Traveling Washington DC? What you really need to know!

Traveling Washington DC? What you really need to know!

Traveling Washington DC can be a fun place for travel. But you must look at what you will do when traveling around. You have to know not only how to get to the city but also how to move around it and what to expect when you walk through the city. Planning ahead will save you trouble.

Washington DC is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visitors marvel at the many unique museums, government sites and other attractions around here every year.

But while DC is a fine place to visit, it can also be challenging. It is a crowded city filled with tourists, employees and bureaucrats alike. It is easy to get lost amid the crowds and pressure around the city.

Traveling Washington DC
Traveling Washington DC

There are several tips you can use when traveling to or around Washington. DC will be a more appealing place when you plan ahead.

Which Airport?

Are you planning on flying to DC? If so, there are three airports for you to choose from. Look at each option and figure out from there which is right for you:

  • The Washington Ronald Reagan Airport is to the south of DC. It is next to a station on the Metro, the public rail system in the area. This is useful for domestic travelers.
  • The Washington Dulles Airport is about a half-hour drive west of the city. The airport is popular among international tourists. This is thanks to how the airport has longer runways that can handle international flights.
  • The Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport is an hour north of DC. The airport serves both the DC and Baltimore areas. This is perfect for people who want to fly into a cheaper airport. A rental car is recommended when flying out here, but you can also utilize the Amtrak station nearby.

Overall, Reagan is best for those who want something closer to the city. Dulles is ideal for international tourists. The Baltimore airport is for people who want something cheaper and could be great for those who want to make a quick stop in the Charm City as well.

Airport Comparison

AirportLocationAirlines ServedMain Purpose
Washington Dulles International AirportDulles, VA, about 25 miles west of DCUnited, Delta, AmericanFor international and United travelers
Ronald Reagan Washington National AirportArlington, VA, about 5 miles south of DCAmerican, Southwest, DeltaFor people looking for an airport closer to the city
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall AirportLinthicum, MD, about 30 miles north of DC and 10 miles south of BaltimoreSouthwest, Delta, Spirit, AmericanFor people looking for a cheaper travel option or those who also want to visit Baltimore

Watch For Traffic

Traffic in the DC area can be difficult to get through. But there are some tips you can use to help you get through the DC roads if you plan on driving through them:

  • Rush hour traffic tends to last longer in DC than in most other places. This is due to government employees have flexible working days. Expect the rush to go from two to six in the afternoon.
  • Try to avoid I-95 and I-70 as they can be crowded. Look for other routes around the area like Route 44 or Alternate 40.
  • Be aware of traffic reports before you head out. You can find information on traffic from local radio stations.

But while these are good tips, it might be best to use public transportation. The Metro service, as you will see in a moment, is a great one to find.

Using the Metro

The Metro rail system is a popular part of DC. This is a rail system that brings people all around the area. The Metro trains run throughout much of the day and cover most important spots. There are several tips to use when traveling on the Metro:

  • Look for a day-long pass if possible. The cost to go from one stop to another varies based on your route. Sticking with a day pass is best. This ensures you can avoid the complicated fee structure.
  • Look to see where certain stations are when compared with the spots you want to head out to. The Navy Yard station is the best one to use if you want to head to the ballpark, for instance.
  • Watch for transfer points if you need to go from one line to the next. You can switch from the yellow line to the green or orange line on L’Enfant Plaza, for example.
  • Trains typically come every twelve minutes. They will come every eight minutes during the early and late rush periods. Be aware of this when figuring out when a train will come along.
  • The Metro does not work past midnight from Sundays to Thursdays. Plan ahead if you are going to spend a late night anywhere in the region.

Be Ready For Security Checks

You will almost certainly have to go through a security check while in DC. Many museums have such security checks. These work in the same manner as an airport check.

You would have to remove any metallic items from your self before going through a check. You should not have to remove your shoes though. Any bags you bring with you may be subject to a check too.

traveling to Washington DC
traveling to Washington DC

Ask a Representative For a Pass

One thing you can do while in Washington is to tour one of the popular government sites. The White House and Capitol Building are two very popular places. You can see many places that major government employees operate out of.

But to get to one of these places, you have to get a pass. You would have to contact the local government representative in your area. Your local representative or senator can help you get access to a tour. But you would have to contact that person weeks or months in advance. This is to ensure you get the security clearance needed to actually tour some of these places.

Look For Free Attractions

Some of the attractions around DC cost extra to get into. Places like the Newseum and International Spy Museum are fun and exciting, but they charge large amounts of money to tourists. This is mainly to keep those spots intact.

You can find plenty of free attractions all around DC:

  • The Smithsonian Institution’s many museums are free to enter. This includes the area’s famous air and space museum among others. These museums are laid out next to each other.
  • See the various memorials and monuments around the city. See the Jefferson Memorial, the Arlington Cemetery and John F. Kennedy’s burial space among other free things. Look for newer attractions like the World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
  • Head to the National Zoo and see the giant pandas among other animals. This is a popular free attraction, but it takes a while to talk through the entire place.
  • See some intriguing works of art at the National Portrait Gallery. The museum includes some official presidential portraits.
  • Go to the Library of Congress and see where many historic records are kept. These include some vital documents that were critical to the development of the country.

All of these free attractions are great to see thanks to their unique and historic features. Be sure to look around, but be advised that free spots can become crowded.

Avoid Doing Too Much In a Day

There are many things to do while in DC. You would surely require several days to see it all. Therefore, avoid rushing your way around the city. Stick with two or three attractions in a day if possible.

traveling to Washington DC
traveling to Washington DC

Part of your visit to DC should entail savoring the many things the city has to offer. Look at some of the beautiful exhibits around the Smithsonian Institution. See the grand layout of the Lincoln Monument. Honor the past at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Wear Good Shoes

The last tip to use is to always wear shoes you feel comfortable with. You will partake in lots of walking while in DC. Having good shoes is a necessity for keeping you comfortable as you go all around the area. After all, many attractions around the city take up massive swaths of land.

Each of these points is valuable to use if you wish to travel to Washington DC. This is a popular city if you know how to enjoy it.

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