DC Christmas Week questions

Old Jul 14th, 2010, 01:11 PM
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DC Christmas Week questions


We actually planned this trip last year but it didn't work out. This year, it's a go. We are a family of three with a 15 year old. We have never been to DC but travel frequently (usually to Disney but also other places). These are our plans and I'd appreciate any comments.

Friday 12/17 - We plan to drive from our home in Florida to Charleston, SC and spend the night, parking our car at the Charleston Airport. We're doing this because we want to end this trip back in SC as we have a few nights at our timeshare booked to close the trip. We chose Charleston because the airport (for parking) and the train station are close together.

Saturday 12/18 Amtrak (Palmetto) to Alexandria. We've booked Embassy Suites, Alexandria. I really stressed over the hotel choice, even creating a database to examine all of the possibilities. I literally typed in information (distance to Metro, cost, ratings) for 70 hotels. In the end, we chose this one because the cost was right, it's across from the Metro, and the Amtrak station is right there as well. With a teen, the extra room is also a good thing.

Sunday 12/19 - Friday 12/24 - DC - I've written my Congressman for any help with tours. We also plan to do a hop-on tour with Old Town Trolley as well as Monuments by Moonlight (again with them). We did St. Augustine with them and liked it so I'm hoping for good results as well. We'll do Tourmobile for Arlington. Am I making good choices? We plan to make ample use of the Metro. I'm also thinking about Mount Vernon at night for the Christmas events and I think I figured out how to do this Metro and a bus (Fairfax). I don't have exact plans yet and I know five full days is not nearly enough time.

Friday 12/24 Amtrak to Williamsburg

Friday 12/24 - Monday 12/27 Williamsburg (Williamsburg Lodge - booked) We chose Williamsburg because we like to be somewhere that feels like it's okay to be away from that typical big family Christmas. We usually do Disney. We have some sadness in our lives due to some family stuff (my parents passed away very early) so we always try to be somewhere happy for Christmas that takes our mind off of it. We booked the Williamsburg Lodge. Our Christmas trips are always about 10 - 14 days long.

Monday 12/27 - Amtrak to Charleston (via Richmond). We'll spend the night in Charleston and then end our long adventure by hanging out at a DVC resort on Hilton Head Island (booked).

Any thoughts? What are crowds like this time of year? Do my plans seem reasonable?


Disneymom2hann is offline  
Old Jul 14th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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A few thoughts:

DC crowds will not be bad.

Reserve your Christmas dinner early.

The National Botanic Garden, between the Capitol and the Museum of the American Indian, has a nice Christmas display with trains and such (more for younger kids, but well done and a nice place anyway).

Don't miss the National Christmas tree on the Ellipse at night.

During the day, you can skate on the rink at the Sculpture Garden located between the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art (across from the Archives).

Old Town Alexandria is decorated, and they have a parade of boats with Christmas lights, and candlelight tours of some sights.

I'm not sure I'd do the hop-on/hop-off bus during the day if you're doing Monuments by Moonlight, unless you really want to go to the Jefferson/FDR/Lincoln Memorial area in the daytime. There are other ways to get around for the other attractions.

Take advantage of the stuff you can book ahead on-line:
International Spy Museum (15 yo should enjoy)
National Archives
Ford's Theater
Imax at Air and Space or Natural History Museums
Planetarium at Air and Space
Washington Monument
Holocaust Museum
Capitol tour
DancingBearMD is offline  
Old Jul 14th, 2010, 01:34 PM
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Also check out lots of holiday performances. Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, military bands, the National Symphony pops, National Cathedral events.
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 06:16 PM
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Not sure how much experience you have with Amtrak but once south of DC it's not very reliable. My uncle used it fairly often to visit family in VA and he was always late - sometimes as much as 4 or 5 hours. (ANd he would sometimes call from Union Station and tell them that the train was posted as late - and then it would end up being even later.
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 07:08 PM
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I wouldn't worry about Amtrak, it should be fine. Unless there is snow, you aren't going to be 4-5 hours late.

You need to check with Mt. Vernon to make sure they are open at night that close to Christmas. I seem to recall they stop at least a week before Christmas and it's only on weekends. Definitely check with Mt. Vernon, because it is a great choice. Went last year and really enjoyed it, altho I always love going to Mt. Vernon.

Christmas is a great time to be in DC. Congress is gone so the town is pretty slow with lots of people out of town, which means fewer crowds.
MikeT is offline  
Old Jul 14th, 2010, 07:10 PM
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You should have a lot of fun

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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 04:50 AM
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I agree - everything looks OK and there will be no crowds or lines to worry about.

I know you already thought a lot about your DC hotel, but there is a definite value to being able to walk (or quickly Metro) back to ones hotel various times during the day. In Alexandria, once you leave your hotel, you are unlikely to return to it until you're done in DC for the day & night. BTW, Amtrak goes all the way into downtown DC.

I liken it to comparing a non-stop flight to one with a long layover. To me, the added value of a domestic non-stop is easily $150 ($300 for international) and I am gladly willing to pay for it. The same goes for a hotel in town as opposed to the suburbs. If it's over $100/night more to stay in town, THEN I would consider the burbs. Just a thought.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 05:08 AM
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I understand bardo's point, but (1) it's more important to have that mid-day break option when visiting in the summertime, when the heat and humidity really wear you out, (2) you have Metro and (2) you're at a nice location for your Mount Vernon visit, and for walking around Old Town Alexandria. I think you'll be fine at the Embassy Suites.

BTW, there are boat tours from Old Town to Mount Vernon, but I'm not sure they run during December. Also there is a water taxi from Old Town to the National Harbor complex across the river. They have lots or Christmas decorations and holiday entertainment going on, both near the pier area (provided by the National Harbor development) and in the Gaylord hotel. The last couple of years the Gaylord has also run a separate-admission attraction called "Ice" with ice sculptures:

DancingBearMD is offline  
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