Vendor City Guide: Washington DC, USA

Street secrets revealed by the people who know them best

Our guide this week: Wendell Williams, 68, is a vendor of Street Sense in the US capital. He says: “As I battled to right my life and stay sober, it gave me a vehicle to support myself and live independently. The papers helped keep a roof over my head and paid my living expenses while I went back to school.”

Why I like living in Washington, DC

Not only because this is my home – I’m a fifth-generation Washingtonian and my family goes back to the 1860s in this area – but also because it is just a beautiful, lovely city that is easy to navigate and get around once you pick up the basics of the way it is laid out in a north, south, east, west grid. For a visitor, you can see so many museums, performances and nature areas for almost nothing, if not for free. Not to mention the nearby mountains and coast a short drive away.

Best for tourists

Every visitor should spend at least a day or two walking the National Mall, which stretches from the United States Capitol in the east, all the way to the Lincoln Memorial at the west. Adjacent to the mall are even more sights and destinations like the Holocaust Museum, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, Constitution Hall, the Vietnam memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr memorial. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate can be reached by a scenic river cruise down the Potomac, but is also a short taxi ride from Alexandria, Virginia near Reagan National Airport.

How to escape city life

Right in the middle of the city you’ll find Meridian Park (known as Malcolm X Park to some). This park is a miniature version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And from here, you can see all of Washington, DC from the monuments to the Capitol to the views of northern Virginia and the airport. Also try the United States Botanic Garden just south-west of the US Capitol. You feel like you’re in some tropical forest or jungle.


Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

Insider tip

Somewhere every visitor to the city should go to get a feel for DC and its people is Busboys and Poets. You can get a good sense of the mix of people who inhabit the DC area along with excellent food and drink. The owner makes a point of hosting events such as open mic nights, book talks, art exhibits and social justice forums too.

Best place to eat

G&M Seafood is between DC and Baltimore off of the BW Parkway. It has what Maryland says is the best crabcake in the state, at a very reasonable price. And it is just about 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor, which gives a visitor to this area the opportunity to see two cities for the cost of one.

My favourite time of year in DC

In spring DC is alive with colours and smells. There are hundreds of parks, both big and small, located in neighbourhoods throughout the city as well as on official government property. And with places like the Tidal Basin surrounded by the Japanese cherry trees, DC is awash with colour in the spring.

Image: Megan Reddi