|Washington, D.C., or 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 each year. It is surrounded by the states of Virginia and Maryland. Washington, D.C. was established in 1791 by an act of the infant United States Congress. To avoid a dispute between the various states and regions about which city should be the capital of the new nation, Congress established a brand new city, outside any existing state. The District of Columbia was carved out of Virginia and Maryland, and the new city was built. Designed by architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant according to Enlightenment-era rationalist philosophy, Washington (named after the country's first president) was envisioned as a kind of Socratic wildlife refuge for America's new philosopher-kings. Fast-forward two hundred years, and you'll see that the Founding Fathers' vision has at least partially been fulfilled. Washington, D.C. is a city of transients from across the nation who come to serve in one of the many Federal government departments here -- or even as legislators, executives, and judges themselves. |
It is a very young city, with a huge percentage of the population under 30. Very few residents have lived here all their lives. Most recent census figures report that about 50% of the population has changed its domicile in the past 5 years. Washington has also attracted one of the largest African-American populations in the US. This has caused occasional tensions in the nation's capital, as the theoretical ideals of a temporary governing population conflict with the needs of a real-world city's permanent residents. Due to its uniquely federal nature, Washington D.C. gets bombarded with advertisements not found in other cities, such as ads for military hardware, as the large defense contractors vie for brainshare among Pentagon employees. D.C. has a strained relationship with the Congress which calls it home. As D.C. doesn't belong to a state, it is required to provide all the services that would normally be provided by the state. And as it ultimately answers to Congress, it is often the brunt of congressional jokes. (Ask any resident about National Airport, and you'll understand.) To top it off, DC has no voting representation in Congress to contest the requirements placed on the city. Hence, the slogan found on many D.C. license plates, "Taxation Without Representation".
Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE. If you talk sign language, this is definitely the place to go.
Washingtoniana Division, Room #307, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (across from Gallery Place Metro stop). Washingtoniana Division is the special collection division containing historical material related to both federal as well as "hometown" Washington, DC. Phone (202) 727-1213.
Peabody Room, 2nd floor, Georgetown Branch Library, 3260 R Street, NW (corner of Wisconsin Avenue and R Street). Peabody Room is the special collection division containing historical material related to the history of Georgetown, established in 1751 as Georgetown, MD. Phone (202) 282-0214.
Smithsonian Institute, The Smithsonian Institute offers classes to members.
Catholic University of America
George Washington University
ESPN Zone - 555 12th St. NW, Phone: 202.783.3776, Metro Stop: Metro Center - Not a place to take a date, but a fun place that is a little expensive, but with over 200 TVs and 13 foot tall TV all tuned to sports, it is worth it.
Indebleu - 707 G Street NW, Phone: 202.333.2538. Metro Stop: Gallery Place - Stunning decor, $15 drinks, and young DC types rubbing elbows with each other make Indebleu a hot spot not to be missed. Also a full service restaurant upstairs.
Clyde's 3236 M Street NW, 202-333-9180- Casual, popular place to grab a burger and kick back a beer while watching the Georgetown throngs scurry by. www.clydes.com
Blue Gin 1206 Wisconsin Ave NW, 202.965.5555- Once the toughest lounge to get into in DC, Blue Gin has settled into a more relaxed, yet still upscale atmosphere. Dress to impress and expect the crowd to start arriving around midnight.
Madam's Organ Restaurant & Bar, 2461 18th St NW - Su-Th 5pm-2am, F-Sa 5pm-3am. Live music every night - mainly blues but also jazz and folky stuff. Tuesday night is acoustic Delta blues. It has an atmosphere, with its stuffed animals, appliances and nick-nacks hanging from the walls and ceiling. Cover charge usually $3.
Pharaoh's Rock N' Blues Bar & Grill, 1817 Columbia Rd NW. Live blues at the weekend.
Tryst, 2459 18th Street NW - Very hip café-bar that has good food as well. The atmosphere is very friendly and encourages you to just hang out for a while. Free wireless Internet access during the week.
Chloe, 2473 18th Street NW, Adams Morgan takes a stab at high end nightclubbing.
Washington D.C. is covered by many law enforcement agencies. The main force is the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which has jurisdiction in most of the city. You will also see many federal officers, usually assigned to a specific institution, among them:
United States Park Police (patrols the Mall, Rock Creek, and other federal park lands)
United States Capitol Police (patrols the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding areas)
Metro Transit Police Department (patrols Metro trains and buses)
United States Secret Service (mainly around the White House)
Federal Protective Service (around foreign embassies)
You will also likely encounter U.S. Marshals and Military Police, and a countless number of smaller official and private security forces. For major events and protests, the MPD has a central command center where they can monitor actions through a network of cameras. For exceptionally large events (but not protests) such as Fourth of July Fireworks, they are likely to set up security zones where they can screen attendees. While Washington claimed the title of Murder Capital of America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, violent crime has since fallen dramatically; what remains is concentrated in the residential areas of Northeast and Southeast DC beyond the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and areas of Northwest more than two blocks north of Massachusetts Avenue east of 7th Street. Visitors should particularly avoid Anacostia and other neighborhoods on the southeast side of the Anacostia River, especially at night. Not only are there few landmarks (notably the Frederick Douglass House), but the aroma of sewage from the Blue Plains Treatment Facility is overpowering.
Visitors to many buildings must pass through metal detectors and have their bags or packages inspected by hand or X-ray. Additionally, some buildings altogether ban mobile telephones and recording devices such as film or digital cameras, camcorders, and cameraphones. The visitor may be advised to carry a small bag to collect such items prior to screening, and to check them if necessary. Don't get cute with security people at any government building, period. Don't joke with them about security and absolutely do not threaten them in any way. In the post-9/11 world, these people do not play around. Smoking is legal in most bars and restaurants, in the latter in a separate smoking area. Smoking and food and drink of any kind are prohibited on Metro trains and buses, a rule strictly enforced with fines and occasionally even arrests.
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Certain career fields find a natural home in DC. While everyone knows this is where politicians go, you can also find a fair share of lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, defense contractors and civil servants.
National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March/early April) . Note that Washington's cherry blossoms do *not* necessarily bloom during the festival -- the bloom varies every year, depending on the winter weather. When the blossoms are out (and they don't stay out for long -- a good rain will wash them away), Washington is at its very prettiest. You will pay top dollar to visit during cherry blossom season.
A Capitol Fourth (July 4th) A day of parades and other events, capped off by fireworks over the Potomac River and a large orchestral concert on Capitol Hill.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival (late June and ending around July 4th) This annual festival normally has three topics: a country, a region of the USA and another subject, which varies from year to year. Previous festivals have featured the country of Oman, the ancient Silk Road and music in Latino culture.
Political Protests (year-round)
Screen on the Green Mondays, July and August. Classic films, often with a political angle, are shown for free on the Mall. Watching 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' with the capital dome in the background is classic DC.
Within the city limits
Rock Creek Park. NW. Hiking and biking trails and coyotes. Nature Center (W-Su 9am-5pm) has exhibits, weekend guided walks and details of self-guided walks.
Washington DC Convention and Visitors Association - information on travel planning, including dining, lodging, attractions, events, and meeting planners
Washington DC City Pages - Tourism
Washington City Paper
Washington Blade - Gay and Lesbian Newspaper
barDC- Washington DC bars and clubs