Various tribes of the Algonquian-speaking Piscataway people, also known as the Conoy, inhabited the lands around the Potomac River when Europeans arrived and colonized the region in the early 17th century. One group known as the Nacotchtank, also called the Nacostines by Catholic missionaries, maintained settlements around the Anacostia River in present-day Washington, D.C. Conflicts with European colonists and neighboring tribes forced the Piscataway people to relocate, some of whom established a new settlement in 1699 near Point of Rocks, Maryland.
Two preexisting settlements were included in the territory: the port of Georgetown, Maryland, founded in 1751, and the port city of Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1749. In 1791–92, a team led by Andrew Ellicott, including Ellicott's brothers Joseph and Benjamin and African-American astronomer Benjamin Banneker, surveyed the borders of the federal district and placed boundary stones at every mile point; many of these stones are still standing.
Outside Downtown D.C., architectural styles are more varied. Historic buildings are designed primarily in the Queen Anne, Châteauesque, Richardsonian Romanesque, Georgian Revival, Beaux-Arts, and a variety of Victorian styles. Rowhouses are prominent in areas developed after the Civil War and typically follow Federal and late Victorian designs. Georgetown's Old Stone House, built in 1765, is the oldest-standing building in the city. Founded in 1789, Georgetown University features a mix of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture. The Ronald Reagan Building is the largest building in the district with a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet (288,000 m ). Washington Union Station is designed from a combination of different architectural styles. Its Great Hall, which serves as the main hall within the building, has elaborate gold leaf designs along the ceilings and the hall includes several decorative classical-style statues.
Blizzards affect Washington once every four to six years on average. The most violent storms, known as nor'easters, often impact large regions of the East Coast. From January 27 to 28, 1922, the city officially received 28 inches (71 cm) of snowfall, the largest snowstorm since official measurements began in 1885. According to notes kept at the time, the city received between 30 and 36 inches (76 and 91 cm) from a snowstorm in January 1772.
Prior to the establishment of Washington, D.C., as the nation's capital in 1800, the Second Continental Congress was based in Philadelphia on five separate occasions (May 1775 – July 1776, December 1776 – February 1777, March 1777 – September 1777, July 1778, July 1778 – March 1781, and March 1781 – June 1783). The congressional base was briefly in five other locations: York, Pennsylvania (September 1777), Princeton, New Jersey (1783), Annapolis, Maryland (November 1783 to August 1784), Trenton, New Jersey (November to December 1784), and New York City (January 1785 to March 1789).
On October 6, 1783, after the capital was forced by the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783 to relocate to Princeton, New Jersey, Congress resolved to consider a new location for it. The following day, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts moved "that buildings for the use of Congress be erected on the banks of the Delaware near Trenton, or of the Potomac, near Georgetown, provided a suitable district can be procured on one of the rivers as aforesaid, for a federal town".
In his Federalist No. 43, published January 23, 1788, James Madison argued that the new federal government would need authority over a national capital to provide for its own maintenance and safety. The Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783 emphasized the need for the national government not to rely on any state for its own security.
On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16. Formed from land donated by Maryland and Virginia, the initial shape of the federal district was a square measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side and totaling 100 square miles (259 km ).
The U.S. constitution provides for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. Washington, D.C., is not a part of any U.S. state and is not one itself. The Residence Act, adopted on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of the capital district along the Potomac River. The city of Washington was founded in 1791, and Congress held its first session there in 1800. The city of Washington originally had smaller boundaries than it does now and was intended to be separate from the District of Columbia, while still being within it.
In addition to the district's own Metropolitan Police Department, many federal law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction in the city as well—most visibly the U.S. Park Police, founded in 1791.
Washington, D.C., was a planned city, and many of the District's street grids were developed in that initial plan. In 1791, President George Washington commissioned Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect and city planner, to design the new capital, and enlisted Scottish surveyor Alexander Ralston to help lay out the city plan. The L'Enfant Plan featured broad streets and avenues radiating out from rectangles, providing room for open space and landscaping. L'Enfant based his design on plans of other major world cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, Karlsruhe, and Milan that Thomas Jefferson had sent to him. L'Enfant's design also envisioned a garden-lined grand avenue approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) in length and 400 feet (120 m) wide in area that is now the National Mall. In March 1792, however, President Washington dismissed L'Enfant due to conflicts with the three commissioners appointed to supervise the capital's construction. Andrew Ellicott, who worked with L'Enfant in surveying the city, was then tasked with completing its design. Though Ellicott revised the original L'Enfant plans, including changing some street patterns, L'Enfant is still credited with the city's overall design.
A new federal city was then constructed on the north bank of the Potomac, to the east of Georgetown. On September 9, 1791, the three commissioners overseeing the capital's construction named the city in honor of President Washington. The same day, the federal district was named Columbia, a feminine form of Columbus, which was a poetic name for the United States commonly used at that time. Congress held its first session there on November 17, 1800.
The Marine Barracks near Capitol Hill houses the United States Marine Band; founded in 1798, it is the country's oldest professional musical organization. American march composer and Washington-native John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band from 1880 until 1892. Founded in 1925, the United States Navy Band has its headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard and performs at official events and public concerts around the city.
In 1801, the territory, formerly part of Maryland and Virginia and including the settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria, was officially recognized as the federal district. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia, including the city of Alexandria; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the district that only lasted for three years due to a variety of reasons, including budgetary ones. There have been several unsuccessful efforts to make the city into a state since the 1880s, though a statehood bill passed the House of Representatives in 2021.
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation chartered by Congress in 1846 that maintains most of the nation's official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. It is the world's largest research and museum complex. The U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian, and its collections are open to the public free of charge. The Smithsonian's locations had a combined total of 30 million visits in 2013. The most visited museum is the National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall. Other Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries on the mall include the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African Art, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Sackler and Freer galleries, which both focus on Asian art and culture, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Arts and Industries Building, the S. Dillon Ripley Center, and the Smithsonian Institution Building, which serves as the institution's headquarters.
The Virginia General Assembly voted in February 1846, to accept the return of Alexandria. On July 9, 1846, Congress went further, agreeing to return all territory that Virginia had ceded to the district during its formation. This left the district's area consisting only of the portion originally donated by Maryland. Confirming the fears of pro-slavery Alexandrians, the Compromise of 1850 outlawed the slave trade in the district, although not slavery itself.
Washington Gas is the city's natural gas utility and serves more than a million customers in the district and its suburbs. Incorporated by Congress in 1848, the company installed the city's first gas lights in the Capitol, White House, and along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the expansion of the federal government and notable growth in the district's population, including a large influx of freed slaves. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act in 1862, which ended slavery in the district, freeing about 3,100 slaves in the district nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1868, Congress granted the district's African American male residents the right to vote in municipal elections.
After the reorganization, in 1873, President Grant appointed Alexander Robey Shepherd as Governor of the District of Columbia. Shepherd authorized large-scale projects that greatly modernized the city but ultimately bankrupted the district government. In 1874, Congress replaced the territorial government with an appointed three-member board of commissioners.
Washington, D.C., is a prominent center for national and international media. The Washington Post, founded in 1877, is the oldest and most-read local daily newspaper in Washington. "The Post", as it is popularly called, is well known as the newspaper that exposed the Watergate scandal. It had the sixth-highest readership of all news dailies in the country in 2011. From 2003 to 2019, The Washington Post Company published a daily free commuter newspaper called the Express, which summarized events, sports and entertainment; it still publishes the Spanish-language paper El Tiempo Latino. The Atlantic magazine, which covers politics, international affairs, and cultural issues, is also headquartered in Washington.
In 1888, the city's first motorized streetcars began service. Their introduction generated growth in areas of the district beyond the City of Washington's original boundaries, leading to an expansion of the district over the next few decades. Georgetown's street grid and other administrative details were formally merged to those of the City of Washington in 1895. However, the city had poor housing conditions and strained public works, leading it to become the first city in the nation to undergo urban renewal projects as part of the City Beautiful movement in the early 20th century.
The City of Washington was bordered by Boundary Street to the north (renamed Florida Avenue in 1890), Rock Creek to the west, and the Anacostia River to the east. Washington's street grid was extended, where possible, throughout the district starting in 1888. Georgetown's streets were renamed in 1895. Some streets are particularly noteworthy, including Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the White House to the Capitol, and K Street, which houses the offices of many lobbying groups. Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, located on the north and south sides of the National Mall, respectively, are home to many of Washington's iconic museums, including the Smithsonian Institution buildings and the National Archives Building. Washington hosts 177 foreign embassies, constituting approximately 297 buildings beyond the more than 1,600 residential properties owned by foreign countries, many of which are on a section of Massachusetts Avenue informally known as Embassy Row.
The National Park Service manages most of the 9,122 acres (36.92 km ) of city land owned by the U.S. government. Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre (7.10 km ) urban forest in Northwest Washington, which extends 9.3 miles (15.0 km) through a stream valley that bisects the city. Established in 1890, it is the country's fourth-oldest national park and is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including raccoon, deer, owls, and coyotes. Other National Park Service properties include the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island, Fort Dupont Park, Meridian Hill Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and Anacostia Park. The District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation maintains the city's 900 acres (3.6 km ) of athletic fields and playgrounds, 40 swimming pools, and 68 recreation centers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates the 446-acre (1.80 km ) United States National Arboretum in Northeast Washington, D.C.
Modern, Postmodern, contemporary, and other non-classical architectural styles are also seen in the city's buildings. The National Museum of African American History and Culture deeply contrasts the stone-based neoclassical buildings on the National Mall with a design that combines modern engineering with heavy inspiration from African art. The interior of the Washington Metro stations and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden are designed with strong influence from the 20th-century Brutalism movement. The Smithsonian Institution Building is built of Seneca red sandstone in the Norman Revival style. The Old Post Office building, located on Pennsylvania Avenue and completed in 1899, was the first building in the city to have a steel frame structure and the first to utilize electrical wiring in its design.
The highest recorded temperature was 106 °F (41 °C) on August 6, 1918, and on July 20, 1930. The lowest recorded temperature was −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 11, 1899, right before the Great Blizzard of 1899. During a typical year, the city averages about 37 days at or above 90 °F (32 °C) and 64 nights at or below the freezing mark (32 °F or 0 °C). On average, the first day with a minimum at or below freezing is November 18 and the last day is March 27.
By the early 20th century, however, L'Enfant's vision of a grand national capital was marred by slums and randomly placed buildings in the city, including a railroad station on the National Mall. Congress formed a special committee charged with beautifying Washington's ceremonial core. What became known as the McMillan Plan was finalized in 1901 and included relandscaping the Capitol grounds and the National Mall, clearing slums, and establishing a new citywide park system. The plan is thought to have largely preserved L'Enfant's intended design for the city.
Of the district's population, 17% are Baptist, 13% are Catholic, 6% are evangelical Protestant, 4% are Methodist, 3% are Episcopalian or Anglican, 3% are Jewish, 2% are Eastern Orthodox, 1% are Pentecostal, 1% are Buddhist, 1% are Adventist, 1% are Lutheran, 1% are Muslim, 1% are Presbyterian, 1% are Mormon, and 1% are Hindu. The city is populated with many religious buildings, including the Washington National Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which comprises the largest Catholic church building in the United States, and the Islamic Center of Washington, which was the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere when opened in 1957. St. John's Episcopal Church, located off Lafayette Square, has held services for every U.S. president since James Madison. The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, built in 1908, is a synagogue located in the Chinatown section of the city. The Washington D.C. Temple is a large Mormon temple located just outside the city in Kensington, Maryland. Viewable from the Capital Beltway, the temple is the tallest Mormon temple in existence and the third-largest by square footage.
The National Archives is headquartered in a building just north of the National Mall and houses thousands of documents important to American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Located in three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress is the largest library complex in the world with a collection of more than 147 million books, manuscripts, and other materials. The United States Supreme Court is located immediately north of the Library of Congress. The United States Supreme Court Building was completed in 1935; before then, the court held sessions in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol.
Washington, D.C., observes all federal holidays and also celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16, which commemorates the end of slavery in the district. The flag of Washington, D.C., was adopted in 1938 and is a variation on George Washington's family coat of arms.
The President of the United States does not use any of these airports for travel. Instead, he typically travels by Marine One from the White House South Lawn to Joint Base Andrews, located in suburban Maryland. From there, he takes Air Force One to his destination. Joint Base Andrews was built in 1942. From 1942 to 2009, it was solely an Air Force base, but became a joint Air Force and Naval base in 2009, when Andrews Air Force Base and Naval Air Facility Washington were merged into a singular entity with the creation of Joint Base Andrews.
Founded in 1950, Arena Stage achieved national attention and spurred growth in the city's independent theater movement that now includes organizations such as the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the Studio Theatre. Arena Stage opened its newly renovated home in the city's emerging Southwest waterfront area in 2010. The GALA Hispanic Theatre, now housed in the historic Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights, was founded in 1976 and is a National Center for the Latino Performing Arts.
Among the city's signature restaurants is Ben's Chili Bowl, which has been located on U Street since its founding in 1958. The restaurant rose to prominence as a peaceful escape during the violent 1968 race riots in the city. The restaurant is famous for its chili dogs and half-smokes. The restaurant has been visited by numerous presidents and celebrities over the years. Georgetown Cupcake is a cupcake restaurant whose fame grew following its appearance on the reality T.V. show DC Cupcakes. Due to limited dining options along the National Mall, the city is known for having a heavy concentration of food trucks offering diverse ethnic cuisine options parked along the tourist-dense areas of the mall.
A locally elected mayor and 13-member council have governed the district since 1973. Congress maintains supreme authority over the city, however, and is empowered to overturn local laws. Washington, D.C., residents are, on a federal level, politically disenfranchised since the city's residents do not have voting representation in Congress, although the city's residents elect a single at-large congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives who has no vote. District voters choose three presidential electors in accordance with the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961. Washington, D.C., has been a member state of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization since 2015.
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1961, granting the district three votes in the Electoral College for the election of president and vice president, but still not affording the city's residents representation in Congress.
Article One, Section Eight of the United States Constitution grants the United States Congress "exclusive jurisdiction" over the city. The district did not have an elected local government until the passage of the 1973 Home Rule Act. The Act devolved certain Congressional powers to an elected mayor and the thirteen-member Council of the District of Columbia. However, Congress retains the right to review and overturn laws created by the council and intervene in local affairs. Washington, D.C., is overwhelmingly Democratic, having voted for the Democratic presidential candidate solidly since it was granted electoral votes in 1964.
The idiom "Inside the Beltway" is a reference used by media to describe discussions of national political issues inside of Washington, by way of geographical demarcation regarding the region inner to the Capital's Beltway, Interstate 495, the city's highway loop (beltway) constructed in 1964. The phrase is used as a title for a number of political columns and news items by publications like the populist Washington Times.
After the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in the district, primarily in the U Street, 14th Street, 7th Street, and H Street corridors, which were predominantly black residential and commercial areas. The riots raged for three days until more than 13,600 federal troops and Washington, D.C. Army National Guardsmen stopped the violence. Many stores and other buildings were burned, and rebuilding from the riots was not completed until the late 1990s.
In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act providing for an elected mayor and 13-member council for the district. In 1975, Walter Washington became the district's first elected and first black mayor.
Other professional and semi-professional teams in Washington, D.C. include DC Defenders of the XFL, Old Glory DC of Major League Rugby, the Washington Kastles of World TeamTennis, the Washington D.C. Slayers of the USA Rugby League, the Baltimore Washington Eagles of the U.S. Australian Football League, the D.C. Divas of the Independent Women's Football League, and the Potomac Athletic Club RFC of the Rugby Super League. The William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park hosts the Citi Open. Washington, D.C. has two major annual marathon races, the Marine Corps Marathon, held every autumn, and the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon, held each spring. The Marine Corps Marathon began in 1976 and is sometimes called "The People's Marathon" because it is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money to participants.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the Washington Metro, the city's rapid transit rail system. The system serves Washington, D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Metro opened on March 27, 1976, and consists of six lines (each one color coded), 97 stations, and 129 miles (208 km) of track. Metro is the third-busiest rapid transit system in the country and fifth-busiest in North America. It operates mostly as a deep-level subway in more densely populated parts of the D.C. metropolitan area (including most of the District itself), while most of the suburban tracks are at surface level or elevated. Metro is known for its iconic brutalist-style vaulted ceilings in the interior stations. It is also known for having long escalators in some of its underground stations. The longest single-tier escalator in the Western Hemisphere, spanning 230 feet (70 m), is located at Metro's Wheaton station in Maryland.
The city's local government, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry, was criticized for mismanagement and waste. During his administration in 1989, Washington Monthly magazine labeled the district "the worst city government in America". In 1995, at the start of Barry's fourth term, Congress created the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to oversee all municipal spending. Mayor Anthony Williams won election in 1998 and oversaw a period of urban renewal and budget surpluses.
In 2021 and 2022, the number of homicides continued on an upward trend, both years exceeding 200, a significant rise from previous lows. In 2012, D.C.'s annual murder count had dropped to 88, the lowest total since 1961. The city was once described as the "murder capital" of the United States during the early 1990s. The number of murders peaked in 1991 at 479, but the level of violence then began to decline significantly.
The district regained control over its finances in 2001 and the oversight board's operations were suspended.
Approximately a third of Washington, D.C., residents were functionally illiterate as of 2007 compared to a national rate of about one in five. The city's relatively high illiteracy rate is attributed in part to immigrants who are not proficient in English. As of 2011 , 85% of D.C. residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language. Half of residents had at least a four-year college degree in 2006. In 2017, the median household income in D.C. was $77,649; also in 2017, D.C. residents had a personal income per capita of $50,832 (higher than any of the 50 states). However, 19% of residents were below the poverty level in 2005, higher than any state except Mississippi. In 2019, the poverty rate stood at 14.7%.
The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board monitors the 52 public charter schools in the city. Due to the perceived problems with the traditional public school system, enrollment in public charter schools had by 2007 steadily increased. As of 2010, D.C., charter schools had a total enrollment of about 32,000, a 9% increase from the prior year. The district is also home to 92 private schools, which enrolled approximately 18,000 students in 2008.
Washington, D.C. hosts more than 175 embassies, ambassador's residences and international cultural centers. Embassy Row is the informal name given to a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue that is occupied by many of the city's foreign embassies. Washington, D.C., is one of the most diverse cities in the world. In 2008, the foreign diplomatic corps in the city employed approximately 10,000 people and contributed an estimated $400 million annually to the local economy.
Washington, D.C. is one of 13 cities in the United States with teams from the primary four major professional men's sports and is home to one major professional women's team. The Washington Commanders of the National Football League play at FedExField in nearby Landover, Maryland. The Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball play at Nationals Park, which opened in 2008. The Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association and the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League play at Capital One Arena in the city's Penn Quarter neighborhood. The Washington Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association play at Entertainment and Sports Arena. D.C. United of Major League Soccer plays at Audi Field.
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the city's 1976 handgun ban violated the right to keep and bear arms as protected under the Second Amendment. However, the ruling does not prohibit all forms of gun control; laws requiring firearm registration remain in place, as does the city's assault weapon ban.
As of 2010, there were 4,822 same-sex couples in the city, about 2% of total households, according to Williams Institute. Legislation authorizing same-sex marriage passed in 2009, and the district began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March 2010.
According to a 2010 study, Washington-area commuters spent 70 hours a year in traffic delays, which tied with Chicago for having the nation's worst road congestion. However, 37% of Washington-area commuters take public transportation to work, the second-highest rate in the country. An additional 12% of D.C. commuters walked to work, 6% carpooled, and 3% traveled by bicycle in 2010.
D.C. is part of the regional Capital Bikeshare program. Started in 2010, it is one of the largest bicycle sharing systems in the country with more than 4,351 bicycles and more than 395 stations, all provided by PBSC Urban Solutions.
According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the largest 500 companies in the country were headquartered in Washington, D.C. In the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index, Washington was ranked as having the 14th most competitive financial center in the world, and fourth most competitive in the United States (after New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Among the largest companies headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area are Fannie Mae, Amtrak, Lockheed Martin, Marriot International, Danaher Corporation, FTI Consulting, and Hogan Lovells.
Union Station is the city's main train station and serves approximately 70,000 people each day. It is Amtrak's second-busiest station with 4.6 million passengers annually and is the southern terminus for the Northeast Corridor, which carries long-distance and regional services to New York Penn Station and points in New England. Maryland's MARC and Virginia's VRE commuter trains and the Metrorail Red Line also provide service into Union Station. Following renovations in 2011, Union Station became Washington's primary intercity bus transit center.
Tourism is the city's second-largest industry, after the federal government. Approximately 18.9 million visitors contributed an estimated $4.8 billion to the local economy in 2012. In 2019, the number of tourists who visited the city increased to 24.6 million, of which 22.8 million were domestic tourists. In total, the tourists spent $8.15 billion during their stay. This heavy tourism helps many of the region's other industries, such as lodging, food and beverage, entertainment, shopping, and transportation. Additionally, tourism helps the city maintain a robust network of world-class museums and cultural centers, most notably the Smithsonian Institution.
A 2021 study by Walk Score ranked Washington, D.C. the fifth-most walkable city in the country. According to the study, the most walkable neighborhoods are U Street, Dupont Circle, and Mount Vernon Square. In 2013, the Washington Metropolitan Area had the eighth lowest percentage of workers who commuted by private automobile (75.7 percent), with 8 percent of area workers traveling via rail transit.
Pepco is the city's electric utility and services 793,000 customers in the district and suburban Maryland. An 1889 law prohibits overhead wires within much of the historic City of Washington. As a result, all power lines and telecommunication cables are located underground in downtown Washington, and traffic signals are placed at the edge of the street. A plan announced in 2013 would bury an additional 60 miles (97 km) of primary power lines throughout the district.
Private universities include American University (AU), the Catholic University of America (CUA), Gallaudet University, George Washington University (GWU), Georgetown University (GU), Howard University (HU), the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and Trinity Washington University. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, the oldest art school in the capital, was absorbed into the George Washington University in 2014, now serving as its college of arts. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a public land-grant university providing undergraduate and graduate education.
Although Washington was famous throughout the 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries for its streetcars, these lines were dismantled in the 1960s. In 2016, however, the city brought back a streetcar line. The DC Streetcar consists of a single line in Northeast D.C., along H Street and Benning Road, known as the H Street/Benning Road Line.
Between 2009 and 2016, gross domestic product per capita in Washington, D.C., consistently ranked at the very top among U.S. states. In 2016, at $160,472, its GDP per capita was almost three times greater than that of Massachusetts, which was ranked second in the nation. As of 2022 , the metropolitan statistical area's unemployment rate was 3.1%, ranking 171 out of the 389 metropolitan areas as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The District of Columbia itself had an unemployment rate of 4.6% during the same time period. In 2019, Washington, D.C., had the highest median household income in the U.S. at $92,266.
In 2016, the district's Metropolitan Police Department tallied 135 homicides, a 53% increase from 2012 but a 17% decrease from 2015. Many neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Logan Circle are becoming safer and vibrant. However, incidents of robberies and thefts have remained higher in these areas because of increased nightlife activity and greater numbers of affluent residents. Even still, citywide reports of both property and violent crimes have declined since their most recent highs in the mid-1990s.
Since the 1980s, the D.C. statehood movement has grown in prominence. In 2016, a referendum on D.C. statehood resulted in a 85% support among District voters for Washington to become the 51st state of the United States. In March 2017, D.C.'s congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill for D.C. statehood. Reintroduced in 2019 and 2021 as the Washington, D.C., Admission Act, the U.S. House of Representatives passed it in April 2021. After not progressing in the Senate, the statehood bill was introduced again in January 2023.
The district has a federally funded "Emergency Planning and Security Fund" to cover security related to visits by foreign leaders and diplomats, presidential inaugurations, protests, and terrorism concerns. During the Trump administration, the fund has run with a deficit. Trump's January 2017 inauguration cost the city $27 million; of that, $7 million was never repaid to the fund. Trump's 2019 Independence Day event, "A Salute to America", cost six times more than Independence Day events in past years.
Due to the building height restrictions in Washington, D.C., taller buildings are able to be built in suburban Maryland and Virginia. Capital One Bank, which is one of the largest banks in the country, is headquartered in nearby Tysons, Virginia, a large and growing financial center located in Fairfax County. The headquarter building for Capital One Bank, known as Capital One Tower, is the tallest occupied building in the Washington region. In 2018, Amazon announced it would build a second headquarters building, known as HQ2, in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia, which is located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. In addition to Capital One, some of the largest companies headquartered in Northern Virginia include Hilton, Navy Federal Credit Union, Mars, Freddie Mac, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics.
Three major airports serve the district, though none are within the city's borders. Two of these major airports are located in suburban Virginia and one in suburban Maryland. The closest is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which is located in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River about five miles from downtown Washington, D.C. This airport provides primarily domestic flights and has the lowest number of passengers of the three airports in the region. The busiest by number of total passengers is Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI), located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland about 30 miles northeast of D.C. The busiest by international flights and the largest by land size and amount of facilities is Washington Dulles International Airport, located in Dulles, Virginia, about 24 miles west of the city. Dulles has the most international passenger traffic of any airport in the Mid-Atlantic outside the New York metropolitan area, including approximately 90% of the international passenger traffic in the Washington-Baltimore region. Each of these three airports also serves as a hub for a major American airline: Reagan National Airport is a hub for American Airlines, Dulles is a major hub for United Airlines and Star Alliance partners, and BWI is an operating base for Southwest Airlines. In 2018, the Washington, D.C. area was the 18th-busiest airport system in the world by passenger traffic, accumulating over 74 million passengers between its three main commercial airports.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the district's population was 705,749 as of July 2019, an increase of more than 100,000 people compared to the 2010 United States Census. When measured on a decade-over-decade basis, this continues a growth trend since 2000, following a half-century of population decline. But on a year-over-year basis, the July 2019 census count shows a population decline of 16,000 individuals over the preceding 12-month period. Washington was the 24th most populous place in the United States as of 2010 . According to data from 2010, commuters from the suburbs increase the district's daytime population to over a million. If the district were a state it would rank 49th in population, ahead of Vermont and Wyoming.
The Washington metropolitan area, which includes the district and surrounding suburbs, is the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with an estimated six million residents as of 2016. When the Washington area is included with Baltimore and its suburbs, it forms the vast Washington–Baltimore combined statistical area. With a population exceeding 9.8 million residents in 2020, it is the third-largest combined statistical area in the country.
In May 2022, the city celebrated the expansion of its bike lane network to 104 miles (167 km), a 60 percent increase from 2015. Of those miles, 24 miles (39 km) were protected bike lanes. It also boasted 62 miles (100 km) of bike trails. As of March 2023, the city has 108 miles (174 km) of bike lanes, with 30 miles (48 km) of them protected bike lanes.
As of July 2022, 25% of people employed in Washington, D.C., were employed by the federal government. The vast majority of these government employees serve in various executive branch departments, agencies, and institutions, and only a small percentage serve as temporary staff for presidents, Congress members, or in the federal judiciary.