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DC Trip Report – Cherry Blossoms and Sore Feet

DC Trip Report – Cherry Blossoms and Sore Feet

Old Apr 18th, 2008, 07:08 AM
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DC Trip Report – Cherry Blossoms and Sore Feet

Since I got so much great help from the folks here for my trip to Washington D.C., I thought the least I could do was write a trip report and let you know how it went. Warning – this will be kind of long.

This trip was for me and my husband, ages 51 and 60. We had each been to DC before, but it was at least 20 years ago and neither of us had seen the cherry blossoms in bloom. So I started planning this trip last fall and as usual the planning and the tips and suggestions from the Fodorites were invaluable. DH teases me for all the advance planning I do for our trips, but it sure does help things run smoothly when we finally go! Please note, we don’t do anything fancy. None of the places we ate would qualify as “fine dining”, we don’t drink much, and a late night for us is 9:30. We are not party-people so if that’s what you’re looking for in a trip to DC then this might not be the report for you.

Tuesday, April 8: We arrived in Baltimore around 2:30 p.m. and caught a pre-arranged bus with Super Shuttle that took us directly to our hotel. The Super Shuttle was conveniently located near baggage claim in the airport, with kiosks for those who had reservations to check in. We waited about 10 minutes until they had a load of people going our direction and we all took off. If you don’t rent a car (and you really don’t need or want one in D.C.) or feel like schlepping through the Metro with your luggage or paying big bucks for a taxi, the Super Shuttle is an excellent option.

We were dropped off at the door of our hotel, the Jury’s Washington on Dupont Circle. Like everybody else I wanted a hotel near a Metro stop that wasn’t too far out and wasn’t too expensive and was in a safe part of town. I booked Jury’s in December with a pay-in-advance rate of $129 for the first 2 nights and $109 for the last 3 nights, and it was well worth it. The location was PERFECT – right on Dupont Circle with the Metro stop on the other side of the circle. Lots of restaurants and little shops were down the side streets, and right on the circle itself was a Starbuck’s, Krispy Kreme, Books-A-Million, a CVS Pharmarcy, and a couple of banks. All the necessities of life! We ate dinner at a restaurant in the neighborhood almost every night, and enjoyed walking through the stores and up and down the side streets.

The Jury’s Washington is a nice hotel and I would recommend it without hesitation. My only complaint was the air conditioner in our room seemed to be only circulating outside air, and on the warm days the room got too hot. They never did get that fixed while we were there. But the room was clean, the TV was great, the bed was comfortable, and the shower was fine, and I’m sure they would’ve given us another room if we had asked but we didn’t really care that much. We were on the 2nd floor and right on the Circle, but the traffic noise didn’t seem to bother us – and we’re from a small quiet town so I was worried it might be a problem. The hotel has an exercise room in the basement, which I never made use of but seemed to contain a lot of nice equipment. There was also a room with 3 computers and printers that were free for the guests to use – we had elected not to lug the laptops along with us so that was great for checking email, restaurant reviews, musuem hours, etc.

After checking in at the hotel we walked over to the Metro and bought our 7-day passes (with a little help from the always-helpful Metro employee) and picked up a system map. Then we walked around the Dupont Circle area a bit and went back to the hotel where we had dinner in the bar. The restaurant in Jury’s looked nice, but was a bit pricey for us. The bar is on the circle and we really enjoyed sitting there watching the people go by. The food wasn’t bad and the beer was cold.

Wednesday morning we jumped on the Metro and went to the Tidal Basin to check out the cherry blossoms. It was a cloudy day and most of the trees were probably past their peak, but they were gorgeous to us. Some trees looked like they were still peaking, some looked past their prime, and some looked like they hadn’t really bloomed yet. We didn’t go around to the FDR or Jefferson Memorials, but walked up to the WWII Memorial, then down the Reflecting Pond to the Lincoln Memorial. Then we walked by the Vietnam Memorial (the most moving of all of the monuments, in my opinion) and stopped to take a picture of the White House with the zoom lens. That’s as close as we ever got to the White House, but I could see several black SUVs unloading people at the door and I was wondering who was arriving. Never did find out, though. I found a grove of cherry trees on the Mall near the Washington Monument and took lots of pictures in the grove that I hope turned out well.

On to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (the American History Museum was closed for renovation, much to my great disappointment) where we ate lunch. I was surprised at how uncrowded it was and how good the food was. Then we wandered the museum for a bit. I don’t like stuffed animals much, so I wasn’t too thrilled until we got to the Hope Diamond. Now THAT was thrilling, along with all the other jewelry, gemstones, and crystals in that section of the museum. I kept reminding DH that Christmas would be coming soon and if he needed any ideas…… After that we walked by the National Archives but the line scared us off so we headed over to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. That was OK, but the part I liked the best was the corner where they had several of the American History exhibits on display. By then we were exhausted so we got back on the Metro and returned to the hotel. After changing we walked to a small Italian restaurant on Connecticut Avenue called Odeon that was very, very good and not very expensive.

Thursday was going to be a sunny day so we went to the Zoo. I remembered the advice I had read here about it being a downhill walk from the Cleveland Park exit, vs. an uphill walk from the usual Zoo exit at Waverly Park-Zoo, and I bless whoever posted that tidbit. The Zoo was wonderful and the animals were mostly out and active. The lions were playing and roaring, and the orangutan was swinging along his ropes that drape over the zoo. I did hear some employees saying one of the favorite games for the orangutans is to wait until somebody is below and then “dump” on them, so be careful. They were doing construction while we were there, building an elephant path through the park – I hope they let the elephants roam the path freely instead of taking them out a couple of times a day to parade around, but I never found out what the plan is. We ate lunch there and then went back to the hotel for a little rest and so DH could watch a bit of the Masters golf tournament. For dinner we went to the Gallery Place Metro stop and met a friend at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant next to the Spy Museum and the Portrait Gallery. Their beer was very good and the food was excellent. By the time we got out the Spy Musuem and Portrait Gallery were both closed so we went back to the hotel and got the camera tripod, then went back to the Mall and took some pictures of the Capital Building and some of the monuments. It was really nice on the Mall in the evening, and I never felt like it wasn’t safe or anything.

Friday we headed to the Arlington National Cemetary. We got on the Tourmobile that goes around the Cemetary, stopping at the Kennedy’s graves, the Robert E. Lee house, and for the Changing of the Guard. The Changing of the Guard is probably the most solemn, structured, ceremony I’ve ever seen in this country. It’s hard to get a crowd of Americans to be quiet for 15 minutes, but this was total silence. I was glad to see we still have some sense of respect and dignity left. After Arlington we went looking for the Eastern Market, but it turns out that’s a Saturday/Sunday flea market, so nothing was happening while we were there. We had a pretty good sandwich at Tunnicliffs Tavern on 7th Street and then went back to the hotel for some more TV golf for DH and me to go use the computers for a while. For dinner we headed to a Mexican restaurant I had found online that was supposed to be nearby, but our feet got tired before we got there so we just stopped at a nice-looking place that had lots of people in it called Annie’s Paramount Steak House. The food was pretty good, although the tables were placed pretty close together. About half-way through the meal I realized we were the only mixed-sex couple in the place, which didn’t bother us at all, but I was amused that it took me that long to realize it. The entire Dupont Circle area seems to be a very gay-friendly area, so if you’re offended by alternative lifestyles then don’t go there.

On Saturday we took the Metro to the King Street stop and went into Old Town in Alexandria. There’s a free trolley that takes you from the Metro station into town, going all the way down King Street. You can get off at any of the stops, or stay on it all the way down to the waterfront. Alexandria is a quaint old downtown area with nice little shops. After a couple of hours wandering through the shops and avoiding the rain showers we headed back to the hotel. We had reserved a rental car at an Avis location about a half mile from the hotel so we walked over there and picked it up, then drove it back to the hotel and dropped it off with the valet. That night we went off in search of Mexican food again. The concierge recommended a place called Lauriol Plaza so we walked up there, but there was a HUGE line of people just waiting to get their names on the waiting list. So we left and went over to Trio’s, a place we had noticed near Annie’s. Again, it was a mostly gay crowd but who cares? We sat out on the patio and the service was pretty slow but we weren’t in a hurry. The food was OK. I did go inside to wash my hands and I have to say the bathroom area stunk really bad, to the point of being disgusting. I don’t know if they had plumbing problems or what, but at least I couldn’t smell it out on the patio.

Sunday morning we got up early, packed, checked out, and retrieved the rental car. Then it was off to the Northern Neck part of Virginia for a visit with my mother-in-law in the village of Wicomico Church. If anybody’s interested in any of the details of this part of this trip let me know, but I have to say it was a very rural area and we absolutely loved it. As I said, we’re not City People and the countryside was gorgeous and peaceful after the hustle and bustle of Washington.

Tuesday morning we dropped off the rental car at BWI and headed back to home and reality.

Things I liked best in Washington (in no particular order): The cherry blossoms, the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials, the architecture of the buildings, the Metro (and the very friendly employees), the Zoo, the gems in the Natural History Museum, and the American History exhibit in the Air & Space Museum.

Things I liked least: The traffic, the l-o-n-g walks, the stuffed animals in the Natural History Museum.

Things I didn’t get to and wish I did: The Portrait Gallery, the National Archives, the American History Museum, Union Station. I would’ve enjoyed touring the Captiol and White House, but DH wasn’t interested so I never bothered to ask for tickets.


cslasor is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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Wonderful report. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.
bardo1 is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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Loved your report -- just thought you'd like to know you stumbled into the "Dupont neighborhood" restaurant blocks around 17th and Q, not the more tourist oriented and upscale dining options on Connecticut, and your first impressions are spot on! Annie's and Trio are no-frills landmarks that have served the locals for 30 years or more, but none of us would recommend that visitors make a special trip for them. (However, two recent arrivals, Komi and Hank's Oyster Bar, are a cut above the others and are "destination" restaurants.)
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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It sounds like you had a great trip to our city and hit all the highlights! The things you didn't get to will just provide you with an excuse to come back...

I have to say that IMO you didn't miss anything by not getting to Lauriol Plaza. I have friends who love the place so I go there fairly often, but it is always insanely packed and I don't think the food or margaritas are good enough to warrant it; it's more of a scene than anything else. We waited for over two hours once for a table for a friend's birthday, which was painful. For those looking for a casual alternative restaurant in the neighborhood, Rosemary's Thyme bistro a block south on 18th is good.
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 12:50 PM
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I agree you missed nothing at Lauriol Plaza and I think Annies is a very reliable place with cheap steaks.

You hit on something I've wondered about visitor who come to DC and end up in DuPont Circle. It is a really wonderful neighborhood to stay in or visit while in DC, but it is the traditional center of DC's huge and thriving gay community and it can be a little unexpected.
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 01:35 PM
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I want to clarify some of the comments about Dupont because I'm a little afraid they might scare off some visitors, which would be a shame (I don't think they were meant that way, but just to clarify). I am a straight female, work in Dupont and regularly patronize the restaurants and bars in this area. We send clients to hotels in Dupont. I have lots of straight friends, male and female, who live nearby as well. Never have I been in a restaurant or bar where I was at the only "straight table" in the room. Will you see two men walking together down the street? Probably. Will you also see business people, college students, married couples, parents, etc.? Yes. It is a wonderful and vibrant part of the city and I would hate for someone to decide not to visit it because they thought it was the "gay area" and they would be uncomfortable. I had conservative friends from a very small town in the midwest visiting a few years ago and they wandered around happily for hours - I don't think they even noticed.

That said, if it does make you uncomfortable you may not want to visit the Tuesday before Halloween, when the drag queens run their high heel race on 17th St.
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 04:59 PM
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Great report, glad you enjoyed yourself here. You seem like very open minded people.

Here's a site you might like, for some reason it's down at the moment but they do have some good sales.

http://www.smithsonianstore.com/home.html
tzarinna is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2008, 05:56 PM
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"Never have I been in a restaurant or bar where I was at the only "straight table" in the room."

Very very true, although you could come close at Annies.

You made an important clarification and explained it well. I think DC is different from other big cities where the gay neighborhood--WeHo in LA, Chelsea in NYC, the Castro in SF, Boystown in Chicago--are not major destinations for visitors while DuPont Circle is. But it's also easy to be in DuPont Circle and not realize it is a gay neighborhood unless you are really paying attention.
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 10:24 PM
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Great trip report, especially the warning about the orangutans! That could be embarassing and messy.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 05:06 AM
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I have to reinforce what hlg22 said - Dupont Circle was a wonderful place to stay and wasn't a flaming gay hangout by any means. We saw every kind of person - business people in their suits and dress shoes, people sunning on the grass, people sleeping (napping or homeless) on benches, military people, people huddled around the chess tables, people walking dogs (labs are very popular there, I noticed), and every other kind of person you could think of. We heard numerous languages and accents and saw many different ethnic restaurants. We saw one store that I pegged as being gay, but my husband was oblivious - in fact, he was oblivious the entire time unless I pointed it out to him. Of course, I've spent time in Key West and New Orleans so maybe I'm more sensitized to such things than he is. [...smile...]

We found Dupont Circle to be a wonderful snapshot of an American city and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to even my most conservative, closed-minded friends.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 05:49 AM
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Nice trip report! Glad you enjoyed our town and want to come back. I would like to hear more about the Northern Neck part of your trip. Yes, it is rural and a contrast to DC. Tell us about it.

I take my teenage daughter shopping in Dupont Circle, its no big deal for us either.

Next time you visit, add the Textile Museum and Phillips Collection to your itinerary. Both are in Dupont Circle area and you can walk from the hotel.

Spring is a nice time to visit DC.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 06:03 AM
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OK, I'll start a separate thread for the Virginia part of the trip since that is so different from D.C.
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