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When to go
Notoriously hard to predict but wonderful if you catch it, the blooming of cherry blossom across the city in early April make it an extremely photogenic time to visit – aim for early April. Summer (August in particular) can be unbearably hot and overrun with snap-happy tourists, so aim to visit during spring or autumn to see DC at its best.
PlanesAbout 40 minutes’ drive from the city centre | Dulles International is one of the USA’s major transport hubs and hosts a huge variety of national and international flights. Ronald Reagan National Airport is only about 10–15 minutes from Capitol Hill | and mainly operates flights from within the US and Canada.
TrainsWashington’s Beaux Arts marvel, Union Station is on the main Amtrak line from New York’s Penn Station (it’s a three-hour trip between the two), which continues south as far as Florida and southwest to New Orleans (www.amtrak.com). The five colour-coded lines of DC’s Metrorail (www.wmata.com) service cover 86 stations around the city, extending into the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.
AutomobilesFrom New York, you can reach the capital in four hours driving down the I-95 through Pennsylvania, dependent on traffic. Avoid the centre of town if you can, though, as it can get clotted with cars during rush hours. There’s a choicew of car-hire firms at Dulles airport – try Avis (www.avis.com) - or if you want a car for a single journey, or a short period of time, Zipcar (www.zipcar.com) allos you to borrow a car from hundreds of spots around the city, from around $5 an hour.
TaxisGone are the crackpot zoning rules for DC cabs – once upon a time only the locals knew the secrets of which corner to jump out of the taxi to avoid crossing zone boundaries and racking up the cost. Now, taxis have moved over to the meter system, to widespread relief. Smith tip: take note of compass points in Washington addresses – ignoring seemingly insignificant ‘NW’, ‘NE’, ‘SW’ or ‘SE’ denotations can mean a costly mistake – time-wise, location-wise, and cash-wise. For a pre-booked car, try the Yellow C