Travel Tips USA

Washington D.C. Travel Tips

Headed to the nation’s capital? Be sure to follow these trip tips to make the most of your time there.

-Ride the metro. 
Even if you’ve never ridden on a subway before, the Washington D.C. metro is a great start to this fast, efficient, and popular form of public transportation. Consisting of five lines, the metro traverses all areas of the city as well as into neighboring Maryland and Virginia. Although fares vary depending on distance and time of day traveled, the average fare is around $2 USD one way. As in other American cities, you can put as much cash as you want on a pass and add to it when needed. Vending machines to purchase these fare cards are available at all stations. Another option for visitors staying more than a week would be to purchase the SmarTrip which is designed to be permanent and replaceable (I say for visitors staying a longer period of time since anything for less than a week wouldn’t be worth the cost). It was the first contact-less smart card for transit in the United States.

-If you’re not staying right in D.C., be sure to stay close to a metro station. 
Although I would have liked to have stayed on Pennsylvania Avenue, I wanted to spend my money elsewhere, so when picking a less expensive hotel, my only requirement was that it be a near a metro stop. Thankfully the Residence Inn Arlington Rosslyn fit the bill as it was less than a five minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro station, home to both the blue and orange lines. This meant never having to wait more than five minutes for a train to take us across the Potomac River and into D.C. There are enough metro stations in the DC metropolitan area so this shouldn’t be too hard to do.

-Unless you’re headed out for a night on the town, wear sensible walking shoes. 
Although DC for the most part is a level city (save for Capitol Hill where on my last visit I finally discovered that there in fact lies a hill behind the front facade of the Capitol), distances between key attractions can be expansive and in some cases, a metro station is not close by. If you’re anxious to check out the monuments, there really is no close metro stop except perhaps the Smithsonian  stop near the Washington Monument. But if visiting the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Memorial are on your itinerary as well, be prepared for some walking to reach them. Lastly, DC is a great city to be explored on foot, so don’t tucker out prematurely from not wearing the appropriate footwear.

-Free museums…say what?
If a museum has the name Smithsonian in front of it, it’s free. With 19 museums in Washington D.C., there are enough to interest just about anyone, ranging from natural history, to American history to Native American arts to even a portrait gallery. Even some non-Smithsonian museums are free. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of them. However, it admits visitors with timed tickets which are dispersed throughout the day until they are gone, so either try to arrive first thing or pay the “whopping” couple of dollars and get your tickets in advance for a certain time and be assured of your admittance.

-Enjoy the outdoor monuments
It’s not surprising that a country’s capital should be home to many monuments and memorials, yet it’s certainly hard to try and see as many as there are. And no, I’m not including the “big guns” in this as in the Lincoln or Vietnam War Memorials; I’m referring to the less known yet equally worthy ones-the DC War Memorial which is the only memorial in the nation’s capital that is for World War I but in reality is a war memorial to the citizens of D.C. who served in the war; the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial; and lastly, the Grant Memorial which enjoys a terrific location at the bottom of Capitol Hill, overlooking the National Mall. I had never seen this memorial before but it honors a president who was forced to contend with such a negative image of himself and yet overcame innumerable odds and opposition to greatly shine time and time again. He helped in bringing the country back together again with his amazing military skill during the American Civil War, so to me it’s only fitting he should be remembered at the foot of the nation’s government house.

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  • Reply
    JoAnn M.
    March 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the great info! This is one trip I am planning to make. So much art and history in one place! I will definitely remember your suggestions.

    I love this photo of the Cavalry Group of the Grant Memorial. It is totally breathtaking! So dynamic!

    I also want to trace the steps of Robert Langdon from Dan Brown’s “Lost Symbol”. 🙂

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    March 21, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I could spend weeks there and not get my fill! If only housing wasn’t so costly!

    Prior to this recent trip I had never actually been to Capitol Hill. But yes, the Grant Memorial was stunning! I loved the fact that it was mufti-faceted and just him on the horse (another reason I love the Roosevelt Memorial too).

    I’ve read the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons but not the Lost Symbol-I really must remedy that 🙂

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I haven’t been to DC since high school. You have me inspired for another trip soon!! =0)

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    March 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Holly-I’m glad to hear it 🙂 I myself need to visit for more than a couple of days. There’s far too much to see and do.

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