At Rough Guides, we’ve always applauded travellers who incorporate a bit of volunteering into their round-the-world trips when feasible. After all, lending a hand at an animal sanctuary or teaching local kids can be a wonderful way to give something back – and enrich your travel experience while you’re at it. Helping out on infrastructural projects is another common type of travel volunteering – and that’s precisely what you’ll be doing on this visit to Washington D.C.

Except…There are infrastructural projects and then there are infrastructural projects. This one is about intense as it gets, and you should not sign up lightly. You see, this is not the Washington D.C. you might know and love. This current incarnation of the US capital is slightly – how to put this? – transformed… And you’re here to fix it.

In most cases, our first visit somewhere is the most precious/memorable. Not so here – if you’re familiar with D.C. already, you’ll be able to appreciate just how spectacularly the place has changed. And yet, deep down, the older, happier version of the city is unmistakably there – the city even sounds like the D.C. you know and love. You can roam far and wide, seeking out nooks and crannies you might have visited on previous trips (or, if you’re D.C. native, that you pass by every day). We just hope the changes wreaked on the place don’t upset you too much. For this really is a local’s vision of the city – down to the finest details.

Unfortunately, this D.C. is malfunctioning in every possible way and subject to the most appalling lawlessness. That’s where you and your volunteering skills come in – in return for this very rich travel experience, you’re tasked with helping D.C. out of this tight spot. When you see the plight of such world-famous landmarks as the White House Washington Monument, Smithsonian museum, Lincoln Memorial and Union Station, we’re sure your heart strings will be suitably plucked and you won’t have any trouble motivating yourself.

One last point – hook up with other travellers if you can. That way, you’ll get the job done more swiftly and have time to just soak up this unique version of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Things not to miss

1. White House

Make yourself at home! For one visit only, you have the run of the president’s official residence.

2. Judiciary Square

Once a byword for grandness and order, Judiciary Square is somewhat altered, yet its roll call of major landmarks is as unmissable as ever.

3. Capitol Building 

The Capitol might not quite be the vision of Neoclassical splendour it once was, but still a fascinating structure to get acquainted with.

Capitol building at nightView of the Capitol Building at night 

4. Roosevelt Island

Don’t be put off by the unpromising approach – this island has verdant charms in abundance. 

5. Federal Triangle 

About as safe as the Bermuda Triangle, yet just as intriguing. Come and enjoy exclusive access to some of America’s greatest buildings.

Federal Triangle during the dayFederal Triangle building

6. West Potomac Park

Gone are the days that recreation and relaxation ruled supreme here, yet the park still rewards an afternoon’s exploration. 

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