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Washington, D.C.

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Washington, D.C., officially the District of Columbia (also known as D.C.; Washington; the Nation's Capital; the District; and, historically, the Federal City) is the capital city and administrative district of the United States of America. Washington, D.C. is part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, which also includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It should not be confused with the U.S. state of Washington, located in the Pacific Northwest.

The District of Columbia is a federal district as specified by the United States Constitution with limited—and sometimes contentious—local rule. Similar to the position of the 13 American colonies under the British Parliament, the District is ruled "in all cases whatsoever" by the U.S. Congress, while nevertheless going unrepresented in that body. (See and compare the Declaratory Act of 1766 by the British Parliament and the "District Clause" – Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 – of the American Constitution; see also the American Declaration of Independence, and "The American Crisis, Number 1," December 23, 1776, by Thomas Paine). The land was taken from both the states of Virginia and Maryland, though only the Maryland portion remains part of the district. The population of the District of Columbia, as of 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, is 563,384. If Washington, D.C. were considered as a state, it would rank last in area behind Rhode Island, and 50th in population ahead of only Wyoming.

The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in Washington, D.C., as well as the headquarters of most federal agencies. Washington also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States, among other international (and national) institutions. All of this has made Washington the frequent focal point of massive political demonstrations and protests, particularly on the National Mall. Washington is also the site of numerous national landmarks, museums, and sports teams, and is a popular destination for tourists.

The official bird of Washington DC is the wood thrush. The official motto is Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All).

Washington, District of Columbia
City flag City seal
City motto: Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)
Founded 16 July1790
County Independent city
Mayor Anthony Williams (Dem)
 - Total
 - Water

1,214.4 km² (468.9 mi²)
428.8 km² (165.6 mi²) 35.31%
 - City (2003)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

Time zone Eastern: UTC-5
39°17' N
76°36' W


"Washington, D.C." is the most common way to refer to the District throughout the rest of the United States and the world. Residents of Washington and its surrounding suburbs refer to the city simply as the District or D.C., to contrast its greater metropolitan area.

"Washington" or "Washington, D.C."' is also used as a metonym for the federal government. Politicians and candidates for office sometimes use these terms pejoratively to convey a sense of solidarity with their constituents by distancing themselves from the negative image of an out-of-touch centralized government. (The Washington Post criticized this common political tactic in a 2001 editorial.)

Law and government

Local government

On a local level, the city is run by an elected mayor (currently Anthony A. Williams) and the D.C. Council. District schools are administered by a school board that has both elected and appointed members. The 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) provide the most direct access for residents to their local government. However, Congress has plenary power over the district. It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally, and has often done so. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution does not apply to the District of Columbia.

DC residents pay all federal taxes, such as income tax, as well as local taxes. The mayor and council adopt a budget of local money with Congress reserving the right to make any changes. Because so much of the valuable property in the district is federally owned and hence exempt from local property taxes, the city is frequently cash-strapped; public services in the city suffer as a result.

Representation in federal government

License plate reading "Washington, D.C." at the top and "Taxation Without Representation" at the bottom.
License plate reading "Washington, D.C." at the top and "Taxation Without Representation" at the bottom.

According to the U.S. Constitution, Washington, D.C. is under the direct jurisdiction of Congress. Congress has delegated various amounts of this authority to local government. Still, D.C. residents lack some representation that is enjoyed by residents of U.S. states.

Residents of the District vote for the President but do not have voting representation in Congress. Citizens of Washington are represented in the House of Representatives by Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC At-Large), a non-voting delegate who sits on committees and participates in debate but cannot vote. DC does not have representation in the Senate. Citizens of Washington, DC are thus unique in the world, as citizens of the capital city of every other country have the same representation rights as other citizens. Attempts to change this situation, including the proposed District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, have been unsuccessful.

The history of DC's relationship with the federal government, as well as the arguments for and against increased representation, are covered in the article District of Columbia voting rights.


See main article History of Washington, DC.

 map of Washington, D.C.
1888 German map of Washington, D.C.

A Southern site for the capital was agreed at a sit-down dinner between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. It was initially 100 mi² (260 km²). The actual site of the District of Columbia on the Potomac River was chosen by President Washington. Washington may have chosen the site for its natural scenery, in the belief that the Potomac had the potential to be a great navigable waterway, or even in the hope of increasing the value of his land holdings in the area.

On August 24, 1814, British forces burnt the capital during the most notable destructive raid of the War of 1812. President James Madison was forced to flee to Virginia and American morale was reduced to an all-time low. British forces burned public buildings including the Capitol, the Arsenal, the Navy Yard, Treasury building, War office, and the bridge across the Potomac. The Presidential Mansion was also gutted, and the white paint subsequently used to disguise the blackened exterior walls led it to become known as the White House.

Washington remained a small city of a few thousand residents, virtually deserted during the torrid summertime, until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861. President Abraham Lincoln created the Army of the Potomac to defend the federal capital, and thousands of soldiers came to the area. The significant expansion of the federal government to administer the war—and its legacies, such as veterans' pensions—led to notable growth in the city's population. On April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the war, Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth during the play Our American Cousin.

In the 1870s, Washington was governed by Alexander Shepherd . A notorious boss, Shepherd gained a reputation for extravagance, resulting in Congress abolishing his office in favor of direct rule. Congressional governance of the District would continue for a century.

The Washington Monument, after four decades of construction, finally opened in 1888. Plans were laid to further develop the monumental aspects of the city, with work contributed by such noted figures as Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham. However, development of the Lincoln Memorial and other structures on the National Mall did not get underway until the early 20th century.

Aerial photo of Washington, DC (looking WSW, roughly along the National Mall)
Aerial photo of Washington, DC (looking WSW, roughly along the National Mall)

The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29, 1961 allowing residents of Washington, DC to vote for president and have their votes count in the Electoral College the same as the least populous state, which currently has three electoral votes.

The first 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers) of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976.

Walter Washington became the first elected mayor of the District in 1974, but was defeated in the Democratic primaries in 1978 by Marion Barry. During his third term, Barry was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting on January 18, 1990. He was acquitted of felony charges, but convicted on one misdemeanor count of cocaine possession for which he served a six-month jail term. On January 2, 1991 Sharon Pratt Kelly (elected as Sharon Pratt Dixon but married later that year) was sworn in as mayor, becoming the first black woman to lead a city of that size and importance in the United States. But Barry defeated her in the 1994 primary and was once again elected mayor for his fourth term, during which the city nearly became insolvent and was forced to give up some home rule to a Congressionally appointed financial control board.

The Washington area was the target of at least one of the four hijacked planes in the September 11, 2001 attacks. One plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington County, killing 125 people in addition to the 64 aboard the plane, while another that was downed in a field in Pennsylvania is believed by many to have been intended to hit either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

Shortly after September 11, Washington was once more subject to fear from an anthrax attack, when what may have been a domestic terrorist sent anthrax-contaminated mail to numerous members of Congress. Thirty-one staff members were infected, and two U.S. Postal Service employees at a contaminated mail sorting facility at Brentwood, Washington, DC, later died of pulmonary anthrax.

During three weeks of October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed ten people and wounded three others in the region with a high-powered rifle in what became known as the Beltway Sniper attacks. In March 2004, Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo to life imprisonment for the attacks by a Virginia court.

In November 2003, the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of the White House, and in February 2004, in the mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. As with the earlier anthrax attacks, no arrests have been made.

Partly in response to these events from the past few years, the Washington area has taken many steps to increase security. Screening devices for biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers are now much more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings, local authorities have decided to test explosives detectors on the vulnerable Washington Metro subway system. False alarms due to suspicious chemical or powder substances or suspected explosives have led to fairly frequent evacuations of buildings, Metro stations, and local post offices. Vehicle inspections at several roadblocks set up around the U.S. Capitol building were introduced in July 2004, but were removed in November 2004.


Washington is located at (the coordinates of the Zero Milestone, on The Ellipse).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 177.0 km² (68.3 mi²). 159.0 km² (61.4 mi²) of it is land and 18.0 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 10.16% water.

Washington is surrounded by the states of Virginia (on its southwest side, and a small part of its northwest one) and Maryland (on its southeast and northeast sides, and most of its northwest one); it interrupts those states' common border, which is the Potomac River both upstream and downstream from the District. The city contains the historic federal city, the territory of which was formerly part of those two adjacent states before they respectively ceded it for the national capital. The land ceded from Virginia was returned by Congress in 1846, so what remains of the modern District was all once part of Maryland.

Physical geography

The physical geography of the District of Columbia is very similar to the physical geography of much of Maryland. The District has three natural flowing bodies of water: the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, and Rock Creek. Both Anacostia River and Rock Creek are tributaries of the Potomac. There are also three man-made reservoirs: Dalecarlia Reservoir , which crosses over the northwest border of the District from Maryland, McMillan Reservoir near Howard University, and Georgetown Reservoir upstream of Georgetown.

The highest point in the District of Columbia is 410 feet (125 m) above sea level at Tenleytown. The lowest point is 1 foot, which occurs at least as far up the Potomac River as 0.35 miles (0.57 km) upstream from the terminus of Rock Creek.

City layout

Washington, DC, was created to serve as the national capital from its inception. The original street layout was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant at the time of the city's founding. L'Enfant based his design on Paris, which incorporated a basic grid system, inter-cut with broad diagonal avenues radiating from circles and squares; according to a popular urban legend, the diagonal avenues also served as sightlines for the defense of the city in the event of an invasion.

At the center of the design, is the United States Capitol Building, from which four quadrants radiate along the four compass directions: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. The quadrants are separated by North Capitol Street, South Capitol Street and East Capitol Street, with the centerline of the National Mall taking the place of what would be western demarcation line. Two avenues, Constitution and Independence, line the sides of the Mall.

Streets that are oriented north/south are designated by numbers and count upwards from east to west in Northwest and Southwest (1st St NW, 2nd St NW, 3rd St NW, etc.); these streets repeat in Northeast and Southeast, counting upwards from west to the east.

Streets that are oriented East/West utilize a single letter of the alphabet in the central city. Thus, east-to-west lettered streets (A St NW, B St NW, etc.) "count" upwards from south to north in NW and NE, and likewise repeat in the opposite direction in SW and SE. Street numbers count upwards traveling outward from the dividing lines of the quadrants. There is no J Street in any quadrant; there are several rumors for the reason of this, including one that L'Enfant simply disliked the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay. However, the most reasonable answer is that J and I look too much alike and could easily have been confused in the handwriting of the 18th century. (In a nod to this, the food court at The George Washington University is named J Street). North of the mall, the road that would be B street is known as Constitution, South of the mall the second east-west street is called Independence.

Because both the numbers and the letters repeat for each quadrant, each street name is appended by the quadrant in which it is located (NE, NW, SE and SW). Use of these directional designations is required in giving directions and in the use of delivering mail.

Once single letters are exhausted as east-west street names the "alphabet" system continues anew with two syllable names beginning the first letter of the alphabet; streets in this set are commonly referred to as being in the "second alphabet" (for example, Calvert St. NW would be the third street of this second alphabet). In Northwest and Northeast DC, which are the largest quadrants, a "third alphabet" is started using three syllable words, i.e. Brandywine St NW. Diagonal avenues, generally named for states, are exempt from this syllabic rule, as are streets designated as "Place" or "Way" and streets laid out after the alpha-name was established for that area (For example, between E and F Streets in Southeast, you'll find Duddington Place).

The city's layout is best understood in terms of the Cartesian coordinate system. While the system may appear complex, once learned, it allows one to pinpoint not only where one is, but also where and how far one may need to travel. For example, if one needed to find 633 A Street SE, the address informs that the address is southeast of the Capitol, with A Street one block south of East Capitol Street, and that the location on that street is between 6th Street and 7th Streets SE. Another more familiar example would be the White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is located at 16th Street NW (Lafayette Square) and Pennslvania Avenue NW. This works both ways; an address at 514 19th St NW would be on 19th St west of the Capitol, and since E is the fifth letter of the alphabet, the 514 address would be between E and F Streets NW.

"I," "Q," and "U" streets properly utilize a single letter of the alphabet for their names. "Eye Street," "Que Street," and "You Street" have also appeared in some historical and comptemporary instances, however their use is informal.

Low Skyline

To preserve the grandeur of the National Mall, the White House, the Capitol, and various other key locations, the entire city is subject to strict height limits. This limitation was placed in effect just prior to the 20th century when government officials realized that structural steel "skyscrapers" could overwhelm the city. Thus, Washington has a relatively modest skyline in comparison to the majority of American cities. However the District is ringed by high-rise buildings in many nearby suburbs like Arlington, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland.


The District of Columbia is divided into eight wards and 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) within these wards. The total number of named neighborhoods is 127.

DC wards map (political)
DC wards map (political)


The choice of the exact site on the Potomac River was left to the first president, George Washington. He chose a 10-mile-(16 km)-square area that included the existing villages of Georgetown and Alexandria, and another called Hamburg in the Foggy Bottom area. A new city, eventually named Washington City, was laid out in undeveloped area within the district. The remainder of the territory was designated Washington County (on the Maryland side of the Potomac) and Alexandria County (on the Virginia side).

The land from the State of Virginia was eventually returned to the state in 1846. This land in Virginia makes up the modern area of Arlington County and the old part of Alexandria, Virginia, both which are considered suburbs of Washington. In fact, the Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon complex are both located in Arlington but are largely tied to the federal government in Washington. Between 1790 and 1846, Alexandria was referred to as "Alexandria, D.C."

The Georgetown neighborhood was originally part of Maryland and was the only significant population in the area that would become the District of Columbia. Georgetown became part of the District in 1790 when the Federal City was first created, but Georgetown remained an independent city, referred to as "Georgetown, D.C.", until 1871, when it was merged with Washington City and Washington County, completing the process of Washington and the District of Columbia occupying the same geographic borders.

The monumental core of the city consists of the National Mall and many key federal buildings, monuments, and museums, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the National Air and Space Museum. Its layout is based on that proposed by the McMillan Commission report in 1901.


At the peak of the violent crime wave, in the early 1990s, Washington DC was known as the murder capital. The number of homicides peaked in 1991, with 482 in that year. Despite the high rate of crime, violence was not evenly distributed across the city, but rather was primarily concentrated in specific neighborhoods, located east of Rock Creek Park. These areas included Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Logan Circle, Shaw, Le Droit Park and the East End of Downtown (Chinatown), all located to the north of the National Mall. As recently as 2001, services such as cat sitters would not go east of 16th Street, into these neighborhoods due to the prevalence of violent crime. High rates of crime have also plagued substantial portions of Northeast Washington, including the Trinidad neighborhood, as well as most of the neighborhoods located east of the Anacostia River, in Southeast Washington.

The tide has since turned as gentrification is sweeping eastward across the District and has transformed the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, and the East End of Downtown (Chinatown). In the past ten years, the number of homicides has been halved, from 399 in 1994 to 198 in 2004. The gentrification of these neighborhoods was, in part, spurred by the extension of Metrorail's Green Line to the Shaw, U Street, Columbia Heights, and Petworth neighborhoods, during the late 1990s. The revitalization efforts began, first in the Adams Morgan and Logan Circle areas, and more recently in Columbia Heights. In 2005, gentrification is now beginning to reach Shaw, Le Droit Park, Petworth, Bloomingdale, Eckington, as well as Trinidad. The transformation of the Downtown/Chinatown areas into clean, safe areas was aided by the construction of the MCI Center, which opened in 1997, and the new Washington Convention Center that opened in 2004 at Mount Vernon Square . As a result of the revitalization efforts, the home values in these neighborhoods have skyrocketed, while the violent crime rates have plummeted.

Despite this gentrification, the Sursum Corda public housing project, located along North Capitol Street between K and M Streets, bordering the Downtown/Chinatown and Le Droit Park neighborhoods, has remained a magnet for drug dealers and crime. However, since a 14-year girl was murdered here in the beginning of 2004, the DC government has begun to tackle this hotspot. A plan is in the works to demolish the public housing and replace it with mixed-income housing. Helping to spur development in this area north of Union Station, is the New York Avenue metrorail station that opened in November 2004, and related economic development/construction projects.

It is advisable for visitors to Washington to acquaint themselves with the neighborhoods of the city and plan their visits accordingly, the same care that one would pay when visiting any major city is recommended. Tourist advice ("conventional wisdom") generally recommends that visitors do not venture east of the U.S. Capitol. An exception to that is the Historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, located directly to the east of the U.S. Capitol Building. There are many attractions in the Eastern half of the city, including the historic Eastern Market (the largest continually operated public market in the city) and the National Arboretum on New York Avenue. The visitor will also find countless historic residential neighborhoods in the Eastern half of the city. The "common" tourist advise to remain west of the U.S. Capitol is seen by some locals as racially motivated, since most of the District's white residents live west of the U.S. Capitol and most of the property related crime also occurs West of the U.S. Capitol. As for any major city, it is nonetheless advisable to use common sense and not be out alone at late hours of the night, etc.

An added impact of this wave of gentrification is that a substantial amount of violent crime has spilled across the District's eastern boundaries into Prince George's County, Maryland. In 2004, Prince George's County experienced 148 homicides, up from 128 in 2003. As of mid-April 2005, the suburban county had already had 44 homicides for the year. That level of violence contrasts with the other major counties surrounding Washington, including Montgomery County, Maryland which had 17 homicides for 2004, and Fairfax County, Virginia, with 10 homicides in 2004.

Like many other large cities, Washington DC has enacted a number of strict gun control laws. Handguns have been completely outlawed (unless registered as of February 5, 1977), carrying guns (concealed or not) is prohibited, and all guns and ammunition must be registered [1]. Critics, citing numerous statistics, have questioned the efficacy of these restrictions. Due to its prominence both as the national capital and as the so-called "murder capital" of the US (although it does not currently hold that dubious honor), Washington has become something of a popular example [2] in the wider debate on gun control. For a fuller perspective, see gun control.


As of the census of 2000, there are 572,059 people, 248,338 households, and 114,235 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,597.3/km² (9,316.4/mi²). There are 274,845 housing units at an average density of 1,728.3/km² (4,476.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 32.78% White, 60.01% African American, 0.30% Native American, 2.66% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.84% from other races, and 2.35% from two or more races. 7.86% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 248,338 households out of which 19.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.8% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% are non-families. 43.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.16 and the average family size is 3.07.

In the city the population is spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 12.7% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $40,127, and the median income for a family is $46,283. Males have a median income of $40,513 versus $36,361 for females. The per capita income for the city is $28,659. 20.2% of the population and 16.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.1% of those under the age of 18 and 16.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


The religious affiliations of the citizens of DC are:

  • Protestant: 68%
  • Roman Catholic: 16%
  • Other Christian: 1%
  • Other Religions: 3%
  • Non-Religious: 7%

The three largest Protestant denominations in DC are: Baptist (47% of the total population), Methodist (7%), Episcopalian (5%).


Washington, D.C. is first and foremost a company town, the company being, of course, the federal government. Most (but by no means all) people who work in or around the District have some sort of connection to the federal government. In addition to government employees, many people work for the federal contractors headquartered in the area, and many also work for the numerous nonprofit organizations of all sizes and political orientations. Then there are the law firms and lobbying firms, catering and administrative services companies, and several other industries that are sustained by the enormous economic presence of the federal government.

This arrangement has the effect of making the Washington economy virtually recession proof, because the federal government will still operate no matter the state of the general economy.

Several major companies are based in Washington, including the Carlyle Group and Marriott International, Inc.

America Online and Orbital Sciences Corporation are based in nearby Dulles, Virginia. MCI is based in nearby Ashburn, Virginia. Nextel and Unisys are based in Reston, Virginia. US Airways is based in Arlington County, Virginia. Colgan Air is based in (not quite so) nearby Manassas, Virginia. Lockheed Martin is based in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. Alhurra is based in Springfield, Virginia. Independence Air is based at nearby Dulles International Airport. The Gannett Company, a media conglomerate that publishes USA Today, is based in McLean in Fairfax County, Virginia.

The American genomics industry is largely centered around the Maryland suburbs of Washington. Prominent players are Celera , The Institute for Genomic Research (also known as "TIGR"), and Human Genome Sciences (all of which are in the city of Rockville, Maryland).

Cultural features

Landmarks and museums

Washington is the home of numerous national landmarks and is a popular tourist destination. Landmarks include:

The Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial

Professional sports

Washington is home to several professional sports teams: the MLS D.C. United, the NHL Washington Capitals, the WNBA Washington Mystics, the NBA Washington Wizards, and the MLB Washington Nationals. Washington also hosts the annual Legg Mason Tennis Classic tennis tournament.

Other professional and semi-professional teams based in DC include the USAFL Baltimore Washington Eagles, the NWFA D.C. Divas, the Minor League Football DC Explosion, and the Washington Cricket League. It was also home to the WUSA Washington Freedom, and, during the 20002002 NLL seasons, the Washington Power was based in the city.

The NFL Washington Redskins formerly played at R.F.K. Stadium in the District, but, although still named for the city, are now based at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball announced plans to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington for the 2005 season; on November 22, a new name was announced for the team — the Washington Nationals. A very public back-and-forth between the city council and MLB threated to scuttle the agreement until December 21, when a plan for a new stadium in Southeast DC was finalized. The Nationals will play at R.F.K. Stadium for the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons, with the new stadium slated to be ready for 2008. The market is also home to many fans of the Baltimore Orioles whose owner opposed the move of the Expos to DC.

There were two Major League Baseball teams named the Washington Senators in the early and mid-20th century, which left to become respectively the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers. In the 19th century, the town was home to teams called the Washington Nationals, Washington Statesmen, and Washington Senators on and off from the 1870s to the turn of the century.

Washington was also home to several Negro League teams, including the Homestead Grays, Washington Black Senators, Washington Elite Giants, Washington Pilots, and Washington Potomacs.

The MCI Center in Chinatown, home to the Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and the Georgetown Hoyas, is also a major venue for concerts, WWE professional wrestling, and other events.

See also: U.S. cities with teams from four major sports.

Performing arts

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosts the National Symphony Orchestra , the Washington Opera, the Washington Ballet , and other musical and stage performances. Notable local music clubs include Madam's Organ Blues Bar in Adams Morgan, and the Black Cat, the 9:30 Club, and the historic Bohemian Caverns jazz club, all in the U Street NW area.

The only native DC music genre is go-go, a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of R&B that blends live sets with relentless dance rhythms (that "go and go and go.") The most accomplished practitioner of go-go was DC bandleader Chuck Brown, who brought go-go to the brink of national recognition with his 1979 LP Bustin' Loose .

Washington was also an important center in the genesis of punk rock in the United States. Punk bands of note from Washington include Fugazi, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat. Native Washingtonians continue to support punk bands, long after the punk movement's peak in popularity. The region also has a storied indie rock history and was home to TeenBeat and Simple Machines , among other indie record labels.

DC has also historically been a center for bluegrass music.

TV shows featuring Washington

Many television series featuring the District have had essential ties to the government (The West Wing) or security organizations (The District, Get Smart). Other programs had the nation's capital as a secondary focus, telling stories on their own that were not always tied to the infrastructure of the government either in the district or for the country. Murphy Brown focused on the lives of the reporters of a Washington-based television newsmagazine, FYI. The soap opera Capitol allowed for stories about political intrigue alongside the traditional class struggle sagas. The sitcom 227 mentioned the role of government in the District rarely, instead showing life of the African-American majority as seen through the eyes of residents in a Washington apartment building.

Local media

The Washington Post is the oldest and most read daily newspaper in Washington. The Post is also one of the most reputable daily newspapers in the U.S. and is highly influential in its political reporting, particularly after the role of its reporters in cracking the Watergate scandal. The daily Washington Times and the free weekly Washington City Paper also have substantial readership in the District. On February 1, 2005 the free daily tabloid Washington Examiner debuted. It had formerly been a chain of suburban newspapers known as the Journal Newspapers. The weekly Washington Blade focuses on gay issues. Many neighborhoods in the city have their own small-circulation newspaper, usually a free weekly. They are sometimes published by each neighborhood's respective neighborhood association .

Neighborhood newspapers include:

Washington is served by the following local broadcast television stations:

  • WBDC —Channel 50, a WB affiliate
  • WDCA —Channel 20, a UPN affiliate
  • WRC—Channel 4, an NBC affiliate
  • WETA—Channel 26, a PBS affiliate
  • WJLA —Channel 7, an ABC affiliate
  • WTTG—Channel 5, a FOX affiliate
  • WUSA—Channel 9, a CBS affiliate

Public Access on Cable Television is provided by the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia on 2 DCTVchannels simulcast to both local cable TV Systems. One channel is devoted to religious programming and the other channel provides a diversity of offerings.

Some prominent radio stations in the District include:

  • WAMU, 88.5 FM, an NPR-affiliate run by American University. Plays the usual NPR programs, community programming, and BBC news. Once known for its daily bluegrass programming, bluegrass and oldtime country are now aired only on Sunday and on its online affiliate,
  • WETA, 90.9 FM, another NPR-affiliate. It previously ran a mixed program, but has recently abandoned most of its classical music programming in favor of round-the-clock news/analysis, broadcasting shows originating mainly from NPR, PRI and the BBC.
  • WHFS, 99.1 FM, long-time alternative rock station turned Latin.
  • WKYS , 93.9 FM, a Radio One station competing with WPGC for the young African-American market. Home to the regionally syndicated Russ Parr Morning Show .
  • WPGC, 95.5 FM, a highly rated rythmic CHR /hip-hop station.
  • WHUR , 96.3 FM, a commercial radio station run by Howard University, an "urban adult contemporary" station in radio industry parlance. Also highly rated.
  • WASH , 97.1 FM, a soft adult contemporary station; better known as "WASH-FM."
  • WMZQ , 98.7 FM, the city's country music station.
  • WIHT , 99.5 FM, a popular top-40 radio station run by Clear Channel Communications.
  • WWDC , 101.1 FM, also known as "DC 101," this is the District's "alternative rock" station. "Shock jock" Howard Stern worked at WWDC briefly in the early 1980s, when he made national headlines for prank-calling Air Florida the day after the fatal crash of the airline's Flight 90 into Washington's 14th Street Bridge.
  • WJZW , 105.9 FM, the city's smooth jazz station.
  • WJFK, 106.7 FM, an all-talk station owned by the Infinity Broadcasting network. It broadcasts personalities ranging from Howard Stern to Bill O'Reilly.
  • WMAL, 630 AM, long-running conservative talk station.
  • WTOP, 1500 AM, an all-news station. Claims to be the District's top-rated radio station.

XM Satellite Radio is based in Washington as well.

List of D.C. radio stations

Educational institutions

Colleges and universities

High schools

Other schools

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The Capital Beltway surrounds the Washington area. East of the Interstate_95 exits in Virginia and Maryland, the Beltway has a double route number: I-95 and I-495. West of those exits, the Beltway is designated simply as I-495. I-270 connects the Beltway with I-70. The Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (I-395) breaks off of I-95 at the Beltway to connect northern Virginia with downtown Washington. I-66 begins at the east edge of Georgetown, connects to the Beltway, and continues through northern Virginia to I-81. I-295 comes up from the south starting at the eastern edge of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Beltway and crosses the Anacostia River into downtown, linking up with I-395. Anacostia Freeway (DC-295), splits from I-295 on the south side of the Anacostia, and links with the unnumbered Baltimore-Washington Parkway via a short section of Maryland State Highway 201.

Among the major roads in Washington are MacArthur Boulevard, 14th Street NW, 16th Street NW, Connecticut Avenue, K Street NW, Rock Creek Parkway, Wisconsin Avenue, M Street NW, Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, U Street NW, North Capitol Street, South Capitol Street, East Capitol Street, Georgia Avenue, Minnesota Avenue, Nannie Helen Boroughs Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, New York Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, the Anacostia Freeway, and the Suitland Parkway. The Whitehurst Freeway, an elevated freeway over K Street in Georgetown, allows U.S. Highway 29 traffic to bypass Georgetown between the Key Bridge and K Street downtown.

U.S. Highways 1, 29 and 50 pass through Washington, mostly on surface streets. The route numbers are not used by residents and the sparse signage reflects that.

Washington formerly had other District routes in addition to DC Route 295, signed using a modified U.S. Highway shield (a 1942 photo), but these are long-gone.

Bus and rail

The Washington area is serviced by the Washington Metro public transportation system, which operates public buses (Metrobus) and the region's subway system (Metrorail). Many of the jurisdictions around the region also run public buses that interconnect with the Metrobus/Metrorail system. Union Station is served by MARC and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains, and Amtrak intercity rail. Intercity bus service is available from the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Northeast and from dragon buses leaving from Chinatown.


No commercial airports lie within the District of Columbia itself, though three are situated nearby:

The first two are managed by a special body, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, while the third is under the administration of the State of Maryland.

Reagan National is favored for its close proximity and Metro access, but flights are heavily restricted on account of noise and security concerns. With a handful of exceptions, flights in and out of DCA are restricted to airports less than 1250 miles (2011.7 km) away. On the most common approach, pilots must negotiate a tight corridor over the Potomac between restricted airspace over the White House and Mall to the north and the Pentagon to the south, executing a ninety-degree turn just before touchdown.

Dulles is the busiest airport by passengers served, and the second busiest international gateway on the Eastern Seaboard. It is a hub of United Airlines and Independence Air, and on account of the latter the largest low-cost carrier hub in the U.S., although LCC Southwest Airlines notably maintains one of its largest East Coast operations at BWI.

General aviation is additionally available at Montgomery County Airpark (Gaithersburg, Maryland), College Park Airport (College Park, Maryland), Potomac Airfield (Friendly, Maryland), and Manassas Regional Airport (Manassas, Virginia).

External links

General information and activity guides

District government headlines and news releases

DC Neighborhoods

District representation debate


  •, - Source for flag image - Flag image made by Mark Sensen

Crime Statistics


Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13