|Prepare: The City
Washington isn't just stuffy shirts and onmibus legislation. DC knows how to have fun. While most of the big decisons are made by the older partisans you see on TV, most of the work that keeps the system running is done by twentysomethings. As a result, there are plenty of youthful places to chill after a long week.
The WISH Woodly Park apartments are in the Woodley ParkCenter, a middle-class residential area. Entertainment is never far away. Closest to the Center (a 15-20 min walk with great views of Rock Creek Park on the way) is Adam's Morgan. This neighborhood has a large college student population and the associated restaurants, bars, and clubs. Happy hour food deals are also a great way to eat out cheaply.
A longer walk (or one Metro stop) down Connecticut Avenue is Dupont Circle. A higher-end version of Adam's Morgan, the area around Dupont has fine dining, outdoor taverns, a movie theater, boutique stores, and even a Krispy Kreme. There is also a public swimming pool nearby to help you cool off.
There are many historic and otherwise-notable establishments on Capitol Hill. Staffers flock to Hawk & Dove, west of the Capitol, for drinks after work and there are many more shops, restaurants, and bars in and around Union Station.
If Washington DC were a state, it would be the second-wealthiest on a per capita basis (behind Connecticut) and the myriad cultural opportunities show it. Get a free dose of the Bard with Shakespeare in the Park, see a Broadway hit (or a show on its way to Broadway) at the National Theater or the Kennedy Center. Go paddle-boating on the Tidal Basin. Rent a Segway and ride around the city. Check out some of the most closely-guarded secrets of the Cold War at the National Spy Museum. Catch the Nationals playing in RFK Stadium or the WNBA's Mystics at the MCI Center. See amazing monuments and memorials, then head to any of the gigantic Smithsonian Museums. There's so much to do and much of it (including all of the Smithsonians) is free.
Should you want to catch a movie during the summer, there are surprisingly few options in the city (but many more out in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs). Still, you can see nearly every first-run movie at the Regal Cinemas complex in Chinatown (Gallery PL-Chinatown Metro stop), a smaller selection close by at the AMC Theater in Dupont Circle, or independent and small-run films at the E Street Cinemas (across from the ESPN Zone) (Metro Center or Gallery PL-Chinatown Metro stop).
The government doesn't just run the city, it also provides plenty of tourist attractions. At the National Archives you can see the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and an early copy of the Magna Carta up close, watch your money being made at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, visit the Supreme Court or Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, step into history at National Park Service historical sites like Ford's Theater, or stage a protest outside the offices of whatever government agency is ruffling your feathers.
During the Summer, you'll have two excellent opportunities to see how DC celebrates important holidays on Memorial Day and Independence Day. On the last Monday in May, wake up early and head to Arlington National Cemetery for the somber but patriotic tribute to the nation's combat casualties. Observe the President and Cabinet members laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or grab a seat in the nearby amphitheater to hear the President's address (you won't be able to do both). On July 4th, the entire city is deluged with tourists. Get to the Mall by mid-afternoon to have any chance of claiming a spot. There are several events that go on throughout the day. The two main shows are the Capitol Hill concert (arrive at the east lawn by 7 p.m. to have a chance at good, free public seating) and the fireworks launched right after from nearby the Lincoln Memorial. Have an exit strategy planned and leave before the fireworks end if you want to spend less than two hours getting back--the Metro becomes instantly overwhelmed by the exiting masses.
DC is home to amazing parks and monuments. Along the National Mall are the Washington Monument, and the Abraham Lincoln, Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II memorials. Out along the Tidal Basin are the Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson memorials. All around the city are statues and small memorials to the nation's heroes and leaders. There is history all over the place, from scandals (the Watergate and "Signature", Jack Abramoff's restaurant) to success (many of the oldest buildings still bear scars from the War of 1812).
The newspaper The
Economist has a free online guide to Washington that is kept current and provides information that will be more specific than this page once you arrive.