What should I do with a free morning in Washington DC?
June 15, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I will be landing in Washington DC at 8am on Saturday. I'm alone and have the morning free - what should I do?

I will be flying into DCA with (hopefully) just a backpack. I won't have a car. Is there anything I shouldn't miss? I love food (I'm going to the Fancy Foods Show on Sunday). I'm up for anything, from one of the museums to just a cool spot to hang out and read a book. If it were you, what would you do?

(I know there are a lot of other questions about travel to DC, but they all seem to be for full weekends with lots and lots of recommendations.)
posted by theuninvitedguest to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Eastern Market. An easy shot on the metro.
posted by princelyfox at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2012

Without a car, you'll have to metro into the city. How much time do you have?

The only museum close to DCA I know of is the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Center. There's a bus line that goes there from from the airport but it doesn't open until 10am.
posted by anti social order at 10:04 AM on June 15, 2012

The only museum close to DCA I know of is the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Center.

Udvar-Hazy is at IAD (Dulles), not DCA (National). DCA is directly on the yellow and blue lines with easy access to everything on the Mall and more.
posted by skynxnex at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2012

I'f you've not been to dc before, take the blue line from Regan Airport to the Smithsonian station stop. The national mall is right there. The capital building, washington monument, lincoln, the smithonians, etc. There's a ton of good stuff to do there. It would take ~45 minutes to get there.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

To answer the question, now that I've thought about it a bit more. I might take the Yellow line to the Archives-Navy Memorial station and then slowly walk around/down, taking in nice views of the Capitol and other interesting buildings along Penn Ave to the National Art Gallery and wonder around there. Maybe sitting down in one of their courtyards or another.

Almost all the museums in DC open at 10am, so depending on when you have to leave, you may not have a huge amount of time in them (depending on exactly when your flight lands). There's so many options, but this is one of my favorites when I've done little jaunts and there's a ton of other touristy stuff in that area.
posted by skynxnex at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2012

Easy Metro down to the Mall, Smithsonian, etc. Note that most museums don't open until 10:00 though. The gardens might open earlier though (could not find more info) and any of them would be a great place to sit and read a book.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2012

Head into the city and then go to American Art/National Portrait Gallery, two Smithsonian museums that occupy connected sides of the building. Handily located right by the Gallery Place/Chinatown stop (Red, Yellow, and Green lines) and quite close to the Metro Center stop (Blue, Orange, and Red) along with many places for brunch or beer. The covered courtyard between the two halves of the museums is also a nice place to read and sip coffee, if you just want a break. The Luce Foundation material up on the third floor is cool and a little differently presented, and the Folk Art section on the first floor houses some of my favorite pieces in the museum.

(Bonus: free! I believe there are also lockers you can put your bag in, if it's too bulky to safely carry through the museum.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh right, the morning openings are later, sorry! The addendum to my suggestion then is to get off at Archives/Navy Memorial (or Gallery Place; they're all very close together) and get a chai or other breakfast treat from Teaism before exploring.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2012

As others have suggested, you should go to the Mall. Even without going into any of the museums, there is plenty to look at. Given just a morning, you could stroll around the outdoor art, duck into one of the museums, or see the US Botanical Gardens on Capitol Hill (my favorite).

The American Indian Museum, also near the Capitol, has surprisingly wonderful food.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2012

If you decide on Eastern Market, you could eat breakfast at Market Lunch. It's inside the market building. Museums would start opening by the time you're done there.
posted by exogenous at 10:35 AM on June 15, 2012

Thanks everyone! I should have mentioned that I have been to DC before and have been to the Eastern Market, White House and National Archives. But I've never been to the Smithsonian. I think I'll head to the American Art/National Portrait Gallery as I think art museums are better alone anyway. Since they don't open until 10am, that will give me time to have some breakfast (bonus: any suggestions near the Mall/Smithsonian?)
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:12 AM on June 15, 2012

Metro will be doing track work this weekend. The stations you'll be passing through will be open but service may be slow.
posted by davextreme at 11:19 AM on June 15, 2012

There is a Teaism close to the Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter, just a few blocks away from the Gallery Place metro stop. They have good breakfasts, and are generally a nice place to just sit and people-watch. They have a large downstairs.

There is also a waffle place fairly close by called Back Alley Waffles that is a reasonable walk.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:18 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, by the way the Yellow and Blue lines both pick up at Regan Airport. Don't be like me and accidentally get on the yellow line while not paying attention.... You'll be in for the lamest tour of DC ever.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 12:37 PM on June 15, 2012

Be forewarned, the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum doesn't open until 11:30 a.m. (and it stays open until 7:00 p.m.). I don't know why its hours are different from most, if not all, of the other Smithsonian museums, but there you go.

I'm partial to the Hirshhorn and love their current exhibition Suprasensorial. It's perfect for the summer. They do open at 10:00. But if you go there, be forewarned there aren't great food options nearby, especially breakfast. Unfortunately Teaism doesn't open until 11:00 on the weekend. You might want to consider going to Old Town Alexandria, even though it will be one stop in the opposite direction that you'll ultimately want to go in to go into DC. However, you have 2-3 hours to kill until the museums open and you'll have a lot better food options for breakfast.
posted by kaybdc at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2012

I think I'll head to the American Art/National Portrait Gallery as I think art museums are better alone anyway. Since they don't open until 10am, that will give me time to have some breakfast (bonus: any suggestions near the Mall/Smithsonian?)

Poste Brasserie inside of the Hotel Monaco opens at 8am on Saturdays. We had a nice breakfast there last summer. And it's literally across the street from the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.

Paul Bakery & Café is also nearby -- it's a block away from the Archives metro station. It's the only US outpost of a French chain. Excellent croissants. They open at 8am on Saturdays.

If you want to go to a museum that opens earlier than the Smithsonian ones (since National Portrait Gallery doesn't open until 11:30am), the Newseum opens at 9am.

You could conceivably take the yellow line to the Archives metro station, grab a croissant or some pastries from Paul, go see the Newseum right when it opens, and then go see the National Portrait Gallery afterwards. And then have lunch somewhere like Rasika (my preference, their Palak Chaat is outstanding) or Zaytinya.
posted by kathryn at 6:19 PM on June 15, 2012

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