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  1. #1
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    Jan. 10, 2008
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    Default Help me plan DC trip

    Going to a wedding in DC in May. Since I haven't gotten to go to DC since the typical 5th grade class trip, I am excited. My one definite must see is the Smithsonian natural history museum, but would love to get a perspective of other must-sees. We're limited probably to two full days. We generally like to do non-touristy things, we hate group tours and like to explore on our own, but it does seem like DC has so many important tourist sites that we should probably suck it up and put on the fanny packs and go stare at monuments at least a couple of times...
    "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

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  2. #2
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    Feb. 25, 2012
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    Well, Natural hx could take days if you wanted, alone! I would definitely strap on the fanny pack and planon walking. Bus service and metro are excellent! Natural hx is on the mall, and easy enough to head down to VN memorial (best at night but still okay in early am) see lincol nad wander over tothe korean. Very powerful. Then head up to the hx museum, figure out a plan there - their restaurant is excellent, BTW - wandering on the mall you could see the WA monument, or head over to air and space (very cool) or American hx (my fav) but bear in mind that EACH of these are packed full of stuff so you do hae to have a plan when you get there! We were totally disappointed by the museum of the american indian - told my husband that as a Blackfeet he was "represented by the Sioux"...did not go over well. Great gun exhibit but hardly relevant to the whole of Native experience.

    The capitol requires advnace reservations I think. But worth it. actually agreat great tour is the FBI building! Even if you don't have a huge interest, it is a really good tour!

    May could be lovely but acould also be warm and muggy and if youi go insie the AC will be freeeeezing. So, wear light and bring sweaters!!! And really, think METRO as it is lovely, fast and efficient. But walking there is really fun too!



  3. #3
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    DC has so, so much to do. I've lived in the area for almost 11 years, made trips up multiple times a year as a kid (class trips plus family trips), and there's still a ton I haven't done or seen.

    Since you only have 2 days, pick one or two (maybe three) things you are REALLY interested in seeing and do that. You won't do anything justice by trying to cram. I personally love the Natural History museum. Been my favorite since I was a kid. Air and Space is another childhood favorite that I never mind wandering through. The National Portrait Gallery is cool if you are into art. I LOVED the Spy Museum (not free, just FYI), but I'm a dork with stuff like that.

    The Vietnam War Memorial is beautiful and worth seeing. But, again, there are a lot of monuments and memorials that are excellent to see, but you could spend all day getting around to them. Decide what you really, really want to see and do that. Don't try to cram.

    I would LOVE to do a tour of the National Cathedral. May be worth investigating.

    Ben's Chilli Bowl is kinda the quintessential DC eatery (and one of those places on my list that I never seem to get to).

    Unlike my favorite city (Chicago), DC is hard NOT to be touristy in. BUT, you can easily do it without doing tours or looking like too much of a tourist The Metro is very easy to navigate and WORTH IT (don't drive. Ugh. Driving in DC is the awful and parking is a BITCH). You don't go to DC for great food or fantastic entertainment...you go because it's the national capital and there's a lot of really cool (FREE) museums and beautiful monuments. Well, that's my take on it, at least! It is a cool city in other ways, but not if you're only around for two days.


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  4. #4
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    Default

    PS- Comfortable shoes (duh. But you will walk a lot), dress for hot and humid, but a sweater is a good idea for once you are inside. Remember that security is a big, big, huge thing in DC, so pack your day bag light.



  5. #5
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    Mar. 25, 2011
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    The Native American museum is AWESOME!

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  6. #6
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    Apr. 15, 2008
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    Metro "lovely"? erm, OK... just remember, if you're using paper fare cards, add an extra dollar *each way* to the fare. (WMATA = rapacious greedy bastards.)

    FBI tours have been cancelled for years, i'm afraid.

    in your perambulations past the north front of the white house, take a few minutes to go into the renwick gallery; very nice stuff, and it will be closing down at the end of this year for an indeterminate time for renovations.

    and yes, stay hydrated. and no bombs guns or knives. security theatre is in top form in this town. (hardest bldg to get into --IRS, believe it or not. i've had less trouble getting into congressional office bldgs...)

    washington monument is closed for repairs, but try and go up the tower at the old post office pavilion; best view in town.
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  7. #7
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    Mar. 24, 2004
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    When I lived in the area, some of my favorite places in DC to visit and take visitors were the National Museum of the American Indian, the African Museum, the Spy Museum, and the Botanical Gardens. Lots to do, enjoy!
    View my photographs at www.horsephotoguy.zenfolio.com



  8. #8
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    Mar. 4, 2006
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    I think one of the most overlooked but very cool things to see in DC is Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot). You can walk across the street from there and see the home (now a museum) where he died.

    the Newseum (museum of news) is also the hot new thing to see here in town, and worth the time if you have it.
    "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."



  9. #9

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    I would also look into visiting the Library of Congress. I had no idea how amazing it looks on the inside so I think it's worth that alone.

    I would not try to walk out to the Jefferson Memorial unless you're in the mood for a long stroll around the Tidal Basin.

    On that same note, keep in mind that the walk from the Capitol down to, say, the Lincoln Memorial is actually something like 30 blocks and a lot longer than it seems when you're like, "oh, it's not too far...". Ask me how I know.

    The Spy Museum is a lot of fun but you have to pay like $18 to get in, so keep that in mind. If you had the time and wanted something similar for free, the National Cryptologic Museum up by the National Security Agency (you'd need a car to get there, it's about 20 miles north of DC on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) is free and totally worth it. I loved visiting there.

    The National Cathedral is amazing, but also difficult to walk to (it's not a bad walk if you get off at the zoo stop but it would be easier to catch a bus. The one time I did it, we walked back down to Dupont Circle on Embassy Row and that was neat).

    Oh yeah, and my favorite place to eat is a place called Kramerbooks & Afterwords right off Dupont Circle. Because a restaurant AND a bookstore. And they have a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake.
    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
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  10. #10
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    Dec. 23, 2006
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    I live in DC and sometimes just walking around is my favorite.

    FDR Memorial and MLK Memorial. If the weather's good, buy yourself some picnic food and eat by the Tidal Basin (next to MLK memorial). If the weather's not as good, the Botanic Garden in the shadow of the Capitol.

    If you're over on the Mall for museums, check out the Hirshhorn. It's the cylindrical one across the mall from the NH.

    Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.

    Since nobody mentioned FOOD, I'll jump in. Make a reservation at Estadio on 14th Street (do it now). The food near the mall is terrible-tastic.
    Shut up! You look fine! --Judybigredpony
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  11. #11
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    Apr. 15, 2008
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    if you hit Ford's, there's a little frozen yogurt shop in the 900 block of F. street--GREAT coffee. (word of warning about Ford's--it's a tour bus destination. there are, for instance, about 200 teenagers lined up at it right now. same problem with the Archives.)

    old ebbitt grill is good food, but usually jammed. if you're over there, walk through the lobby of the Willard hotel--quite fancy.

    and capitol steps to lincoln memorial is almost two miles, just for reference.
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  12. #12
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    Oct. 15, 2010
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    With just two days, I think I'd plan to do the National Mall/monuments one day, and then spend the second one hitting up whichever museums strike your fancy the most. I could spend a life time in the DC museums!!!

    Like others have said-beware walking the Mall!!! It is A LOT more walking than you think, and there are not metro stops convenient to all the monuments. If you are in good shape, that is my favorite way to do it, but there is no shame in using the Hop On Hop Off bus/renting a bike to cut down on the amount of walking. A friend recently did a segway tour of the Mall and said it rocked. Not my thing, but to each their own.

    I'll second the recommendation for Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. If you happen to find yourself near Capitol Hill around breakfast time, try Ted's Bulletin on 8th street (easy walking distance from the Eastern Market metro stop). They make their own poptarts, and also have adult milkshakes. And if you make it that far, Sweet Lobby, also on 8th Street, has the city's best cupcakes. Way better than Georgetown Cupcake, in my most humble opinion.

    If you take the metro, it's DC custom that the right side of the escalator is for standing, and the left side of the escalator is for people in a hurry. In my experience, folks in DC are more than happy to give directions and help tourists out UNLESS you stand on the left side of the escalator, and then they turn into fire breathing monsters.


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  13. #13
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    Nov. 6, 2006
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    Some of my personal favorites are the view from the tower in the Old Post Office, the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Lincoln Memorial at night. The National Cathedral is off the beaten path but worth the trek, and if you don't mind walking (I want to say it's a bit over a mile), the walk down Embassy Row to Dupont Circle can be fun. I'm not an art person, but I enjoy the Portrait Gallery. There's free music at the Kennedy Center most evenings, and a complimentary shuttle to the Foggy Bottom metro stop.

    Depending on the level of bus-tour chaos, I highly recommend Ford's Theater, the Spy Museum, the National Archives, and the Holocaust Museum. The Smithsonians are very good, but you could spend ages in each.

    My favorite part of going into DC is just walking around and people watching, so one of my favorite non-tourist things to do is check out either the Capitol grounds or the north side of the White House for random protests. Always a good time.



  14. #14
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    Metro "lovely"? erm, OK... just remember, if you're using paper fare cards, add an extra dollar *each way* to the fare. (WMATA = rapacious greedy bastards.)
    It's clean, fairly easy to navigate, even for those who aren't terribly comfortable in urban environments, and way better than trying to park. I am fairly seasoned with the CTA in Chicago...clean and easy to navigate don't necessarily spring to my mind when I think of the El! So, in those regards, it isn't too shabby. It IS ridiculous expensive (compared to the CTA), but still better than trying to navigate the streets of DC, find parking, and PAY for it!

    Lots of good ideas here. Again, decide what is important to YOU to see (everyone has different ideas), and devote your time to those things. Otherwise you'll feel rushed and like you're missing things.


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  15. #15
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    Oct. 22, 2001
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    I'd pass on the Spy Museum, since there's so much amazing free stuff. The walk around the tidal basin to catch the FDR and Jefferson memorials is well worth it - the FDR is one of the lesser known monuments but it's pretty special. National Gallery of Art is good; wander through the Sculpture Garden; Air & Space is crowded but usually fun; Natural History is kid-friendly. There's actually starting to be quite a bit of very good food in town as well: in the Penn Quarter area, just off the Mall, you'll find Rasika, which is Indian and amazing; Oyamel and Jaleo - both tapas; as well as places like Teaism and Pi where you can grab something faster/lighter.



  16. #16
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by charismaryllis View Post
    FBI tours have been cancelled for years, i'm afraid.
    Yes, like more than a decade. That was one of my favorite things to do. However, many of the items that could be seen on the FBI tour were on display in the Newseum last time I was there.



  17. #17
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    Oct. 25, 2001
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    Loudoun County, Virginia
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    I highly recommend going to the zoo:

    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/
    Chase's Mom; RIP Dezi 1/99-2/09



  18. #18
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    Feb. 25, 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulaedwina View Post
    The Native American museum is AWESOME!

    Paula
    Unless you are Native American!
    wow, sad about the FBI tours; that was pretty cool!
    yes, comfortable shoes for SURE
    and good to know Kramerbooks is still there - loved that we used to eat at Childe Harold's across the Circle or at one of the zillions of ethiopian restaurants. One thing DC has is great food
    and if its nice in May, I do like the walk around the Tidal Basin to the Jeff Memorial - particularly if the cherry blossums are out. A nice morning stroll for when you are "museum'd out"
    and YES to botanic gardens
    comfortable shoes for SURE!!
    I will say the monuments by night are cool and if it works that is when I would go to VN (which really is well worth it)



  19. #19
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    Apr. 13, 2010
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    Don't miss the Holocaust museum. The museums that get the most raves are Air & Space and the Holocaust.

    The Sackler gallery is absolutely wonderful and has a great gift shop.

    I agree that the Native American museum is very disappointing and as another poster mentioned, don't try to cram in too much.

    If you're into colonial America, you can visit George Washington's farm at Mt. Vernon (20 minutes from DC) or Claude Moore Colonial Farm (working colonial era style farm).

    Your timing should be good -- May and October are THE best months to visit DC.



  20. #20
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    Apr. 6, 2006
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    Native Washingtonian here.

    The Holocaust museum is amazing, but very somber. It's at the top of my list.
    And you can't go wrong with Air and Space or Natural History.

    My favorite restaurant downtown is Founding Farmers. It's a farm to table restaurant and they make everything in house! So good!!



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