Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 - Washington Summary

Duration: 4 days (left on Thursday early morning, returned on Sunday evening)
Distance Traveled: 1665km round-trip (794km each way) the difference is getting to Hershey's Chocolate World and back to Toronto
Cost: $1248 for AirBnB, $38 in tolls (you can avoid a majority of this), $162 in gas, $388 for minivan rental, making for $306 CAD per person.

Highlights

All the Memorials, Washington Monument, and The White House are well worth seeing. It is a pity that there are so many tourists, but as a tourist myself, I guess I shouldn't be complaining. Everything is very centrally located in the surrounding area of the National Mall, and that design makes Washington a seemingly great city to walk around and if you like, they do have a great bike rental program here along with dedicated bike lanes all around the city.

Washington Monument 
Lincoln Memorial 
Jefferson Memorial 
Washington Memorial at night
Cherry blossom festival, while we just happened to come at the right time, it was not part of the initial plan, but I'm glad that we did come when it happened. The tidal basin area and Washington in general had a lot of trees that were blossoming and it made the city very nice.


Jefferson Memorial 
Washington Memorial 
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Hershey's Chocolate World, surprisingly more interesting than I thought it would be. Mind you, I thought for some reason there are rollercoasters here... Anyways, if you are visiting Washington, this is not very far away and worth a visit in my opinion. It is free to visit and the tour is free, however, there are a few things that you can do that have costs to them so have a look and see how much it interests you.


Hershey's Chocolate World 
Hershey's Chocolate World 
Hershey's Chocolate World
Lowlights

Crowds, there were people as far as the eye could see during the day. This was especially clear on Saturday when we were wandering around.

Food suggestions

Hill Country, while everything wasn't amazing, the brisket, chicken, and the sides were stand outs for me.

Hill Country, $99 platter (feeds 4-6, however we didn't finish with 6 ppl) 
4 sides are included, the cornbread was extra
Fish Market, I'm not one for seafood usually, but the atmosphere is great and if you like raw oysters/clams, you should pay them a visit. It was $15 for 12 oysters and $10 for 12 clams shucked.


Fresh seafood at the Fish Market 
Dozen oysters on the left, dozen clams on the right 
Crab cakes and hushpuppies on the left, crab balls on the right
What would I change?

I would say that we needed one more full day there and I would say that I would have experienced Washington enough that I would not need to go back. The two places I would have liked to have seen were Arlington Cemetery and Museum of Natural History. There are plenty of other things worth seeing, but these were the items on my list.

Tips

Streets downtown are very easy to navigate for the most part. The north/south streets are numeric (3rd St, 10th St) and the west/east streets at letters (E St, G St). The streets vary in distance between, but in general, going from one to another is fairly quick since the distance is very small.

If you want to visit the White House, make to sure book well in advance (I believe 3 months), otherwise, you can forget about trying. Washington Monument you can actually go up, tickets are free on the day of, but you can also pre-book tickets online for a small fee. I would suggest getting tickets online if you really want to go up.

Metro is very easy to learn and convenient. $2 for a reloadable card, cost is based on time of day (rush hour vs non-rush hour) and distance. This means that you cannot share a card like in some other cities I've been to. There is no set amount to reload from what I recall, so as a tourist, don't bother putting too much money on the card, if you don't have enough when you exit, there is a machine where you can top up as you try to leave.

Don't drive downtown. My experience driving around Washington is that, if you don't need to, don't. Driving at night seems fine, but during the day it seems to be a disaster waiting to happen. Parking is not easy to find, traffic is constant, and as a foreigner, the lines on the road don't always make sense and the fact that they have round-a-bouts with stop lights really makes no sense to me.

Final thoughts

Well worth a visit even if you are not into American history at all (I knew nothing about the Memorials and it was interesting). There are lots to see and do and best of all, it is all free! Yup, all the museums and memorials are free to visit, just check their websites to see what the operating hours are.

You don't need to stay in the National Mall area at all, but it makes getting home after easier. Note that most things close at around 6pm or 7pm, so you have a lot of free time in the evening to plan out night activities (we only had one night where we got back at 8pm, ended up going back out for night photos).

Hope you enjoyed reading about our Washington, D.C. roadtrip!