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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Washington, DC

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Things to do in Washington, DC

Get up close to wildlife of Washington

Vast, beautiful and just outside central DC is Rock Creek Park. Bisecting the city north of the Anacostia River, it is an impressive 809 hectares (2,000 acres) of thickly forested hills. Offering abundant hiking trails, the park is a wildlife haven and visitors can glimpse raccoons, coyotes and deer.

Lace up and take to the ice

Although considered a Southern city, Washington's winters are cold in the extreme. While that's not so wonderful for sightseeing, winter is when the city's al fresco ice rinks flourish. Lace your skates for the beautiful Canal Park (tel: +1 202 465 7012; www.canalparkdc.org/ice-rink), which runs lessons for all abilities.

See the city's sights from a Segway

The motion and controls may feel strange at first but a spin on a Segway is hard to beat. Washington's Segs in the City (tel: 1 800 734 7393, in the USA only; www.segsinthecity.com) is more than a brilliant pun, with hire, classes and tours of the main monuments.

Shuck some of the world's best oysters

Chesapeake Bay is famous for its wonderful oysters and just over 30 miles from Washington DC. The city has no shortage of oyster bars, try the family-run Rapphannock Oyster Company (tel: +1 804 204 1709; www.rroysters.com) in Union Market and wash down the catch with a local craft beer.

Watch an American football match

Although not hugely successful in recent years, the city is home to Washington Redskins (www.redskins.com). The American football team has an impressive trophy cabinet of no fewer than five NFL championships. Games take place at the FedEx Field in Maryland; plan early to secure tickets.

Featured Hotels

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Washington Plaza Hotel

Under the watchful eye of architect Morris Lapidus, the Washington Plaza sprung up in 1962, placing a resort-like hotel in the middle of a city. Right next to the Smithsonian museums, the location is superb, while its glorious swimming pool, 340 well turned out rooms and recently renovated fitness suite are all as good as any modern contemporaries.

Normandy Hotel

Located on an elegant street with embassies as neighbours, and within walking distance of bars, restaurants, shops and the Dupont Circle Metro, this small hotel is a real find. Extensively renovated in 2009, the 75 rooms are decorated in black and white highlighted with fabrics in warm colours. The lobby and rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi internet access and although there is no restaurant, afternoon tea and coffee is served to guests and there is a free wine and cheese reception some evenings.

Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC

The award-winning Oriental is one of the most popular hotels in Washington, DC. Touches of Feng Shui have made its huge guest rooms calming - in fact, you may not want to leave them. All have Chinese marble bathrooms, silk bed tapestries, flatscreen TVs, high-speed internet access and smashing views of city monuments or the Potomac Tidal Basin. The hotel also has a state-of-the-art spa plus two restaurants - the Asian-inspired, award-winning Cafe MoZU and the Sou'Wester, serving regional American cuisine. For lighter fare or cocktails try the Empress Lounge.

Hotel Tabard Inn

Located on a tree-lined side street in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood, this is the small hotel that residents recommend to their friends. As it was constructed from three Federal-style row houses, no two rooms are exactly the same, but each is filled with unique antiques and has Wi-Fi access throughout. Some rooms have a shared bathroom. Victorian sitting areas in the lounge are quite cosy and feature live jazz on Sunday night. The hotel's downstairs dining room, a popular lunch spot for both guests and non-guests, features American cuisine. The restaurant's brick-walled garden is one of the most pleasant places to pass an afternoon in Washington, DC. Price includes continental breakfast.

Hotel Helix

If funk is your thing, you'll love this Kimpton boutique hotel where pop art meets Hollywood. The guestrooms are decorated in eye-popping patterns, bright red, green and blue colours, and underscored with rounded mirrors and large pillows. Twelve of the rooms are themed including the cool Zone rooms, fun family Bunk rooms and Italian-inspired Eats rooms. The lighting system changes from blue to gold in the hotel's bar/café, Helix Lounge, and the outdoor patio is popular with locals. Located in the Logan Circle neighbourhood, Hotel Helix is more appealing to young hipsters rather than sedate business people.

The William Lewis House

A home from home, this welcoming bed and breakfast has all the trinkets and touches of grandma's place with patterned rugs, plump sofas and candles and doilies above the fireplace. Actually taking up two Edwardian townhouses, The William Lewis House has 10 individually decorated rooms, scattered with antiques and family heirlooms, plus free Wi-Fi. What's more, the owners host happy hours with wine and hot chocolate. Gay friendly.