Visiting D.C.

The tourists are coming to Washington, D.C., and despite the recession I can imagine numbers will be high. Once you’re here and housed, it is a remarkably cheap place to visit with the leading destinations free to the public.

So I have a request of local residents and recent visitors: what would you recommend to other newcomers? What often-missed site would you commend? What resource?

My contribution:

  • People miss the FDR Memorial — a shame, but it isn’t close to public transit. If you have reluctant walkers, take a cab from Foggy Bottom or Farragut North Metro and use the FDR Memorial as a jumping-off point to visit the Jefferson Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The usual tour of the Holocaust Memorial is a long, emotionally-taxing experience, and — I may get some flak here — not for kids. Particularly sensitive souls might consider bypassing the main, time-ticketed exhibit for the children’s exhibit, the remembrance hall and whatever special exhibit there is.
  • The Renwick Gallery — near the White House — is an underrated art museum; is a part of the Smithsonian and is free of charge. Be sure to catch the demonstration de jour in Lafayette Square, adjacent.
  • The National Building Museum is another fun site: right on the Metro Red Line (Judiciary Square) and a short walk from Chinatown, which offers better food options than the Smithsonian museums.
  • When riding Metro, please, please, please stand on the right side of the escalator.

Your ideas?

5 Replies to “Visiting D.C.”

  1. * I agree about the Holocaust Memorial. I took a youth group there, and some of our kids who were still coping with deaths in their families found the main exhibit overwhelming, and they needed to leave (which isn’t easy half-way through the exhibits).

    * If you go the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, bypass the dinosaurs (room full of howling school groups). Visit the neglected Birds of DC exhibit in the basement. It’s pure vintage museum display work, complete with type written display cards. I also recommend NOT paying extra to see the butterflies. But do see the insect zoo. The mineral exhibit is also one of the best I’ve ever seen, but the gem room is so crowded you can’t get a good look at the tiny gem stone displays.

    * Freer Sackler gallery is nice, and not crowded. You get extra room to appreciate the art.

    * Consider coming into DC using Amtrak. Union Station puts you right down-town, with very easy access to the Metro. I did this recently, travelling overnight from the Mid-West. My total fare, including sleeper roomette on the train, only had a cost of $200. I also got breakfast and lunch on the train (included in price of sleeper room). And we got into DC 30 minutes early. Lately the Capitol Limited has an on-time performance rate of 77%, which I find to be comparable to many airline performances. TIP ~ If travelling this way, book early, and if possible for passage on low volume days (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays). Prices seem to vary with volume of ridership. Also, Mid-Western travellers should note that the Cardinal tends to have higher fares than the Capitol Limited.

  2. One of my favorite quickie stops in DC is Albert Einstein. He’s at the National Science Foundation, on a corner near the Viet Nam Memorial. He’s interactive; you can sit on his lap.

  3. Not a surprise, but you hit 2 of my top 3 (FDR, National Building Museum). My all-time favorite is the National Gallery of Art. I grew up going there at least once a year with school and sometimes multiple times a year and as an adult I’ve continued the tradition. I’ll have to give the “overlooked” sights a thought.

  4. Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve been to DC. I think the last time was early 1973 for a Moratorium march on Cambodia or something. Haven’t ever been there as a self-regulating tourist (meaning not under parental direction). And I don’t know if or when I’ll make it back. This year I got as far (from Seattle) as Illinois, attending the (E-USA) Esperanto convention in St. Louis, and next year I desperately hope to make the world congress (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto) in Cuba and also the Hymn Society shindig at Samford. Which, if I can pull it off, will leave me nor time nor money for side trips. Alas.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, though. 😉

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