The whole goal of my 2014 vacation was to photograph the cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C. Unfortunately I was about a week early so I was unable to see them in peak bloom. But we had fun exploring D.C., Williamsburg, Virginia, and Gettysburg.
Here are a few tips when traveling to D.C. on a budget:
Stay at the Americana Hotel if money is a factor. The hotel is in Arlington, Virgina. We stayed at the Americana which seems to be a hidden secret. Yes it is a very old retro style hotel but for what we were accommodated with we were all very pleased. The rooms were very clean and that is a big plus for me. Here is a link to their hotel http://www.americanahotel.com/
~FREE CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST from 6a.m. to 10a.m.
~FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE (to local areas/the airport/and the Crystal City metro)
~Refrigerator in the room
~Microwave in the lobby
~Also we booked our rooms in December when they were having a 10% off special for paying in advance. I’m not for sure if they do this every year but I would look into it if you are planning to stay there.
~You can literally take a 5 minute walk to the Crystal City Metro and ride the subway for about 10 to 20 minutes and get off at the Smithsonian stop to see the National Mall.
Here are directions for walking to the Crystal City Metro from the Americana Hotel.
1. Leave the hotel lobby and walk through the parking lot to S Eads St.
2. Take a left onto S Eads St. and cross over 15th St. S. using the crosswalk (stay on S Eads St.)
3. (A) The Crystal Marriott Gateway Hotel will be on your left. If the weather is bad you can enter their lobby and head straight for the Crystal City underground walk way which will lead you to the Crystal City mall and metro with lots of shops, cafes, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Subway, sushi bar, and a Rite Aid. You can cross through the mall and take the first right I believe to exit the mall and head down the escalator to reach the actual Crystal City Metro.
3.(B) Continue to walk past the Crystal Marriott Gateway Hotel on S Eads St. and take a left onto 18th St. S and walk under the over-pass and the Crystal City Metro will be on your left. Just take the escalators down 2 stories. The mall entrance will be only one story down.
3(C) Ask the Americana Hotel shuttle driver to drop you off at the metro.
Another note-most of the Crystal City Mall shops close between 5 and 7pm, also the metro does not run 24/7 so check the stop time.
So now you are at the metro and you want to know how to ride it. I’m no expert but I can tell you what I learned after riding the subway for a week.
1. If you are planing on going back and forth all week between the city and your Arlington hotel then I would advise that you buy a Smartrip card. You can buy one at the Smartrip card machine on your left after you take the escalator down two stories. The machine will take debit or cash in bills of 1, 5, or 10. I just put 10.00 in the machine and got the card–which technically you only have 8.00 on the card because the initial purchase of the Smartrip card cost 2.00. The card is re-loadable and you can check your balance online.
The amount charged/deducted from your Smartrip card depends on how far you travel and at what time of day you travel. You can check out fares on the D.C. metro website here http://www.wmata.com/
You can also install the wmata app on your phone which will help as well.
Now you have your Smartrip card and you are ready to go. Just swipe your card and go through the gate. If you want to travel to the National Mall and see the Smithsonians and memorials then you will most likely want to get off at the Smithsonian stop. To do this you will take the BLUE line going to Largo Town Center. Head down the escalator for the correct train line and wait at the platform for the metro. Make sure you get on the one that is marked BLUE.
You’ll ride the metro past Pentagon City, Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom GWU, Farragut W., McPherson Sq., Metro Center, and Federal triangle. Your next stop will be the Smithsonian. You’ll exit the car and take the escalator up and swipe your card to get out.
I can say we rode into the city twice and back twice (once during peak time) and we were left with 1 and change on our card. So there are Smartrip cards that you can buy in advance from the http://www.wmata.com/ site that will be loaded for the week.
Once you leave the metro you will come out right in front of the Natural History Museum (left side) and the Smithsonian Castle (right side). The Washington Monument will be behind you and the Capitol will be in front of you.
To take the metro back you can go the same route just get on the BLUE line going to Franconia-Springfield and count the stops backwards–there are large metro maps in each car if you lose yours.
This map helped me plan my trip in advance http://www.amazon.com/Streetwise-Washington-Metro-Map-Laminated/dp/0935039341/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1397229018&sr=8-3&keywords=d.c+metro+map
You can also pick these up for free in the city.
Now for the pictures! (Click on the photos to view the whole images)
The Smithsonian Castle (free)
Click on the photos to see the whole view.