We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Vacation itinerary help

Owensboro, Kentucky
3 posts
Save Topic
Vacation itinerary help

My family (self, husband and 15 yr old son) will be in DC for the first time June 21(early arrival) through the 25(leaving late afternoon/early evening) We are also bringing my mother (73). We are staying in fairfax, VA and plan to ride metro in ( 7day pass for each seems to be best option?) On arrival day, we hope to visit mt vernon, Arlington National Cemetary, and possible drive by the pentagon. We have to see the Vietnam memorial and navy memorial as my father was involved in the conflict and was a navy veteran. We hope to see all of the following as well:

Capital-have tour set with our rep on 24th of June after lunch

Supreme Court

Library of congress

Air and space museum

Maybe American Indian museum

American history museum

Natural history museum

FDR memorial

Washington monument

WWII memorial

holocaust museum-maybe

National zoo

White House-rep has put in request for our passes for any day while we are there

Fords theatre

Lincoln memorial

Jefferson memorial

National archives

These aren't in any order, but have to see the ones for my mother I mentioned at top plus all the monuments, smithsonian museums and archives.

I've kinda figured out what was close to each other and which metro stop is closest, but trying to decide how much is too much in one day. My mother is a good sport and can walk about a mile if it is relatively level. Thinking maybe a hop on hop off bus might be good for one day to get things that are kinda of spread out. Any suggestions would be great!

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
20,169 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Vacation itinerary help

Be aware that on workdays the Metro parking lots fill up very early with commuters. Like 7:30 AM early. Staying way out in Fairfax is really going to be a pain commuting into DC for your touring. Having a car will be good for the day you go to Mount Vernon, but the rest of the time it will be a burden. Though with four people, driving in and parking in downtown DC may be cheaper than paying for 4 round-trips on Metro each day.

Edited: 05 May 2014, 04:00
Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Arlington
Level Contributor
12,641 posts
113 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Vacation itinerary help

If you read the many threads about the HO/HO buses, you'll see they aren't generally recommended. The reason is that once you get off to see something, you often have to wait quite a long time for another bus with available seating to come. That's a lot of time just standing around and not doing any sightseeing. Perhaps a better option would be to walk around sites in the same area and then take a taxi to the next group of sites. If you do decide to take a HO/HO bus, I highly recommend that you stay on the bus for all of the various routes. Only after you have seen everything on the routes from the bus should you attempt to get off to see things during the "second go round".

You've got a lot of things listed to see for a relatively short amount of time. I might recommend going to see the monuments in the early evening after the museums have closed. Sunset won't be until around 8:30 pm during the time you are here, so you can do a lot of monument/memorial seeing before dark. And, of course, the monuments are lovely when all lit up after dark, so you might want to see them then too.

Finally, be sure to get advanced/timed tickets for the attractions which require them. Check the Top Question to the right of this page entitteld, "What attractions require/offer timed or advance tickets?" You don't want to find out after you've gotten here that you can't see a particular attraction because you don't have a ticket.

Tacoma, Washington
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
8,836 posts
1 review
Save Reply
3. Re: Vacation itinerary help

For 3 days this will be alot to do.

If your arrival you do Mt vernon and Arlington

If you are leaving from Dulles--Id suggest do Udvar-Hazy (Space Shuttle and many planes)

For the 3 days in DC...

1/2 day do the memorials.

1/2 day Air and Space & native american

1/2 day American & Natural history & Archives

1/2 day Capitol tour & library of Congress & Supreme Court

1/2 day Zoo

1/2 day other things.

Owensboro, Kentucky
3 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Vacation itinerary help

Thanks everyone. We are actually driving in as we live about 12 hours away. We chose to stay in Fairfax to save the cost of the hotels that are closer in. We know we have a lot on our list and realize that we probably can't see everything in the alloted time. Some of the things will just be more of a walk by then an actual tour which might help the time frame. We were thinking of the HO/HO buses for my mother. but if they arent generally recommended we will think about the taxi. How much does it normally cost to park for the day in downtown? If the lots at the Metro are full, is there additional parking avaialble close by at a reasonable cost?

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
20,169 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Vacation itinerary help

The money you save by staying out near Fairfax may be offset by costs of transportation and parking. The time you will spend commuting will definitely cut into your touring time.

Falls Church...
Level Contributor
2,955 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Vacation itinerary help

The museums you list are all pretty much together and the memorials you list are all within relatively easy walking distance (though it will be a pretty big total amount of walking after the day is done).

Similarly, the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress are all next to each other.

Bundle those together and familiarize yourself with a map to get a sense of how to get from A-B.

Plus, you don't have to spend all your time equally. You could find yourself totally bored with one museum and entralled with another. It depends on your interests and what's being exhibited.

Falls Church...
Level Contributor
2,955 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Vacation itinerary help

And with 4 of you you'll be able to use all of the HOV lanes in Northern Virginia, huge advantage for the interstates, 66 is HOV only inside the beltway and 395's HOV lanes are completely separate from the rest of the road.

washington dc
Level Contributor
3,972 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Vacation itinerary help

How much are you paying to stay out in Fairfax? Have you looked at any of the many threads here about finding inexpensive hotels or apt. rentals closer in?

Maryland
Level Contributor
1,851 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Vacation itinerary help

Assuming you are still staying in Fairfax, at least your commute on Sunday will be easy and you'll find free parking at meters in DC on Sunday.

Your first day (Saturday) seems fine for driving since you want to start at Mt Vernon, got to Arlington (lots of hills but nearby not cheap parking) and end at the Pentagon (not a drive by if just to see the 9/11 memorial and the Air Force memorial up the hill with one of the best views of DC - go at night - easy parking and more stunning after dark). Grab a burger at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington.

Sunday you can drive into the city without too much problem and you may want to park by the FDR and maybe by the Vietnam (can find spots without too much trouble). Again best to see memorials at night. WWII is a challenge to get to since there is no close by parking though you may get lucky and find something by the tidal basin.

Otherwise, unless you are afraid of urban driving you might want to take advantage of your HOV status and drive into DC and park at Union Station (maybe $22 a day) during the week . You can cab from there to Smithsonians without too much trouble.

Don't buy the 7 day pass as it's possible you won't see much of the Metro.

Get a decent map (your hotel might have one) if not a tourbook to help with the lay of the land.

Jomtien Beach...
Level Contributor
349 posts
Save Reply
10. Re: Vacation itinerary help

Hi, KBW. I've lived in DC area 20 years. Mt. Vernon will take at least one-half day. It may only be 10 or 15 miles down stream, but congested traffic makes it a slog both ways, at times. Plus, it's so beautiful, high over the Potomac, and in spring time, you'll have a tough time dragging yourself away. Both your mom and son will love it for different reasons. Take you time here.

I brought up two boys and we must've visited Air and Space 40 times, and never did we rush through. We had to shoehorn them out of there. I'd let your son stay as long as he likes. Air and Space opened an annex five or seven years ago near Dulles Airport, where they have a space shuttle and other major planes. It's still not as knock-your-socks-off as the original, but if you have time, your son will love it. It's also free though parking is pricey there. I always remember the first time, near its opening, we came across an old gent just outside. It was his first time, and he stopped us to point to his name inscribed in a sidewalk or something, not because he donated a fortune, but because he was one of the pioneers of air travel. Pretty cool.

The other museum our boys loved was Natural History, with maybe 20 visits. Natural History also has Hope Diamond. Wonderfully presented, but the small room is packed. The strategy is patience. the crowd sorta rotates, and you'll get close to the Diamond eventually

Both of these museums have wonderful IMax theaters that will have at least one film your son will remember forever. Films are usually only 30-45 minutes, not feature length, so they won't take a big chunk of your day. Your mom will love it too, PLUS all of three of you oldsters, in son't eyes, can get some welcome rest in air conditioned comfort. Kinda pricey, I guess, but both theaters are far superior to Imax theaters at your neighborhood multiplex, at least I've found.

Though all of the museums and memorials are within walking distance, as other said, combined, it is a major hike for people in their prime. When my mother used to come into town, esp. when she was about your mother's age, we severely cut down on walking. In fact, there is free parking within the museum/memorial Mall, limited to two or three hours. What we did is that I would drop off my family and mom at whatever museum/memorial we would target first, then I'd roam around and look for a place, meet up with them, and then head over to car before time was up, and pick them up at door, so mom didn't have to walk much.

On Sunday, the main Congressional parking place right at the head of museum row is free for regular folks. The museums don't open until noon on Sunday, so that you can park at, say 11:30 in the congressional lot and can stay parked all day if you want. That parking area is where Pennsylvania Ave. goes past the Reflecting Pool into the House side of the Capitol. The cars are parked at kitty-corner angles in. There are all kinds of signs saying it is private for congressional employees only, but police officers who patrol there all the time will help you on Sunday to find a place. It's our tax dollars after all.

Another tactic we perfected over the years, as living in such a beautiful and historic place as DC, relatives and friends bundled in several times a year to see the sights, and since I still choke up around those monuments, I'm glad to take them over and over again, but what I do, with a big car or van, is act like a tour driver myself, with my wife acting as tour director. I'd take the folks by car and park and stay with the car while my wife would get out with them and take them to the sights, while I stayed with the car. They'd come back after an hour or,so, and they'd get a rest while I drove them all to next stop. Now I'm sure your husband wants to see everything as well, but this might serve for times when your mom is tired and your son is antsy.

If you do take the metro, may I suggest what DC folks always want to scream to tourists, and which they grump about in Washington Post all the time, on escalators, everyone stays to the right so commuters can rush past you, running up or down the escalator stairs. DC folks know the city belongs to all Americans, but they really hate getting slowed down by tourists. Obviously don't bunch up going up or down escalator, blocking the locals from running past. Single file up and down if necessary. Then, you can shake your heads in disbelief along with the working locals at roadblocks caused by tourist gaggles.

But saying that, please I encourage you to politely go up to any likely looking local to ask for directions or other assistance, even if person is scowling, walking fast. DC folks almost all are eager to help visitors (as long as you don't block Metro!). This includes men in suits and women in power outfits.

They have little trains and buses that give overviews of the Mall area that might be pricey but on beautiful June days, are great. You picked a good time to go. May weather is best, but heavy humidity usually doesn't start until July, August, which you know since you live nearby.

Any other questions or advice, I'd be glad to respond.

Edited: 29 May 2014, 02:03