Visit the Smithsonian - Are there better hotels 2-4 metro stops away?
March 10, 2022 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Thinking of taking the family (3 kids, 10,6,2) to DC for a hotel + stay near the Smithsonian and visit one or two of the museums. It's $50 to just park at a hotel - and I thought it might be a GREAT way to have them experience the Metro...especially if it's just a couple of stops out. Bonus points for a better (cheaper) hotel experience as well (and avoid the direct traffic).

My guess is that we'd be best at a hotel off the Blue/Orange/Silver lines. We're coming in from the east (Delaware). Ideally, more than 2-4 stops is okay - but the goal is to be within 20 or so minutes.
posted by filmgeek to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A few years ago we -- a family of six -- were looking at this same trip, and we ended up doing a VRBO rental.

We were like six or eight blocks due east of the Capital, and the kids never beefed about walking every day. :7) The place had a driveway so we zoomed right in from the freeway, parked the car, and only moved it twice the whole trip.

We had priced hotels with parking, and this rental was not only cheaper but also had more beds, a kitchen, more rooms, and wasn't as skeevy as trying to guess when the bedspread was last washed.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you're not VRBO'ing and you're willing to go out into Virginia, a hotel near Rosslyn or Crystal City is going to have cheaper parking and overall prices. Rosslyn is on the Orange line, which takes you to the Smithsonian stop, and Crystal City is on the Yellow line which goes to Archives--about a block away from the Mall.
posted by kingdead at 7:29 AM on March 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

i grew up in arlington, around the ballston orange line stop. it's very easy to get into the city from there. i'm talking literally five or six miles distance to the smithsonian and no line changes. rosslyn is even closer.
posted by AlbertCalavicci at 7:32 AM on March 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Yellow line which goes to Archives--about a block away from the Mall.

Right - yellow/green lines would be fine for getting to the Smithsonian if you hit that stop, even if the station isn't named "Smithsonian" it's as close or closer to some museums as the actual Smithsonian station.
posted by LionIndex at 7:33 AM on March 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

As a heads up, my mom tried to do a museum day recently, and all the Smithsonian museums were closed. She said the websites had not reflected the current closures (I believe it was something like M-W). Definitely call to confirm before planning your trip around it.
posted by bluloo at 8:24 AM on March 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

For visiting the various Smithsonian Museums, your best options are Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza, Archives, Federal Triangle, and yes even Gallery Place. None of them are a particularly long walk from the Mall. Gallery Place is the farthest off the Mall, but it does have the advantage of being directly next to the National Portrait Gallery / American Art Museum, which is *wonderful* and oft overlooked (and they have a second building at the Renwick Gallery which is near the Farragut metro station).

Anyway, those stations are on the Blue/Orange/Silver, the Yellow/Green, and the Red lines, so you have a lot of options. The Red Line, while least convenient to the Mall (which is where all the main museums are, yes) also gives you quick access to Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo (which is, itself, also a Smithsonian museum - but unlike at the National Museum of Natural History, here the animals are not dead).

You should also be aware that the National Air & Space Museum's building on the Mall in DC is closed. Well, it's briefly open during March, but less than half the building is open, and then they close it again near the end of March until they've completed more of the ongoing major renovations. Thankfully, they have a second building full of really amazing air- & space-craft... but it is out in Virginia, next to Dullest International Airport. Well worth the drive, but not Metro-accessible.
posted by timdiggerm at 8:29 AM on March 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

It's not within four stops, but during daytime hours I think it's around 20 minutes to Crystal City. Hotels are cheap and surprisingly luxurious. Everything nearby is an ugly mini-mall or a freeway.
posted by eotvos at 9:15 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Regarding what is open on which days, the Smithsonian has very recently started returning to 7 days a week, and the latest schedules are here.
posted by timdiggerm at 9:25 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would also recommend sticking to one metro line, if possible, to minimize delays. Right now, the subway trains on all lines are only operating every 20 minutes, so if you need to switch lines, it could be up to a 40 minute wait. It would be super frustrating to have to switch and miss something you planned on. for planning!
posted by cybrbananapeel at 9:33 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

> Right now, the subway trains on all lines are only operating every 20 minutes

This is both true and inaccurate for our purposes. The Red line is every 10 minutes. The other lines are every 20 minutes, but that's each individual line. In the downtown core, where every station (except Red line stations) is shared by two or three lines, the time between trains will be more like ten minutes.
posted by timdiggerm at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also, and I can't believe I forgot say this until now, there are also buses, and they are running much more frequently than the Metro. They take the same payment cards as the Metro. As for exactly what bus line goes where when, I recommend just wayfinding with Google Maps or a transit app (Transit or Citymapper are my favorites).
posted by timdiggerm at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Be sure to compare the cost of 4 metro passes from wherever you are looking. Moving two adults and two kids around on the system (your 2 y.o. is free) may not be much cheaper than $50 for parking. (Or it may be! Really depends on distance and hour)
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 10:04 AM on March 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Our family stayed in a Crystal City condo (Airbnb). One short bus ride to the metro then one long metro ride, but it was totally fine with all of us. Groceries near the condo, restaurants too, and free parking. PS don't miss the previously mentioned Udvar-Hazy Center out by Dulles!
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 10:07 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Starting September 10, the Yellow Line will be closed across the Potomac for eight months (still operating normally on either side). But otherwise any of the lines except Red would take you reasonably close to the various Smithsonian institutions, which are spread out from a walking standpoint.

Capitol Hill is a nice, interesting neighborhood with a lot of AirBnBs, that would be my first choice with kids.
posted by wnissen at 2:28 PM on March 10, 2022

It's not within four stops, but during daytime hours I think it's around 20 minutes to Crystal City. Hotels are cheap and surprisingly luxurious. Everything nearby is an ugly mini-mall or a freeway.

Just to correct the record, Crystal City is three stops from L'Enfant Plaza (one of the nearest stops to the museums), on the Yellow line. As long as you're visiting before the Metro shutdown in September, it would be easy access. Most of the hotels are within a few blocks of restaurants on 23rd St (including a great Ethiopian place) and a quiet residential neighborhood with a library and multiple parks and playgrounds. It would be a low stress, economical choice,

If you want to be in DC (which is a lovely place to be), Capital Hill, H St, and Eastern Market area would be good and close.

$50 for parking is absurd. If you go on Spothero, you can almost always find parking near the mall and museums in the $10-20 range, cheaper on weekends. There is also a reasonable amount of street parking.

Be aware that cherry blossoms are coming (peak bloom around March 24th) so hotels anytime in that range will be much more expensive and harder to book.
posted by oryelle at 8:54 AM on March 11, 2022

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