Guide to Washington, DC: Visitor & Travel Information
When Pierre Charles L'Enfant gazed northward along the banks of the Potomac River in 1791, he envisioned a "pedestal waiting for a monument." Since that day, Washington, DC, has evolved into a fascinating, lively city combining grand, neoclassical government buildings, monuments, memorials, museums and the National Mall with colorful neighborhoods, art, theater, music and culture.
Washington, DC, is a powerful symbol not only of our nation but also of democracy and freedom. The District of Columbia's neighborhoods, people, history and culture truly embody the American Experience—from Duke Ellington to John Phillip Sousa and from the Civil War to civil rights. Only in Washington, DC, can visitors be inspired by touring the magnificent Capitol Building and Washington Monument by day and be moved by taking in magical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and world-class opera by night.
Washington D.C. City Info
- The population is approximately 572,000 in DC proper and 5.4 million for the entire metro area.
- Land Area: 67 square miles
- Elevation: Highest is 420 feet; lowest is sea level.
- Washington, DC metropolitan area refers to the District of Columbia, plus 7 Maryland counties (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's), 5 Virginia counties (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William and Stafford) and 6 Virginia cities (Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park).
- The District of Columbia is divided into 4 quadrants: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast. The U.S. Capitol building marks the center where the quadrants meet. Numbered streets run north and south. Lettered streets run east and west (there are no J, X, Y or Z streets), becoming two-syllable names, then three-syllable names as you travel farther out from the center. Avenues named for US states run diagonally, often meeting at traffic circles and squares.
- Motto: Justitia omnibus (Justice to all)
- Flower: American Beauty Rose
- Tree: Scarlet Oak
- Bird: Wood Thrush
- Flag: Adopted in 1938. Design was based on the shield from George Washington's family coat of arms.
Washington D.C. Weather and Climate:
- Average daily high temperature — Jan: 41°F; Aug: 87°F
- Average annual rainfall — 40 inches
- Average annual snowfall — 23 inches
Distances to other Metropolitan Areas from Washington D.C.:
- Atlanta, GA — 638 miles
- Boston, MA — 440 miles
- Charleston, SC — 536 miles
- Charlotte, NC — 399 miles
- Chicago, IL — 699 miles
- Dallas, TX — 1,330 miles
- Memphis, TN — 877 miles
- Miami, FL — 1,063 miles
- New Orleans, LA — 1,088 miles
- New York, NY — 233 miles
- Philadelphia, PA — 137 miles
- Raleigh, NC — 262 miles
Washington D.C. Safety Phone # and Major Hospitals:
- Ambulance: 911; Police: 911; Fire: 911
- George Washington University Medical Center: 901 23rd Street NW Washington, DC 20037; 202-994-1000
- D C General Hospital: 1900 Massachusetts Avenue SE Washington, DC 20003; 202-675-5000
- Children Hospital: 111 Michigan Avenue NW # 245-100 Washington, DC 20010; 202-884-2070
- Columbia Hospital: 2425 L Street NW Washington, DC 20037; 202-293-6500
Washington D.C. Top Tourism Draws and Seasons:
- Capitol Hill
- New Year's: Chinatown New Year's Day Parade
- DuPont Circle/Kalorama
- Dulles Expo Center
- Shaw/U Street
- Upper Northwest
- National Zoological Park
- National Air and Space Museum
- National Gallery of Art
- Bureau of Engraving & Printing
- Washington Harbor
- Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts
- United States National Arboretum
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- Hillwood House Museum
- Hains Point
- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
- FedEx Field
- Art, Science and Technology Institute/Holography Museum
Washington D.C. Major Shopping Areas:
- Capitol Hill's Eastern Market + shops
- The Old Post Office Pavilion — 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest; 202-289-4224
- Mazza Gallerie — 5300 Wisconsin Avenue; 202-966-6114
- Union Station — 50 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast; 800-872-7245
- Georgetown Flea Market — Wisconsin Avenue North of S Street;
- Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets — 241 Fort Evans Road NE, Leesburg, VA 20176; (703) 737-3071
Washington D.C. Major Dining Areas:
- Adams Morgan Neighborhood
- Capitol Hill
- Penn Quarter
- Shaw/ U Street
- Upper Northwest
- Old Town Alexandria
- Washington Harbor
Washington D.C. Famous Landmarks & Historic Places:
- Important Neighborhoods: Anacostia, Brookland, Capitol Hill, Chinatown, Downtown, Dupont Circle/Kalorama, Embassy Row, Soggy Bottom, Georgetown, Lafayette Square, Penn Quarter, Southwest/Waterfront
- Smithsonian Institution
- The National Mall
- African-American Civil War Memorial
- U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Statue)
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Washington National Cathedral
- Ford's Theatre
- Lincoln Memorial
- Jefferson Memorial
- U.S. Capitol
- Old Town Alexandria
- Arlington National Cemetery
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- FDR Memorial
- Mount Vernon
- National World War II Memorial
- White House
- Frederick Douglas National Historic Site
- Washington Monument
- National Museum of Natural History
- Islamic Mosque and Cultural Center
- Albert Einstein Memorial
- Franciscan Monastery
- Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
- Dulles Expo Center
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- U.S. Navy Memorial
- Library of Congress
- National Museum of American History
- Antietam National Battlefield
- Theodore Roosevelt Island and Memorial
- Great Falls National Park
- U.S. Marine Corps Museum
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park
Washington, DC Famous Natives and Residents:
- Carl Bernstein (1944- ) Reporter for The Washington Post that helped to uncover the Watergate scandal (1974).
- Connie Chung (1946- ) Television news anchor who has worker for CBS and NBC.
- Benjamin Oliver Davis (1877-1970) Army officer who became the first African American general in the U.S. Army (1940).
- John Foster Dulles (1889- 1959) Helped to found the United Nations.
- J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) First director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
- Sharon Pratt Kelly (1944- ) First female mayor of Washington D.C. (1991-1995).
- Sugar Ray Leonard (1956- ) Boxer that won six world championship titles and an Olympic gold medal
Notable Moments in Washington, DC History:
- 1600 — Piscataway Native Americans live in the Washington D.C. area
- 1791 — George Washington chooses the site for the new permanent capital
- 1800 — The nation's government moves to Washington D.C.
- 1802 — Congress grants the City of Washington its first municipal charter. Voters, defined as white males who pay taxes and have lived in the city for at least a year, receive the right to elect a 12-member council. The mayor is appointed by the president
- 1814 — English troops burn the capitol and other federal buildings during the War of 1812
- 1846 — The Smithsonian Institute is established
- 1862 — Slavery is abolished in Washington D.C. during the Civil War
- 1889 — Washington Monument opens to the public
- 1914 — Ground is broken for The Lincoln Memorial
- 1943 — The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated
- 1961 — The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gives citizens of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections
- 1973 — Congress approves the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization, which establishes an elected mayor and a 13-member council
- 1992 — The House of Rep. approves statehood for Washington D.C., but the Senate does not
- 2001 — Terrorist attack destroys part of the Pentagon Building
Interesting Facts about Washington, DC:
- Places Rated Almanac (2000) ranks DC the second-best overall place to live in the U.S. behind Salt Lake City.
- Gallaudet University began the tradition of the football huddle in the 1890s, in order to conceal their signed plays from the opposing team.
- More than 100 nations have embassies in Washington, DC.
- Washington, DC is home to 4,000 psychiatrists.
- The Washington Monument is 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches tall.
- 55 percent of Americans believe that DC residents have a vote in Congress.
- Men's Fitness magazine rates DC the fourth fittest city in the U.S.
- Washington, DC's U Street neighborhood was once known as "Black Broadway" and was where Duke Ellington grew up.
- FamilyFun magazine voted DC the best city destination for family travel in the United States.
- The Temperance Fountain (located at 7th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW) was built to provide an alternative to alcohol by a prohibitionist dentist in 1880.
- Washington, DC residents consume more wine per capita than residents of any U.S. state.
- The National Gallery of Art is home to the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in North America.
- Past presidential pets have included: macaws (Dolley Madison, Teddy Roosevelt), a raccoon (Grace Coolidge), and a dairy cow named Pauline (Taft).
- The first official White House Christmas Tree was decorated by Benjamin Harrison and family, defying Puritan traditions.
- Abraham Lincoln is related through his mother to Tom Hanks and Mrs. Bill Cosby and through his father to Elvis Presley.
- The National Museum of Health and Medicine displays the bullet that killed Lincoln. The museum at Ford's Theater has the gun. The hat that Lincoln was wearing is on display at the National Museum of American History.
- Across from Ford's Theater, outside the Petersen House (where Lincoln died), stands the "gum tree"-decorated with wads of gum deposited by kids who aren't allowed to chew inside the building.
- Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy who warned him to cancel his evening at the theater; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln who encouraged him to skip his trip to Dallas.
- The word "lobbyist" originates from President Grant's disdain for the interest groups who loitered in the Willard Hotel's lavish lobby.
- The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception's Chapel of Our Lady of Hope is endowed by Bob Hope.
- The original name of Washington, DC, was "Federal City."
- The Pentagon has 17 1/2 miles of corridors.
- There is no "J" Street in Washington, DC.
- Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson are buried at Washington National Cathedral.
- Movies such as A Few Good Men, An American President, Forrest Gump, Contact, Wag the Dog, and Thirteen Days all filmed in Washington, DC.
- Origin of Name: The district is named after Christopher Columbus
- In 1790, a survey of the land for the District of Columbia was undertaken by Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker. Forty stones, laid at one-mile intervals, established the boundaries.
- The Potomac River was known to Native Americans as the "Co-hon-ho-roo-ta." The first English explorers called it "Elizabeth."
- The Residence Bill of July 16, 1790, established a site along the Potomac to be the capital. This federal district was first called the Territory of Columbia and the federal city the City of Washington. The name changed to the District of Columbia in 1793.
- The most popular museum in DC-and on the planet-is the National Air and Space Museum, which had 219 million visitors in its first 25 years.
- Of adults 25 and older in DC, 42% have at least a bachelor's degree. Washington, DC, is second only to the Silicon Valley, CA region in educational attainment.
- Compared to the 50 states, DC has the smallest differential between male and female pay in the country.
- The Hotel Washington opened at the corner of 15th Street and the Pennsylvania Avenue in 1918. Still in business, it is the Avenue's oldest continuously operated hotel.
- When Washington was created in 1791, there were already two towns within its boundaries: Alexandria, Virginia, with about 5,000 people, and Georgetown, with about 3,000. (The District gave Alexandria back to Virginia in 1846.)
- Before there was a subway or buses or even electric streetcars in DC, horse-drawn streetcars provided public transportation. During the late 1800s, horses pulled trolley cars that rode on rails embedded in the street.
- During World War II, Washington's Union Station was one of the busiest railway stations in the country, with as many as 100,000 passengers passing through each day.
Washington D.C. Population and Demographics:
- 2000 Census population: 572,059
- Male: 269,366 (47.1%), Female: 302,693 (52.9%)
Black: 343,312 (60.0%)
White: 176,101 (30.8%)
Asian: 15,189 (2.7%)
American Indian and Alaska Native: 1,713 (0.3%)
Other race: 21,950 (3.8%)
Two or more races: 13,446 (2.4%)
Hispanic/Latin 44,953 (7.9%)
Percentage of population 18 and over: 79.9%
65 and over: 12.3%
- Median age: 34.6
- Median household income in 2000: $41,000
Washington D.C. Colleges and Universities:
- Public: Bowie State College, George Mason University, University of District of Columbia, University of Maryland. Private: American University, Capitol College, Catholic University of America, Columbia Union College, Corcoran School of Art, Gallaudet University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University, Marymount University, Washington Bible college, Washington Theological Union. Community: Charles County Community College, Montgomery College, Northern Virginia Community College, Prince George's Community College.
- Washington, DC Economy & Business — Notable Companies based in Nashville:
- Washington, DC's primary industry after the federal government is tourism. Other important industries include trade associations, as Washington, DC is home to more associations than any other U.S. city; law; higher education; medicine/medical research; government-related research and publishing. The Washington, DC metropolitan area is also world headquarters for corporations such as USAirways, Marriott, Amtrak, Gannett News, Mobil Oil, MCI Telecommunications and the International Monetary Fund.