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Insider Tips For Expats To Experience Washington, D.C., Like A Local

Welcome to Washington, D.C.! As the U.S. capital, it’s about more than just politics and monuments. If you’re moving here internationally, the city offers endless opportunities to live like a local. From hidden dining spots to quiet parks, the real D.C. awaits your discovery. Let’s get started with essential tips to truly experience Washington, D.C.

Moving to D.C.

Before you start enjoying your expat life, you must organize the relocation, and it can be a lot! However, do not panic because when moving to Washington, D.C., hiring movers is super easy and accessible to anyone. Make sure you let skilled professionals jump in, as they can help streamline your transition into the city and help you get settled without the stress. With their expertise, you can quickly move past the logistics and start enjoying the unique lifestyle D.C. has to offer.

Explore Beyond the National Mall

Washington, D.C., offers far more than the well-known paths around the National Mall. Visit the following:

  1. Located just a few blocks from Union Station, the Postal Museum offers a unique perspective on the history of the U.S. postal system. It features everything from vintage mail trucks to a collection of rare stamps.
  2. For those interested in architecture and design, a visit to the National Building Coast Museum is a must. Its grand architectural design and detailed exhibitions on urban development provide a thoughtful escape from the city’s hustle.
  3. Roosevelt Island, accessible via a footbridge from Arlington, is an oasis of tranquility. It’s a wonderful spot for hiking, observing local wildlife, and enjoying quiet moments by the river.
  4. Often referred to by locals as Malcolm X Park, Meridian Hill Park is a popular gathering place known for its beautiful cascading fountain and vibrant Sunday drum circles.

Experience Washington, D.C., Through Local Cuisine

D.C. is a melting pot of flavors, offering expats a delicious way to connect with the city, and it certainly has some top spots to savor authentic local dishes. These establishments not only showcase the richness of Washington, D.C.’s culinary scene but also provide expats with a delicious pathway to adapt to foreign cultures as well as their new city.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

For starters, a D.C. landmark, Ben’s Chili Bowl, has served classic chili dogs since 1958. It’s a must-visit for anyone wanting to taste a piece of the city’s history.

Founding Farmers

As a favorite among locals, Founding Farmers offers a menu inspired by American family recipes. Their commitment to farm-to-table freshness means the best seasonal ingredients.

Union Market

Union Market features food stalls from around the world. It’s a perfect place for lunch, offering everything from Korean tacos to artisan pastries. You can enjoy exploring a wide variety of cuisines in one vibrant location.


For a taste of Mediterranean flavors, Zaytinya offers a menu inspired by Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese cuisines. Chef José Andrés has crafted a selection of dishes that combine fresh ingredients with traditional spices and cooking methods.

The Dabney

Located in the heart of the historic Shaw neighborhood, The Dabney celebrates Mid-Atlantic cuisine. Another José Andrés gem, Oyamel combines the rich flavors of Mexican cuisine with a playful and contemporary twist.

Engage in Community Events and Festivals

Participating in local events and festivals is a great way to connect with the D.C. community.

DC Jazz Festival

To be in line with the residents, the DC Jazz Festival fills the city with music every June. Catch performances in venues ranging from intimate clubs to large outdoor stages. It’s an ideal event for music lovers looking to enjoy world-class jazz.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual event on the National Mall, celebrates cultural heritage from around the globe. Traditional crafts, music, and food make it a perfect family outing with plenty to learn and enjoy.

National Holidays

Independence Day, along with Fourth of July celebrations, is a must when living in America, and particularly in the capital, it is also truly special. The fireworks on the National Mall or one of the many neighborhood parades are sure to get your blood pumping. It’s a day of patriotism and community spirit.

H Street Festival

This one-day street festival in September transforms H Street NE into a bustling promenade featuring music, food, and crafts. It’s a great way to experience Washington, D.C., and its vibrant culture and history.

Navigate the City Like a Local

Getting around the capital like a local is easier than you might think. For starters, the DC Circulator bus is an affordable and convenient option. It covers many major attractions and neighborhoods with frequent service, making it a reliable choice for everyday travel. Additionally, the Metro is a quick way to traverse the city and surrounding areas. Familiarize yourself with the color-coded lines and peak times to avoid crowded commutes. This will save you time and make your travels smoother.

Join the many locals who bike around the city. Capital Bikeshare stations are located throughout the area, offering an eco-friendly option for short trips. Check out their app for station maps and bike availability. D.C. is also surprisingly walkable. Exploring areas like the Georgetown waterfront or the paths around the National Mall on foot makes you truly appreciate the city’s beauty at your own pace.

Uncover Hidden Shopping Spots

D.C. is not only about historic sites and government buildings; it also offers unique shopping experiences.  For instance, the historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill offers more than fresh produce. On weekends, local artisans and crafters sell everything from handmade jewelry to unique home decor. In Dupont Circle, Kramerbooks & Afterwords combines a bookstore with a cafe, making it a cozy spot for book lovers. 

Following that, for those looking to add some character to their living spaces, Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot on 14th Street NW offers a variety of vintage furniture, quirky art, and collectibles. Each piece tells a story, and you might just find the perfect accent for your home. During the holiday season, the Downtown Holiday Market is the place to be. Vendors from all over the area set up shop to sell crafts, art, jewelry, and more.


Congratulations on beginning your life in Washington, D.C.! By exploring beyond the well-known sites, dining at local favorites, engaging in community events, and shopping at unique spots, you will experience Washington, D.C., like a local. Each neighborhood offers something new and exciting, ensuring your time in the capital is rich and rewarding. Embrace these tips, enjoy the culture, and soon feel part of this great city.