Travel Plans

Getting to D.C.
To get to D.C. by airplane, you have three choices for airports:

  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport - Used commonly for domestic travel, this airport is located about 5 miles from downtown D.C. in Crystal City, Virginia, and, in addition to taxis and shuttles, is accessible by the Metro transit system. Visit their Web site for more information.

  • Dulles International Airport - Twenty-five miles from downtown, Dulles is located in Loudon County, Virginia. This airport is primarily used for international flights. Taxis, shuttles, and buses are all available to take you to and from Dulles and your destination. Check out this Web page for more information.

  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport - Situated 28 miles north of D.C. (just south of Baltimore), this airport is accessible via Amtrak as well as MARC (Maryland Rail Commuter); trains run between BWI and D.C.'s Union Station (which, is also a Metro stop). Go to this Web site for more information.

If you plan to drive yourself into the city, you can use a Web site like MapQuest to plot your driving directions. AAA, the official tourism site of D.C., is great for general travel information. To book train tickets, check out the Washington Amtrak Station Web page. And, for bus travel, visit Greyhound.com .

Now that you know how to get there, let's take a look at how to get around the District.

Getting Around D.C.
It is surprisingly easy to find your way around D.C. The District is laid out as a square, with the corners oriented directly north, south, east, and west. Remember, though, the western portion of the city was returned to Virginia in 1846 and is no longer a part of the District. The city is divided into four quadrants-Northeast (NE), Northwest (NW), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). Located exactly at the center of this quadrant is the Capitol. Streets are organized in this manner:

  • The streets that divide the four quadrants are North Capitol, East Capitol, South Capitol, and the National Mall.
  • Streets running north-south are numbered.
  • Streets running east-west are lettered, starting with A (but there is no J, X, Y, or Z; and the farther out you go, streets continue with two- and three-syllable names in alphabetical order).
  • Broad avenues situated diagonally (an element of L'Enfant's design) are named for the states.
Despite the logic in design, there are inconsistencies -- so be sure to consult a map before setting off.

Because D.C. is pretty compact, one of the best ways to get around is by foot. Walking around the Washington area allows you to take in the beautiful surroundings at a pleasant pace. Also, it beats driving through difficult traffic circles and fighting for limited parking spaces. A good alternative to walking, you might consider taking the Metro. This modern bus and subway system is fast, reliable, reasonably priced, and safe with conveniently located stops and locations near places you're likely to visit while touring the capital. Check out the Ride Guide for even more information.


Photo courtesy Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery - Government issued headstones in Section 60. Points of interest located outside D.C., such as the Arlington National Cemetery, are accessible via the Metro Transit System.