Please help with Washington, DC itinerary

Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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Please help with Washington, DC itinerary

Hi – we off to our first vacation to Washington DC and thought I’d post here seeking itinerary/planning suggestions. We are a family of 4 (kids are 17 and 19).
Staying at the Willard – we get in around midday on August 21 and my son and I leave on the 28th, the girls leave the next day.
I’ve been to DC on a short business trip once, so while I have a basic idea of some of the key attractions, by all means we are first time tourists to the city. From what I’ve read (and know of our interests), I’ve put together a list what we broadly want to see and do – would appreciate some help in building an itinerary around this (and anything else any of you thinks we should add).
My general thought was that we spread the activities for half a day or so, and then spend the other half exploring a neighborhood briefly (short stroll, settle down to a nice restaurant).
So, on day 1 (since we arrive around midday), I thought we might just rent bikes and visit the monuments.
Day 2 onwards, we explore the following (one or two each day):
• The Capitol
• Air & Space Museum
• Museum of Natural History
• National Gallery of Art
• Museum of American History
• Library of Congress
• National Archives

And in the late afternoon of each day, wander around the following neighborhoods and end with dinner:

• Eastern Market
• Penn Quarter
• DuPont Circle
• U Street
• Georgetown

Would love to hear your suggestions on how to order this, add/delete anything, and any suggestions on where to eat during the day (i.e. what’s best close to or around the particular activity). I’m reading up on restaurants in each neighborhood – but any suggestions on that would be highly appreciated. And finally – please do suggest if you think half a day on a particular activity to too little or too much (I know we’d want to spend longer in the Air & Space and Natural History museums and possibly even the National Gallery).
Many thanks for reading and for you suggestions.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:22 PM
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Which "monuments"? The tributes to FDR, Lincoln, MLK, Jefferson and Washington and the various war memorials are on the western half of the Mall and the various museums are on the eastern half (Congress side).

Arlington Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum would be adds. So would this: http://www.moneyfactory.gov/tours.html
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:33 PM
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The one thing I'd say is that I'd rent bikes on a weekend, and preferably a Sunday, when there is little to no traffic. We rode from the mall to Eastern Market, the Jefferson Memorial and Georgetown and back, and it was wonderful (but it was also November).

For a great view, go to the rooftop bar at the W (which is next door to the Willard) - you'll need a reservation though for an outdoor table). (Needless to say, cocktails are pricey)
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:34 PM
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I think you have a good list of sites to see. My favorite musuem in DC has become the Newseum (does have admission fee though). Sometimes you can find discounts for the tix. http://www.newseum.org

For the neighborhoods I would skip on Georgetown. I think it's a bunch of chain stores and not much particularly unique about it. There are some tours that are offered that could be interesting, but as far as wandering, not a fan. In upper Georgetown there is Dumbarton Oaks which is pretty if you want to wander around some lovely gardens & interesting museums. http://www.doaks.org

It's been an amazingly temperate summer, so I hope you will have nice weather while you are here inAugust.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:49 PM
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Thanks.

The monuments we are mainly keen to see (in no particular oder) are:
FDR Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
Martin Luther King Memorial
World Warr II Memorial

yestravel and SF7307 (always grateful to you for the suggestions on our SF trip): Thanks for the tips!
I've been iffy on Georgetown too - am kind of treating it as something if we can fit in, sure. Will definetly check out the Newseum and the rooftop at the W.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 03:58 PM
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Ignore people who tell you Georgetown is just chain stores. If you stay on Wisconsin Ave and M Street, yes, it's chain stores. The large neighborhood stretching from that intersection up to Dumbarton Oaks and over to the river is historic and lovely and just made for strolling. In addition to Dumbarton Oaks, you can visit Tudor House and Georgetown University, and take a peek at the Exorcist steps (if you've seen the movie).

I think your list of neighborhoods and museums sounds great! Since you mentioned spending extra time at the National Gallery, perhaps you're an art lover. In that case, add The Phillips Collection to your list; it's a private museum, with paid admission, in Dupont Circle, with a not-to-be-missed collection. So you can fit it int your Dupont afternoon easily.

In Penn Quarter, the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art is also great. But there are a TON of museums in DC, so if you get museumed-out, no worries.

Penn Quarter in and of itself is not particularly stroll-worthy, but it's walking distance to the museums and has tons of restaurants, so consider lengthening museum time and shortening stroll time on that day.

Eastern Market is, as I'm sure you know, on Capitol Hill, so do the Capitol and the Library of Congress on that day. Be sure to take tours of both if you possibly can, they enrich the experience immeasurably and they're free. Maybe add the Supreme Court??

These are just some disorganized thoughts, I'm afraid, but I hope they help!
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 04:53 PM
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The National Archives had a lengthy wait when we were there a couple of years ago--about an hour.

We wandered around the Library of Congress Oma couple of floors. There's a few displays and such. Just walking through the hallways seeing things was interesting to us. We might be a bit dull, though.

The National Portrait Gallery was also good, though we didn't spend as much time as we'd've liked. There's also the Spy Museum, your kids may like that--there's an admission fee, though.

When we arranged a Capitol tour through our Rep, we wandered though that office building afterwards.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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I would highly recommend the National Portrait Gallery. one of our favorites in DC. there is an exhibit (or was, check the website) called American Cool. a bunch of photographs of Americans who in the curator's mind define the word 'cool'. it was terrific and certainly spurred a number of conversations with other folks visiting it. Also, if baseball is an interest, take in a Nationals game. the Navy Yard area, where the stadium is is terrific with several restaurants.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 05:50 PM
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I wholeheartedly second the recommendations for the Newseum and the Philips Collection.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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Agree that the Phillips is great. There is currently a fabulous exhibit there, Made in America. Not sure of when it leaves. Also second the Potrait Gallery.

The rooftop bar at the W mentioned by SF is closed for renovation.

If one is interested in architecture, then strolling the streets of Georgetown can be lovely, but otherwise, I disagree with the above poster, perhaps you should ignore her. I've done several interesting tours of Georgetown and they have been good. There is a free DC by Foot walking tour that is supposed to be ok. But as I said walking around on your own is just a walk thru an old DC neighborhood and sadly over the years the interesting small stores have turned into chain retail.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 08:23 PM
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<We wandered around the Library of Congress Oma couple of floors. There's a few displays and such. Just walking through the hallways seeing things was interesting to us. We might be a bit dull, though.>
I don't think you're dull, but a docent-led tour conveys a lot about the building and the collections that one would not otherwise get.

<walking around on your own is just a walk thru an old DC neighborhood >
Well, yes, yestravel, that's true. Some people like that sort of thing. It appears you wanted shopping and were disappointed with what you found there. I can't disagree with you there. But warning others away from Georgetown for that reason alone is not valid unless you say "don't go for the shopping".
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 08:44 PM
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To each is own. I don't find Georgetown particularly interesting anymore and if one has limited time then there are other places that I would recommend. You apparently do find it interesting. The point of this board is to present one's suggestions and opinions and the OP can decide. BTW I live in DC, so your comment , " iT appears you wanted shopping" is off base. And thank you, but I don't need advice from you on how to respond to posts.
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Old Aug 4th, 2014, 09:30 PM
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No one is a fan of the Hirschhorn?
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 06:15 AM
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I went to the Hirshhorn once. I would not call myself a fan but I am sure others would call themselves fans.
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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I always liked the Hirshhorn esp the Sculpture Garden. Currently the top floor, I believe it is, is closed for renovations, but still plenty to see. Some summers it has had conceerts in the gardens, but dont think they are doing that now. For some reason it doesn't get mentioned much on this board and I tend to forget about it. There is so much to see in DC.
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 06:55 AM
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Thanks
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 07:16 AM
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1. If you want to visit the U.S. Capitol, you should arrange for a tour in advance of your visit. Likewise, you can get priority admission to the Archives which saves you any long waits outside, but I think you are too late to order those tickets. If you plan to visit the Holocaust Museum or go up to the top of the Washington Monument, you will also need advance passes. What you need to know about sites in D.C. that require or recommend advance passes can be found here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g2...e.Tickets.html

2. There are a few pay museums in D.C. that are worthwhile. I'm a big fan of the Newseum and the Crime and Punishment Museum is interesting and fun. The International Spy Museum gets a lot of press, but I do not think it's worth the time or money. Kids under age 18 are free in the summer (with a paying adult) at the Newseum and all tickets are good for 2 consecutive days. Plan to spend at least 4 - 6 hours here. If you go to the C&P Museum, allow 3 - 4 hours.

3. Definitely visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I think Arlington National Cemetery is a "must see" and the Changing of the Guard ceremony is extremely moving. The views of D.C. from Arlington House are fantastic.

4. The Shakespeare Theatre's "Free for All" performances of "A Winter's Tale" will be going on while you are here. Definitely worth checking out--http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/

5. With so much available time in D.C., you have plenty of time to spend a morning at Mount Vernon and an afternoon in Old Town Alexandria. I would definitely choose Old Town Alexandria over some of the other neighborhoods on your list.
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 08:10 AM
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If you want to get away from the crowds I highly recommend the Sackler and the Freer, which are the Asian art museums. I don't understand why they are so neglected, but I've never encountered more than a few people there, and I just visited on a day when the mall was as crowded as I've seen it aside from a march. Right now there are excellent exhibitions of Iranian and Chinese artifacts.

For lunches near the mall I like the American Indian musem or the Art Gallery. There's also a cafeteria on the top of the Madison building of the Library of Congress with good views but not of the mall. If you're going to Dupont Circle don't miss Kramerbooks and cafe - the best crab cakes ever and a great place to browse.

For a guidebook try the Unofficial Guide.
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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I love both the Sackler and the Freer, too! I reckon people get to them after they've seen the bigger, more famous museums, and of course most people, on their one-and-only trip, never do. It's too bad.

For museum lunch, I also agree with you, thursdaysd, that the American Indian museum and the National Gallery are the two best choices, the former for native american foods from all over the continent, and the latter for a good mix of standard options in an attractive setting.

I am a fan of Old Town Alexandria, but one must be realistic about the fact that it will take up the better part of one whole day. Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery, half day each. Plan accordingly.

<4. The Shakespeare Theatre's "Free for All" performances of "A Winter's Tale" will be going on while you are here. Definitely worth checking out--http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/>
Great information, longhorn!! I agree, definitely worth checking out.
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Old Aug 5th, 2014, 08:40 AM
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The management of the Hirshhorn has been a hot mess for years, much of it focused on the now departed director and his controversial & failed $15M project to install an inflatable blue bubble on the exterior of the building. Meanwhile the recession hit the Hirshhorn's operating budget (a major driver of the 3rd floor being "closed for renovations") and fundraising for acquisitions.

The East Wing of the National Gallery has eclipsed the Hirshhorn for a couple of decades. The re-emergence of the American Art Museum a few years back added insult to injury. Their core collections are smaller but much better. Their exhibitions are far superior.
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