Visiting Washington DC late September

I plan to visit Washington DC around September 21-25, those dates are slightly flexible. I haven’t been in quite a while. I’ll be visiting a friend who lives there (Bethesda, Maryland) as well as friend who is flying over from London. I’m not sure where my London friend is staying at, but I know his hotel budget is going to be higher than mine as he’s flying over just to see Elton John in concert.

While I’ll be spending time with my friends, I don’t know exactly how much time I’ll be spending with them or what their schedules are going to be. So, I’m trying to plan for what I should do, either by myself or with my friends.

I’m hoping the weather will be decent. Late September is often wonderful in Chicago with sunny skies and low humidity. I assume, at the least, DC in late September is more pleasant than July or August.

Is Air BNB a reasonable option there or are there massive crackdowns? I assume I’m best off staying in DC itself, but is any part of Virginia reasonable for a tourist. I don’t want to spend all my time commuting just to save a few dollars. If I go the hotel route, I don’t need a boutique hotel, but I’d prefer to avoid massive convention hotels. Suggestions for areas to look for hotels or Air BNB?

I’m an experienced public transit user, so I assume it’ll be easy enough for me to figure out the Metro, but are there any tricks or tips?

I’m blown away by the number of attractions to see in DC, so narrowing them down will be impossible. But, here’s a few ideas from my early research. Keep in mind my last major trip to DC was when I was in 8th grade!

  1. The National Gallery of Art is my only absolute must see. I assume 3 hours is barely enough to scratch the surface.

  2. I plan to go to the Washington Nationals vs Miami Marlins on September 24, I am probably going to wait until a few days before the game to get tickets as I don’t know if either of my friends will be going and I want to keep an eye on the weather forecast. I don’t mind paying good money for tickets, but if it’s likely to be rained out, I don’t want to pay top dollar for tickets and then find myself eating them if I’m on a plane home the next day.

  3. I’d like to see the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, perhaps at night. I remember being blown away as a young 8th grader. I assume both monuments don’t really take a lot of time.

  4. A few other ideas I had was to email Senator Duckworth and see if I can get a capitol tour once I have definite dates. The Bureau of Printing and Engraving was quite interesting to my younger self and I did love the Bank of England museum in London. The National Archives is also of interest. Finally, I know there are numerous Smithsonian museums so I’ll have to do further research, but feel free to suggest your favorites. I am a ‘museum person.’

  5. From my initial research , it looks like both Monticello and Mt. Vernon are too far away to see by public transit. None of us will have a car and I have no desire to rent one.

Sorry for the long post, this is my first domestic trip in quite a while and I’m quite excited to see DC as well as my friends.

Metro is easy, but it always takes longer than you think. I swear it’s broken down every time I’m there.

As for sites, DC is packed with them. I actually don’t particularly care for the monuments, but it might be that I’ve seen them a million times. You’re right to see them at night just because everything is closed then, so it gives you something to do. The White House tour is worth it. American History is a surprisingly fun museum. Most people do Air and Space, but it probably just depends upon your interest. National Gallery is my favorite and you’re right that 3 hours is scratching the surface. African-American History just opened and it was excellent, but it’s crowded.

For non-Smithsonians, Holocaust is a must-see and actually the Museum of the Bible that just opened is surprisingly good (Well, part of it. Half of it is like a Christian theme park where you have a cartoon-y Nazareth and it’s about worthless, but the documentation history is just crazy. The sheer number of artifacts they have is amazing, I digress.) I would say that the Spy Museum is a pass. Ford’s Theater is a nicer Lincoln site than the memorial. I think Arlington isn’t a bad stop, but not must-see.

We always stay in Virginia. I like the Tyson’s Corner area. There are frequently good deals out near Spring Hill station, at least worth looking into. They are going to trend toward larger hotels though so you might not be interested.

Large hotels don’t bother me, just hotels that get 90% of their business from conventions so there can be long waits for the elevators when the convention lets out for lunch and the end of the day it’s impossible to get a drink in the hotel bar.

Google Maps knows how both the subway and buses work. I or someone else can walk you through it once you have a rough idea of where you’ll be.

If you like to leave your hotel and not be back until bedtime, you can stay in Arlington or Alexandria. I expect it to be cheaper but I live here and don’t really know what hotel cost. If you want naps or dropping stuff off, stick with DC. I have less experience with Maryland.

There’s lots of good food, although less near the touristy areas. If you have any preferences folks here can probably get you some recommendations.

Nationals vs. Marlins? Probably less than ten bucks on the secondary market.

The Postal museum is good, as is the Newseum. The Newseum is not free, though.
Also, if you like contemporary art, the Renwick is excellent.

Before I try to go back to sleep, I’ll just say: good time to visit - the tourists of summer are largely gone, weather’s usually pleasant in September. Shouldn’t have to be all the way out by Tyson’s to get a decent hotel deal; check for hotels around the Rosslyn Metro (just across Key Bridge from Georgetown, and a short Metro ride to the Mall).

The Capitol tour is interesting, if you get an intern who actually knows anything (many of them don’t), but there can be long waits to get into some areas. As long as you’re up on Capitol Hill, have lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a long-time diner in the area. I highly recommend the ‘chili half-smoke’. An excellent Indian food restaurant is Rasika.

I’ll second the Holocaust Museum and Newseum. The former can be claustrophobic, which is by design, but is interesting and horrifying. Try to see the Vietnam Memorial, which is a real gut punch.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood has a lot of nice restaurants and bars. It’s on the red line and is not that far from the National Mall (a few stops). Unfortunately I can’t really give any specific recommendations since it’s been 10 years since I moved away from the area. Adams Morgan is also very close to the zoo.

As for the Metro, the main thing to know is that it is priced by zone, unlike the flat rate on Chicago’s El. This means you need to tap your card when you enter the station AND when you exit.

I’m a fan of Udvar-Hazy (the other Air & Space building, in Chantilly, VA). It takes some time, but one can get there via public transit.

I have a plane obsessed son and have done Udvar Hazy four times and at least a dozen Air and Space trips. I’m Air and Spaced out. :slight_smile: I mostly prefer Udvar-Hazy, but I enjoy the ‘fake spaces’ downtown, like the WWI trenches and the little ‘townscape’ around the Wright flyer. Udvar Hazy can just turn into a blur of one plane after another.

If you want to kill some time in an oddball way, try the Mansion on O.
It’s not for everyone, but if you like eclectic collections, you might appreciate it.

Don’t miss the National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art. It is a little off the mall, next to Chinatown, but it is a really good museum. For Smithsonians, Natural History is great but crowded, American History is really good and less crowded, the Castle is interesting but really small, Air and Space is great if you like that kind of thing, National Gallery is great and big, African Art is skippable, American Indian is much smaller than it looks from the outside and poorly organized but has the best cafeteria, Renwick is small but interesting if you are near the white house but not worth a walk on its own, African American is hard to get in to so get reservations if you want to go, Hirshorn is good if you like modern art, skippable if you don’t.
If you go to Lincoln at night don’t miss the Korean war monument which is nearby and cool at night.

Air BNB is doing fine in DC. You should definitely consider it as an option.

My less than obvious recommendation is always the Phillips Collection. Just a few blocks from the DuPont Circle Metro stop, free on weekdays (unless they have a special exhibit), home to Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.

This is also close to the Mansion on O if you take that recommendation from Beowulf.

Thanks for all the input, visiting DC is going to be quite exciting since I love history and politics. One other question I thought of, are there any happy hour bars that are popular with Capitol Hill workers?

Yeah, but they’re full of Capitol Hill workers.

If you must, try The Tune In, The Dubliner, or Tunnicliff’s Tavern. But don’t expect to hear a lot of debate about the great issues of the day. It’ll mostly be office gossip, like any other post work happy hour.

Or you could go to the shitty Mexican restaurant where Ted Cruz and his ilk plotted to keep the stupid government shutdown going in 2013.

Last time I visited DC with my wife (also in September, or maybe early Octoboer) we stayed in Alexandria at an Embassy Suites right across from the Metro stop. Super convenient to get on the train, but it does take awhile so you have to be willing to get up and go and not come back until the end of the day.

If you are at all athletically inclined, we rented bikes one day in Alexandria and biked to Mt. Vernon, then took a boat ride back up. About a 9 mile bike ride, IIRC. Was the highlight of the trip for me, but my wife struggled a bit on some of the hillier sections (nothing extreme, but she hadn’t biked in awhile).

Also seconding the Rasika recommendation.

Been a while, but you might also try Bullfeathers or Union Pub. But yeah, don’t have any delusions that you’re going to be surreptitiously listening in on Mitch and Chuck working out a legislative compromise over a glass of pinot. More likely you’re going to be ass-to-elbows with packs of sweaty interns counting out their pennies for the cheapest beer on the menu and trying to get into each others’ pants.