Washington DC - Womens March Weekend
January 2, 2017 9:38 AM   Subscribe

My 13-year old daughter and I will be in DC for the Womens' March. We have one play day, Saturday the 20th. We'd like to go to either the NMAAHC or the National Zoo. I've never been to DC and I have oh so many questions.

How can we do public transportation from Falls Church VA? We'll have a rental car. Is there a transportation hub, like a Park-n-Ride we can .. park, then ride? We will probably need to do the same thing for the Womens march, the next day.

Is it realistic to go to the NMAAHC during the inauguration festivities? How about the National Zoo? The idea of both is crazy, right?

We are native Californians. Are layers okay? Do we need insulated or down jackets?

She is also a picky vegan. Any vegan restaurants or fare (esp good mac and "cheese") is very much appreciated.
posted by duckus to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The NMAAHC is currently about to distribute passes for April 2017, so I think you're SOL for passes for January.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:43 AM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

The March is on Saturday. Friday is the 20th.
posted by Ruki at 10:26 AM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Falls Church is on the Orange Line of the oft-criticized-but-still-awesome DC Metro (East and West Falls Church stations). You can park your car at either station and ride the Metro in to either (or both) destinations with little fuss.
posted by killdevil at 10:40 AM on January 2, 2017

Best answer: Same day passes for NMAAHC are released at 6:30 AM every day, but they go super-fast. Chances of getting them are slim. There's a bit of a market where people are selling their (free) passes on Craigslist and the like, YMMV. Given the museum location, it will be crowded in the general vicinity and likely have a lot of the Inauguration Day security involved.

National Zoo is MUCH more doable - take the orange line to the red line (toward Shady Grove) - get off at Cleveland Park, then walk DOWNHILL to the zoo. When leaving the zoo, you can continue to walk DOWNHILL to Woodley Park metro (also on the red line). There are good restaurants at both stops. You could also easily Uber to the zoo - it's well north of where everything will be happening downtown.

If you're looking for museums, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is NOT on the Mall, and is awesome.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:58 AM on January 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Friday is the 20th

...and Inauguration Day is a holiday for Federal workers (and therefore, many others) in the District. The Smithsonian (which does the Zoo) has been open on previous Days, but other things... You'd better check, first.

The idea of both is crazy

On a normal day, not at all, as long as your transportation's good. But counting on using the Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza or Archives Metro stations on Inauguration Day may not work out in your favor. Personally, I'd avoid the Mall entirely until a good hour or two after the swearing-in ceremony is over.

Are layers okay? Do we need insulated or down jackets?

Maybe, depends on the weather. It can be sunny and 70° during the day in late January, but I wouldn't go back then without my down jacket.
posted by Rash at 10:58 AM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can use the East Falls Church of West Falls Church stations on the Metro, and both have plenty of parking. I can't see any reason not to go to the Zoo. To get to the Zoo, you just board there on the orange line and transfer to the red line in the direction of Grovesnor to Woodly Park-Zoo. From there it's an easy walk up a short hill to the Zoo. The weather here has been in the lower 40s lately, but it's impossible to predict what they'll be like Inauguration week. Winter temperatures here vary remarkably--could be the teens, could be 60s. I'd bring winter jackets in case, but also bring along layers in case it's not that cold.

Unfortunately, there's almost no chance of getting into the NMAAHC at this point--they're only distributing time-limited tickets, and they're sold out for months. There are lots of other (free!) museums around, though, so make sure and check them out.

There's a remarkably great vegan restaurant right near me in Park View with the unfortunate name NuVegan Cafe. In the middle of the Columbia Heights neighborhood, there's also a great vegan bakery Sticky Fingers.
posted by General Malaise at 10:59 AM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

January 20th in DC could be 65 and sunny, or could we could get 12 inches of snow. Don't bother thinking about packing until about the 17th or 18th. Any weather forecast more than 72 hours out around here is dicey.
posted by COD at 11:03 AM on January 2, 2017

Other museum suggestions, not on the Mall and closer to the Zoo: the Phillips, and the Textile Museum. If you do make it to the Mall, IMO the National Gallery; American History, Natural History and Air & Space museums should be the first-time visitor's priority. And you should allocate at least an hour and possibly two for a thorough visit to any of those.
posted by Rash at 11:09 AM on January 2, 2017

Best answer: I love the zoo but prepare yourself for the likelihood that some of the especially charismatic megafauna (stupid pandas ...) may be sleeping or hiding when you visit. Such is life. There's a restaurant not far from the zoo called Open City that should be able to accommodate vegan meals but it gets crowded so you may experience a wait. Pro-tip: the metro stop labeled National Zoo (also Adams Morgan/Woodley Park) is close to the zoo but the walk from that station is uphill. Instead, I'd encourage you to take metro to the next station, Cleveland Park, then walk downhill to the zoo.

When DC is expected to be really crowded, I encourage people to check out sites that are a little off the beaten path. In this instance, I'd recommend the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It's a gorgeous building and off the Mall, though not far from it. Usually they charge admission but I thought I saw that they wouldn't that weekend.

Layers are always good. I'd recommend a hat, scarf and gloves too - if you don't need them, they don't take up a lot of space in a purse or backpack. If it's cold, grab some hand warmers at CVS. Again, they're small and don't take up much space. Don't forget to drink water, even if it's cold. And I'd anticipate lines for bathrooms so plan accordingly.
posted by kat518 at 11:11 AM on January 2, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I appreciate it.
posted by duckus at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2017

Friday Jan. 20th will be a federal holiday, but it's safe to say the National Zoo will be open. (Disclosure: I work for the Smithsonian, although not at the Zoo.) As other folks mention, you're probably pretty much out of luck getting into the NMAAHC: that place has been massively popular since it first opened, and the timed entry passes are long gone months in advance.

With a couple other events that expected huge crushes on the Mall they've closed the Smithsonian Metro station and one or two others nearby, and I'd say there's a very good chance they'll do that on Jan. 20th. And federal holiday or not, both driving and parking anywhere nearby will be impossible; several streets in the area will be entirely blocked off to vehicle access for security reasons (i.e., lower the risk of truck bombs or anything of that sort) as well as the additional crowds of foot traffic. Leave your car in Falls Church! So all in all, even if you could somehow manage to score tickets for the NMAAHC, just getting there on Jan. 20 will involve massive hassle and a lot of walking. And, of course, don't forget to watch the weather: late January in this area can be a real pain in the butt, and too often features high winds mixed with a driving, freezing rain.

As for bathrooms, yes there are bathrooms in the various Smithsonian museums on the Mall, but both the museums themselves and their bathrooms are guarenteed to be absolutely packed: the bathrooms because they're, well, bathrooms, and the museums because people will be trying to get in out of the cold.

A lot of times, big events like this have restrictions on what you can carry onto the Mall --- check first to be sure if you're allowed to carry anything like a backpack; based on past performance, coolers will be forbidden. They'll probably forbid any glass containers, any beer or alcohol, and possibly any liquids other than water; food/snacks are iffy --- sometimes forbidden, sometimes limited. Finally, leave behind selfie sticks (banned inside Smithsonian museums) and of course any knives or guns or other weapons.

(Check your MeMail!)
posted by easily confused at 12:32 PM on January 2, 2017

The timed entry passes are definitely gettable IF you're on NMAAHC's site (and refreshing constantly!) at the turn of 6:30:00. Because of the timed passes, though, and the museum's layout, you should plan to spend a while there–I got timed passes in the mid-afternoon and a couple of hours wasn't enough time for me and my partner to get through more than half of the main (belowground) chronological gallery. If you went early and did get through it all, I think, like others have said, the Zoo will be pretty simple to visit on inauguration.

The nearest stop wlll be Metro Center that day, which will definitely involve a half-mile walk through intense crowds, but, again, the timed pass thing means NMAAHC will (presumably) be only as busy as it ever is inside. I do think that pretty much any other museum on the Mall would be a terrible nightmare.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 1:24 PM on January 2, 2017

The NMAAHC is specifically not releasing same-day tickets, either online or walk-up on the 20th.

From the planning your visit section of the FAQ on their site:
The Museum will be open on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017 but there will be no same-day online passes and no walk-up passes available.
posted by itesser at 1:44 PM on January 2, 2017

Chaia in Georgetown has great vegetarian tacos by my Californian standards.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:44 PM on January 2, 2017

Best answer: Taking the Metro on Inauguration Day, even just to change trains at Metro Center (say to go to the Zoo) is likely to be challenging and will take a long time. Be prepared to have to wait and for the trains to be very, very crowded.

I would actually drive to the Zoo from Falls Church (traffic on the Beltway will probably be lighter than usual). Parking at the Zoo can be expensive. Street parking will be free and without time restrictions due to the "holiday", but I would expect lots of people to be parking near the Zoo to hop on the Metro, so finding a space might be hard.

Beefsteak is a fast casual place from Jose Andres with almost the whole menu vegetarian. I would imagine that a vegan would do well there also.
posted by jindc at 4:55 PM on January 2, 2017

Nuvegan Cafe on Georgia Avenue is an all vegan soul food place that makes awesome mac and cheese (I'm not even vegetarian and I love it). It's not super close to the Mall or the Zoo but it's not super far away either.

On days with really big events, like the inauguration, public transit can get completely jammed up. If you don't mind 10-15 minutes of walking and you have a rental car you may actually have better luck parking in the neighborhood around Cleveland Park or Van Ness and walking down to the zoo.
posted by forkisbetter at 4:41 AM on January 3, 2017

For vegan dining, I recommend Fare Well. It's a great vegan diner/bakery (and I'm pretty sure they have mac and cheese). It's walking distance from Union Station and a pretty easy and quick trip from the Mall. Columbia Heights is comparatively a little out-of-the-way, I think (though I've heard good things about Sticky Fingers and NuVegan Café).
posted by armadillo1224 at 7:05 AM on January 3, 2017

Welcome to my awesome city!

I wanted to chime in re: vegan food. I am not even vegetarian but I love Evolve Vegan Restaurant in Takoma Park. It's right by the Takoma Park metro on the red line.

Expect the metro to be crowded on inauguration day. Fortunately, if you choose to take the metro to the zoo from Falls Church you might not have to endure crowding the whole way. I would recommend Taking the orange line to Farragut West then leaving the station and walking a block to get to the Farragut North station to take the red line to Cleveland Park. Normally, I would have you switch at Metro Center, but this way it is two less stops where you would be squished like sardines.
posted by donut_princess at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2017

Just heard on the news this morning (so no confirmation beyond that) that the five Metro stations closest to the Mall, not just one or two, will be closed for the inauguration itself on Friday the 20th; no word yet about Saturday the 21st, sorry.
posted by easily confused at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2017

If you have a rental car, I would suggest driving from Falls Church to the Zoo. Traffic will be light because most DC-area workers will have the day off, and you will avoid Metro's crowds, horrible prices and "surge" timing (i.e. 2 trains per hour instead of 5). If you do decide to take Metro, you will each need your own SmartCard ($5 each) on top of the regular fare.

I can't speak to vegan restaurants in DC proper, but in Falls Church, would recommend Eden Center, a strip mall cluster of Vietnamese restaurants, all delicious. Thanh Van is purely vegan, and there may be others with vegan dishes.
posted by basalganglia at 2:45 PM on January 13, 2017

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