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About Washington

Washington, D.C., is the capital city of the United States of America. "D.C." is an abbreviation for the District of Columbia, the federal district coextensive with the city of Washington. The city is named after George Washington, military leader of the American Revolution and the first President of the United States. Columbia in this context is an early poetic name for the United States of America, a reference to Christopher Columbus, an early European explorer of the Americas.

Destination Guides>North America>USA>Capital Region>Washington DC

Skyline of Washington, D.C.

The city is commonly referred to as Washington, The District, or simply D.C. In the 19th century, it was called the Federal City or Washington City.

The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in the District. It also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other national and international institutions including labor unions and professional associations. Washington is the frequent location of political demonstrations and protests, large and small, particularly on the National Mall. Furthermore, Washington is a popular destination for tourists, the site of numerous national landmarks and monuments. It is a major American cultural center, with a number of important and free museums including the world's largest museum complex Smithsonian Institution, galleries, universities, cathedrals, performing arts centers and institutions, and native music scenes.

The District of Columbia and the city of Washington are governed by a single municipal government, and for most practical purposes, are considered to be the same entity. This has not always been the case. Until 1871, when Georgetown ceased to be a separate city, there were multiple jurisdictions within the District.[3] Although there is a municipal government and a mayor, Congress has the supreme authority over the city and district, which results in citizens having less self-governance than residents of the states. The District has a non-voting at large Congressional representative. In FY2004, federal tax collections were $16.9 billion[4] while federal spending in the District was $37.6 billion.[5]

The population of the District of Columbia is about 581,530 persons.[1] The Washington Metropolitan Area is the eighth largest in the United States with more than five million residents, and the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area has a population exceeding eight million. If Washington, D.C., were a state, it would rank last in area behind Rhode Island, 50th in population ahead of Wyoming, first in population density, and 35th in gross state product.

21st century

Night view of The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and US Capitol, 2007
Night view of The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and US Capitol, 2007

At 9:37AM On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 a Boeing 757 was hijacked and deliberately crashed into the Pentagon, just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, causing a partial collapse of one side of the building. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah told American officials while under interrogation that the White House was the intended target,[15] while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh have said that the United States Capitol Building was the intended target[16] of the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.

On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball officially relocated the Montreal Expos to Washington for the 2005 season, despite opposition from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. The new team was christened the Washington Nationals. Controversy between the city council and MLB threatened to scuttle the agreement until December 21, 2004 when a plan for a new stadium in Southeast D.C. was finalized. The Nationals will play at R.F.K. Stadium until the new stadium is ready on the Anacostia River waterfront in 2008.[17]

Additionally, the city has experienced tremendous growth in the areas of Massachusetts Avenue, NoMa (North of Massachusetts), the Southwest Waterfront, the Shaw/U Street Corridor and H Street, with tens of thousands of condos, apartments and retail shops opening. This growth has been dubbed gentrification by many, as the areas experiencing growth had been blighted for many years prior.


Washington is in the northern periphery of the humid subtropical climate zone. Its climate is typical of the Mid-Atlantic U.S., with four distinct seasons. Summer tends to be hot and humid with daily high temperatures in July and August averaging in the high 80s to low 90s (in F; about 30 to 33C). The combination of heat and humidity makes thunderstorms very frequent in the summer, some of which occasionally produce tornadoes in the area. The combination of heat and humidity can also be reminiscent of a true tropical climate. Spring and fall are mild with high temperatures in April and October averaging in the high 60s to low 70s (about 20C). Winter brings sustained cool temperatures and occasional heavy snowfall; light snowfall is common. Average highs tend to be in the low 40s (6 to 8C) and lows in the mid 20s (-5 to -2C) from mid-December to mid-February. While tropical cyclones (or their remnants) occasionally track through the area in late summer and early fall, they have often weakened by the time they reach Washington partly because of the city's inland location. Flooding of the Potomac River, howevercaused by a combination of high tide, storm surge, and storm runoffhas been known to cause extensive property damage in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.[18][19] Spring is generally the most favorable time of year, with low humidity, mild temperatures and blooming foliage. This period generally lasts from late March until mid May. Temperatures of the Dulles Airport area and suburbs to the west and south are on average 6 to 7 F (3 C) cooler than Washington the year-round.

The average annual snowfall is 15inches (381mm) and the average high temperature in January is 41F (5C); the average low for January is 27F (-3C). The highest recorded temperature was 106F (41C) on July 20, 1930 and August 6, 1918 and the lowest recorded temperature was -15F (-26C) on February 11, 1899.[20]

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Rec High F757989939710010410499908479
Norm High F41.445.55565.974.682.887.485.978.967.756.545.9
Norm Low F21.924.131.840.249.9596462.855.642.333.826
Rec Low F-18-14-1172836413830159-4
Precip (in)3.052.773.553.
Source: Historical Washington Weather Data


Washington is home to numerous national landmarks and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The National Mall is a large, open park area in the center of the city featuring many monuments to American leaders; it also serves to connect the White House and the United States Capitol buildings. Located prominently in the center of the Mall is the Washington Monument. Other notable points of interest near the Mall include the Jefferson Memorial (see right), Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, District of Columbia War Memorial, Albert Einstein Memorial, and United States Navy Memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial at dusk
The Jefferson Memorial at dusk
Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle
National Museum of the American Indian
National Museum of the American Indian
Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery
Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery

The world famous Smithsonian Institution is located in the District. The Smithsonian today is a collection of free museums that includes the Anacostia Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery and National Zoo.

There are many art museums in D.C., in addition to those that are part of the Smithsonian, including the free National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art and Phillips Collection.

The Library of Congress and the National Archives house thousands of documents covering every period in American history. Some of the more notable documents in the National Archives include the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The District of Columbia operates its own public library system with 27 branches throughout the city. The main branch which occupies a multi-story glass and steel-framed building at the intersection of 9th and G Streets, N.W., designed by modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.[26] It has a large mural in its main hall depicting the civil rights leader.

Other points of interest in the District include Arena Stage, Chinatown, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Blair House, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Folger Shakespeare Library, Ford's Theatre, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, National Geographic Society, the Awakening at Hains Point, Old Post Office Building, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Franciscan Monastery, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Washington National Cathedral.

White House

Washington Monument

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