Cheap flights to Washington D.C. are available from Sydney and Adelaide. Air New Zealand offers flights from these departure points transferring through Auckland and San Francisco. American Airlines also offers cheap flights from Sydney routing through Dallas. Cheap flights exiting Brisbane and Melbourne typically include a domestic flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. Flights from Perth may include a transfer in Dubai or Qatar Airlines offers a stopover in Doha. Australian passport holders are eligible for the Visa Waiver Programme. This is valid for entry into the United States providing the stay is no more than 90 days. Organise this prior to departure via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website. Washington Dulles Airport is approximately a 45 minute drive from the city in good traffic. There is a taxi rank located outside the terminal however, this can cost up to $70 and is best if travelling with company. The Washington Flyer is a bus service that will connect you with the MetroRail system at West Falls Church station. The MetroBus is the cheapest way to reach the downtown area with route 5A running services every 30 minutes from the early morning well into the night.
With a bit of planning or patience, making your way around Washington D.C. can be simple. Purchase a SmarTrip card for convenient and discounted travel on the already cheap Metro system. The MetroBus covers most of the area not serviced by the MetroRail. The SmarTrip card can also be used on the privately run Georgetown Metro Connection. This shuttle departs from a select few stops including the Dupont Circle and services the Georgetown area. Driving is not the most efficient way to navigate this city and using an alternative means of transport is your best option. The streets are well-signed and whilst avoiding peak times will enhance your driving experience, the congestion in Washington D.C. never really eases. The Metro services run well into the night and hailing a taxi outside of the serviced hours will ensure cost-effective travel.
As the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. is understandably saturated with monuments, museums and memorials. Most are located in the Smithsonian or at least along the National Mall. This includes the Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National Museum of the American Indian and the beautiful cherry blossom gardens of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The easiest way to get through them all is with a guided tour. Curl your toes at the National History Museum’s Insect Zoo and visit the Iwo Jima Memorial outside the mall area. Satisfy lifelong curiosities at the International Spy Museum or introduce yourself to roller derby trackside, with the DC Roller Girls. Hike through gorgeous Great Falls Park, picnic and play chess at Dupont Circle and definitely take the time to explore Georgetown. Here you can ride a horse along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal or just relax by the Waterfront. For a cheap afternoon snap the family on a giant, green Adirondack chair or on those creepy, steep stairs from The Exorcist. Of course a trip to Washington D.C. would not be complete without seeing the White House or taking a guided tour inside the Pentagon. However, if there’s only one historically significant site you visit, make it the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery. It won’t get rid of that lump in your throat, but the changing of the guards will make your heart and lungs skip a few beats.
For high-end boutique shopping, explore Old Town, Alexandria. Rummaging for bargains doesn’t get better than the Ross Dress for Less or TJ Maxx stores around. These stores achieve objectives similar to Australia’s Trade Secret chain but on a really amazing scale across brand, range and price. Make your way about 40 minutes from the C.B.D. to experience an outlet shopping adventure - Potomac Mills has a huge range of retail outlets all in the one, convenient and overwhelming setting. Grab a cheap bite at iconic Ben’s Chilli Bowl, Horace & Dickie’s Seafood or try a creamy tomato soup pie at Pie Sisters. Have a casual meal at Central Michel Richard or Cactus Cantina. Corduroy has a great tasting menu if fine dining is your style, or enjoy decadent offerings of Venison or Goose among the romantic backdrop of The Inn at Little Washington. Party at UltraBar or check out the live music at 9:30 Club. ChurchKey and the 201 Bar are great for casual drinks or sip cocktails at Off The Record, The Passenger or Columbia Room. For an unforgettable evening, venture into the mysterious clutches of Heist, sip champagne and make a deal with the devil (or at least pretend to!).