People & Communities
CASE City Guide: Washington, D.C.

Reviews and recommendations of local venues, attractions and customs of major cities by CASE members. Since details may change, we encourage you to make independent enquiries.  Know something additional about this city? Add a comment below

Cherry Blossoms/Jefferson Memorial
Photographer: Jake McGuire

Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by Virginia and Maryland. This big city has a small-town feel and is comprised of numerous historic districts and neighborhoods with distinct characteristics.

D.C. welcomes about 15 million visitors each year. The Greater Washington region is home to 400 international associations, 700 internationally owned companies and more than 150 embassies and international cultural centers. The city is filled with enough wonderful art, culture and history to give you a lifetime of memories.

See masterpieces in galleries such as the Smithsonian National Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and The Phillips Collection, experience high-end shopping and waterfront dining in Georgetown and visit one of the 19 Smithsonian museums to view such treasures as the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, Dorothy's ruby slippers, the skeleton of a Triceratops and the Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia." And to see elephants, tigers, and pandas, don't forget the National Zoo is also part of the free Smithsonian network!

Meet your guide
Jennifer Lichty, educational programs manager for CASE

Interesting or unusual event venues

  • Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens-George Washington's mansion and museum is located on the Potomac River in Mount Vernon, Va. Have an event or meeting at the most scenic tourist attraction in the Washington, D.C., area and also learn about the life of America's first president and his family. The site offers a range of meeting facilities, including an auditorium that seats 200.
  • John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts-The National Center for the Performing Arts is a high-end location for distinctive special events. Whether it is a reception, dinner, ball or award ceremony, they have an External Events Office to assist with the planning and execution of your event.
  • The National Air and Space Museum-Experience the icons of flight at the National Mall building. Have a reception or dinner in the shadow of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the Wright brothers' original 1903 flyer, or Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. Event space includes a large-format IMAX theater.
  • National Museum of Natural History-The museum's grand Beaux-Arts style architecture, combined with exhibits of the world's largest and finest natural history collections, provide an extraordinary setting for events. Entertain under the North Atlantic Right Whale in the Ocean Hall, around the legendary Hope Diamond, or gather among the museum's exciting displays of dinosaurs, mammals and world cultures.
  • CASE headquarters-CASE member institutions doing business or hosting school, college or university events in Washington, D.C., are welcome to use CASE office, meeting and event space. Members do not have to pay rental fees, although they will be responsible for their own catering arrangements. All CASE facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities. CASE offices are located at 1307 New York Ave. NW (partially on "H" Street between 13th and 14th) in the heart of downtown D.C., just three blocks from the White House and within walking distance or a short cab or Metro ride to Capitol Hill.

Favorite hotels

  • Willard InterContinental Washington-Since 1850, the Willard has been one of the nation's grandest hotels. Located just two blocks from the White House and the National Mall, the hotel is convenient to downtown, shopping and many of Washington's sites.
  • Kimpton Hotel Group has seven options that range from the luxurious downtown Hotel Monaco, a registered national landmark set in an historic all-marble building, to the fun and funky Hotel Helix near Dupont Circle, complete with a swanky, playful lobby adorned with artwork and black and white photography.
  • Omni Shoreham Hotel-Combining old world grandeur with a great neighborhood feel, the Omni is very close to the red line metro, minutes from downtown, and just a few blocks from the National Zoo. It is located in Woodley Park, a D.C. neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and bustling with international restaurants.

Best times to visit

D.C. has a generally temperate climate with mild springs and autumns, but it can get very humid in late summer.

Throughout the year, you can find art exhibits and cultural festivals celebrating the diversity of the nation's capital. For maps and events, Cultural Tourism DC is a great resource.

A great (but busy) time to visit is late March/early April during the two week National Cherry Blossom Festival. Filled with arts, events and activities, the festival annually commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., honoring the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrating the continued close relationship between our two cultures.

Easiest way to get around

Pierre Charles L'Enfant's design has made the nation's capital easy to navigate on foot. In 2007, D.C. was named the most walkable city in the United States in a study by the Brookings Institute.

D.C.'s metrorail and bus system is clean and reliable. It is the second largest rail transit system and the sixth largest bus network in the United States. Traveler's hint: purchase a SmarTrip card online or at many area CVS stores for quick and easy access through the fare gates.

For those who have visited D.C. before, you will be glad to know that taxi cabs have recently converted from a zone system to metered fares, and it is now much easier to understand fares.

Local customs

  • Business cards are normally exchanged upon meeting each other and should be in the English language.
  • "Business casual" usually applies except for corporate meetings when true business attire (suits for both men and women) is appropriate. Styles tend to be a bit more casual in the summer. Special occasions can range from casual dress to cocktail attire. Political, cultural and embassy events may require formal wear. Ask your host what suits the occasion.

Gift suggestions for hosts

Americans will be thankful for your expression of gratitude. Anything is appropriate, especially souvenirs from your own country or region.

Final words of advice, welcome

  • There are three D.C. area airports: Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). DCA is the closest to downtown D.C. (about 15 minutes). Also, Union Station is home to Amtrak and multiple commuter rail services, and taking a train is a great way to connect to Boston, New York and Philadelphia as well as other U.S. cities.
  • Hometown heroes: Watch one of today's young hockey phenoms, Alex Ovechkin, and the Washington Capitals play downtown at the Verizon Center, at the Gallery Place/Chinatown exit off the red line.
  • While many activities in D.C. are free of charge, some do require tickets or prior arrangements:
    • Public tours of the White House: To arrange a tour, you must make a request through one's member of Congress up to six months in advance. If you wish to visit the White House and are a citizen of a foreign country, please contact your embassy in Washington, D.C., for assistance in submitting a tour request.
    • Washington Monument admission is free, but does require a ticket.
  • Finally, of course the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are striking, but also visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Located along the famous Cherry Tree Walk on the Western edge of the Tidal Basin near the National Mall, this is a memorial not only to FDR, but also to the era he represents. It is a little off the beaten path but worth it. And if you can, tour the memorials at night-they are illuminated and truly breathtaking.

Visit this page for additional information on monuments, memorials, restaurants and hotels in the D.C. area.