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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.

Washington DC In April: Tips For Your Visit March 24, 2019

April is one of the busiest months of the entire year for tourism. Early April is usually when we get the perfect storm of cherry blossoms in bloom and school spring break. The weekend of peak cherry blossom bloom is always the busiest and most crowded weekend of the entire year on the National Mall and Tidal Basin. April is also right in the middle of 8th grade field trip season so be aware that when you’re visiting you’re going to share the sites with a lot of teenagers. Here is what else to expect when you visit in Washington DC in April.

Cherry blossoms

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing by April and there are several signature events and smaller events that are worth checking out. These include the parade, kite festival, and fireworks display. The most important thing you need to know about the cherry blossoms is that they are notoriously difficult to time. Do not try to plan your trip around seeing the peak bloom. Instead, just to come to enjoy spring and be pleasantly surprised if you do see the blossoms.  

Washington DC April weather

April is when we start to get pretty reliable spring weather. However, there is always a chance of a cold snap or a mini heatwave. The average daily high is 67 degrees and the average daily low is 44 degrees. It is actually a pretty tough month of the year for planning outdoor activities because temperature swings can happen throughout the day.  

The key to packing for April is to think in terms of layers. You would not want to bring your winter coat during April. But, you might want to bring some sweatshirts and light jackets that you can layer up depending on the temperature. The day before you leave for your DC trip, check the forecast for the next few days to see what the temperatures might be like; that way you can decide how many sweatshirts and jackets you might want to bring. You should probably plan to pack an umbrella, regardless of what the forecast says. Rain is not uncommon in Washington DC in April.

April holidays

There are no government holidays during April. There are a few unofficial ones to keep an eye on. April Fool’s Day is on April 1st – try not to get pranked! Tax day is on the 15th. Patriots Day is on the third Monday of April. Earth Day is on the 22nd. There are no official events for any of these holidays but people do occasionally use them for rallies, protests and other political events. So, when you’re down on the National Mall, you might find some people trying to get your attention about some issue or cause depending on the calendar.  

We could also potentially have religious holidays such as Passover, Good Friday and Easter. However, as a visitor, unless you’re specifically looking for a religious event, you’re probably not going to notice much happening for these holidays.

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 March: What to know before you visit February 17, 2019

March is when tourism in DC really kicks in to high gear. The first part of the month is relatively quiet. However, the second half of the month is extremely busy. Learn a little bit about what Washington, DC in March is like so you can set the right expectations for your trip.

Important things to know about visiting DC in March

The National Cherry Blossom festival starts on March 20th, the first day of spring, and runs through mid-April. One thing to know about the cherry blossoms is that they are very difficult to time. Don’t try to plan your trip around them. Plan your trip around the Cherry Blossom Festival events. If you see them, think of it as a special bonus.

Mid-March is when 8th grade field trip season begins. Expect to see see a lot of teenagers on class trips. Spring break is also when a lot of families with kids take advantage of the time-off and come visit DC.

DC in March Weather

Remember, winter does not officially end until March 20th. There are some days in March where the weather is warm and springlike. There are other days when it dips below freezing. Sometimes, it even snows. The daily high is 56 degrees. The daily low is 35 degrees.

Packing for DC in March

When you pack for a trip, be sure to check the weather the day before you depart. If it is going to be cold make sure bring your winter coat and winter gear. If it is going to be a little nicer, then the key is layers. You can start with a sweatshirt, then add a lightweight jacket. A hat and gloves may not be a bad idea. March is the most variable month of the year. It’s also one of the windiest months.

March holidays and events

There are no government holidays during March. However, there are a few unofficial holidays.  

Saint Patrick’s Day is March 17th. The Embassy of Ireland usually has a celebration. However, it is not as celebrated like it is in Boston or Chicago. There may also be a few religious holidays such as Passover, Good Friday, and Easter. These dates vary each year. You may not notice these holidays unless you are seeking a religious event.

March is also the start of race and marathon season. You can also find charity runs and walks almost every Saturday and Sunday morning in the spring.  March is a great month for indoor and outdoor activities. Some of the ice skating rinks will stay open through early March. March is also the last month of the NBA and NHL season before the playoffs. Also, it is also the first month of the major league soccer season.

Coming to DC in March and want to sign up for a guided 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.

School Trips in DC: What Visitors Need to Know February 10, 2019

Participating in one of the multi-day school trips in DC is a right-of passage for many 8th graders across the U.S. If you are not visiting with one of these groups but coming to DC between mid-March and mid-June, these are a few things you need to know.

What is school field trip season?

School trips in DC are a huge part of the local tourism industry. Most schools send eighth grade class trips. This is why you will also occasionally hear referred to as “eighth grade field trip season”. Eighth grade is usually the class that gets to come to DC because it’s a final reward before the kids head off to high school.

Trip Hacks DC offers tours specifically designed for school groups. We have led tours with students in fifth grade all the way up to 12th grade. Our tours are best for small schools who don’t pay for an all-inclusive package. For large schools, these services might make more sense.

When is school field trip season?

School group trips in DC typically happen at one of two times during the year. The big one is in the spring, roughly from mid-March through mid-June. There is also a secondary field trip season in the fall roughly from early October through Thanksgiving.

If you’re trying to avoid field trip season the months you want to consider for your trip are: December, January, and February in the winter, and July, August, and September in the summer. Most schools choose to come in the spring because it’s an end-of-the-school-year reward. Plus, the students get to spend all school year learning about social studies and history and then they get to come to DC and see things up close.

Fall field trip season is much less busy since most schools don’t want to do the trip at the beginning of the school year.

How will field trip season impact your trip?

The most important thing to know is that school groups travel together in large packs. So, if you are visiting the memorials, there might be four groups of 50 students or more at once. This can really change the feel of some of the sites, particularly smaller memorials like the Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

School groups are only in DC for a limited amount of time. They need to maximize that time as best as possible. That means that during the day they’re going to be at the sites that are only open from 10 to 5. This includes the museums and the other indoor sites. Then, after dinner, they are going to head out and tour the monuments and memorials. This is because there are not a lot of evening activities you can do with big groups of teenagers.  

The bottom line is that if you’re visiting during spring field trip season you’re going to be sharing those monuments and sites with a lot of other people.

Where do field trip groups eat?

As far as restaurants go, school trips groups in DC tend to stick to a limited number of places. For lunch they go to food courts. The food courts at Union Station, L’Enfant Plaza, the Reagan Building, and Pentagon City Mall are all popular choices. Food courts are ideal for school groups because they’re cheap and they give the students a lot of different choices. For dinner, they go to the inexpensive restaurants that can accommodate groups. This includes places such as the Hard Rock Cafe, Buca di Beppo, Carmine’s, and similar chain places.

Where do school groups stay?

School groups usually stay at suburban hotels because they travel on charter buses. Thus they do not need to be near Metro. Suburban hotels usually offer group rates to schools. Although, you will occasionally see school groups staying downtown, especially if they’re a small group who doesn’t have a charter bus. So if you plan to stay at a downtown hotel and eat at mostly local restaurants, you are probably not going to bump into too many of these groups at those places.

Coming to DC and 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

DC in February: What to know before you visit January 27, 2019

February is the slowest month of the year in DC. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad month to visit! Capitalize on the small crowds at the museums and other big sites by visiting Washington, DC in February.

DC in February Weather

February is the second coldest month of the year. The average daily high is 47 degrees and average daily low is 27 degrees. However, this is an average, which means it could very well be warmer or colder when you visit. February is also the second snowiest month in DC, on average.

Packing for DC in February

You should bring a coat and a hat. Gloves can be a good idea too. You can also bring boots if you are a boot person. You should always remember that you are going to do a lot of walking so make sure your footwear is comfortable, no matter exactly what it looks like.

February holidays and events

There is one government holiday during February: President’s Day. This can be a great time for a weekend trip if you have the day off work or your kids have the day off school. There are not that many special events during President’s day weekend. However, you could visit the presidential memorials and historic sites.

Valentine’s Day is not a government holiday but it is very popular. If you come to DC in February and Valentine’s Day overlaps with your trip, skip the fancy restaurants. On Valentine’s Day, many of them switch over to a fixed price menu that’s often more expensive and lower quality than the regular menu. That’s because food is often cooked in bulk. If you do want to celebrate a nice Valentine’s meal, you can go the day before or the day after to order off the regular menu.

Important things to know about visiting DC in February

February is the month when there are the fewest number of tours operating. Many tour companies close for the winter and don’t re-open until March. That said, you can do a self-guided tour of the monuments on the National Mall or seek out a tour company that operates year round.

Also, you can go ice skating at one of the rinks around town. Most visitors prefer the ice skating rink on the National Mall. However, there is also rinks in Georgetown, the Navy Yard and the Wharf. The Wharf is actually a pretty cool place to see during the winter months. There are open fire pits where you can stop and cook s’mores over an open flame. There are also coffee and dessert places where you can stop for a hot beverage and a sugar break.

Even though outdoor activities are perfectly plausible, a lot of people may want to focus on indoor activities. You can tour the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the U.S. Botanic Gardens.

February is also African American History Month. Make sure to check out the special events spanning the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and other institutions.

You can also see a play at the Kennedy Center or an NBA game or a NHL game. You can check out one of the shows at the smaller theaters around town. For last minute tickets, you should use the website Goldstar. This might even save you a little money.

Coming to Washington DC in February 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.

How to Read and Understand the DC Metro Map January 13, 2019

If you’re visiting Washington, DC and planning on using our Metro, the Metro map is going to be your best friend. We highly recommend going and downloading a jpeg of the map to your phone. That way you will have access to it even if you have a low signal or are offline.

DC Metro line colors

The Washington, DC Metro consists of six color coded lines: red, green, yellow, blue, orange and silver.

Stations in the Metro system are served by either a single station or multiple stations. For example, most stations on the red line are served by only red line trains. So if I want to visit the zoo, you will have to use the red line to get there. Other stations are served by multiple lines. For example, if you want to visit the White House, the closest station is McPherson Square, which is served by three lines.

Using the DC Metro map to identify transfer stations

Depending on exactly where you’re trying to go, you might need to ride two lines and transfer between them. Transfer stations on the Metro map are marked by a bulls eye. There are officially 8 transfer stations. For example, if you wanted to get from Eastern Market to the Zoo, you would need to ride the orange, blue or silver line to Metro Center. Then, you would then transfer to the red line and continue to the zoo.

One thing that a lot of people, including locals, don’t know about the Metro map, is that the line that is physically on the top floor of the station, is on the top on the map. For instance, take a look at the L’Enfant Plaza station on the DC Metro map. The green and yellow lines are on top of the orange, blue and silver lines. That means if you want to transfer from green to blue, you get off the green line upstairs, and go down the escalator to get to the blue line. On the flip side, at the Gallery Place station, the green and yellow lines are downstairs and the red line is upstairs.

Other Washington DC points of reference

In addition to the six lines on the DC Metro map, there are also a lot of reference points. If you look closely you will see both the Potomac River and Anacostia River. You can see the reference point for the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol building, among others.

The DC Metro map is not to scale!

The Metro Map is not drawn to scale. This makes it clean and easy to read. However, this also creates situations where destinations are closer together than you realize or farther apart than you realize.

Consider the end of the silver line. On the map, it looks like all of the stations from McLean to the very end are the exact same distance apart. However, if we go on the Metro website and look at the stops on an actual map, you’ll see that this isn’t the case at all. Four of those stations are close together. These are near the Tyson’s Corner development. However, the last stop on the line is six miles away.

On the other hand, the DC Metro map makes it look like the distance between Metro Center and Gallery Place is about twice as far as the distance between Dupont Circle and Woodley Park. But in reality, it’s the complete opposite.

Download and use CityMapper

With Citymapper, you plug in your origin and destination and the app will give you all of the options for your trip. If you wanted to go from Gallery Place to Metro Center, walking is usually the best option. And to get from Dupont Circle to Woodley Park, Metro is usually the best option. Using the app, you don’t have to feel like you need to figure any of this out on your own. Download it and give it a try!

Coming to Washington, DC and want to use Metro to get to one of our 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 January: What to know before you visit December 30, 2018

January is one of the slowest months of the year for DC tourism. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad month to come. In fact, you can totally use this to your advantage. Capitalize on the small crowds at the museums and other big sites by visiting Washington, DC in January.

DC in January Weather

The average daily high temperatures at 45 degrees and average daily low temperatures at 25 degrees. A typical January day can be perfectly tolerable. That is why Trip Hack DC tours run year-round. However a lot of tour companies actually take the entire month of January off. This is not because it is too cold, but because there just isn’t enough business.  January is also the month when it is most likely to snow.

Packing for DC in January

You definitely want to bring a coat. You will also want to bring a hat, gloves, and boots. Just keep in mind that you will probably do a lot more walking during your trip than you’re used to. Boots are not often very comfortable for that.

Important things to know about visiting DC in January

If you’re coming to DC and hoping to see some late holiday decorations, you are too late. Our decorations come down on January 1st. So if you are hoping to see holiday sites, plan your trip for December instead.

January is a slow month for restaurants so it’s easy to get reservations, even at the most popular ones. However, this is also when restaurants have winter restaurant week. If you’re coming for this, just make sure to plan ahead because reservations can be surprisingly tough.

Since crowds are smaller than during the rest of the year, January is a great time to do some of our indoor activities. We have plenty of free museums around town. You might also want to check out a play at the Kennedy Center, or at least one of their daily free performances.

If you’re into sports, the Wizards and Capitals regular season will be happening. Both of those teams play at the Capital One Arena. If you’re an athlete yourself or like ice skating, there are many ice skating rinks set up around town. The most notable rink is on the National Mall, across the street from the National Archives and next to the National Gallery of Art. There are also rinks in Georgetown, the Wharf, and Navy Yard neighborhoods.

January holidays and events

There are two government holidays in January. New Years is on January 1st and all government employees and school kids get a day off. However, restaurants, museums and other tourist sites will be open. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the 3rd Monday in January. It’s a great opportunity for a weekend trip.

Also, every 4 years, the Presidential Inauguration is held on January 20th. Unless you specifically want to see it, you should not come during that week. Instead plan your trip for a little earlier in them month or a little later in the month. It’s really only inauguration day plus a couple days before and a couple days after that things are a little crazy. However, the rest of January is perfectly fine.

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.

Travel Tips for Mornings in DC December 16, 2018

Washington DC has a bit of a reputation as an early to rise, early to bed kind of city. It is not uncommon to see locals starting their day before sunrise, especially during the work week; but many visitors don’t start their days usually until a little later because sleeping in is one of the best perks of vacation! That said, if you are an early bird, here are four ideas for how to enjoy mornings in DC.

1. Go on a photo safari

Sunrise and sunset are both great times to take photos. However, sunrise is often better because there are fewer people out and about. So if you show up to the Lincoln Memorial at 7:00 in the morning you will have a much better chance of getting a great photo without a thousand people in it compared to the afternoon or evening.

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most popular sights but the other memorials might be even quieter. The Vietnam Memorial feels very peaceful in the morning, compared to later in the day when all the tourists arrive. Now, there is no guarantee that going down to the National Mall first thing in the morning will get you the place to yourself. A lot of locals like to get their morning exercise in before it gets really hot during the summer and before they have to leave for work. So don’t be surprised to find a bunch of fitness enthusiasts out with you.

2. See the animals at the National Zoo

Smithsonian museums on the National Mall open at 10:00 a.m. However, the National Zoo opens a little earlier. The grounds open at 8 a.m. and the exhibits at 9 a.m. Starting at 8 a.m. you can walk around on the pathways. However, the animal exhibits will not open until 9:00 a.m. You can still see many of the animals just from the outside paths. Morning is actually one of the best times to see the animals because in the afternoon, they often settle down for a little nap.

3. Eat at an old-fashioned diner

Diners are becoming fewer and fewer as people stopped going out for breakfast and started preferring brunch. However, the few remaining diners are great places to go to in the mornings in DC.

One of our favorites is Jimmy T’s located on East Capitol Street about a five-minute walk from the Capitol building. Another similar diner is called Pete’s Diner, located on the south side of the Capitol building, just a few minutes walk. Both of these places are no-frills breakfast diners, you’ll find eggs pancakes, potatoes, and more. Be sure to bring cash because they are cash only. Both diners close every day at 3 p.m.

Another spot we really like is Market Lunch, located inside the Eastern Market. The name is a little misleading, however, as the breakfast is what it is worth going for. The signature dish here is called “blue bucks” short for blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Breakfast ends at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 1:30 p.m. on the weekends. So make sure to get here before they cut it off!

4. Get caffeinated on a Coffee Crawl

The coffee shop scene in DC has exploded over the last decade. There are far too many coffee shops to list out here. But, there are a few areas where you can go if you want to hit a bunch of them in a short time. Start up at 14th and U Streets NW. There are at least half a dozen independent or small local coffee chains that you can visit without even walking more than a mile. If you’re staying downtown, the area near Farragut Square is where a lot of the established local coffee shops opened their downtown second locations in the last few years. Make sure to bring a bottle of water with you on your coffee crawl. You are definitely going to want to stay hydrated!

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