Take Advantage of Free Entertainment
With dozens of free museums, memorials, historic sites, concerts, cultural festivals and events, there’s always something fun going on. The Smithsonian museums, The National Gallery of Art, the national memorials, the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court offer free tours and special events throughout the year. The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage offers free performances nightly. During the summer months, there is an extensive line-up of free outdoor movies and concerts throughout the city.
Ditch Your Car and Use Public Transportation
Traffic is unpredictable throughout the region. Find an apartment near your new workplace or public transportation and avoid driving in weekday rush hour traffic (between 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.). Metrorail, Metrobus and the DC Circulator offer the easiest ways to get around the city. Beware that Metro is among the priciest rail lines in the nation, but it is clean and convenient. The city is very walkable and is also bike-friendly, with more than 40 miles of bike lanes and the extensive Capital Bikeshare program.
Learn About the D.C. Local Government
The District is not a state and its government structure is unique. The mayor, a 13- member city council, and the Advisory Neighborhood commissions all represent residents of the city. The city is divided into eight wards—areas that are established for political districting purposes. D.C. has no voting representatives in Congress. The federal government determines what tax dollars are allocated to support local issues such as healthcare, education, Social Security, environmental protection, crime control and public safety.
Get Outdoors and Enjoy the City’s Green Space
D.C. has more parks and green space than just about any city in the nation. Outdoor experiences such as hiking, biking, picnicking, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding and ice skating are great ways to get to know the city while doing something good for your physical and mental health. The largest parks are the National Mall, Rock Creek Park and East Potomac Park. The scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway connects many attractions and historic sites along the Potomac River.
While the local economy depends heavily on tourism, as a resident you can learn how to avoid some of the nuisances of crowds. The largest crowds flock to the city for the Cherry Blossom blooming period (typically early April, but exact dates are variable), Rolling Thunder (the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend) and the 4th of July fireworks display. Throughout the year, weekends are busy and weekdays are preferable for sightseeing. Crowds will be lighter early and late in the day. Walk or ride a bike and avoid driving or public transportation during peak travel times.
Join a Neighborhood Club or Activity Group
The best way to meet new people and make new friends is to get involved in local activities. If you like outdoor recreation, join a hiking, biking or kayaking club. If you are the creative type, take an art, music or drama class. Join a book club at the library or volunteer at your child’s school. D.C. is home to hundreds of nonprofit organizations that offer endless opportunities to volunteer and meet new people.
Want to find out how cost of living in D.C. stacks up against that of your current metro area? Try PayScale’s free Cost-of-Living Calculator.
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