Renee Sklarew, author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., welcomes you to Washington, D.C., and shares why she loves her hometown.
I’ve always been proud of living in the Nation’s Capital and have called the region my home for most of my life. When I was a kid, I thought everyone had museums that looked like palaces, where you could see paintings created by the most famous artists in the world, or examine the Apollo 11 Lunar Module and a real moon rock. Where else could you gape at warring dinosaur skeletons, see Dorothy’s red sequined slippers, and walk underneath a blue whale as long as your house?
Having moved around the country in my 20s, no other place felt just right. Decades later, I am still moved by our landmarks—acres of graves at Arlington Cemetery, the State pillars around the World War II fountain, and the stoic soldiers of the Korean War Memorial.
D.C. can be a bargain! There are so many free things to do here, whether visiting the Smithsonian Museums, strolling the National Mall, or biking in the National Parks. We have geographical choices, like the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River; the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains; historic towns like Annapolis and Old Town Alexandria; Virginia’s and Maryland’s wine and horse country; waterfront destinations like the D.C. Wharf and National Harbor—and they’re all within a 2-hour drive.
I love the people here! Raising my kids in this area has provided unique advantages. Every day they’ve come into contact with people from other cultures, religions, and backgrounds. As a result, they have compassion for people whose customs differ from theirs. Many citizens of this region choose a life of public service, volunteerism, or nonprofits. We adore our pets, and we lovingly share the landscape with wildlife like squirrels, bees, and deer.
We are a town of winners! Residents can participate in a wide variety of local sports and enjoy watching our national teams. In 2019, our Washington Nationals won the World Series, and our Washington Mystics conquered the Women’s National Basketball Championship. The Washington Capitals skated to victory, claiming the Stanley Cup in 2018. D.C. United kicks soccer balls at our new Audi Field.
We have lots of choices! The constant debut of new and exciting restaurants, both by renowned chefs and local talents, helped Washington win “restaurant city of the year” in 2016 from Bon Appetit magazine. Today, we have dozens of Michelin-starred and James Beard-recognized eateries, along with every cuisine imaginable—Latin American, African, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Southern American, and European to name a few. You can sample them at fast-casual places and fine dining venues; however, please don’t leave without trying Chesapeake Bay seafood or D.C.’s famous half smokes.
I personally love having four distinct seasons! We all still become giddy when the cherry blossoms bloom, no matter how many times we’ve walked among their cotton candy petals. Summer is the time to catch live performances and celebrate holidays in a big way. Nicknamed a “City of Trees,” our fall foliage is arguably the most colorful in the country. During the winter months, the crowds are gone, and we have the museums and monuments to ourselves. You might consider visiting then because winters are mostly mild, and summer can be quite humid.
We care passionately about government and politics. Most of us stay engaged and abreast of the news. You’re likely to see political leaders and journalists working in our public spaces. Most importantly, though, we are charged with caring for symbols of our American democracy—including Lincoln, Jefferson, Mount Vernon, and the Vietnam Memorial, our wall of perished veterans. We feel proud that visitors come from around the world to see them.
I especially love the D.C. lifestyle. Sure, we complain a lot about traffic, but we have the Metrorail system to help us get around. We have three airports within 1 hour of downtown. An abundance of history, art, music, and theater is right here in my backyard; even after half a century, I haven’t visited every attraction or toured every park. But I have seen a lot! My new Unofficial Guide to Washington D.C. covers most of what visitors should do and see. Order it here, and welcome to my hometown!