Thursday, July 16, 2009

Upcoming DC Trip

Ok blogworld - I need your advice! August 9 - 16th I will be heading to our nation's capital.

I'm flying in to Baltimore on the 9th around noon. Since I'll be in Baltimore I'd like to see a few things. My friends aren't getting in to DC (they're not all tightwads like me and spent a bit more money to fly in to Reagan) until 5 so I've got 5 hours I could spend in Baltimore. Someone said to go to the inner harbor and the aquarium. Anything else I could do in 5 hours or will this take all my time? I will also be relying on public transportation (have I told you I LOVE public transportation? I'm a NUT! I love to ride the subway, the train, light rail, trolley's, buses, you name it. They're all things I miss from my study abroad in Europe and we don't believe in public transportation in San Antonio. Horrible and not very green, I know.) Ok back to Baltimore - questions being:
  1. What to do in 5 hours (inner harbor, aquarium)?
  2. I've also heard there's a great farmer's market there - is that worth a trip? (I also love stuff like that, and again, it's hard to find where I live)
  3. I'll also have 5 hours on the 16th that I can spend in Baltimore if there's more to see
  4. How do you recommend I get to DC? It needs to be cheap (no cabs or shuttles). I had planned on taking a MARC train, but it doesn't run on the weekends. Is my only option Amtrak into DC's Union Station?
  5. Is BWI's security line ridiculous? I heard the lines can be awful at Reagan and Dulles on a Sunday, but wasn't sure about BWI.

On to the DC part of the trip. I'm staying in Arlington, specifically the Crystal City area (if that's really a thing. I know the hotel is "brand name" Crystal City and has a walkway to the Crystal City Metro station). I'll really only have Monday and Tuesday to get around and see the city. Yes, I know that's not a lot of time, but I'm at a conference the rest of the time.

  1. Part of my conference includes a trip to the Air and Space Museum so I've got that one covered.
  2. What art gallery do you recommend? My mom said, "be sure to go to at least one art gallery while you're there." I really don't know much about art, but I like to look at it and enjoy museums.
  3. What are the absolute must see's? (I really want to go to the zoo, but don't know if I'll have time). I want the stuff that I will regret going home without seeing. with the White House, I'm totally fine just having a picture of it.
  4. Would you recommend I sign up for some kind of tour to maximize my time? I saw one that was an all day and included -White House South Lawn and Visitor Center
    World War II Memorial, and the Smithsonian Museums. It also says I will see the FBI Building, Federal Triangle, Ellipse, Tidal Basin, National Archives, Washington Monument, House and Senate Office Building, U.S. Botanical Gardens, National Gallery of Art, U.S. Navy Memorial and Grant Memorial. I'm assuming those are just drive bys though. OR should I do a less expensive one that allows me to get on and off (yeah, it's one of those red double decker buses) at various sites for 2 days?

Thanks for any advice and tips!


  1. Ok, here are my tips:

    1.) Yes, take the Amtrak to Union Station. It's probably your only option besides the bus. The bus is cheaper, but takes longer. We did the Amtrak thing and it was fine. On our way back to BWI we did the MARC and it was fine. The tickets are cheap if you purchase them online and google for discount codes.

    2.) The zoo was awesome IMO, but it's in the Adams Morgan area. It's also HUGE and would require a lot of time. We were there for 4 hours and didn't finish seeing everything.

    3.) There are 19 Smithsonians, so there is no way you'd be able to see them all. We were there a week and managed to only go to 4. The Air & Space was cool, Natural History Museum was amazing, and the American History one was my fave. We didn't do art museums.

    4.) I see you do not have the holocaust museum on your list- it was a must see for us, and it was well worth the time.

    5.) Do not waste your time on a White House tour. Ever. NFT.

    6.) BWI- we had no problem getting out of that airport, but on our way home to SA, the security line took FOREVER. An insane amount of time. I hear that is common, so you've been warned.

    If I think of anything else I'll let you know. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions!

  2. Steph asked me to comment as I live in the DC/Balto Metro and are their friends...first in Baltimore - for short amount of time the National Aquarium is in the Inner Harbor and is well worth seeing, can be done in about 3 hours or so depending if you do the dolphin show. Port Discovery, Hard Rock, Cambden Yards, all in same vicinity and the MD Science Museum. Transportation from Balto to DC -- bus station, not in great section of town - Amtrak is at BWI, again not real close to town, but a short cab drive away. Stay to the Inner Harbor if by yourself, watch your purse and typical city stuff for pick pockets. Don't venture more than a block or so off the Harbor, again not great neighborhoods.

    If you have a short time in DC, the Library of Congress is one of the most beautiful buildings in DC and free to attend, Smithsonians - Air and Space and Natural History and American History are the best. Spy Museum, new and very nice, Washington Monument is now open, and you can go to and reserve tickets for a nominal fee to go up. WWII monument a must see - Korean and Vietnam at dusk and Lincoln Memorial are great to see in early evening to dark, as the lighting is awesome. Arlington takes a good portion of the day. The National Zoo is nice, but a zoo is a zoo, I have been to both SA zoo and National -- not much difference and it takes awhile. In DC Metro gets you where you want to go. If you want to go thru new Capitol Visitors Center, contact your Member of Congress for tickets at, put in zip +4 and it will bring you to the link. Also the White House is a great place to see but requires tickets about 2 months in advance through again your Member of Congress. A must eat at restaurant -- Old Ebitt Grill or Sequoia's in Georgetown on the water, and Georgetown has a nice night life similar to that of Austin.

    If you need to call me you and ask further questions, 1-800-705-2385 and ask for Debbie.

    Have fun!

  3. Hope my friend's words of advice help you out! Another thing to note: if you do decide to tour the White House, you can't bring ANYTHING in except keys and your ID. Figure out where you want to go and if you think it's a higher security-type place, look up what you can bring first. Ditto Old Ebitt Grill & Sequoia...both were really good! And don't forget your Ying Ling!

  4. 1. In 5 hours you could easily do the aquarium, or just walk around the Inner Harbor, then take a water taxi to Canton and/or Fells Point
    2. The Farmer's market under I-83 is amazing, and IMO totally worth a trip. I think it's on Sundays
    3. There's always more to see. if you want to spend a little $, you can do a Duck Tour of Baltimore and the Harbor.
    4. You should be able to do light rail to an Amtrak station that gets you to DC
    5. I never had any worse lines at BWI than at any other airport

    1-2. No idea
    2. IMO, doing a Moonlight Monuments tour of the monuments is amazing. The Korean War memorial takes on a life of its own at night.
    4. If you've never been to DC, a tour might be a good way to get your feet wet.


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