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Planning Your Trip

As befits a national (and world) capital, Washington, D.C., has iconic landmarks and highbrow cultural offerings. And, contrary to popular belief, the city is much more than just the center of politics. Whether you’re visiting for work or to brush up on your American history, here’s a packing guide.

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Business Travel

While D.C. defies many of its stereotypes, do keep in mind that this is still a conservative town when business, politics and diplomacy are involved. Office dress codes, compared to other cities, are decidedly more formal.

 

 

  • Dark-colored suits are the norm for men, paired with solid pressed shirts and discreet silk ties.
  • Suits are also commonplace for women. Keep your heels at modest height (and closed-toe).
  • Remember, this is not the place to experiment with trends, bright patterns or flashy jewelry.  
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Exploring the City

From meandering through the city’s grand neoclassical monuments to eating your way through U Street, D.C. is wide, diverse and packed with all kinds of treasures. Optimize your wardrobe for versatility and comfort.

 

 

  • The city is best explored on foot — comfortable shoes (sneakers, flat sandals or boots, depending on the season) are a must.
  • Winters are decidedly cold. Pack accordingly: gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters, wool or down jackets.
  • And summers are warm and humid. Bring appropriate shorts, linen or cotton dresses, lightweight shirts, polos, boat shoes, sunscreen. Add in a light sweater or wrap for the air-conditioned indoors.  
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Evening Chic

Whether you want to rub shoulders with the city’s elite at posh restaurants, sip on inventive cocktails at one of its many chic bars or spend a few hours at an iconic jazz club, D.C. becomes an assorted playground of bipartisan entertainment at night.

 

  • For upscale establishments, men should pack a sport jacket and nice dress shoes.
  • Ladies, consider bringing a cocktail dress or two for fancier places.
  • Strappy sandals or a pair of sleek pumps for women will elevate a daytime look. Throw in a tailored blazer and colorful accessories.
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Don't Forget:

Pack a camera! You’re in a city bursting with federal masterpieces and you’re going to want good photos at the end of your trip. If you’re relying on your phone’s camera, bring a portable cellphone charger so you won’t have to worry about losing battery life while you’re out and about.


D.C. is hardly a staid capital city of uptight politicians. Sure, you’ll get to test your presidential knowledge, but you’ll also eat excellent food, marvel at first-rate art and architecture and discover neighborhoods that burst with personality. Here’s what to reserve.

Dining Reservations

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The city’s ultra-diverse and multicultural population makes for an incredible international dining scene. You’ll find top-notch Indian food at Rasika, more authentic Ethiopian food than you’ll find anywhere else in the U.S. (Ethiopic is a popular option), classic French fare at Le Diplomate, numerous Japanese izakayas, and delicious Filipino food (Bad Saint). For sightings of D.C. celebrities, book a table at Bourbon Steak or the Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington. For something casual but trendy, Chef Alvin Dela Cruz at the award-winning Westend Bistro creates signature dishes inspired by his family traditions and recipes.

 

Day Trips

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A quick 30-minute drive will take you to Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington’s famous estate (and where they’re also buried). The 21-room mansion has been restored to the way it was when the founding father lived there. You can also tour the gardens, distillery and tombs, then visit the museum to take a closer look at hundreds of personal artifacts. Two hours away from town is the estate of another founding father: Thomas Jefferson. Called Monticello, the former tobacco plantation was designed by Jefferson beginning when he was just 26 years old and built and rebuilt over four decades. It was his main residence until his death.  

Museum Tickets & Cultural Sights

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The Smithsonian Institution has 17 museums in the city dedicated to everything from portraits of famous people to space travel. The latest to join the club is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, designed by acclaimed architect David Adjaye with a significant endowment from Oprah. For contemporary art, head to the Hirshhorn Museum, known for its groundbreaking exhibitions featuring heavyweights like Ai WeiWei, Mark Bradford and Yayoi Kusama. If your trip falls in the springtime, don’t miss the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, when the Tidal Basin turns into a picturesque pink paradise thanks to a 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo.  

Tours

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Ask your concierge to book a personalized private tour of D.C.’s outstanding monuments and landmarks. Don’t skip memorials to Lincoln, Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. and take your time walking down the picturesque National Mall, lined with 2,000 American elms and 3,000 Japanese cherry trees. Remember the fallen at the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II veterans memorials or cross the Potomac to honor troops buried at Arlington National Cemetery. And make sure to squeeze in a tour of the most important house in America. But keep in mind that a request for a White House tour must be submitted through your representative in Congress, and well in advance.

Washington, D.C., may be synonymous with politics, but the capital city on the Potomac River is so much more. Myriad monuments and museums — from the world-famous Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to lesser-known gems like the Phillips Collection — might be first on your itinerary, but save room for more highlights. With history, culture and an exciting dining scene, each neighborhood offers its own unique charm. Whether it’s your first visit or your 10th, there is a wealth of treasures to discover in D.C.


Family Vacation Fun

For children of all ages, Washington, D.C., offers the opportunity for engaging and hands-on learning. And the educational experiences aren’t limited to American history. They also include, among many other things, science, art, storytelling and — thanks to the International Spy Museum — a little lighthearted espionage. Iconic monuments and institutions, dynamic museums and plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces make the nation’s capital a favorite for kids and a memorable vacation for the entire family.

 

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The Perfect Weekend

There’s a staggering amount of things to eat, see and do in Washington, D.C. Spanning several hundred acres, the National Mall alone is home to iconic monuments, expansive museums, picturesque gardens (including the Hirshhorn Sculpture Museum and the U.S. Botanical Garden), and the U.S. Capitol. Luckily, the nation’s capital is also easy to navigate and fairly compact, making a weekend here enough time to explore some of its treasures.

 

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