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Advices for visiting Washington DC ?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by sbillard, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. sbillard

    sbillard Loaded Pockets

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    Hi !

    We plan to visit Washington DC in late september or october and we have some questions :

    - What is the better period in the above time span ? We prefer moderate climate to warm climate (20° celsius is more comfortable than 30° celsius and I know it can be quite hot in september there)

    - We will arrive from international Dulles airport and will be using the 5A bus line that stops at Rosslyn and L'enfant Plaza. In your opinion what is the best area to find an hotel not too far away from theses stops and not too far away from the Mall ? We don't care about nightlife, clubs and bars, but we do appreciate a "not dead at night" neighborhood with some restaurants and groceries like Whole Food Markets. Some people seem to recommend Arlington, and Dupont Circle ?

    - Apart from the Mall Area, Georgetown, Roosevelt Island, Arlington cemetery, Zoo and Pentagon do you have other places of interest to recommend, accessible via public transportations ? We like natural places and parks, historical landmarks, old towns... We were thinking about visiting Alexandria. Are there other cities worth visiting accessible via bus or metro rail ?

    - Are there some places to avoid security wise ?

    - Are there some gun ranges where french tourists like us could shoot some rounds in the area ? (we did "rent" guns at americanshooters.com in Las Vegas some years ago it was a very nice experience)

    - Are there some places to shop for tactical / EDC stuff ?

    - Obviously I wont be carrying a knife. But are bladeless multittools and flashlights to be avoided on the Mall when visiting museums in your opinion ?

    Thanks in advance :)
     
    #1 sbillard, Mar 31, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
  2. DCBman

    DCBman Loaded Pockets

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    I posted a great big, long, detailed response to your questions...and then lost the whole thing by hitting "new posts" instead of "post reply". I can't stand that button and it's location on the webpage (note to moderators)!!

    I'm not going to type the whole thing again, sorry, but I will attempt to provide the same responses in abbreviated format...

    1. When - October based on your criteria.

    2. Where - Probably anywhere BUT DC proper (i.e. outside the "beltway"). Besides, inside the beltway will cost you an arm and a leg anyway. Nightlife? Good that you are not looking for a lot of 'nightlife'. Unless you know where you're going, my advice to you would be to forget nightlife altogether unless you know in advance exactly where you are going, how you're going to get there and how you're going to get back (and the bus should not be included in any of that answer). The Washington DC area is NOT someplace you want to be wandering around in after the sun goes down. It is a very dangerous place (i.e. take your life into your own hands kind of dangerous, seriously).

    3. Where else - I would definitely add the Smithsonian Museum(s) to your list. This alone can take up several days depending on how many of the museums you want to visit (there are several).

    4. Places to avoid / Security concerns - YES! There are probably more places to avoid from a security standpoint than there are to see. Bottom line; know where you are going in advance (know how you are going to get there, and how you are going to get back). DC is not an area where you are just going to wander around and see things. It's just not like that.

    5. Gun ranges - NO! Washington DC is probably the most anti-gun city in the United States. Firearms are strictly forbidden and prohibited. Washington DC is like a completely different PLANET compared to Las Vegas. I wouldn't even talk about firearms in DC, let alone expect to shoot any! Seriously. You can cross this one off your list entirely. Not going to happen.

    6. EDC / Tactical shopping - EDC maybe. Tactical doubtful. You might find some tactical supply places outside the DC area, but I would advise you to know where you are going in advance, and then go specifically there.

    7. Bladeless tools - You should be fine, but remember, any building you go in is likely to have security, including guards and metal detectors. The more metal you have on you, the more delay and hassles you will endure. Also, if it looks like a weapon you will probably have to prove it isn't a weapon (and this is subject to interpretation by the person you are proving it to). Bottom line; don't take anything on your person that you aren't willing to lose to search and seizure. If you don't want to part with it, leave it at the hotel.

    Oh, and one other thing...make a copy of your passport (main page) and carry that with you instead of the actual passport itself. Lock your passport in the hotel safe. Bring plenty of ID. Also, ask for a business card of the hotel you are staying at (they will have one). Take several of these and keep them with you. If you ever get lost or turned around you can always give the business card to a cab driver and tell them this is where you wish to go. It will get you home safe and sound. Washington DC is not a place where you want to be lost (ever)...especially after dark.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. DCBman

    DCBman Loaded Pockets

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    Oh, and one other thing. In your post you mentioned seeing the Pentagon. Tours of the Pentagon are by appointment only, and must be made at least two weeks in advance (up to 30 days). Sure, you could always just drive around the building if you only want to see it from the outside, but to get inside takes an appointment. I've never been there as a civilian / tourist, so when I was there we were all badged and had security clearances. The Pentagon is another place where you can't really just stroll around. It's not dangerous, per se (unless you wind up in an area were you're not supposed to be...in which case you'll just be dead...so no biggie there, LOL). The tours are controlled, and there are only certain places you can go. Heck, even if you have a security clearance there are only certain places you can go (depending on what clearance you have). The Pentagon is essentially the HQ for the entire US Military 'machine', and as you might imagine they have some pretty tight security...especially post 9/11.
     
    #3 DCBman, Mar 31, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
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  4. TKC

    TKC Loaded Pockets

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    Botanical Gardens & the Smithsonian Museum.
     
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  5. garza

    garza Loaded Pockets

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    If you are interested in air and space history, I would visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles International before visiting the NASM on the mall. Mt. Vernon is accessible by metro bus or shuttle bus from Huntington station and was certainly worth the trip to see the home of George Washington. The home is much smaller than it appears in pictures. The grounds have gardens and lifestock exhibits. A nearby distillery has recreated the whiskey recipe found in the Mt Vernon archives. The Library of Congress has a bag inspection on exit and is not worth a visit if you are not a bibliophile. The National Postal Museum was surprisingly interesting to me. Old town Alexandria is worth a visit for a stroll and dinner.

    We have visited DC since the early 90's and have always found a hotel near the Metro line from N Virginia to S Maryland. Even some hotels away from the stops have a shuttle to the nearest metro stop.
     
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  6. sbillard

    sbillard Loaded Pockets

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    Hi thanks to you all the replies !

    Not sure I fully understand this part (english is not my native language) : are you suggesting finding an hotel outside the beltway ? We won't use a car, so this could be quite complicated and time consuming. We want to be relatively close to the attractions.

    Sure : since they are on the Mall,I counted them inside the "Mall area". We will surely visit the air and space museum and some others. The spy museum too even if it is not smithsonian.

    Is the situation that bad ? Or only at night ? I mean is it worse than Chicago Downtown or Manhattan ?

    Since Virginia is the other side of the Potomac, I thought there could be perhaps some gun ranges there.

    Oh we were only thinking about stoping at the 911 memorial, and having a general overview of the pentagon building, not visiting it.

    I was not aware of that annex, thanks ! I also take not for Mt. Vernon :)
     
  7. Kev2488

    Kev2488 Loaded Pockets

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    In the part of DC you will be visiting it's not that dangerous at night go on the eastern side and I'd say leave way before sundown. Do your best to not stay at a hotel in DC it will be expensive and I mean expensive. When I go to the museums I do not take anything with just my wallet keys and phone they will take it if they perceive it as a weapon and that could include a light source that has too much of "tactical look" and that is with their own discretion so I don't take the chance of losing it and you will go through a metal detector and security in all of the museums and most any building in DC so be prepared for long lines and long waits. October is your best bet it will still be pretty warm in here but should be "comfortable" weather. You should check out the American Spy Museum that's an awesome place.
     
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  8. popedandy

    popedandy Loaded Pockets

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    -late September/early October should be a good time to visit

    -For a hotel, you might want to consider getting something near one of the DC Metro stops. The Metro (underground) system covers a lot of different areas and is easy to use. You could also see which hotels have their own shuttle that runs from the airport to the hotel. That might be easier than taking the bus in then walking to the hotel. Here's a link to the Metro website http://dctransitguide.com/m/Metro/

    -bladeless EDC stuff should be fine.

    -There are some shooting ranges in the area, but I don't know if any of them are accessible via mass transportation. If you google "gun ranges near Washington DC" you will see the ones that are available.

    -if your visit coincides with the dates for the Nation's Gun Show, you should be able to find some tactical gear there. It's on September 29 and 30 and October 1. https://www.thenationsgunshow.com/ I don't know if public transportation goes there or if you would need to take a cab or use Uber or Lyft

    -based on the places you said you like to visit, you might consider checking out the National Arboretum http://www.usna.usda.gov/ I have never been there, but have heard good things about it.
     
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  9. Russ Prechtl

    Russ Prechtl EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    My wife and I have visited there a couple of times. We really love it. It should be a great trip for you!

    We recommend staying in Alexandria. It's close enough to ride in on the Subway and should get you into the stations you referred to. Plus, the costs are pretty reasonable for that area. We generally stay in a Marriott-type place (Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn, etc.)

    Go to Union Station (the big train station), and buy tickets for the guided bus tours. They have open-topped double-decker buses that will take you to all of the main monuments and attractions. You can get on and off the buses all day, and their moonlight tours to Arlington National Cemetery and the monuments are fantastic. There is also an International Spy Museum..

    I will echo what the others have said about losing your tools. On one trip, the Library of Congress didn't say anything about my knife. Then another day we went on a tour of the capitol and my wife had to throw away her nail clippers at the metal detector...... The requirements are all different.

    There are some really neat pen stores around there if you are into fine writing instruments. Virginia will definitely be the place to go for EDC-related stores and ranges. In my experience Maryland is pretty skittish about anything that might be termed a "weapon".

    Above all, have fun and enjoy yourself!
     
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  10. Moshe ben David

    Moshe ben David Loaded Pockets

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    I'll second the motion to consider Alexandria. HOWEVER. Alexandria is larger than you might think. Focus on what is called 'Old Town Alexandria'. Really just across the Potomac River from DC. Old Town has a smattering of night life also; I'd say more 'user friendly' than some of the neighborhoods in DC itself. You might even be able to get a water taxi from Old Town into DC.

    @Russ Prechtl: which pen stores are you thinking of? The only really good one I know of in DC is Fahrney's on F Street a couple of blocks off 14th? A very nice albeit high end shop for sure!

    L'chaim!

    Moshe ben David
     
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  11. Russ Prechtl

    Russ Prechtl EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    You're right on the money! Alexandria is indeed a pretty large place.

    Fahrney's is one I was thinking of, and if I remember correctly there is one in Bethesda as well. My memory is a little fuzzy on that one though....
     
  12. ItsHardToKnow

    ItsHardToKnow Loaded Pockets

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    I am going to DC this weekend actually.
    About my 20th trip up there.

    DO NOT take ANYTHING with a pointy end on it (including scissors) - security is tight up there. Its a dang shame.

    Smithsonian is where its at.
    Newseum
    Spy Museum
    Holocaust Museum
     
  13. Moshe ben David

    Moshe ben David Loaded Pockets

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    Probably Bertram's Inkwell. He's in North Bethesda. I visited once. Very nice guy. I'd think for our 'travelers' a bit of a hike though?

    L'chaim!

    Moshe ben David
     
  14. Russ Prechtl

    Russ Prechtl EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    Yeah, that sounds like it. I'm with you - sounds like a hike.
     
  15. malraux72

    malraux72 Loaded Pockets

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  16. McNasty

    McNasty Loaded Pockets

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    Go to Union Station (the big train station), and buy tickets for the guided bus tours. They have open-topped double-decker buses that will take you to all of the main monuments and attractions. You can get on and off the buses all day, and their moonlight tours to Arlington National Cemetery and the monuments are fantastic. There is also an International Spy Museum..

    The above is spot on. The HOHO buses are the way to travel! They stop at the tourist places and avoid questionable areas.

    We always stay at the Crystal City Marriott but it was always on my employers dime. IMO a great all around location a big plus the subway basically stops in the basement.
     
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  17. Moshe ben David

    Moshe ben David Loaded Pockets

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    @sbilliard: I'll go out on a limb. Chicago currently I believe amongst major US cities is viewed as just about the most dangerous, night or day. Although as recently as a couple of years ago I visited; took one of open top tour buses around the downtown 'loop' area, and there were crowds out just enjoying the day. Also areas along the waterfront that looked ok at least during daytime. But Chicago is played up in the news as a locus for all sorts of gang and drive-by shooting type activities.

    Manhattan especially mid-town and downtown areas during daytime I think are ok. Even at night, there is a lot of nightlife activity in mid-town, Greenwich Village, Broadway. If you have decent 'street smarts' and take care of how you walk, carry wallets, bags, etc., you should be OK in these areas.

    I realize your interest at present is DC. Daytime around the museums etc probably OK. There are some centers of nightlife e.g., Adams Morgan and around Chinatown areas. I personally don't spend anytime in DC. Traffic drives me nuts there; parking is a guaranteed migraine generator. So I just don't go in. Period.

    Moshe ben David
     
  18. popedandy

    popedandy Loaded Pockets

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    If I remember correctly, Bertram's Inkwell is across the street from the White Flint Mall, so there is a good chance there is a bus that goes out that way. If it were me, I would probably skip Bertram's and just try Fahrney's. I don't think they are any more expensive than Bertram's. Although both carry ball-point type pens, they are best known for their fountain pens, which is why they look to be rather expensive.
     
  19. Batsy

    Batsy Loaded Pockets

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    This is all good information. Just keep safety in mind, especially if you end up on the metro in late evening. Southeast can get sketchy as the sun drops. For the most part it's a very tourist friendly city with plenty of things to do. Surrounding Maryland and Virginia have plenty to offer as well.. so maybe a Uber hookup is something to consider for the day. This would also get you somebody who knows the area and can direct you towards some cool places.
     
  20. Moshe ben David

    Moshe ben David Loaded Pockets

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    Seeing so many suggestions regarding Metro. Unlike many cities, Metro in the DC region is NOT a 24 hour operation. Plus, partly due to budgets and partly due to extensive maintenance work and safety upgrades (making up for long years of neglect!), Metro has been continually announcing reduced schedules as well as some lines removed from service on specific dates. Our traveller will need to be aware of this and check on a continual basis if he intends to make use of Metro!

    L'chaim!

    Moshe ben David