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Four things to do in Washington DC

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1. Visit the Smithsonian Institution

It is free to visit this amazing group of 15 museums, which include the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum and the American Art Museum.

Most are within walking distance of one another on the National Mall, with the exception of the National Zoo, the Postal Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Center. The latter is a must for aviation enthusiasts and kids who like flying machines! Allow several days to visit them all.

washington dc

2. Book a tour of the Capitol

Aside from being a meeting place of America's legislature, the Capitol is a beautiful piece of architecture and houses a wonderful art collection. The tours are free but must be booked online, well in advance.

We booked about six weeks ahead as our visit coincided with the US spring break. Go to visitthecapitol.gov and select the "book a tour" quick link.

3. Do a walking tour of the monuments and memorials

Allow half a day to do a walking tour of the memorials and monuments around the Tidal Basin.

If you're getting there by car, a good tip is to park (the earlier the better) in one of the car parks on Ohio Dr SW and then start from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Make you way around the basin and stop at memorials for Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr and Abraham Lincoln and the Washington monument. No entry fees.

4. Newseum

This engaging and interactive museum takes visitors on a journey of news stories from past and present.

Exhibits include the 9/11 gallery, the civil rights movement, the Berlin Wall gallery, journalism during the Civil War, the fascinating FBI exhibit and the amusing First Dogs: American Presidents and their Pets, plus so much more. Visit newseum.org for fees and times.

Fact file

If you're coming from New York, you can either fly (1hr 25m), catch a train (4hrs 30min) or drive (4hrs). The flight from Los Angeles takes about five hours.

In terms of weather, the best times to visit the capital are from September to November and March to May. Summer can get quite humid while winter can produce snowstorms and very low temperatures. The Cherry Blossom Festival usually runs in late March and early April

The population is about 658,893.

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