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Top 10 Free Things in DC June 9, 2019

One of the great things about visiting the nation’s capital is that there are so many free things in DC. This makes Washington an excellent travel destination for budget travelers and for families where buying tickets for everyone would really add up. These are ten of our favorite free things in DC.

10. U.S. Capitol

The Capitol is a beautiful building at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol is where our legislative branch of government meets and it’s one of the most iconic buildings in the city and in the country. You can tour the inside of the Capitol by making a reservation on the Capitol Visitor Center website.

If you are an American and if you prefer you can also contact your member of Congress to request a tour. These tours are typically led by one of their interns and there is a long-running debate about whether the Visitor Center tours or the congressional office tours are better. However, just seeing the inside of the dome and all the other cool stuff that’s inside is a memorable experience.

9. National Archives

Everybody knows the National Archives is where Nicholas Cage broke in and stole the Declaration of Independence. The Archives showcases the original version of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They also have a cool museum that has a lot of lesser-known records and documents from throughout history. Make sure you plan a little extra time to check it out.

A bonus trip hack for the Archives is that it is open year-round and you can go anytime; but during peak tour season in the spring and summer you should go on Recreation.gov and reserve tickets to skip the line. You do have to pay a small processing fee. But, it’s worth it! It is only a couple of bucks and your time is valuable!

8. Smithsonian museums

Smithsonian is not a single place. Rather it is the government agency that runs many of the museums on the National Mall and elsewhere in DC.  The most popular Smithsonian museums are Air and Space, Natural History and American history. Smithsonian museums are one of the most popular free things in DC. However, our recommendation for Smithsonian museums is to go to the ones that sound the most interesting, rather than the ones that are most popular.

7. National Zoo

Despite the name, this is not the biggest nor the grandest zoo in America. In many ways, the National Zoo is more like a neighborhood zoo than a major tourist attraction. However, unlike other big zoos, the National Zoo is completely free.

You might be interested to know that only four zoos in the United States currently have giant pandas on display. The National Zoo in DC is the only one where you don’t have to pay to see them. If you have a big family and kids, the zoo is a great option because you can spend as much or as little time as you want and not feel bad about it.  

6. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Obviously not everything here is free. If you are coming here to see Hamilton or another popular play, you might spend a small fortune. But, there are daily free performances on the Millennium Stage.  You can also take a free tour of the Kennedy Center, if you want an inside look at the building and some of the inner workings of the place.

5. National Gallery of Art

Believe it or not, the U.S. government runs two distinct museum institutions: the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art. Smithsonian was founded by an Englishman named James Smithson and the National Gallery of Art was founded by former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. The National Gallery focuses strictly on art and is one of the best institutions of its kind in the country.  Although, if you are a world traveler you could certainly debate about whether it stands up to some of the big European art museums.

4. Old Post Office Tower

If you like views, then you have to check out the Old Post Office Tower. The Washington Monument gets all the attention when it comes to views. However, we think the Old Post Office is a superior view. It is less crowded and easier to access. Plus you get awesome views down Pennsylvania Avenue and of the Washington Monument itself. The door is kind of hidden and hard to find. Check out our video for step-by-step instructions.

3. U.S. Botanic Garden

The U.S. Botanic Garden is on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. You can think of it as a museum of plants. It is one of the more relaxing free things in DC. There are greenhouses that recreate climates from all around the globe. So, you can find some really cool plant life that is not native to the DC area.

During the holiday season, they go all out with their Christmas decorations and in the summer a bonus trip hack is to cross Independence Avenue and go check out Bartholdi Park. It’s usually quiet peaceful and beautiful.  So, it can be a great place to sit and relax.

2. Library of Congress

A lot of people think the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is the most beautiful building in the entire city. We recommend the free guided tour of the inside of the building. That will give you a chance to learn about the art and architecture that is all around you. Make sure to budget some extra time to see the rotating exhibits which are always excellent.

A bonus trip hack for the Library of Congress is to plan to go here after you do your Capitol tour. It’s connected to the Capitol via an underground tunnel so once you’ve cleared security at the Capitol you won’t have to through another metal detector.

1. Monuments and Memorials

You cannot come to Washington DC without going to the Lincoln Memorial, standing on the top step getting a view of the city and the reflecting pool. The war memorials are very moving and powerful remembrances of those who served. The other memorials are to people who shaped what our country is today. Of course, the monuments are one of the many free things in dc and open 24/7/365 to visit.  

Trip Hacks DC runs tours of the monuments and memorials. These are not free. However, a tour is not required to see them. We really do think a tour makes your experience of the monuments so much better.

Another option that free are the Ranger talks. Our Park Rangers are extremely knowledgeable and great at showing you around. However, the disadvantage is that Ranger talks typically only cover one monument or a small group of monuments. So, you would need to cobble several of them together to make it into a full tour.

Coming to DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Are DC evening tours really the best? May 26, 2019

Let’s get this out of the way: there is no bad time to see the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. But what about DC evening tours? There is a lot of advice floating around that they are the best. Is it true?

The unsatisfying answer is: it depends. For a lot of visitors, it definitely is. Others might actually prefer a morning or afternoon tour. Read on for some important things to consider.

Evening vs after dark

It is really important to address the distinction between seeing the monuments in the evening vs. after dark. A lot of people assume that when you see a monuments tour advertised as an evening tour, it means that you’re going to see the monuments all lit up in the night sky. However, this depends heavily on the time of year that you are visiting. For example, on the shortest day of the year sunset in Washington DC is at 4:47p.m. and on the longest day of the year it’s not until 8:30p.m. If you visit in June or July, you can’t expect any tour to show you the monuments all completely after dark.

DC evening tours: pros and cons

One of the biggest upsides of doing DC evening tours in the summer will not be as hot. During June, July and August, the heat and humidity can feel oppressive. Coming to see the monuments when the sun is setting, rather than during the middle of the day, can help make it a little more comfortable. Another big upside to doing an evening monument is that it is a family friendly activity that you can do after dinner.

A big disadvantage to DC evening tours is that the Mall can very completely overwhelming during school field trip season from March through June. Every spring schools from across the country send their students on field trips to the nation’s capital. These groups tour the monuments after dinner because it’s one of the few evening activities that’s available for large groups of teenagers. For families with small children, evening tours might keep the kids up well past their bedtimes. Kids tire more quickly than adults and might struggle to finish an evening tour compared to one earlier in the day.

Coming to Washington DC and want to sign up for one of our evening tours?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

DC in June: What to know before you visit May 19, 2019

June is the start of summer tour season. June, July and August are the three busiest months in DC because kids are off school and families are taking their summer vacations.

When you visit in June make sure to expect that the crowds are going to be relatively heavy. It’s also important to know that the first two weeks in June overlap with school field trip season. June weather in Washington DC is hot and humid. The average daily high in June is 84 degrees and the average daily low is 66 degrees. Remember that you must factor in the humidity which can make it feel a lot hotter.  

Packing for a June trip means busting out your summer wardrobe. A jacket is probably not necessary. However, if you do want to bring one, a light rain jacket is all that you need. Pants or nice jeans are good if you plan to see a show at the Kennedy Center or visit some other place where shorts would not be appropriate. You should remember to bring your umbrella. No matter what the advance forecast says, summer thunderstorms can and do pop up out of nowhere. Sun protection is also a must Don’t forget to use your sunscreen before heading out for the day!

Folklife Festival

The most notable special event in DC in June is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This is usually held the last week of June and the first week of July. The Folklife Festival is a social event where you can experience cultures from all around the globe through things like music dance art and food. Aside from food and souvenirs, it is completely free to attend.

Capital Pride

June is also the month for Capital Pride. The parade is held on a Saturday and the route goes through the Dupont Circle neighborhood. There are events throughout the entire city for the entire month.

DC Jazz Fest

DC Jazz Fest is another popular June event. Every year the performers and the venues change so make sure to check out the official Jazz Fest website for details for this year. Jazz Fest has indoor and outdoor concerts, small concerts, big concerts, free concerts and ticketed concerts. So, if you are into jazz there is something for you.  

Seasonal Summer Activities

June is also when our seasonal summer activities get going into full swing. This includes things like Friday night Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art. You can also find free outdoor concerts and movie nights throughout the week.

June is also the month when Smithsonian typically starts to run their extended hours.  So, check out the Smithsonian operating calendar to see if any of them are going to be open late on the dates that you’re visiting.  

June Holidays

There are no federal government holidays in June but there are a few unofficial holidays worth noting.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June.  This is not a big restaurant holiday like Mother’s Day. Since its summer, things like baseball games, cookouts and golfing are popular.

Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is on June 20th and sometimes there are special fun events planned around it. For example, in 2018 Smithsonian actually kept their museums open until midnight for a special solstice event.

Are you a sports fan?

If you are a sports fan, June is when baseball and soccer are both in full swing. Check out one of our five major pro sports teams when you’re in town!

Coming to Washington DC, want to book a tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips,  tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites.  Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

2019 DC Updates: Important Things for You to Know May 12, 2019

A lot has happened already in 2019. If you’re coming to DC this year, these are some important 2019 DC Updates that you need to know about.

Trip Hacks DC Tours

When we launched Trip Hacks DC we offered exclusively private tours. This meant that tours were just you and one tour guide showing you the sites on the National Mall. However, we heard that you wanted public group tours that were affordable to smaller groups. So last year, we created Monumental Trivia at Twilight.

This year, we added a few new tour guides. Monumental Trivia is a public tour which means that you pay per person rather than for the entire group. Rob will lead Monumental Trivia on Saturdays and our other guides on select other days of the week.

Washington Monument  

The National Park Service originally advertised Spring 2019 on their website for the re-opening of the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, now it looks like August 2019 is the earliest possible re-opening. Remember that this is only an estimate and can change.

Metro Construction

There is a major Metro shutdown scheduled this summer. The yellow and blue lines will be completely closed south of Reagan National Airport. This will last from Memorial Day weekend through September. This is especially important to know if you are considering staying in Old Town Alexandria for your trip. Even though Old Town is a great area and it’s one of our recommended areas it is not a good choice this summer. The good news is that there are still plenty of other great areas to stay. 

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is one of our favorite things to do in DC. It usually runs for about two weeks and highlights cultures from all around the world. However, in 2019 it’s only going to run for two days: June 29th and June 30th. The official reason is because there are a number of delays and planning issues most likely as a result of the historically long government shutdown that happened last December and January.  

Circulator Bus

The Circulator bus is currently (and temporarily) free! In February, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that Circulator would be completely free indefinitely. Rides used to cost one dollar and you could pay either with a dollar bill or a SmarTrip card. Now, they are free, SmarTrip or cash required. Free Circulator won’t last forever. The DC City Council already voted to switch back to the old fares. So, be sure to double-check the Circulator website before you trip.

Another Circulator update is that they are launching a Zoo Express bus. It will take you from the Woodley Park station straight to the National Zoo entrance. This seasonal bus is going to run from May through September.

Spy Museum

If you visited DC in the past, then you might have checked out the International Spy Museum at their location downtown near the Capital One Arena. This winter, the Spy Museum started moving to their brand-new location in L’Enfant Plaza. It is bigger and will provide a much better experience for visitors. So, if you do want to go to the Spy Museum this year make sure to double check to make sure you’re heading to the right location.

Scooters

Electric scooters are seemingly everywhere in 2019! There are scooters from half a dozen different companies. You can download their app, create an account, and put in your credit card information and ride away on a scooter. These are also a fun novelty if you are on vacation.

One important thing to note is that the scooters are technically not allowed outside of their service area. The National Mall is outside of the service area.  So, when you are walking around the National Mall, you will see scooters everywhere. The scooter companies are not enforcing their service areas and charging people fines if they break their rules. But we do not know if this is still going to be the case in a week a month a year or ever. So, be aware of this if you’re planning on using them around the National Mall.

Jefferson Memorial

When you visit the Jefferson Memorial this year, you are going to find a big construction zone around the monument.  They are working on remediating a substance called biofilm. This black material is growing on top of the dome. From a distance, it looks like dirt but it’s actually a microscopic organism that attaches itself to the stone. This makes it a whole lot more difficult to clean up than dirt. The National Park Service did a successful test a few years ago which is why there’s one spot that looks nice and clean. Now they are going to do the rest.

Air and Space Museum

The Air and Space Museum is one of, if not the most popular, museums in DC. Smithsonian just started a major renovation that will last for the next several years. Be sure to reset your expectations of the museum since it will feel like a construction zone and the exhibits closed on a rolling basis.

Coming to Washington DC, want to come on a tour with us?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips,  tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites.  Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Day Trip from DC Ideas: Skip These 4 Destinations May 5, 2019

There are a lot of great places to day trip from DC. We have a blog post with five great nearby destinations. However, these are four places where you might be tempted to day trip but where you should resist that temptation. These are great places to visit! For that reason, a day trip does not do them justice.

1. Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a great city and a place where our founding fathers spent a lot of time. There is a lot of amazing history here. Philadelphia is a much bigger city than people realize. Sure, you could look at the Liberty Bell, peak inside Independence Hall, and take a photo in front of the Love statue. However, you would be missing out on trying a bunch of cheese steak places, running up the art museum stairs like Rocky and checking out the museums along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. You should at least stay one or more nights to see everything.

2. New York City

We don’t recommend a day trip from DC to New York or vice-versa. New York and Washington DC are actually not as close as people seem to think. Spending a single day in New York really does a disservice to everything America’s biggest city has to offer.

In theory, you could hop Amtrak train at Union Station and in a few hours be exploring in midtown Manhattan. However, in reality, the train takes about three and a half hours and the ticket, best-case scenario, cost at least $50 each way.

If you’re a family of four, is spending four hundred dollars and seven hours on the train really worth it? You will barely crack the surface of what New York has to offer. If you want to get back to DC before midnight, you would need to leave New York no later than 8:30p.m. If you want to go to the Big Apple, spend a few days or more.

3. Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia should be an overnight trip. There are two main things that people go to Williamsburg to do: Busch Gardens, the European themed amusement park and Colonial Williamsburg, the living museum that gives you a chance to explore what the country was like before it was our country. Williamsburg is a hundred and fifty miles away. In ideal conditions you could get there in two and a half hours.

However, a big problem with day tripping to Williamsburg is that to get there you have to drive on Interstate 95. This interstate is infamous for heavy traffic both on weekdays and on weekends. Plus, both Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg are outdoor activities. If you plan to visit in the summer you are going to be spending a lot of time outside in the heat and humidity. Packing it into a single day with a drive back to DC at the end is too much.

4. Virginia Beach

Washington DC is not a coastal city. If you really want to visit the beach, one option is Virginia Beach. The problem with trying to do a day trip is that it is just way too far. Virginia Beach is about 200 miles from DC and the Hampton Roads area has notorious traffic. We don’t recommend pairing a beach trip with a DC trip. However, if you want to do a day trip to a beach when you visit DC, the beaches in Delaware and Maryland are closer.

Coming to town and interested in a Washington, DC tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips,  tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites.  Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

DC Day Trip Ideas: Five Nearby Destinations April 28, 2019

There is so much to see and do in DC. But what if you want to get out of the city and take a day trip? This could be a great option if you are staying more than just a few days. The best DC day trip one that’s close enough to travel there and back in one day, but far enough to feel like you’re really getting out of the city. Here are five of our favorites.

1. Old Town Alexandria

Is Alexandria really a day trip? It’s only about ten miles from DC. However, Alexandria is it’s own unique city that has its own history and charm. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and fun things to keep you busy.  

Just taking a stroll down King Street can be a fun experience. The Torpedo Factory Art Center on the waterfront is a destination on its own. When you come to Alexandria, you can sign up for a guided walking tour or a food tour and learn all about the area. If you’re thinking that taking the Metro won’t make it feel like a day trip then why not try the water taxi instead? You can use it to get from the Wharf in DC to Old Town Alexandria. There is something about taking a water taxi that makes the experience feel more unique and special.

2. Baltimore

Baltimore often gets overshadowed by DC, at least as far as tourism goes. But, people forget that Baltimore is a major city and it’s very easy to get to from DC. You can take the MARC commuter train from Union Station for this DC day trip. In about an hour and for less than $10 you can get to Baltimore.

Once you arrive, the National Aquarium is a huge aquarium right on the Inner Harbor.  DC does not have its own aquarium. So, if you’re into this sort of thing then this is a great excuse for a day trip. If you are a big US history buff, Baltimore has quite a few notable sites. One is the Star-Spangled Banner House. this is the actual home where Mary Young Pickersgill made the flag that now hangs in our American History Museum. It’s the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write that famous poem that is now our national anthem.

You can also see Fort McHenry – the spot where that actual flag actually flew. If you’re an art lover, the American Visionary Art Museum has a lot of funky cool art that you can’t really see in DC. And if you’re a sports fan, the Ravens and the Orioles both play downtown.

3. Gettysburg

When people hear Gettysburg they usually think straight to the Gettysburg Address – the famous speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered during the Civil War. Gettysburg is an ideal day trip for a Civil War history buff. It’s about 90 miles away in Pennsylvania and you can get there in about two hours. Gettysburg National Military Park is the main attraction. It’s where you can visit the Gettysburg National battlefield and the Gettysburg Museum. The park is part of the National Park System and it’s free to visit. Make sure to check out the NPS website in advance to see what special programming they have coming up.

4. Annapolis

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. It’s located about 30 miles from DC. In good conditions you can make that drive in under an hour. But be very careful because that number could go way up if you attempt to do the drive during rush hour.  

Of course you can tour the Maryland State House, one of the oldest state capitals and often considered one of the most beautiful. You can also take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, especially if you’re into the U.S. Navy or naval history. Annapolis is located right on the Chesapeake Bay so if you go during a warm weather month you can rent a sailboat take it out on the water. Or you can go on a fishing charter and see what you can catch. Even if you don’t catch your own seafood, definitely eat Maryland’s signature dish: steamed Chesapeake Bay crab covered in Old Bay seasoning.

5. Charlottesville

Charlottesville is the farthest day trip from Washington, DC.  It is about a hundred and twenty miles and a two and a half to three hour drive. If you’re interested in the founding fathers or early U.S. history, this is where Thomas Jefferson lived. You can visit his home: historic Monticello.

Charlottesville is a small city and considered a college town because of the campus of the University of Virginia. But Charlottesville also has a lot of great restaurants without the hustle and bustle of a big city. Virginia has a thriving wine scene and a lot of vineyards are located around Charlottesville. So, if you’re a wine person, you don’t have to go all the way out to Napa Valley or France to go to vineyards. Of course, if you choose to do this make sure you’ve got a designated driver to take you around.

Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

DC in May: What to know before you visit April 21, 2019

Interested in visiting DC in May? May is in between busy spring break season and busy summer break season. It is also post cherry blossoms. There aren’t a lot of families in DC in May there are a ton of teenagers coming on their eighth grade field trips. May has springlike weather but if you’re hoping to catch some of the late flowering cherry blossoms, unfortunately you’re too late.

May weather

Weather-wise May is the most reliably spring-like month of the entire year.  The average daily high in May is a very pleasant 76 degrees and the average daily low is 54 degrees. To pack for your trip, we recommend you bring a lightweight jacket that you can easily throw into a backpack or a purse. Do not forget to bring your umbrella as well. May in DC is actually our rainiest month on average.

May holidays and special events

There are a lot of fun and special events that you can check out in May in DC. They don’t last all month so if you’re in town when one of them is happening, make sure to take advantage!

Around the World Embassy Tour

The first two Saturdays in May are usually when the embassies around the world have their annual open houses. This event is called Around the World. You can wander around the street that we call Embassy Row and learn about different countries and different cultures.

The embassy open house is split up into two weekends: one for countries from Europe and the other for countries from the rest of the world. The ‘rest of the world’ weekend is usually less crowded. A bonus trip hack is that there’s a cluster of embassies up near the Van Ness Metro station. They tend to be a lot less crowded than the ones that are down on Embassy Row (Massachusetts Ave NW).  

DC Bike Ride

Over 20 miles of DC streets are closed to cars during the DC Bike Ride. You can bike through Georgetown, around the monuments and on Pennsylvania Avenue. Whether you’re a novice or cycling pro, this is a fun and unique event. If you don’t have a bike you can travel with, don’t worry, there are plenty available in DC to rent.  

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is the only government holiday in May. The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor those who died serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

For many years, Memorial Day weekend included the event called Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder is a meeting of veterans from around the country. They ride into DC on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. However, this year is the last year for the Rolling Thunder. It also makes the experience on the National Mall a little bit different than on your typical weekend because of how many people are down there.

The Sunday before Memorial Day is when the National Memorial Day concert is broadcast live across the country and on PBS.  This takes place on the West Lawn of the US Capitol. A trip hack for this is to go to the full dress rehearsal on Saturday evening instead of the main event on Sunday evening.  It is the same show and the crowds will likely be smaller.

Other Non-Governmental Holidays

There are a few other non-governmental holidays in May worth noting.  May Day is on May 1st. Some people do use it as an opportunity for a rally a protest or another political event.  May the Fourth is Star Wars day. Don’t be surprised if you see someone walking around dressed up like Star Wars characters.  Cinco de Mayo is on May 5th so you may come across a party or two especially at one of our Mexican restaurants.

Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May.  The most important thing you need to know about Mother’s Day is that it is probably the busiest brunch day of the entire year. So, if you’re in DC and you want to go to brunch on Mother’s Day, make a reservation well in advance.  

Coming to Washington DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Metro from Airport: How to get to Downtown DC April 14, 2019

Reagan National Airport is one of the most convenient airports in the entire country. It is so close to the city that you can actually see famous Washington, DC landmarks like the Washington Monument and the Capitol dome from your seat on the plane. The airport’s location makes it easy and cheap to get into the city. If you are traveling to downtown Washington, a ride on Metro will get you there for under three dollars per person.

Step one: know your terminal

One of the most important things you need to know when you’re flying into this airport is which terminal your airline uses. Terminals B and C are very close to the Metro station and you can walk there from your plane in only a matter of minutes.  

Terminal A, on the other hand, is a bit of a hike. If you’re arriving through Terminal A, you can either walk down a long hallway to get back to the main part of the airport. Or you can ride on a free shuttle bus that will take you directly to the Metro station.  

What if you checked luggage?

If you checked luggage, then you are going to arrive into baggage claim. After you have your luggage, you need to find an escalator and go back up into National Hall. If you’re walking over from terminal A or you didn’t check any luggage then you can go straight into National Hall. This is the beautiful public space that you see in all of the famous photos. Once you are in National Hall, signs will point you down the hallway to the Metro area.

What to do once you get to the Metro station

Once you reach the Metro station, you will see the fare machines on the side of the station. If you’ve never ridden Metro before and you need to buy a SmarTrip card, you can do that at a machine. Look specifically for the orange and blue fare machines which dispense SmarTrip cards. Once you load your SmartTrip card with money, you can proceed through the fare gate.

The airport station uses a split platform

The airport Metro station is what’s called a split platform. This means that there are two separate sets of escalators. One set goes to the southbound trains; the other set goes to the northbound trains. If you go up the wrong one, you are going to be facing the wrong direction. Once you’re on the platform, you will see that you have a choice of two lines: yellow and blue. The one you should ride depends on where you are trying to go.

What line should you take to DC?

It depends exactly where you are staying. If your hotel is near the Foggy Bottom station then the blue line is the one that you want. If your hotel is near the Gallery Place station, then the yellow line is the one that you want. To get to a station that’s served by both, like L’Enfant Plaza, the yellow line is much faster than the blue line because yellow makes fewer stops in between. If you’re unsure, take a look at the Metro map or ask a Metro employee if you need extra help!

Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Weather in Washington DC: What to Expect April 7, 2019

Every visitor wants to know: what to expect of the weather in Washington, DC. We have four seasons but only a few perfect days sprinkled about throughout the year. In the summer it is hot and humid. In the winter, it is cold and sometimes it even snows. Fall and spring tend to have the most pleasant weather in Washington, DC.

One way to quantify the weather in Washington, DC is using the “daily digit” which is published by the meteorologists in the Washington Post. Every day of the year they publish a score on a 0 to 10 scale rating how nice the weather in Washington, DC is that day. It is a somewhat subjective way of quantifying the weather but we think their scores are pretty accurate.

An analysis of the daily digit found an average score of 6.02. This means that on a completely typical day the weather in Washington, DC is neither great nor terrible. The months with the highest average daily digit are April, May, September and October . The months with the lowest digits are in December, January and July.

Summer

If you’re visiting DC during June, July and August, come prepared for heat and high humidity. The humidity is a really big deal, especially if you’re coming from a climate where you don’t have it. For example, a forecast might show a high of 85 degrees, which doesn’t seem so bad. However, when you get to DC the humidity might feel like the mid to high 90s. 

In the summer, sunscreen and water are a must. Bring a good water bottle with you, something that you can refill throughout the day. You also want to pack a small umbrella, even if your favorite weather app only predicts a small chance of rain. There is a always chance of evening thunderstorms in summer.

Winter

The thing about winters in DC is that yeah they are cold but they are not bitterly cold. That said, we do occasionally get a big extended cold snap. In 2018 it was so cold for so many days in a row that the Potomac and Anacostia rivers both froze over. So, if you come during the winter pack a coat hat and gloves and plan for some indoor activities. However, don’t think that outdoor activities are completely out of the question.  

Spring

Every spring, there are some beautiful days. But, it can also be unpredictable, especially the month of March. March can sometimes swing from beautiful and spring-like to cold and winter-like in a matter of hours. May tends to have the most consistently spring-like weather.

Cherry blossom bloom is heavily dependent on the weather. Colder weather in Washington, DC during February and early March means a later bloom. Warmer weather during those periods means an earlier bloom. The Washington, DC cherry blossoms are notoriously difficult to time.

Fall

If you can swing a fall trip, the weather in Washington, DC is still warm, but the humidity is starting to wind down. This makes fall a lot more pleasant than the summer months. One thing to keep in mind is that Washington DC is not a beach town but we’re only about a hundred miles from the Atlantic Ocean so a hurricane or a tropical storm near the coast is always a possibility here.

Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Uber and Lyft Tips in Washington DC March 31, 2019

Uber and Lyft are a fine way of getting around DC. However, they are not always the best way of getting from place to place. We’ve noticed a recent trend of people becoming overly reliant on these apps. Historically Uber and Lyft offered dirt cheap rides. Now that they are both publicly traded companies that is starting to change. If you decide to use Uber and Lyft during your trip, here are some of our favorite tips to make it a little easier.

Uber and Lyft in Washington, DC have tons of options

In 2012, Uber was a luxury car service. Back then, you chose between either a town car or a black SUV. That’s it! The drivers were professional licensed limo drivers. Uber X was born once Lyft launched. Lyft and Uber X were the exact opposite of the original Uber service. They had regular people driving regular cars at rock bottom prices. Now, Lyft and Uber X are available in almost every city in the US and around the world.

Make sure you know what kind of service you need before requesting your ride.

  • Uber Black – the original town car service
  • Uber SUV – the original luxury SUV service
  • Uber X – regular people driving regular cars
  • Uber XL – regular people driving minivans or large SUVs
  • Uber Pool – an Uber X ride shared with strangers

There are also options if you need a child’s car seat or an accessible vehicle. These vehicles are in much shorter supply and it can take longer to get one. Lyft offers many of the same services with slightly different names.

Tip: pick an easy spot to meet your driver

The truth is, a lot of drivers in DC don’t really know the city very well. Many of them live far away in Maryland and Virginia and drive into the city to make money. As a visitor, you may not know the city very well either.

When you request your ride, try to place yourself near an easy to identify landmark or business. If the driver can’t find you (and they often can not) you can always call and tell them what business to drive toward.

Tip: Avoid Uber and Lyft during rush hour

Trying to get anywhere during Washington, DC rush hour can take significantly longer than mid-day. However, sometimes it is hard to avoid riding during rush hour. A ride that might take you 15 to 20 minutes mid-day could take up to an hour during rush hour.

Coming to Washington DC and want to sign up for a Trip Hacks DC tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC offers more than just a standard tour, it offers a stress free experience including tips and different trip hacks. These tips and travel hacks are for you to make the most of your trip to Washington DC and to catch the best things to do in the city. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites.Click here to check out the many available options for tours and to book your tour here today! Contact us if you have any questions.

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