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trip review- 6 days-just back

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Toronto
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trip review- 6 days-just back

We are mother and 14 year old daughter traveling with friends. We were there from July 23 to 29 arriving BWI and staying at Hampton Inn Convention center- hotel was good -see separate review

arrived BWI 12:05 took MARC to Union station-easy but wish I had known there is a $3 penalty per ticcket to pay cash on board- get your ticket at the station unless you are tight on time

arived Union stn-grabbed bite to eat in extensive food court- on to hotel by taxi ($10! for a short trip, cld have used circulator for $1 each)

after check in-went to Georgetown to shop and have dinner at Paradice Pizza- fine but I do not get why so popular. However my daughter raves about the crust, so cld be just that I wanted a meal other than pizza (really only pizza and sandwiches there). Took circulator there and back which was great- $1/each per trip and goes right to M and Wisconsin (heart of Georgetown) and stop virtually right outisde our hotel. Walked ard Georgetown (Betsy Johnson, Juicy, Vitoria Secret, Dean and DiLuca, Wink, etc). Back to hotel -note circulator has a shortened nightime route if after 9pm

Thursday- took DC duck tour- very fun and we both enjoyed it a lot- interesting and lots of facts

met our firneds at Union stn and back to hotel with them (they arived a day later than us). Then on to Old Postal Pavillion (ate late lunch in food court- so-so) and went up in tower- nolines, no cost, great views. Used circulator again from hotel to here and back. Then on to Dupont Circle for dinner and strolling- great fun

Friday- did tourmobile hop on/hop off- very good-everyone enjoyed it. did Arlington cemetary- again great but sooooooooooo hot. Also Jefferson memorial, Korean memorial, Lincoln, Washington monument, white house vistor center, Museum of Natural History- if you have done the one in NYC or Chicago you may be a little disappointed- it was good but we did it in 1 hr 15 minutes (it was closing) cld have used another 30 mins max-so quite short. However we loved the butterflies (extra cost $6/per person)- good cafeteria there, with some healthy choices

back to hotel to recover from heat for one of our group (it is now 5:30pm), and the rest of us went and did the dc BY FOOT WALKING TOUR- REALLY enjoyed this (including the 2 14 year old girls with me), tour guide very knowlegable and funny too. It is free and goes fromWashington Monument to Lincoln memorial with stops including WW 2 mmorial, vietnam memorial, and Lincoln, etc, takes about 1 1/2 hrs- we did the 6pm pone and I can't imagine surving the heat for the 2pm one. They survive off tips- ane we were more than happy to tip for this great tour (I tipped $5/person)

Then our missing person caught up with us and we took a taxi to Georgetown (water front) andhad a great dinner right by the river- I had Maryland crab cakes which were amazing- dinner quite pricey at about $100 for 2 of us- howver that includes 2 glasses of wine- entres were about 25-30 each, but the food was good, sat outside on patio which was pleasant, right at the water.

took circulator/then taxi home to hotel (we cld have taken bus after circulator, but we were very tired and a little confused)

Saturday- this was not a good day- did Spy Museum- horrible, particualrly Operation Spy; museum was interesting but so crowded cld not read most of the exhibits. Had bought ahead of time timed tickets (10:05am), complte waste of money but the girls liked the museum except for the crowds, we all thought Operation Spy shld be limited to those 12 and under not 12 and over, AND EVEN THEN POORLY DONE. We were there til about 1pm

ate lunch in a Food Hall (some food court btwn Spy and the White House) I think on F street, and they had some good, and healthy food choices along with the usual stuff. Onto the White House- did the photo opp, and then taxi to Holocaust museum (we had timed tkts for 2:30pm) as we were again fading with the heat.

Holocaust museum- I know this will may be not be a well received review, but my view is this- overwhelming for most adults, let alone teens- you cld spend hours in here surrounded by death and the horror. Again very very crowded which took away from the experience, but also just so much and so unrelentingly sad. It was all just too much- we were there 2 hours, cld easily have spent 4 hrs if had wanted to experience it all, BUT 2 hrs was too much. I also really think you need to consider your child's maturity level in handling so much of this type of information at once.

back to hotel for some while 2 of our group tried to make the Library of Congress- they did but just briefly

dinner- Georgetwon

everyone in our group (2 moms, 2 14 yr olds) were in melt down mode and it was a very unhappy group

Sunday- the other mom decided to rent a car; we met up at the zoo(my daughter and I took ciculator and metro there) NOTE walk to zoo is slightly uphill, probably about 1/3 of a mile to entrance from Zoo metro stn- I knew I cld go to net stn and walk downhill, but did not heed that advice-MISTAKE

we are used to walking lots on trips-London, Paris, NYC, Chicago etc but the heat /humidity was doing us in very quickly- shld have taken the advice or taken a cab

arrived at zoo 11:30 (late started as we need sleep and to be refreshed after previous bad day), met up with our friends- Pandas were great. I am not a zoo fan, but am so glad we went and saw pandas- reqally do not miss

by 12:45 back in friends rental car with a/c!!!! and she drove us to the newseum, while she went on to Georgetwon. Newseum was great- great cafeteria, spent 3 hrs there, girls and I all really enjoyed.

then onto Washinton Monument where we all met up - had timed tickets for 5:30pm- it was good; back to hotel in car, and then onto Georgetown for dinner0by car- it was great

Monday- drove around in the car- went to Botanical gardens-again very worthwhile; Capital Hill-got tickets for inside tour (we did not get them ahead of time, just happened to be there around 11:00am, and got tickets for 12:10 tour) it is about 1 hour and was again very good

e had planned to go to Library of Congress, Suprteme court and then archives, but our friends had a plane to catch a 6pm at BWI, went to archives but line too long (it was about 1:45pm) so back into car, and on to FDR memorial- do not miss this, and WW ll memorial which one of us had not seen. Friends had to leave (it was now 3:50pm) for BWI by car.

My daughter and I went to hotel to pack and decided to do monuments by night tour (we like tours!). did it with Onboard and it was good, but basic- more of a tour to do at start of trip. However the guide, an older gentleman, was very knowlegable.

Tues- BWI by MARC- 1pm flight

TIPS: do a tour- hop on/off is good

Newseum is great as is FDR memorial, WW ll an other memorials

-against everone's advice- having a car was great, traffic not a problem (we are used to bad traffic) and parking was also not a big issue)

don't miss Arlington cemetary

don't miss the zoo

the heat and humidity are hige factors in what you can and cannot comfertably do, an how to get to and from places

SKIP spy museum

Holocaust museum- prsonal choice- I shld add that I have visited Dachau while in Germany, and it was incredibly moving. I found the idea of being trapped in the Holocaust museum for hrs with huge crowds of people too much. This cld of course just be me.

any questions , glad to answer

Debbie

Florida
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1. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

Thanks for your trip report Debbie.

When you arrived at BWI, how much time did it take to get from the gate to the bus that took you to the train station? Did you get a bus right away or have to wait? Our flight arrives BWI at 12:15 and wasn't sure if we have enough time to make the 12:56 MARC.

When you were returning to BWI, what time did you leave union station on the MARC train to make your 1:00 flight? Did you get a bus right away at the train station or have to wait for one? Just wondering how much time to allow.

Toronto
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2. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

arrival= flt arrived 12:05, we had our luggage by 12:25, and there was a shuttle waiting. shuttle drive about 10 mins, plus a 5 min walk to MARC (you have to cross over by stair or elevator to get to the correct track), We were on the MARC platform by 12:40pm. However we did not buy tkts and so paid on board ($3 penalty each). You shld be able to make the MARC depending on when you get your luggage but will need to move pretty quickly. You may or may not have time to buy tkts.

Have a back up plan- we did which was the etro express bus which leaves at 1pm and goes to Greenbelt metro stn (green line Metro) if taking luggage on subway does not bother you (we only had 1 suitcase each and a small carry-on each) This is a reasonable back up plan because bus leaves right from airport arrivals level, so no shuttle to take etc. It is right where you get your luggage

Departing- our flight was at 1pm. we left hotel 9:45 by taxi to Union stn. We were there by 10 (heavy heavy traffic), bought ticket (cld have used tkt machines nbut I wanted to pay cash, so had to go to tkt agent, no line up, you do need for photo id), got starbucks drink, sat down for couple mins, train can be boarded at 10:15, used washroom, on train by 10:25) arrived at MARC BWI stm at 11:10 (a little late due to Amtrak train delayed us) walked across street, shuttle waiting, got to BWI by 11:25, had checked in on line but had to check luggage, about 10-15 min wait there and then through secuirty- at gate by about 11:55 and ate lunch, bought ,magazines

One thing to note at BWI- if you are checking luggage if you are later than 45 mins before flight your luggage is considered late and they tag it accordingly which means if it does not make the flight it is your fault not theirs. This happened to our friends (they drove to airport the day before) and one of their suitcaSES then went to Nashville instead of Buffalo

Hope the above helps. BWI is very nice,well services airport

I think the next MARC train after 12:58 is 2pm, so if you think you will miss it either stay in airport to eat (nothing at stn) or try for bus (I think there isn a 1pm and 1:40pm bus) IF YOU Do not mindit

I believe taxi can run about $80 plus

Texas
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3. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

Good report. I was wondering about the timing of getting to the train station from the airport too. Also, is there anywhere to grab a quick lunch or snack if we have to wait awhile for a train(I see they only come once an hour in the afternoon)?

Glad to see you liked the zoo. I've been trying to decide whether to skip it but it's something my 13 year old wants to do.

Last question, are the metro stations/trains air conditioned? I see the heat was a big problem for your group.

Texas
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4. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

Just saw the answer to my question about food at the station.

Toronto
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5. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

I can't emphasize enough how much the heat impacted our touring plans, as we tend to do a lot and walk most places- but not so much this trip. To be honest it affected me most which is probably why I keep writing about it. Despite hat, sun screen, much water, and drenching my head in water in bathrooms I often look liked a bright red lobster face. The 2 14 year old girls felt it a lot too as did the other mom, in terms of fatigue.

Food- lots of choices at BWI,BUT I do not know so much about what there is owhen you arrive and are outside of the secuirty area (ie luggage pick up). I think not much. At MARC/amtrak stn- nothing (we did not go into the little stn itself so it is possible there is a snack bar in there or little store- but it would be very small as stn is small)

If your plane is late- and you think you cannot make MARC, eat before you clear secuirty (ie grab something you can even take with you, there is Starbucks and a food court fairly decent one near the departure gates, not so sure about arrivals)

Otherwise you will need to likely wait til Union stn which again has a few sit down restaurants (like Au Pain, and a real restaurant) as well as a large food court on lower level, sushi, greek, asian, probably about 20-25 choices as a guess. On arrivals level at Union, starbucks, au pain, Sbarros (ewwwwww) McD, (ewwww), Ben and jerry's (yum), etc etc

Hope this helps. My suggestion would be carry enough snacks that in a pinch you can wait til Union stn for lunch if your plane is arriving ard 12/1pm, so that you can rush to the MARC or the bus and get into the City

have fun

Toronto
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6. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

sorry- a few more answers

Metro is air conditioned (I am not sure about the stns- but I did not find them hot)

I was against going to the zoo, but one of our group really wanted to go(she loves zoos) so the rest of us agreed only if we limited the time there (she went early with her mom around 10:30am, and we met up there at 11;30 am) as I was only prepared to see the pandas (we have a good zoo in Toronto, and have been to other zoos ard North America and London, plus I am not a fan of caged animals at all

I am soooooooooooooo glad we went to see the pandas. It wld not be an exageration to call this one of the highlights of the trip for everyone.

Going back to the Metro, you may find it is not so useful in some ways. yes it is very 4asy to use and economical, BUT unfortuantely we found that our problem was more with short trips we wld normally walk ie even capital Hill to the Archives- no convenient Metro, we took a taxi, yet it is only probably 7 blocks or so. There is a lot of walking which we would normally have no problem with. But if you have already been out in the sum for some time by 1pm walking 10-15 mins more in it can seem daunting (maybe we are just weak??) but having walked all over Rome, London, Paris, NYC, Chicago (all summer trips), with dauhghter, and I have spent time in Bangkok, Hong Kong, etc etc, we had to resort to many more taxis than I expected for short trips where Metro or circulator did not easily go.

I would suggest to avoid taxi costs have a Metro bus map handy (it is on their website), which we probably shld have had instead I thought we wld just use the Metro which often did not work out- buses of course go a lot more places.

debbie

Maryland
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for Las Vegas, Washington DC, County Donegal, Western Ireland
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7. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

"Food- lots of choices at BWI,BUT I do not know so much about what there is owhen you arrive and are outside of the secuirty area (ie luggage pick up). I think not much. At MARC/amtrak stn- nothing (we did not go into the little stn itself so it is possible there is a snack bar in there or little store- but it would be very small as stn is small)"

Sounds like you were in the Southwest termninal (A and B Gates) which are newer than the rest of the airport and have good dining options. The other piers at BWI don't have as many options but still have enough to grab a bite somewhere.

Outside of security at BWI there is only one full-service restaurant and a Starbucks and I think another sandwich place, they are all located upstairs between piers c and d I believe.

The rail station only has a coffee counter type place, with a limited selection of premade sandwiches and salads, and not really a comfortable atmosphere in which to eat them - avoid unless you're really really starving for something.

Washington DC
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8. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

Thanks for taking all the time (and lots of it!) to write up the trip report - I always find them interesting and people seem to be good about writing them up lately.

Besides usually finding out a few things I did not know about previously, I also like trip reports as they highlight how different people feel about different things. I've recently read reviews by people who really enjoyed the Spy Museum - you of course had a different opinion. I also am surprised to sometimes read of people who are here in the middle of a heat wave and make no reference to it at all - of course the last time I noted that the poster was from Texas!

Good job using the Circulator - a cheap way to get around if you're in the right places.

What was the name of the restaurant on the GTown waterfront?

Lastly - please try to come back during the spring or fall, when it can be truly beautiful and (sometimes) uncrowded around here. I know how it is with school-age children, though - you travel when you can.

Toronto
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9. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

I wld love to come back in fall or spring, and i am sure we will as we did not really even scratch the surface

yes it is always interesting to see how different people experience the same activity.

Circulator was fabulous for us given our location, particularly for getting to geortown (although we even used it in part to get to zoo, takeing it to Fargut North and then metro, which got us to the zoo in 20 mins!!, we ran for both the circulator and the metro though)

do not remember name of restuarnt but it was in Washington harbor complex and as you face the water it is on the right side and the one closest to the water. Others had shrimp kebabobs- also great. The crabcake was very very good

Debbie

United States of...
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10. Re: trip review- 6 days-just back

Metro trains are air conditioned. If you find that you are on one that the AC is out of service (rarely but it happens), at the next stop you can get out and try a different car.

Some underground Metro stations do have air conditioning but generally I do not find it that effective.