Washington, D.C.

Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, North America

Founded: 1790; Incorporated: 1790
Location: Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, United States, North America
Motto: Justitia omnibus ("Justice for all")
Flower: American Beauty rose
Time Zone: 7 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: White, 32.2%; Black, 65.8%; Asian/Pacific Islander, 1.8%
Elevation: 7–128 m (25–420 ft) above sea level
Latitude and Longitude: 38°89'N, 77°03'W
Climate: Mild winters; hot, muggy summers with high humidity; pleasant fall and spring weather
Annual Mean Temperature: 12.2°C (54.0°F); January 2.0°C (35.6°F); July 25.9°C (78.7°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: 5 cm (2 in)
Average Annual Precipitation (total rainfall and melted snow): 99 cm (39 in)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Standard U.S.
Monetary Units: Standard U.S.
Telephone Area Codes: 202
Postal Codes: 20001–99; 20101–04; 20201–99; 20301–34; 20336; 20501–99

2. Getting There

Washington, D.C., is situated along the Potomac River, on the Atlantic coastal plain between the Chesapeake Bay and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is bordered by Maryland on three sides and by Virginia on the fourth.


Major interstate routes that access Washington, D.C., include Routes 540 and 50/301 from the east; Routes 7, 50, I-66, and 29/211 from the west; I-270 and I-295 from the north; and Routes 301 and 1 from the south. All other highways reach the city through the Beltway (I-459 and I-95). This heavily traveled and often congested 106-kilometer (66-mile) highway encircling Washington has led to the popular practice of describing events or trends in the capital as "inside the Beltway."

Bus and Railroad Service

With its terminal at First Street N.E. and L Street, Greyhound offers bus service to Washington from almost any point in the nation. Amtrak trains arrive in Washington daily from New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles (via Chicago). The capital's train depot, the historic and stately Union Station on Massachusetts Avenue, underwent an elaborate restoration in the 1980s and is the site of a three-level mall featuring a variety of shops and restaurants.


Three airports serve the Washington area—Washington Dulles International Airport, Washington National Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Washington National and Baltimore-Washington have recently been renovated, and Dulles airport is in the midst of a major long-term expansion project that will add an underground "people mover" system to transport passengers to and from terminals. All of the major domestic carriers and international carriers, including Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthanse, Swissair, and Virgin Atlantic, serve the Washington, D.C., airports. Both Delta Airlines and US Airways operate shuttle flights between Washington and New York City. Frequent weekday service is also available to Boston and Chicago.

Washington D.C. Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 567,000
Area: 159 sq km (61.4 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 32.2% white; 65.8% black; 1.8% Asian/Pacific Islander
Nicknames: The Capital; The Beltway; The City of Trees

Metropolitan Area

Population: 3,927,000
Description: The District of Columbia and surrounding communities
Area: 16,861 sq km (6,510 sq mi)
World population rank1: 61
Percentage of national population2: 1.4%
Average yearly growth rate: 1.3%
Ethnic composition: 68.1% white; 25.4% black; 6.2% Asian/Pacific Islander


  1. The Washington D.C. metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the United States' total population living in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.


All three of Washington's airports handle air freight, and the city has a shipping port on the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Most of its shipping is done, however, through ports in the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia, in the cities of Baltimore, Norfolk, and Alexandria.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Regional rail and bus service in the Washington area is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), created in 1967. Ridership in 1998–99 averaged 383,000 rail, 214,000 bus, and 156,000 combined rail-bus trips. The Metrorail commuter rail service operates on 149 kilometers (92.4) miles of rail line and has 78 stations. The bus system operates a fleet 1,314 buses, with 12,000 bus stops and 1,000 bus shelters.


Organized sightseeing tours of Washington are available on every conceivable mode of transportation—including bus, trolley, helicopter, boat, and even "duck" tours on amphibious vehicles—and including a variety of specific theme tours, such as historic houses and even a popular "Scandal Tour." Some tours include sights somewhat further afield, such as Mount Vernon, Alexandria, and Arlington National Cemetery. A number of boat companies offer cruises of the Potomac River that include narrated tours of the famous sights visible on shore. In addition, many of the capital's historic sights can be toured on foot.

19. Tourism

Washington, D.C., is one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, attracting nearly 20 million visitors annually. The busiest tourist season runs from April (when the cherry blossoms bloom) to September, and April is the single most popular month to visit the capital.

In 1995 approximately 1,589,000 foreign travelers visited the city, ranking it eighth nationally in this category.

22. For Further Study


District of Columbia. [Online] Available http://www.dc.thelinks.com/ (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington DC City Pages. [Online] Available http://www.dcpages.com/ (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington DC Home Page. [Online] Available http://www.ci.washington.dc.us (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington Web. [Online] Available http://wwwwashweb.net/(accessed October 14, 1999).

Government Offices

Mayor's Office
441 4th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 727-2980

Washington City Council
441 4th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 724-8000

Washington Economic Development Dept.
441 4th St. NW, Rm. 1140 N
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 727-6365

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Washington Convention Center
900 9th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 789-1600

Washington D.C. Convention &
Visitors Association
1212 New York Ave. NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 789-7000


Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20071

Washington Times
3600 New York Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002


Abbott, Carl. Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., from Tidewater Town to Global Metropolis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Alsop, Stewart. The Center: People and Power in Political Washington. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Bernstein, Carl, and Bob Woodward. All the President's Men. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974.

Brinkley, David. Washington Goes to War. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1988.

Butler, J. George. Simpler Times: Stories of Early Twentieth Century City Life. Arlington, VA: Vandamere Press, 1997.

Caroli, Betty Boyd. Inside the White House: America's Most Famous Home. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1999.

Cary, Francine Curro, ed . Urban Odyssey: A Multi-cultural History of Washington, DC. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Cutler, David. Literary Washington: A Complete Guide to the Literary Life in the Nation's Capital. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1992.

Evelyn, Douglas E., and Paul A. Dickson. On This Spot:Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C. Washington, DC: Farragut Pub. Co, 1992.

Fitzpatrick, Sandra, and Maria R. Goodwin. The Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999.

Graham, Katharine. Personal History. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Lewis, Roger K. Shaping the City. Washington, DC: AIA Press, 1987.

Seidenberg, Robert. Discover the Sidewalks of Washington, D.C. Photography by Kevin Vandiver and Joe Viesti. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.

Styron, William. The Confessions of Nat Turner. New York: Random House, 1967.