History and culture abound across the city, but there are a few facts about Washington, D.C. that everyone should know. Some are funny, others are downright weird.
Best of all, you will be able to beat your friends at trivia nights when you learn these facts about Washington, D.C. before your next trip to the nation’s capital.
Table of Contents
Quirky Facts about Washington DC
- Washington, D.C. is 68 square miles. All of the land was taken from Maryland when D.C. was set up as the seat of the federal government.
- There is no “J” Street in D.C.
- Seattle gets less rain per year than Washington, D.C.
- Franciscan monks built a series of catacombs under the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington D.C. Why? Because they couldn’t afford to go to Europe to see the catacombs there.
- In 1999, vandals were suspected of chopping down four D.C. cherry trees. Turns out, it was just a pair of beavers.
- D.C. has the second busiest Amtrak Station in the United States, just after New York City.
- The 1973 film The Exorcist steps are located in Georgetown.
- Washington, D.C. residents consume more wine per capita than anywhere else in the country.
- The U.S. Capitol Building dome is made up of 8,909,200 pounds of cast iron.
- A sculpted head of Darth Vader is located on the northwest tower of the Washington National Cathedral amongst the gargoyles.
- There is a copy of the Constitution, a map of the city, a book of poems, a Bible, and daguerreotypes of George Washington and his mother buried under the Washington Monument.
Fun Historic Facts about Washington, D.C.
- Washington, D.C. used to be covered by an ocean. You can still find fossils to this day.
- Washington, D.C. sits on the ancestral land of the Nacotchtank. Neighboring tribes include, the Piscataway, Pamunkey, the Nentego (Nanichoke), Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, and the Powhatan cultures.
- Washington, D.C. is named after both George Washington (Washington) and Christopher Columbus (D.C.- District of Columbia)
- East Capitol Street was supposed to be a second National Mall. Obviously, that idea never came to fruition, despite plans made in the early 20th century.
- Mrs. Rosa Parks called the The Mansion On O & O Street Museum home whenever she visited Washington, D.C. from 1994 to 2003.
Washington, D.C. Crypts and Burials
- George Washington has a crypt in Washington D.C. under the U.S Capital. He is actually buried at Mount Vernon with his family. His capitol crypt is empty.
- There is a chair in a crypt in Oak Hill Cemetery. President Lincoln used to visit his son Willie, pulling him out of his casket to hold him and chat with him. Creepy, but true. Willie was laid to rest in the Carroll mausoleum, friends of the Lincoln’s, until he could be moved back home to his final resting place in Illinois.
- Woodrow Wilson is the only U.S. president buried in Washington D.C. at the National Cathedral.
- There is ghost cat that is believed to live in the Supreme Court. Granted, it’s because there are random cat paw prints in just outside the chamber, but people still think the ghost of a cat must live there now.
Weird Facts about the White House
- Formerly named the President’s Palace, Andrew Jackson was the first to call the president’s residence the White House, but Theodore Roosevelt officially changed the name in 1901.
- The White House has 35 bathrooms.
- The White House movie theater was originally a coat room.
- President Jimmy Carter watched more movies (480) in the White House than any other president to date.
- John Adams was the first president to live in the White House, not George Washington. The White House wasn’t built until after Washington’s his presidency.
- Presidents Hoover and Adams both kept alligators as pets in the White House.
- Theodore Roosevelt let his kids bring all of their pets to the White House, including dogs, a hen, a small bear, a lizard, guinea pigs, a pig, a badger, a blue macaw, a garter snake, a one-legged rooster, a hyena, a barn owl, a rabbit, and of course, a pony.
Coolidge was just as enamored with animals, bringing a variety of dogs, cats, racoons, a donkey, a bobcat, birds, a bear, an antelope, a wallaby, a pygmy hippo and lion cubs.
Washington, D.C. Nature
- Washington, DC, is home to two endangered species- the dwarf wedgemussel and the Hay’s Spring amphipod.
- Other creatures to be found in D.C. include Virginia opossums, groundhogs, brown bats, flying squirrels, bullfrogs, tree frogs, toads, box turtles, garter snakes, and even venomous copperhead snakes.
- You can see bald eagles in and around the city.
DC. Cherry Blossom Facts
- Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore is credited with the idea of planting Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C. Her request to the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds fell on deaf ears in 1885. Her dream would come true 25+ years later when she enlisted the help of first lady, Mrs. Helen Herron Taft.
- The first cherry blossom trees arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1910. The trees were infested with insects and nematodes, and had to be destroyed. These had been a gift from the City of Tokyo that were to be planted planted along the Potomac River.
- In 1912, 3020 cherry trees were gifted to the city by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to celebrate the friendship between the two countries. These arrived healthy, and the 10+ varieties of cherry trees were planted around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park.
- The First Cherry Blossom Festival was celebrated in 1935, almost 25 years after the first trees were successful planted around the Tidal Basin.
Washington, D.C. Politics
- Washington, D.C. residents do not have congressional representation. Thus, the phrase “taxation without representation” on the DC license plate is both a fact and a stab at the government that calls the District home.
- D.C. residents couldn’t vote in the presidential election until the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961.
- The U.S. Capital holds 100 statues (two per state) of notable citizens in U.S. history in the National Statuary Hall. This was where the House of Representatives used to gather.
- There are Marble bathtubs in the U.S. Capitol Building.
Facts about Your Favorite Things to do in DC
- D.C. is home to the largest collection of information on William Shakespeare at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
- The Library of Congress is home to more than 170 million items.
- You can read the FBI Interrogation manual at the Library of Congress. It’s a copyrighted document, so anyone can access it.
- The National Arboretum is home to the original columns of the Capital Building.
- The D.C. metro is the second busiest subway transportation system in the U.S., just behind NYC.
Read our full list of things to do in DC
D.C. Monuments and Memorials Facts
- According to the National Park Service, 25 million people visit the National Mall each year.
- In 1884, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world. It has since been surpassed by the Eiffel Tower and other buildings. However, it is still the tallest structure in Washington, D.C. at 555 feet.
- There are four monuments on the National Mall and Tidal Basin NOT dedicated to a president:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
- John Ericsson Memorial (principal designer USS Monitor)
- John Paul Jones Memorial (naval hero)
- George Mason Memorial (wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights)
- Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin built more than half of the MLK Jr. Memorial in China, before completing it on site in Washington, D.C.
- The FDR Memorial has 21 of the president’s most famous quotes inscribed in it.
- FDR’s Memorial also includes a bronze sculpture of his dog Fala.
- Across from the White House, in Lafayette Square, you will find a statue of Andrew Jackson partially made from War of 1812 cannons.
- The Washington Monument is two different colors. When money dried up for the project, construction stopped and new stone wasn’t bought until construction resumed. That stone didn’t match the first stone used during construction.
- If you look carefully, you can find a typo at the Lincoln Memorial in the word “Future” on the north wall. It’s an “e” instead of an “F.”
- The Lincoln Memorial’s 36 columns represent the states that were in the Union when Lincoln died.
Famous People from Washington D.C.
- Bill Nye (television host, scientist, mechanical engineer, AKA Bill Nye the Science Guy)
- Al Gore (environmentalist and politician)
- J. Edgar Hoover (former head of the FBI)
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (talk show host and lawyer)
- J.W. Marriott, Jr. (head of Marriott International)
- Duke Ellington (composer)
- Nan Goldin (photographer)
- Ben Stein (American actor, lawyer, and author
- Queen Noor of Jordan (Queen… of the country Jordan)
- Justin Theroux (actor)
- Kevin Durant (basketball player)
- Austin H. Kiplinger (journalist and philanthropist)
- Jon Bernthal (actor)
- Louis CK (Comedian)
- Bill Watterson (cartoonist- Calvin and Hobbes)
- Marvin Gaye (singer)
- Dave Batista (pro-wrestler and actor)
- Goldie Hawn (actress- born in DC, raised in MD)
- Alyson Hannigan (actress)
- Chris Meloni (actor)
- Samuel L. Jackson (actor)
- Katherine Heigl (actress)
- Chita Rivera (broadway actress)
- Dave Grohl (musician- Nirvana and Foo Fighters)
- John Philip Sousa (composer)
- Marquis Amonte King (rapper AKA Shy Glizzy)
- Connie Chung (TV reporter)
- Maury Povich (TV Host)
- Tim Gunn (TV personality and fashion expert)
- Dave Chappelle (comedian)
- Bella Hadid (American model)
- Stephen Colbert (comedian, writer and actor)
- Taraji P. Henson (actor)
- John F. Kennedy Jr. (lawyer and journalist)
- Whitney Cummings (actress and comedian)
- Patch Adams (American physician, activist, diplomat, and author, founded the Gesundheit! Institute)
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Washington, D.C. Travel Resources
Your Washington, D.C. vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve got the resources you need to plan your trip and make the most out of your time in the city and surrounding area. If this is your first time to the capital region, check out our Washington, D.C. trip planner and itineraries.
For transportation, check out our D.C. driving guide and our guide on how to ride the metro. For those flying in, you’ll want to read our guides to BWI, DCA and IAD airports.
Dive into our things to do in D.C., which is always being updated and evolving to make sure you have the latest and greatest activities to fill your checklist of things to do. Don’t forget about food, the real reason we all travel, right? Our Washington, D.C. restaurant guide will get you started and lead you into neighborhoods full of delicious treats.
For more resources, check out our pages on Baltimore, Frederick,Richmond, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Shenandoah National Park and beyond.
Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.
Budget: When it comes to Washington, D.C. budget hotels, prices vary depending on the season. In the middle of October, a four-star hotel could be under $150, while in December it may be over $400. At any given time of year, though, Hotel Hive is a safe bet for value when it comes to resting your head. If you are looking for a hostel, Hi Washington D.C. Downtown is well located for exploring all of the D.C. museums, restaurants and bars at the fraction of the price of a hotel. Check rates and availability here.
Mid-range: Every USA hotel chain can be found in Washington, D.C., but stay at the St. Gregory Hotel when you want a local touch. The modern, light-filled rooms will welcome you to the city, whether you are in a studio or suite with wraparound terrace. The hotel is walking distance to Georgetown, the National Mall and Embassy Row, making it easy to explore without a rental car. Check rates and availability here.
Luxury: You are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Washington, D.C. We love cozying up at the Graham Georgetown, a sweet little boutique hotel in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Check rates and availability here. Major hotel brands like The Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. and St. Regis Washington D.C. all have outposts here as well. If you want something a bit more historic, we recommend The Jefferson, Washington D.C. Ninety-nine rooms in this luxury boutique hotel bring together an attentive staff, petite spa, and the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant with all of the history you could hope for when you are in the nation’s capital. Check rates and availability here.
Family-friendly: We always gravitate towards the Kimpton hotels whenever we are traveling with kids. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., once the General Post Office building, is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood just four blocks off the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art. Price point is mid-range, depending on the time of year you visit. Parents will love the nightly wine events and evening nightcap perks as well as complimentary coffee and a tea bar each morning. Kids will love that they can borrow a fish friend for their stay, and that there is always a treat on hand that they can enjoy, and the robes are just their size. Kimpton also has adult and child-size bikes to borrow so you can cruise around town during your stay. Check rates and availability here.
Looking for Washington DC Rentals? Check HERE for the best location, size and rates.
Washington DC Rental Car
If you just flew in , you probably need a rental car. Although you can certainly take the Metro most places, especially if you fly into DCA, you may want a rental car to get out and explore. Find the best priced and availability HERE.
Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors; hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered.
We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family is covered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robust if you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. I’ve been a customer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with the Allianz team.
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