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Washington monument at night in Washington, DC

13 Things to Know About Living in Washington, DC

Moving to Washington, DC? The Nation’s Capital is full of diverse job opportunities, top-notch museums, and fantastic options for nightlife and entertainment. Before you make the move, here are 13 things to know about living in Washington, DC!

Live in a Major Metropolitan City

Two Walk Up Homes in Georgetown, Washington, DC. Photo by Instagram user @artyomshmatko

Photo via @artyomshmatko

If you’re planning on moving to Washington, DC, it’s a good idea to prepare for a higher cost of living. DC’s cost of living is 51% greater than the national average, with higher costs on groceries, utilities, and housing—which is 135% above the U.S. average. However, with an average of $78,000 per year, salaries in the nation’s capital are also higher—and will likely continue to rise. Plus, living in the DC area is still more affordable than living in other major metropolitan areas in the U.S., like New York City or San Francisco.

There Are Plenty of Job Opportunities

One reason why so many people decide to call Washington, DC home is due to the city hosting an incredible range of job opportunities. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise the federal government is one of the area’s biggest job providers. However, there are many other options for employment in Washington, DC across several industries, including healthcare, technology, and media. Some of the major employers headquartered in DC and the surrounding area include media big-names NPR and The Washington Post, as well as Lockheed Martin, Capital One, Marriott International, and more.

Receive a High-Quality Education in DC

With 19 colleges and universities in DC, students and young professionals can have an amazing education experience. Major in political science and government, international relations, finance, or economics at one of the top 25 universities in the U.S., Georgetown University. Want to study in the heart of Downtown DC? Apply to George Washington University, a leading research institution ideal for those looking for internships and job opportunities in the DC area. Earn your degree from one of the best HBCUs in the U.S., Howard University. Notable alums from Howard include Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison. Continue your education with Washington College of Law—especially if you’re wanting to work at The Hill—a well-regarded college at American University.

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Public Transportation Is Everywhere

Image of Washington DC public transportation, the DC Circulator. Photo by Instagram user @shadowly_grant

Photo via @shadowly_grant

Although highly walkable, individuals living in Washington, DC often take advantage of the region’s impressive public transportation network. Hop on multiple rail lines and buses to travel throughout DC with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Or, take the DC Circulator public bus system to commute around Washington, DC. Take advantage of the DC Streetcar, which offers free trips from Union Station to Oklahoma Avenue, along H Street NE and Benning Road. Want to avoid rush hour? Go biking in Washington, DC! The capital city has been taking major steps toward being more bike-friendly, and with over 150 miles of bike lanes and trails, DC is one of the best biking cities in the U.S. Ride your own or rent a bike for less than $8.00 at Capital Bikeshare.

Settle Down in Amazing Washington, DC Neighborhoods

Home in Georgetown, Washington DC with blue brick interior, brown wooden door, and greenery. Photo by Instagram user @annabmartin

Photo via @annabmartin

Washington, DC has several hidden gems and well-known neighborhoods perfect for those looking to buy a home in DC. Plus, with many Neo-Classical and Federal homes and buildings sprawled across DC, there’s a layer of elegance anywhere you go. Singles and young professionals can live close to work, trendy restaurants, and other must-attend events in areas like Capitol Hill. Want to live in a historic DC neighborhood? Georgetown is a popular neighborhood for families with quiet, cobble-stoned streets and great schools like The School Without Walls High School. For those looking to beat Washington, DC’s steep housing costs, consider a more affordable neighborhood like Foggy Bottom!

Get a Breath of Fresh Air

Despite Washington, DC being a densely-populated area, spring and summers in DC are warm with amazing spots to get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. In fact, Washington DC has the best park system in the country! Spend an afternoon appreciating rare and endangered plants and flowers from all over the world at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. Hike through the trails to see gorgeous foliage, or hop on horseback for a guided trail ride at Rock Creek Park. Take in views of the Potomac River and have a waterside picnic at Georgetown Waterfront Park. See cherry blossoms in bloom during the spring at the Tidal Basin. Bring out your inner athlete and play a game of golf, tennis, basketball, or soccer at Anacostia Park. Or hop in a canoe or kayak and paddle down the Potomac River at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

Show Off Your Team Spirit

Washington Nationals (MLB) player Alcides Escobar running on the bases. Photo via Instagram User @nationals

Photo via @nationals

Are you a sports fan? There’s no shortage of professional sports teams in Washington, DC to cheer on! Head to FedEx Field to watch the Washington Commanders (NFL) score touchdowns. Root for the Washington Nationals (MLB) at Nationals Park. Get tickets to watch the Washington Capitals (NHL) compete at Capital One Arena. If soccer is your sport, visit Audi Field to watch DC United (MLS) play. Watch the Washington Kastles (WTT) take on their tennis rivals at the Kastles Stadium at Union Market. As for collegiate sports, the Georgetown Hoyas have a successful Men’s Basketball team and Men’s and Women’s Rowing teams, among others!

Explore Museums for Every Interest

In a city rich with American history, you can expect to find plenty of fascinating DC museums to explore. The Smithsonian Institution has a number of museums and historical festivals around Washington, DC and offer free admission. See space artifacts up close, like the Apollo 11 Command Module, at the National Air and Space Museum. Visit the Hope Diamond, along with animal skeletons in the Bone Hall and a variety of crawling creatures in the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History. See important historical exhibits like Slavery and Freedom, Musical Crossroads, and more at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Browse through centuries of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other works of art at the National Gallery of Art. And if you haven’t had your fill of art, you can tour the presidential portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Or visit The International Spy Museum to see spy gadgets up close and learn about how secret information is turned into useful intelligence.

Visit National & Historic Landmarks in Washington, DC

There’s no better place to learn about the founding of the U.S. than Washington, DC! Head to The National Mall—known as “America’s Front Yard”—where you can see The White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Constitutional Gardens, and more. Other memorials located around the DC metro include the Arlington National Cemetery, where you can view the John F. Kennedy Gravesite and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you’re looking for indoor tours, rotating exhibitions, or if you want to conduct your own research, take advantage of free admission to the Library of Congress. Or see the Declaration of Independence and signatures of the founding fathers at The National Archives.

Celebrate Local Events & DC Festivals

Throughout the year, Washington, DC hosts exciting events and festivals where you can participate and get to know your community! In spring, head to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, where you can witness the trees in full bloom, watch the parade, or see kites fill the sky at the Blossom Kite Festival. Celebrate Independence Day complete with giant balloons, drill teams, and fireworks at the National Independence Day Parade. Experience the diversity of 17th Street’s restaurants, artists, nonprofits, dragon dancers, and more at the 17th Street Festival! See a variety of cultures represented through interdisciplinary art, performances, food, and scientific research at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Get tickets to Washington, DC’s longest-running film festival and see up to 60 films from around the world at Filmfest DC. Let your inner foodie out at the Giant National Capital Barbecue Festival, where you can see pitmasters compete to be crowned top dog, taste BBQ dishes from a number of vendors, and enjoy live music.

Eat Your Way Through DC

Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Anju restaurant in Washington DC. Photo via Instagram user @anjufrc

Photo via @anjufrc

Cuisine from all over the world is celebrated in Washington, DC, so you can always taste something new. Start the day at Nina May and try the House Smoked Maple Ham Eggs Benedict, or the Chef’s Choice, a seasonal tasting of unique brunch dishes. Head to The Hill and up fresh produce, cheese, baked goods, and more at the Eastern Market. Try traditional Belgian dishes like Kip & Krab Sigarrs and Hanger Steak Met Frites at Belga Cafe. Eat playful Mexican creations at Muchas Gracias like Ube Flautas, Chile Relleno de Tamal, and Grilled Sunfish Baja Tacos. Give Ethiopian food a try at Zenebech Restaurant and order Lentils Sambusa, Goden Tibs, or Veggie Ferfer. Make date night complete with contemporary Korean fare like Dolsot Bibim Bap and Kimchi Jjigae at Anju. Order from a sustainable menu featuring vegetable-based dishes and a seasonal tasting menu at Oyster Oyster.

Happy Hour in DC Is Essential

Pink and white frose drinks on the rooftop at Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden in Washington DC. Photo via Instagram user @takodadc

Photo via @takodadc

There are plenty of places around the metro to relax after a day’s work in Washington, DC! Head to the rooftop for half-priced appetizers like Boneless Wings and discounted cocktails on tap like the TAKODA Mule at TAKODA. Share a Mojito Monday Pitcher and half-priced pizza with coworkers at Al Dente. Experience “Golden Hour” and munch on bites like Whipped Feta alongside wines like Maria Gomes and Vino Rosato at Lulu’s Winegarden. Enjoy cocktails like Giggle Water and Jack Rose during Monday’s all-night happy hour at Bar Charley. Order an Eastern European Combo that comes with Vegetarian Sausage, Sauerkraut, and your choice of beer—like a Baltika 6 or an Obolon—at sPACYcLOUd Lounge. Or play a few games of pinball while sipping on discounted drinks and bar snacks like Crispy Tacos at Bar Elena.

DC’s Nightlife & Entertainment Is Vibrant

Guitar Player at the 930 Club in Washington, DC. Photo by Instagram user @930club

Photo via @930club

DC is home to a wide mix of restaurants, clubs, and more, providing plenty of opportunities for people to mix and mingle. Jam out to a slew of alternative music shows at Black Cat. Spend an evening at one of the top venues in the U.S. for everything from hometown rock to EDM at the 9:30 Club. See classic Shakespearean shows like The Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Visit the Howard Theatre for a night of live jazz. Hang out with friends and take part in Drag Bingo or karaoke at Nellie’s Sports Bar. Sip on seasonal craft cocktails over candlelight at The Gibson. If you’re after a dive-bar feel, affordable drinks, and live music, head to three-floor bar DC9. Or dance the night away while sipping on Latin-inspired cocktails at Cafe Citron.


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Pinterest graphic: Living in D.C.: 13 Things to Know

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.