An insider’s guide to Washington, D.C.


The District of Columbia – it’s a city of history, culture and fabulous dining. There’s so much to do that a first-time visitor might not know where to start. For help, we turned to Ginny Carruthers, Alaska’s District of Columbia-based director of government affairs. She’s been with Alaska for 27 years, the past 10 of which have been in the District, and offers these insider tips to Washington D.C.

Why do you love this city?

The District is our nation’s capital; the seat of our government. I never tire of seeing the Capitol dome, the White House, and all of the spectacular monuments in between. During the school year I love to see the excitement of eighth-grade students visit Washington from all over the country.

The Washington, D.C. area boasts very diverse/ethnic restaurants; outstanding museums that for the most part are free of charge; a cultural center with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington, just a quick 30 minutes from D.C. and an absolute must. There is just so much to see and do in D.C. that is both fun and enlightening!

So what should I do if I’m visiting D.C. for the first time?

Take one of the city bus tours to get the lay of the land and a good historical overview from the tour guides. After that, buy a Metro Card (D.C.’s subway system) and visit the monuments yourself, including Arlington Cemetery (less than 10 minutes on the Metro from Reagan National Airport). Take the Metro to Eastern Market which is always bustling on Saturday and Sunday.

If you were taking a visitor out for dinner or drinks, where are a few places you might go?

Right now, the hot neighborhood in D.C. is called the 14th Street Corridor. You will find fabulous restaurants and bars in all price ranges, as well as a variety of ethnic food options, art galleries to explore and boutiques to browse. Le Diplomate, Ghibellina and Cork Wine Bar are some of my favorite restaurants.

In Penn Quarter, try Proof, Tosca, Central Michel Richard and SEI Restaurant.

Capitol Hill is popular at night, with good restaurants and bars.

Out-of-towners will especially enjoy POV, the W Hotel’s rooftop terrace bar that boasts spectacular views of the White House.

If you’re in the mood for something off the beaten path, don’t miss Ben’s Chili Bowl. It is known for its “half smokes” and has been visited by presidents, vice presidents and other dignitaries. Just this year, a branch location was opened at none other than Reagan National Airport in the pre-security area. Everyone should try Ben’s Chili Bowl.

What are your favorite museums/sights in D.C.?

D.C. is truly blessed with a group of museums under the Smithsonian umbrella. Admission to any Smithsonian museum is free, which is hard to find anywhere else in the country and they are all spectacular. I personally love the National Gallery of Art, but any of the museums is terrific.

Other museums worth seeing that may not be as well-known are:

  • The National Postal Museum, which is an interesting postal history that is well worth seeing;
  • The National Building Museum, which is really architecturally beautiful inside. Tickets run from $5-8; and
  • The International Spy Museum which is really becoming popular. Tickets run from $14.95-21.95, and children age 6 and under are free.
  • Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens, the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Its events and collections change almost every month. It hosts the most comprehensive collection of Russian art outside of Russia. The Gardens are beautiful and it is a must-see museum.
  • The O Street Mansion. I just learned about this museum not too long ago and it is hard to describe but definitely different – very eclectic. I don’t think it is mentioned in many tour guides of D.C. and is definitely an off-the-beaten path museum to see.

What’s the best outdoor activity in or around D.C.?

  • Walking or bicycling through Rock Creek Park in the heart of D.C., and
  • Hiking or bicycling the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Towpath.

Rock Creek Park is a must.

What’s the one thing you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting the area?

The monuments at night. They are spectacular and provide a different perspective than during the day. In particular, the Korean War Memorial is so much more eerie and breathtaking at night.

Alaska Airlines will soon add more flying to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, with a daily roundtrip flight from Seattle to Dulles International Airport beginning March 11. Alaska currently flies nonstop from Seattle to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Reagan National Airport. With the Dulles flight, travelers will enjoy six daily roundtrips between the West Coast and “The DMV” – The District, Maryland and Virgina. Book your flight today.

What are your favorite DC-area hangouts?

2 Comments on “An insider’s guide to Washington, D.C.

  1. One museum that is a fascinating mix of history, media and culture –>The Newseum, one of my favorite DC attractions.
    The most interesting government event to watch –>oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

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