Washington D.C. was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. His vision was a simple grid platform with wide, easy to negotiate streets integrating memorials, monuments and museums with the country's government buildings and comfortable neighborhoods for residents. The city is divided into 4 quadrants; NE, NW, SE, and SW, emanating from a center point, which is our Nation’s Capitol. Numbered streets travel North/South, with lettered streets traveling East/West. Avenues crossing the grid on angles are named after the states. Many traffic circles were integrated into the plan to create parks for neighborhoods to enjoy. Washington D.C. is bordered roughly on the south side by the Potomac River, with the state of Maryland to the North. Washington D.C. is approximately 10 square miles, with a resident population of about 600, 000. If you include the neighboring Maryland and Virginia suburbs, Metro Washington's population grows to about 5.5 million. Washington D.C. is relatively flat, from a low of sea level to a high of 420 feet. Below are some quick facts we hope may help you with your plans to visit our Nation’s Capitol.
Washington D.C. is serviced by 3 major airports, (Reagan National, Dulles International and Baltimore/Washington International) providing almost limitless access by air. In addition, Union Station provides the central access for Amtrak, and both commuter and freight trains. Several bus lines also provide access terminals, with direct nonstop service from many close cities. Visitors can of course travel to the Washington D.C. by car, though parking once you arrive can be challenging.
Transportation from the Airports
Taxi service is available from every airport. There are additional options specific to each airport detailed as follows.
- Taxi service to most of the Bed and Breakfast homes in our system is about $25 for a party of 2
- Metrorail service is available using the blue and yellow lines, connecting to all other lines in the city
- Supershuttle, a van service with door-to-door service, is $14 per person and $10 for each additional person.
- Taxi service fares are about $85 for a party of 2
- Metrobus provides shuttle service from the airport to the Greenbelt station of the Metrorail at Greenbelt station. The bus fare is $6 per person.
- Supershuttle fares are about $37 for the first person and $12 for each additional person up to 7
- MARC train commuter rail, operating Monday to Friday about 1 every hour. Fares are roughly $6
- Taxi service fares are about $85 for a party of 2
- A private company, the Washington Flyer, provides bus service to the Wiehle-Reston East station of the Metrorail. The bus fare is $5.00 each way
- Supershuttle fares are about $29 for the first person and $10 for each additional person up to 7
- Metrobus provides service from Dulles to L’Enfant Plaza. This is the 5A and is about $3.00 per person
Washington D.C. enjoys one of the best public transportation systems in the country. Comprised of city buses (Metrobus) and subway (Metrorail) it is an integrated system that is clean, efficient, safe and easy to use for access to most areas of the city. Along the National Mall, visitors will also find Big Bus Tours and Trolley Tours. With the grid pattern and a relatively small center, Washington is also very walkable. Fares in Washington are still very reasonable, most fares in the downtown area are approximately $10-12 for 2 persons.
Sales tax for Washington is 5.75%, beverage tax is 10%, and hotel and accommodation tax is 14.5% (which includes the 5.75% sales tax).
Washington enjoys a moderate climate, with spring and fall being the most comfortable times to visit. Winter experiences daytime highs in the low to mid 40's (F) and evening lows in the mid 20's to 0. August is generally the most uncomfortable month, with heat accompanied by high humidity. It is rare to find buildings in Washington that are not air-conditioned for the summer. Public transportation throughout the city is also climate controlled with heat and air-conditioning. All of our B & B's are climate controlled for your comfort.
Parking in the city is exceptionally restricted and regulated. The area immediately surrounding the National Mall is mostly metered, with limits of 2 hours or less. Meters extend into most of the commerce areas of the city as well and many neighborhoods require a resident sticker. We recommend you carefully consider bringing a car to D.C. (they can be easily rented for a day if you are planning a trip outside the reach of public transportation), as parking ticket fees are quite high. The city is very vigilant about ticketing and towing. If your car is towed after 7:00 p.m. on a Friday, you will not be able to retrieve it from the impound yard until Monday after 9:00 a.m. Towing and storage fees will be levied in addition to ticket fees. Some Bed and Breakfasts can provide off-street parking (usually for a nominal fee). If you plan to bring a car, please be sure to ask about parking accommodations as well.
Museums and Monuments
All of the Smithsonian museums are free to the public (your tax dollars at work!). Some special features inside some museums carry a fee, such as the Imax Theater at the Air and Space museum. The Smithsonian museums are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 pm. Special events or exhibits may have extended hours. We recommend you visit the Smithsonian website for more information including current or upcoming exhibits.
The monuments are open and staffed with National Park Service personnel from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. There is never an entrance fee. Visit our sightseeing links page for phone numbers and websites for the monuments. An evening tour of the monuments is safe, and many believe this is when they are most beautiful.
Washington boasts excellent restaurants within minutes of almost anywhere you find yourself. The diverse and international population of Washington means you will have your choice of almost all types of food. Your hosts at your B & B can be a great resource for not only renowned restaurants, but also the neighborhood gems not known to the general public. This is one of the benefits of staying at a Bed and Breakfast. Our guests may also want to review the Washington Post's Going Out Guide, which can be viewed by location or metro station.
Entertainment and Theatre
Theatre seats in Washington are out-numbered only by New York City. Venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center and National Theatre feature nationally touring plays and live performances. In addition, many smaller theatre companies offer a wide selection of opportunities to enjoy live performances. Please visit our sightseeing links page for website and phone numbers of some of the more popular venues. You may also consider the Washington Ballet, or enjoy the taking in the newest movie after touring the restored Union Station.
Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan are three neighborhoods of the city known for nightclubs and bars. They are also where you can find a vast array of restaurants, coffee shops and shopping. Many of the Bed and Breakfasts in our system are located in these neighborhoods, or accessible by a short walk or ride on public transportation.