International Experiences in Washington, D.C. You Shouldn’t Miss

The gift of Washington, D.C.‘s famous cherry blossom trees from Tokyo as a gesture of

The gift of Washington, D.C.‘s famous cherry blossom trees from Tokyo as a gesture of friendship is just one of the city’s many global connections. Yes, the nation’s capital is a hub for U.S. politics and history but it’s also, by nature, an international city.

With more than 175 embassies, ambassador residences and international cultural centers, Washington, D.C. is one of the country’s most culturally diverse cities and attracts visitors and residents from around the world. These global influences come to life within the capital city’s many museums, restaurants, cultural institutions, vibrant neighborhoods and annual events like the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Passport DC. Read on to learn how you can travel around the world without leaving the District.

Find nearly every type of international cuisine

With such a varied and cosmopolitan population and a constant influx of globetrotters, an international outlook helps define Washington, D.C. That’s immediately visible within the city’s thriving dining scene. In Penn Quarter alone (the downtown neighborhood adjacent to major attractions like museums, monuments and political buildings), you’ll find restaurants specializing in everything from Spanish to Indian food, including Japanese, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Korean and so much more.

For culture-loving foodies, no trip to Washington, D.C. is complete without a visit to one of the city’s many Ethiopian restaurants. The capital is home to one of the largest communities outside of Ethiopia, so plenty of restaurants around town specialize in the African country’s cuisine of spicy stews served with homemade injera, a soft sourdough flatbread made from teff flour.

Year-round activities offer a window into the world

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Courtesy of washington.org

The city’s wealth of cultural institutions also reflects D.C.’s global perspective. The Smithsonian museums, as one standout example, offer myriad ways to explore global cultures. With a total collection of roughly 12,000 objects, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art boasts the country’s most extensive publicly held African art collection, which includes sculpture, textiles, jewelry and more. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, located on the National Mall, showcases thousands of fascinating objects dating from the Neolithic period to today across its two galleries. The museum celebrates its centennial this year with ongoing exhibitions, events, and other programming.

You’ll also want to stop at the intricate Friendship Archway overlooking one of the city’s busiest intersections. The 60-foot-tall structure, which features 7,000 tiles and 272 painted dragons, is synonymous with the District’s Chinatown. A gift from the governor of Tokyo to the capital city in 1954, the Japanese lantern at the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park is also worth a visit. Today, the famous stone statue stands as a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States and is lit every year during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The United States National Arboretum

The United States National Arboretum

Courtesy of washington.org

If you’re interested in seeing even more fascinating examples of Asian art and design, head to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum to dive deeper into a Japanese art form that goes back more than a thousand years and marvel at their stunning collection of miniature bonsai trees grown in artful containers. Plus, the museum is free of charge and located at the U.S. National Arboretum, one of the city’s most beautiful locales.

Springtime ushers in free international events

A stop on the Passport DC Around the World Embassy Tour

A stop on the Passport DC Around the World Embassy Tour

Courtesy of washington.org

Plant and garden lovers should also make a point to visit Flower Mart, which benefits the gardens of the Washington National Cathedral. Held this year on May 5-6, it features flower arrangements by international embassies and their designers and free performances by Japanese Taiko drummers, Indian dancers, and Irish and Spanish flamenco dancers.

Flower Mart is just one of many events that kick off Passport DC, an annual monthlong celebration in May when cultural institutions and more than 70 embassies put on street festivals, open houses, performances, exhibitions, workshops, and more.Thousands flock to Embassy Row in Northwest Washington to travel around the world when embassies open their doors to the public, offering a unique opportunity to explore their countries’ cultures.

Later in the month, there’s also the EU Open House, when the European Union and its embassies invite the public in for a day of culture, food, and music. And the Asia Heritage Foundation’s Fiesta Asia celebrates Asian American culture with a street fair, bazaar, performing arts, art shows, a fashion program, live music, a parade, and tasting events.

Passport DC participants travel the world as they visit embassies and experience food, art, dance, fashion, and more from different countries.

Passport DC participants travel the world as they visit embassies and experience food, art, dance, fashion, and more from different countries.

Courtesy of washington.org

The internationally inspired events in Washington, D.C. continue long after the famous pink petals of the National Cherry Blossom Festival fall in April. All year round, the city celebrates and embraces its role as a diverse city. So whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s many museums, enjoying its distinctive neighborhoods and restaurants, or participating in its many international events and conferences, Washington, D.C. is truly a global destination.

Visit washington.org to start planning your trip.