Let me begin by saying that nothing in this post is likely to be extraordinary or even unique. The things I am observing about DC tourists are generally the same thing I observed about them 10 years ago. But, bad habits persist.
Walk on the left, stand on the right
In DC, people are doing things, like going to work, catching transportation for medical appointments squeezed into busy schedules, and meeting over meals. So, it’s fair to say that the least amount of tolerance is held for jamming up public transportation.
Obviously, you don’t always know where you’re going–and, that’s fine, Washingtonians vary in how helpful they will be and many are transplants, themselves–but the one thing you can always do is avoid blocking the escalators! Stand on the right side so people can pass you on the left. It’s a beautiful system and it works!
You always know someone in DC
Americans always know someone in DC! Well, sort of. Your Representative and Senators are here for you, though, and you should contact their offices if you’re heading this way. They owe you this service whether you like them or not–and they’ll get you tours of the Capitol! Say, while you’re at it, why don’t you talk a little politics with them, especially if you’re having problems under federal jurisdiction. You don’t have to, of course, but you should–you’re an American!
If you are visiting from outside the U.S., you probably have an embassy in DC (and other cities, like NYC). They can help you, too, but of course it varies.
Metro has gotten more expensive, so you may want to look into buses and bikes. Metro buses inside the city are pretty good. Bikes are also increasingly available. Bike and Roll offers rental in DC at Union Station and the Old Post Office Pavilion, plus Arlington, VA. They also do bike tours of the National Mall as Bike the Sites. And, there are other options, too. Just be aware that trying to bring your car into the city is a crap shoot and almost always pricey.
Get away from the shining white marble!
Over the last few years some great and vibrant neighborhoods have been revitalized. Visit some of these! Check out Eastern Market, and maybe get some groceries for the trip. Go to U St., the former Harlem of DC, where the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington used play. While there, head over to Ben’s Chili Bowl: great history, great food. Adams Morgan is a sweet, happening place, with good food and hole-in-the-wall shops. In the evenings, it has a big nightlife scene; you can even catch some free music in a handful of venues. And, there are more!
Well, that’s my quickie list of advice for visiting DC. I myself will be heading into the Library of Congress for some research, today, so if you visit and take a peek into the main reading room I’ll be wearing the bandanna and the Kermit the Frog t-shirt. Forgive me if I don’t wave–I’m working!