A friend paid me a visit here in Washington, D.C. over the weekend. It was her first time so I took her around the monuments and showed her the different neighborhoods around the District. We also did several tours of notable buildings including the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court but when I asked her what else was on her wish list, she told me that she wanted to experience more of what being a DC local was like. More specifically, she wanted to know how not to look like a tourist next time she comes and visit Washington, D.C., so here are some tips on how to travel like a local in Washington DC.
Travel Like a Local in Washington DC
Metro is Washington, D.C.’s underground public transport system and is the primary mode of transportation for over 650,000 residents of the National Capital Region (NCR). Should you happen to ride in the midst of rush hour, remember to keep to the right of the escalator, especially if you plan to just ride all the way up. The left side is for passing only and generally a moving stairwell itself. Second, there are very strict rules about no eating, drinking, and smoking on the platforms, in the trains, and around the entrance to the stations. If you have to take a sip of water, do so at a minimum or just wait until you’re on the escalators on your way out of the station. Some locals are a stickler for the no eating, drinking, and smoking rules that they themselves won’t hesitate to reprimand you in public. Third, bicycles are limited to the front and back ends of each car. D.C. is becoming a bicycle friendly city, which in turn, makes cycling one of the preferred ways to get around. Just keep in mind that bikes aren’t allowed during peak hours.
Biking in D.C.
One of the best things about living in Washington, D.C., is that the area is small enough that you can practically bike anywhere you need to go and that the surrounding metropolitan region also has a number of long and scenic paved biking trails that visitors are free to explore. Should you decide to mingle with the locals on these trails, take note of a couple of cycling rules. Remember to say “on your left” to pass someone on the trail and avoid using your mobile phone to take photos while riding. Not only is it against biking laws, but also dangerous.
Loose the Logo T-Shirts
It’s hard not to show off those logo t-shirts that depict popular tourist attractions or organizations depicted on television especially since they are comfortable to wear but if you haven’t already figured out, hardly any locals are seen wearing them outside of their homes. Dress comfortably by all means, but avoid the temptation of wearing a t-shirt featuring President Obama’s face in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
The Four Sides of Washington, D.C.
The District’s makeup splits it into four quadrants: NE, NW, SE, and SW so remember to add them when mapping an address because street names often repeat itself and house or building numbers do the same. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW will take you to the White House but the exact same address on the NE side will take you to an apartment building. It will also be helpful for you to know which D.C. neighborhoods belong in which quadrants.
Skip Hard Rock Café
The ubiquitous restaurant chain is quite possibly the most touristy restaurant in Washington, D.C. Every time I pass by the location, it’s full of tour groups (mostly school ones), but there’s also the occasional twosome and threesome visitors as well. Travel like a local in Washington DC and steer yourself away from the craziness and satisfy your burger cravings at local joints like Good Stuff Eatery or Burger, Tap and Shake instead. The former has a “Prez Obama” burger on its menu while the latter offers one of the best deals in the city with their “Six Buck Chuck.”
If you want something more familiar, burger chains like Five Guys Burger and Fries and Shake Shack are also in the mix.
Looking for something healthier? Check out Sweetgreen, a fast food chain started by three Georgetown graduates where you can choose from a selection of garden salads and frozen yogurts, or Beefsteak, a Chipotle-style fast casual restaurant, part of beloved local chef Jose Andres’ restaurant group, that focuses on veggies. Visitors with a weakness for sweets ought to try cupcakes from either Baked and Wired or Georgetown Cupcakes and mini pies from Pie Sisters. All three businesses started here in Washington, D.C.
Planning a trip to Washington, D.C.? Visit DC Cool for a complete listing of local events and suggestions on affordable places to stay.