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-   -   DC Moonlight tour or Self Drive? (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/dc-moonlight-tour-or-self-drive-236409/)

deevee Jul 3rd, 2002 05:40 AM

DC Moonlight tour or Self Drive?
 
My family (2 adults,2teens) will be stopping in DC for one night on our way to the beach. We've got a hotel near a Metro station and had planned on doing the Monuments by Moonlight tour. <BR>A couple of days ago I spoke with a teen who did this last summer and said it was BORING. Now, my kids are used to being herded through historical/educational sites so I don't think they'd mind it much BUT this tour will cost us $100. I don't want to spend that much $$ for dull. <BR>I've been wondering how hard it would be to figure out a self drive tour and whether my husband (the principal driver) would still enjoy it? The pros I've come up with so far are cost and flexibility -- we'd be able to go to Gravelly Point to see the planes land if we drive ourselves. What are the cons? Can you recommend a good route? Thanks.

deevee Jul 3rd, 2002 05:45 AM

Oops, forgot to mention this would be a Saturday night in late July. Thanks again.

kayd Jul 3rd, 2002 06:49 AM

If you have the route that the tour operator uses, that would be a start. It shouldn't be too difficult as long as you have a good navigator and a good street map. I did it this past Sunday night between 8 and 9:30, with stops at Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. I was able to park near the FDR memorial (for FDR, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean War memorials) and in the Jefferson lot.

essvie Jul 3rd, 2002 10:44 AM

It is not that difficult to do the drive yourself. A tour might be boring but driving you have a little more control over the agenda. <BR><BR>I agree with kayd that a good street map is a must. The only one I had trouble getting to (despite the signs) was the Jefferson, but maybe that's just me! <BR><BR>There are parking lots at FDR and Jefferson, no parking right at the Lincoln but you can usually find street parking.<BR><BR>By the way, I believe the Gravelly Point park closes at dusk (someone please correct me if I'm wrong), so you should plan to do that early.

linda Jul 3rd, 2002 12:24 PM

My 12 yr old loved the trolley tour at night.The driver was quite funny and knew everything about the city, history, gov't etc. He cracked jokes, answered questions and made it very entertaining. You'll miss out on some of the interesting facts if you go solo.We also did the Potomac, but that was BORING and a whole boat load of loud foreigners kept us from hearing any commentary.

Samantha Jul 3rd, 2002 12:39 PM

Gravelly Point may close at dusk, but it's not enforced. I've been there at 9, 10pm and there were plenty of other people there with me. None of us were told to leave...

x Jul 3rd, 2002 12:50 PM

If you do the tour on your own, it's easy: plan to do it in segments, TAXIS & WALKING. As follows: Vietnam Wall, Washington Mon., Lincoln, Korean, FDR and Tidal Basin and jefferson. Two to three hours. Then taxi from Jefferson to Arlington Cemetery and take their little tram around the site. Then taxi back to Cap. Hill and walk around - Capitol, buildings, down to the Botanical Gardens. To drive to Gravelly Point to see the planes, you must first drive GW Parkway to Reagan National and then head back toward DC, and turn right into the parking area. Afterward go GW Parkway less than 1/4 mile and exit onto the 14th Street Bridge, or stay on GW and come back to DC via Memorial Bridge. Save that $100!!! Look at a map to get a clear idea of what I'm suggesting for you. It works!!

deevee Jul 3rd, 2002 05:32 PM

I need a better map. The one I'm looking at doesn't give a good idea of distance between monuments. If we were to park somewhere near the Lincoln, about how much walking to see the Vietnam and Korean Memorials from the same parking spot? <BR>Also, to me, the beauty of the Washington Monument is in the whole of it, not in the close up. Am I missing something or would it suffice to see it lit from the vantage of the other side of the reflecting pool?<BR>As for Gravelly Point - should we start off our tour there or end it?<BR>Thanks for all your help so far.

pat in dc Jul 3rd, 2002 06:23 PM

Get a good cab. They are inexpensive compared to other cities. Your hotel should be able to help you. Its not a very big city. While most of the monuments are lit at night, alot are not open.<BR><BR>If you want a really great view, go to the top of the Hotel Washington. Rooftop bar presents an awesome view.<BR><BR>Its a wonderful city. I love living here.<BR><BR>

Donna Jul 3rd, 2002 08:02 PM

For sure, with a good map you can drive to and park near all the monuments and memorials you find most appealing. But, I'd recommend taking the tour - for the commentary. Included are all sorts of interesting anecdotes and information you'd not learn otherwise. Just because another teen found it boring does not mean that your teens won't enjoy it enormously or that the other teen doesn't find, or at least declare, everything to be "boring". Learning about what you're seeing will enhance the experience of each of you and being driven from one to the next will be far less stressful and trying to find your way around.

kathy Jul 4th, 2002 07:07 AM

Took three teenage boys on the evening monument tour on the tourmobile sponsored by the national parks service-don't remember the price but that's because we never once thought it wasn't worth the price. We had a local for a tour guide that included lots of local info, allowed everyone plenty of time at each stop and was filled with such great info that you just wouldn't know if you took it yourself and the teens were asking the guide questions-sure sign they wern't just going along for the boring ride. It may have just been a gret tour guide because we graciously tipped her at the end of the tour.

deevee Jul 10th, 2002 05:55 AM

I must be nuts. I just agreed to take along two more teenage boys. I didn't mean to do it but we were discussing the trip and one of the boys remarked how his family never travels. He is an 18 year old high school senior and he has never been farther than 150 miles from his Indiana home. He's never seen an ocean, a mountain or a big city. How could I resist inviting him along? And, if he comes, how could I not invite the other best friend? They are a threesome, my son and his buddies. <BR>It gets stickier because I have a daughter too and if her brother gets to take along friends -- well, gosh, Mom ... so the two vegetarian 13 year old twins that I call my other daughters may be going along too. <BR>That makes us a party of 8. It's not that bad. The oldest boy will drive his own car and each kid will contribute $100 to the vacation kitty plus bring along spending money for souvenirs and such. The motel at the beach has another room available and they're giving us a discount on it.<BR>My main problem comes back to the DC leg of the trip. We had planned on staying in Bethesda at a hotel on the red line, making access to Union Station (and the moonlight tour) easy. Now I've got to get a 2nd hotel room in DC and make my final decision on the tour - which will now cost $200, instead of $100.I'm wondering if it is still worth it? At the same time, the self drive tour is out since I think it would be too big a challenge for the 18 year old driver. <BR>Our options are to stick to the plan, bite the bullet and pay the extra $$ for the tour -- or -- pick a hotel closer in and plan our tour via Metro and feet (after a nearly 10 hour drive). <BR>Your thoughts?

xxxx Jul 10th, 2002 06:10 AM

If you end up doing a self drive tour, be careful about what you leave in the car. Even though you may only be gone for a few minutes, it is enough time to have the car window smashed and your purse and other stuff stolen. I saw this happen at the Washington monument, when my boyfriend and I were walking around. This couple came back to their rental car to find the window smashed and her purse, camara, etc was gone. She was very upset but the reality is that it was stupid and foolish to leave a purse on the front seat of a car in a big city. The police were not very sympathetic either as this type of stuff happens alot. Just something to consider. I lived here for 5 years while at college and loved every minute of it, it is a great city with alot of ethnic and cultural diversity. Have fun and be safe. That was also a grand gesture on your part to take that other child who has never left his backyard, that in itself is so sad, you may have a hard time getting him to go home after he has seen the big city.

carolyn Jul 10th, 2002 06:47 AM

Deevee,<BR><BR>Do the tour! I can't imagine having to keep all those teenagers together in a self-tour. Some teens find everything boring, others say it will be boring and actually enjoy it. If the teenager found the Moonlight tour boring, chances are a self drive would have been boring as well. <BR><BR>The monuments are beautiful at night and I personally think it would be much less stressful after a 10 hour drive to have someone else do the driving and planning in a strange city.<BR><BR>Relax, and have a great vacation!

r-travels Jul 10th, 2002 02:16 PM

Deevee- It sounds like your group is getting pretty big, and the cost is rising. I'm going to offer a suggestion that some here will argue about, but I figure one must take costs in account over convenience sometimes.<BR><BR>The Embassy Suites in Tysons Corners is running a special for $75, or $105 for a slightly larger room. If those kids can "camp" on the floor, this could be an excellent deal. There is a free shuttle service (to Fairfax station on Orange Line?) and the hotel told me is about a 15 ride.<BR><BR>One person wrote in here that she'd rather be stabbed in the belly then stay out there .. it is some distance away, and that it's pretty much a commercial/office area with only chain restaurants ... but hey, at $75 ?? I've never stayed out there, so I only offer the info, not an endorsement.<BR><BR>However, I have stayed at a Red Roof Inn in Laurel for $40 (April) that was maybe 12 min to Greenbelt Metro station.<BR><BR>Gee, you sound like a great pair of parents! Good luck and enjoy!<BR><BR>

Ruth Jul 11th, 2002 07:05 AM

I agree that you should take the tour. It's hard to believe how someone found it boring because the great beauty of it is seeing the monuments at night all lit up. Maybe they stayed too long at the sights for that kid. I've lived and/or worked in DC for a long time and wouldn't recommend that someone who doesn't know the city trying to drive themselves after a 10-hour trip to get here. As for Gravelly Point, I'm not sure how late planes land at National now, so you may not be missing much if you can't make that. Also, the Vietnam and Korena memorials are at the Lincoln Memorial area. You'll walk, not drive, between each. The other suggestion of using a cab is a good one. You can probably arrange for two cabs for a set price for a couple hours and it may cost less than $200. You might call your hotel in advance and see if they can give you any information on that. Anyway, enjoy--it's a beautiful sight at night.

deevee Jul 11th, 2002 04:54 PM

We've decided to take the tour but we have to wait to reserve until we see if the vegetarians can find someone to fill in at their summer babysitting gigs. We have our fingers crossed that they won't sell out by then. <BR>The suggestion to find a cheaper hotel was excellent - although it didn't end up saving us much money. I went hotel shopping and got us two rooms at Jury's Washington for only $79 a night! The valet parking will unfortunately eat up most of the difference but how cool to be staying in DuPont Circle rather than Bethesda. <BR>Also, by staying closer in, the Metro/walk/cab idea seems more feasible if the tour sells out.<BR>Thank you all so much for your help and - if I still have a brain left when this is through - I'll post a trip report ;^)


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