A September 2006 trip
to Washington, D.C. by Traveling Jen
Quote: Weekend in Washington DC. Four days... only a brush of the surface. I will have to plan my next trip, so I can see more!
Our nations capitol... what can I say, so much to see and to little time to see it all! We spent a four day weekend in the city. My best friend, Sue, her daughter, Chrissy (aka: my daughter from another mother), and myself. We stayed at the Westin Embassy Row, located near Dupont Circle. Being just us girls, I researched considerably to locate a hotel that was in a safe area and wouldn't break the bank. We explored the city from monuments to museums to the National Zoo, we even had a few laughs people watching (there were two women lying on the grass near the World War II Memorial, fully dressed in purple, we dubbed them the purple people). We ate, and walked, and explored, and ate some more. We had several Subway stops near our hotel. Oh my god! D.C. has the cleanest subways I've ever seen! No Kidding! You could pretty much eat off the floors. Of course, some of the stations are so far underground that while on the escalator ride down you feel like you're traveling to the depths of hell!
Can you say free? The best part of Washington D.C. is that just about everything you do is free! I found that to be huge. I don't know about you... I always seem to spend more money than expected on excursions, etc. After hotel, airfare, and dining, I hardly spent a thing. Naturally, I had to save a few bucks to spend at Godiva at Union Station. Ymmm! Speaking of Union Station... we spent a few hours there, they have tons of shops, restaurants, etc. I have this sick thing with books... and maps. So, what do I buy? Books and maps... then I had to lug them around the city with me. I never said I was bright.
Tip: Bring a fold out bag or backpack that's strong enough for all your loot. I can't tell you how many times I've purchased tote bags while away out of necessity. As corny as it sounds... my favorite part of the trip: Tia Shan, the baby panda, at the National Zoo. So cute! Guess what? I even bought a Tia Shan book at the zoo gift shop.
They don't allow food or beverage on the Subway, so drink and eat up before you start down the escalator (believe me... this is strictly enforced). What can I say, I'm a corny tourist, I have to give kudos to the Old Town Trolley tours. The Monuments by Moonlight tour was my favorite... it was 2 1/2 hours long and covered quit a few of the monuments that would have been more difficult to get to otherwise (Iwo Jima, FDR Memorial), and I only paid (I think it's gone up to ).
As you're exploring the city, make note of restaurants that tickle your fancy and plan to get back to them for dinner. We made a point to do this a couple of times... those were our most enjoyable meals. Make sure you have a map with you (I usually have several... but only end up using 1 or 2). StreetWise maps are great, for most big city's they have pocket sized metro maps. Cool huh? Don't worry about looking like a tourist for pulling out a map... I'm sure the locals can spot the tourists from a mile away.
We flew into Baltimore, a bit more time consuming... but saved us a fortune on airfare. I got round trip from Providence for on Southwest with a Ding fare (you can download Ding to your desk top and get notified when they have special deals).
If you must drive... please note: most city hotels charge a fortune for parking, upwards of per day. Look for hotels offering specials on free parking packages. Sheraton hotels often offer these packages.
The best way to get around is the Subway. The lines are actually pretty easy to navigate. The stations are named for the appropriate areas. You can purchase a metro card for any amount you wish, right at any of the stops. Just pop in a credit card and tell the machine how much you want. A word to the wise... don't put your card anywhere near a magnet or it will no longer function. I also have a bag thing, I have this cute bag for travel, fits everything so nice (even my camera)... well, it has a couple of magnetized closures (for safekeeping of my items). Needless to say, my metro card got de-magnetized. Thankfully, I was not traveling alone.. The station managers I'm sure could see that I was a tourist... just shy of the shackles... let me go!
The most fun way to get around: The Trolley.. the guide tells you cute little stories and anecdotes along the way. Much pricier and more time consuming than the subway but you have to at least give it a shot.
The most ineffective way to get around: walking. It's OK if you're in a particular neighborhood, or walking a mile or 2 from one destination to another. But, D.C. is not walker friendly. At all! Just the reflecting pool... is like a half mile long, so pull out a map... and gaze at the National Mall thinking you can stroll through it and see what you want in a day... and I'll be coming to D.C. to scrap you off of Lincoln's lap. Of course you have to walk by the White House... it's the only way to see it (unless you have a personal invite because you're special.. then you are all set).And, Driving... are you crazy?
Hotel | "Westin Embassy Row"
The hotel was very well located for getting around the city... and in a nice safe area (1.2 miles from city center). There are several subway stops within short walking distance. It is very easy to get to the National Zoo from the Westin via the subway. There is also a Starbucks at about every corner, in every direction from the hotel. There are tons of restaurants in the area with all kinds of cuisine, from Thai to American and from fine dining to fast food. The property is surrounded by embassies (hence, the name) and it is located about a block from Dupont Circle.
The Westin is a Starwood property (my favorite), they are always moderately priced, but comparable to high-end hotels. The room was cozy and clean with the comfortable signature of Heavenly Beds! They were very accommodating and supplied us with a roll-a-way bed for the third person in our party (although this didn't leave us much room to roam). The lobby isn’t anything spectacular, which is fine with me… I much prefer the coziness. The staff were quick to comply with any of our requests (extra pillows, coffee, etc.). They also have gym facilities (not that I used them). And… the hotel is completely non-smoking.
With my AAA discount, the room rate was well under $200 a night, (with all fees and taxes). It's pretty good for a decent hotel in D.C. Tip: If you must drive or rent a car… the charge for parking is upwards of $40 per day at most D.C. hotels. If you are a Starwood Preferred Guest member, watch for their offers for free parking (they have them once in a while).Westin Embassy Row: 2100 Massachusetts Avenue NW (202) 293-2100www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=245
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 14, 2007
The Fairfax at Embassy Row
2100 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C., United States 20008
Attraction | "Old Town Trolley Tours of Washington"
What a great way to see some of the monuments... We went on the Monuments by Moonlight tour. It was really cool to see the monuments lit up with the night sky as a back drop... gave them such a mystical feel. Only draw back... pictures, so much more difficult to take photos in the dark. The reflecting pool at night, with the Washington Monument reflecting of the dark skies... breathtaking (much prettier than in the day light). Our tour guide was full of jokes and funny stories... he kept us entertained between stops. He also gave us plenty of time to view each monument during our trolley stops. There were a couple of inconsiderate people that would come back to the trolley well after the designated time. Tip: make sure someone in your party is wearing a watch.
The tour is approximately 2 ½ hours long, from start to finish (which is at Union Station). Stops included in the tour: Iwo Jima Memorial, FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, Korean War Memorial. Although not advertised as a stop… the reflecting pool sits in front of the Lincoln Memorial giving you those breathtaking views that I described above. There are also several notable points of interest that you ride by… for example, Arlington Cemetery and the Capitol Building. The tour guide/driver was very knowledgeable and would give us a bit of a history lesson and some quick trivia about different buildings and monuments around the D.C. area. This, keeping us entertained between stops. Prices are very reasonable at about $28 per adult, $14 per child.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at: www.trustedtours.com
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 15, 2007
Old Town Trolley Tours
2640 Reed Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20018
Attraction | "The National Archives and Records Administration"
You just can't go to D.C. without getting a glimpse of the Declaration of Independence. Of course, you can hardly read any of it. But, just the thought of all the great men in this country’s history that signed it... unbelievable. The Rotunda (called: The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom) is magnificent (as it would have to be, to be worthy of housing the amazing documents that it holds). The Rotunda/Exhibition hall holds the original copies of the 3 most historical documents in US history: The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.
Also on display is a copy of the 1297 issue of Magna Carta. I found it to be amazing that this document could survive over 700 years… and legible (if you can read Latin… I can’t). The National Archives Building also exhibits other important American historical documents such as the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as various collections of photos and other historically significant American artifacts. Admission is Free.
Spring and summer hours are 10am – 7pm, fall and winter hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Tip: Make sure you bring a camera that has the option to shut off the flash… there is no flash photography allowed in the Exhibit Hall. The National Archives building’s address is on Pennsylvania Avenue, however, the Rotunda entrance, which includes the Exhibit Hall is on Constitution Avenue (across from the National Mall). It is located between 7th and 9th Streets.Several D.C. buses stop at the National Archives, and you can take the sub-way’s yellow or green lines to the Archives/Navy Memorial stop.The National Archives: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 15, 2007
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw
Washington, DC 20408
The size of the monument is what hits you... it just seems to hover over everything else in the area. I guess that is what you would expect from a father... so why not from the father of this country? It really is indescribable how magnificent to see the monuments reflection in the reflecting pool... no matter how many photos or how many movies you have seen it in... it doesn't prepare you. Then, of course, the views from the monument… of the entire city. Unfreaking believable! Well worth the aggravation of getting up at the crack of dawn to ensure that you get your hot little hands on a ticket. Hours of operation are 9am to 4:45pm daily.
Tickets to visit the Monument are free of charge, however everyone (even children) needs to have a ticket. You can get tickets in advance from the National Parks service reservation system (this is for a minimal charge of $1.50). Or, you can get timed tickets at the 15th Street kiosk (located at the base of the Monument). Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8:30am until all tickets for that day are gone. Tip: Each person can get up to 6 tickets. You can take the Metro to the Smithsonian stop. The Monument is at the West end of the National Mall.Washington Monument: 900 Ohio Drive, SW (Entrance to the Monument is on 15th St. SW).Visitor Information: (202) 426-6841
Near the Center of the National Mall
Washington, D.C. 20024
Marine Corps War Memorial
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Mclean, Virginia 22101
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts