Author Topic: Washington DC - when to visit?  (Read 1953 times)

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CLE_Girl

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Washington DC - when to visit?
« on: November 26, 2012, 11:01:48 AM »
Any one from DC or visited DC want to comment on when to plan a vacation there? 

I've done some research online and as far as I can tell Spring(March-June) and Fall(sept-oct) are peak season because the weather is nicest.  But is the summer that bad?  Is the cherry blossom festivel worth it?  Is it worth staying in DC proper?  Am I correct in assuming hotels are cheaper in VA or MD? 

DH and I are looking to take our first "vacation" (really just a mini-break 4 days) in 3 years.  Since we live in Cleveland, we're about an 8 hour drive from a bunch of places. 

Any comments to help me figure out when to go and where to stay would be helpful!

Sharnita

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 11:12:42 AM »
Driving in or around DC can be a nightmare.  I would fly in and take the metro.  It is clean and really easy to figure out.  It can get really hot in the summer but it isn't nice enough in the winter to count on being able to do the walking you'd probably want to do and be comfortable.

I think the Holocaust Memorial Museum is a must, the Lincoln Memorial, Korean and Vietnam Memorials.  The Second World War Memorial is nice and there is a new FDR Memorial. There are lots of great free museums - it depends on your interests.

CLE_Girl

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2012, 11:20:40 AM »
Driving in or around DC can be a nightmare.  I would fly in and take the metro.  It is clean and really easy to figure out.  It can get really hot in the summer but it isn't nice enough in the winter to count on being able to do the walking you'd probably want to do and be comfortable.

I think the Holocaust Memorial Museum is a must, the Lincoln Memorial, Korean and Vietnam Memorials.  The Second World War Memorial is nice and there is a new FDR Memorial. There are lots of great free museums - it depends on your interests.

Not planning on doing any driving except to DC and back to CLE.  Will leave the car parked during the vacation. 

magicdomino

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 11:25:34 AM »
Washington DC in the summer:  How do you feel about hot and humid?  If you were born and raised in Houston or New Orleans, it won't be that bad.  If the thought of walking outside into the breath of a giant dog makes you wilt, you won't like it.  Keep in mind that the memorials and the various Smithsonian museums will require quite a bit of walking outside.  So even if we don't have record highs in June and July again, it won't be fun.  If you must do summer, try late August.  Average highs are still in the 90's, but tend to be lower than July, plus most of the school tours are gone. 

Speaking of school tours, mid-May through the end of June is wall to wall tour groups, something to take into account if your plans include the Hope diamond or the Air and Space Museum.  September has almost none. 

Spring and fall are absolutely beautiful here, and spring is by far my favorite season.  Weather is always a roll of the dice, though.

Cherry blossoms:  Well, I think they are worth taking a sunny afternoon off work to admire.  :)  Cherry blossom time is the most expensive season, but if you can swing the costs, go for it.  The best time to see them?  Early evening, especially if the moon is near full.  Now part of their beauty is that cherry blossoms are fragile; they can be wiped out by a spring storm.  But there are plenty of other things to admire, plus the parade and various events.  In fact, there will be blooming things all over the place in April and May.

Yes, you can save some money by staying in the suburbs if your hotel is near the Metro.  I recommend Crystal City or Rosslyn, but I'm sure there are good places in Silver Spring and Bethesda.  Whatever you do, do not plan on driving downtown.  It's frustrating enough for us locals.

By the way, the best place to eat on the Mall is the cafeteria in the Museum of the American Indian.   :)

CLE_Girl

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2012, 11:50:05 AM »
Thanks MagicDomino!  Air and Space Museum is high on our list, so I will keep school tours in mind.  Crystal City is a great recomendation!  And the DC metro website is SOOOOO good!

Okay...so maybe instead of mid-june annivarsary trip, we'll do mid/late april for my bday.

readingchick

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2012, 12:36:07 PM »
Stay at the Hotel Harrington. It's near Ford's Theatre and Peterson House, very affordable and within walking distance of almost everything in Washington DC. The Twilight Tourmobile is good too; I think you can start the tour at Union Station but they might have changed that and the only downside is that it gets dark when you get to the FDR memorial.

I second Sharnita's recommendation of the Holocaust Memorial Museum and would like to add the Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History to your list of places to see.

Shopaholic

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2012, 01:16:31 PM »
I definitely second the Air & Space - I can spend a whole day there!
If you have a car, I also recommend driving out to the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport.
I wouldn't do both if you'r not big aurospace geeks (like me :)), but look up the exhibitions online and see what suits you more.


Two Ravens

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 01:41:30 PM »
I would reccomend going in the fall as well. The weather is much better.

I also second staying in Crystal City or Rosslyn. If you stay in Rosslyn and are a burger fan, check out Ray's Hellburger. A favorite of our current President, I am told.

The Spy Museum is a bit pricy, but fun. I have also heard good things about the Newseum.

If you are looking for something a (very little) bit off the beaten track, the George Washington Masonic Memorial is worth seeing. It is in Alexandria, but right off the Metro stop.

readingchick

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 02:12:53 PM »
Oh, btw, try to be there at the same time as the National Capitol Barbeque Battle if they're still doing that. The smells, oh the smells.....

Mikayla

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 04:43:00 PM »
A lot of this is personal bias, but I actually prefer DC in the fall.  Spring gets second vote.  But what I love most about the fall is side trips.  For example, you can easily get in your car and do Skyline Drive (Shanendaoh Mts) in less than a day, and it's breathtaking. 

I also think VA is the place to stay.  Crystal City and Rosslyn/North Arlington are excellent if you plan to spend all your time in the city.  But you're also well positioned if you want to hit nearby fun stuff, like Old Town in Alexandria.   This is a fun venture.  It's just a series of little shops and restaurants, and you're basically heading east/south until you hit the Potomac.  Then you turn around and do the other side!  It's funky and fun.

Back in the District, definitely Air and Space.  Make sure you save time for the IMAX films, whatever they're showing.  And I, too, loved the Holocaust Museum, but it's not for everyone.  It's depressing, but fascinating at the same time. Another place that can get overlooked is the National Cathedral.  I'd lived there about 10 years before I saw it when my stepmom came to town.  This isn't the type of thing I normally seek out, but I loved this tour. 

One other idea.  Make the Capitol/Congressional buildings one of your first stops, and visit your Congressperson and Senator.  They always have a lot of good, current tourist info.  Also, if you're interested in touring the White House, as soon as you know the dates of your trip, write or call both Senator and Congressperson.  These tours are only available if you have tickets and you get them this way. 

The one other item I can add is that DC and close in metro is a lot smaller than most visitors are anticipating.  The Pentagon in Northern VA, for example, is about 5-10 minutes by car from the White House.  Well, except for rush hour. 

katycoo

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2012, 06:21:01 PM »
Stay at the Hotel Harrington. It's near Ford's Theatre and Peterson House, very affordable and within walking distance of almost everything in Washington DC.

Seconded.  I stayed here and it was great.  That was in October this year.  It was cold, but fine if you have a good coat/scarf/hat/gloves etc.  Metro is very easy to use.

Spy Museum was excellent, and totally worth the money.
Holocaust Museum takes a long time.  We spent 2 hours in there and only got through 1 floor, and unfortunately weer not able to find time to return, so plan accordingly.
I really enjoyed the tour of the Capitol.  If you want to got into the Senate and House of Reps you'll need to arrange access from a Congressperson or Senator in advance.
The National Basilica is a bit out of the way, but so stunning its worth the trip.
I preferred the American History Museum in the Smithsonian over the others I visted (Air & Space, Natural History). But then, I'm not overly fond of hoards of children.
If you walk around all the monuments and memorials it makes for a lovely day in the prettiest part of town.

PastryGoddess

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2012, 06:28:59 PM »
I recommend DC in the fall as well.  there will be a lot less tourists and student groups.  The weather is a bit better as well. 

If you can swing it, I would recommend staying as close to Pennsylvania Ave as possible.  I would say anywhere from 6th - 14th street would be good.  Chinatown's main drag is on 7th between Penn Ave and Eye (I) St and there are a ton of places to eat. Gallery Place is the main Metro station there and is the meeting point for 3 metro lines (Red,Green, Yellow)  Penn Quarter which runs from 8th-11st between Penn and Eye or so.  Metro Center is another good place to stay. Metro Center goes from around 11-14th street between E and NY Ave. There are a lot of hotels there.  You are a bit further away from the Smithsonian, but it's a nice walk downhill to the Smithsonian museums.  If you are tired, you can always catch a bus uphill :)  Metro Center is also nice because you can walk over to Farragut Square from there if you want, or you can also catch the metro. 3 lines also meet here as well (Red, Blue, Orange)  You can hop the blue line to Arlington Cemetary. The hotel harrington is here.

If you want to save some money, you can stay in MD.  I wouldn't go any further than Bethesda or Silver Spring.  Bethesda is nice because it is very walkable and there are over 100 restaurants in the downtown core.  However, it can take up to 30 min to get in and out of the city and the metro will be jammed.  Silver Spring has a very cool downtown, and while they don't have as many restaurants as Bethesda it's still nice and easy to get to.  Again expect to take about 30 min to get in and out of downtown.

If you're staying over the weekend, beware of staying in NoVa.  Metro does track work every single weekend and the blue and orange lines suffer for it.

I second eating at the Mitsitam Cafe at the American Indian Museum.  Also the dining room at the Dept of Agriculture is fantastic as well. 
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Yvaine

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2012, 06:42:50 PM »
Washington DC in the summer:  How do you feel about hot and humid?  If you were born and raised in Houston or New Orleans, it won't be that bad.  If the thought of walking outside into the breath of a giant dog makes you wilt, you won't like it. 

Yeah, this. I was there in late May and early June and it was a nightmare of heat and humidity, and I get the idea that it might have started a little early that year but that the temps were not unusual for a summer there. The best day of the trip was the last day, when it finally thunderstormed and the heat broke.

siamesecat2965

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2012, 03:36:43 PM »
  If the thought of walking outside into the breath of a giant dog makes you wilt, you won't like it.   

HA - this made me laugh out loud!

A few years back, I stayed in Bethesda, I think at the Marriot Residence Inn. Just a few blocks from the Metro, so very convenient.  Just be aware too, you WILL pay for parking no matter where you stay as anywhere in the MD/DC/VA area its at a premium. I know when we went, they valet parked the car, and we didnt' see it again until we left. we took the Metro in and out and all around for 2+ days, and it was fabulous.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Washington DC - when to visit?
« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2012, 07:29:07 PM »
DC is my DDs favorite city.  We went the first week of June one year and the heat wave that greated us definately impacted our visit some, even for us Houstonians.  In Houston we don't walk a mile visiting the museums. We were there last July for 4th and the weather was much more bearable.  The evenings were very nice.  Our October visit was very nice too.