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October 31, 2012


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FYI- The piece of the Berlin wall is at the Newseum.


All good tips.

WOW, that is some trip! I might do this trip as well, but maybe not the whole itinerary. I like how you budget well your trip. Approximating your budget takes skills, great job!

For other people planning a trip, August is a great time to visit DC - if you don't care about congress being in recess. There are significantly less people in DC in August, hotels are cheaper, and there are no lines for museums. The hotels are very cheap - and it is one of few times I use priceline to travel, as you can get hotels for $50 a night on the subway lines - last time we stayed in Crystal city Marriott, the time before an independent hotel with a view of the Whitehouse both $50 a night. Great time to visit and once you get there all the attractions are free.

Sounds like a great trip. I want to visit DC and NY when our son is a bit older. I haven't been to the East coast much. My wife loves DC too. Maybe we'll tag along the next time she has a business trip.

The old post office is a great secret. It is the second highest location in DC and is completely free and requires no scheduling. Sounds like you guys had a great time with perfect weather. I used to live in Falls Church VA for a year so I too am familiar with DC.

Great itinerary! This may be one of the best, if not the best, trips I have seen. You made a great itinerary. I am sure the sights you visited did not only provided fun and enjoyment but also educated you and your group in one way or the other. I hope to visit DC next year.

Wow, how fun! I love DC.

I must disagree with the advice to visit DC in August....because I have visited twice at that time. DC is unbearably hot and muggy in is in the south and built on a swamp, remember. walking everywhere in 100+ degree weather to see the sights is terrible for adults and actually dangerous for small kids. Also, many older buildings you would want to visit such as the smithsonian lack or have only limited air conditioning, and the heat combined with the crowds is awful.

Sounds like a good trip. Theres a lot of great sites at DC and I think everyone should try and get there. I especially love how all the museums and sites are free. At some sites you do have to get reservations or tickets in advance so you can get in on the day of the visit as they book up fast in advance.

Jim --

Ford's Theatre and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing were both like this. Admission was free, but you needed a ticket (free too). Since crowds were low, we walked up, got tickets, and went in right away. But with heavier crowds, you will need to plan a bit in advance.

Oh man if I knew you were going to stay in Crystal City I would have made sure you went to Kabob Palace (right next to CVS) for dinner one night. Hands down the best food IN THE WORLD; boneless chicken kabob with rice and chickpeas. Impossible to be let down.

Also, I agree with both mdb (DC is way cheaper in August) and mc (it's also absurdly hot). Choose your poison!

Sounds like an awesome trip, I went on a similar one in 2008 but we only had 2 days. Getting nearly free flights for working at American Airlines helped us a ton! I like how you make the most of vacation and actually do stuff, too many people I know want to go lay on a beach, I prefer to wear myself out on vacation. I'll rest up when I'm back to the daily grind.

Jason --

We walked right by there several times!!! Kinda looked like a dive if I recall correctly. :)

We found a place in the mall that served GREAT BBQ -- and ate there a couple times.

You didn't check out the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum?!!?!?

I think it cost us like $10 to park (not on a subway line - it's way outside town), but was free to walk around in... Totally worth the money. They have a SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, a space shuttle, and the Enola Gay.

Didn't think I was a real air/space fan till I went there... sitting underneath the airplane that dropped an atomic bomb was more moving than I thought it would be.

Kay --

We didn't check out anything that we couldn't walk to or Metro to -- or anything that cost anything to see.

I understand - I was trying to point out that DC is a great place to see, and for the price of $2.50 per family member, you could have seen an extension of the National Air and Space museum that they literally can't fit in the mall - just because it's not 100% free doesn't mean it's not worthwhile :)

Not kidding, that really is an amazing kabob place in Crystal City -- their chickpeas always made the trip from Rosslyn worth it.

It sounds like a great trip! Your timing was great; DC is packed to the gills with tourists in the summer, so early spring (before cherry blossoms) or early fall are better times if you can swing them. I think all citizens should visit DC at least once to appreciate all the monuments and museums -- they belong to all of us, that's why they're "free".

Thank you so much for this very helpful post! I think I will plan this trip!

FYI, the Berlin Wall segment was seen at the Smithsonian -- Museum of American History. You can see the same pic near the bottom of this page:

If you read the pic there, you'll see that it's an "authentic reproduction" of the Berlin Wall. What a rip!

That said, we did see part of the actual wall when it was at the Grand Rapids museum a couple years ago or so.

The Newseum does have an actual piece of the Berlin Wall. It costs to get in--but it's well worth it. Any number of promotional discounts are available online and their tickets are good for two days of admission. If you're serious about the news, you could fill two full days.

Newseum and the Spy Museum are two of the museums that charge in DC. I'm calling them out only because (IMHO) they're the only ones in DC worth the admission charge.

Once I learned the Washington Monument was built based on occult symbolism, it now seems very creepy to me. Otherwise, great pictures.

Also, the Circulator bus is a more cost-effective transit option than Metro if you can take advantage of their limited routes. Their routes cover the Mall and other commonly-visited tourist sections of the city. The fare is $1/ride and (using a SmarTrip card) you can make unlimited transfers/stopovers within two hours for that dollar.

Bureau of Engraving & Printing is a great tour, and you only need free tickets March-August. The rest of the year you just walk right in.

Mark --


Mel --

We needed tickets -- and went in October. Then again, perhaps the tickets were only a formality since we got them and walked right in. But we did "need" them to take the tour (they took them as we entered the printing area).

BEP tickets are just a formality September-February. March-August they are tough to get, with queues starting as early as 6 a.m.

Another tip for travel planning to DC--especially during peak tourist season--is to enlist the help of your congressman or senator's office. In addition to the congressional tours listed, they may be able to hook you up at other public times.

I recommend the Circulator as an alternate to the Metro. $1/ride/person, and it lets you go places that the Metro doesn't (e.g. Georgetown).

A great place to stay when visiting DC is in National Harbor, MD. It is off the Potomac River, close to DC, and you can take a water taxi downtown. What makes it attractive is that it is really safe, secured by forest from the rest of DC/Arlington, it has an awesome mini-grocery store, and you can find some real bargain hotels or FSBO's. I recommend FSBO's for large families, during low peak season owner's are really trying to get their units occupied and rates compete well with hotels. Hotel bargains can be found if you are willing to wait until a week or two before reservation.

Great call on the flying versus driving. Many people get sticker shock when considering a flight for multiple people. But if you are really trying to have a vacation you must consider the effort you have to put into it. The drive back can challenging. Great article!

How long were you guys gone and if you could please, the list of sites you visited are in alphabetical order....could you please put them in a format of what you visited on what days? Thank you so very much!!!

Great post. Washington DC is one of my favorite cities to visit. I agree with Johnny's post on flying vs driving. October is one of the best months to visit DC - weather is nice, less crowds, and hotels are reasonably priced.

For hotels, I bid on priceline in DC's downtown and capital hill zones. I have been able to stay at 4 star hotels near the attractions and subway for less than $100/night through my priceline bids.

The only thing I'd add is to check, and use Priceline or Hotwire for the hotel. We stayed in DC a couple of years ago in a really pricy hotel for somewhere around $65 a night. That said, there was no breakfast, and you're right, the free breakfast can really save some cash.

Would love to see your list of places in the order you saw them!

Angela/Rachel --

I didn't keep the list that way. But we did batch them and visited places grouped by nearness to each other.

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