Day trip from Washington DC

Nov 15th, 2003, 11:41 AM
  #1  
AR
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Day trip from Washington DC

I am visiting DC in February next year. After my business has concluded I will have a few days to have a good look around the place. I have been given the use of a car from 8am on my last day and my plane to London leaves at 7:15pm. I have to get the car back to Dulles by around 4:30.
Any suggestions of where to go for that 8 hours? Is Baltimore do-able or will the travelling leave us with so little time to actually see anything of the city? It doesn't seem that far. All help would be gratefully accepted.
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Nov 15th, 2003, 12:19 PM
  #2  
jtp
 
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Baltimore is a fun option- for example you can visit Lexingron Markets for an early lunch -- get a non touristy real taste of the city- great fresh seafood, sausages, you can move onto the Inner-harbor, very touristy, shops, take the water taxi to Fells Point, art and antiques, and stop in Little Italy for either coffee and great pastry or if you can manage another meal - late lunch early dinner...
if you are a shopper, instead of Baltimore, consider Tyson Corner- a shoppers haven! and it is on route to Dulles airport, Baltimore is in an opposite direction --
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Nov 15th, 2003, 02:54 PM
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no no no....you don't want to just visit a shopping mall. I'd suggest visiting some of the closer in spots, like Mount Vernon, Washington's home. Alexandria,VA is a lovely town. And not hard to head on out to Dulles from there. But I do agree, it would be hard to do Baltimore, then head all the way out to Dulles.
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Nov 15th, 2003, 03:22 PM
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I hate to be a naysayer but with traffic in the DC area being such a beast and the chance of winter storms, why don't you just stay in DC? It would take you a year just see see all of the Smithsonian. How about checking out the Folger Shakespearian Theater? There really is so much to see and do in DC.
 
Nov 15th, 2003, 05:58 PM
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It sounds as though you will have a few days in which to see downtown DC before you get the car on your last day. If so, then another day in DC is not necessary. Baltimore is a fun destination, but too far out of the way in the opposite direction. You would spend approximately 4 hours of your day driving on the highways, which are not at all scenic. It would make sense to see Baltimore if you were leaving from BWI, but not Dulles. But if you don't mind the driving, it can be done. The suggestion of Mount Vernon and Alexandria is a good one, if you haven't seen those already as part of your DC tour. Tysons Corner is just another mall, which you no doubt have plenty of at home. If not, there are two malls (Tysons I & II) that can keep you busy all day, with shops such as Neiman Marcus, Sachs, Macy's and all the usual smaller chain stores. Depending on the weather, another option -- and my favorite -- would be to drive out into the Virginia countryside past Dulles. You can actually see the mountains in the distance as you approach the airport, and there are some older, quaint, historic towns, some with cute shops and restaurants (Leesburg, Waterford, Middleburg, Upperville, Paris, Milltown, to name a few), set in rolling green countryside fringed by mountains, dotted with farms and cattle, and fabulous country estates. Even after the leaves are gone from the trees and bushes, this remains my favorite DC-area drive.
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Nov 15th, 2003, 06:12 PM
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I would never go to Baltimore for that day if you have to be in Dulles at 4:30. February is about the worst month of the year (with January), so hard to tell what the weather will be like, but for me, it would make some potentially interesting "country" destinations not of interest. I guess it depends what you like to do, I would think staying in DC would be more interesting than these other things -- let along shopping in a mall (especially Tysons which I don't even like, I don't know anyone who thinks that is the greatest place to shop). DC has a lot to see and do, I wouldn't think having just a few days would mean you'd done it all.

I'd stay in DC myself. If the weather is fairly nice, I also might just drive out west somewhere in N Va/Leesburg/Front Royal area. If you want to go shopping, I'd go to the Pentagon Fashion Center perhaps. Most malls have a lot of the same chain stores, anyway. You do not want to get sucked into Tyson's Corner traffic coming or going at any time of the day.
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Nov 15th, 2003, 11:55 PM
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AR
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Thanks for all the replies. I expected that the consensus would be that a Baltimore trip would be too much. I had thought of Alexandria and Mount Vernon - and these will probably be where we go. Perhaps I should have pointed out that this is not my first visit to DC, and I have visited many of it's sights already.
Thanks again all.
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Nov 16th, 2003, 05:57 AM
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If you want to see the countryside or you're interested in civil war/historical stuff, you could go to Harper's Ferry which is about an hour from Dulles Airport. Could stop in Leesburg on the way back. But as someone else said what you really may do may depend on the weather - could have a snowstorm or it could be 60 and sunny. If you go to Harper's Ferry don't have to worry that much about the traffic back to Dulles. However, if you go to Mount Vernon/Alexandria count on atleast an hour to Dulles - if it's Friday or raining add more time.
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Nov 16th, 2003, 06:12 AM
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Visiting Mount Vernon is a good idea for a do-able day trip; you will be able to tour the house, appreciate the view of the Potomac, and even have lunch if you like, though of course the gardens will not be at their best in February.

Just a couple of practical points for driving around the DC area in February.

Have an alternate non-driving plan for the day in case there's a repetition of the "President's Day Blizzard" which shut down the city and the federal government last February.

Also, if your visit to Mt. Vernon falls on a weekday, allow yourself plenty of time (at least a couple of hours) to get from Mt. Vernon to Dulles, as you will travelling with the out-going afternoon rush hour traffic. (The airport-access-only part of the Dulles Toll Road - which is less crowded - will only cover a portion of your commute from Mt. Vernon to IAD).
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Nov 16th, 2003, 06:36 AM
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I agree with the notion of leaving plenty of time for getting to Dulles. One of the logical roads for travelling there is I66 and HOV passenger restrictions start at 3 pm. (can someone confirm that?)
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Nov 16th, 2003, 08:34 AM
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AR
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Thanks obxgirl. Are the HOV restrictions for a minimum of 2 or 3 passengers?
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Nov 16th, 2003, 02:56 PM
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AR, I pretty sure it's two people.
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Nov 16th, 2003, 02:56 PM
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meaning "I'm" obviously
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Nov 17th, 2003, 04:18 AM
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A visit to the historic Civil War battlefield at Antietam, Maryland is within a short driving distance. The one-day battle at Antietam was the bloodiest single day of warfare, I believe, on the American continent. Nearby, is historic Harper's Ferry. Two hours down the Shenanadoah is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, 3rd President of the country and multi-talented genius.
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Nov 17th, 2003, 04:25 AM
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if you've never been to DC, you should stick around - we've got a lot to offer! it isn't London, but it is a very pretty, walkable city.

if you already have a few free days and just want to get out and around, why not drive west? you'll be closer to Dulles that way. Leesburg is a pretty day trip, you could spend a good part of the day there, and you'd only be 20 miles from Dulles. I don't think Baltimore is a good option. the traffic is truly beastly around here and to be safe you'd want to leave Baltimore by 230 to get the car to Dulles by 430. 4 hours in Baltimore isn't worth the hassle IMHO. (nor 8, 12, etc.)

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Nov 17th, 2003, 06:34 AM
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Doh
 
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For what it's worth, I think people going from DC to Dulles Airport can use the HOV lanes (no matter how many people are in the car).
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Nov 17th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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Doh is correct. Cars going to and from Dulles airport are exempt from the HOV restrictions.

I also think Mt.Vernon and Old Town Alexandria would be a good alternative to Baltimore.
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Nov 17th, 2003, 07:15 AM
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you can certainly use the HOV lanes (all of 66-west-inside-beltway is HOV after 330 pm) but beware - unless you have a sign in your car which says 'Dulles bound' a cop isn't going to know you are heading to the airport and may well pull you over and then you'll have some splaining to do. they've allegedly become much stricter in policing the HOV on 66. you'd get out of it, but add 15 minutes to your commute.

(I am joking about the sign. besides, if it worked, everyone would do it)

although, I think if you do go to Mount Vernon, your BEST and PRETTIEST drive to Dulles would be to get back on the GW Parkway heading north (it runs right to Mount Vernon - you have little choice actually but to take it) and stay on it until you hit 495 SOUTH to Virginia. do NOT take the Maryland exit - which I believe is the first one off the Parkway. anyway, it will loop you onto the beltway, and about mmm, maybe 2-3 miles later, you will hit the Dulles Toll Road. as soon as you get on the Toll Road, get left as soon as you are able to get to the Access Road - runs down the middle. it's free and fast.

it might add a few miles to your drive, but not too many - less than 5 I would say, but I really believe it will save you on time - 66 is a bear at that time of day, HOV or not, and it's a much prettier drive. you'll follow the Potomac the whole way, see Georgetown from the Virginia banks, the little river islands, etc. nice drive. just make sure you take the Virginia-495 south exit or it'll be an adventure.
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Nov 17th, 2003, 08:26 AM
  #19  
pat
 
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We took a side trip from DC to Gettysburg and really enjoyed it. Don`t remember how long the drive was though.
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