The unique experiences you can have in Washington, DC

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America's national capital may be the political epicentre of the country but beyond the museums and monuments you'll find a young, hip community complemented by vibrant street art, home grown distilleries and one of the USA's most exciting food scenes in this surprising city.

Washington, DC's diverse neighbourhoods provide unique, individual experiences within the larger city itself. Here's the best way to explore what each has to offer.

Dupont Circle

This cosmopolitan neighbourhood is home to a large LGBTQI+ community and fabulous food where you can stroll Embassy Row, enjoy lunch with your nose in a book or browse contemporary art.

To immerse in the multi-cultural culinary scene, take a tour – beer in hand – of Heurich House, which was once home to DC's biggest beer brewer; tuck into top-notch Japanese fare at lauded Sushi Taro; or experience Michelin star dining at Residents or Astoria.

Local institution Kramerbooks offers a cosy upstairs café for breakfast or cocktails, while Tatte Bakery and Café is a favourite with locals.

Nearby, explore the network of trails at Rock Creek Park. If you're in town in October, Dupont Circle's 35th annual High Heel Race is a lot of fun.

Experience the magic of live music at The Anthem.

Experience the magic of live music at The Anthem. Photo: Destination DC

Capitol Riverfront and The Wharf

Take in a pro baseball game, let the kids loose at riverfront parks and see DC's landmark monuments from the water.

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Hire a bike for a spin along the Potomac River at The Wharf (phase two opens in October) or catch a free ferry over to East Potomac Park for a round of golf or hit of tennis.

A SUP Monument Tour includes a paddle around Theodore Roosevelt Island before travelling up to the Watergate steps for unobstructed vistas of the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. Afterwards, browse the historic Fish Market.

Both The Wharf and Capitol Riverfront bustle with family-friendly eateries, waterfront parks with fountains and splash zones, kayaking and fishing.

You can cheer on DC United at Audi Field or nab same-day baseball tickets at Nationals Park. Post-match, head to Blue Jacket Brewery housed in the Washington Navy Yard's 1919 Boilermaker Building for craft beer and burgers.

Back along the waterfront, jump on a water taxi with City Cruises to historic Georgetown for a cycle along the scenic C&O Canal.

Georgetown

Stroll cobblestone streets, admire historic homes and sleep in style at some of the city's most luxurious hotels in DC's oldest neighbourhood.

Georgetown offers tranquil vistas of the Potomac River, boutique shopping on M Street, seasonal ice skating beneath neon snowflakes and waterfront dining where oysters, crab cakes and lobster rolls are on the menu.

Georgetown institution Tony and Joe's, overlooking the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, does a mean clam chowder. From here, the National Mall aka "America's front yard" is an easy ride away on the DC Circulator.

Stretch your legs sightseeing at dusk (a good way to avoid the crowds). Covering more than 40 hectares from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, you can wind your way around the White House, Smithsonian museums, Tidal Basin and landmarks commemorating America's wars.

It's also the pick of spots to take in all the beauty of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, with Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy moments.

When the sun sinks, join the spooky family-friendly DC Ghosts tour. Those with kids in tow will also love hands-on museums like the National Air and Space Museum, or live out your own 007 fantasies with a "secret operation sleepover" at the International Spy Museum.

Barack Obama is one of the many fans of Ben's Chili Bowl.

Ben's Chili Bowl is a favourite of foodies the world over, Barack Obama included. Photo: Destination DC

Shaw – U Street Corridor

In this artsy neighbourhood, you can dive into African American history and explore alleyways brimming with street art and cool bars.

Take in a show and see live music at the 9.30 Club, Howard and Lincoln Theatres on "Black Broadway"; delve into U Street Corridor's colourful past with a 'Music and Mural' tour; or join a tasty food tour celebrating diverse cuisine and DC's jazz era.

Ben's Chili Bowl is also found here, famous for its signature half-smoke: a sausage on a hotdog bun with mustard, chopped onions and homemade chili. So good that even Barack Obama has eaten here.

Ivy City & NoMa

Up-and-coming Northeast DC is where breweries, distilleries and immigrant chefs are shaking up the capital's culinary scene.

Sample homegrown bevvies at the likes of City Winery and Republic Restoratives (the city's only female-owned-and-operated distillery) or bar hop along the Whisky Rebellion Trail.

Farm to table cuisine with a strong seafood bend is found at Michelin star Gravitas, while tasty seafood treasures await at Ivy City Smokehouse.

In NoMa (north of Massachusetts Avenue NE) foodies will love Union Market – the epicentre of DC's gourmet scene – with its mix of street eats (try a poke bowl from The District Fishwife) and weekly farmer's market. Meanwhile, picnics and cocktails are the order of the day at rooftop Hi-Lawn.

Nearby, join a magical Full Moon Hike through 180 hectares of moonlit gardens, meadows and woods, including the National Capital Columns at the glorious US National Arboretum.

To book your next trip to Washington, DC, Air New Zealand's new service connects Australia via Auckland to New York City and Washington, DC. Check out their fares here. Helloworld and Collette also have incredible Washington, DC vacation packages available for sale. Check them out!