State: District of Colombia. Capital: Washington DC.
Washington DC is like no other American city; filled to the brim with iconic monuments, fascinating museums that are free to visit and impressive architecture. Its political and historical connections are, of course, incredibly important; the iconic Declaration of Independence is in the city’s National Archives; you can stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I have a Dream” speech, or visit Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated. For shopping, head down to Georgetown, where you will discover high-end boutiques, or visit Downtown DC, home to renowned national and international brands, along with excellent restaurants that are perfect for lunch. The fantastic parks that are dotted around the city provide the perfect respite, especially from mid-March to mid-April when Washington’s cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. Whenever you decide to visit, you won’t be disappointed!
Monuments and Memorials
National Mall holds many of the great monuments found within the city and are situated within walking distance of each other. To the Mall’s west end sits Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the beautiful Reflecting Pool and housed in a Neo Classical, Doric-columned, structure. It was also the spot where Martin Luther King Jr gave his distinguished “I have a Dream” speech (look for the engraving on the step on which he stood). Martin Luther King Jr Monument is also fascinating and thought provoking – opened in 2011, it is also the newest. Looming overhead is the hard-to-miss Washington Monument – standing at 555ft, it is the tallest building in the district.
With such a superb collection of Washington’s museums located along National Mall, their convenience allows tourists to visit many museums in a shot space of time. There is nothing quite like the Smithsonian institution, a collection of 19 fascinating, artefact-rich museums. Along the Mall you will find, The National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History and Freer Sackler Museum of Asian Art – each one is free to visit!
The Three Houses of Government
Visit the three pillars that make up the US government, comprising the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, for an excellent insight into how US politics is performed. Discover where the country’s laws are written with a complimentary tour of the US Capitol Building or you can obtain tickets for a public tour of the White House, where you will see several rooms in the main residence and the halls of which 45 presidents have graced. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the USA, housed in an impressive pseudo-Greek style structure. Visit the permanent exhibits and the building’s staggering, five-storey, marble and bronze spiral staircase. When court is not in session, you can hear fascinating lectures in the courtroom.
Washington National Cathedral
The striking Washington National Cathedral is run by the Episcopal diocese, but is open to all faiths and creeds. It is the second largest church in the US and the fourth-tallest structure in Washington, boasting a Neo-Gothic design that is modelled on English Gothic style of the late 14th century. Following a President’s inauguration they attend a multi-faith service here. State funerals are also held inside and it was where Martin Luther King Jr gave his last Sunday sermon. Construction began in 1907, when Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone, and it took a staggering 82 years to build.
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art boasts a super collection that spans from the Middle Ages to the present. The Neo Classical West Building includes majestic pieces of European art from the early 1900s, such as a da Vinci painting and Impressionist and Post Impressionist pieces that are sure to delight. The contrasting modern East Building, designed by I.M. Pei, displays modern and contemporary art, with notable names on display such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock.
Head to the National Mall, extending from the Washington Monument to the U.S Capitol Building, adjacent to the West Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin, the area is home to no less than ten of the Smithsonian museums, offering a variety of exhibits, the National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Entry to the museums is inexpensive and in some cases even free of charge.
Top Tip: The National monuments and museums are best viewed at night when they're illuminated and less crowded.
As you might expect from the capital city of the most famous nation on Earth, Washington D.C. is home to the crème de la crème of restaurants, bars and clubs including Ben's Chili Bowl - a D.C. landmark and the best place for a 'half-smoke' - a combination of half-pork and half-beef, spcicy smoked sausage, served with onion, mustard and a slow-cooked chilli sauce. Almost as famous as its 'half- smoke', is its celebratory clientele which includes Bill Cosby and President Obama.
Whilst Washington D.C.'s weather is very changeable you can generally expect summers to get hot but on the plus side, the city is less crowded at this time and there’s a host of outdoor concerts, parades and festivals to enjoy. Spring is probably the best time to visit, as this is traditionally when the city’s famous cherry trees are in blossom - in 1912, the people of Japan sent some three thousand cherry trees to the United States as a gift - the first two cherry trees were planted on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin and are still standing, to this day.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Washington DC.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic direct from London Heathrow. United Airlines direct from London Heathrow and Manchester.
From London Heathrow to Dulles International: 7 hours, 50 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Travel Advice Update
The FCO travel advice for the USA has been updated with an amendment to the Entry requirements section - on 18 December 2015, the US Congress passed a Bill updating the requirements for the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP); under the new rules, with effect from 1 April 2016 all travellers wishing to enter the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip.
The web-based Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) requires all passengers (including infants) travelling via or to the USA to apply for authority to travel a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel. You may be denied boarding or refused entry to the US if you have not registered and obtained authorisation. To apply visit the official website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ A charge of UD$14 per person (subject to change) will apply and must be paid by either credit or debit card.
Customs and Border Protection programme Global Entry gets pre-approved travellers through border control faster at some US airports. If you’re a British citizen and a frequent visitor to the USA you can now register to get a UK background check on www.gov.uk/apply-faster-entry-usa. If you pass the background checks, you’ll be invited to apply for Global Entry.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit Insect and tick bite avoidance.
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCDO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: Foreign Travel Advice. Additional sources of information include: Public Health England, The National Travel Health And Network Centre, Foreign And Commonwealth Office and your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.