Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia, is the capital of the United States of America. It is a planned city, designed specifically to house the federal government, and is not part of any state. Its history, beautiful architecture, and excellent cultural centers attract millions of visitors each year. Washington, D.C. is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland.
Virtually all of D.C.’s tourists flock to the Mall—a long, beautiful stretch of parkland that comprises many of the city’s monuments and museums—but the city itself is a vibrant metropolis that often has little to do with monuments, politics, or white, neoclassical buildings.
Washington has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Spring and fall are mild, with low humidity, while winter brings sustained cool temperatures and annual snowfall averaging 16.6 inches (420 mm). Average winter lows tend to be around 30 °F (-1 °C) from mid-December to mid-February. Blizzards affect Washington on average once every four to six years. The most violent storms are called “nor’easters”, which typically feature high winds, heavy rains, and occasional snow. These storms often affect large sections of the U.S. East Coast.
Summers tend to be hot and humid, with daily high temperatures in July and August averaging in the high 80s °F (about 30 °C). The combination of heat and humidity in the summer brings very frequent thunderstorms, some of which occasionally produce tornadoes in the area.
Metrorail has five intersecting subway lines with stop in most major neighborhoods, with the notable exceptions of Georgetown and Adams-Morgan. Since parking downtown can be scarce and expensive (up to $15/day) and parking violations AGGRESSIVELY enforced, many attractions recommend using the Metro, and WMATA publishes a pocket guide indicating which line and stop to take for various landmarks. Most parts of the Metro system are extremely safe, reliable, and amazingly clean, particularly the areas where there are tourist or government activities. Late at night, trains may run only every 20 minutes, but the stations and trains remain quite safe (while the streets around the stations may be less so).
The Metrobus system has a flat fare system of $1.25 for most routes, (with SmarTrip – $1.35 if paying with cash) or $3 for express routes ($3.10 if paying with cash). Certain routes feature discounted fares. Metrobus accepts SmarTrip for payments and transfers, but does not accept Metrorail paper farecards or passes. There are weekly unlimited passes available for Metrobus for $11. To save money on your metrobus trips, you can also get transfer slips from other Metrobuses or from Metrorail (at your station of ENTRY) that allow you to take another bus within a two hour period at a discounted rate.
DC Circulator buses provide the cheapest way ($1) to travel crosstown along D.C.’s major axes: East-West from Union Station past the Convention Center to Georgetown and North-South from the Convention Center through the National Mall to the Southwest Waterfront.
As of May 1st, 2008, taxicabs of Washington D.C. have shifted from a zoned fare system to standard taximeters. Base rates start at $3.00 for the first 1/6th of a mile and 25 cents for each additional 1/6th of a mile.
There is no longer any rush hour surcharge, although an additional $1.50 is charged for each additional passenger.
During declared snow emergencies, D.C. taxis are permitted to charge 25% additional fares.
For more information on Washington DC airport connections and transportation options to and from the three local airports.