10 things D.C. locals wish you knew before visiting
Tourists, their hotspots and souvenirs get a bad rap. I personally don't think there is anything wrong with being a tourist. But it is important to be a respectful tourist, and with these 10 tips you'll be navigating D.C. without annoying anyone.
1. Walk on the left, stand on the right
Chances are, if you're coming to D.C., you're taking the metro. And the absolute number one rule of the metro is when on escalators, you walk/run on the left and stand on the right. You will get yelled at, glared at or worse, shoved, by someone in a hurry. I know you're on vacation, but we're on our way to work. Walk on left, stand on right. Got it? Good.
2. Reflecting and swimming are different
This is going to sound like common sense, and I really hope it does, but the reflecting pool and World War II fountain are not public swimming pools. I know D.C. was built on a swamp and your kids are hot. Take them back to the hotel or pour a water bottle on them, don't let them get in the water. A) It's a monument and a moment to be serious and B) that water is gross.
3. Parking zones
If you decide to visit a friend and street park, for your sake and mine, make sure you get a visitor's parking pass from the police station. Your local friend will know how to do this for you. There are specific zones and days you can park on different streets. It's a real piece of work, honestly just metro. But if you're going to street park, you might as well do it correctly. (And maybe brush up on your parallel parking skills when you're not on a narrow city street with people honking at you).
4. The Washington Monument is not for profane pictures
Yes, I get it. The Washington Monument can look a little ... phallic. However, laying down on the lawn and pretending to be heavily endowed? Don't be that guy. Realistically, pretending to lean on it or touch the top of it isn't much better, but at least it's not gross.
5. Walk two abreast, maximum
Are you here with your entire family for a great reunion? Great, welcome! Do not walk as a massive herd on our narrow sidewalks. Stay to the right side, walking two abreast and single file during rush hour. You're going to save yourself some sharp elbows of angry commuters.
6. Download a metro map ahead of time
Nobody wants to help you find the metro or tell you which way is which. Get a (free) useful app that shows you the map and train times. I've lived here a year and I still have a DC Rider app on my phone. It just makes everyone like you more when they don't have to talk to you.
7. Buy something from D.C. that doesn't say D.C. on it
Do you know what is never going to happen? Someone looking at your I <3 DC mug and telling you how unique it is. They will ask about your stylish mug made by D.C. artisans is. Check out Salt and Sundry, Glen's Garden Market and Proper Topper for some uniquely D.C. finds.
8. There is more to D.C. than the National Mall
It is hard to fit all of the Smithsonian museums and national monuments into one trip. However, that's just such a tiny spot in D.C. Challenge yourself and branch out to see how the locals live. Try some fun bar games or take in a Nationals Game and take a break from reading museum placards.
9. Arlington is NOT D.C.
Don't brag about visiting D.C. while actually visiting at a mall in Northern Virginia. It's a point of pride for true locals. There is no shame in staying out of the city, it's a lot cheaper, there's more parking—but just call it like it is, which is not D.C.
10. There's more places to see the blossoms
Insider secret for you: there are more places than the tidal basin to see the famed Cherry Blossoms. Want to beat the crowds and enjoy some of the tranquility these blossoms were supposed to inspire? Head over to the National Arboretum for a private show of these beautiful trees.
Kirsten Ballard has lived in D.C. for the past two years, she works at a newspaper association and spends her weekends running and eating her way through the city.