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13 things to do in Washington, D.C., this spring

Washington’s cherry blossom festival begins March 20.

JIM YOUNG/REUTERS

The U.S. capital could burst into flower at any moment with the March 20 start of 2013's National Cherry Blossom Festival. But even if winter's icy fingers delay the opening of this year's buds, a visit to this region should be on everyone's list.

Rachel Cooper, About.com's D.C. correspondent (dc.about.com), has plenty of tips. A local since 1993, her recommendations include free tours at the Voice of America broadcasting headquarters and glimpsing the man behind the memorial at President Lincoln's Cottage.

For an afternoon of cool urban exploring, she suggests the lively Adams Morgan neighbourhood for its independent restaurants, coffee houses, bars, bookstores, art galleries and specialty shops. I would also recommend tapping D.C.'s rich cultural side with a show at the landmark Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts or a play by the city's excellent Shakespeare Theater Company.

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Washington has a surprisingly small-town feel and much is accessible via Metrobus and Metrorail services (plan ahead at wmata.com). Cooper advises against hiring a car because parking here is expensive, but for extended visits, I'd suggest a little Northern Virginia road trip to Mount Vernon – Georgia Washington's stately residence – taking in charming colonial-era towns such as Alexandria and Fredericksburg as well.

If you're faint with hunger after all that exploring, popular local food blogger Micky of whatmickyeats.com – she prefers her full name to remain secret – is brimming with tasty ideas. "There's a continuously evolving food scene here," she says.

First-up: breakfast. She suggests Ted's Bulletin, a diner-style joint with 1930s decor and reasonable prices – "try the homemade pop tarts." Step it up a notch at Old Ebbitt Grill, a historic saloon with Victorian interiors and lovely baked apple French toast. But if you really want to rub shoulders with the locals, arrive early in the South Hall of the Eastern Market building for blue buck pancakes (blueberry buckwheat) at the Market Lunch food stand.

Toki Underground is also a great spot for fusion noodle dishes and you'll find well-priced Mediterranean meals at Byblos Deli. Micky recommends hunting down some of the city's best food trucks: TaKorean, DC Empanada, Hula Girl Truck and Red Hook Lobster Pound – especially for its New England clam chowder. See foodtruckfiesta.com for locations.

For a fancy dinner, though, it has to be Bourbon Steak, Rasika West End or Sushi Taro.

For sleepovers that won't break the bank, Cooper recommends Adams Inn B&B, the American Guest House or the Georgetown Suites. All are within walking distance of major attractions or handily close to transit stops.

NEXT WEEK: Have you been to Haida Gwaii? One of our readers needs your advice. Send your tips to: concierge@globeandmail.com.

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Follow John @johnleewriter.

Send John your travel questions at concierge@globeandmail.com. He won't plan your trips, but can offer a lot of great local advice.

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