Washington DC vacation

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Apr 1, 2018
My husband and I are taking a Washington DC vacation April 11-19 and I was wondering if you had suggestions on how to best navigate the area. We are flying into Washington National Airport (DCA) and will be staying at Homewood Suites, Springfield VA. We have tours secured for the White House and Capital (both on Apr 17). I have access to deals listed on plumbenefits through my employer but I don't know if the Sightseeing Flex Pass or Washington DC Explorer Pass would be beneficial for exploring DC.

Can you offer suggestions on how to travel to/from the hotel and explore the DC monuments, museums, and zoo? With so much to see/do, what would be your top suggestions - and are there locations nearby that would be a treat to see?

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Dec 27, 2014
New York
Walk. Or buy tickets for a Hop In Hop Off bus. The subway system is also fairly easy to use.

If you want to go to the zoo you have to take the train or drive. It’s not near the city area where all the museums, White House, etc. are.

Have you considered getting advice from a travel agent?


Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
San Francisco
Barlow, first thing that jumps at me is that you have booked a hotel but don't know what transportation is available locally. So that's the first thing to check. DC has terrific public transportation, so there's no reason to stay anywhere that's inconvenient. I would review the forums on TripAdvisor for lots of information; if you don't find answers to all your questions, you can post your own on their forum. We essentially solve people's problems after the fact, and aren't a particularly good source of basic tourism information.
Likes: Neil Maley
Apr 1, 2018
Thank you for the information. The hotel provides shuttle service to the public transportation system. Didn't know advance entry tickets to the museums was an option - that is extremely helpful, thanks! I will research the Hop In/Off bus too.
Sep 19, 2015
Thank you for the information. The hotel provides shuttle service to the public transportation system. Didn't know advance entry tickets to the museums was an option - that is extremely helpful, thanks! I will research the Hop In/Off bus too.[/QU

Most of the major museums are free so no need for advance entry tickets. The Phillips charges for special exhibitions
Jan 6, 2015
I highly recommend the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air museum at Dulles. Among many great displays is one of the Space Shuttles ...
Sep 27, 2017
Smithsonian is incredible. Holocaust Museum is, too, but is highly graphic and very emotional. The Subway line takes about five minutes to get the hang of, and then is a supre breeze. (NOTE for subway-- If you travel for rush hour, it will be busy with workers hopping on/getting off -- it can get very crowded at peak times, and please be courteous of the locals who often are sprinting to get to work! After morning and afternoon rush, you can pretty much play all day on the system).
Feb 2, 2018
I have been to DC many times over the years for business and occasionally have mixed i some sightseeing. A few years ago I was there for business but had my daughters with me. I decided as I was quite tired to try one of the nighttime tours where the bus takes you around to various monuments at night. It was a not cheap but well worth it as I didn't have to worry about directions and parking. It was very efficient too, we got a lot in and the tour guide was very good. I'm one of those that likes to plan my own travel but really was happy I opted to do this.
Apr 10, 2018
When you use the Metro, stand to the right on the escalators and leave the left free for locals who want to walk up or down. Ask the station agent for help when you buy your first Metro card--each passenger has to have his/her own. Highly second the recommendation to do a nighttime visit to the monuments, especially Lincoln. It is incredibly moving at night. And as one person said, walking is a great way to get around the core tourist area, depending on how fit you are. The Capitol and White House are only about a mile apart.
Oct 30, 2015
North Laurasia
I used to live in DC, (before there was the subway) but I know that these days, the public transportation is your easiest way of getting around. Do not drive in DC unless you absolutely have to. Perhaps things have improved, but the Capitol Beltway (I-395) was a PITA to negotiate.. Downtown, the streets are mind bogglingly insane (one-ways abound, the streets are set in circles in parts and in straights in others, traffic is bumper to bumper always, and parking? forgetabout it). But DC is a must see. I second the Smithsonian...realize that it is a set of museums, not just one. I remember reading many years ago that if you spent 30 seconds looking at every display in the Smithsonian, it would take you 33 YEARS to see them all-and that was before the new museums.......so pick out which ones you want to see. For me, the Museum of Natural History, and the Air and Space Museum are must do's. Also...visit the National Archives. It's not very big or even that popular, but it houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...the REAL ones. There is something very profound to look at the documents that created US. Also, you must see the Vietnam Veterans's Memorial (just ask for "The Wall") and the Lincoln Memorial. Both are very moving.
The National Mall is not a shopping mall. It is the greenswards that starts at the White House and goes a very long way...the Washington Monument, the aforementioned Wall, most of the memorials are there.
The Museums are free, I can't remember about the Zoo. The National Zoo is in Rock Creek Park, which is, as someone else mentioned, not downtown, but it IS in DC. It is definitely worth the visit, though.
Finally, don't be too confused about the fact that DC straddles two states, Maryland and Virginia. the Potomac separates the north side (MD) from the south side (VA). (and the river is pronounced Poh toh mic)
And ...don't be surprised at how small the White House is. You see it on TV and think, wow, it's a big mansion but it is not at all.