I recently jetted to Washington, DC for a whirlwind blow-through-the-northeast for work. While most of my time was spent hopping between meetings and other work obligations, I was blessed with a morning and afternoon off and man did I make the best of my time. I definitely passed out on my train to Baltimore the next day (that trip is worth a post of its own for various reasons, most of them unpleasant at the time but hilarious now. Stay tuned).
And so, if you ever find yourself in Washington DC with a few hours to kill, I present to you Eight Hours in Washington.
6 a.m.: Laugh at the alarm, and yourself for thinking last night when setting said alarm that this would be at all realistic.
6:45 a.m.: Grumpy at yourself for sleeping this late, rush through a shower and make yourself semi-professional in case time runs away from you later when you need to go to work.
7:15 a.m.: Book it to the Metro and stare at the ticket vending machine for what seems like an eternity trying to figure out where money should go in and where a ticket will come out. Eventually get the hang of it and help another tourist with it. Tourist will thank you and assume you are a local. Secretly relish the fact that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb which is most excellent.
7:30 a.m.: Start descent down what might be the deepest and longest escalator of all time into Metro station.
7:35 a.m: Finally get off escalator. Sweet jebus.
7:50 a.m.: Get to Georgetown and grumble at how pretty everything is. Find a cute café and tone down the bitterness with oatmeal and a tea for breakfast, how quaint. Read a Washington Post in its entirety and feel remorse over how long it’s been since you’ve read a paper.
8:45 a.m.: Stand in front of the Senate and take photos of everyone. Seriously. Travelling solo has its advantages, but a disadvantage is surely becoming the unofficial photographer of any other tourist.
9:15 a.m.: Walk some of the Washington Mall. Stand in front of the Smithsonian and remind yourself to devote a day to that on the next visit. Marvel at how fancy the IRS offices are (your tax dollars at work, America). As you walk along the dirt path, note that they haven’t had much rain in DC either as most of the grass is brown and rather crunchy. Also note that a lot of people seem to take extended coffee breaks. Doesn’t anyone work in this town?
10 a.m.: Totally geek out at the Newseum, an entire museum devoted to journalism! Politely wait as enormous school groups stand in front of exhibits, half-listening to their teachers. Not-so-politely stare in horror when teachers use Tim Russert as an example of “why you should exercise and eat healthy, kids”. Spend too long stifling laughter when observing multiple people walk straight into the (admittedly, invisible) glass surrounding some of the exhibits with a loud THUD. Check out the Presidential Pets exhibit and decide that’s tied as your favourite, with the uber-heavy Pulitzer Prize exhibit that makes you sit on a bench and cry afterwards.
11:45 a.m.: Buy a cookie to console yourself.
12:30 p.m.: Have a picnic in the Mall with the Washington Monument in the background. Read half of a good book as you sip lemonade and polish off a sandwich from Pret-a-Manger. Stare at all the people running and playing Ultimate Frisbee and really start to wonder how any work gets done around here.
1-3 p.m.: Power walk and see the sights: the aforementioned Monument (which is still closed after last year’s earthquake), Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial (amazing), Lincoln Memorial (which is much bigger than you ever imagined), Reflecting Pool (sadly empty, which is disappointing as you’d hoped to stare into it after staring at Lincoln and gain some amazing insight about something. This is what Hollywood had told you would happen, after all), George Washington University (grind your teeth at how pretty an urban university can be), and finally stumble across the White House. Which is underwhelming and chock full of crazy people along the fence. Think how funny it is that you were so excited to see this, yet aren’t so interested in 24 Sussex Drive. Oh Canada.
4-9 p.m.: Do your job thing. Hire a town car to get there and feel totally fancy when the driver calls you “miss” and offers you bottled water.
10 -11 p.m.: Drink in Georgetown with colleagues at a bar with a really good piano man and really awful patrons singing along.
11:30 p.m.: Pack bags for trip to Baltimore at 7 a.m. and collapse into bed.
So there you go – 8(ish) hours in Washington, DC. It was definitely a good introduction to the city, and I absolutely can’t wait to go back on my own time and check out more museums and areas. I unfortunately just missed the cherry blossoms, so next time I’d also try to get there a bit earlier to catch those.
- I stayed in Arlington, Virginia, as hotels in Washington are INSANELY expensive. I was a five-minute walk from a Metro station, which was three stops to Georgetown and only cost about $2.50 to get to major landmarks like the White House. The Metro was clean, efficient, and once you got the hang of the fare-by-distance system easy to zip around on.
- Cabs are hard to come by unless you book them in advance. And they only take cash, which thankfully was pointed out to me beforehand.
- If you’re flying, try to fly into Reagan versus Dulles. My shuttle bus took almost an hour and a half to get into the city thanks to traffic and construction. Reagan is much closer and from what I’ve heard, a nicer airport.
- Be prepared for everyone to call you “miss”, “mam”, or “sir” (depending on your gender, of course). The amount of chivalry still in existence caught me off guard – and not just people holding doors for me. I got tables at cafes and restaurants, luggage carried (except when heading to Baltimore, stay tuned for the next post for details about that one) and felt like I had time travelled to another era at times. Thanks Washington for being so polite.