The Ultimate Guide to Washington .D.C.

While there are no submarines in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital  is a major hub for shore duty jobs, particularly at the Pentagon. If you’re interested in being stationed there, monitor PERS-42 (officers) and PERS-403 (enlisted). The Navy Yard is also nearby, as well as the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  Unfortunately, you will have a hard time finding out details of what these jobs entail – that’s the nature of the silent service!

But if a shore duty stint in D.C. is on the horizon for you, here’s what you need to know:

Fast Facts

  • Washington D.C. has an estimated population of 705,749, more populous than both Wyoming and Vermont (Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2019).

  • The area’s largest employers are the federal government (420,000) ), Fairfax County Public Schools (24,137), Medstar Health (17,400) and Marriott International Inc. (16,700).

  • Washington D.C. averages 22 million visitors every year, with the top three tourist destinations including the Lincoln Memorial, National Air & Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History (Source: Destination D.C.)

  • There are three D.C. area airports: Ronald Reagan National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

  • Greater Washington has one of the best educated workforces in the U.S., with 55% of residents holding a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, with a medium household income is $70,848.


  • Our nation’s capital is a unique place, being established by the constitution in 1790 from land ceded from Maryland and Virginia.

  • The location of the new city was a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and ultimately it was President George Washington who chose the exact site along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.

  • The city grid with the Capitol at the center was designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant based on Paris where he was from.

  • The city underwent a large expansion after the Civil War, becoming a hub for freed slaves.

  • D.C. only gained a mayor and voting rights for residents in 1973. They remain without full self-governance and voting representation in congress.  You will see “taxation without representation” on D.C. license plates referring to this.

  • D.C. remains a vibrant and culturally diverse city, rich with international cultures, African American heritage and culture. It is also one of America’s most gay-friendly cities, recognizing same-sex marriage five years before the Supreme Court in 2015.

Where to Live

There are many options for places to live in D.C. depending on what your priorities are and where you are stationed. If you are at the Pentagon, you may opt to live in Northern Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Vienna, Cameron Station, Burke). Whenever I am moving to a new area I tend to look for “stereotype maps” or look up neighborhoods on Urban Dictionary. This gives me a non-PC look at what people really think of the neighborhoods! Facebook groups are also excellent resources for deciding where to live.

One good program to be aware of when looking for places to live is Mass Transportation Benefit Program (MTBP), which offers reimbursed metro fares for commuting to work! Be advised, this does not cover parking at stations, so if you must drive to get to a station it may not be worth it.

When we were stationed in D.C., we lived in Silver Spring, MD. This is the town I grew up in, and I was also working at Walter Reed in Bethesda, MD. My husband had an awful commute to the Pentagon, so I would not recommend it for that, but it was an easy commute for me, good central location, and safe neighborhood.

If you have orders to places in Maryland like the Naval Academy, you may want to live more in that direction. Downtown Annapolis is cute and fun, or if you are looking for a suburban feel look at Crofton or Davidsonville.

Things to Do

Food & Drink

Washington D.C. has more than 2,000 restaurants, many of which are award-winning and highly regarded. Some of our favorite include:

  • BLT Steak – my husband and I have gone here a couple times for date nights. They have a large variety of high-quality steak options and interesting side dishes like wasabi mashed potatoes.

  • Daikaya – If you’re headed to a Washington Capitals game, nearby Daikaya is a fun place to grab dinner. Downstairs is a ramen shop and upstairs is something like tapas meets Asian fusion.   Everything I’ve tried from both places is amazing!

  • If you’re looking to enjoy some history, check out Old Ebbitt Grill, which has been visited by numerous presidents, military heroes and other historic figures.

  • Black Salt – I visited this upscale seafood restaurant with my family for a Christmas dinner once when we were going to be out of town for the holidays. We enjoyed an amazing seven course dinner with wine pairings!

  • Busboys and Poets also has multiple locations and is a fun place to grab a drink or bite to eat!

  • With a few locations throughout the DMV, Founding Farmers became a frequent brunch fave of ours.

DC also has a thriving, local craft beer scene, with dozens of breweries and brewpubs to choose from. Some popular options include 3 Stars Brewing Company, DC Brau Brewing Company, Right Proper Brewing Company and District Chophouse & Brewery. For a full list, click here.  

Local Resources

Are you headed to DC next? For officer spouses, check out the Facebook group: Next Stop DC. Have you been stationed in the DMV? What were some of your favorite memories?

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