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Pisces Jan 1st, 2009 08:29 AM

DC Trip Report
Thanks to all who gave me advice about our trip to DC. My sister and I visited the capital from 12/26-12/30, although for all intents and purposes we really only had the 27,28, and 29 to do things. Luckily, the weather was unusually warm; on Sunday, I didn't even need a jacket!

Lodging: Got an excellent rate for the Affinia Liaison Capitol through Travelzoo. This hotel used to be a Holiday Inn; it's located across the street from the Hyatt on the corner of E and New Jersey. Very convenient to Union Station. The hotel is clean and modern and the staff was very friendly. Perhaps because it's a new hotel, the front desk employees were not very knowledgeable about the area. I asked for casual dining options and the woman was stumped and finally called over the doorman. The doorman suggested Fuddruckers(!?). When I said, "uh, no" he finally suggested we walk up to 7th and see what we could find. That worked out okay, but in a hotel like this, I would've expected a concierge or at least some concierge-level knowledge at the desk.

Sights: Quite crowded! Everyone seemed to be bringing their kids and visiting family members to the Smithsonian and the Mall. The first museums we visited Sat and Sunday (Holocaust and American Indian) we arrived right at opening time and had few lines. By 11 am, there were lines out the doors. We went to the American History museum twice (once arriving at 1 pm, then on Monday at 10:30 am), but both times the lines were more than we could bear. The last time I visited DC it was late January and I was spoiled- I could stroll through the museums at my own pace. Anyway, my advice for those who plan to visit between X-mas and New Years is to get to the museum as soon as it opens.

We took the Monuments by Moonlight tour. It was very cool to see the monuments at night. It was almost completely ruined by the woman who decided to bring her under-1-year-old baby, who screamed his head off for most of the tour. She didn't earn much sympathy from the rest of us on the tour when she said things like "I guess I should've brought his bottle" and "well, his bedtime was an hour ago." Why anyone would bring an infant on a tour that goes until 9 pm is beyond me. Actually, that was a theme for our trip- people who brought children who were too young to enjoy museums and monuments, and then made life awful for everyone by whining and screaming and running around. (Note: we did meet one little boy, maybe 5 or 6, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of presidential history and had all kinds of questions about the monuments. He was having the time of his life. So it's less about age and more about the individual children.)

Okay, end of rant there. We went to the new Visitor Center at the Capitol. Security takes a while but the center is very nice. The movie before the tour is pretty good, and the tour was interesting. I was very impressed with how well-run the program is, and our guide was very smart. They give everyone a pair of headphones that are linked to your guide's microphone, so even though there are 5 or 6 huge tours in the same space, you can clearly hear your guide. Although they say the tour takes about 45 minutes, give yourself about 1 hour 15 minutes for standing in lines, watching the movie, etc. (This estimate is on top of the 30 min before the tour to get thru security.)

I also checked out the National Building Museum. Since it's away from the mall, not crowded at all, and with some interesting displays and an awesome museum shop. If you're interested in how DC and the various monuments were built (including the politics that were played), stop by.

We ended up eating wherever was convenient, so I ate a lot of burgers and fries. Maybe next time I'll be able to make use of the restaurant suggestions!

MichelleY Jan 1st, 2009 02:36 PM

Thanks for reporting back. I don't get the "bringing the baby" mentality. Either wait until they are older or leave them home with grandma. That's what we did.


Birdie Jan 1st, 2009 04:14 PM

Thanks for the trip report Pisces. I might go up tomorrow and wonder if the museums will still be crowded.

Clousie Jan 1st, 2009 04:50 PM

We were also in DC from the 26-28 and didn't find the crowds to be too bad.

On Friday, we drove to Georgetown late afternoon, and despite what all the guidebooks say about not being able to find a parking place, we didn't have a problem. Okay, it wasn't right on M Street, but didn't mind walking a few blocks.

On Saturday, we first walked to the White House Visitor Center, which we found to be quite interesting and probably more informative than a tour. I know--it's not like really being in the WH, but not a bad substitute.

After lunch, we went to the Newsuem, which we thoroughly enjoyed. There was a bit of a line to get in and purchase tickets, but throughout most of the building, it wasn't too crowded. Being from the NJ area, we found the 9/11 exhibit and video to be most poignant.

Sunday afternoon, we went to the American Indian Museum, and didn't have any lines or crowds. We were told that sometimes it is more crowded early in the day.

DancingBearMD Jan 2nd, 2009 06:02 AM

Thanks for the report. The National Building Museum is a bit of a hidden gem in Washington. The interior of the building itself is extraordinary. Folks may recall this is where Hillary gave her concession speech this past summer, and it is often the site of inaugural balls. I believe the ball being held there this month is for military families.

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