Which State Is Washington DC In? – Interesting Facts

Have you ever wondered about which state is Washington DC in? Then I got you covered.

First of all: Washington DC is not in any state but it is also not a state itself. Does that sound confusing? I felt the same way.

And then there is of course the question of Washington DC vs Washington State.

If you want to know exactly what the deal is about Washington DC, where it is located, and why it is not part of any state, then keep on reading.

I have done a deep dive into historical archives to provide you with all the answers to these questions and many more.

Let’s get to it!

picture of beautiful washington dc in spring with lots of cherry blossoms

1. Which State Is Washington DC in?

Washington, D.C. is not in any state. Washington DC is also not a state by itself.

It is a special federal district, that is not part of any state.

Washington DC is somewhat of a unique area. It was specifically created to be the capital of the United States.

Washington DC is also where the government is located today. It is important to know, that Washington DC is not located within any state’s boundaries.

In 1787, during the Constitutional Convention, Washington DC was established as a special federal territory, so it would not be part of the jurisdiction of any individual state.

The founding fathers wanted neutral ground for their government. They did not want to be favoring any particular state.

The Residence Act of 1790 determined the specific location for the capital: along the Potomac River, between Maryland and Virginia.

Learn more about the history of Washington DC

Explore the iconic monuments and landmarks in the heart of Washington, DC on a half-day tour of the top sights. You will travel on a comfortable coach with a guided tour that includes photo opportunities and informative commentary at each destination.

Book tour here
Map of the USA showing the location of Washington DC
Map of the USA showing the location of Washington DC

2. Is Washington DC a City?

Yes, Washington, D.C. is a city. It is also the capital city of the United States.

As we’ve heard before, it’s a unique entity because it’s not part of any state. Washington DC is a special federal district.

The name “D.C.” stands for “District of Columbia.” The term includes the city of Washington as well as the surrounding areas.

So, the term Washington DC is used to refer to the city, but it also refers to the entire federal district.

3. Where Did Washington DC Get its Name?

The “DC” part of Washington DC stands for the District of Columbia. So the full form of Washington D.C. is Washington, District of Columbia.

But where did the city get its name from?

Washington, D.C. was named after two important figures in American history: George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

George Washington was the first President of the United States. He was also a key figure in the American Revolution. Many people call him the “Father of His Country”, so it made sense to name the capital after him as a way to honor him.

The “Columbia” part of the “District of Columbia” comes from Christopher Columbus. He was an explorer who is credited with discovering the Americas.

4. Washington State vs. Washington DC – What Is the Difference?

“Washington State” and “Washington, D.C.” are two different places that need to be strictly separated. One has nothing to do with the other.

Washington State is an autonomous state in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. It was the 42nd state to join the United States. The capital city of Washington State is Olympia – and NOT Washington DC.

Washington DC is the capital city of the United States. It is a federal district and not part of any state. It was named the capital city in the 18th century, as a neutral and central location.

As you can see on the map below, Washington DC (orange) and Washington State (blue) are quite far apart from each other.

Map of the United States showing Washington State in blue and Washington Dc in orange
Washington DC vs. Washington State

5. How Do You Address a Letter to Washington DC?

This question sounds a little silly at first but makes total sense after reading my previous chapters: How do you address a letter to Washington DC?

When addressing a Washington DC envelope, it is important to get it right. Here are a couple of tips for you when writing a letter to Washington DC:

  • “D.C.” is the official abbreviation – there are no periods in between.
  • The first thing to add is the recipient’s name
  • Then you add the street address in the following manner: Building Number, Street Name, Quadrant (e.g. N.W.)
  • If the recipient lives in an apartment, the apartment number is added with a # to the street address
  • Followed by City, State, and Zip Code: Washington, D.C., 20004-1234
  • Optional: add the United States

To make this a bit easier, I have made a small (fictional) example of how to address a letter to Washington DC:

Sabrina Maasdam

260 M Street SE

Washington, D.C, 20003-1234

6. Are there Counties in Washington DC?

No, Washington, D.C. is not divided into counties. Unlike most other places in the United States, there are no counties in Washington DC.

Instead, Washington, D.C. is divided into neighborhoods, wards, and administrative districts.

Washington DC is divided into 8 wards and 131 neighborhoods (unofficial).

For the purpose of data presentation, Washington DC is considered a county itself. There are no sub-counties in Washington DC.

Washington DC is also divided into four quarters: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast. The nexus is the building of the US Capitol.

North, South, and East Capitol Streets as well as The National Mall are the division lines.

drone shot of capitol building in washington dc

7. Is Washington DC Part of Maryland?

Another common misconception is that Washington DC is part of Maryland.

But the answer is simple: No, Washington, D.C. is not part of Maryland. But Maryland is the closest state to Washington DC, together with Virginia.

Washington DC is, as previously discussed, a separate entity and not located within any state. But Washington, D.C. shares borders with the state of Maryland on its eastern and northern sides.

The city was founded on purpose on neutral ground and not on any state property in order to avoid favoritism.

Map of Maryland, Washington Dc and Virginia
Map of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC

8. Is Washington DC Part of Virginia?

Usually, once people hear that Washington DC is not part of Maryland, they assume it is located in Virginia.

But, Washington DC is not a part of Virginia. Washington, D.C. is not part of any state, including Virginia.

It is located on the eastern border of Virginia, but it is not considered part of the state itself.

Based on the map below, you can see that the closest states to Washington DC are Virginia and Maryland.

How Far is Washington DC Away From Virginia?

  • The distance from the northern parts of Virginia (e.g. Arlington Cemetery) to downtown Washington, D.C. is pretty short (just a few miles).
  • For more central parts of Virginia (like Richmond), the distance to downtown D.C. is around 100 to 120 miles.
  • For areas further south in Virginia, the distance can be 150 miles or more.
picture of lots of white gravestones with usa flags at arlington cemetery

9. How Big is Washington D.C.?

Washington, D.C. covers an area of about 68.34 square miles (177.0 square kilometers).

From its northernmost point (near the Maryland border) to its southernmost point (along the Potomac River), Washington, D.C. is about 10 miles long.

From its westernmost point (near the Virginia border) to its easternmost point, Washington, D.C. is approximately 2 to 2.5 miles wide.

In 2023 Washington DC is expected to have 643.301 inhabitants.

That makes Washington, D.C. a relatively small city in terms of land area. Especially if you compare it to many other major cities in the United States.

But the significance of Washington DC lies in its role as the capital of the country.

Especially the concentration of government buildings, historical landmarks, and cultural institutions is super high.

10. Is Washington DC Considered East Coast?

Yes, Washington, D.C. is considered part of the East Coast of the United States.

The city is located along the eastern seaboard, on the Atlantic Coast.

The East Coast of the United States includes Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, among others.

11. Is Washington DC Walkable?

Yes, Washington, D.C. is a walkable city.

Especially downtown and central areas are fairly close to each other. Many of the city’s tourist attractions, government buildings, monuments, and museums are super close together.

You can easily explore most of Washington DC on foot.

The National Mall, which reaches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, is a great area for walking. There are many monuments and museums, and in spring you can see a lot of cherry blossoms here.

Washington, D.C. also has a great public transportation system. The Metrorail and the Metrobus get you around the city quickly. Biking is also popular in the city

This means you don’t necessarily need a car in Washington DC on your visit.

12. Does Washington D.C. Have its Own Licence Plate?

Yes, Washington, D.C. has its own license plate.

All vehicles that are registered in the District of Columbia (D.C.) have specific license plates to the city.

They usually have cool designs, slogans, or symbols that refer to Washington, D.C.. Some of them also refer to DC as the nation’s capital.

Fun Fact: The license plates sometimes include the phrase “Taxation Without Representation,” It is a subtle dig at the city’s lack of full voting representation in the U.S. Congress, despite paying taxes.

a fun licence plate with salsa on it

13. Does Washington DC Vote for President?

As we have heard in the previous chapter, Washington DC inhabitants do not have full voting rights. So we need to take a closer look at what kind of voting rights the DC people actually have.

First of all: Yes, Washington DC inhabitants can vote for President.

BUT Washington, D.C. does not have full voting representation in the U.S. Congress. More precisely, they have a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. They have no representation in the Senate.

D.C.’s people vote through the Electoral College, just like all the other votes from the states.

Washington, D.C. has three electoral votes. That is just as much as if it was considered a state.

The 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections.

Safe to say, DC residents are not quite happy with the system as it is, so there are many discussions around the lack of voting rights.

14. What Weather Does Washington DC Have Year-Round?

Spring (March to May)

Spring in Washington D.C. is famous for mild temperatures and beautiful cherry blossoms. Each year, they are a major attraction.

Temperatures in spring gradually rise from cool to warm. Spring is a great season to visit, as there are not too many tourists yet (except during cherry blossom season).

March can sometimes be a bit chilly, at around 40 to 60°F (4 to 15°C). In May, daytime temperatures can reach around 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C).

Spring is my favorite season to visit Washington DC.

Summer (June to August)

Summers in D.C. are usually hot and humid. It is the most popular time to visit Washington DC for many people since there are lots of festivals and events.

In July and August, temperatures can be reaching the 90s°F (32-37°C) or even higher.

High humidity levels can make it feel even hotter. Thunderstorms are also pretty common in the afternoons.

Fall (September to November)

Fall is a nice time to visit Washington D.C. The slowly cooling temperatures and colorful foliage make the city very pleasant.

September can still be warm sometimes, with highs around 80°F (27°C). As soon as fall comes to an end in November, temperatures drop to around 50 to 60°F (10 to 20°C).

Fall is a great season to visit Washington DC, as there are fewer tourists, the fall foliage is pretty and the weather is not as hot and humid anymore.

Winter (December to February)

Winters in D.C. are pretty cold. Luckily, temperatures rarely drop to extreme lows.

December and January are the coldest months. Temperatures reach up to 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C).

By now you are probably wondering if it does snow in Washington DC. Luckily, I don’t have to disappoint you.

Snowfall is possible but not extremely common. There is usually light snow every year, but it is not often enough to make it a winter wonderland.

If you are lucky enough to visit on one of those rare days with a lot of snow in DC, make sure to take some lovely pictures of the snow-covered monuments.

a picture of a monument in DC covered in lots of snow

15. How Many Days Do I Need in Washington DC?

If you’re thinking about visiting Washington, D.C. and really getting to experience a lot of what this city has to offer, I’d recommend planning for at least 3 to 5 days.

That should give you a nice balance between seeing the major attractions and having some time to soak in the local vibe. 5 days are perfect in my opinion.

Of course, you can also keep yourself busy in Washington DC and the surrounding area for about a week.

I would not stay less than two days in Washington DC, as that is not enough time to see all major sights.

Conclusion: Which State is DC in?

In the heart of the United States lies a city that carries the weight of history, the energy of democracy, and the beauty of nature in its blossoms. And as we have learned, Washington DC is in fact a special territory, but not a state.

There are many common misconceptions about DC, the states that are close to it and how to address letters to DC.

I hope to have cleared all of these questions up for you in this blog post and got you ready for a trip to the beautiful capital.

Of course, you should also read about New Mexico vs Arizona, and why I would never move to Texas.

FAQ: Washington DC

Which State is Washington DC in?

Washington DC is not in any state. Washington, D.C., while also not a state itself, is located between Maryland and Virginia. It functions as the capital of the United States and is a federal district with its own unique role in the nation’s governance and history.

What is the full form of Washington DC?

Washington, D.C. stands for the District of Columbia. It serves as the capital of the United States and is a unique federal district, distinct from any state.

Difference Between Washington DC and Washington State?

Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States, situated on the East Coast as a federal district. In contrast, Washington State is located on the West Coast, part of the contiguous United States. The former holds political significance, while the latter is a state with its own government and economy.

Is Washington DC in Virginia or Maryland?

Washington, D.C. is not in Virginia or Maryland. It is its own federal district, separate from any state. While it borders Maryland to the north and east and Virginia to the south, it is an independent entity and serves as the capital of the United States.

Does it snow in Washington DC?

Yes, Washington, D.C. does experience snowfall, typically during the winter months. While not as frequent or heavy as in some northern regions, snowfall can impact the city, leading to picturesque scenes around landmarks like the National Mall and affecting daily activities.

Does Washington DC have a nickname?

Yes, Washington, D.C. is often referred to as “The District” or “D.C.” for short. Additionally, it’s sometimes informally called “The Nation’s Capital” due to its role as the seat of the United States government and its historical significance.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, originally from Austria. She spends most parts of the year abroad at various destinations with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.