Washington D.C. is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. More than 30 million people a year visit this city of 600,000. Some are drawn by the mystique of government and the sheer beauty of this showplace city, but most have an understandable feeling of belonging, of coming home, and they are welcomed as such.
If you have never visited the capital, you may be in for a surprise. Far from being a marble-clad and dusty repository of the past or a bastion of the elite, Washington D.C. is a vibrant, dynamic, and accessible city. In the past, the city depended on its position as our nation's capital to “automatically” draw tourists. Today, a new city administration has drastically “kicked it up a notch.” They have taken a cue from European tourist centers such as Monaco, and a new energy level and creativity have reformed the city's tourist industry. Festivals, theme “months” and “weeks,” specialized tours, and events have turbocharged the hospitality industry, and it has responded with a rash of new hotels and services (including theme packages and discounted dates).
One example is The District's famed cherry blossoms. People were once content to stroll around the Tidal Basin to welcome spring by viewing the flowers. Now the blooming of the cherry blossoms has become a mega-event involving scores of restaurants (cherry-themed food), hotels (special package deals), and city services (a parade and fireworks show).
In the short time since the second edition of The Everything® Family Guide to Washington D.C. was published, many new hotels have been built and old standbys extensively renovated (the Park Hyatt Washington, Hotel Palomar, Marriott M Street, Westin Arlington Gateway, Residence Inn Capitol, Hampton Inn, Four Seasons). The city's big news is the reopening, after six years, of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art & Portraiture, formerly the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Many new tours have been added, some with ethnic themes — for example, the Bilingual Heritage Trail in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Some other major additions to the D.C. scene are the National Marathon race and the Capitol Visitors Center with its huge cafeteria, perfect for families.
The increase in visitors has prompted expanded airline service and the construction, albeit only for a set number of years, of City Center Parking. The Metro continues its outstanding service to the city, and there are several intracity shuttles to take you where you want to go.
Of course, this dynamic scene has necessitated a thorough revision of The Everything® Family Guide to Washington D.C. Many hundreds of changes were made and new features added. With this current edition, it will be easier for visitors to navigate the city because destinations now have the nearest Metro station and line color listed up front. Also, every listing has a telephone number and Web site (when present) so you can call ahead or preview information online, allowing you to buy and print out savings coupons and tickets, scan menus, and make reservations before you even leave home.
Washington D.C. is a multifaceted city that will offer whatever it is you seek, no matter what age groups your family members fall into. It is not only the seat of our government but a major art and museum center, college town, entertainment and sports venue, shopping resource, and restaurant destination. Washington D.C. is at once fun, solemn, educational, and exciting.
D.C. is one of the most fun and educational places you can visit with your kids. The city is like an interactive American history lesson and playground. Aside from the most obvious kid-pleasing attractions (the National Zoo, the Air and Space Museum, and the Museum of Natural History), there are many other one-of-a-kind kid-pleasing experiences, from the International Spy Museum to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing — and what kid (no matter what age) doesn't love seeing money printed and shredded? The National Geographic Explorer's Hall has interactive exhibits and a giant dinosaur-egg fossil, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine has the most astounding display of gross medical artifacts in the country.
For those interested in American history and how our government works, the city offers the White House; the Capitol; the Pentagon; the National Archives; the Supreme Court; and the Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Vietnam, Korean, and World War II War Memorials, as well as a treasure trove of historic homes and monuments.
The Smithsonian Institution itself is like an American theme park. Its most popular museums are the National Air and Space Museum (with planes and interactive exhibits from the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer to space exploration), the Udvar-Hazy Center (where you can see up close the Enola Gay and the space shuttle Enterprise, as well as the most popular treasures of the closed-for-renovation National Museum of American History like the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz), and the Museum of Natural History (with the cursed Hope Diamond and the dramatic Hall of Mammals, as well as all those dinosaur fossils and bones). The Smithsonian collection also encompasses museums on arts and industries, African and Asian art, decorative arts, American art, great portraits, and modern art.
And that's not all! There's plenty of shopping to do in the museum shops, specialty stores, and even outlet centers outside of town, not to mention eating in a huge selection of restaurants of every possible description!
Because of all this, you will want to return often, revisiting favorites, exploring things you missed. Many people make Washington a rotating spot on a variable list of vacation places and see a different side of the city each time they visit. So read through these pages and plan one of the best vacations you and your family will ever have!