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Est. visit times for Washington D.C. attractions? (Zoo, LOC, Archives, Smithsonian, Arlington, etc.)

Est. visit times for Washington D.C. attractions? (Zoo, LOC, Archives, Smithsonian, Arlington, etc.)

Feb 26th, 2006, 09:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 96
Est. visit times for Washington D.C. attractions? (Zoo, LOC, Archives, Smithsonian, Arlington, etc.)

Finally going on a vacation over Spring Break... to our nation's capital, no less! I'm travling with my girlfriend and we're just about finished with putting together our itinerary, but I wanted to get some feedback on how long I should reasonably expect to spend at each of these locations, assuming I visit all of the "hot spots" on a self-guided tour (unless otherwise indicated). Any help would be appreciated!!

Day 1:
- National Zoo
- Library of Congress*

Day 2:
- National Archives*
- Supreme Court*
- American History Museum
- Natural History Museum

Day 3:
- U.S. Capitol*
- International Spy Museum
- Walking Tour of Nat'l Mall/Monuments
- Lincoln Memorial
- Vietnam War Memorial
- Korean War Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- Washington Monument
- National Mall/Reflecting Pool
- Lafayette Square/White House (North)
- Ellipse/Penn. Ave./White House (South)

Day 4:
- Washington National Cathedral
- Dupont Circle/Embassy Row Walking Tour
- National Air and Space Museum
- Walking Tour by Night

Day 5:
- Arlington National Cemetery

* -arranged tour through my senator
PennStateMark is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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It is an ambitious schedule that doesn't allow for a lot of down time or reflection at any particular site.

Day 3 seems impossible to me and Day 5 a bit light. If you want to spread things around, move all the memorial visits to Day 5. The Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial and World War II Memorial are all just across the river (but a long walk) from Arlington Cemetery.

I once had great advice from a travel agent when I tried to pack too much into a single trip: "You will go again and it will still be there."

tburke99 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Are you driving to DC?

If you are, stop by the National Catherdral on the way in or out of town. Maybe combine it with a trip to the zoo.

You might need tickets to see the new baby panda at the zoo. Check first.

The Spy museum isn't near the other stuff of day 3. Maybe move it to day 5?

Enjoy your trip.
ncgrrl is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Here are a few bits of advice:

Library of Congress - expect to spend at least an hour before or after the tour exploring the exhibits. You could easily spend more. The American Treasures exhibit is great, with such a variety of items on display that just about anyone will find something fascinating.

Ameircan History and Natural History Museums - I would anticipate spending about 3 hours at each of these. If you choose to spend less, research their website and decide which exhibits to visit. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed when you enter the muesums and will probably miss something you really want to see.

Supreme Court - they have a museum to visit after the tour of the chamber. I only spent about 30 minutes here, and that was plenty. If you are particulary interested in the history of the Court, you may want to plan more time.

A night tour of the monuments is not to be missed. I would suggest moving that to an earlier point in your trip, and then decide which you would like to see during the day as well.

Remember, if you go during Spring Break, it will be busy! Others will be on break, and high schools that aren't on break will be on school trips. Also, it takes longer to walk between these places that you may expect by looking at maps. Be sure to factor in long walking times and security lines.

Have a great trip!! Remember, there is too much to possibly do there on one trip, so just do what you can and don't fret over what you are missing.

KatieL is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 07:01 AM
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Thanks for all the advice so far!

We need to be out of town by around noon on Friday, hence the short day with only one visit, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time at Arlington and didn't feel rushed, because that's the one stop on our trip that I definitely don't want to have to rush through.

Perhaps we'll just do the monuments at night, anyway. And I'll do some research into the museums so we can "target" our visits there. That would make day 3 a bit more manageable, I think. The Spy Museum is a block or two from our hotel which is why I picked it, I was thinking we would hit that on our way back to the hotel, grab dinner, and then go to the mall in the evening. The nice thing about the night walking tour is that it could concievably happen any evening after dinner - all of the daytime visits basically need to be done by 5 or 5:30.

We do in fact have tickets to see the baby pandas but we're also planning on going ultra-early (around 7am or so) because the website indicates that's the best time to see a lot of the animals outside and is well before the peak visiting hours.

I do imagine we'll be back... I've been to D.C. a couple of years ago but on a class trip to the Center for Strategic and Int'i Studies so we didn't have any time to do much sightseeing, but this is my girlfriend's first time and I'm hoping she'll be hooked. I'll keep tinkering with this itinerary (as I'm sure I will be up until we leave on Sunday!)... thank you so much for all of your help and advice! Keep it coming!
PennStateMark is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 07:08 AM
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Your itinerery looks great. I think you'll be fine with it. But I agree that you might not get to "everything", depending on lines and your pace. Don't worry about missing things that are not your top priorities.

I would try for an evening meal in a different neighborhood each night so you can relax and reflect. For instance dinner on Capitol Hill after day 1; dinner downtown after day 2 (Jaleo?) www.jaleo.com ; dinner on U st. after day 3 (a good antedote to memorial overload - Dukem?) http://www.dukemrestaurant.com/ ; dinner in the Dupont neighborhood day 4 after the Embassy Row walk; dinner in Adams Morgan after day 5?
bardo1 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 07:10 AM
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If you have to cut back on something at the Natural History museum, remember that most natural history museums are very much alike. A diorama is a diorama and if you have been to any other natural history museum they all seem to look alike. The Smithsonian, though, does have a great gem exhibit and insect zoo both of which I would definitely check out. You should go to the gems as early as possible because it gets very crowded.
Birdie is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 07:27 AM
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here is a recent thread, and although OP was asking about ideas w/ her children, it has valuable info about lines, better views from monuments, etc which you might find useful reading through it.


What to see and not and how much time is so personal - but I agree with poster who said you could likely skip Nat'l History Museum if you get cramped and if you are ever near other good ones -

Spy Musuem we are mixed on - while it can be fun, it doesn't compare to the other sites on your list in my opinion, and we did need tickets in advance as the line was around the block with families with younger children, so keep that in mind.

Day 1 look s good to m; Day 2 also, but you might end up cutting last museum so your day is more leisurely.

Day 3: again, I might skip Spy Museum and save for another time.

Walkign the Mall I love, but when I have time to look around and enjoy - I agree about a night time look at monuments, and then return to those that have personal importance or interest to you.

The Nat'l Air and Space is interesting and we've always found it crowded and we weren't there during a vacation time - we always arrive there just as they open because of the crowds, so you may want to put that first on that day if possible.

Excellent advice given was to peruse web sites and get a feel for musuems, etc first and which exhibits would be most meaningful for you, to optimize your time in them.

Have a great trip, and don't forget to post a trip report when you return to let us all know how you made out and what you liked, didn't, etc....
escargot is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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I have to agree with an earlier post. Take the evening tour of the monuments on day one or two. Unless you already know all the history behind them, we learned more from the night tour bus driver than any where else. It will also help you choose what to see in the daytime.

The Cathedral has tours with tea service. It was fun but I think that it was only offered in the afternoon. We walked from the Cathedral down embassy row almost to Dupont Circle (we were lost). It takes a good hour and a half but it is down hill. You certainly will be hunger by then.
gardendiva is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 09:29 AM
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Getting to the zoo early is a good idea, but it opens at 8 (winter hours). If the weather is good, the pandas will be outside, so you won't need tickets. If you get there at 8 and they're not outside yet, check out the other animals and they'll be outside by the time you get back.

There's a lot of construction at the zoo right now, but it isn't as bad as it seems between the Connecticut Avenue entrance and the panda area.
EricH is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 10:23 AM
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It took my family almost five hours to get through the National Zoo. However, I have five kids, aged 1-9, so speed is next to impossible.
GeorgeW is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 10:31 AM
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Thanks again, everyone! A couple of follow-ups in response to all of your helpful advice: I think we're going to forego the Natural History Museum for now. I'm iffy on the American History Museum because the website indicates there's quite a bit of construction going on in and around some of the exhibits. We'll do the nighttime monument tour on Monday night - or, at least, plan on doing it then, so we can push it back based on the weather!

I hadn't thought about walking from the Cathedral to Dupont Circle but if the weather's nice it certainly wouldn't be a bad idea. What would be the ideal route, though? I don't want to have to contend with too much traffic if at all possible and I'd definitely like to see as much of the sights in the area (particularly Embassy Tow) on my way down to Dupont. I've heard good things about the Pizzeria Paradiso off Dupont Circle and that will likely be our lunch stop that afternoon.

Unfortunately because our senator's office scheduled the archives and capitol tours for us we're kind of stuck with those times on days 2 and 3, which means we can't really do anything before them (9:45am and 10:00am, respectively).

The Zoo's web site says the grounds are open at 6am but the buildings aren't open until 10am. They have a page for animals we can see outdoors in the morning before the indoor exhibits open at 10am (and before the crowds swarm in).

Thanks again, everyone! And, I fully intend to write up a trip report when we get back. I'm still looking for other recommendations on reasonably-priced places to eat... I'm a college student on (somewhat of) a budget!
PennStateMark is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 11:32 AM
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<They have a page for animals we can see outdoors in the morning before the indoor exhibits open at 10am>

Mark, could you post that link? I looked all over the website but couldn't find it. I'll be there this weekend and the info would really be helpful.
dsquared is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 12:10 PM
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daughter is a recenet college grad who spent a few summers in DC working and w/ college friends who live there - I will ask her for some foodie places that are nice and won't break the budget and post back.
escargot is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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Here it is:

PennStateMark is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 12:27 PM
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Thanks Mark! I'll post back if I come across anything of interest while I'm in DC this weekend.
dsquared is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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The earlier the better at the zoo, and yes grounds are open at 6.

If you are a walker you might combine the National Zoo with the Cathedral, Embassy Row. It's a quick walk, although up hill, from the zoo to the cathedral. You could put Air & Space with Library of Congress and they're both on that end of town.

Paradiso is a great spot. For more places check out the cheap eats section of Washingtonian Mazazine http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/100bbindex.html

sprin2 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 01:54 PM
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I thought about doing the Zoo, Cathedral, Dupont/Embassy Row junket all at once, but we are scheduled to be at the Library of Congress for a guided tour at 1:45pm so I didn't think we would be able to get all of that in and not feel unbelievably rushed. We'll likely do Air and Space after Library of Congress for the reason that you mentioned, assuming that the LoC tour doesn't take too long (one of those things where we'll just have to "play it by ear").
PennStateMark is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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I was to the Washington National Cathedral a few years back and did their tour. If you're interested, they used to offer a kind of "behind the scenes tour." Although we didn't do it then, I would definitely do it the next time. Supposedly you get to get close and personal with the gargoyles, etc., and the tour requires good walking shoes...there are a lot of steps to climb. Something to think about if they still offer it.

Whatever you decide to do, I would NOT pass on your trip there. It's a spectacular place.
seawitch1 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 03:12 PM
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Thanks for the heads up... I looked into it and the Cathedral does have a "behind the scenes tour" but it isn't offered this time of the year (July-Feb. only). It's definitely on our "must see" list though and we won't be crossing that off the list prematurely.
PennStateMark is offline  

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