Washington DC for a day

Old Oct 14th, 2021, 05:22 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,013
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Washington DC for a day

We will be driving from New England to the south the first week in November and are thinking of adding a day for Washington. We would plan to spend the night somewhere about a half hour or so north, drive into the city and try to park near the Mall, and drive an hour or so west for that night. We will be doing Skyline drive the following day.

So am looking for suggestions where to spend the first night (maybe Silver Springs?), where to park for the day (heard there is parking near the Lincoln Monument), and where to stay that night (probably don't want to go all the way to Front Royal but want to be at least out of the city).

Is it considerably more crowded on a Friday vs a Saturday? I assume driving out of the city on a Friday late afternoon will be worse than a Saturday but is 'rush hour' traffic heading west from DC as bad as say heading north from NYC?

We have not been to Washington in two decades so will probably just plan on walking the mall/monuments and popping into a few museums. Any other suggestions? We plan to be parked by about 9am and stay till whenever.

Thanks

isabel is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2021, 08:33 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 11,208
Likes: 0
Received 17 Likes on 4 Posts
The last time my DW and I made a day trip into Washington DC, We stayed overnight in an Extended Stay in Columbia MD and then parked at the huge commuter parking lot at the Greenbelt MD. Greenbelt is at the end of the "Green" Metro line. There is a big Metro station below Washington Union station which is within walking distance of the capitol building and the mall. Several of the Smithsonian building are along the mall.
Don't even think about trying to find a parking spot in Washington DC. You will spend a lot of time that you could be visiting the stuff you really want to see.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2021, 05:37 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,013
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the reply Tom. As a Fodor's regular I know you love all things train, and in many cases I actually agree with you. But not this time. We are arriving from the north and leaving to the west and don't want to waste time taking the metro back north and then then have an even further drive out of the city. Plus, in the cities I am most familiar with (NY and Boston) it's actually HARDER to find a space in a commuter train lot than to find on street or garage parking in the city center.

So my questions remain, especially - does it make a difference between Friday and Saturday. I've read conflicting info. Some say less traffic on a Saturday due to less workers commuting. Other's say that the museums and the Mall are MORE crowded on a Saturday. Opinions on that?

We can be in the center looking for parking by 8 - is that early enough?
isabel is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2021, 05:53 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8,733
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
Have you thought about staying in Rosslyn, VA for the night, leaving the car there, and taking the Metro into DC? This puts you west of the city for your drive to Front Royal, yet you avoid some of the rush hour traffic. Rosslyn is just across the Key Bridge from Georgetown.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Old Oct 14th, 2021, 08:40 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,767
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Second Fra D's Rosslyn suggestion. There are hotels within an easy walk to the Metro (Marriott, Holiday Inn, etc) where you can park and take a short Metro ride into the District. Next day get up, enjoy breakfast and head out...
Crystal City would be another close in option, but IMO not as easy as Rosslyn.

As to Friday vs Saturday, not sure it makes a huge difference. If you are hitting the road in the AM you will be going against any commuter traffic which is definitely still reduced by COVID related remote working schemes. I'd probably go with strolling the Mall on Friday.
Seamus is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2021, 09:14 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 21,220
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wouldn't parking at a commuter lot be easy on a Saturday?

I would think it would be easier than trying to find parking in the City, and wasting time walking from wherever you can find it to the sights you wanted to see?

But pick a line with no or easy transfers. So the Red Line would be good.
mlgb is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2021, 11:31 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 26,370
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Before the pandemic and Jan. 6, parking was free at the base of the Capitol by the Botanical Gardens on weekends. Also, there was a Holiday Inn (with parking.. not free) near the Natl. Mall. Silver Spring to D.C. would be an ok drive early weekend. Please share what you end up doing.
TDudette is online now  
Old Oct 16th, 2021, 12:08 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 11,208
Likes: 0
Received 17 Likes on 4 Posts
Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Thanks for the reply Tom. As a Fodor's regular I know you love all things train, and in many cases I actually agree with you. But not this time. We are arriving from the north and leaving to the west and don't want to waste time taking the metro back north and then then have an even further drive out of the city. Plus, in the cities I am most familiar with (NY and Boston) it's actually HARDER to find a space in a commuter train lot than to find on street or garage parking in the city center.

So my questions remain, especially - does it make a difference between Friday and Saturday. I've read conflicting info. Some say less traffic on a Saturday due to less workers commuting. Other's say that the museums and the Mall are MORE crowded on a Saturday. Opinions on that?

We can be in the center looking for parking by 8 - is that early enough?
The time that my DW and I went into the city from Greenbelt was on a Saturday. The lot was less than 10% full. Since you are going onward, you might want to use the orange line from Falls Church.
If you are lucky enough to find parking inside the District you will probably end up taking the metro at some point unless you want to do a lot of walking. The last time I remember parking in DC, my DD found a limited time spot while I went into Union Station to pick up a lost laptop that I left on the Empire Builder west of Chicago. She sat in her car while I went to make the pickup. At that time my DD and SIL were living in Columbia MD.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2021, 01:43 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,178
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Thanks for the reply Tom. As a Fodor's regular I know you love all things train, and in many cases I actually agree with you. But not this time. We are arriving from the north and leaving to the west and don't want to waste time taking the metro back north and then then have an even further drive out of the city. Plus, in the cities I am most familiar with (NY and Boston) it's actually HARDER to find a space in a commuter train lot than to find on street or garage parking in the city center.

So my questions remain, especially - does it make a difference between Friday and Saturday. I've read conflicting info. Some say less traffic on a Saturday due to less workers commuting. Other's say that the museums and the Mall are MORE crowded on a Saturday. Opinions on that?

We can be in the center looking for parking by 8 - is that early enough?
If I understand correctly, you want to leave DC headed west from your parking spot after touring the mall during the day?

First,parking along the mall: There is metered street parking around the National Mall and along Ohio Drive (just south of the National Mall) which is 2-3 hours max. If that fits your plan, you'll be golden at 8am on either Fri or Sat. There is some free, unlimited time parking on Ohio Drive in East Potomac Park, but it is a 1.5 mile walk or more from there to monuments & museums. If you plan to be around for more than a few hours, you should check into garage parking. Otherwise you'll be hiking back to you car to circle the streets with everyone else looking for a spot.

Traffic Friday vs. Saturday. There will be more traffic in the city on Friday than Saturday but not so much so that it would deter me from Friday. You sound like a seasoned city driver. You are correct that westward bound traffic out of DC will be heavier Friday afternoon than Saturday. Work from home has kept commuter traffic "lighter" but that is a relative term. DC traffic is back, no question.


Crowds Friday vs. Saturday. Definitely busier Saturday unless it's a holiday weekend. It won't make that much difference outside and around the monuments, but it might matter to you depending on which museums you want to visit.

FWIW, DC still has a mask mandate for indoors and masks are required indoors for all federal buildings.

A place to stay between DC and Front Royal. I am curious though why you aren't going all the way to Front Royal when you leave DC? At any rate, I would be inclined to stay further west of the city for both nights, Arlington, Falls Church or even Vienna/Oakton rather than Silver Spring. But I don't know what your day 1 driving is like.

Last edited by obxgirl; Oct 17th, 2021 at 01:48 PM.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Oct 18th, 2021, 05:32 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,013
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, good info.
We are coming from Massachusetts so the first day will be a long driving day so we are probably going to spend that night in College Park. We looked into hotels near metro stops (north, south and west) but most of them either didn't have parking or charged $20+ for it, and couldn't guarantee it, and between taking the metro in and back out I think we wouldn't be saving any time. (And we made that decision before the DC metro made the news this morning). We did decide to drive all the way to Front Royal the next night.

So our main decision still to make is where to park. It does look like the 'free all day' parking on Ohio Drive is quite a hike from where we want to go. So we are thinking the Union Station parking garage looks good. I'm hoping that if we leave the hotel by 7:30 the traffic there and the parking situation will be OK.
isabel is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2021, 02:10 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,178
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
You can pre-book parking at Union Station using Parking Panda or Spot Hero (probably other apps too) so availabilty won't be problem. Honestly I don't think, in general, garage parking anywhere will be an issue in the same way street parking is always a hassle.

I might suggest you look at a map and track the walking distances from Union Station to the places you want to see most. If it's the museums that are at the east end of the National Mall, you'll be fine but if you are interested in the monuments that surround the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool it's worth noting that the eastern most of them, the Washington Monument, is a 2 mile walk from Union Station. There are other garages that might be more convenient for you.

Hope that is helpful info.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Oct 19th, 2021, 11:28 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 34,260
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think Union Station is a bad idea given how far it is from things you want to see. I'm not sure your plan on that, you can't walk to those things from there--well, you can but most people would not want to walk that far.

No hotel in a big, expensive city will give you free parking. I don't think parking is even free in hotels in most of the close-in burbs. It's cheaper in Silver Spring, though (no s on end of that name) if you park in a county parking garage where it's only about $10 a day. But even the hotels there can charge up to $25 or so (like the Doubletree). The Ctyd by Marriott is connected to a county parking garage, so that would work cheaply. You can park there overnight. It can be more expensive in some of the Crystal City and Arlington hotels, I think. It's easy to find parking in the SS metro lot.

Silver Spring isn't a bad idea as it's not too far to the Mall from there and I guess you are coming from the north. And there are a couple hotels in the center not far from some restaurants and stuff. I don't like College Park at all, I think it's a really ugly town/strip mall so wouldn't stay there. You could stay in Bethesda, also, not sure your driving route. But there are several good hotels around its metro station area also (even if you don't take metro). I don't think any of these hotels even give you free parking, that is just not common in a city. But the area named "Silver SPring" can extend far out into the county, not just in the city center, so not sure where you mean. If you are out of the city, I suppose you might find free parking.

I don't know where you are looking at in Silver Spring, but there are a couple of rather dicey cheap hotels there in a bad area which I would not book (like the HI Express or the one near it, Days Inn). That HI used to be some flop house with a lot of crime in it, it's still a bad area. They charge $20 for parking, anyway, which is a joke. The problem is it's too far from any cheap parking garage or the metro. I think the Sheraton closed, the Doubletree and that area is ok, and the Ctyd by Marriott.

If you want to park somewhere for many hours during the day down in DC, yeah, you can't do it around the Mall even if you can find a space. If you prebook on a parking website, there are several reasonable garages, but the most convenient is the RR Trade Center garage near the White House, I think it's about $25 for up to 15 hours, which is about the same as Union Stn anyway. That's a Federal bldg so your car will be searched upon entry for explosives, firearms, etc.
https://rrbitc.com/parking/

The garage near the old Newseum isn't bad in cost, in fact, many Colonial garages are only around $25 a day normallyt. They are more like $15 for early bird parking. The one at D St NW and 7th St is pretty convenient, near the Archives.
https://www.ecolonial.com/park-with-...ashington%20dc

Christina is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2021, 12:17 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,790
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Thanks, good info.
We are coming from Massachusetts so the first day will be a long driving day so we are probably going to spend that night in College Park. We looked into hotels near metro stops (north, south and west) but most of them either didn't have parking or charged $20+ for it, and couldn't guarantee it, and between taking the metro in and back out I think we wouldn't be saving any time. (And we made that decision before the DC metro made the news this morning). We did decide to drive all the way to Front Royal the next night.

So our main decision still to make is where to park. It does look like the 'free all day' parking on Ohio Drive is quite a hike from where we want to go. So we are thinking the Union Station parking garage looks good. I'm hoping that if we leave the hotel by 7:30 the traffic there and the parking situation will be OK.
We're back in D.C. after a blissful near-decade away; and with that intro I'll share my impressions.
1. Since you're heading to Front Royal the following day anyway, it might be more efficient to stay in Arlington or Falls Church. I'd pass on College Park, too. If you decide to stay in Northern Virginia, keep in mind the HOV rules for the weekdays (M-F) on I-66.
2. Don't park along Ohio Drive. On two recent nice-weather weekend days we've tried to park as early as 0700 (with our bicycles) only to be thwarted and having to park at Teddy Roosevelt Island. Plus, the roads in that area become reversible on weekdays to accommodate inbound traffic, and you might find yourself heading somewhere unexpectedly.
3. Since you only have one day, and presumably you want to see the Mall and the Smithsonians (only the National Museum of African-American history and Culture is requiring timed-entry tickets), park somewhere centrally-located and avoid the hassle of Metro. In the long run you may spend a little more but will not be tied to Metro's awful service.
4. Plan to wear your mask indoors, unless you identify as Mayor Bowser, President Biden, or any other notable who openly flaunts the rules.
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2021, 02:44 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,013
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We booked a reservation at the Holiday Inn College Park. It gets quite good reviews on booking.com and has free parking. I don't care that College Park is an unattractive town as we are literally just sleeping there the one night. Probably will even have dinner before we get there and will head out by 7:30 in the morning. But if anyone has any info about that hotel being unsafe or unclean I'd appreciate that info. We cancel the reservation till the day before.

Other than distance is there anything wrong with parking at Union Station? We want to see the capitol building and the supreme court building and a few of the museums along the mall. That looks to be about 2 miles (each way) from Union Station. Including Washington Monument it would be about 3 miles. That's walking distance for us. But I will look into the others mentioned as well. (Originally was looking at Ohio Drive but decided that was too far).

Thanks for the info on I-66 - There will be two of us so according to what I could find by googling it, we will be OK in HOV2 lanes anytime. I assume it is easy enough to avoid HOV3 lanes if we pay attention. Anything else I need to know? I just googled Union Station to Front Royal - this is about the time of day we will likely be driving it - and even with a considerable amount of "red" it still says only 1 1/2 hours. Sound right? I checked with Massachusetts Easy Pass and it says it can be used in Virginia so hopefully we are good with any tolls we hit.
isabel is offline  
Old Oct 20th, 2021, 05:46 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 18,595
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I always take the metro in so can't help with parking information.
The DC Ciculator buses leave from Union station and could be a good way to ride one way to the end of the mall or back. I last .used the system in february 2020 so don't have current information

im curious as to why you want to see the Supreme court. IMO there isn't much to see

the Smithsonian has some nice garden areas as you walk along the mall
https://gardens.si.edu/smithsonian-gardens-map/
Vttraveler is online now  
Old Oct 20th, 2021, 05:49 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,790
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
There's nothing wrong with parking at Union Station since you're planning to walk everywhere; though, perhaps map out your walking route to include a more centrally located parking garage in the event the weather is inclement.

You'll be traveling westbound from College Park in the morning so there will be no HOV restrictions on I-66. I-66 outside the Beltway is rather dystopian right now with all of the construction; just be aware. The Outer Loop of I-495 will have its usual slowdowns and perhaps an accident or two, just standard stuff.

En route to Front Royal, should your tummies start to rumble, there's Gainesville Diner, Marshall Diner, and Plains Market (also a gas station).
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2021, 09:31 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 26,232
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are in DC now. There is no problem finding ( metered) street parking near the mall during the day. Itís still relatively devoid of visitors. We were in the National Gallery of Art this week, with maybe 25 or 30 other people.
sf7307 is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2021, 03:21 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,178
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Other than distance is there anything wrong with parking at Union Station? We want to see the capitol building and the supreme court building and a few of the museums along the mall. That looks to be about 2 miles (each way) from Union Station. Including Washington Monument it would be about 3 miles. That's walking distance for us. But I will look into the others mentioned as well. (Originally was looking at Ohio Drive but decided that was too far).
No, if the things you want to visit are on the eastern end of the National Mall, you're in good shape for walking distances.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Oct 22nd, 2021, 03:26 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,178
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
Originally Posted by fourfortravel View Post
4. Plan to wear your mask indoors, unless you identify as Mayor Bowser, President Biden, or any other notable who openly flaunts the rules.
No need to politicize it. Come on.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Oct 22nd, 2021, 06:19 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 8,733
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
Originally Posted by obxgirl View Post
No need to politicize it. Come on.
It's the politicizing that has deepened and prolonged the crisis. They'll never learn.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:34 PM.