DC Vacation Advice Needed!


The Pink Orchid
I have always wanted to go on an American History trip and I am finally getting to in November! I am so confused and know nothing about the area, how to get around, where to stay etc...

We want to see-

The White House (We already contacted our Congressman)
The Smithsonian
National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and all those types of things.
We also would love to go to New York for a day and were told that "its so easy just take the train in" but being from Southern California where we kinda don't really do public transportation, we are clueless.

If anyone can help or offer advice, I would really appreciate it!
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Hi Elf. I grew up there. :) I'll think of things along the way, but if you are doing the standard Museums and Memorials, staying in town would be useful (maybe Georgetown, if you are in to the Yuppie vibe) or Alexandria for more history and boutique stores & restaurants (Ireland's Own is great fun for drinking with friends). I would stay in Alexandria or Ballston if I was going, but I have kids. There is also "National Harbor" which is in Maryland, across the river. That is a new area and I don't know if the Metro station is open there yet. Nice place for shopping, staying, eating. If I were planning such a trip, I would stay near a metro stop (http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm). Near the Airport is reasonable as well (quick Metro access is a must for a DC trip). I prefer not to stay in town... but that's me. There is a hotel in Ballston that is right above a metro stop - Can't beat that for convenience (and frankly, safety).

When you tour the WhiteHouse, down the street is the Elephant & Castle. GREAT food and terrific beer selection (when I was there a few years ago). It is on PA ave right near the Old Post Office Pavilion. (Old Post is great for history & Architecture, but the stores inside weren't worth while)

Archives is awe-inspiring and nearly brought my history buff kid to tears that THIS was the ACTUAL Declaration of Independence. We love Thomas Jefferson and were in his house when it snowed - also a tear inspiring moment. There is a sculpture garden between Archives and the Mall that is a lovely spot to enjoy & people watch. I would think the Capitol is a MUST do. For the whisper walk in the dome if nothing else. :) You'll see people trying it. If you stand in a spot under the dome, the acoustics are such that if someone is standing a particular distance away, they can hear you whisper to the person beside you. :) Great fun. If you have the time to arrange it, find out when the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team is performing or one of the Service bands. Sometimes there are free concerts on the Capitol steps. The Drill Team would perform at the Barracks. mesmerizing.

Union Station is down near ChinaTown and you can hop a train there to NYC. Amtrak.com would show you schedules & fares. Commuter trains to NYC are common and a commuter flight wouldn't be expensive either - last I checked they were about the same price. You end up in the air for 45 min.

I'm sure I'll come up with other things. Come sit in my living room and I'll spew all sorts of information at you. :) Growing up there, we ended up resenting when we had to go into town AGAIN. Now I realize how cool it was to be around all that gorgeous architecture and history.
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I already thought of something else.

Alexandria has the US Patent Office and the building is GORGEOUS. I like the symmetry. :) There are also a lot of historic houses, inns, etc. in Alexandria. It was the first "suburb" of DC.

Mt. Vernon (George Washington's home) isn't far. My husband actually lived on GW land for a while :) and if you like architecture, the Pope Lehey (SP?) house is a Frank Lloyd Wright, and driving distance from Mt. Vernon. The estate was GW's gift to his daughter and son-in-law; obviously the FLW house was built later. If you aren't going to have a car, that's out of the question - I don't think public transport goes all the way out there. About 2-ish hours south is Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. That's my neck of the woods.

Also - there is the whole Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown thing ... driving distance, like 2-3 hours from DC... if you wanted to plan a whirl-wind tour of U.S. History, Jamestown would be awesome. W'burg is a fun place to visit, but eh? There is so much Civil War stuff around here that I try to ignore it, but there is that too. :)

ok, I have to get to work so I won't post any more this morning. (I doubt I'll be able to stick to that, but I'll try) :)
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The Pink Orchid
Oh!!!! Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!! My poor husband. I just became so overwhelmed with it all last night I was almost in tears. I'm a planner to the core and not having my ducks in a row really throws my whole brain off big time!! I found a neat hotel near Mt Vernon and now with what you said, I'm gonna book it!!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you again!! And please!!! Keep it coming!!!


The Pink Orchid
We decided not to do New York, we are going to do a day in Philadelphia instead! Can be that close to Independence hall and not go!
Elf - I just PM'd you my email addy. Let's go over what you want to do to maximize your experience... I don't know if staying near Mt. Vernon is a good idea - depends on what you are looking for. :)

I totally agree with Philly! Go see Ben's house and grave. Take a brand new nickel to pay respects. Please let me help you work this out. I'd love to lift the itinerary to take my kids on a trip :) ... for me, travel is all about FOOD, so we'll find you some tasty stops along the way.