Travel like a local.

Podcast, Reedy Press

National Mall Carousel, 400 Year Old Bonsai & Barbie Pond in Washington D.C.

Best things to do in Washington DC - JoAnn Hill - Smithsonian Carousel on the Mall courtesy of Casey McAdams of Smithsonian

Smithsonian Carousel on the National Mall. Photo courtesy of Casey McAdams of Smithsonian.

I’m really excited to interview JoAnn Hill author of “Secret Washington, D.C.: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” about Washington D.C. JoAnn’s tips for the best things to do in Washington D.C. are awesome because she moved to DC about 20 years ago for her husband’s job. She fell in love with the culture, the neighborhoods, and the people who live here. Her exploration of the community helped her learn the tips, tricks, and hidden wonders that fill her book.

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Best things to do in Washington DC - JoAnn Hill - World War II Memorial courtesy of washington dot org

World War II Memorial. Courtesy of

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is our nation’s capital and the center of government & international relations. It serves as both a hub of the future direction of our country, but also the home of numerous museums, statues, and monuments that document our past. One of the most well-known collections of museums is the Smithsonian, which is comprised of almost 20 museums in the Capital area and boasts 3.3 million visitors a year. One of JoAnn’s favorites is the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall.

JoAnn says that the best time to visit Washington, D.C., is in the spring or fall. The spring comes alive with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, while the fall takes advantage of the cooler weather and smaller crowds. For the shortest lines and lowest prices, the last two weeks in August are a good option because Congress is out of session (and out of the city) during this time. While strolling through the National Mall, look for the famous carousel that was transported there from an amusement park that closed down outside of D.C.

The National Arboretum is also an interesting visit. There, you’ll find a 400-year-old bonsai tree that survived the Hiroshima Bombing in World War II. It was given to the U.S. as a gift of friendship in 1976, on our country’s 200-year anniversary. On the pop culture spectrum, check out the Barbie Pond on Avenue Q. Its scene is updated regularly to reflect the current events of the D.C. area.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Experience D.C., the local visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

National Gallery of Art East Building

National Gallery of Art East Building. Courtesy of

Getting around Washington D.C.

The closest airport is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which is about a 15-minute drive to downtown.

JoAnn says that you should not rent a car when visiting D.C. The city is very walkable and the Metro is fast, convenient, and affordable. If you must rent a car, click here for the best offers from Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around when you’re in a hurry.

When you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

Best things to do in Washington DC - JoAnn Hill - Pinus parvifolia Miyajima at US National Arboretum courtesy of US National Arboretum

Pinus parvifolia Miyajima at US National Arboretum. Photo courtesy of US National Arboretum

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with JoAnn Hill about Washington D.C. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Washington DC
  • Green dots = best things to do in Washington DC
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Washington DC

Who is JoAnn Hill?

JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, D.C., with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for nineteen years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their D.C. living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures on her blog, D.C. Globejotters.

Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a D.C. Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater D.C. area. Secret Washington, D.C. A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure was published in April 2021 by Reedy Press, and it is her first book.

Best things to do in Washington DC - JoAnn Hill_Secret Washington DC

Here are a few articles promoting her book:

You can connect with JoAnn on her website and on Facebook and Instagram.

Best things to do in Washington DC - JoAnn Hill - American Indian Museum

National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall

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Cirque du Soleil O at Bellgaio 728x90

Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Bangalore India - Rahul Rajguru overlooking waterListen to the next episode when Rahul Rajguru of shares the best things to do in Bangalore, India. In this episode, Rahul and I talk about exploring Nandi Hills, the colorful flowers at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, and the city’s themed pubs. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Washington DC? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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Related episodes

Learn more about the Washington, D.C., area by listening to our other interviews:


  1. Mark Little

    DC is such a great family trip. Perfect to visit over a long weekend. They also have plenty of Kimpton’s to choose from!

    • Comment by post author


      I’m excited about the Rouge being remodeled and rebranded. Sad to see some of the other Kimpton properties leave for other brands, but there are still some great choices available.


    I love Washington DC I hope you had a wonderful time.

  3. Melissa

    Love Washington DC and have been a few times. It’s perfect for everyone of all ages. We took our kiddos and saw the US Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian museums, and all the monuments and memorials. Back then we got in touch with our state senator and was able to schedule a tour of the Capitol, (not sure if they still do this), but if you get the opportunity to go, make sure you experience the “whispering room”.

    One of our favorite places to visit was the Smithsonian zoo and getting to see the pandas. I would love to go back to experience the cherry blossoms in the spring!

  4. Chris G

    Interesting insight that went beyond the normal top things to see in DC.

  5. JR

    The Air & Space museum is my favorite; it’s great for kids and adults