108 Interesting Facts About Washington, D.C.

Interesting Washington DC facts

Find out what “The District” aka Washington, D.C. is known for with these 108 interesting facts. If you’re looking for the state, head over to my facts about Washington State.

Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States. It is known for the dozens of significant buildings and monuments in the Capitol area.

General Washington, D.C. Facts

1. Washington D.C. is both the capital city and federal district of the United States of America.

2. Washington refers to the city, while D.C. (District of Columbia) refers to the federal district, but they occupy the same area.

3. Washington D.C. is not a state, although it acts as one in many ways, and there have been movements to make it the 51st state.

4. According to the Constitution, the capital should not exceed “10 miles square” (not 10 square miles, but a square that is 10 miles on each side). Washington, D.C., is 63.84 mi2 (177 km2), less than 10 miles square.

5. Thus, when it was established in 1790 from lands ceded from Maryland and Virginia, it was square-shaped, with each side measuring 10 miles, so it was actually 100 mi2. Later, the Virginia land was returned, bringing it down to near its current size.

6. Washington D.C. could fit into Rhode Island, the current smallest state, 22.6 times.

7. If Washington, D.C. were a state, it would have the highest population density in the US, with 11,295 people per square mile (4361 per square kilometer). That’s ten times higher than the population density of New Jersey, the most dense state.

8. If Washington, D.C. were a country, it would be larger than six others. It is 336 times larger than Vatican City and larger than Monaco, Nauru, Tuvalu, San Marino, and Liechtenstein.

An aerial view of Washington DC, with a wide multi-lane road leading to the Capitol building
Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

9. Washington, D.C., is located on the east bank of the Potomac River, with Virginia State on the western side of the river. Maryland borders it on all other sides.

10. Previous US capitals before Washington, D.C. included New York City, Trenton (New Jersey), Annapolis (Maryland), Princeton (New Jersey), York and Lancaster (Pennsylvania), Baltimore (Maryland), and the most recent one, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania).

11. With 670,050 residents, Washington, D.C. is the 23rd largest city in the United States, putting it between El Paso, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts in terms of population.

12. The Greater Washington, D.C. Area, which includes Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia, has a population of 6.4 million, making it the 6th largest metropolitan area in the United States.

An aerial view of Washington D.C., with the Washington Monument sticking up, and a bridge across the tidal basin in the foreground
Washington Monument viewed from across a tidal basin on the Potomac River

13. Greater Washington has more people than Greater Philadelphia but less than Greater Houston.

14. The highest temperature ever recorded in Washington, D.C. was 105°F (40.6°C) in 2011, while the lowest was −18°F (−27.8°C) in 1984.

15. Washington, D.C., was named after George Washington, the first president of the US.

16. Columbia is a female version of Columbus, as in the explorer Christopher Columbus. She is the female personification of the United States. At the time the city’s founding, the 13 colonies, and sometimes the entire New World (Western Hemisphere) were called Columbia.

17. The official abbreviation for Washington D.C. is D.C., while the Washington Dulles International Airport code is IAD. It is named after John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state who served under Eisenhower and was born in DC.

A subway pulling into a metro station in Washington DC
The Washington DC metro

18. With a daily ridership of over 200,000, the Washington Metro is the 2nd busiest in the US after New York City.

19. Some common nicknames for Washington D.C. are D.C. and The District.

20. Slogans for Washington, D.C. have included “Washington, DC: The American Experience,” “Celebrate and Discover,” and “Taxation Without Representation.”

21. People from Washington are called Washingtonians.

Washington DC's flag, which has two red stripes and three red stars on a white background
The official flag of Washington, D.C.

22. The Washington, D.C. flag features a white backdrop with three red stars above two horizontal red bars.

23. Washington, D.C. has 15 sister cities, including Tshwane, formerly known as Pretoria (South Africa), Ankara (Turkey), Dakar (Senegal), and Seoul (South Korea).

Interesting Facts About Washington, D.C.

24. The most important buildings associated with Washington’s capital city are in a cross-shaped park called the National Mall, which the United States National Park Service administers.

25. The United States Capitol sits on Capitol Hill at the easter end of the cross. The White House is at the northern end, the Lincoln Memorial at the western end, and the Washington Monument at the center. To the south lies a large tidal basin and a peninsula with a golf course and other public leisure facilities.

The Washington DC White House viewed across a manicured lawn
The White House

26. The Capitol’s rotunda, or round-shaped building, is directly below the Capitol’s dome. Two stories below the rotunda is a crypt containing a tomb that was supposed to be for Washington’s body. However, the body was never moved from its resting place at Washington’s property in Mount Vernon, Virginia.  

27. Theodore Roosevelt named the White House in 1901. It has a private bowling alley, swimming pool, tennis court, jogging track, and movie theater. The two presidents (Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams) even had pet alligators.

28. The Lincoln Memorial has been the site of several famous speeches, such as Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963.

A view of the whole Lincoln Memorial building with dark blue sky behind and the Lincoln statue lit up inside
The Lincoln Memorial

29. Other major events that have taken place in front of the memorial include the March on Pentagon against the Vietnam War (1967), We Are One Obama Inauguration (2009), and President Biden’s memorial for 400,000 who died from COVID (2021).  

30. The Washington Monument, built in memory of George Washington, is 554 ft (169 m) tall, making it the world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk. It was the tallest structure in the world from 1884 to 1889, when the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, surpassed it.

The Martin Luther King Memorial with some cherry blossoms in the foreground
Cherry blossoms in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

31. Other major buildings and features in the National Mall include United States Botanic Garden, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of African American History and Culture, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and many more.  

32. There are around 3800 cherry blossom trees in the National Mall, which bloom in spring. The first cherry blossom trees on site were a gift of friendship from Japan in 1912.

33. Washington, D.C., is divided into four districts, with all street letters (A, B, and so on) radiating out from the Capitol. There is, however, no J Street because, in old times, it looked too similar to an I.

Front facade of the Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral

34. Other famous buildings and attractions in Washington, D.C., outside the National Mall include Capital One Arena, Ford’s Theater, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Building Museum, Washington National Cathedral, Union Station, and Tudor Place.

35. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with 171 million items, and the official research library of the United States. It lies just east of the Capitol building.

36. The Pentagon is considered part of Washington DC, but is actually located in Virginia. It is located just west of the Potomac River’s high water mark, which is the official border between Virginia and Washington, D.C.

37. Washington, D.C., has more embassies (178) than any other city. London has 164, and Paris has 160.

A bridge across the river with buildings and churches of Georgetown, Washington D.C. in the background
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

38. The tallest building in Washington, D.C. is Waldorf Astoria (home to a Hilton Hotel), which has 12 floors and stands 315 ft (96 m) tall.

39. Some of the trendiest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., are the Capitol area, Downtown (just north of the White House, Georgetown, Anacostia, and Adams Morgan).

40. Washington, D.C., is home to 75 National Historic Landmarks, including historic churches, a courthouse, a cemetery, schools, a post office, a patent office, a naval observatory, and more.   

41. There are no UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Washington, D.C. Still, the meeting to determine the first two UNESCO sites (Mesa Verde in Colorado and Yellowstone in Wyoming) was held in Washington, D.C., in 1978.

A footbridge leading across the river to Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington DC
Footbridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island

42. There are no national parks in Washington, D.C., but the National Parks Service manages most of the 14 mi2 (36 km2), about 1/5th of the district’s area, owned by the government. This includes the National Mall, Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, and several more parks.

43. The US Department of Agriculture manages the United States National Arboretum, which includes a National Grove of Trees, National Capitol Columns from the original Capitol, and a herbarium with 800,000 species.

Economy and Society Facts

44. Washington, D.C., has the fifth-largest economy in the United States.

45. Washington, D.C., is currently home to two Fortune 500 companies: Fannie Mae and Danaher.

A George Washington bust at George Washington University with "Founded in 1821" on it
George Washington University

46. There are 19 colleges and universities in Washington, D.C., the largest of which are George Washington University and Georgetown University.

47. Washington has one of the most educated populations in the country, ranking #1 in college degrees per capita.

48. Washington, D.C., has one of the country’s highest student debt rates. The average student owes over $40,000.

49. Washington, D.C.’s crime rate is about half that of Memphis, Tennessee, but double that of Santa Ana in Greater Los Angeles, California.

50. The Washington Dulles International Airport is the 25th busiest airport in the US. It served 24,817,677 million passengers in 2019.

A road with trailing lights of cars leading to the main building of Washington Dulles International Airport at night
Washington Dulles International Airport

51. Highly frequented shopping malls and centers in Washington, D.C., include CityCenterDC, Gallery Place, Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, and Georgetown Park.

52. Washington, D.C., has 12 billionaires with a combined net worth of over 280 billion USD. Overall, the city has one of the wealthiest populations in the country.

53. The richest person in Washington, D.C., is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with a net worth of 201 billion USD. Jeff Bezos lives between Washington, D.C., and Seattle, Washington state, and owns properties in both cities.

54. The second richest person in Seattle is heiress and investor Jaqueline Mars, with a net worth of over 31 billion USD.

55. Washingtonians drink more wine per capita than any state in the US.

56. Washington, D.C., received 24.6 million visitors in 2019, more than the cities of Honolulu (Hawaii), Nashville (Tennessee), or Boston (Massachusetts).

A whole bunch of tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
Tourists in Washington DC

57. 15% of people in Washington, D.C., live below the poverty line.

58. 45.4% of city residents are Black (including the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia), while 42.5% are White. It is also the city with the most Salvadoreans outside of San Salvador (the capital of El Salvador).

59. Washington, D.C., has the 18th highest percentage of LGBTQ+ people in the US, at 8.1% of the city’s population.

60. 92.15% of District of Columbia residents voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

61. Movies filmed or set in Washington, D.C., include Mars Attacks, Enemy of the State, Dick, State of Play, Without Remorse, The Accountant, and Salt.

An American flag flying on the side of the Capitol building
US flag on the Capitol building

62. TV shows filmed in Washington, D.C., include House of Cards, X-Files, Bones, Covert Affairs, The Handmaid’s Tale, Criminal Minds, and K.C. Undercover.

63. Inventions from Washington, D.C., include America’s first clock, the Binder clip, blood banks, and telegraph messages.

Washington, D.C. Sports Facts

64. Washington, D.C., has seven major professional sports teams: Washington Commanders (NFL), Washington Wizards (NBA), D.C. United (MLS), Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Mystics (WNBA), Washington Spirit (NWSL), and DC Defenders (XFL).

65. The Washington Commanders won the NFL championships in 1937 and 1942 and the Super Bowl in 1983, 1988, and 1992.

66. Two notable players for the Washington Commanders were Sonny Jurgensen (quarterback) and Bobby Mitchell (wide receiver). Both were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

A mosaic of the logos of Washington D.C. sports teams
Professional sports teams from Washington DC

67. The Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals play their home games at the Capital One Arena (formerly Verizon Center).

68. The Wizards made four NBA Finals and finally won in 1978.

69. The Washington Wizards have made 28 playoff appearances, won four conference titles, and won seven division titles.

70. D.C. United played its home matches at Kennedy Memorial Stadium before moving to Audi Field, where the DC Defenders also play.

71. From 1996 through 2000, D.C. United won eight of their twelve major titles with players such as Ben Olsen, Marco Etcheverry, Roy Lassiter, Raúl Díaz Arce, Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope, and head coach Bruce Arena.

72. The Capitals have retired four Numbers in honor of the following players: Yvon Labre, Mike Gartner, Dale Hunter, and Rod Langway.

A hockey game and cheering crowd inside Capital One Arena in Washington DC
Capital One Arena by clydeorama is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

73. The Washington Mystics have reached the Stanley Cup Finals on two occasions, once in 1998 and a second time in 2018 – they won the latter.

74. In addition, the Mystics have 12 division titles and three Presidents’ Trophies.

75. The Washington Spirit won their first NWSL Championship in 2021.

76. In 2020, the DC Defenders won the first game in modern XFL history.

77. Kevin Durant, considered one of the best basketball players of all time, was born in Washington, D.C.

Famous People from Washington, D.C.

78. Al Gore, environmentalist and 45th US vice president, was born in Washington, D.C.

79. Actors Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Ealy, Jon Bernthal, Laz Alonso, and comedian Dave Chappelle were born in Washington, D.C.

80. Actresses Taraji Penda Henson, Katherine Heigl, Regina Hall, and Alyson Hannigan were born in Washington, D.C.

A mosaic of famous people from Washington DC
Famous Washingtonians Marvin Gaye, Al Gore, Samuel L. Jackson, Alyson Hannigan, Kevin Durant, and Bill Nye the Science Guy (clockwise from top-left)

81. Singers Marvin Gaye, Tank, Stacy Lattisaw, Amerie, and Ginuwine were born or lived in Washington, D.C.

82. Other musicians and bands from Washington, D.C. include Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Fugazi, Rites of Spring, and Bad Moves.

83. Bill Nye the Science Guy, journalist Connie Chung, and the first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, were also born in Washington, D.C.

84. Benjamin Oliver Davis of Washington, D.C., became the first African American general in the US Army.

85. Inventors from Washington, D.C. include Louis Baltzey (binder clips), Dr. Charles Drew (blood plasma preservation), and Samuel Morse (Morse code).

Washington, D.C. History Facts

86. Human settlement in the Washington, D.C., area lasted at least 4000 years.

87. The Algonquian-speaking Nacotchtank people were the original inhabitants of the Washington, D.C., area.

Exterior of the main, castle-like building at Georgetown University
Georgetown University was the first university in D.C.

88. In 1662, George Thompson and Thomas Gerrard were granted lands in the area, becoming the first colonists there. These lands included the land that is now Capitol Hill.

89. Georgetown, in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C., was established in 1751, and Georgetown University followed in 1789.

90. In 1791, President George Washington proclaimed the Territory of Columbia and the City of Washington as the new capital. The land’s area was ceded from Maryland and Virginia, though the Virginia portion was later given back.

91. Construction on the White House began in 1792, and the Capitol building in 1793. Both were completed in 1800.

92. In 1801, the District of Columbia was officially established by US Congress.

93. The City of Washington was incorporated in 1802, and a mayor-council government was established.

A black and white photograph of an old Ford Lincoln car parked on a road in front of the Washington Capitol buildin
A Ford Lincoln in front of the Capitol building in 1925

94. In 1814, the Capitol building was partially destroyed in the Burning of Washington during a British invasion of the city.

95. In 1818, a central heating system was installed in the Capitol building.

96. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began running to Washington, D.C., in 1835.

97. The Baltimore-Washington telegraph began operating in 1844.

98. Construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848 and was completed in 1884.

99. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation from Washington, D.C., bringing slavery to an end.

100. The Lincoln Memorial was constructed between 1914 and 1922. The Reflecting Pool was added from 1922 to 1923.

The Lincoln Monument reflecting in the Lincoln Reflecting Pool with some tourists visiting
The Lincoln Reflecting Pool

101. The population of Washington, D.C., reached half a million in the early 1930s.

102. In 1949, the Whitehurst Freeway was opened, running from Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia, across the federal district to Silver Spring in Maryland.

103. In 1964, residents of DC were able to vote for president for the first time.

104. In 1976, the Washington Metro began operating.

105. The Washington Times was published for the first time in 1982.

106. In 2020, The District locked down for the first time due to COVID-19.

107. On January 6, 2021, President Donald Trump stirred up a mob that went on to attack the Capitol building, resulting in five deaths and 174 police officers being injured.

108. In mid-2022, Washington DC was reported to have the most monkeypox cases per capita in the US.

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