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Washington, DC is a city with both Northern and Southern cultures - from the food to the music to the people, it's a mix of both. The majority of DC is actually outside of the parks, shops, and museums you are bound to visit. DC itself is geographically small, only 39 miles square, and quite urban. But, the Washington Metropolitan area, which includes suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, is quite large both geographically and demographically.
Being the nation's capital, DC is unique in the United States in its governance and its development. The city has historically had a large African-American population and boasts a vital black history and population. The poet Langston Hughes, the Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and musician Duke Ellington are prominent black Americans whose time in DC is commemorated throughout the city in business names and heritage trail markers.
Many DC residents will tell you that there's no "there"in DC and its suburbs. Outside of Washington's rich black heritage, city life is characterized by the transience of a population coming from all over the United States, and the world, for jobs associated with the federal government, or for an education at one of the region's highly-regarded universities. Overall, residents in the Washington area are more educated and better paid than their counterparts in most regions of the United States, and the unemployment rate is quite low. But poverty is also a real fact of life in DC, where the school system is ranked among the lowest in the nation, and the gap between rich and poor incomes was the second-highest in the nation, as of 2011, behind top-ranked New Jersey.
Check out CultureCapital for a calendar of arts & culture performances, exhibtions, tours and more. Produced by the nonprofit Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington you can search by date/range of dates an type of arts experience you are looking for - theatre, dance, music, tours - there's even a categories for family and kids and free. The Cultural Alliance also runs TICKETPLACE selling half-price tickets online or at their ticket outlet.
Most visitors to DC will spend their time in the Smithsonian Museums, or visiting the monuments, or doing other "touristy" things that exist in a world apart from the day-to-day existence of the city. With its world-class tourist amenities, that is no surprise, but if you have the opportunity to "get off the Mall" and visit a DC neighborhood, you will be likely to find it historic, educational, and enjoyable! Lots of information about tourist-friendly DC neighborhood spots is available from Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit organization that sponsors neighborhood heritage trails, walking tours, and special events of interest to locals and tourists alike.