Washington, D.C., formally known as the District of Columbia and often referred to as “Washington” or “D.C.”, was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. The country’s capital is home to the President of the United States, the Senate, the House of Representatives and hundreds of memorials paying homage to the country’s vibrant, and often turbulent, past. It also has some of the nation’s most important historic monuments.
There’s more than politics to this city, however. Its museums and art galleries are famed around the world. Entertainment gurus will awe at the sight of Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Fonzie’s leather jacket at the Smithsonian American History Museum. Take a walk through the First Ladies exhibition and admire the inaugural gowns of Lady Bird Johnson, Jackie Kennedy and more. The National Mall – a green park stretching from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial – is a common ground for protests and demonstrations. Other attractions include the National Zoo, the International Spy Museum, and check out the National Museum of Health and Medicine if you have time. It’s a museum you won’t soon forget. Of course you also have the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and much more.
You will discover some great seafood restaurants, steak houses, sushi bars, Italian restaurants and nearly any cuisine you crave. Some of the world’s best chefs have restaurants in the D.C. area. If you like sports, the Washington Nationals baseball team and the Washington Redskins football team are the two prominent professional franchises in the city. There are numerous discos and nightclubs in the Georgetown area. There are also intimate comedy clubs featuring some terrific political comedians.
So, whether you’re here for a business trip, checking out the museums and monuments, or cheering on the Nationals, there is an endless supply of activities that await you when you book flights to Washington, D.C. Here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy the smoothest possible trip.
Spring and fall seasons have the most pleasant weather. Summers in Washington are hot, sometimes exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and very humid. The coldest weather in D.C. is from around November through February, though it’s still a bit milder than other cities further up the coast, such as Boston for example.
The peak season for tourists to take flights to Washington, D.C. are between March and August. March/April is particularly busy for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a large well-attended event held over three weeks. Other busy periods include the time when Congress is in session, and from mid-January through June, when lobbyists and demonstrators fill up the hotels and restaurants. It is recommended to book flights to Washington, D.C. in advance during this period.
The quietest times are late August into early September and the period between Thanksgiving and mid-January. Winters in Washington, D.C. are cool, with the average temperature from mid-December to mid-February hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. D.C. can also experience some snow during this season. These times are when Washington, D.C. is the coldest, but you are more likely to find the cheapest flights to Washington, D.C. and better hotel rates.
The best times to book flights to Washington, D.C. weather-wise are spring and autumn, when the weather is at its most pleasant and warm. Summers can get very hot and humid with temperatures generally ranging between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but sometimes as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When searching for cheap flights to Washington, D.C. book outside of major annual events such as the 4th of July as prices for flight tickets will increase. If you’re not a budget traveler then celebrating this significant event in the capital of the United States of America would be a wonderful experience, especially for the iconic fireworks display.
Washington Dulles International Airport is the fourth largest in the country and accommodates flights from both U.S. and international carriers. If you’re traveling from Minneapolis or another city in the Midwest, expect to be in the air just under two hours. Flights from Los Angeles generally take around four and a half hours, while flights from Houston take approximately two and a half hours. International flights from London typically last around eight hours. Certain weather conditions and mechanical issues can sometimes lead to delays, so it’s always important to double check your flight times before heading to the airport to stay up-to-date on any last minute changes.
Washington Dulles International Airport serves several U.S. and international carriers for non-stop flights, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Jet Blue, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. International carriers served by Washington Dulles include Virgin Atlantic, Austrian Airlines, Icelandair, Korean Air and Lufthansa. Many of the same domestic carriers serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as well, though most international flights are routed through Washington Dulles.
Residents of Washington, D.C. enjoy all four seasons, so what you pack for your flight depends greatly on the weather. If you’re heading to our nation’s capital during the summer months, prepare for humid weather and pack loose, breathable, lightweight clothing, as well as light sweaters or button-down shirts to have on hand when entering establishments with air conditioning.
During the winter months and into March, Washington is known to be cold and snowy, so be sure to pack warm clothing that’s easy to layer, along with a winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Depending on the snow conditions or rainfall in early spring, it is also a good idea to pack a pair of snow boots or rain boots.
As far as accessories and toiletries, you’ll want to pack a bag that you can carry onto the airplane filled with travel-size shampoo, deodorant, oral hygiene supplies and first-aid supplies to ensure you’re covered in the event of any flight delays. During the summer months, make sure to pack extra sunscreen and a sun hat if you plan to walk the grounds in front of the White House or take in any other outdoor attractions. Last but not least, pack your camera and any video equipment you need to capture all the sights and sounds of the city.
Flights to the Washington, D.C. area land at either Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which is the closest commercial airport to the capital (about 3 miles), or Dulles International Airport (IAD) 26 miles west of the city, which is the larger of the two. Most international flights arrive at Dulles. To reach Washington, D.C. from Dulles, the quickest way is to catch the Silver Line Express Bus to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, an adult fare costs just a few dollars each way. Taxis are available on the lower level of the main terminal outside of the baggage claim to provide transportation to your lodging accommodations. Shuttle van services are also available. If renting a car from the Main Terminal companies provide free shuttles to the rental lot. The Fairfax Connector shuttle bus also picks up passengers from the second curb next to the baggage claim and stops at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, and L’Enfant Plaza in D.C. The city center from Ronald Reagan airport is much closer, and you can either use the Metrorail (subway), bus or a taxi to get there in a short amount of time. Here are some in-depth guides to both of these airports in Washington, D.C. for your reference.
Washington is an easy city to get around: the center is the area around the National Mall. This area is easily accessible on foot, with most museums and monuments within easy walking distance. The streets in Washington are laid out in a grid, with numbered streets going in one direction and alphabetized streets going the other. The city is divided into four quadrants, with the Capitol building centering them all. Most of the major sights are within walking distance, but you can easily take the bus or Metrorail if you get tired of walking. Bicycling is also very popular in the city; both locals and tourists cycle. Washington can get very hot in the summer months, so light clothes and plenty of water are recommended, especially if you plan on doing a lot of walking.
Washington, D.C. offers plenty of options when it comes to tourist attractions, dining, entertainment and basking in the natural beauty of the area. If you’re visiting D.C. in spring or summer, sign up for a paddle boat tour along the Potomac River and check out the gorgeous scenery and waterfront homes, or head to Woodley Park and visit the National Zoo. During both the summer and winter months, visit the White House or book a tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, where you’ll get an up-close and personal glimpse of life in the 1800’s. In addition to the gorgeous estate, the Mount Vernon grounds house a working blacksmith shop, a farm, and a museum with over 700 artifacts.
For some local history and incredible sightseeing, visit the National Mall and view the Washington Monument in all its splendor, stop by the U.S. Capitol building, then finish your tour at the Lincoln Memorial. You can also catch a shuttle from the National Mall and travel to the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum to learn about the local Anacostia neighborhood that dates back to 1967. The museum also contains over a thousand cultural artifacts and artwork from local African-American artists.
Washington, D.C. houses an abundance of restaurants, ranging from local mom and pop staples to fine dining establishments offering the latest in culinary cuisine. After touring the National Mall, grab a bite at Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest bar and grill. Established in 1856, this popular eatery is just around the corner from the White House and serves some of the best seafood in the area. For a cozy atmosphere and some tasty steak, stop by Charlie Palmer Steak in Capitol Hill.
Interested in extending your vacation once your D.C. trip ends, or traveling to a new destination outside of D.C? Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport accommodates a wide selection of airlines, including American Airlines, Jet Blue, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, making it easy to book an outbound flight.
Here are some common U.S. flight routes, along with some amazing flight deals:
To get yourself to the Washington Dulles International Airport, the city offers both taxi services and ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. The Silverline express bus also offers direct service between the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station and Dulles Terminal. The express bus ride takes approximately fifteen minutes to arrive at the airport, so be sure to plan your time accordingly. Shuttle services such as Super Shuttle, DC Car and Limo Service, and DC Airport Shuttle offer convenient shuttle service to Washington Dulles Airport as well. If you plan to take a shuttle, it’s always a good idea to contact your preferred service twenty-four hours in advance and schedule your ride to ensure a stress-free trip to the airport. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is much closer to the capital but depending on the time of the day the area can be quite busy so it’s likely a good idea to plan ahead for some traffic and a bustling terminal.
Once you choose a destination, be sure to check out our Washington, D.C. airport guides for more detailed travel information and helpful tips.