A Travel Agent’s Tips for Traveling to Washington D.C.

Written by Jean Southwick.

Security Enhancements- be prepared to go thru metal detectors and airport like security at all Museums, Capitol and other buildings.

Do some research online to find out if there are any special events during the time of your visit. Also, confirm operating hours or closing of different sights. You will be able to plan your visit productively if you know of any special exhibits. When you enter most museums and building always go to the information counter as many times there are free tours available. Check Theatre and Event listings for Ford’s Theatre and the Kennedy Center.

My advice is to get a good map and plot out your visit to make the best use of your time. Become familiar of the lay of the land. The National Mall is not a shopping center; it is a green park area with reflecting pools and monuments extending almost two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

Transportation is mostly by foot. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Public transportation is very good via the Metro, public bus, The Circulator and BikeShare. Some people like to purchase tickets for the Tour Mobile, (hop on and off). Taxis are easy to find. Most areas are handicap accessible.

Many of the attractions are free entrance (your tax dollars at work) but expect to pay for any IMAX or 3D presentations. The Spy Museum and Newseum will charge an entry fee.

www.dccirculator.com (red bus)
http://www.wmata.com (metro)
www.nps.gov (National Park System)
www.si.edu (Smithsonian Museums)
www.arlingtoncemetery.org (Arlington Cemetery)

Items below are not alphabetical but rather organized somewhat by location, beginning from Union Station on the East to the Lincoln Memorial on the West. Followed by additional attractions not in any particular order.

Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave. Nearly 100 years old with a beautiful Great Hall. Check out the architecture. Very nice shops and fine dining as well as fast food court in lower level.

U.S. Capitol and Capitol Visitors Center, Capitol Hill. Enter Visitors Center from the east side of Capitol. Even if you only see the Visitors Center it is worth the visit. The Capitol Tour includes ear phones with docent led tour beginning in the Rotunda. Try to obtain ticket from your Congressman prior to departure or go online; otherwise stand in line upon arrival. Gallery passes of the House and Senate will need to be obtained from the office of your Senator or Representative.

Supreme Court Building – First St & Maryland Ave NE. East of the Capitol and next to Library of Congress. Free lectures when court is not in session.

Library of Congress – 101 First St. SE. Next to the Supreme Court Building. Enter on the west side, ground level. A must see. Beautiful architecture and changing exhibits. Guided tours.

Botanical Gardens – At 1st and Maryland SW, immediately Southwest of the Capitol  Beautiful, tropical and nice respite in bad weather.

National Museum of the American Indian – 4th St & Independence Ave. Western hemisphere native communities. Great art. Good introductory film. Restaurant.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum – 6th St & Independence Ave SW. More visitors per year than the Louvre. Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo 11 lunar command module. IMAX movies, Planetarium and flight simulator. Restaurant.

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden – located on the National Mall between Third and Ninth Streets at Constitution Avenue, NW. Collection of European and American Paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, works on paper, plus changing exhibitions of art from around the world. Check online for special exhibits. Fantastic Building. Restaurant.

Newseum – 555 Pennsylvania Ave. Admission fee. Nick loved this. Tells the story of news and importance of a free press.

National Archives – Constitution Ave. Between 7th and 9th. Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights.

FBI Building – 935 Pennsylvania NW. Closed to visitors.

Ford’s Theatre – 511 10th St NW. Where Lincoln was shot. A working theatre. Small museum in basement. Peterson House, across the street where Lincoln died.

Spy Museum – Admission fee. Cold war and James Bondish type of stuff.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY – Constitution at 10th St NW. Hope Diamond, Ocean hall, dinosaurs, insects, world’s largets African bush elephant. IMAX. NMNH Highlights Tours. Free weekday highlights tours, inquire at the information desk. Entrance on both Constitution Ave and Madison Dr. NW. Restaurant.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY – 14th & Constitution Ave NW. The flag that inspired The Star-Spangled Banner (in the Conservation Lab), first ladies inaugural gowns, quilts, cars & locomotives. Ruby Slippers. Julia Child’s Kitchen. Museum entrances on both Constitution and Museum Dr. Restaurant.

Old Post Office Pavilion – 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Former Post Office. Free elevator to the top of clock tower where you can get a good view of the city. Food court, shops.

Arts & Industries Building – 900 Jefferson Dr SW The Last I heard this was closed for renovation. It used to house changing exhibitions.

Smithsonian Institution Information Center in the Castle – 1000 Jefferson Dr SW. Known as the Castle, the oldest of the 14 Smithsonian museums in Washington houses the crypt of founder James Smithson, and an orientation theater.

White House – 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The South View is from the Elipse directly north of the Washington Monument. The North View if from Lafayette Park. White House Tours must be arranged prior to arrival with a Member of Congress.

White House Visitors Center – 1450 Pennsylvania NW. Lots of good stuff here.

Washington Monument – 15th St and Constitution. Same day tickets (for the elevator) available beginning at 8:30 am or call ahead 800-967-2283.

WW II Memorial – West of the Washington monument. Can look up names of veterans in computer on the south side.

Bureau of Engraving & Printing , U.S. Treasury Dept. – 14th & C Sts SW. See currency printed on self guided 35 mins. tour.

Holocaust Memorial Museum – 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl., near the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Allow several hours or just ask to see Daniels Story.

Jefferson Memorial – Tidal Basin South End. Park Ranger 8am-midnight.

FDR Memorial – Ohio Dr. Tidal Basin and the Potomac River. The West Basin Drive is temporarily closed. Be sure to find out if sidewalks are still open before heading out.

Korean War Memorial – Independence Ave at the Lincoln Memorial.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial /Wall – At the Lincoln Memorial. Park ranger on site 8am – midnight. There are also name directories positioned at the beginning to locate names on wall.

Lincoln Memorial – Independence Ave and 23rd St. NW. This is a must. You can not go to DC without walking up the steps to see the 19foot marble statue of Lincoln. Park ranger on site 8am-midnight.

Marine Corps Memorial Iwo Jima Statue – Route 50 near Arlington National Cemetery. Not easy to get to without a car or being on a tour. Very impressive.

Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington VA., This is a must. Stop in at the Visitors Center at the entrance before entering. Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown takes place every hour on the hour Oct 1- March 31; every ½ hour during the rest of the year. Graves of  Pres. J. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, Joe Louis. Arlington House on the top of the hill was the home of Robert E Lee.

Washington National Cathedral – 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, north of the Vice Presidents Residence (grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory). Gothic. 2nd largest Cathedral in the U.S. Darth Vader Gargoyle, moon rock in stained glass window. Episcopal. Beautiful stained glass windows. Take tour including the crypt.

Georgetown – Unique shops and eateries. Dean and DeLucas Gormet Food. Rent kayaks, canoes and bikes at the Georgetown Waterfront and Harbor. This is the beginning of the C&O Canal, it goes north 103 miles to Cumberland MD. Bike or walk the path along the canal. See a reenactment of how the mules pulled the boats. Take the metro to Foggy Bottom and walk about 10 minutes, or the Circulator to Georgetown.

Mt. Vernon – 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, VA. Home of George Washington. 15 miles south of Washington DC.

Washington DC Zoo – 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Pentagon – Tours only available to select groups by reservation only. 703-697-1776.

Air Force Memorial – near the Pentagon. You can usually see these 3 jet trails from the Mall area.

For Art Lovers – look into visiting many other galleries. Corcoran Gallery, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur Sackler Gallery, Hirshorn Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Aquarium – A big disappointment last time I visited the aquarium.

Great Falls National Park – Hiking Trails – within 30 minutes of the city.

Hip & Happening Places – Washington DC is a young people’s city. Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights.

Places to Eat near the Mall – Old Ebbitts Grill (fine dining), Food Court at the Ronald Reagan Bldg and International Affairs on 14th St., Restaurantes at the Natural History, American History, Art Gallery, Air & Space, and American Indian Museums.

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