Washington in the Heat

Great city to visit, but plan well when it is hot.


Washington in the Heat

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 8, 2007

In Washington, there is too much to see, so it is hard to give highlights. I wouldn't miss the FDR Memorial, and the National Art Gallery is also a must to see. The American History Museum is closed right now, but the best of American Pop Culture, a very good exhibit, from the museum is in a gallery at the Air and Space Museum.
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Face it, you've got to go to the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the White House or everyone will think you are mad. So do those to get them out of the way, then ask the people there what to see. The best source of information I found was the National Park Rangers. Whenever we asked one of them what to see, they had a suggestion that wasn't in the Michelin things you must do, but all of the suggestions were great. They know what new and interesting things are going on outside of their particular assignment. And they are very happy to talk to you.

Plan your outside trips for the morning and look for a building you can spend a lot of time in for your afternoon. Always look for the gift shop when you are visiting any of the outdoor attractions. You may not want to buy anything, but they are air conditioned for the staff in them. A little time in cool air does wonders to sustain you.
Packing water is fine, but be prepared to pony up for some cold water at the various stands along the National Mall. There is just something about ice cold water as opposed to room temperature water that goes beyond words to describe on a 95 degree and humid day.

Even though many attractions appear to be within walking distance, don't be afraid to say the Metro station is closer and gets me right there. We took the train as often as possible and were still hitting 16-18,000 steps on our pedometers. Plan walks to take you from one station to another or back to the station you started at.

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Train, train, train. When you get in town, get a pass for however many days you will be there. A 7-day short trip pass is $22. Short trip means $1.75 or less, which will get you around the downtown area. The nice thing about these passes is that the short trip restrictions are only for rush hour (5:50-9:30am and 3-7pm). Any other hours, you can go as far as you want.

Getting to Dulles can be expensive by cab ($50) or shuttle($30), but if you take the train to East Falls River, you can catch the Washington Flyer, which is a nice express bus which gets you to the airport for just $9. And if you time it right, you can use your short trip pass to get out to this station.


Hilton Garden Inn Downtown

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

When we were booking this trip, my wife and I decided that we wouldn't worry as much about cost as the right place to stay. This hotel certainly was the right place. It is across the street from the McPherson Square Metro station, so getting there from Reagan airport was a breeze. Getting passes for the Metro meant that we could easily travel around without a car. And being only a few blocks from the White House, meant there was always something interesting nearby.

The staff were friendly and very helpful. Perhaps what happened as we checked in is a good example of the thoughtfulness of the staff. When checking in I mentioned that it was our 27th wedding anniversary. When we returned to our room after eating that night, we found a bottle of champagne and a tray of truffles and strawberries dipped in chocolate waiting for us. (I have to say that this really bailed me out for not having bought anything for an anniversary gift.) When we had questions about where to go or where to eat, the bellman always had a suggestion. The pool in the hotel was small (it looks bigger in the pictures) but that was fine since I swim like a rock. The trips to the pool were more to cool off after a day out in the heat than to do laps.

The hotel restaurant was a concern for us. All the reviews we read talked about how expensive it was. For dinner, it was comparable to other area restaurants (see my review). For breakfast is was pricey if you just want a simple breakfast. It always had a buffet, so paying $14 isn't so bad if you eat enough, but there are other breakfast options around.

The convenience to the White House meant that every night we could take a walk after dinner to do some people watching. Also to walk off some of the calories we consumed at supper. As with any big city, the nearby benches fill up near dark with the bench residents, so nighttime walking alone here is not recommended.

Since we didn't see everything we wanted to, and will have to go back, we'll get another crack at this hotel to see if it is as great the second time around.

Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC Franklin Square
815 14th Street NW
Washington, D.C., United States, 20005
(202) 783-7800

Café Mozart

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

This is a charming café just off the McPherson Station Metro stop in downtown. We did not have reservations but were seated immediately in the dining room. When in a German restaurant, you must have German beer. We ordered 2 Hofbrau 1/2 liters to quench our thirst from the hot day of sightseeing. Just about every review we read raved about this restaurant, and the hotel bellman also highly recommended it. Well, everyone was right.

My wife ordered the Chicken Schnitzel. It was lightly battered and fried. I tried a bit and repented my selection. I was not adventurous so I ordered the Sausage Sampler, which had 5 different German Sausages on a bed of red cabbage and saurkraut. Mind you my food was very good, but the schnitzel was excellent. And both my wife and I were surprised by the mustard on the table. It was just slightly tangy and had a bit of a bite, but not too much. If we could have figure out how to sneak some out, we would have.

While we ate, we listened to a gentleman playing German songs on a guitar. If the lighting would have been a little dimmer, I would have said this was a great spot for a romantic dinner. As it was, it was the perfect spot to finish off a day with good food in a quiet atmosphere.

They also serve food in the bar. Although we didn't try any of it, we looked at the menu and it was filled with reasonably priced sandwiches and bar food. The bar was a little noisier, but the dining room is separated from the bar so none of the noise travels to disturb you in the dining room.

When we were done, we got two apple strudels to go from the deli in front. We took these back to the hotel for a late night dessert. They were good, but not as special as the restaurant food was. I do like the currants in the strudel however.

Overall this was a wonderful place to eat, and it will be on our list for our next trip back to Washington.

Cafe Mozart
1331 H Street NW
Washington, DC, 20005
(202) 347-5732

Great American Grill

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

We had read reviews of this restaurant, which is in the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. The reviews universally said it was too expensive. When we ate there our first night in Washington, we were nervous about this. Well, the prices, at least for dinner, are comparable to other restaurants in the area. We started with the crab shrimp dip, which was excellent. We both ordered scallops and crab cakes (you have to have crab cakes). Being from Minnesota, I needed my potatoes so I asked to substitute mashed potatoes for the risotto that came with the dish. I was gladly accommodated. The crab cakes were excellent, as were the scallops. In hindsight, my wife with the risotto was probably a better choice than my spuds, which were good but didn't match the seafood as well as I hoped. My wife and I shared a creme brulee for desert. Overall the meal was excellent and the waiter was very accommodating. The restaurant was only half full, so walking right in and getting a seat should be no problem. The menu also has steaks for the carnivore and sandwiches for the smaller, lighter, and less expensive diner. It is located right across the street from the McPherson Square Metro station, 14th Street side, so would be very convenient to get to the station.
Great American Grill
815 14th St NW
Washington, D.C., United States, 20005
(202) 783-7800

McDonalds

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

In your mind you are thinking why write a review of a McDonalds, even if it is in the National Air and Space Museum. Well, the food was McDonald's standard fare. The only reason to think about this place is how quickly they ran people through the lines to get your food. They have many stations to take your order, and then you are told to go to the number 10 (or whatever number station in the delivery area) and there is your food waiting for you. It was like being in a well-run drive through, but without the car. Despite the large lunchtime crowds, we had ordered our food, picked it up, and were sitting down eating within 5 minutes. And for a lunch on the mall, that was quick. The prices were higher than normal McDonalds, but then again, everything in Washington was more expensive, so maybe I didn't mind because I was numb to the added cost. In any event, this was a nice place to go for a quick bite and a breather at noon.
McDonald's
Independence & 4th St.
Washington, D.C., United States

Old Ebbitt Grill

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

As the bar where Grant came to have a drink, we had to go here. We didn't have reservations but the wait was fairly short (maybe 20 minutes) for a Saturday night. We waited in the bar and each had a cool beer for relief from the day. We were given a pager to let us know when the table was ready. When we were seated, I looked around and was surprised by the variety of clothes. The couple next to us had on a suit and evening gown. We were in shorts and collared shirts. The next table down was in cut offs and tee shirts, so when they say any attire is OK, they really mean it. Our waitress was very prompt at getting our order and making sure that our water glasses stayed full. Having eaten big meals the last 2 nights, this was a sandwich night. My wife had a cheeseburger with fries. The burger was big and done well, but then again how can you go too wrong on a cheeseburger. I ordered a Rueben sandwich, Mine was very good also. The corned beef was tender and very thinly sliced. There was just enough sauerkraut to give the sandwich some flavor. I guess here in Minnesota, the gob on the sauerkraut, so I was surprised at how putting less on added to the taste.

When we were done, we took a quick stroll through to see all the stuffed heads. Rumor has it that one of them was shot by Teddy Roosevelt. The place has an old world feel with the dark wood and stuffed animals all over. It was a nice place for a sandwich with reasonable prices.

Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th Street North West
Washington, District of Columbia, 20005
(202) 347-4800

Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

How do you describe this in a few words? Overwhelming. It was a hot morning and after the walk to this, I was a little cranky, but when you walk in and see the statue of Lincoln that you have seen so many times in pictures, well, it's hard not to be moved.

You need to have the right frame of mind when you are here. Understand that Lincoln is a towering figure to Americans, but to most foreign tourists, this is just another been-there-done that place. People will run in, take a picture, shout at the kids and ran out. Just be ready to put them out of your mind.

The displays in the lower level on Lincoln were very informative, but given that it was a hot, humid day, the air conditioning in the gift show was very welcome. Standing in front of the monument and looking back at the Washington monument was very moving. If it wasn't so darn hot, I could have spent an hour just standing there. But I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that this is a must-see for everyone.

Lincoln Memorial
West Potomac Park
Washington, DC, 20037
(202) 426-6895

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

We walked to this from the Jefferson memorial, so we hit it backwards. It is a series of "rooms" each dealing with a different time in FDR's presidency. We started from the end and worked our way to the beginning. I don't know what I was expecting from this. I had not seen anything about this. I was surprised. This was the one place that I would say to visit, if you can only do one of the big memorials. There was a lot of water flowing throughout which gave it not quite the timeless feel you have with Lincoln or Jefferson. It seemed to give it a sense of immediacy. The monument has different phrases carved in the walls. I was touched by the expression of caring for the least able next to statues of people standing in a soup line.

I was also moved by the quote about war. It described the effects of war and ends "I hate war." These words were also inscribed in blocks which were scattered in front of the inscription. I don't know the message the monument's designer was trying to send, but I know the message I got from it.

The visitor center at the start of the memorial was small with a little gift shop. It was, however, air conditioned. Just what the doctor ordered after walking from Jefferson all the way through Roosevelt.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Ohio Drive SW
Washington, D.C., United States
(202) 376-6704

National Gallery of Art

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by McCoyWSP on August 12, 2007

Surrounded by so much history, the Art Gallery wasn't high on my place to see. My wife had this high on her list, so off we went. Well, I was wrong. We planned this for our afternoon viewing, to avoid the heat. I could spend a week here and still not see it all.

There is a guide at the information desk which lists the must-see art in the building, from the DaVinci to Picasso. For someone with a limited amount of time, this could be great. We were dealing with this in a more leisurely manner, so the people running in, stopping in front of a picture just long enough to take a picture on the digital camera and then running out were a bit of a distraction. But there is so much great art here that we quickly realized that we couldn't see the pieces on the must list. We were just taking too long with all the other art to make it to all of them. Once we came to this realization, about an hour into our visit here, we decide to just see French Impressionists, since that is my favorite. We still didn't get through everything. I briefly lost my wife when I got stopped by Mary Cassat's "Girl in a Blue Chair". I've seen pictures of this painting, but seeing the brush strokes and the detail in the painting just froze me for a good long time.

I didn't know that I could spend a whole visit to Washington here, but I know I will plan for more time here in our next visit. Our visit only scratched the surface of what is here. We have a plate with a Picasso on it that my wife bought in the gift shop to remind us both of how great this was.

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

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