65,946 steps - my DC trip report

Old Sep 16th, 2007, 03:18 PM
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65,946 steps - my DC trip report

I thought it would be a good idea to take my pedometer with me to DC. Everything that I read said that there would be lots of walking…..well, let me tell you, that was an understatement!!! We walked our feet off, the Disney Parks have nothing on walking city blocks in Downtown DC. Every step, every foot cramp and blister, was well worth it. Never have I experienced a city quite like DC. Sure, I’ve been to big cities and I’ve rode that city’s public transportation system, but nothing can compare to the ease of the Metro, or the friendliness of the people in our lovely nation’s capital.

The Metro: If only every city had a system so user-friendly, reliable, and surprisingly affordable. We arrived in DC on a Friday and left the following Wednesday. We flew (a short 60 minute flight from Detroit Metro) into Regan National Airport and didn’t need a car at all. For a small price of $22 we were able to travel everywhere we wanted to go. . Only once did we get on the wrong train, luckily we quickly realized our mistake and got off at the next stop. By the end of the 5 days we had strangers asking us if they were in the right place for the train they needed. Well, ok, so a couple of times when our feet just couldn’t make it any longer, we did hail a cab. For the most part, the cab drivers were fine and the prices were typical. We did have one experience of being ‘suckered’. But, I guess that goes with the territory of hailing a cab. We also relied on the free shuttle at the hotel. Since we knew we were walking the majority of every day, we conserved our steps and took the shuttle to and from the Metro most daysThe hotel also picked us up from dinner in Crystal City one night. Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the hotel.

The Hotel: We stayed at the Residence Inn in Arlington, Va. I chose this hotel because we were looking for something that we could all stay in (me, my husband and my mom) in comfort (as opposed to being packed in like sardines). I had read great reviews of the RI on Trip Advisor so I felt good about my choice. We arrived an hour and a half before check-in and got a room right away. The front desk staff was very friendly and before we even got to our room I was patting myself on the back for a job well done. The room was great! A small kitchen, dining room table, living room with television, 2 chairs and 1 sofa separated the 2 bedrooms. Each bedroom had a queen size bed and it’s own bathroom. Had we been any place else but DC with a full itinerary of sights to see each day, we would have no doubt enjoyed relaxing at the hotel for a day. The breakfast (free, mind you) was by far the best free (there’s that word again) breakfast I’ve had at any hotel, and even better than some I’ve paid for. The pool and hot tub area were a little small for the size of the hotel, but again, when in DC, how much time are you going to spend in the fitness area? We did go down for a quick soak in the hot tub one night – what a nice way to end a long day of walking.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 03:34 PM
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I’m going to try to share the highlights of each day without making this too unbearably long. Day one we arrived at Regan National around noon. Although the cranberry juice and mini bag of mini pretzels we were served on the plane hit the spot at the time, we realized we were all hungry. During my days of extensive research for this trip (I was nominated to do the research and plan out our itinerary) (ok, so it was a self appointed nomination) I had read about a hamburger chain called Five Guys. They were famous for their hand formed hamburger patties (as opposed to the frozen hockey puck-like patties served at the golden arches) and home made french fries. I remembered there was a Five Guys at the airport so we headed that way. Well, the fries were amazing – the three of us could have easily shared a regular size. Good choice for a quick bite. Too bad they haven’t made their way to Michigan. Our wonderful hotel had a free airport shuttle and away we went. I had scheduled a trip to Ford Theater and the Peterson House, followed by dinner at Old Ebbit Grill and then on to Union Station for our Monuments by Moonlight Tour. Well, plans were made to be changed, because we found out that Ford Theater was closed for renovations. (in defense of our tour guide, me, I did check the web site for Ford’s Theater and it did say that the renovations had stopped and they were open this summer). Bummer! Oh well, next time. So, I pulled out my handy DC Traveler’s Guide, which I took with me everywhere because of the nice map in the center of the book. I looked and saw that we had about an hour and a half before The Library of Congress closed. Although I had wanted to go, we didn’t have that on our schedule so I was happy for the chance to get to go and see it. What an amazing building! We got there too late for a tour, but were happy to wander around and see the Gutenberg Bible. We met a very friendly guard who gave us some quick facts, like if you lined up all of the bookshelves housed in the Library they would reach from DC to the Canadian Boarder!! WOW. After we left the Library we headed over to Union Station to grab a bite to eat and take our Monuments tour. We wandered around, bought a few souvenirs and ended up eating at the food court in the basement. We just weren’t hungry enough to sit down and have a huge meal. I found a fabulous little place called Vittorio's – my mom and I were sold when they gave us a free sample of the delicous chicken salad, plus a free scoop of Gelato for dessert. One of the highlights of the trip was the Monuments by Moonlight tour we took. There are several in DC – this one was operated by Old Town Trollies. We were lucky to have a driver who was very knowledgable, funny and obviously loved his job. I took lots of pictures as we drove around DC. We stopped at the Roosevelt Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Iwo Jima. The views of the Washington Monument shining down on the water were amazing. The Lincoln Memorial was breathtaking at night and my mom had tears in her eyes (and it wasn’t from walking up all of those steps because she took the elevator!). Lincoln was an amazing man, and his courage, conviction and bravery made this country what it is today. How awesome to stand there at look up at him. Iwo Jima was also very touching. The entire trip was like that. Fun, and very touching at the same time. Every where I went I was struck with how blessed I was to be born in this wonderful country of ours. Day two we set out for Arlington National Cemetery at the crack of dawn (ok, not really, but at the crack of 9:30 or so). Immediately after arriving we found the line for the Tour Mobil that goes through the park.. It was an honor to be at such as place as Arlington National Cemetery and thinking that each one of those headstones represented a life that was given for my freedom, my liberties, my rights, it really was humbling. Our first stop was the Kennedy grave/eternal flame. Just like the previous night at the Lincoln Memorial I was struck by how much this one man did to change the direction of our country. From the Kenndy grave we headed over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and I had tears in my eyes before we had even found our place to stand and watch the changing of the guard. It just so happened that the spot we chose to stand at was where the new guard walked up to and stopped for his gun inspection. I think I took about 20 pictures of the changing of the guard ceremony, all the while tears were running down my face. After that we went to the Custis/Lee House. The house was pretty neat but what was really amazing was the view of DC from up on that hill. I got some great photos – heck, every where we went was an opportunity for a great photo. The archetecture, the history, the people. Simply amazing!!! We spent a lot longer than I had figured at Arlington and we had purchased tickets ahead of time for the Washington Monument at 2:30 so we had to go. We had purchased a package deal when we got the Monuments by Moonlight tickets and had also got a day time tour ticket. So, we figured it would be simple to take the trolly from Arlington to the stop near Washington Monument. It didn’t turn out to be as simple as we thought and we ended up getting our first taxi ride of the trip in order to get over to the Washington Monument on time. It was worth the taxi – again another of may favorite things and another ‘wow’ moment as I stopped and paused and reflected on what this man had done for our country. Our plan was to get on the Trolly and ride it around the loop so we would know where and how we wanted to do the rest of the days and maybe go back to some of the other monuments – the bookstore at the Lincoln Memorial was closed the night before and my husband is a Civil War buff and wanted to be sure to get back there. However, the next three Trollies that came buy were completely full and we were left standing on the side of the road wondering what to do next. I pulled out my handy map and realized we were fairly close to the Museum of Natural History. We headed over there with an hour and a half to see what we could see before the museum closed. The Smithsonians are simply amazing. It was quite crowded as it was a Saturday so we elbowed our way through the minerals and gems exhibits and ooohhed and ahhhhed at the Tiffany Gems and of course at the Hope Diamond. We could have stayed for hours and hours but we were starving, and more importantly, they were closing. We had a dinner reservation at Oyamel that had come and gone hours ago so we set out to find a nice meal after a long day of walking. We ended up in Crystal City and decided that McCormick and Schmicks would suit us fine. I thought I had remembered reading something about it being seafood and that sounded good to us. We didn’t have a reservation so we had to sit in the bar area or wait 45 minutes for a table. A booth in the bar area worked out wonderfully. Here I experienced my second favorite meal of the trip. Fresh tilapia served any way is a winner with me. But encrust it in cashews and I was in heaven. Served with steamed vegetables and rice and yum yum yum!!! We had a nice leasurely dinner and dessert. We almost cried for joy when we found out that the shuttle from our hotel would come and pick us up and we didn’t have to walk through the underground maze that we went through to get to the resturant. We ended the day with a trip down to the hot tub and slept like babies. To be continued…..
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 04:13 PM
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Great report!
DC is one of my very favorite cities.
I did the Monuments by Moonlight tour too and really enjoyed it despite really bad weather. Our tour operator was so good that it made the weather seem not so bad.

Keep it coming....!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 06:10 PM
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As a local, we sometimes get jaded about Washington D.C. (For example, we see the Lincoln Memorial every morning driving across Memorial Bridge to go to work and the Iwo Jima Memorial every evening driving home to Arlington.) So, it's refreshing to read about someone's first visit and how special this city truly is. It reminds me of how I felt so many years ago when I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time. Well done!
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 11:50 PM
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Great report. I'll look forward to more.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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Nice report - thanks for posting.

One small request? More paragraph breaks would make it a little easier on the eyes.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 06:03 AM
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Thanks for the report and glad you enjoyed your visit to our home turf.
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 09:30 AM
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I did the Monuments by Moonlight tour too and really enjoyed it

Great report, and glad to find I have a reason to return -- I've been many times, but never took a Monuments by Moonlight tour. Sounds terrific!
 
Old Sep 17th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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Glad you all are enjoying the trip report. I'm enjoying writing it - I love to write. I can't wait to go back...seriously, I am ready to plan my next trip for the spring (Cherry Blossoms).

Bardo - thanks for the tip. I was cutting and pasting it and didn't realize that it looked like one big blob.

More coming tonight....
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Old Sep 17th, 2007, 06:25 PM
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Day three was Sunday and we wanted to go to church. We originally had planned on going to Mt. Vernon but thought that it would probably be pretty crowded and would be lots of walking. I could see that we weren’t going to get through everything on the list that we wanted to do in DC so we decided to forgo Mt. Vernon (next time!). We went to Christ Church in Alexandria and I’m so glad we did. The great think about the entire DC area is if you don’t know where you’re going all you have to do is ask someone. Anyone. They will be more than happy to stop and help you. We seriously had a blind lady who overheard us talking about which way we should go at the Metro station stop and help us. It was so nice and truly was a case of the blind leading the blind. What an amazing lady. Anyway, we weren’t sure how long it would take for us to get from point A to point B so we left early just to be sure. We found the church without any problems and we early enough to visit the bookstore and talk with a few people. Afterwards we took pictures of the pews where George Washington and Robert E. Lee sat. Pretty cool. We wandered dow the road to the heart of Old Town, went into a few shops and had a delicious lunch at the Warhouse Bar & Grill. Our waiter was a little stuffy but the food was really good and we all enjoyed our lunch. Old Town was just ok. It wasn’t spectacular and I felt like we were wasting time wandering around. I don’t do relaxed very well on vacations. Little did I know that my mom and husband we planning a rebellion. I was ready to run to our next destination when they informed me they wanted to go back to the hotel and relax for a few hours. What?? We still had to go to the White House gift shop, walk by the White House, etc., etc. Well, they won out. My husband was coming down with a sinus infection and I felt sorry for him. They had 2 hours to go and relax while I revised our plans for the rest of the day. It was here that I realized I had taked on sort of a Clark Griswald attitude about our vacation and made myself chill out for a while J We decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery for a couple of hours since it was open later than the other museums. It was fascinating and the time flew by! I loved the Presidential portraits. We all agreed we could have spent a whole day in this museum. We left there pretty hungry and I remembered Oyamel, even though I didn’t have a reservation, we decided to give it a shot. We were a little worried when we looked at the menu and didn't see any of the standard Mexican fare we were used to. Our waiter quickly explained everything and our adventure began. This turned out to be my favorite meal during our 5-day stay. Highlights included the guacamole (made table side), the delicious tortilla soup and the homemade corn tortillas. If you're looking for a fun place to dine while in DC you have to give this place a try!!!

We weren’t sure what to expect with crowds on Labor Day, turns out nothing was very crowded at all. We started off at the Lincoln Memorial again. My husband was happy to find out that the bookstore was open and spent a long time in that little bookstore. He bought a fascinating book of portraits of the Civil War. We went from there over to the Vietnam Memorial. My husband served in this war so we knew it was going to be emotional for him. We found the name of a neighborhood friend who had fought and died in the war and set about finding his name on the wall. The flags, photos and letters left by friends and family were so touching. We silently walked from one end of the wall to the other, just taking it all in. The sacrifice, the impact of what each of those names on the wall meant to a mother without a son, a wife without a husband, a sister without a brother. We walked over to the statues and again had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and somberness come over us. From there we went to the Korean War memorial, which was also very unique. I’m so glad we had the chance to see the memorials and will never forget it. We decided to use our daytime trolley tickets and hopped on and headed to the White House visitors center, although it wasn’t what I was thinking it was going to be. I thought we were going to a gift shop. We stayed for a few minutes but wasn’t that interested in a lot of the White House history. I remembered hearing about the Hotel Washington and how there was a bar at the top floor that had great views. I knew it would have been better at night, but we decided we could go for a cold beverage and a light snack so we headed over. The weather was perfect, blue skies, not a cloud to be seen (actually we were really lucky in that every day was beautiful and it didn’t rain one time!) and it really was a good view. It turned out to be a great idea and again I took credit for the excellent planning although I hadn’t really planned it at all. We had timed tickets for the Holocaust Museum and headed over there, via taxi, next. I knew that this would be one of my favorite things while in DC. I had tried to mentally prepare myself for the sadness, shock, and lasting memories that I would come away with. No matter how many reviews, how much reading you do about this place, nothing can really prepare you for the horror and utter senselessness of it all. The museum itself was very well done. It was excellent, if you can say that about such a tragic event. What got me the most was walking through one of the actual rail cars. I found myself thinking what would I have done? Would I have been one of the people who risked my life to save someone else’s? Of course we all think, yes, I would, of course I would. But so few did. It was a quiet evening. We got something to eat near the hotel and went to bed early. Emotionally exhausted.

We had all been looking forward to Tuesday because we had a scheduled tour of the Capital and we were going to the Archives that day. We heard on the local news that the day after Labor Day is called Terrible Traffic Tuesday so we were wondering what kind of crazy the Metro would be that morning. It wasn’t bad at all, thankfully. The Capital tour was wonderful. We were taken aback when we walked into the rotunda and took in the beauty of it. It was also pretty darn cool to sit in the gallery, although there wasn’t anything going on while we were there. We went from the Capital to the Supreme Court just to say that we had been to the Supreme Court. I still can’t get over the architecture of all of the buildings. We grabbed a quick snack and headed over to the Archives. Another total wow moment. We saw the documents that made this country what it is today. The very document that started it all!! I felt very patriotic and wanted to sing ‘Proud to be an American’. We decided that we should go to the National Cathedral today and not wait until the day we were leaving to venture so far away, which is what we originally planned. So, a long bus ride later and we were there. There may have been a quicker or better way to get there, but it worked good. I was taking pictures as we were getting off the bus and I didn’t stop the entire time we were there. I, like every other American, had seen the Cathedral on television for a funeral of a past President, but it’s not until you are there that you appreciate its size or beauty. Then we found the book store – we’re big on books. The store was actually closing by the time we left. The bookstore alone is the size of some small churches! We had dinner at a place called Café Deluxe that I most defiantly would not have picked (hubby’s choice) and headed back to the hotel. Our vacation was coming to an end. It was a sad realization.

The next morning we headed over to the Air and Space Museum. This was the one that interested me the least, but the one that my mom and husband were looking forward to the most. My mom because she has always like space and my husband because he wanted to see the planes from WWI and WWII. We all split up and went our separate ways, husband to see the planes, mom to see the stuff about space I guess and me to the gift shop. We met back up at noon for our IMAX show (what’s a vacation without at least one IMAX movie, right). We left there, went to the Old Post Office Museum to see the awesome views of DC one last time, grabbed a quick bite for lunch and went to the hotel to get our bags and leave.

Thank you for all of your great suggestions. We would not have had the great trip we did without you all. There is so much to see and do in DC that we for sure would have been lost without some planning ahead. To all of you who live in this wonderful place - how the heck do you afford it? No, just kidding, but I did check out the classifieds in the Washington Post because I was convinced that I was born to live in DC after just one visit! I cannot wait to come back!!!
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 05:44 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip report! Love your title. This report deserves to be up at the top so more people can enjoy it.
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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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Thanks Melissa5
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Old Jan 12th, 2008, 06:09 AM
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Which Residence Inn did you stay at? There are two in Arlington, both in the top three on tripadvisor.

Thanks!
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Old Jan 12th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Thoroughly enjoyed reading your report - thanks for sharing ! I am a big fan of the National Cathedral, I am glad you included it in your trip - some often leave it out.
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Old Jan 12th, 2008, 02:27 PM
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GREAT JOB
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 06:39 AM
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Hi tdmort. I'm also interested in which Residence Inn you stayed at - Rosslyn or Pentagon City? Based on your trip report, another thread on RI's and tripadvisor, I have just booked the Pentagon City one for my stay in August.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 01:39 PM
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Fabulous report!! I've lived in DC for 7 years and easily forget all there is to do. I have yet to go to the Portrait Museum or Arlington Natl Cemetery. Thanks for reminding me of what a fabulous city I live in!!
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 01:57 PM
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"It was here that I realized I had taked on sort of a Clark Griswald attitude about our vacation."

ROFL!!!! That is the funniest thingk I have read all week.

I hope Ellen sees this!
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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Sam, the Portrait Museum is great!
My friend and I spent 3 hours there and didn't see everything.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 11:22 PM
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Enjoyed your report and your writing style!
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