Washington, DC, is on the “must-see” list of millions of people each year, including you. But, unlike many others, you can cross this historic destination and plan a trip to the Nation’s Capital.
Don’t be fooled by the District’s stoic reputation. Yes, one-third of the land is federally owned, but that doesn’t mean you have to be your best friend for the entire time you’re here. It is possible to relax and have a good time while following the rules and seeing all the main attractions.
Ready to plan your DC trip? Follow these four tips, and you’ll have some stressful, relaxing time enjoying the destination that everyone else wants you to be able to visit.
1. Reserve Your Spot Ahead
No trip to DC is complete without a visit to all the historic landmarks and buildings that have shaped America.
If you go during rush hour without a game plan, you will spend most of the day waiting in line. Depending on where you go, this could mean melting in the hot sun on concrete floors or freezing in the bitter wind.
You may not be able to control the time of year, but you can choose the time of day. Many of the monuments and landmarks are open 24 hours a day. Go after 4pm and avoid most tourists. As a bonus, you can see the places you visit as the sun sets or sets against the night sky.
2. Go on a guided tour
If you’re going to be in DC for a while, it’s smart to sign up for a guided tour before your trip. You won’t see everything everywhere you go, but you will get acquainted with every place. After the guided tour, you can make plans to return to the destinations you want to discover in detail.
There are a variety of trips available in a popular area like DC, so you can customize your own. Walk, ride an air-conditioned bus, or take a trolley, and choose the time of day you prefer.
Go with a large group or with a guide just for you and your small group. Hit the highlights, then go back to your favorites another day.
3. Pack for Comfort
Chances are, once you leave your home or hotel for the day, you won’t be back until you’ve finished your exploration. Plan your shoes, clothes and accessories accordingly.
You’ll probably be on your feet for hours on and off for most of the day. Consider investing in a light walking bag or something similar to keep snacks and water on hand. You’ll need it, and it’s not good to buy the essentials in the District.
If you plan to take cannabis with you, be careful where you go. DC allows medical marijuana as long as you have an MMJ card. (If you don’t have one for Washington, DC, this MetroXMD article shows you how to get approved).
However, marijuana is still banned at the federal level, and an MMJ card does not override federal law.
There are plenty of places you can lower your guard, relax and enjoy your weed in DC. Stay home when your agenda includes federal benchmarks, though. Your pockets will probably be shattered, and being in possession of cannabis can ruin your well-planned day.
4. Think of yourself as a resident, not a tourist
How long will you stay in DC? Are you making a move here or passing by?
If you’ve been in the area for more than a few days, wonder what the people living here are doing. Where are they? What restaurants do they eat at? Where do they shop?
The inhabitants of the tourist areas do not take care of their daily needs in the most important places. They use hotels outside the District and buy off the beaten track. You may have to spend a little extra on transportation, but it is much more expensive to stay, eat and shop outside of the benchmarks.
Public transportation is easy to get to in DC. Look for hotels that are close to subway stations, and spend less than an hour a day (on average) getting to the District.
This is easier on your budget, and you can relax and avoid the dreaded DC traffic you would get with an Uber or guide.
The District of Columbia has an intimidating reputation, but a visit to the area should not be stressful if done right. With these little tweaks to your plan, you can see the sights and even be able to relax on your trip.