Despite the daily machinations of the Federal government, Washington D.C. is still a major tourist city that attracts millions of visitors a year from around the globe. Some visit to see the numerous government buildings like the White House, Capitol, or FBI Headquarters. Others visit to head to the monuments like those for Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. And then there are the Smithsonian museums which run alongside the National Mall.
The city is packed with sites, and this could mean a extended stay while you tour everything within and outside of the Beltway. Well, an extended stay if you can afford it, because a trip to D.C. can be very expensive to get and stay there. Here are the things to consider if planning a trip to the capital city of the U.S.
Access to Washington D.C. is pretty convenient, yet cost some money depending on how you get there. Going by plane can be expensive if landing within the city limits at Ronald Reagan National Airport. Dulles International, based across the Potomac in Northern Virginia, is another option. The third choice of airport, Baltimore Washington International (BWI) has always been the least expensive option to access the Washington D.C. area.
By car or train are two other options to get to the area. Amtrak runs several trains from other sections of the country into Union Station, which is a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol. Should you want to drive, Washington D.C. is easily accessible via Interstate highways such as I-95, I-66, and I-70/I-270.
Here’s the skinny on transportation. If you plan on staying within the city limits and land at BWI or Reagan, take a train from the airport. If landing at Dulles and staying outside of Washington D.C., you need to rent a car; however, you don’t want to drive in the city. Unlike other metropolitan areas laid out in a grid pattern, D.C. is a mishmash of streets, and there’s a very good chance of getting lost if you haven’t visited before. The good news is D.C. has a inexpensive and clean subway system, the Metro, that takes visitors pretty much anywhere they want to go in the city and beyond. Needless to say, you may need to rent a car if you stay in one of the outer suburbs in order to drive to the train station.
Where to Stay
Like other cities with train service, dozens of hotels dot the areas around the stations. In some cases, the stations are right below accommodations. The closer to the city you stay, the more expensive it’ll be. Even a stay in neighborhoods like Georgetown or the city of Alexandria can cost more than normal. Those willing to drive a bit may wish to stay in the northern suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland or Northern Virginia. Cities like Rockville or Tyson’s Corner actually have more amenities than D.C. itself. The only exception to this is Arlington National Cemetery. Though visitors can tour the grounds on their own, a paid, guided tour by bus stops at the most visited areas.
What to See
Everything! The best thing about Washington D.C. is you don’t need to pay a dime to visit the monuments or museums, though you may need to get timed tickets to head to places like the White House or the Washington Monument.