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Planning a vacation to D.C

KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
edited June 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Some may remember an earlier thread I made where I asked about going to vacation by myself. D.C was thrown as a good city to do this in, and being a political nerd, this made perfect sense.

Now I'm set on planning the vacation for around September, and I need some advice:

1)Time-Is one week overkill? I want to fit in cool stuff, but I also don't want to get bored.
2)Hotel Location-Any particular spots I should be looking to staying in?
3)Transportation-How's D.C's public transportation situation? I don't mind walking/taking the bus to spots.
4)Things to see/do-I'll be doing the Senate, White House, etc. Any other fun stuff? What about nights? Not into clubs, but wouldn't mind checking out some bars as long as they're not super trendy.

Kyougu on

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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    1. A week is fine, you should be able to fit in a lot of stuff. I only went two days and could fit in a few.
    2. Find the cheapest in the area, look for some that are on the metro lines
    3. Easy to use, but I think they have a weeklong pass, so get that, I've never used public transportation and I made do
    4. Check out the Smithsonian stuff, holocaust museum, and all the monuments. Someone who lives there can give you more than I can though. The zoo is nice, too.

    bowen on
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    KrubicksCubeKrubicksCube Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    1. I was in DC for about 4 days and definitely felt enough site-seeing/dining done in that time. It's a small town, but I was also quite young so I could be mistaken? I think it depends how entertained you are by site seeing and the like.

    2. ...

    3. If I remember right, DC's metro is spotless. I remember getting around quite easily.

    4. Went before I could drink so I don't know about the bars, but definitely take some time to check out all of the war memorials (assume that's included in the etc though)

    KrubicksCube on
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    PolloDiabloPolloDiablo Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    A week is fine. If you're into museums and stuff, you would be able to thoroughly cover everything on the mall.

    Visiting wise, downtown and the center of the city are pretty touristy, good places to be. Once you get out from downtown into the more residential areas, it's pretty crappy. Stay in the tourist zones with the big blue signs.

    The metro rocks. I don't have a lot to compare it to other than the tube in London, but I think it's great. Better than London's, anyway. You can get a week card for between $30-$50, depending on how long your trips are. You'll probably be fine with the short trip one, since you'll likely be staying downtown.

    There's always something cool at the Kennedy Center, but I'm a literature nerd so I don't know if everything there would be up your alley. There was a really good bar that we used to go to frequently, but it's been a few months since I was in DC and I can't recall the name.

    PolloDiablo on
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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Call the office of your current Senator or Congressman. Tell them you will be in town and would like to visit them and get a tour. Do this as early as possible. Pretty much all offices have a ton of interns for just this sort of electorate brown-nosing, and they're delighted to oblige. Even if you don't like your elected officials, do it anyway. It's still interesting to see the offices and potentially meet them.

    Get on yelp and look at bars around H St. and U St. Go to one of them, just for fun. Revel in the fact that I hate your kind (tourists) for clogging my bars.

    Darkewolfe on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    Call the office of your current Senator or Congressman. Tell them you will be in town and would like to visit them and get a tour. Do this as early as possible. Pretty much all offices have a ton of interns for just this sort of electorate brown-nosing, and they're delighted to oblige. Even if you don't like your elected officials, do it anyway. It's still interesting to see the offices and potentially meet them.

    Get on yelp and look at bars around H St. and U St. Go to one of them, just for fun. Revel in the fact that I hate your kind (tourists) for clogging my bars.

    Your bars? he's not going to adams morgan or arlington..

    kaliyama on
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    When you're in the Metro, please leave plenty of room around the subway doors so people can get off. When you're on the escalators, stand on the right-hand side; only go to the left side if you intend to walk up. At the turnstiles, if you have a paper ticket, insert the ticket into the slot at the front, and retrieve it from the slot on the top. If the turnstile is a wide-entry turnstile (for luggage and handicapped-usage), retrieve the ticket from the same slot you inserted it into. Don't use the SmartTrip-only turnstiles (they're bright blue and marked all over as SmartTrip-only). Once you're through the turnstile, keep moving forward so other people can get through.

    I don't mind tourists unless they can't figure out these things. It's a fun city - I'd recommend visiting Arlington Cemetary (accessible by the Blue Metro line).

    KalTorak on
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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    Call the office of your current Senator or Congressman. Tell them you will be in town and would like to visit them and get a tour. Do this as early as possible. Pretty much all offices have a ton of interns for just this sort of electorate brown-nosing, and they're delighted to oblige. Even if you don't like your elected officials, do it anyway. It's still interesting to see the offices and potentially meet them.

    Get on yelp and look at bars around H St. and U St. Go to one of them, just for fun. Revel in the fact that I hate your kind (tourists) for clogging my bars.

    Your bars? he's not going to adams morgan or arlington..

    I don't actually LIKE Adams Morgan bars. If it weren't for the Diner I'd never go there.

    Darkewolfe on
    What is this I don't even.
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    NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Go to the Air and Space Museum, and they also have a shuttle to get you down to the Udvar-Hazy annex, which I consider a must-see.

    NotASenator on
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    GorkGork Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    Call the office of your current Senator or Congressman. Tell them you will be in town and would like to visit them and get a tour. Do this as early as possible. Pretty much all offices have a ton of interns for just this sort of electorate brown-nosing, and they're delighted to oblige. Even if you don't like your elected officials, do it anyway. It's still interesting to see the offices and potentially meet them.

    Get on yelp and look at bars around H St. and U St. Go to one of them, just for fun. Revel in the fact that I hate your kind (tourists) for clogging my bars.

    Your bars? he's not going to adams morgan or arlington..

    I don't actually LIKE Adams Morgan bars. If it weren't for the Diner I'd never go there.

    Dan's Cafe called. It said you suck.

    Gork on
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    RobzielRobziel Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    1. A week is good length of time I think.

    2. Depends on your price range but you definitely want something close to a metro line. I had cause to stay at the Embassy Suites in DC a few years ago it was an excellent hotel with a free continental breakfast and it was right off the Red line.

    3. http://www.wmata.com/ You can use their website to get times on trains/buses and plan out your travel around the town.

    4. The free museum's are all pretty awesome and the monument's are worthy though the Washington monument isn't that exciting to go up in, the "new" Air and Space annex out at Dulles Airport is pretty awesome if you like planes or Transformers though I'm not sure they still have any of the Transformers 2 stuff up. You'd have to take a shuttle out there but you can pick it up from the Air and Space in DC if I remember correctly.

    Some things you will need to get tickets for even though it's free, you either have to get there rat the but crack of dawn to get them or get them way in advance, like the White House.

    There are also some good for profit one's as well like The Newseum, International Spy Museum, and you know I've lived here on and off for 20 years and I still haven't gone to Ford's Theater so maybe you should do that.

    Robziel on
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    jefe414jefe414 "My Other Drill Hole is a Teleporter" Mechagodzilla is Best GodzillaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    There is also the spy museum. It isn't part of the Smithsonian so it isn't free but really cool anyway.

    edit: crap. defeated.

    jefe414 on
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    twmjrtwmjr Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I was just in DC this past weekend.

    As for places to stay, we stayed in a Best Western in Rockville, MD. The rate was reasonable (was splitting a room with 4 people total, though), continental breakfast, and <8 minutes away from a metro station. I'm pretty sure they even had a shuttle that took you over in that general area in the morning (there's also a parking lot there which is free in the morning, but I believe there's a minimal charge on weekdays).

    Like everyone else said, there are plenty of things to see. Due to the bad weather on Friday night we had to compact everything into Saturday, but we managed to see all the war memorials etc. at the National Mall as well as the holocaust museum. The latter is worth seeing, but be aware that you need tickets (which were free) to see the main exhibit which are for certain times during the day, so try to plan ahead if you go there.

    One other thing -- they changed the metro fares and apparently have not updated the charts on all of the machines. You will need an extra .10 than what it says on the charts. All in all the metro was very simple. I'm used to traveling around NYC, and it felt a good deal simpler than that.

    twmjr on
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    curly haired boycurly haired boy Your Friendly Neighborhood Torgue Dealer Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    NotACrook wrote: »
    Go to the Air and Space Museum, and they also have a shuttle to get you down to the Udvar-Hazy annex, which I consider a must-see.

    it's worth it just for the Blackbird. you'll never see something that looks faster. metro is pretty easy to navigate, it's all color-coded. just have an idea of where you want to go. a general map of the city/downtown will be useful.

    you'll probably be skipping most of the summer crowds. i'm not sure if there's stuff happening on the national mall in september, but sometimes the smithsonian does these interesting cultural things

    http://www.festival.si.edu/

    prepare for humidity, and heat. bring a hat, drink water. september in DC is still a rice cooker.

    if you can manage it, hit up the free Brookside Gardens in Wheaton

    http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside/

    it's always very pretty

    curly haired boy on
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    NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Also, Nats Park is a really fantastic place to catch a game, and the Nats themselves haven't been horrible this year.

    NotASenator on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Sightseeing in DC won't take you a week. I would do three days and then go elsewhere. If you are athletic I could recommend some long biking/hiking opportunities. As for other urban experiences, New York and Philly are incredibly easy to get to from DC by train or bus.

    kaliyama on
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    NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Sightseeing in DC won't take you a week. I would do three days and then go elsewhere. If you are athletic I could recommend some long biking/hiking opportunities. As for other urban experiences, New York and Philly are incredibly easy to get to from DC by train or bus.

    I hate to disagree, but I've lived here a good portion of my life and I still find new stuff to see all the time.

    NotASenator on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I spent two days there and could only, really see 3 things. And there is waaaaaaaaaaaay more I wanted to see.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I've easily wasted an entire day between the two buildings of the National Gallery and the Sculpture Garden.

    Similarly, there is the National Archives, Library of Congress, Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum, the Supreme Court, the Corcoran, the Hirschorn, the Arboretum, the Spy Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Zoo, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Pentagon (I think you need a reservation), the White House, the Capital, Arlington Cemetery (seriously, this is a place you must go, and give it plenty of time. Also, bring water and really, stay quiet around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or people will hate you) and Ford Theater is a nice stop off too.

    If you are interested in culture at all, there is the Kennedy Center, Warner Theater, the couple of Arena Stage locations and tons of other theaters in DC and across the river in Arlington/Alexandria.

    In terms of memorials, there is the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial right next to each other next to the Lincoln Memorial, which is pretty much my favorite building anywhere, and the World War II memorial at the end of the reflecting pool. There's also plenty of that in Arlington Cemetery and the new Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon.

    Down the GW Parkway a bit south of Old Town Alexandria is Mount Vernon, which has some good history.

    There's also tons of stuff in Old Town Alexandria, including Christ Church, which reminds me that you'll want to add the National Cathedral to your list in D.C. proper.


    Oh, the Botanic Gardens are great too.

    NotASenator on
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    NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Oh, and if you're into science, there's NASA Headquarters just south of the Mall and the Goddard Space Flight Center just up the beltway a bit past Andrews Air Force Base.

    NotASenator on
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    SakutianSakutian Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Check out the Spy Museum for certain.

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    twmjrtwmjr Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Something of a side note: watching a drunk man stumble into the reflection pool, decide to walk across it, slip and fall in the whole way across then take a few minutes to climb out to an ovation from the small, adoring crowd is hilarious. Easily the best part of our rainy Friday night.

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    FeatherBladeFeatherBlade Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Sightseeing in DC won't take you a week. I would do three days and then go elsewhere. If you are athletic I could recommend some long biking/hiking opportunities. As for other urban experiences, New York and Philly are incredibly easy to get to from DC by train or bus.

    That... depends on how much stamina you have and how hot the weather is. Also, it's no good to get yourself so exhausted that you need a vacation to recover from your trip. Planning two places per day is the maximum I would recommend (and i wouldn't expect to get through more than one).

    Take good snack bars with you, in addition to your water. In fact, pack as though you were going on a day hike in the woods. Seriously. Wear really good shoes: your feet will happily murder you if you don't.

    There are some good Thai restaurants, I guess near the Chinatown district.

    As far as the White House is concerned, talk to your state senator, like, right now. If I remember right, there are restrictions like "you have to have groups of at least 20 people" or "you have to arrange a tour months in advance". At least, that was the case 2 years ago... no idea if it's still in effect.

    The Zoo! It's free, but the animals aren't stupid, so they disappear during the hottest parts of the day. Arrive there early in the morning if you want to see them. There are also a couple of nice Irish pubs between the Zoo and the closest Metro station to the south.

    Also, if you want to take a day trip out of the city, I would highly recommend Mount Vernon.

    And SmarTrip cards are the best. ^_^ They work on the buses as well as the Metro.

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    KyleCamelotKyleCamelot Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    IIRC, Baltimore is only 45 minutes away from D.C. The Baltimore aquarium is amazing.

    KyleCamelot on
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    PirateJonPirateJon Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Tap water here in DC is fucking toxic. Federal agencies are required by law to provide bottled water as the tap stuff isn't considered potable due to high levels of lead and contaminants.
    IIRC, Baltimore is only 45 minutes away from D.C. The Baltimore aquarium is amazing.

    It is amazing, but depending on traffic that's more like two hours. Each way. Still if you go stop off at the NSA complex, it's on the way. They have a very cool cryptography/spy museum. You can't get to the gift shop though - secure area.
    Whitehouse: "you have to arrange a tour months in advance". At least, that was the case 2 years ago... no idea if it's still in effect.

    Still and then some. You have to apply to go in through your congresscritter, then be checked and approved before you can join the tour. Long gone are the days when you could just show up.

    PirateJon on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    NotACrook wrote: »
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Sightseeing in DC won't take you a week. I would do three days and then go elsewhere. If you are athletic I could recommend some long biking/hiking opportunities. As for other urban experiences, New York and Philly are incredibly easy to get to from DC by train or bus.

    I hate to disagree, but I've lived here a good portion of my life and I still find new stuff to see all the time.

    I've lived in DC too, and I loved doing everything there. It doesn't mean I wouldn't get sick of going to museums or DC restaurants and nightlife for more than 3 days straight. In a world of limited time + resources, i'd argue that 3 days of DC + 3 days of NY > 6 days of DC.

    kaliyama on
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    claypoolfanclaypoolfan Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    So people were naysaying this earlier in the thread but I have always had a good time going out to bars in Adams Morgan when I'm in DC.

    claypoolfan on
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