Affordable Travel in Washington, D.C.
During my break this past fall, Micah and I flew to D.C. for a couple of days. I had only been once prior for an 8th grade field trip, and at the time I cared more about hanging out with my friends than actually experiencing the city, so I was excited to explore our nation's capital again with more focus.
We stayed at this DoubleTree Hotel, which is right next door to the Pentagon. It is a beautiful hotel with two restaurants (including an amazing rotating rooftop restaurant--more on that in a bit). Micah used some hotel points for our stay, but I just checked rates and it's currently around $120 or less for a room! That is a steal considering the quality of stay you are getting for that price.
We started off our mornings with a complimentary breakfast buffet before walking around the corner to rent a bike using Capital Bikeshare. These stations are all throughout the city, so I suggest taking advantage of this mode of transportation. Riding around on a bike is one of our favorite ways to experience a new city, and D.C. has a lot of bike lanes and trails.
There are different pricing options, but for $8 you can rent a bike for 24 hours. The trick is you have 30 minutes to ride the bike, and once you get close to the end of that time, you need to find a station to replace your bike. If you exceed 30 minutes, you are charged a $1.50 fee. I assume this is so bikes are always available for patrons. We set a timer for 20 minutes so we would have plenty of time to find a station.
While there are some time constraints with a system like Capital Bikeshare, I like this option best because you can park your bike at a station, walk around and sightsee, and then find another station when you are ready to ride again. It's much more convenient than having one bike to worry about locking up and keeping track of. I will, however, suggest having some hand sanitizer--those handlebars can be pretty gross sometimes.
We devoted our two days in the city to visiting museums. You all, I can't get over the number of museums D.C. offers or the fact that they are FREE. Yes! Free! In Chicago, you can expect to pay around $25/person for any museum admission. I just couldn't get over it. For that reason alone, you should visit this city.
The first museum we checked out was, of course, the National Air and Space Museum. Obviously this is a favorite of Micah's, but I have to say it was probably my favorite museum as well. It is amazing to see the evolution of flight and space exploration, and the section dedicated to Amelia Earhart is fascinating. What an inspiration.
A couple more of our favorite museums was the National Museum of Natural History and the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait gallery actually took me by surprise. We didn't expect it to be as interesting as it actually was, so we didn't allot enough time to really do it justice. They had portraits of all the presidents, including some surprising ones such as Francis Underwood from House of Cards. When we go back in the future, I definitely will be spending more time here. We also ran out of time for the National Gallery of Art. This is another museum I will make sure to see next time.
The Lincoln Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial were powerful. Both were packed with tourists, but there was a unified, respectful hush and appreciation for what these men represent for our country. Inscriptions of their words on the walls, outlining their hope for the future of our country, felt particularly poignant. Their common message is worth revisiting over and over again.
We also rode by the White House. We later found out President Obama was actually in Chicago that day.
Shortly after we left the White House, I dropped my phone on a very rocky sidewalk, completely smashing my screen. That meant no more pictures for the rest of the trip.
One of the last places we visited was Ford's Theater. We were pleasantly surprised by the presentation of this museum. Rather than just walking around the theater, visitors have a seat and enjoy a historical monologue performance that describes the night President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Micah and I agreed it was a creative way to tell the story.
I know D.C. is known for having a vast culinary scene, but we couldn't get past Skydome Restaurant in our hotel. It rotates on the rooftop of the hotel and provides expansive views of the entire city. You can see all of the iconic monuments, and because the hotel spins, there is no bad view. If you ever find your way here, make sure to try the fried brussels sprouts--so delicious. We ate here, even if it was just for dessert, all three nights. The food and view was too good to pass up.
Honestly, D.C. has so much to offer that it was a little overwhelming. There were many more museums we wanted to visit, but two days simply wasn't enough. I guess that means we will have to visit again soon.