one should know before visiting Washington, D. C. Believe it or not, this information can be even more important than a detailed itinerary for an unforgettable visit to the capital of the U.S.

Before Visiting Washington, D.C: 10 Things You Must Know

My trip to Washington, D.C. a few months ago came as a surprise. I would need to fly to the capital of the U.S. eventually to finalize some legal matters. But I couldn’t even imagine that in the end it would be such an unplanned trip. Visiting Washington, D.C. on a short notice certainly wasn’t how I pictured my trip before. Nevertheless, my excitement didn’t know any limits.

Before visiting Washington, D.C., I had browsed the Internet and made a list of way too many places to see in 24 hours in the city. One thing was left behind though. In anticipation of the upcoming trip, I forgot to research some tips one must know before visiting Washington, D.C.. Luckily, my trip didn’t go terribly bad. On the contrary, it was an enjoyable excursion except for a few mistakes that could be avoided with a proper research.  To spare you from similar unfavorable experiences, I’d like to share 10 things you must know before visiting Washington, D.C.

Here are Top 10 Things You Need to Know before Visiting Washington, D.C.:

1. Prepare to Walk a lot

Things to Know before Visiting Washington, D.C. - Roads and Destinations,
Things to know before visiting Washington, D.C.: Be ready to walk a lot 

The first thing that surprises you in Washington, D.C. is its heavy traffic. Often you will spend the same time (if not less) by walking rather than driving from one destination to another. Locations of many attractions, which cluster near each other, also speak in favor of exploring Washington, D.C on foot. With this order of things, the need for any type of transport disappears by itself. Nevertheless, the abundance of the landmarks and short distances between them add up to a very long walk, a few miles, no less than that. Thus before visiting Washington, D.C., make sure to pack comfortable shoes, since walking is inevitable.

2. Say No to Rented Car before Visiting Washington, D.C.

If you are anything like me, then pondering the question of whether you should rent a vehicle before visiting Washington, D.C. slightly overshadows your excitement. It’s quite understandable. Everybody wants to be in control of his or her time and enjoy flexibility that only a car presents.

However in Washington, D.C., such privilege comes with undesirable outcomes. Even if the traffic happens to be on your side, looking for parking completely drains your energy and time. Your chances of having a free parking spot here are as low as having snow in Los Angeles.

On top of that, most of the hotels in the area charge extra parking fees. Make sure to check this information with the place you plan to stay at before visiting Washington, D.C. in order to avoid unnecessary charges.

3. Choose Uber for More Convenient Transit

If you say no to a rental car, but refrain from using public transport, Uber is your next best choice. Be sure to download Uber app on your phone before visiting Washington, D.C. This mode of transport is very popular in the city and offers more affordable prices than regular taxis. I can’t emphasize the convenience of Uber enough. It was my lifesaver when I had to get from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore to catch my 7 a.m. flight.  

4. Detours are Inevitable

Things to Know before Visiting Washington, D.C. - Roads and Destinations,
Things to know before visiting Washington, D.C.: Detours are common

There is hardly a day without a protest or demonstration in the capital of the U.S. Some people want to get attention of a consul of a particular country. Others wish to be heard by the government of the U.S. Such clusters of people may cause social unrests. In order to keep these meetings safe and disturbances free, the areas with large crowds gets closed. The streets also get blocked when presidential motorcade leaves the White House. 

There is no way to know before visiting Washington, D.C. which streets will be open and which ones you will want to avoid. So, in order to stay calm in such inconvenient situations, make sure to loosen you schedule and itinerary. Additionally, reserving some extra time for any unforeseen events will improve your trip tenfold.

5. Choose the Right Season

Things to Know before Visiting Washington, D.C. - Roads and Destinations,
Choose your favorite season before visiting Washington, D.C.

Before visiting Washington, D.C. decide once and for all what kind of weather you expect from the capital. Summer is usually hot and humid. Nevertheless, it doesn’t scare the majority of the tourists visiting the city during this season. Spring and fall are considered the best times of the year to wander the streets of Washington, D.C. Winter comes with low temperatures and significantly less visitors, which already looks pretty appealing.

6. Prepare in Advance before Visiting Washington, D.C. 

Supreme Court Building - Roads and Destinations,
Many attractions require reservation way before visiting Washington, D.C.

If you are aiming for an unforgettable experience, conducting a proper research and planning before visiting Washington, D.C. is a must. Since many attractions work on a first-come, first-served basis, an advance reservation is highly recommended and often required. Places where you want to claim your spot as early as possible include the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Pentagon, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

7. You Can’t Get Close to the White House

In April 2017, after a man jumped over the White House fence and spent nearly 17 minutes on the property, a sidewalk near the White House was permanently closed. The closest you can get to the residence of the President of the U.S. is Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. However, with an advance reservation way before visiting the Washington, D.C., you can get a rare opportunity of touring the White House

8. Many Museums and Attractions are Free

Surprise, surprise… Yes, the main city of the country can be budget-friendly. It’s definitely not something that the majority of the tourists, including me, know before visiting Washington, D.C. To start off on this route, make sure to add the memorials and monuments, the National Zoo and all the Smithsonian museums to your itinerary.

9. The Monuments are Open 24 Hours a Day

Thomas Jefferson Memorial - Roads and Destinations,
Things to know before visiting Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial is open 24 hours a day

Yes, you got it right! With a free access the monuments 24 hours a day, say Hello to amazing views, bright lights, late nights, and early mornings people-free photography.

10. Visiting Washington, D.C. on Weekends is Cheaper

Proper planning before your trip can save you a lot money when visiting Washington, D.C. Always try to arrange you trip to the capital of the U.S. on the weekends. Since business travelers are a primary category of the visitors, the hotels tend to charge more on the weekdays. A sharp decrease in the number of the city’s guests over the weekends forces the hotels lower their prices.

What Else Do You Need to Know Before Visiting Washington, D.C.?

Last but not least, you might want to spend at least a couple of days in the city. While a short trip let you explore almost all major landmarks, an extended stay enables you to see off the beaten path destinations you probably haven’t heard about before visiting Washington, D.C. 


  1. Mercy
    January 7, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    So nice to read your post again, happy New Year! It’s good to read information about DC as I don’t often see as detailed as this. Wishing you a fun and awesome 2019!

    • Zhanna
      January 8, 2019 / 11:48 pm

      Thank you, Mercy! Happy New Year to you too. I’m glad you found the post helpful. Hopefully, you’ll use these tips when you visit the US and Washington, DC next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.