Washington D.C. is an interesting place. As the capital of the country and with a mix of people from around the world, there is a lot of diversity here. While the members of congress and those who attend to them spend lots of money, much of the city is quite poor and very dangerous. You just don’t go to certain parts of the city. However, mixed in with that is a big student population that keeps the city lively; tons of tourists visiting from all over the world; and a huge amount of museums and historic sites to visit. There’s a lot to keep you busy in this city.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost between $20-30 USD while private rooms begin at $80 USD per night for a twin room. There are not a lot of options for private hostel rooms here.
Budget hotel prices – D.C. isn’t cheap, especially during the summer when the city is packed. Budget hotels cost between $80-150 USD per night.
Average cost of food – There are plenty of cheap options throughout the city and most meals are under $15 USD. There are plenty of sandwich shops for under $10 USD. A week’s necessities from the grocery store are about $30-60 USD. A nice dinner with wine will cost you around $35 USD.
Transportation costs – You can get a Metrorail Day Pass for $14 USD, and the metro travels all over the city. There are many surcharges in D.C. on taxi rides, such as a $1.50 USD surcharge per passenger over 2 passengers. Taxes will costs you $14 USD and up depending on your zone.
Money Saving Tips
Get entertainment for free – The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage offers free performances on a nightly asis. Some theaters offers student and senior pricing and you can also save money by purchasing last-minute tickets.
Free outdoor theater – During the summer months free outdoor movies have become popular and are offered at many places around the region.
Find the cheap restaurants – Head over to Georgetown or DuPont Circle and enjoy great food at a great discount.
Top Things to See and Do
Explore the Smithsonian Museums – These museums contain information about everything. From the museum on space, history, nature, art, and more, you’ll never be without something to learn. All the museums are free and they even have free wi-fi. Two of the museums offer IMAX movies and if you save your stub, you can get a second movie for four dollars.
Visit the Holocaust Museum – The Holocaust museum is both wonderful and heart-wrenching at the same time- wonderful because it is so well done and heart-wrenching because, well, it’s the holocaust.
Check out the monuments – All the major monuments are around the National Mall are free and the better part of a day can be spent seeing them. I’m a big fan of the Franklin D. Roosevelt monument- it’s not that well known, it’s relaxing, and not very crowded. There are so many monuments here that you’ll be able to fill a good three or four days with them.
Visit the Supreme Court – The Supreme Court is free to enter and there are 40-minute lectures in the main hall for free and will teach you about the history of the court and how it works.
Tour the Capital Building – The Capital offers free tours throughout the day. Tickets are available at 8:30 am on a first come, first serve basis.
Take a walk through Georgetown – Georgetown is the capital’s historic waterfront which today is bustling with activity. The area is a shopper’s paradise and the streets are lined with restaurants from every ethnicity. Take a tour of historic sites, do some shopping and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant.
Tour the White House – Take a tour of the spot where the most powerful man in the world lives. You have to apply in advance to get tickets as there are security screenings you need to go through.
Visit the National Zoo – A great activity, especially if you have kids. You can see a very wide selection of animals here and they often have special exhibits. Moreover, as part of the Smithsonian, this zoo is also free.
Visit Arlington National Cemetery – Visit the memorial to war veterans and the resting places of President John F. Kennedy along with his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and their two children, with brother Bobby nearby. JFK’s grave is marked by an eternal flame. Nearby you can find the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.
Visit the Spy Museum – One of D.C.’s most popular attractions happens to be a pretty fun one — the International Spy Museum. Learn a thing or two about espionage through the museum’s many interactive exhibits, artifacts and film clips. See shoes with fake bottoms, photos of infamous spies, and interviews with former intelligence officers.
See the Cherry Blossoms – If you’re in Washington D.C. around March or April (or better yet, the transition between the two), you may be just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival. The Tidal Basin has many cherry blossom trees, which were a gift from Japan to the United States. Their blossoming is marked by a celebration that includes concerts and fireworks. The flowers themselves are beautiful, and make for wonderful photo opportunities.
Visit Old Town Alexandria – Craving some more history? Head across the river to Old Town Alexandria, a small town with cobblestone streets and dotted with colonial buildings and historic landmarks.