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Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

Cardiff, United...
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Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

Hi there!

I'm visiting the USA from the UK and am in Boston at the moment, but have booked myself a last minute visit to Washington DC next week. I'm catching the Megabus and arriving into DC around 5.30, and staying at the HI-DC hostel which seems to be right by the Megabus stop, thankfully! I'm trying to cram in some research and have browsed the last 10 pages of the forum but there's so much info to go through (I'm travelling for the next 3 months throughout various locations, so I'm getting overwhelmed a little!) I'm sorry if these questions have all been asked before!

I have 3 full days (4 nights) in DC.

I'm in my late 20s, have a strong interest in politics, American history, so am really excited to visit this city!

1) Could you recommend some budget places to eat that are good, preferably not nationwide chains, but that I'd feel comfortable going to as a solo traveller (I don't feel comfortable eating alone in most sit-down, wait service, restaurants.) So ideally places without waiter service.

2) Are there any things that are worth booking in advance now, but that I'm still in time for. Eg. I know I'm way too late to book a White House tour, so that's out - but I am wondering what the other best things to do in DC are that require advance booking.

3) Is it worth taking a tour of the city, and if so what are some of the best providers?

4) Could you give me some suggestions of things to do at night, suitable for a solo traveller? I want to maximise every hour I have in this city since I'm here for such a short time only, but never really know what to do past dark when travelling alone.

5) On my final day there I have a 12noon flight from Baltimore airport. I need to get there at least an hour before, probably 2 hours since I've never been to the airport before - can anyone tell me how long it takes to get from DC to Baltimore airport? I'm going on a Friday - so it sounds like the MARC from Union Station would be the best bet? If so, how long between getting to Union Station and getting to the airport check in counter would you estimate it would take?

Sorry for covering any old ground with this, any help would be really appreciated!!! :)

Arlington, Virginia
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1. Re: Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

1. It's hard to recommend "budget" places to eat when we don't know your budget. However, if you are around the Mall at lunchtime, you can eat the the museum cafes. The ones I recommend are the Mitsitam Cafe at the Museum of the American Indian and the Cascades Cafe at the National Gallery of Art. You can check out their menus online to see if they fit your budget, but you should be able to eat at either for $8 - $10. (The Cascades Cafe has a pizza-and-soda special for $6 which I sometimes get.) If you are near the Capitol, there are cafeterias in the various Senate and House office buildings. I've eaten at the one in the Longworth Building and they have a wide variety of tasty food at good prices. If you are touring the Capitol around lunchtime, just ask your guide how to get there. Otherwise, just go to the building and ask when you go through security. I can't help much with dinner choices, but you might try a chain called Le Madeleine. (There's one at 3000 M St. NW). They've got good soups, salads, quiches, crepes and pasta dishes in a cafeteria-style setting. You could eat there for around $10 - $15. Another choice (albeit again a chain) is Panera Bread located near Dupont Circle. My daughter, a poor college student swears by their Bread Bowls--a large round of bread filled with tasty soup. It's a lot of food for not a lot of money.

2. You are coming at a quiet time of year, so you probably don't need to make any advance bookings except for the Washington Monument, perhaps. The places that offer advance bookings at this time of year are the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol Tours and Ford's Theatre. I did a quick check and all of them have tickets available for the dates you will be here. For the Washington Monument, you can either order online and pay the service charge (less than $2) and choose your date and time or you can go there in the morning to get same-day tickets. (They always hold back some.) You may not have as much choice on time, but I'm sure you'll get something if you go early enough. There is no charge for U.S. Capitol tour tickets so you could order those online in order to choose the time you want. But, I also think it's likely you could visit on a walk-up basis. If you want to go to Ford's Theatre, I would not pay the $3.50 service fee they charge for their "free" tickets. I am sure that you will be able to walk up at any time and get tickets to visit there. See the websites for each place for details.

3. The hop on/hop off bus tours can be a bit pricey, so if you are able to walk a lot, you might just want to get a map and do a self-tour. Most of what you will probably want to see is along the Mall (2 miles from Capitol to Lincoln Memorial) or within a couple blocks of the Mall--e.g. Jefferson Memorial, National Archives, etc. You can take Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. If you want to do a hop on/hop off bus tour, I recommend that you ride the route all the way first and after you've done the route, you can get on and off. The waits at the stops can be long, so you don't want to spend time waiting until after you've seen everything at least once. Two popular HOHO bus companies are Tourmobile and Old Town Trolleys.

4. One thing to do at night is to go to the nightly free performance on the stage of the Millennium Theatre at the Kennedy Center. The performances begin at 6pm and no tickets are necessary--just show up. You can see the schedule of performances for the time of your visit on the Kennedy Center website. Also, note that the National Portrait Museum and the American Art Museum (housed in the same building) are open until 7pm, so you could make an evening visit there.

Washington DC...
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2. Re: Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

You can go to Yelp.com for restaurant suggestions. Just put in the type of food you're looking for and the neighborhood. You will probably want to look for $$ signs, as the less there are the less chance you have of getting a waitress. I'm not sure that formula works in every instance but it may work in most.

Check out Busboys and Poets, and Kramerbooks and Afterwords, two good places to eat with bookstores attached so you can bring a book and nobody will bat an eyelash.

There is a sandwich chain called Cosi that has a few places downtown, as does a salad place called Chop't.

You may find a lot of places to eat that you're looking for in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

Re evening entertainment:

* Goldstar is a great source for discounted tickets/vouchers (usually 50% off) for plays, tours, sporting events, concerts, etc. You have to be a "member" to purchase the tix, but it costs nothing to join. They simply ask for your e-mail address & then send you 1 e-mail/week. And it covers a number of cities in the US, so odds are you'll continue to take advantage of their offerings after you leave DC:


* Here's the schedule of the free concerts at the Kennedy Center:


Also, check out Cultural Tourism DC's web site. Their Events Calendar often lists things that are off a tourists's usual radar screen, like guided walks led by National Park Service Rangers that, in DC, typically have a historical bent (anything the Park Rangers do is top-notch). Many events don't get listed there until close to the scheduled dates, but since you're coming on Monday, that's fine for you.


I think you might really enjoy Cultural Tourism DC's free, audio tour, "Civil Rights to Civil Liberties; download the podcast from this page, which will also tell you where to pick up the free guidebook, or you can print off the map from this page as well:


At this time of year, Old Town Trolley will give you a 2-day ticket for the price of 1. As longhorn said, these hop-off/hop-on services are not an efficient means of transportation that you'd want to solely rely on, but will provide a good overview. I like OTT because it covers the most territory -- e.g., the National Cathedral, which isn't close to a Metro (subway) station, Georgetown -- and the guides, in my experience, are engaging and knowledgeable (no inaccurate information like you hear HOHO guides in NYC sometimes give).


Please don't feel weird about eating solo in a sit-down restaurant. There are LOTS of solo diners in DC who don't restrict themselves to fast food places and cafeterias, you shouldn't either! No one will look at you askance, think you're a "loser", and it's very unlikely that any restaurant will treat you like a second class citizen. Nor does a sit-down restaurant necessarily mean you'll pay more than a place that offers only counter service. Bottom line: now's the time to break the ice for yourself on this ;-)

Round-up of "cheap eats" here:


And a web site devoted to "food trucks" here:


Arlington, Virginia
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4. Re: Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

I always recommend Teaism at D and 8th St. NW near the National Archives. It's got a very nice Asian inspired menu, not expensive, and since there's no waiter service, you can linger as long as you like. If it's a nice day (Feb. 28 is supposed to be a very nice day, before we have severe thunderstorms at night) I like to eat outside at the National Gallery of Art's Pavilion Cafe. Since I live here, I haven't taken any tours of D.C., but I do recommend using the tourmobile at Arlington National Cemetery. It's a very large place and there's a lot of history there and the tourmobile makes it easy to see. As for getting to BWI, the Marc train is a smart choice and it takes about 35 minutes to get from Union Station to the BWI station, where you will board a five minute shuttle ride to the airport itself. Here's a link to the schedule: …maryland.gov/services/…penn_HTML.cfm

5. Re: Last Minute Trip To DC - Feb 28-Mar 4

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