The city's many politicians and their expense accounts ensure that Washington DC has some fantastic dining options to suit every budget and taste. From glamorous upmarket restaurants dripping with style, to roadside stalls and eateries, this city offers many kinds of cuisine for many different budgets.
Fresh seafood, crab, oysters and rockfish are among the most popular choices on restaurant menus, with special emphasis on dishes made with locally-caught crabs, such as crab cakes, blue crabs, crab legs, crab soup and even crab chips, potato chips unique to Washington DC. A popular spice is Old Bay, which is locally made and used to season just about everything from peaches to popcorn.
Most restaurants are centred around the Midtown, downtown and Penn Quarter areas with the very upmarket eateries close to Capitol Hill and frequented by businessmen and businesswomen. Dupont Circle and the West End are also great areas for restaurants. A tip of about 15 percent is expected in restaurants and it is customary to make reservations before dining out.
Shopping in Washington DC almost competes with politics for attention. The USA's capital offers everything from trendy boutiques and shopping malls, to 24-hour bookshops and renowned farmer's markets. Visitors to Washington DC will walk (or fly) away with their bags full!
Some of the best shopping opportunities are in Georgetown, the nation's oldest neighbourhood, home to up-scale designer boutiques, or The Shops at Georgetown Park, containing designer labels like Ann Taylor, Polo, and Ralph Lauren. The Georgetown Flea Market is good for antiques, jewellery, books, rugs, toys, and linens. Dupont Circle, also an attractive historic neighbourhood, has designer boutiques such as Betsy Fisher and vintage shops like Secondi, as well as a good farmer's market. The Adams Morgan area, previously somewhat dilapidated, now contains a number of eclectic independent shops and boutiques. Penn Quarter is also a good shopping neighbourhood, particularly for antiques, art, home décor, and collectibles.
On Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House Visitor Center and Political America sell authentic and reproduction campaign buttons, signed photos, letters, and other American memorabilia, which make wonderful patriotic souvenirs. The National Mall has great gift shops and museum stores, and is the best place to find popular Washington DC souvenirs like miniature replicas of the White House and various monuments. The National Archives Gift Shop also offers reproductions of the Declaration of Independence and other famous documents.
Shoppers should keep in mind that a non-refundable sales tax is charged, but not included on the sticker price of items. Tax is added at the register in Washington DC shops, so prices will be a bit higher than first expected.
Atlas District is arguably DC's trendiest bar and club scene. Other popular areas include the Adams-Morgan neighbourhood, Dupont Circle along Connecticut Avenue , the Penn Quarter and historic Georgetown. The city's hippest nightlife can be found in these areas, with just about everything on offer, including dance clubs, jazz and rock bars and pubs. The best place to go for gay clubs is Dupont Circle.
Arlington Row is a more laidback area that attracts crowds of all ages, where excellent live music is the order of the day. If a comedy show is what you're after, check out the Warner Theatre to see who's on stage. If you can't decide what you want, the Boomerang Bus stops at half a dozen venues, giving tourists a chance to sample some of the best of Washington DC's nightlife.
Washington DC also has a first-rate performing arts scene, presided over by the renowned Kennedy Center. On any given night there is a wide variety of performances, both local and international, ranging from Shakespeare, opera and ballet to jazz, rock bands, and Broadway shows. Ticketmaster and InstantSeats.com offer tickets to pretty much any event, while TICKETplace at 407 7th Street offers discounted last-minute tickets to anything that isn't sold out.