10 tips for Washington, D.C., tourists

6. Plan ahead. You can simply walk into many of Washington's attractions without tickets or reservations, but some of the biggies require a little advance preparation. Visitors interested in taking the self-guided tour of the White House must be part of a group of ten or more and request the tour through their member of Congress. You can submit a request up to six months in advance, but you won't learn the date and time of your tour until about a month in advance. Guided tours of the U.S. Capitol are available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Free tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Capitol Guide Service Kiosk beginning at 9 a.m. You must use your tickets when you pick them up. The same-day, free tickets to the Washington Monument can be difficult to get. For $1.50, you can make advance reservations through recreation.gov.

7. Pack your running shoes or bicycle. With over 200 miles of trails in Washington, jogging and biking are popular activities. Runners interested in taking in the monuments and looping around the Mall should aim for an early morning jog, as the area gets crowded later in the day. Or head to Rock Creek Park, an 1,800-acre maze of beautiful, well-marked trails, stretching 11 miles from the Lincoln Memorial to beyond the Maryland border. A paved path runs from the Kennedy Center through the park. You can also pick up trails near Dupont Circle and the National Zoo.

8. Go celebrity spotting. L.A. and New York have movie stars and models. In D.C. the power players are the politicos. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spot a few Washington celebrities. Classic power spots include The Palm and Off the Record, the bar in The Hay-Adams Hotel. For a power breakfast, visit Bistro Bis on the Hill or the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regularly frequents The Source. Senator Harry Reid is a regular at Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is partial to Bombay Club, near the White House.

9. Tune into the music scene. Jazz legend Duke Ellington was born and raised in Washington and a thriving musical tradition continues with plenty of hot spots to hear live music, particularly along the U Street corridor where Ellington used to play. Bohemian Caverns hosted everyone from Coltrane to Calloway and the subterranean supper club still features jazz bands. Down the street is The Black Cat, whose founders include Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Modest Mouse, the White Stripes and Jeff Buckley are just a few of the names who have performed at this hipster club. Across town, in Georgetown there's Blues Alley, the country's oldest continuing supper club. Check out the schedule in advance as big name acts sell out quickly.

10. Put your wallet away. Many of D.C.'s sights are free – the Smithsonian museums, the Washington National Cathedral, National Geographic Society, Library of Congress and so many more. But those aren't the only freebies to be found. Every day, the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage hosts a free performance at 6 p.m. The United States Navy Band performs free concerts throughout the area (check navyband.navy.mil/sched.shtml for the schedule). Tryst Coffeehouse in the lively Adams Morgan neighborhood hosts free jazz nights Monday through Wednesday nights (and free Wi-Fi during the week). Put your bargain hunter hat on and you'll find there are plenty of free ways to explore the capital.

Kelly DiNardo is the author of USATODAY.com's Washington City Guide.

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