Thursday, May 27, 2010

D. C. on a Budget

And in a day and a half! Whew!

Here is a quick run-down of Do's and Don'ts for a quick Washington D.C. vacation. (Keep in mind - I am frugal and this is for a FAST visit).

1) Wear your walking shoes.

2) The Smithsonian is free. You can walk into any of the museums and not pay a dime. It will take you about a week to see them all - so, read about each one to determine what interests you the MOST. Then, walk in EVERY lobby - even if you can't stay and look through the museum.

Lobby - Museum of Natural History

President Lincoln's Hat (behind the glass) - Museum of American History -There is currently a GREAT Lincoln exhibit, here.

3) We found free parking in the lot just northwest of the Capitol building, twice!

4) The DAR Museum is next to the White House (2nd building on your left if you are facing the White House with the Washington Monument behind you.) Just walk right in - get a visitor tag - no charge. The architecture in this building is spectacular. Here is an inside photo.......
The DAR Library has many, many books on family genealogy. Grab your family book(s) and sit down at a desk and start reading (free). (Personal opinion - don't waste your time in their museum - just look at the architecture and the genealogy resources.)

4) Food is expensive. We found a fairly cheap restaurant two blocks south of the American Indian museum on 3rd street. This building houses the Small Business Administration and is between D Street and Virginia Avenue. Enter the building mid-block (east side of street) and go through security. Once inside, follow signs to your left to the cafeteria. Great sandwiches and burgers for less than $5. You'll be eating with people who are taking their lunch break from work. Very few tourists. There is also a McDonald's at the Air and Space Museum - but even those prices are inflated.

5) Visit the Old Post Office Pavilion building on Pennsylvania Avenue - three blocks east of the White House. Find the elevator and take it to the top floor, then follow the signs to the second elevator where a National Park Ranger will send you to the top of the clock tower. This is one of the tallest buildings in D.C . and has GREAT views of D.C. (free).

6) MUST visit Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Monument, WWII memorial, Vietnam memorial, Korean memorial EVERY time you visit Washington. Walk, walk, and walk some more to truly appreciate this great city.

7) The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is located four blocks north of The Mall. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball was here. Awesome paintings. (free)

Edward Hopper

Joseph Siffred Duplessis

And kids just love art museums, right?

I certainly hope you can click on my maps to enlarge them.

8) There are actually TWO Air and Space Museums. The original is located on The Mall and is worthy of at least a lobby-visit, no matter what your age or gender. The second Air and Space Museum is the National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles airport. This museum is about 20 or 30 minutes west of downtown D.C. and is free, but the parking is $15 and you have to pay the $15 even if you only drop off your son and husband and explain that you are not going in the museum. (So, technically, it is not actually free.) From what I hear from my sources, this museum is awesome and you can see the actual Concorde jet, space shuttle Endeavor, and the Enola Gay. You can also go into a museum control tower that overlooks the planes landing at Dulles and hear the real control tower conversations while you watch the planes take off and land.

9) Drive up Massachusettes Avenue and let the kids call out embassy names as they spot the different flags from various countries. (free)

10) Try not to visit in May - every kid in every school in America is apparently taking their end-of-the-year trip to D.C. during this month.

11) Save some things to visit "next time" you are in Washington D.C. This is very easy - because you cannot possibly see everything in one visit.

My next visit will hopefully include: Mount Vernon, Changing of the Guard at Arlington, National Cathedral, Great Falls of the Potomac , ride to the top of the Washington monument, visit colonial Williamsburg.

Our previous visits included: Tours of the Capitol and White House, Supreme Court, U.S. Mint (watched money being made), Union Station.

One last tip: Try Priceline. For this particular trip, we had great rates at a Marriott hotel because of the wedding we attended. In the past, I have "pricelined" hotel rooms and we actually stayed at The Mayflower for less than $100/night.

Please, leave any tips or ideas about Washington D.C. as a comment! This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

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Red Door Home said...

Thanks for sharing. I have been thinking about a trip to DC for a while now. Great advice I will be sure to keep in mind.

Terry said...

The key for us is to stay with my brother. So next, make sure to stay with my brother. Y'all must be real young to do all that walking.


Great post! Make certain you go to Arlington National Cemetary. Our country's history is there. It is the most awe-inspiring place in our country, even more than the Grand Canyon. I went to school in Virginia, so got to see DC often. It is a treasure. xx's

Sallie said...

Street parking (metered type) is only good for two hours at a time and the vehicle MUST be moved by 5 or it will be towed. We were able to park at L'Enfant Hotel parking garage for the day for about $16... the convenience alone was worth it to us. Many hotels offer free shuttles to the train and there are stations right in town close to museums, etc.. so that is another option if you are willing to try it (but economically for a larger family you will probably still save money if paying for parking at a garage like the one at L'Enfant).

We have visited the DC/MD/VA area twice now in the past few months and will continue to do so as often as we possibly can. It is a lovely area and even just a weekend trip up there to learn and experience the history of our country is well worth the penny pinching I have to do in other areas :-)

Our next trip will definitely include The National Mall (maybe at night as I've read its lovely) and Mount Vernon. We are military so we are blessed with being able to obtain discount tickets through our base tickets and travel office.

Two great websites we found awesome info at were and .. hope they are helpful to you as well!!

Have a blessed week!

janet said...

I'm lucky enough to live 45 minutes from this beautiful city! The Jefferson Memorial is my absolute favorite...take the time to read the plaques on the politicians even think like that anymore???? You must go to Arlington National Cemetary and I am always moved to tears at the WWII Monument. But...just so you know...Colonial Williamsburg is no where near is about 120 miles away. It is fabulous though and worth the drive, but I would avoid a summer visit...too hot and watching all those actors in wool costumes makes it worse ;-(
All americans should try to come to DC at least once in their lives...after all it's their city!

Ginger said...

We haven't done DC with our kids yet; thanks for the tips!
Embassy Row was one of my favorites when I visited years ago. I always thought the VP had a better house than the president! :)

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Sam said...

There are actually multiple "Concorde"s, the one at the Udvar-Hazy center was one previously owned by Air France. You MUST go to the REAL Air and Space Muesum, where you can see the Wright Brothers' Flyer, the Apollo 11 command moduel, and fly in an amazing flight simulator.

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