First of all, I would like to thank everyone on this forum for all the helpful information--I think I would have been lost without it! At the end of my report, I will list some tips that helped on this trip. 8/16 (Day 1)--left home at 6:30 am so we could make the 6:00 pm DC on Foot tour. Arrived at the Phoenix Park Hotel at 5:00 pm, checked in, got our bags to the room, changed clothes and headed out the door at 5:30. Not knowing at this point how the metro worked, we decided to walk to the start of the tour. In hindsight, I think we probably should have taken a taxi, but oh well. We got to the tour right at 6:00 (but at least we made it!). This tour was a great way to start our trip--We hit all the major monuments and memorials (Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, World War II Memorial) and also got an overview of the mall area and where things were located. Once the tour was over (which was after 8:00), we decided to eat dinner and go back to our room. We took a taxi this time and went to the Capitol City Brewing Company, which was right across the street from our hotel. My husband and I both thought it was very good--loved the pretzels!! 8/17 (Day 2)--We had tickets for the Capitol Building tour at 8:50. Arrived at 8:30 to get through security (don't bring any food! I had brought granola bars and cheese and crackers for later in the day and had to throw them away!) This is a beautiful building and worth seeing. We left the Capitol building and walked to Ford's Theater (which we had 11:00 tickets for). Arrived right at 11:00. Loved the museum and the Ranger talk. Very interesting. Did not care for the Peterson House across the street--not really worth the wait to get in. Stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe, which is next to Ford's Theater, to browse the gift shop. We then walked to the ESPN Zone for lunch (very short walk). They have great nachos--we actually went back on Thursday to have them again. After lunch, we walked to the White House and took a few pictures from the street. Next, on to the Old Post Office Pavillion and the clock tower. After reading posts about how nice the view was, I was actually a little disappointed. This is not something I would do again. (The Washington Monument is much nicer--we went to the top of that twice!! Once during the day and once at night) Our next stop was the National Archives--we had timed tickets for 3:45, which was nice because we got to go in a different entrance than everyone else, and they put us right in line in front of all the other people (which I'm sure they didn't like!!). We made sure to see the main 3--Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. We also spent a little time walking around and viewing some of the other exhibits. By the time we left the National Archives, we did not have a lot of time before our 7:30 Washington Monument tour, so we went to the Museum of Natural History and stayed there until about 7:00 and then on to the Washington Monument--which we absolutely loved. The views are spectacular--well worth getting a ticket for. From there we walked to Old Ebbitt Grill for dinner (I had 8:30 reservations). We were so tired and our feet hurt so bad from all the walking we did, we decided to see how the metro worked (since Union Station is only about a block from the hotel). I had bought 7-day short trip passes for us before we left, so we just had to figure out how to use them, which turned out to be very simple. You just have to make sure that you are going in the right direction!! 8/18 (Day 3)--We started the day by going to the National Zoo to see the Giant Pandas. A good tip I got through this forum is to take the metro to Cleveland Park (not Woodley Park/Zoo). The walk is downhill instead of uphill. When we left, we took the Woodley Park metro--which meant our walk from the zoo to the metro was also downhill! Although they were sleeping, we got a good view and also got to see one move around a little (he rolled off of a rock he was sleeping on to the ground so he could sleep some more!) It was so miserably hot this day that walking through the rest of the zoo was like torture--I finally told my husband if you want to see the rest of the zoo, go ahead--I'll wait right here in the shade for you! We left the zoo and took the metro to Dupont Circle (no capital P!!) and found a place for lunch. Actually, some locals recommended the Afterwords Cafe, which was close to the metro. We sat outside (even though it was hot!) and really enjoyed this place. The food was very good and we liked watching the people walk down the sidewalk. We spend the rest of the afternoon in the museums--Air and Space and American History. Ate dinner at Clyde's in Gallery Place--loved this place. Great atmosphere and food. Back to the hotel to rest our sore feet!! 8/19 (Day 4)--We started today by stopping by the Washington Monument to get tickets for the 9:30 pm tour. (Loved the first tour so much, we wanted to see how everything looked at night.) Then on to Arlington Cemetary. Took the tourmobile bus. I originally thought we would walk, but it was so hot and humid, that I quickly changed my mind and was very glad I did. The bus took us to the places we wanted to go (Kennedy grave, Tomb of the Unknowns), and it was very inexpensive. From there, we took the metro to Rosslyn (I wanted to see the escalator!!) and walked to the Iwo Jima Memorial. This is definitely worth seeing. From there on to Mt. Vernon (rode the yellow line to Huntington and caught the Fairfax Connector bus). This is a great place. Ate lunch at the Mt Vernon Inn. Then took the tour of the mansion. Also, since my husband is a big movie buff, we did the National Treasure Tour, which takes you into the basement (which was a great place to be because a huge thunderstorm with strong lightening came through at this time!) Walked down to see Washington's tomb and then spent a little time in the museum. Took the bus back to Huntington and the metro to King Street. At King Street, we hopped on the Old Town Trolley and rode it down to the water. Walked around Old Town for a little while and ate dinner there (can't remember the name of the place--Union something). If I were to go back to Washington, Old Town is something I could skip. I was glad to see it, but it wouldn't be on my "to do" list next time. Left Old Town in time to get to our 9:30 Washington Monument tour. We liked it just as much this time. Now you would think by this time we would be done for the day, right? Not with my husband--we had to walk the monuments at night. We left the Washington Monument, walked to the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial (this, by the way is absolutely beautiful at night. The faces on the wall are lit up and they look almost like holograms--much better than during the day). We tried to walk to the Jefferson Memorial, but it was too far and the walk too dark. We just saw it from a distance. We make it back to the metro about 11:30 pm (I believe it closes at 12:00 am) and make our way back to Union Station and our hotel. This was a long day, but we had a great time (and we didn't feel rushed at all) 8/20 (Day 5)--We slept in a little bit today and didn't get started until after 11:00. Started the day by going back to the ESPN Zone for lunch (nachos are great!). We then went to see the Jefferson Memorial and walked through the FDR memorial (it was extremely hot and humid again today, so I kept looking for shade!) We then walked down to the Museum of Natural History to finish up what we didn't see from Monday. At this point my husband was ready for something different, so we rode the Metro to Morgan Street and walked down to see the Washington Redskins stadium (which we were crazy to do in the heat!!). After that, back to the hotel for the rest of the day. We ate dinner at the Dubliner, which is at the hotel. We both really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant. 8/22 (Day 6)--We are leaving today, check-out is at 1:00 pm. The one place I wanted to go and didn't was the Library of Congress. Since I get up earlier than my husband, I decide to walk there by myself and leave him in bed. I am glad I did--this is a beautiful building. I also got to see the Gutenberg Bible, which after hearing this, my husband was upset that he didn't get up and go with me.
We were busy during our trip, but didn't really feel rushed. We ate a leisurely lunch each day, and took breaks when we got too hot. I have the following suggestions for anyone thinking of going to DC:
1) Get as many tickets in advance as you can. I had tickets for: Washington Monument, Ford's Theater, Capitol Building Tour, Mt. Vernon, National Archvies.
2) Get metro passes in advance--I bought the 7-day short trip pass, which worked perfectly for us.
3) Have a good map--I got mine from the Visitors Bureau.
4) I got this idea from another tripadvisor member--I had a manilla envelope for each day of our trip. I wrote our itinerary on the fron of each envelope for the day. Inside, I put, in order, that day's tickets, maps, info sheets printed off the internet, restaurant information, etc. This really helped keep everything organized.
5) I made reservations for dinners in advance (at the places that took them) You can always cancel the reservation if you decide to go somewhere else.
It takes a lot of planning a great vacation in Washington, but it is well worth it.
We had a great time in DC (even with the heat) and appreciate everyone's suggestions. Thanks!!!