All About Washington D.C.

Welcome to Your New Home Away from Home!

A group of international students outside of the U.S. Capitol Building

Welcome to the vibrant and diverse city of Washington, D.C., where history, culture, and opportunity converge to create an unparalleled experience for international students. As you embark on your educational journey in this dynamic capital, we understand the importance of having a comprehensive resource to navigate the nuances of daily life. The International Student Community Ambassadors (ISCAs) are thrilled to present this All About D.C. overview, specially crafted to empower you with essential information about your new city. From iconic monuments and hidden gems, this guide aims to be your go-to companion in unlocking the full potential of your time in D.C. Embrace the adventure, connect with the vibrant community, and let this guide be your passport to a fulfilling experience in the nation's capital. Welcome to Washington, D.C., your home away from home!

Embarking on your academic journey at George Washington University means becoming acquainted with the DMV – an acronym that you will hear quite often. The DMV, encompassing the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, is a region with diverse offerings. This guide is your compass to navigate this interconnected area, ensuring that you make the most of the opportunities each part of the DMV has to offer.

Photo of an international student on a terrace showing the northern Virginia landscape behind her

Navigating the DMV region can be an exciting aspect of your international student journey. This guide is here to demystify the distinctions between these neighboring areas, as many students find themselves living across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia during their time at GW. Each locale has its unique charm and offerings, from the historic streets of D.C. to the suburban comfort of Maryland and Virginia. Embrace the diversity of this metropolitan area, understanding that your experience will span beyond the immediate city limits. The DMV is more than just an acronym; it's an interconnected web of opportunities waiting for you to explore.

Nestled in the heart of Washington, D.C., GW serves as your gateway to academic excellence amid a backdrop of historical significance and global influence. Our main campus is strategically located near iconic landmarks, including the White House, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the State Department, the Kennedy Center, and the list goes on! The vibrant pulse of the nation's capital is felt in every corner, providing you with unparalleled access to cultural, political, and professional experiences. As you immerse yourself in the energy of this thriving city, the ISCAs encourage you to let GW be your launching pad to connect with the world and make the most of your educational journey. We've done so, and we are excited to help you follow in the footsteps of many international students before you.

Explore the cost-free experiences awaiting you in and around Washington, D.C. Discovering the nation's capital doesn't have to come with a price tag, and our guide is here to unveil an array of exciting activities that won't dent your wallet. From iconic monuments and museums to scenic parks and cultural festivals, this compilation ensures that your time in D.C. is not only memorable but also budget-friendly. Embrace the wealth of free offerings and dive into the heart of the city without spending a dime!!

The National Mall

Take a stroll along the majestic National Mall, where history comes alive amidst iconic monuments and museums. Imagine walking in the footsteps of great leaders and witnessing breathtaking views of the Capitol building and the national monument, amongst other landmarks! Tour this on foot or a bike tour or one of the Segway tours in DC. You have the option to rent electric bikes such as Lime, Bird, and Capital Bikeshare for a day or a few hours, providing a convenient and flexible way to explore. Visit the GW Discounts webpage to find great deals on Capital Bikeshare.

Capitol Tour

Embark on a journey through the heart of American democracy with a tour of the Capitol building. Secure your spot for an inside look at the Capitol by booking a tour on the Capitol webpage. If you would like to explore the capital with fellow international students, ISO organizes the Capitol Tour visit during orientation week or as part of a Friday Funday event, so keep an eye on the ISO events webpage and your email!

Library of Congress

Delve into the rich literary and historical treasures at the Library of Congress. Explore rare manuscripts, immerse yourself in captivating exhibits, and witness the iconic architecture of this cultural gem in the heart of Washington, D.C. You can book your tour on the Library of Congress website.

Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool

Explore the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbol of national unity, and its adjacent Reflecting Pool, where the iconic monument is mirrored in a tranquil aquatic expanse. Discover the powerful combination of history and natural beauty as you stand before the Lincoln Memorial and absorb the reflective charm of the adjacent pool, making it a must-visit destination in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Sunset at the Jefferson Memorial

Experience the beauty of a sunset at the Jefferson Memorial, casting a warm glow over the Tidal Basin. Enjoy the breathtaking sight of cherry blossoms in March, transforming the area into a sea of delicate pink hues. Take a leisurely stroll around the full circle of the Tidal Basin, offering panoramic views and a serene escape from the bustling city life. The Jefferson Memorial stands as a serene haven, providing a perfect vantage point to appreciate both nature's wonders and historical significance.

Washington Monument

Visit the monument, take a leisurely stroll through the surrounding parks and marvel at the majestic obelisk that graces the landscape. You can also visit the top of the monument and savor breathtaking city views from a height of 555 feet.

The National Zoo

Get ready for a wild adventure at the National Zoo, where you can encounter fascinating creatures from around the globe. Hop on the metro and make your way to Woodley Park-Zoo or Cleveland Park (Red Line on the Metro) for a day of animal encounters and exploration

White House Tours

Go behind the scenes of American politics with a tour of the iconic White House. While you might not catch a glimpse of the Oval Office, the experience is still unforgettable. Don't forget to book your tour well in advance (ideally 90 days) and seize the opportunity to explore this historic landmark. Contact your Embassy if you'd like to schedule a tour, and learn more on the White House Tours webpage.

Arlington National Cemetery

Pay tribute to the nation's heroes at Arlington National Cemetery, where solemn beauty and admiration are present. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, and reflect on the sacrifices made. Arlington National Cemetery features free admission, but not parking. It is also accessible via metro on the blue line.

The View of DC

Visit the beautiful observation deck at the View of DC, very close to GW just across the river in Rosslyn, Virginia. This is a great free activity to do with friends or family who are visiting DC and want a bird's eye view of the city before heading into nearby neighborhoods to eat and explore.

One of the great things about DC is that it is home to a huge variety of free museums just waiting for you to explore when you're not in class. Here is a list to pique your interest and get you started on your journey! Pro tip: if you'd like to enjoy the museums with some great company, the ISCAs often host "Friday Fundays" to museums like these specifically for international students to get to know each other as you explore the city.

National Air and Space Museum

Get ready to blast off into a world of wonder at the National Air and Space Museum! From moon rocks to space shuttles, it is an out-of-this-world adventure for every visitor in the District.

National Museum of Natural History

Step into a prehistoric arena at the National Museum of Natural History! Dive deep into the ocean's mysteries, roam with dinosaurs, see an 11-ton elephant, and uncover some of the stunning gems of the Earth—all under one roof of wild wonders.

National Gallery of Art (NGA)

Experience a masterpiece at the National Gallery of Art! Dive into a canvas wonderland filled with iconic pieces, vibrant colors, and endless inspiration for the art lover in you.

National Museum of American History

Unlock the American story at the National Museum of American History! From the Star-Spangled Banner to Thomas Edison’s light bulb, immerse yourself in the tales of innovation, courage, and the spirit of the United States of America.

National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum

Delve into a gallery of faces that tell a thousand stories at the National Portrait Gallery! From presidents to entertainment icons, explore the colorful aura of American history through captivating portraits that capture the true essence of the nation's identity.

National Postal Museum

Stamp your passport to the ends of the world at the National Postal Museum! From mail trains to airmail adventures, discover the secrets behind delivering mail across the ages.

National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)

Explore African American heritage through interactive and educational exhibitions at the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). 

National Museum of African Art

Embark on a vibrant journey through Africa at the National Museum of African Art! Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and artistic expressions that paint a strong picture of the continent's beauty and diversity.

National Museum of the American Indian

Embark on a cultural adventure at the National Museum of the American Indian! Immerse yourself in the rich traditions, artistry, and living heritage of Native peoples across the Americas, celebrating their enduring legacy and contributions to our shared world.

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Get ready to be enchanted by the fancy wonders of the Renwick Gallery! Located within the Smithsonian American Art Museum, this hidden gem showcases innovative contemporary art installations that push the boundaries of creativity and imagination.



Explore beyond the beaten path and uncover hidden gems located throughout the city. From stirring memorials to vibrant markets, cultural landmarks and amazing stores, every corner of D.C. holds a treasure waiting to be explored. Don't miss out on these adventures!

DC Circulator Bus Map (for more information on transportation, visit our Transportation Resource)
WMATA Metro Map (for more information on transportation, visit our Transportation Resource)