3 January 2014

Washington DC Travel Guide



Arrival:

Instead of flying in, we took the train from New York. Single fares can be as low as $49 each way, you have a choice of Acela Express in under 3 hours, or Northeast Regional which take 30 minutes longer but are cheaper. When you book in advance online at Amtrak you save 25%, and tickets are easy to print at home.

The trains leave from Penn Station on the West side of Manhattan.
Rather than wait on the concourse and then join a mad rush for the escalator when the platform is announced, follow the tips on this page:

For return trips from Union Station in Washington, it’s worth noting that it has a very strange queuing system, most unlike British stations. Lines are formed on the concourse, and then a gate is announced (like an airport) and then everyone queues again. So follow these tips to avoid it all:

Hotel:

Holiday Inn Express, Andrews AFB, Washington
Take the Green Metro to the end of the line (Branch Avenue station), and it’s only 10 minutes walk away along a main road with lighting and safe sidewalks. You can also catch a shuttle to the hotel if you let them know in advance.
Why stay here? Because hotels in the city are ridiculously expensive, and for the cost of a Metro ride, you can get a bargain night (<£60) in a perfectly nice hotel, with free breakfast.
There are no restaurants within walking distance, but reception will order takeout for you. We’d recommend House of Lee’s Chinese food, 301-899-8252.

Tourist Card:

If you are only in town for a couple of days, you can walk between most attractions, but you can buy a 1-Day MetroRail pass for $14 (each journey usually $3).
There are a variety of bus tour companies, with day passes starting at $35, you can get off and on at many stops around town, including a run up to Georgetown.

Food:

Capitol Visitor Center, Restaurant
lots of different food stations, including “American Bounty” and “Global Cuisine”, high quality and lots of seating

National Museum of the American Indian, Mitsitam Café
reputedly the best museum café on the National Mall

Library of Congress, Madison Café
on the sixth floor, this café has vistas of the Potomac river

Union Station
before travelling home, dine in the basement food court – we recommend the crepes and the pizza

Shopping:

Capitol Building
Library of Congress
National Archives
sadly they look nothing like the one in “National Treasure” that Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence from, lots of souvenirs both worthy and tacky

Sightseeing:

The Mall, South side

Smithsonian Institution Building – Information Center
Arts & Industries Building
Hirshhorn Museum
amazing modern art, circular building, and sculpture garden
National Air and Space Museum
National Museum of the American Indian

The Mall, North side

National Gallery of Art
Natural History Museum
American History Museum

West of the Mall

Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool
Memorials for WW2, Korean War, Vietnam War

Tidal Basin, South-West of the Mall

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
FDR & Eleanor Roosevelt Memorials
Jefferson Memorial
in spring, this area is surrounded by cherry blossom trees

North of the Mall

National Archives
home of Declaration of Independence & US Constitution
Old Post Office Pavilion
observation deck, food court, mall, antique bells
you get views of the FBI Building, an oft-used film location (e.g. Die Hard 4.0), and the Federal Triangle
now to be converted into a luxury hotel by Donald Trump, see it while you can!

Capitol Hill, East of the Mall

Library of Congress and Reading Room
exhibitions and tours
+ there is a not-so-secret underground walkway between the Library and the Capitol
Capitol Building and Visitor’s Center
great exhibition, good restaurant, architecture and views

Out of town (take Blue Line Metro)

Arlington National Cemetery
graves and monuments, including JFK, and a good Visitors’ Center

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