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How to Stand Out as a Tourist in DC

Washington, D. C.
by Matt Hershberger Apr 29, 2014
Take pictures in front of the monuments.

No one currently living in DC is taking pictures of themselves in front of the White House or the Capitol building. They certainly aren’t angling the photo in a way that the Washington Monument looks like a dick. No, real DC residents are taking pictures of themselves with the people living and working inside those monuments. And then posting those pictures in highly visible spots on office walls to show off their proximity to power.

Be here during the Cherry Blossom festival.

Back in 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gifted Washington a bunch of cherry trees. Now, each year, there’s a National Cherry Blossom Festival whenever it is the cherry blossoms end up blooming. People walk around, look at the beautiful trees, and celebrate the coming of spring.

It’s a complete fucking nightmare. The thing is, there’s something happening in DC pretty much every single day of the year. There’s always some commemoration or protest or parade or event. There are countless parties and galas and art openings. So you can come literally any weekend, and you’ll get a big showing. The blossoms aren’t that great. And you guys step out in the street to take pictures and block traffic.

Refuse to drink early in the day.

You’re on vacation, bro. Do you know what the people running the most powerful government in the world do when they get a vacation? They get hammered. They get sloshed. They definitely don’t go to museums. If it’s a Bloody Mary or a mimosa, it counts as a breakfast beverage. Drink up. No one says, “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” in DC, because the only qualifier that matters when drinking here is, “I’m not on the clock.”

Wear your souvenirs before leaving.

This is actually true of everywhere. Seriously, don’t buy a “Lincoln Memorial” t-shirt and then wear it here. It’s weird. You wear that at home as a conversation starter. We don’t care that you’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial. We went there our first weekend living here and have never returned.

Take a tour.

The National Mall is a legitimately awesome place to hang out. It’s blocks and blocks of park, bookended by some of the country’s most beautiful memorials, so locals actually do occasionally hang out there. But it’s almost exclusively to play intramural sports or attend some event our boss asked us to go to. We never ride around the Mall on Segways with some helmeted jackass in the front telling you why half of the Washington Monument’s stones are a different color than the other half. You know why? Because it’s Washington. Literally every fact that could possibly interest you about this city is written on a placard directly in front of that thing that fact is about. You don’t need a tour.

Be oblivious to traffic.

I have no problem whatsoever with jaywalking. It’s inevitable in a big city, and I don’t mind if you do it. But you do not jaywalk directly into oncoming traffic. Just because you’re in an unfamiliar city doesn’t mean the same laws of physics that apply at home don’t apply here. That truck will crush you into a paste if you step in front of it. You do need to cross at a crosswalk in heavy traffic.

Spend time in Georgetown.

Unless you’re super rich, are on a fancy date, or are a student at Georgetown, literally no one ever goes to Georgetown. It’s a great place to shoot movies, it’s a pain in the ass for everything else.

Ask us if DC is anything like House of Cards.

No. It is way more boring here.

Stay downtown.

There’s some cool stuff downtown (the area near the Mall), but it’s mostly geared towards government institutions, businesses, and tourist spots. Relatively few people actually live downtown. There are a ton of awesome neighborhoods just outside the city center that have a ton of good bars and restaurants and parks. There’s trendy Dupont Circle, the hipster-y Atlas District, the gay Mecca of Logan Circle, the brotastic Adams Morgan, and the music-lover’s paradise of U Street. Branch out. There’s other cool shit out there.

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