Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Washington D.C. and get you in the mood for travel


St. Elmo's Fire (1985)
An examination of the lives of eight friends after their graduation from Georgetown University and how they come to terms with post-college life and its effects on their relationships.

All the President's Men (1976)
The story of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman respectively) as they uncover and expose the Watergate scandal.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Chosen to take over for a recently deceased senator, Jefferson Smith, untrained and untried as a politician, heads to Washington. Hailed as a bumpkin, he is nearly ousted by a backroom plot and must filibuster to save his seat in the Senate.

Diner (1982)
A group of male friends navigate 1959 in Baltimore after their graduation from high school, and find that the only place that things fall into place is the diner.

TV Shows

227 (1985-1990)
Marla Gibbs (most famous for playing the maid, Florence, in The Jeffersons) stars as Mary Jenkins, who lives at street number 227 on an unidentified Washington, D.C., street. The story centers around the predominantly African-American residents of the apartment building.

The West Wing (1999-2006)
The story of the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet and his staff and advisors as they navigate two terms of office and a reelection campaign.


Washington, D.C., by Gore Vidal (1967)
A novel tracing the political fortunes of a conservative senator with presidential aspirations in the time of the New Deal and McCarthy era. Vidal was raised in Washington and attended St. Albans school, attached to the National Cathedral.

All the President's Men, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (1974)
The two reporters who chronicled the Watergate break-in and its ensuing cover-up and exposure detail their journalistic journey through the scandal.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, by Langston Hughes (1995)
The first collected edition of all 860 poems published by the writer in his lifetime; his works detail African-American life. Hughes lived in D.C. with his mother and worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel.

Personal History, by Katharine Graham (1997)
Graham details her work as the publisher of the Washington Post, taking over for her husband Philip after his suicide in 1963, and helming the paper through the Watergate '70s to the Clinton-scandal '90s.

Patriot Games, by Tom Clancy (1987)
Clancy's fictional romp features CIA analyst Jack Ryan's attempt to save the Prince and Princess of Wales from a plot on their life, and along the way he encounters Naval cadets, Irish terrorists, and royal offspring.

Profiles in Courage, by John F. Kennedy (1956)
Then-Senator JFK chronicles the courageous acts of eight senators who went against popular opinion to do what they felt needed to be done in the political arena, including Sam Houston, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in biography.

John Adams, by David McCullough (2001)
The historian's account reads more like a novel (though is entirely nonfiction); watch his rocky relationship with Thomas Jefferson and the love story with his wife, Abigail Adams, unfold, and witness as he transforms from American Revolution zealot to second president of the United States.

The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos (2007)
A 14-year-old girl turns up dead in a Washington, D.C. park, and Detective Gus Ramone is unable to solve the case; cut to 20 years later and his investigation of a similar style murder, this time of his son's friend. Detective fiction featuring the gritty side of D.C. streets and local characters.



Washington, D.C. has birthed and raised a bumper crop of musicians of sometimes surprising musical bents, including punk rockers, jazz greats, and the originator of go-go; even those who left in adulthood returned repeatedly to play their hometown. Albums of home-grown talent include:

Bustin' Loose
Chuck Brown, a funk fusion with touches of rap and hip-hop called Go-Go music, contains the famed title track.

The Argument
Fugazi, hardcore punk band's album runs the gamut from whispery words to feral howls and features such tracks as "Epic Problem" and "Life and Limb."

Electro Convulsive Therapy
Rollins Band, the post-punk band's music recorded live in Japan and includes the tracks "You Didn't Need" and "Hard"; frontman Henry Rollins is a local boy.

The United States Marine Band Performs Sousa Marches
John Philip Sousa, including "Washington Post" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Piano in the Foreground
Duke Ellington, jazz standards by the jazz master, including "I Can't Get Started" and "All the Things You Are."

First Take
Roberta Flack, includes "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," which featured on the soundtrack of  Play Misty for Me.

Birth of the Hot
Jelly Roll Morton, contains the "Original Jelly Roll Blues" and "Beale Street Blues" by the bandleader and arguably jazz's first composer.

Ain't She Sweet!
Pearl Bailey, Bailey was known for roles in "Hello, Dolly" and "Porgy and Bess"; disc contains "Ain't She Sweet" and "The Hucklebuck."

What's Going On
Marvin Gaye, silver-voiced soul singer's big hit album includes the very successful title track and "What's Happening Brother."

Live at the Opry
Patsy Cline, includes the legendary country singer's "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," and "Walkin' After Midnight."

Bluegrass: It's About Time, It's About Me
Roy Clark, shows off the "Hee Haw" star's bluegrass bent, featuring "Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Rocky Top."

Classic Songs:

From a song inspired by the lunch menu of a Georgetown restaurant called Clydes ("Afternoon Delight") and an ode to Civil War troops marching down Pennsylvania Avenue ("Battle Hymn of the Republic") to bluegrass, jazz, and punk, D.C.'s music scene runs the gamut. Here's a few picks to get you in the eclectic groove of the city.

1. "Star Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key
2. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe
3. "Afternoon Delight" by Starland Vocal Band
4. "I'm Just a Bill" by Schoolhouse Rock
5. "Hail to the Chief"
6. "My Hero" by Foo Fighters
7. "Bullets Fever" by Nils Lofgren
8. "You Made Me Love You" by Al Jolson
9. "Good Morning Baltimore" from Hairspray
10. "Killing Me Softly with His Song" by Roberta Flack

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