The organized folks who laid out Washington, D.C., made it an easy place for visitors to navigate. Just remember that the U.S. Capitol building lies in the centre of four quadrants—northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast. Numbered streets run north to south, and lettered streets run east to west. Looking for a short cut? Take one of the avenues named after states, such as the famous Pennsylvania Avenue—they run diagonally.
Now that you're oriented, it's time to set priorities. This capital city is full of fascinating attractions, particularly if you're a history buff or political junkie.
First, a word about the Smithsonian Institution. Many people think it's one big museum, but it actually includes more than a dozen museums scattered throughout Washington (and two in New York City), along with a zoo. Drop by the Smithsonian Information Center to find out which museums best reflect your interests.
Animal lovers head to the National Museum of Natural History or the National Zoo, while science and technology types ogle the Wright brothers' plane and the Apollo 11 command module at the National Air and Space Museum. Art lovers, meanwhile, are spoiled for choice, with museums dedicated to American, Asian, African and contemporary art, among others.
There are also many smaller Washington museums not affiliated with the Smithsonian, ranging from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to the National Children's Museum and the International Spy Museum.
But wonderful as the museums are, there is much more to Washington. Walk, shop, dine and people-watch in lively neighbourhoods like Georgetown and Adams Morgan. Cycle through manicured parks. Catch a pro sports game—the Washington Wizards (basketball), Capitals (hockey) and Nationals (baseball) all play here, along with DC United (soccer). Take in a play, concert or dance performance at the Kennedy Center. You can even tour the White House, if you make advance arrangements through your member of Congress.