This is our third blog covering our spring trip out east to Washington DC and Virginia. The first post covered our trip to the timeshare at Massanutten called Regal Vista. We had a beautiful unit and enjoyed our time in the Shenandoah Valley. If interested, we suggest you read that post. We also spent seven days in Washington DC staying at two different Wyndham timeshares, Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor. Our second post covers details about those two resorts, and may also be of interest to you.
In this post we want to cover some of our thoughts about visiting Washington DC. We have made several trips to the DC area but not in recent years and, as one would expect, things have changed. We thought that traffic and crowds had increased, and the fast-paced life style of the big city was worse than we remembered. We also felt that this kind of trip requires a lot of planning and work to see what you want to see and do. Because there is so much in the city, you have to pick and choose, and figure how to get to all those areas. You also have to spend a lot of time in traveling to, between, and back to your timeshare from each attraction, so planning ahead is critical.
First, let’s talk about transportation. You need to think about how to get into the city from where you are staying. You could drive your car, take the bus or use the Metro system. Another consideration is how you are going to get between all the attractions once you get into the city. We think, along with everyone else we talked to, that driving your car into the city is not a great idea. The traffic is bad, parking is very hard to find and very expensive.
The best method seems to be to use the Metro. It can be a bit overwhelming but after a few trips we became very good at getting around. You can also drive to a Metro station, depending on where you are staying, and leave your car for about $4.50 for the day while you ride the Metro.
You need to think about getting around the city itself and going between the different attractions. One could continue to use the Metro. We did this on several days of our trip and it worked out okay. We got a good guide from some nice timeshare people that we found through TUG, with a list of attractions and which Metro station you should get off at to get to them. If you would like this list, we will forward your request. You still need to do quite a bit of walking from the station to the different attractions and then back again.
Another option would be to take a tour. There are several, and you need to read about each and pick one that suits your needs. They usually use a trolley, bus, or double decker bus. They sell tickets for one or two days and give a narrated tour, with unlimited” hop on and off” and usually make around 15 to 20 stops around the city. This works for a lot of people, and we did this for two days while we were in the city. You sometimes had to wait 15 to 30 min for the next bus; our bus was the Open Top Sightseeing and seemed to come less often then some of the others. We would not recommend this line.
One of the nice things about most of the attractions in the city is that they are free. Many of them require planning or making reservations ahead of time, so again you need to do your homework. A visit to the White House needs to be set up months ahead of time with your local respentative or senator. Others need to be set up a day or two ahead, and they assign you a time for your visit. A number of attractions have two lines: one for people who just walk up and those that have made prior reservations. You can save time by planning ahead.
A quick list of some of the main attractions:
Library of Congress
National Museum of American History
National Gallery of Art
American Art Gallery
Crime and Punishment Museum
International Spy Museum
White House Visitor Center
The Kennedy Center
Arlington National Cemetery
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
National Air & Space Museum
You CAN NOT see it all in one trip, so you must pick and choose. We suggest you go through the list and check those attractions that interest you or your family. Also you need to get a map and select attractions that are close to one another as you plan your trip. Go online and get an idea about how much time you need to visit each attraction. You might just want to look at some, but others you might want to spend hours visiting.
Make a schedule by listing the days you will be in the city and what you want to do each day. Also, plan time in that schedule for getting into the city, as well as time between each attraction. Meal planning also requires you to think ahead. We always carry water and snacks which saves money, as well as giving us some flexibility in eating times. It can be a bit overwhelming, but most times you can accomplish more if you plan ahead..
Two highlights of this trip for us were the Newseum and the Tidal basin. One of the reasons for this trip, and the timing, was to try a catch the spring cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in front of the Jefferson Memorial. We had heard that the crowds can be very bad during the actual festival, so we planned to end our trip just before the start of the festival, to miss the crowds but catch the blossoms. We think we did a very good job and were able to enjoy some gorgeous views of the blossoms on our last day.
We had also heard good things about the Newseum. This is a fairly new attraction which covers the history, role and impact of news in our lives. When we looked into going, we thought it was a bit high in price. (About $22.00 per person) As luck would have it, we were offered two tickets that someone could not use the second day of a two day ticket. We jumped at the chance and it became one of the highlights of this trip.
After spending 3-4 hours, we decided the Newseum is well worth the $22.00 per person. It covers six stories, with much of it being very open with displays running two or more stories high. Some of the highlights: a cabin where Unabomber Ted Kaczynski lived, eight sections of the original Berlin Wall, a three-story East German guard tower, excellent outside view of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall, a large exhibit covering the 2005 hurricane Katrina, a history of news with actual newspapers in cases covering all major events, a Great Book Gallery, and the 9/11 Gallery with many front pages for Sept 12,2001.
You can also view a mangled piece of antenna mast that stood atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a large Journalist Memorial wall dedicated to more than 1,900 journalists who died on the job, the role of the internet, TV and Radio with interactive touch screen you can use, a large section with Pulitzer Prize Photographs, and interactive screens at most of the exhibits. You can record your own newscast, and also view a 4-D cinematic journey through time with three American journalists. Downstairs is a nice and relatively inexpensive food court.
All in all, we had a great trip to our national capitol and look forward to our next visit, keeping in mind that it takes work, planning, and lots of energy!