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Washington DC Travel and Tourist Information

WASHINGTON, DC
CAPITAL CITY FAST FACTS

LOCATION:  
Lies midway along the eastern seaboard of the United States, about 90 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, south of Maryland, north of Virginia and 233 miles south of New York City.  Situated on the northern bank of the Potomac River.  At its highest elevation (in northwest Washington), it rises 390 ft.  Lowest elevation is sea level, at the riverbank.

SIZE: 
68 square miles.  Carved out of land donated by the state of Maryland.  Divided into four quadrants:  Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, Southeast.  The U.S. Capitol building marks the center where the quadrants meet.

FOUNDED:  
1791.  Named after President George Washington.  "Columbia" in "District of Columbia" refers to Christopher Columbus.   Washington, the District of Columbia is not a state, nor is it part of any state.  It is a unique, "Federal district" created specifically to be the seat of government.

POPULATION: 
572,000 (DC only)
5.42 million (entire Metro area, including DC)

METRO AREA: 
The "Washington Metropolitan Area" refers to the District of Columbia plus seven Maryland counties (Anne Arundel, Charles, Calvert, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's), five Virginia counties (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William and Stafford) and five Virginia cities (Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax City, Manassas and Manassas Park).

CLIMATE:  
Generally temperate, enjoying all four seasons.  Spring, early summer and fall are the most comfortable seasons, although moderate winters are not uncommon, with more rain than snow. Monthly high and low average temperatures follow (Farenheit/Celsius):  
 
             High  Low
January  44/5  30/-1
February  46/8  29/-1
March   54/12  36/2
April   66/19  46/8
May   76/25  56/14
June   83/29  65/19
July   87/31  69/20
August   85/30  68/20
September  79/26  61/16
October  68/20  50/10
November  57/14  39/4
December  46/8  32/0

INDUSTRY:  
Washington, DC’s primary industry after the federal government is tourism. Other important industries include trade associations, as Washington, DC is home to more associations than any other U.S. city; law, higher education, medicine/medical research, government-related research, publishing and international finance.  World headquarters for such large corporations as USAirways, Marriott, AMTRAK, AOL, Gannett News, Mobil Oil, MCI Telecommunications and International Monetary Fund.

ATTRACTIONS: 
Best known for wide array of cultural and historical attractions, and historic monuments and memorials ... most all of which are free to the public, and open seven days a week.  Most famous are the White House, U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, National Archives, various Smithsonian museums, National Gallery of Art, National Zoo, Union Station, Arlington National Cemetery.  Neighborhood areas include Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Anacostia - all of which have a variety of attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

SALES TAX:
Washington:  Sales tax is 5.75%. Total hotel tax including sales tax is 14.5%. Food and beverage tax is 10%.

Maryland:  Sales tax is 5%. Hotel tax varies by county with most counties averaging between 5% and 8%.

Virginia:  Sales tax is 4.5%. Hotel tax varies by county with most counties averaging between 9.5% and 10%.

CURRENCY EXCHANGE: 
Available at all three airports, at Union Station, various downtown banks,  and the downtown location of American Express Travel Agency and Thomas Cook Currency Services.

OFFICIAL FLOWER:  
American Beauty Rose

OFFICIAL BIRD:   
Wood Thrush   

OFFICIAL TREE:
Scarlet Oak

GETTING HERE:   
Airports:  Served by Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI), handling more than 55 million passengers each year, providing direct service from every major U.S. airport and 38 international cities.

Rail Service:  The metro area’s mass transportation system includes more than 450 miles of rail line. Washington, DC's METRO subway system links all parts of Washington with the nearby Virginia and Maryland suburbs. MARC commuter trains connect Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. VIRGINIA RAILWAY EXPRESS trains connect several outlying Virginia communities with Washington, DC.  AMTRAK passenger rail service is headquartered in Washington, DC and connects major cities throughout the entire region with the rest of the country.

GETTING AROUND
The nation’s capital is one of the easiest cities to navigate and a terrific city for touring – once you understand the basics. With one of the safest, cleanest and most efficient public transportation systems in the country serviced by Metrorail (subway) and Metrobus, Washington, DC’s many attractions and neighborhoods are easily accessible.

One of the best ways to experience Washington is on foot, with wonderful pockets including the inspiring monuments and museums found on the National Mall as well as the intimate museums, world-class theatres and splendid gardens, squares and circles throughout the District. There are also great guided tours of the city to get you oriented. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:
• The District of Columbia is divided into 4 quadrants: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast. The U.S Capitol building marks the center where the quadrants meet. Always check the quadrant indicator (NW, NE, SW, SE) of a local address before setting out.
• Numbered streets run north-south.
• Lettered streets run east-west (there are no J, X, Y, or Z streets), alphabetically becoming two syllable names (Adams, Bellmont), then 3-syllable names (Allison, Buchanan) as you travel out farther from the center.
• Avenues named for U.S. States run diagonally, often meeting at traffic circles and squares. 

Metro:  Metrorail subway system and Metrobus provide the safest, cleanest and most efficient way of getting around Washington, DC and the metropolitan suburbs. Five rail lines and an extensive bus system connect the District with the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Train lines are named for colors: Red, yellow, blue, green, and orange. Station entrances are marked by brown pylons, capped with the letter “M” and colored stripes indicate which lines are available.

Route maps are posted at each station and inside each subway car. Metrorail opens 5:30 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends. It closes at midnight Sunday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday nights, when it stays open until 3 a.m. Each train displays the name of its farthest destination. Base subway fare is $1.35 and increases during rush hour and for longer trips. Daily passes with unlimited riding privileges are available after 9:30 a.m. during the week and all day on weekends for $6.  Rail farecards can be purchased at vending machines located inside the stations. Farecards are inserted into the turnstile gates to enter and exit subway platforms. The fare is automatically deducted each time you exit a station. To continue your trip by Metrobus, obtain a transfer at your originating station before boarding the train. Buses travel to Georgetown and other areas not serviced by the subway.

To obtain schedules for connecting Metrobus service, locations of Metro sales offices, and other public transportation information, call Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority at (202) 637-7000.

Taxis:  Taxis are readily available in downtown Washington and fares are reasonable. Washington, DC cabs operate on a zone system instead of meters. By law, basic rates must be posted in every cab. The base fare for one zone is $5.00. There is a $1.50 charge for each additional passenger in the party and a $1 surcharge during morning (7-9:30 a.m.) and evening (4-6:30 p.m.) rush hours. There is a radio dispatch service charge of $1.50.

A ride for one passenger between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and downtown is about $12-$15. Maryland and Virginia cabs have metered fares and may transport you in and out of the District, but not between points within the District.

information provided by Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation



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