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Advice on coping with Cherry Blossom crowds in DC

Advice on coping with Cherry Blossom crowds in DC

Old Mar 13th, 2011, 02:39 PM
  #1  
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Advice on coping with Cherry Blossom crowds in DC

Without totally thinking it through, I planned a trip to DC in April with my husband and now I'm not so sure it wasn't a mistake. I tend to think of things the way they were 30 years ago, not like even my last DC visit 10 years ago - museums way more crowded, for instance. But not much I can do about it now except cancel (which we certainly will do if there's no budget to keep the museums open in early April).

We'll arrive in Alexandria the afternoon of Wed., April 6 and are leaving Mon., April 11. Will be parking the car, using the Metro. This schedule means we'll be there on the Sat. of the Cherry Blossom Festival parade. While it might be sort of fun to see it (and I think I read there's some sort of Japanese kite festival on the Mall), it probably wouldn't be fun enough to put up with the crowds. Since we were planning a day at the zoo followed by a meal at a favorite old restaurant on Calvert, maybe Saturday would be a good day to do that. But will the Metro be so mobbed that we'll have problems changing trains or something? (Will be coming in on yellow, need to change to red at Gallery Place.) Do things settle down a little after the parade? Assume all Smithsonian museums will be mobbed more than usual that afternoon.

If anyone who lives there or has visited in April in the past has any suggestions on coping with the crowds during that time, things to do that might be less crowded, I'd appreciate comments. As many times as I or my husband and I have been to DC over the years (and I lived in Rockville 40 years ago), we seem to get sidetracked in the Mall Smithsonian museums every trip. Have put other things on the agenda this time and vowed not to get trapped in Natural History, National Gallery, Air & Space or History this trip but am not sure how crowded these other things may be - Portrait & American Art, Ford's Theater, Newseum, Corcoran, for instance. My husband has never been to Archives and Library of Congress and I haven't been myself for 25 years. And what problems are we likely to have with restaurants, etc.?

Thanks.
polly229 is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2011, 04:10 PM
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I think you have wisely chosen to stay outside of the downtown area. I topped my report of a visit last year so you can see how we did. It was a wonderful trip, crowds and all! Have fun.
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 04:22 PM
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The Newseum is great; the Museum of the American Indian is also new to the Smithsonian since you've last been to DC and is worth a visit. For outdoor things to do that are away from the Tidal Basin, you could try Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown (close enough to walk to the shops/restaurants on Wisconsin and M streets afterwards), or the Meriwether Post mansion/gardens, Hillwood - though you may need a taxi to get to the latter.
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 05:23 PM
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The Newseum is not to be missed. (I've been there twice and it's never been crowded. I think that's probably because there's a fee charged and because this museum doesn't generally appeal to kids.)

Since you have a car, you might want to drive out to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. It's a huge museum and, again, I've never felt crowded in there. Note that the museum is free but there is, unfortunately, a rather steep parking fee.

Also, if you have an interest in military history, the National Marine Corps Museum in Quantico is excellent. Since it's a bit of a drive from D.C., it doesn't get the crowds that you get in the D.C. museums. (Free admission and free parking.)
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 07:31 PM
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The parade isn't really that big of a deal. The larger question will be crowds near the Jefferson Memorial (and the Washington Monument) seeing the Cherry Blossoms. The Smithsonian station will be gridlock, although the rest of the Metro will be crowded but fine.
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Old Mar 14th, 2011, 06:01 AM
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Ford's Theater and the Archives crop up on a lot visitor lists. I'd pass on those this trip. As mentioned, the Newseum and also the Corcoran are paid entry so crowds will be smaller.

If you visit the Corcoran, do walk up the block and see the Renwick, one of the less visited of the Smithsonian's. I doubt the NPG/American Art will be overrun. Like you have in the past, so many focus on the National Mall b/c there is so much to see there. The NPG/AA are fabulous and have reopened since your last visit.

I'd also consider booking dinner reservations ahead of time if you want to eat in the city. This trip I might skip some of the excellent but very popular restaurants in the Penn Quarter neighborhood which see a lot of visitor traffic as well as much larger crowds if there is a night event game at the Verizon Center. Definitely the time to seek out quality but off the beaten track restaurants. Sounds like you have at least one in mind. Ask if you want more suggestions...plenty of opinions here!
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 07:25 AM
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I've been in DC during that period 3 or 4 times. It will be especially busy on the Saturday of the parade. Stay away from the Smithsonian stop on the Metro. Use other stops: L'Enfant, Federal Center, Capitol South, etc.

Since you'll be there until Monday, purchase Metro farecards with a reasonably higher value on them .. like $20 each .. and replenish the funds at a slower time of your day, such as when you return to the stop where your hotel is. Too many visitors buy a new farecard for each trip they make, so end up spending too much time in front of the machines.

How about a visit to Mt. Vernon on that Saturday? Take the Yellow line south to Huntington Station then take a Fairfax Connector bus from there to Mt. Vernon (get bus# at MtV's website.. I think it's #101)

My favorite DC stop is the National Building Museum, right across from Judiciary Square stop (Red line) and easy walking distance from Chinatown. Big, beautiful building that was originally the Pension Office - where the pensions to the Civil War veterans was admininstered. It is now a museum dedicated to building (as in construction) with ever-changing exhibits, and a great insider's tour of the building. I like to buy a sandwich at their cafe and dine while I sit in the atrium.

Try the National Cathedral (and do the tower!) if you want to be away from crowds ... and also do the clock tower tour (free) at the Old Postal Pavilion on Penns. Ave (and 13th?) across from Federal Triangle Metro stop (Blue/Orange)

Enjoy!
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 09:58 AM
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Many thanks for all the suggestions. I feel somewhat heartened, that it won't be as horribly crowded all over the city as I was beginning to imagine.

I hate to give up Archives and Ford's since my husband has never seen them. In fact, there's a lot I've seen that he hasn't - much of it about 25 years ago when I chaperoned a 6th grade field trip to DC for 5 days. (There's something to be said for having a bus drop you off at the door, pick you up when you're done - it almost makes up for the mob of 6th graders you're stuck with all week.) So maybe we'll play those two by ear and see how they look when we're wandering around north of Constitution just looking at buildings - old PO, Willard, etc. He hasn't seen the Renwick either (or the Freer) and I was planning to drop by Renwick after a walk around the reflecting pool (NOT on Sat.) since we also haven't seen the WWII memorial and around the back of the White House (where I have never been, oddly, just out front); I visited the WH in a kinder and gentler time when security wasn't such an issue and he's not interested enough to go through the hassle, thank goodness.

Had thought of the Cathedral but wasn't sure about public transportation or if we'd be better off driving there. Planned to do Museum of Amer. Indian and read that it's a not bad place for lunch if you're in the area. Also take a quick look at Nat'l Bldg. Museum. And never heard of Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, will look that up.

I do have to go to Nat'l History for [hopefully] a quick visit to see the hyperbolic reef project - part of the reason I picked this time to go to DC - and if it's not too crowded, maybe we'll trudge up the stairs to take a look at the Hope diamond in the new setting (though not all that impressed with photos on the Internet); we'll set a phone to buzz us after 45 min. and remind us to get out of there.

I have gotten the impression that the Newseum is a full day, even more. What are the must-do things if we don't have a full day? Will wait to see which day until I see the weather forecast because if it rains all one day, we might just have a full day for the Newseum.

Planning to get senior Smartcards, meaning we can't use a machine, but the cost savings, even with the $5 card, should be significant. My husband (I've put him in charge of the Metro cards) says we can get them at Giant, which should be easy enough on the way to the hotel.

Actually, may be posting a question about restaurants in the Mall area and maybe as far north as G St. Will search this forum better first. My restaurant knowledge is old and rather suburban. Seems like Iron Gate Inn on M St. has recently closed. Too bad.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:14 AM
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Have you looked at the Portrait Gallery? It was the highlight of my trip 2 years ago and pretty empty on a Sunday.

Definitely go to the WW2 Monument.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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I've read that the cherry blossoms are going to be in bloom earlier this year, so they may be past their prime during the festival. That may cut down on crowds.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:49 AM
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Get timed entry tickets NOW for the Archives. Free, see the website. Otherwise you'll lost precious time cooling your heels in the general admission line.

Although I wouldn't do it, it's definitely possible to spend a full day at the Newseum and for the $21.95 ticket you'll definitely want to get your money's worth out of your visit. Minimum 2-4 hours. There are a couple ways to reduce the cost slightly (senior, military, student). It's a great place.

There's a metro bus that goes up Mass Ave to the Cathedral. It's N something (sorry, don't remember the number) and you can pick it up, among other places, at Farragut North & West and at Dupont Circle. Get off at Mass and Wisconsin and follow the signs to the cathedral, maybe a block.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 01:01 PM
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I think you could easily spend a full 8 hours in the Newseum. I did, but I spread it out over 2 days as the admission tickets are good for two CONSECUTIVE days.
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