Help me get to a concert!
July 19, 2010 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Staying in Washington, DC but going to a concert in Baltimore, Maryland. How to get there?

I'll be in Washington, DC the first week of August. It'll be my first time there and I know very little about the city. There's a concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion (Columbia, Maryland) that I want to go to.
There will probably be six of us, and we'd like to get there no later than 6pm and get back to DC around the time the concert ends, maybe 10 or 10.30pm? It's on a Thursday, in case that matters. I don't know yet where we'll be staying in DC, but assume it's a hotel in the area where tourists usually stay (no idea where that is).

I need some help with figuring out the best way to get there and back. Ideas?
posted by CrazyLemonade to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (19 answers total)
If you all aren't going to have a car (which I assume you're not) you can take the AMTRAK or MARC train to BWI airport and catch a bus from there to the Columbia Mall (and then walk from there). Or you can take a cab from the BWI airport train station to the Pavilion. Here is the schedule of the buses. The AMTRAK and MARC trains that you would need to take leave from Union Station which you can use the metro to get to. If you remember the name of your hotel and want more specific info, don't hesitate to memail me!
posted by whitetigereyes at 8:55 AM on July 19, 2010

Not sure how much help this is, but previously. The advice can vary a lot with the factor of the horrible DC rush hour traffic, depending on where you are coming from, so if you could nail down where you will be staying, you will probably get better and more specific advice here. Note that this is high tourist season in DC, so locking in a place to stay now is not too soon.
posted by gudrun at 9:01 AM on July 19, 2010

Note that MARC will not be running back to DC at 10 PM - you'll need to use Amtrak for the return trip. Not a big deal, but it'll be something like $16-$20, as opposed to $5 or $6 for MARC.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 9:09 AM on July 19, 2010

You'd have to be crazy to try to take MARC and buses as 6pm is still in the main crush of rush hour. And "getting back by 10pm" means leaving the concert by ~8pm.

I suggest renting a car. You'll have a long, boring, traffic jam of a drive, but you won't have to worry about metro issues, MARC closing, missing a stop, missing a bus, getting lost, getting the proper transfer fares, etc etc.
posted by anti social order at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2010

Are any of you Zipcar members? That might be your best bet at this time of night. Otherwise, rent a car someplace else.

I love public transportation, but there really isn't any near MPP. It will be inconvenient, and almost certainly more expensive if there are 6 of you.
posted by schmod at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2010

We weren't really thinking of having or getting a car. I'll prefer if we could use public transportation, or a combination of that and a taxi at some point. Maybe getting to Columbia earlier and staying somewhere (maybe a shopping mall or something?) for a while to avoid the rush hour traffic can be a possibility.

And by "getting back to DC at 10pm" I meant leaving the concert when it ends, not arriving to DC at 10pm.

I'm asking about the hotel, but I'm not getting any answer from the person who knows the info.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:25 AM on July 19, 2010

I couldn't agree more with ASO & schmod above. Get a car (regular rental or Zipcar). You will NOT have fun trying to take public transportation to Columbia, particularly with your admitted lack of familiarity about the area. I'd even go so far as to say the misery of attempting to do so will utterly ruin your experience (definitely at the concert, possibly your entire trip). Columbia is geographically fairly close to DC, but getting anywhere outside the metro system sans a car is a bitch.

If you don't want to drive and deal with parking, etc., my other suggestion is to hire a car service. I don't have personal experience with any of the companies there (I had Zipcar/a personal car the whole time I lived in DC), but they tend to be less expensive than you might expect. However, I don't know how easy it would be to meet up with a ride at MPP. It's pretty big.
posted by hansbrough at 9:57 AM on July 19, 2010

Ok, if public transportation is really a bad idea, I'll look into the car rental thing. What's this Zipcar thing you're talking about, I'd never heard of it. I'm looking at the website but.....does it work for me if I'll just be using it that one time? Also, I'm in Mexico.

Otherwise I'll just look at the regular rental car places.

If anyone still has ideas for public transportation options, I'm listening.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:06 AM on July 19, 2010

When you know where you're staying the WMATA website has a good trip planner, and it automatically will link you up with the suburban buses whitetigereyes links to. Check your stops against a map, though - sometimes it'll have you waiting for a transfer bus longer than it would take you to walk from the transfer point to your destination. Make sure you know the fares and have exact change for the buses, or consider whether it would be worthwhile in terms of saved hassle to get a SmartTrip card.

Getting to the Columbia Mall earlier in the day and walking out to Merriweather at concert time wouldn't be a bad idea - trying to negotiate transit out to the suburbs at rush hour is going to be nightmare. If you're not 100% sure that the group you're with is accustomed to public transit and/or very mellow and patient, you might want to consider a car. A car would also mean that you wouldn't have to worry about catching the bus back - you might not have more than 1 or 2 buses available after 10 pm.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:08 AM on July 19, 2010

Rent a car. Set it up now on an aggregator site. I've seen car rental rates as low as 35 bucks a day in DC and it makes more sense that hopping around buses and trains and cabs.
posted by Hurst at 10:13 AM on July 19, 2010

I'll pile on that taking public transportation is going to be a huge, not worth it hassle. I've done public trans to Columbia (live in Baltimore, work in DC, no car), and it is nearly unbearably bad during the working day. In the evening, forget it.

Rent a car. Especially with 6 people. That will be cheaper than a cab. Don't bother with Zipcar, for anything over 2 hours, you can get a car for an entire day cheaper. Especially since you don't have to worry about the annual fee, initiation fee, etc.
posted by QIbHom at 10:35 AM on July 19, 2010

The problem with public transportation in DC is that it works well (or at least ok) at moving people from the burbs into DC in the morning and back out again at night. Want to travel in the middle of the day? Want to go into the city at night? Want to go suburb-to-suburb? It's going to be a hassle, if it's possible at all.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:06 AM on July 19, 2010

Also, keep in mind that the weather is likely to be super hot, if you're thinking about doing any walking during the day. Bring water, no matter what.
posted by GriffX at 11:13 AM on July 19, 2010

The main problem with using public transport is that it's going to be difficult to get back to DC from Columbia that late at night. If you only had to get there on public transport, I'd recommend taking the Metro to Silver Spring (red line) and taking a commuter bus to Columbia from there -- but of course a commuter bus won't be running by the time you need to head back.

Also, anti social order mentioned metro issues, MARC closing, missing a stop, missing a bus, getting lost, getting the proper transfer fares, etc etc. -- which are all valid concerns if you're not familiar with the system or the area, particularly since you're traveling from the metro DC area to the metro Balitmore area (traveling within just the metro DC area would be somewhat easier for an out-of-towner).
posted by spinto at 11:13 AM on July 19, 2010

I'm from Columbia, MD and live in DC. I am back and forth all the time without owning a car. Do yourself a favor and get a Zipcar and split the cost. You will be able to find a zipcar close to where you live in DC and commute to Columbia (a 45 minute to 1h drive).

This is 100% the easiest way to do it, reserve the zipcar from say 3pm-3am (after 8 hours it doesn't cost any extra up to 24 hours) in case you get lost or something else comes up.

There is a mall right next door to Merriweather, and there is also a nice lake with a couple decent restaurants around it. I'd go to Columbia a little early to beat traffic, go to the mall or get a nice dinner at Clyde's on the lake, walk over to the concert and enjoy.
posted by OuttaHere at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2010

I agree with everyone about a Zipcar/rental, but just wanted to say that if you are seeing Arcade Fire and Spoon on the 6th, I am envious.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:52 AM on July 19, 2010

Heh, no. It's Keane on the 5th.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:39 PM on July 19, 2010

I don't know if getting Zipcar for a one-time use is financially sound. There used to be (I assume still is) a $50 annual fee. Renting a car from a regular car rental company (e.g., Budget, Hertz, Avis, etc.) should be under that.

OP: Zipcar is a car-sharing service that's pretty awesome. Members pay an annual fee and then can rent cars (which are parked throughout the city in many convenient locations) by the hour. But I'm thinking unless someone in your party already has a Zipcar membership (Zipcar exists in several US cities), it's not going to work in your situation.
posted by hansbrough at 11:07 PM on July 19, 2010

Thanks everyone for your answers. I think we'll be renting a regular car and splitting the cost.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2010

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