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Advice please - how should we go from Washington, D.C. to New York?

Advice please - how should we go from Washington, D.C. to New York?

Old Nov 21st, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Advice please - how should we go from Washington, D.C. to New York?

I am in the beginning stages of planning a trip to the East Coast next summer with my family (husband, myself, and two children ages 15 and 12.) We definitely want to visit Washington D.C. and New York and I'm trying to decide if we should rent a car or take some other means of transportation to go between the two.

Is Philadelphia a must see? How about Boston? I have been to all of these places but it has been many years and my memories are fuzzy. This will be our first trip as a family and we will have two or three weeks. We think we will at least rent a car for a day or two after visiting Washington to see Monticello and perhaps Mt. Vernon. Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 12:53 PM
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Purely opinion, and depends a bit on how much time you have - 2 weeks cuts it close, 3 is ample; but here goes:

1. Don't rent a car. Driving on the East Coast will give you fits, there's no place to PUT a car in the cities, and using public transportation is part of the experience. Use the train, esp. the Metro. Door-to-door it'll take less time and leave you much less hassled.

2. I consider both Phila. and Boston must sees, but again it's time-sensitive. If I had to choose, it would be Boston rather than Phila., but that does add extra time.

3. If you take all 3 weeks, I'd spend 4 days in DC area, 1/2 day getting to Phila. (I'm including check-out/travel/check-in) and 1 or 1 1/2 days sightseeing (Indpendence area, maybe Reading Market, maybe the zoo), 1/2 day to NYC and 4-5 days in New York, 3/4 day to Boston, 3-4 days in Boston.

Remaining question is whether you can fly into one city and out of another or have to high-tail it back to your first city.
 
Old Nov 21st, 2004, 01:13 PM
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I would not consider Philadelphia nor Boston to be must-sees for you on this trip. Your idea of renting a car and seeing Monticello, and perhaps other historic sites in the countryside of Virginia, makes much more sense than trying to see 4 or even 3 cities in the time you have.

Your options for traveling between any two of the cities you've named include renting a car, taking the Amtrak trains, which would cost the most even though kids under 16 travel for half-price, and taking a bus. There are regular Greyhound-type buses and also, for hte adventuresome, less-formal buses between the Chinatowns in at least DC, NYC, and Botson for $10 - $20 per person.

Driving would be the cheapest, since you'd only have to pay for a one-day rental and often you can avoid dropoff fess with may companies. But as Cassandra warned, you don't want to drive IN any of them any more than you have to -- negotiating the road and paying for parking would be headaches.

Try doing a search of the Fodors US board, since this is a frequent topic that gets discussed thoroughly at least once a week.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 03:02 PM
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I'm not sure I'd consider Phila. a must-see although it is between DC and NYC, but might consider Boston much more worth the extra time than the Monticello trip (esp. for your kids), as interesting as Monticello is. Also, Monticello is really at some distance and not really a good day-trip from DC, especially with summer heat and traffic around DC.

However, you can do Mt. Vernon while based in DC -- there are bus tours and there are really nice boat tours from both DC and Alexandria.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 03:10 PM
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When I recommended Monticello, I didn't intend it as a day trip. IMHO, it would be better to see more of Virginia, spending a couple of nights on the way, rather than spend the whole vacation visiting 3 or 4 cities.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 04:45 PM
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Thank you for your suggestions. I agree that we don't want a car in the cities, nor do I particularly want to drive into them. I was thinking of Monticello as more than a day trip and as a change of pace from city sights. Hmm, I can see that I'll have to give this more thought. I do hope to fly into one city and out of another to avoid backtracking.

Please feel free to keep the suggestions coming (and I'll do more research). Are there any inexpensive flights between D.C. and N.Y.?
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 04:57 PM
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Independence Air has a flight between the two cities; it is probably reasonable if they are running a special.

I would NOT rent a car to drive between these 2 cities. The DC highways are extremely hard to navigate to an outsider and I wouldn't brave it in NYC with all the other options you have there.
 
Old Nov 21st, 2004, 05:20 PM
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Just keep in mind that flying won't save you any time, because of ground transport to/from airports and the requirements for early check-in for security and luggage checkin.

I have driven in both cities and IMHO as long as you have good directions, getting between the highway and the car rental office just isn't as much hassle as dealing wtih airports nowadays. DC highways didn't seem any more confusing than any other city.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 05:28 PM
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I think with the kids it would be better to do something along with the cities.

Reco that you do 4 days in DC then rent a car to do Mt. Vernon, Monticello and possibly spend a couple of days in Colonial Willamsburg. Then drive to NYC and drop the car off there - spending the rest of the time in NYC.

If the trip goes to 3 weeks you could certainly add Boston. Go by Amtrak if its Boston only. If you want to do a couple of days at the beach first - Cape Cod? - you will need to rent another car. Even if going on to Boston it probably doesn;t make sense to keep the original car to get a longer term rate - given that parking in NYC will probably be at least $40 per day.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 07:21 PM
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I live in VA and visit family in NJ all the time. Driving is awful. Fly into DC and stay in the city. Take a train (I believe there is a bullet or high speed non stop to New York Penn Station). Then spend several days in NY. Mt Vernon is near Washington, but is basically a house. I would spend the time in the city seeing the Smithsonian, and visiting Arlington Cemetery, etc.. There is plenty right there to see. NY will be a blast for your kids and there is so much to see and do there. I doubt I would bother with the other cities and just try and focus on those two. If you rent a car, the Baltimore inner harbor would be more interesting than Mt Vernon and about an hour's drive. Monticello would be far to drive from DC.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 09:50 PM
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Unless one of the kids or parents has a particular interest in history of a very particular place such as Mt. Vernon or Monticello, there really is no need to rent a car to get beyond the cities you are considering. Every city you are considering has so much history within the city proper! And both cities have plenty of things to see outdoors without making the children (or the adults in the case of me) think they are imprisoned by museums.

The one place that is a little out of the way in DC that I always recommend is the Washington Cathedral. I say "out of the way" because the subway doesn't go near it. If you or your kids haven't been to Europe to see the great cathedrals there, people often forget or don't realize that DC's cathedral is the 7th largest in the world.

Someone mentioned that you won't save much if any time flying from DC to NY. Getting to and from the airport in NY also adds a hefty cab fair that can be avoided if you take the train.
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Old Nov 21st, 2004, 10:55 PM
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Mount Vernon has a great mix of indoor and outdoor activities. If you're visiting DC with kids, it's a wonderful change of pace after the museum-to-museum mall trudge.

I'd rank easily it over the Inner Harbor, although the aquarium is very nice.

Meanwhile, I've got to put in a big rec for dining at the new American Indian Museum. Wonderful selections of American foods. Easily the best museum cafeteria style dining I've found -- salmon on a cedarplank, fry bread, lobster rolls, watercress, buffalo roast, wild rice.

Even if you're just going to the Air and Space -- slip out and dine next door.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:08 AM
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As you can see, there are lots of different opinions about destinations as well as transportation. You have your research cut out for you!

We visited Monticello when my kids were about the same age as yours, and it was the highlight of our trip, which is why I recommended it. When visiting museums and historic sites, my kids see a difference between "box museums" and "real places" like the presidents' homes or Civil War battlefields. As wonderful as the Smithsonian museums are, they are collections derived from "the nation's attic" (which is what the Smithsonian calls itself). When we visited the presidents' homes, we got a much better feel for the unique personalities and circumstances that were the underpinnings for the birth of this nation.

If you take Amtrak from DC to NYC, you will probably decide that the Acela trans do not save enough time to justify the extra cost.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:25 AM
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Note re: Independence Air-- you have to get to Dulles to take it, which isn't that easy, and more to the point, it's tottering on bankruptcy, which is too bad since it covers some markets that desperately need it.

Obviously, Anonymous and others are adamant that you not miss Monticello, and I agree your teens might like the non-city sidetrip BUT my thought is that you all must be up for devoting more than a day to driving, seeing, and returning to the one sight. We lived in DC for 5-6 yrs. before we got down to see it -- I found it pretty and interesting, and I have some knowledge of the history, art, and thought of the era; but I didn't feel I'd been overwhelmingly remiss in not seeing it sooner. It was a nice night in an inn, a nice local meal, and a nice day on the grounds at a pretty time of year. If that seems preferable to a trip to Phila., or an extra day that would make Boston possible (you need at least 2-3 days in Boston plus travel), good enough.

As to a car in DC or the metro NY area. I think driving in and around DC is less hair-raising than the NY area, but it's still going to challenge you because the street names apply to bits of street that are discontinuous, and there are all sorts of one-way-only parts of major routes. So just assume that how you got there isn't how you'll get back, and allow getting-lost time. (Mt. Vernon's pretty straightforward but the boat tour's more fun.)

Otherwise, people who live in NY and even DC forget sometimes how intimidating it is to drive in an unfamiliar and very busy, fast-moving city. Boston's out of the question!

Finally, I repeat my reminder about the weather. You haven't specified the weeks you have in mind, but for DC even June is an improvement over July and August, which can be insufferable. The earlier (or closer to Sept.) you can do DC, the better. And just be ready to do inddor things at midday, outdoor things very early in the day.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 05:51 AM
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Goodness, I didn't mean to seem "adamant" about Monticello, I just wanted to explain why it might be more interesting to visit places in Virginia rather than trekking up to Boston. Certainly, it's not "worth it" as a day trip from DC, which would involve 5 hours of driving. We did find our experience enhanced by taking the special mini-tours, such as the gardens, the slave quarters, etc.; the docents were excellent.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 06:20 PM
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I must say this, if you rent a car in DC area and drive around be careful. It is easy to wind up in a very bad neighborhood. We have done this a few times. Not fun. No one bothered us, but it is unnerving. I know many will probably blast that every city has bad areas and they do. But it is easy in DC to think you are on the right path and boom total run-down crummy neighborhood. I still think stay in the city, take the train to NY and bypass cars all together. The train comes into NY right in the middle of things at Penn station.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 07:05 PM
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I agree about DC, theres great public transportation here. I would take Amtrak to New York, and on up to Boston, which I highly recommend. What do your kids want to see and/or do? I think you'll all be happier if you let them get involved! Monticello is at lest a two day trip. Mount Vernon, however, is close by and fascinating. All the various Smithsonian museums are fantastic. (And free!) The Air/Space museum is usually a big hit with kids. The Memorials are great too. If you're all able bodied, get out a map of the National Mall, plan to hoof it, and see all you can. It'll be a great experience!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 07:35 PM
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Just one more point to consider in your decision making. If you are coming from the west coast or the midwest plains, then the natural areas of the east are going to look very different to you and your kids. Most cities look the same. If you want a different experience you will want to get out into the countryside. The drive out to Monticello will be lovely.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 08:33 PM
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aagh! What to do? What to do?

Thank you all for your suggestions. I do like to mull things over for a bit in my mind and you've all given me a lot of fodder. I'm torn with just doing the two cities as I know there's more than enough to keep us busy. However, the thought of getting out of cities for a bit is also appealing.

If we do go to Monticello, how much time should we allow for visiting the site? I know we'd want to see the house, visit the slave areas, view some of the garden ...

Also, same question if we added Colonial Williamsburg. Would half a day be plenty there or do you need a full day?

Thanks!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:30 PM
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I think the bare minimum would be 1/2 day for Monticello and 1 full day for Williamsburg.
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