By Simon Brandon
This capital city is all about the Capitol. The city where the US government has its seat works at double speed, but beyond the politics, residents benefit from buzzing neighbourhoods and world-renowned cultural attractions.
The District of Columbia squeezes a lot of diversity into its 180 sq km footprint, from the 18th- and 19th-century architecture of Georgetown, DC’s oldest neighbourhood, to historic U Street, once one of the hubs of African-American culture in the US. The latter’s roots can be seen today in its many jazz clubs; JoJo Restaurant & Bar is a local favourite.
Food truck heaven
Its demographic diversity coupled with an on-the-go, time-poor workforce has made Washington one of the best cities in the US for food trucks (mobile kitchens). Serving everything from modern Hawaiian cuisine to Korean tacos, DC’s estimated 240 food trucks can be found throughout the city centre; the south side of the National Mall is a popular spot. Hungry customers searching for a particular truck can check the Food Truck Fiesta website, which tracks truck locations in real time.
The concentration of political power in DC has created a healthy jobs market in associated sectors — last year recruitment site Indeed named the city as one of the top 10 in the US for jobseekers. The metropolitan area is also one of the country’s richest; 20 per cent of the workforce is in professional, management or scientific roles, and annual median household income is more than $95,000, according to the US Census Bureau.
The city is home to the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest complex of museums and galleries. Eleven of these border the National Mall, the mile-long strip of parkland that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. Locals — government shutdowns notwithstanding — could spend months working their way through these buildings dedicated to everything from American art to African American history and culture. The enormous National Air and Space Museum, which houses the Wright brothers’ Flyer and a mirror from the Hubble space telescope, is worth repeated visits on its own.
Washington might be small but is part of a far larger metropolitan area, which means plenty of choice for days out. The Virginian town of Alexandria lies by the Potomac river about 12km — or a few metro stops — south of central DC. It was rated one of the top five small cities in the US by Condé Nast Traveler magazine last year, and the cobbled streets and 18th-century terraces of its Old Town contrast with the capital’s bustle. The city of Baltimore, meanwhile, is about 40 minutes by train, and Philadelphia less than two hours away.
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