Weekday Washington DC holiday advice
April 15, 2017 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to spend a week in Washington DC with my wife hitting up the museums,sights and food. We don't drive so we need advice on where to stay with suitable public transit options. We are not poor but we aren't loaded either so we are looking for midrange accomodations rather than budget busting DC core hotels.

Also of interest to us:
- any interesting off the beaten track/undergroundish things to do.
- good craft beer bars
- which museums are worth it and which are not.
- areas to avoid
posted by srboisvert to Travel & Transportation around Washington (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Standard D.C. advice is generally to avoid any museum you need to pay for with the possible exception of the Newseum. The free ones are more than enough. And if you're at all interested, it's worth the trek out to the Udvar-Hazy branch of the National Air and Space museum, because that's where all the big/cool things are kept.
posted by whitewall at 12:42 PM on April 15, 2017

I was surprised at how much I loved the (free) guided tour at the National Archives. The tour guide who led my group was full of fascinating info and I have to say it was quite emotional to be able to see the actual Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I would definitely go again!
On the other hand, I was really looking forward to the Newseum, but thought it was ... fine.
posted by bookmammal at 12:55 PM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you will be visiting by May 14, you might want to check out the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum. I've been hearing really good things about it. It's free, but you will need a timed pass (available from the website).
posted by jazzbaby at 12:57 PM on April 15, 2017

Why not stay in Northern Virginia? There are plenty of hotels to choose from on the orange/silver, blue or yellow lines that are walking distance from both a metro stop and plenty of restaurants.

My personal recommendation is to focus on hotels around Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon and Courthouse stops on the orange line. You'll be surrounded by great restaurants, bars and shops, and just minutes from the city - no driving required!

If you go to wmata.com, you can see metro maps, find out about construction/repair alerts, and use their trip planner to easily find public transportation routes to wherever you want to go.
posted by the thought-fox at 1:11 PM on April 15, 2017

Also--I used the DC Circulator bus system. There are a variety of routes, including a great National Mall loop that hits the majority of the museums and monuments in that area. When I was there it was very rainy so I appreciated not having to walk everywhere. You can choose from a variety of multiple day passes, or pay $1 per ride.
posted by bookmammal at 1:20 PM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Kusama show is incredible, but you have to be very lucky to get a ticket when they release them on the website. I got there at about 8 am and waited in line until 10 when they handed out the passes for the day. It's doable but you need to be ok with that or with buying a membership.
I liked staying at the Capitol Hill Suites, near the Library of Congress. Walking distance to a lot of places and very near a metro stop.
The choice of museums depends a lot on your personal tastes. I will plump for the small and cool Renwick, the National Gallery (with a stop at th cafe between the buildings for good gelato) and the DAR Museum if you like history and dec arts. There is an excellent costume show up there if that is of interest.
posted by PussKillian at 1:24 PM on April 15, 2017

Consider staying in a close-in suburb on either the Virginia or Maryland side, rather than DC proper, near a Metro stop. Virginia neighborhoods to check are Rosslyn, Clarendon, Alexandria (though Old Town Alexandria is almost as $$ as DC proper). I am less familiar with MD, but Silver Spring and Takoma are both just a couple stops from Union Station.

Buy a SmarTrip metrocard and load a pass. I suspect the 7 day "short trip" pass would be your best option -- you get unlimited rides off-peak and some stipulations on peak fare but still very do-able.

Not exactly underground/unusual, but the Kennedy Center has daily free performances on the Millennium Stage at 6pm. Check the calendar; I've seen some great stuff there.

Get a picnic lunch at Eastern Market and head to either Navy Yard or the Tidal Basin. The latter is one of the most beautiful places in DC.
posted by basalganglia at 1:25 PM on April 15, 2017

For Kusama go on a Wed morning for the passes because the Hirshorn is open later and you have more flexibility on time. But see it!

Craft beer bars:

The Partisan is near the museums

Churchkey is in the 14th St. Corridor

Meridian Pint is on 11th St. NW.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:41 PM on April 15, 2017

For underground, there's the art exhibits in the Dupont Underground. It's close to Pizza Paradiso and Churchkey, which have good beers.

Arlington and the outer suburbs aren't always cheaper, and I don't think it's very interesting. There's some cheaper hotels in Foggy Bottom that I recommend. If you stay in that area, the Soverign has an awesome beer list.

Aside from the free and wonderful Smithsonian museums, I'd recommend the Newseum. The Heinrich House Museum does some fun tours in collaboration with local brewmasters.
posted by inevitability at 3:53 PM on April 15, 2017

Residence Inn Arlington Courthouse is really close to the Courthouse Metro in Arlington, Virginia, and this is very close to DC. It's a convenient neighborhood for walking to some good restaurants (Me Jana, Ray's The Steaks, The Green Pig, Lyon Hall ... just to name a few) and other amenities as well (including a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's nearby), and is not far from the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

For DC, you can sometimes get good deals at the Capitol Hill Hotel, which is not far from Barracks Row and Eastern Market.

The Washington Monument is closed, but you can get a view of the city at the Old Post Office tower (Political note, while the Old Post Office is currently used as the Trump International Hotel, the tower itself is operated by National Park Service.)
posted by gudrun at 4:11 PM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you considered an AirBnb? We stayed in one on our trip to D.C. last year and saved a lot of money.
posted by cozenedindigo at 7:26 PM on April 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Standard DC advice is generally to avoid any museum you need to pay for

...except the Phillips, which is near Dupont Circle - that is, if you're interested in Art.
posted by Rash at 8:30 PM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pro-tip re: the Newsrum - all tickets are good for two consecutive days, which may be helpful because there is so much to see.
posted by kat518 at 4:05 AM on April 16, 2017

I just came back from DC, we stayed in a Capitol Hill rental apartment and that's the only way I'd ever do it. It saves you from the exhaustion of "a whole day out" as you can come home and rest whenever you need to without forfeiting the rest of the day, and you save a ton on food by getting a couple bags of groceries and eating that for all breakfasts and some meals, instead of being reliant on restaurants. (Of course there are restaurants and "restaurants" -- the only disappointing meal we had was when we decided to splurge on a "real" restaurant; and the best by far was a fantastic pizza-by-the-slice place on Pennsylvania SW where we all ate groaningly well for fast-food prices.)

We used Lyft and cabs when we were too tired to walk the length of the mall to get home, the small distances made it all pretty affordable and of course much easier than schlepping on subways. DC is terribly crowded, and for me being able to get out of the crowds is a necessity.

I can't imagine paying for a DC museum when the free Smithsonian ones are among the best in the world.

Check airbnb and VRBO before you think about hotels.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 AM on April 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is my go-to DC hotel. It is across the street from the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Stop and a short walk to the Air and Space Museum. Some rooms have a nice view of the Capitol dome. The prices aren't bad either.
posted by 4ster at 6:21 PM on April 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been twice in the last year and both times we used short term rentals in Capital Hill. We like VRBO, and both times the places were perfect. Stay as close to the Mall as you can afford, and you can eat most of your meals in your rental apartment and walk pretty much anywhere you want to go. We used Uber/Lyft and the Metro when we did t want to walk, but that wasn't very often. Something like this would be perfect. And you can eat most of your meals in the apartment and save a ton of money.
posted by raisingsand at 7:47 PM on April 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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