Not to excited about vacation plans to DC

downsouthJuly 16, 2003

DH has been planning the last few days a vacation trip for us to Washington, DC. This is where he went on his high school trip almost 40 yrs ago (1964). I'm sure he wants me to see the historical sites he visited then and reminisce a little. I told him I wasn't too excited about going to Washington, DC but he says I will enjoy it.

At first he was planning an Amtrak trip but it was too expensive so we are driving which is an 11 hour trip. We normally end up going to the same place every year, doing the same thing, and this is something different, so I should be excited, right?

He is such a hard worker I haven't said anything else negative about the trip. We have talked about going for 5 yrs so I guess the time has arrived. I just can't get excited about this trip. Is there any way I can get enthused? I feel terrible because of the way I feel. I should feel patriotic and proud to visit our capitol.

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I would plan on taking one of the tour buses around and then see if there are some places you want to visit on your own. It's a great city to visit but it will be crowded. Must see: Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetary (JFK's tomb), Air & Space Museum, Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Penn Station, and try for the White House tour. There are scads of other places but you only have so much time.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2003 at 2:39AM
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Stay in Old Town Alexandria and take the metro to D.C. - then take a wonderful walk along the George Washington Parkway which skirts the Potomac - drive to Mount Vernon along that same parkway - it is beautiful. If you have time, drive the 1 hour drive to Annapolis - the sailing capital of the world - take a "walk with the colonials" tour - you will love it - guarantee it. I would do a few of the following in D.C.: Visit a couple of Smithsonial museums (which ever looks best to you), if you like art - be sure to visit the National Art Museum, the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, Arlington National Cemetary, The Korean and Viet Nam memorials and see if you can still tour the capital building and take a tour of the State Department - you need to go through your local congressman's office in order to see the state department (it is the best tour in my experience in D.C.). They may not be offering these tours since 9/11 - dunno. YOu will love Old Town Alexandria - has a fun night life - great shopping, restaurants - a romantic city - ditto historic Annapolis. D.C. is interesting and fun to visit for a day or two but I would not stay there. Georgetown is cool too but we love, Annapolis and Alexandria. Monticello is worth the drive - but it is a drive from D.C. but doable. A little over 2 hours away is Colonial Williamsburg - the best of the best. Have fun.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2003 at 4:00PM
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We live in the area and here are my suggestions:
Bowie on Rt 50 east of Washington would be a great place to stay. There are some budget hotels right next to the freeway in a very safe area. I would not recommend staying on the east side of DC, though. Bowie is a few miles from the New Carrollton metro stop. I'm not sure if the hotels in Bowie run shuttles, but the advantage is that New Carrollton is at the end of the line. Therefore, when you get on going into the District, you are assured a seat because you're the first on. Northern VA is much more congested - crowded. Bowie also has numerous chain restaurants right at that exit: Applebee's, McDonalds,and a new shopping center w/ multiple restaurants.

We LOVE living here. There is so much to see & do and we find it very exciting, even after a number of years.

If you want to get off the beaten path, the National Cryptologic Museum is nearby at Ft. Meade (National Security Agency). It is very low key and never crowded.

There's also the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore that is interesting - maybe more so for kids than the traditional art museums.

Annapolis, as recommended by others, is wonderful. Annapolis, unlike Williamsburg, is authentic (original buildings) and not so expensive. The plebes are currently in "plebe summer" with noontime formations.

In Washington, hitting the memorials in the evening is a good option. It's less crowded and not as hot. As far as I know, the White House is not currently open unless you are with a school group.

The Washington Post has good info: I believe if you click on entertainment it will get you to all the info you need.

If you'd like recommendations for specific interests, let me know.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2003 at 11:05AM
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DC is a beautiful city, in my opinion. I was there on a consulting project a couple of years ago (before 911) and absolutly loved it. Of course, I was staying in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the White House and the Georgetown area. Every afternoon after fininshing up with work I would go out walking for hours and hours. I sure wish I could find an excuse to go back there again. Mind you, this was in the spring before all the tourists would have gotten there...But I can tell you it was really moving to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watch people from all over the world, many of them in ethnic clothing, walking up those steps on awe. It made me shiver all over.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2003 at 12:34PM
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I did NOT mean to discourage anyone from visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I received personal email critical of my post. My point was that Annapolis is an entirely different kind of colonial experience. Many of the 18th century mansions are still inhabited by descendants - and you can walk the streets to experience some of the interesting architecture and history without paying $30 or $40. There is not recreation or restoration on the scale of Colonial Williamsburg. The emphasis in Annapolis is on preservation.

To the person who reprimanded me on my post, I DO know something about American history having served as director of a colonial historic site.

The following website is from the University of Virginia and has the history of the creation of Colonial Williamsburg. Type in a search for Colonial Williamsburg and you will get several articles.

Here is a link that might be useful: University of Virginia

    Bookmark   July 23, 2003 at 9:24AM
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I know that there is someone here who is very attached to Colonial Williamsburg and may have read something into your post that wasn't there but I didn't think you were discouraging anyone from visiting there.

I loved D.C. as a child and have been back for only two briefs trips since. I'm not an expert in the area but I just wanted to add that I really enjoyed it. There's a lot of walking involved but the city is really quite nice and there are so many interesting things to see. I think it's someplace nice to see at least once in your life.

I look forward to taking my child there someday.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2003 at 10:42AM
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I had lived in the Washington D.C. area for just under 35 years, and had always loved it. As has been already noted in the previous posts, there are so many things to see and do (with many, many of them free!) that the best advice I could give to anyone thinking of visiting, is to do their "homework" before coming. Not only is there so much to see and do in Washington, D.C. proper, but as has been noted, so many areas within reasonable driving distances from D.C. offer so much to the visitor. Get a good guidebook of the whole D.C. area and decide where your interests lie(history?, Civil War history?,government?,boating?,politics?etc etc) and go from there. There is so much to see, there is no way you can see and do it all even if you have 2 or 3 weeks. I would especially advise the original poster to do this since she seemed to not be especially eager to go on this trip. D.C has SO MUCH to offer, I am sure she will find something that she would be interested in and would make her trip fun and rewarding.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2003 at 9:12AM
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DC is great but don't go in the summer. You will die of the heat. It is unbearable. Worst humidity I have ever experienced. Do visit the Library of Congress. exhibits are fascinating!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2003 at 4:55PM
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If you can stand the Georgia heat, you'll survive the heat in DC.

I don't think anyone mentioned the US Botanic Garden. It was recently renovated and is very beautiful. Also the National Zoo. These are free to the public just as the other places previously mentioned here.

You will enjoy your trip to the capital city without a doubt. It is a beautiful city.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2003 at 10:46AM
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Downsouth, we may have a few things in common. My paternal family is from TN, I grew up in IN, but have lived in a DC suburb for around 15 years. Your post doesn't say why you are unethusiastic, but I can guess why. As has already been mentioned, DC has more to do than you will ever get done, so you need to make choices and plan well in advance. And there's great variety in what to do, both within the city and within short driving distances. Monuments, museums, and the workings of our government are DC's main attractions (Ford's Theater is especially interesting). But maybe that type of thing can't enthuse you. There are people from all over the world here. Embassy Row, our own small Chinatown, the State Dept., etc are of interest to some. Still not your cup of tea? The Cheseapeake Bay is only an hour away (2 hours if you're going to cross the bridge and stand in the traffic). Ocean City and VA beach on the Atlantic are only 4 hours away. Skyline Drive and the mountains and 1-2 hours away to the west. An interesting change of pace from DC's history stops is Baltimore's Inner Harbor--just an hour away but a world away in atmosphere. Annapolis and Williamsburg are both fascinating, for very different reasons. And Alexandria is interesting as well (yep, the post about night life has it right). Like crafts and unusual stores? Ellicott City to the North, Occoquan to the south, and to some extent, Alexandria, have interesting offerings.

The variety here is tremendous--I still haven't seen it all even after 15 years of trying. Talk to your husband about what kinds of things you want to do--you don't have to spend all of your time on monuments.

Cons--the traffic is bad. Take the Metro as often as possible. Food costs in the downtown area are high. Hotel costs, of course, depends on where you stay. In general, the area does have the reputation of being expensive, but more for living here than for visiting.

And if your hesitation is because we're living in a post 9/11 world, let me assure you of your safety. We might be a prime target but we've also got great security. Don't let the military presence you see around the Pentagon alarm you--it makes me feel safer.

I have seen many visitors have a miserable time in DC, but it's because they didn't plan. They want to do everything, and it can't be done. The walking distance between, say the Washington Monument and the Capital can be a nice stroll or a forced march, depending on how much time you allow. Our summer's are hot and humid, but so are GA's--and in downtown DC, there's always an air conditioned building to duck into. And this summer has actually been a mild one for heat (but I think all the rain that has kept down the heat has made the humidity worse). If you come with reasonable expectations, you'll probably have a great time.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2003 at 3:12PM
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We didn't make this trip to DC, mainly because DH sensed my lack of excitement about this trip. Instead we ended up in Florida on a casino ship and at Universal Studios. I think the reasons I couldn't get excited is because who wants to just look at buildings and monuments, even though they are historical? I think all of you are right in that you have to plan carefully a trip to DC and include a variety of things. We love traveling throughout the south, esp. Mississippi and Louisiana and we have toured so many antebellum/plantation style homes, so its basically the same concept; history is history regardless. I think planning this trip for the month of July also was a downer, as I know how hot it gets (even though I agree it has been a milder summer).

What I would like to do is visit DC when the cherry trees are blooming. Does anyone know what the peak period is for the blooming or does it vary? I know it would be much colder then, but I believe I would enjoy that better, as I am so hot natured. (You are right about Georgia's humidity; if I can stand it here, I don't think DC would be any different.)

Maybe next spring we can start planning a trip up that way.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 12:16AM
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The cherry blossoms can bloom at dramatically different times depending on weather. The Washington Post starts predicting peak bloom times several weeks in advance. Generally speaking, a late March to mid-April trip would cover the time period.

If you are going to plan this kind of trip, keep in mind that this is the heaviest travel time of the year in DC. Make hotel reservations.

However, even though there are crowds, you can still enjoy this spectacular view of Washington. My husband and I got up at dawn one spring morning to take a leisurely walk around the Tidal Basin and then have a picnic breakfast. We parked right by the Tidal Basin because the crowds were yet to appear. It was glorious. We then went to Arlington Cemetery because it opens at 8 am. Although that is always a special tourist destination, the early hours on a beautiful spring morning were especially meaningful.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 8:47AM
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I live in the area and work at one of the beautiful buildings that can be seen on The Mall. My building is breathtaking, as is most of the area.

If you would like to come during a quiet time and have that flexability, I would suggest December, January or February. Even early March is still relatively slow, but come mid March until Aug. there are a lot of people. Right now things are beginning to slow down. Our worst time is Cherry Blossom time until school is out. Every child in the world is here and they make a lot of noise. So if it is just the 2 of you, you may want to opt for quieter times. The schools have gotten tired of the spring trips and crowds and are beginning to infiltrate the previously quiet, senior-citizen-filled autumn. The week after Thanksgiving (not the weekend after, which is one of the busiest)tends to be nice also, and the weather is still bearable, maybe in the 40's and 50's.

To respond to someone who wasn't sure if the Capitol is still open to the public... Yes it is. You just need to know to get in line early. Tickets are given out, I think, at 9 a.m. with a time stamped on it. You just come back at that time.

Everyone has covered so much of what to see and do, but I would like to add a couple things. If you like shows, The Kennedy Center is a delight. Also, in Northern Virginia, check out the largest tourist attraction in Va. if you are into shopping; Potomac Mills Mall. More people visit that than Williamsburg. Go figure!!!!!

Please reconsider this beautiful and wonderful city, and let me know if you decide to come.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2003 at 2:15PM
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Oh my gosh, I had such a great time visiting D.C. a few years ago! We went to very fine restaurants, stayed in the embassy area, toured the Capitol with a guide from our senator's office, window-shopped in Georgetown and then did the usual touristy things. The Vietnam Memorial is unexpectedly moving and of course the Lincoln Memorial is always an awesome site. Seeing the Declaration of Independence is also a very cool. We also went to the National Zoo (so-so) but what was a real revelation was the National Cathedral. It is really beautiful and interesting. We had a great brunch at the Kennedy Center with unlimited crab cakes--how could that be bad?

Even though I was born in Alexandria and have been to D.C. many many times, this was my first trip as an adult and I had the best time, skeptical though I was. We went in October and the weather was wonderful. The metro was also great.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2003 at 8:32PM
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