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.