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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> Trip to Washington DC in April - Need Advice
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09/19/2015 12:45:13 PM · #1
My wife and I decided to take a trip utilizing the cheap fairs through Southwest. In March we are going to visit some friends in Omaha but we also decided to visit Washington DC in April. We would like to go to Baltimore for at least a day as well. I have a few questions if you live there or are familiar with the area.

1. What are the must sees in your opinion?
2. Can I get around the city using the metro lines? Is it safe to use the metro if you are a tourist from the airport to the hotel with bags and whatnot.
3. Is there a train to Baltimore or would renting a car be easier?

Any other advice would be helpful as well. Thanks
09/19/2015 05:05:47 PM · #2
DC to Baltimore, there is a commuter train called the MARC. You'll want either the Camden or Penn Line. They've recently added some weekend trips on the Penn Line (DC Union Station to Baltimore Penn Station).

//mta.maryland.gov/marc-train

A word of warning though about Baltimore. Keep an eye on the news concerning the trials of the six cops in the Freddie Gray case. If I didn't have a real reason to be in Baltimore(and unfortunately, I do) I'd stay as far away from town as possible at that time. There may be some, ahem, "unrest".

As far as must sees....I don't get to DC much, but of course you'll want to do some of the Smithsonian, and maybe the Capitol Building. If you want to do the White House tour, contact your congressman now. That's how you get tickets. Baltimore, I'd definitely go to the Peabody Library and the Bromo Seltzer Clock Tower if you're looking for photo ops. And maybe an Oriole game a Camden Yards is they are in town, but you can't take the MARC train and do that, as the train stops running after evening the evening commute.

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09/19/2015 08:41:59 PM · #3
Good advice. I forgot about that to be honest.

I really wanted to try to catch an Orioles game since I have never been to a major league baseball stadium but may have to see a nationals game instead if the city is not a good place to be. I'll keep an eye on it. Didn't want to rent a car if I didn't have to as well. I'll have to weigh my options.
09/19/2015 09:16:06 PM · #4
That was some good advice. You have to remember that all the Smithsonian museums are free and well worth it. Last time we were there we stayed at the Hyatt Regency which was in the shadow of the capital, figuratively. The metro is essential, is cleaner than in New York City, and a good starting point for the day always seem to be Union Station which has an upscale mall and some amenities. I know there's a lot of diversity and some really good food all throughout the city and unfortunately I don't know the place well enough to recommend anywhere specifically. There's a really good bar downtown called the Hamilton, right near the White House if you are so inclined, and a really good restaurant called medium rare, if you are looking for a place that is known for its steak frite. It seems that you'll be safe no matter what in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, safe from everything except being taking advantage of when it comes to prices. Have a great trip.

Message edited by author 2015-09-19 21:17:18.
09/19/2015 09:36:32 PM · #5
National Cathederial and Nationial Zoo...the memorials at dawn/sunset are amazing.

Check out Bourke White Photography Exhibit

Holocost Museum

Arlington (changing of the guards)

Cherry blossoms and azaleas will be in their glory.
09/20/2015 07:31:22 AM · #6
Vietnam Memorial is a must.
09/20/2015 09:42:17 AM · #7
Originally posted by LN13:

Vietnam Memorial is a must.


I don't remember which way it faces...is sunrise/sunset better?
09/20/2015 11:51:30 AM · #8
Originally posted by Ja-9:

Originally posted by LN13:

Vietnam Memorial is a must.


I don't remember which way it faces...is sunrise/sunset better?


I have no idea. I live less than an hour and half away, and haven't been there in about 32 years.
09/20/2015 12:44:26 PM · #9
Originally posted by Ja-9:

Originally posted by LN13:

Vietnam Memorial is a must.

I don't remember which way it faces...is sunrise/sunset better?

Morning light is better. By far.
09/20/2015 12:58:32 PM · #10
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by Ja-9:

Originally posted by LN13:

Vietnam Memorial is a must.

I don't remember which way it faces...is sunrise/sunset better?

Morning light is better. By far.


Good to know as I'm going next month...grin
09/23/2015 12:21:28 PM · #11
If you go in early April I would recommend Tidal Basin area for Cherry Blossoms, but only go there on weekday during working hours as it gets crowded. If you have a car check out Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Aerospace Museum in Chantilly - way better than the one in downtown. DC is pretty safe but stick to the northwest quadrant. Baltimore I would pass up on - it is not safe there.
09/24/2015 12:40:17 PM · #12
The Capitol building is being worked on and a lot of it is covered with scaffolding. You can still see the dome on the inside, but just the center of it, the rest is covered. We were there for the July 4th week, so they've probably made some progress, but it didn't look like they'd be done any time soon.

It it's still under wraps, I'd pass on the Capitol building.

Ford's Theatre was cool. As was the Vietnam and Korean war memorials. The MLK Memorial is stunning.

The Jefferson Memorial is impressive as well.

09/24/2015 01:34:16 PM · #13
I lived there for 3 years & spent all my free time seeing the sights. Never ran out of an interesting place to go. My advice to you is to take the metro as much as you can. The way the streets are laid out & managed, it's so easy to get lost. A street will be going straight as can be, like it's going somewhere, & it just dead-ends with no warning. A street may enter a traffic circle but not come out of it. Some have traffic lights. And streets can be one-way in the morning & one-way the other way at night, & 2-way the rest of the time. Rush hour from work ends about 7PM. After 3 years, my strategy was to figure out where I wanted to go & then take any street that happened to be going in the right direction (abandoning it the instant it quit going in the right direction). The Smithsonian (there's more than one) are great, so is the National Gallery. I took the White House tour & it was a total yawn. The Capitol is good for about 10 min. The cemeteries are fascinating. Dining out is a treat. And you are so close to NYC. OMG. Enjoy!
09/24/2015 10:02:14 PM · #14
April weather in DC can be hit or miss so this could change your plans. Wear comfortable shoes and walk the mall. There's more than one days worth museums and monuments to see. Plenty of maps online to help plan your itinerary.

Nice place for a coffee break
Paul's

Good place for brunch - sweet potato pancakes are excellent.
Busboys and Poets

Nice place for lunch or dinner.
Old Ebbitt Grill

Museums off the mall that are worth visiting:

National Portrait Gallery
Phillips Museum
Anderson House

Hope this helps.

--Henry

01/14/2016 10:55:09 AM · #15
Thanks for all the advice. I have another question as I really want to see an Orioles game. I know some have said that Baltimore is not safe but I did want to spend a day there, catch the game and head back after the game. Is it really that unsafe? I grew up in New Orleans and I always here that it's not a safe city but if your smart about what you do and don't wander around into non tourist areas you are absolutely fine. Is Baltimore the same?

Also, we are trying to figure out transportation if we go. Should we rent a car for about $50 and worry about parking in the city then parking at the game,a paying each time etc. or would these options that my wife looked up for public transport be safe and viable? Is there enough to see/do around Penn Station to fill a day before the game?

we could
(A)
*use the MARC train and leave from Union Station in DC (earliest it at about 9am) to Penn Station in Baltimore for $8/person
*then take light rail (which could be bus or possibly street car) for $3.40/per person for two trips (from the station to the game and back) or $4.00/per person for a day pass
*then take Amtrak back from Penn Station to Union Station for $13/per person

Option A would cost about $50

or (B)
*take Amtrak from Union Station to Penn Station (whatever time we want in the morning) and back that night for $26/per person round trip
*then take light rail, $4/per person for day passes

Option B would cost about $60
01/14/2016 11:28:13 AM · #16
I was just going to tell you about the Old Ebbitt Grill...amazing place...excellent food.

Founding Farmers - We did eat here...excellent food...MUST HAVE A RESERVATION.

Didn't go to these but their reviews are excellent - they are definitely high on our list next time.

MXDC Cocina Mexican Restaurant

Mozart's Café - We did not eat here but some friends recently went there and said the food was outstanding. It gets outstanding reviews. And definitely a "hole in the wall" kind of place. Funny thing...it was right around the corner from our hotel.

DC is a "Metro" city. You have Metro Trains/Bus' all running 24/7 (with lighter schedules in the wee hours) but still running. We didn't rent a car, stayed near the White house on 14th Street. Bus' are about $1 each way, We bought the metro card for $10 and got 3 rides out of it (each way so 6). We didn't rent a car but we did "Uber" it a few times...interesting, efficient and cheaper than renting a car and cabs. I was fine with the Uber Black...my niece wanted the more "upscale" cars...My fee from the airport to the hotel was about $11, the upscale ones were $16-25 (we tried all 3 tiers). I was going to use the metro but my sister was totally wigged out because I'd be alone. I've been all over DC on the Metro and never felt a bad vibe...it gets busy mind you and of course you have to be aware of things but I've never felt threatened. Now NYC was a different place for sure...some change stations were...shall we say..."unsavory". Parking fees in DC are STUPID!!!

If you haven't ever used Uber you can download the app and your first ride (up to $15) is free. Refer a friend (wife) and your next one is also free. When you pull up the app in DC you can get a pricing for the ride before you commit. Kind of a sweet deal.

Have fun and pack good walking shoes...in about 4 days we did over 25 miles!!! Your pictures should be amazing...all the Cherry Blossoms and Azaleas should be in their full glory.
01/14/2016 11:51:40 AM · #17
Thanks Ja.

We have been to New York and I can agree with you in the subways and bus travel. We did find ourselves in Somme unsavory areas. I never carry a load of cash and am pretty street smart so metros don't bother me. Love all the food suggestions. I'll be creating a list to make sure I hit most of them.
01/14/2016 11:52:08 AM · #18
I don't think any city is completely safe or completely unsafe. My daughter lived in Baltimore and still goes to school there. She drives in and out of the city each day and her school is in an interesting area of the city. One block may be well tended and the next a bit iffy and the one after that completely blighted. lather, rinse, repeat. It's an interesting place. I've never had an issue at the Inner Harbor, which is tourist central, or really anyplace else, and I have visited her in the city numerous times.

Camden Yards is not that far from the Inner Harbor, though I've never walked from one to the other. When I go to Baltimore, I drive. Parking hasn't been that hard to find and is not as expensive as DC. Baltimore also has some fun eateries near the Inner Harbor (Fells Point neighborhood). If you like seafood, don't pass up the opportunity to eat a genuine Maryland crabcake. Yum!

I've never actually been to Penn Station in Baltimore or availed myself of public transit there, so I can't speak to that.
01/14/2016 11:57:53 AM · #19
Baltimore isn't really that unsafe if you know where you are going and watch when you go (I lived in DC/Balt area for over 30 years). If it was me, I would rent a car and do an entire day there. Some highlights (which having a car would make easier):

Baltimore Zoo - Penguins and Polar Bears up close
Druid Hill Park - great cemetery

Head over to Patterson Park to check out the Pagoda. Don't miss the churches on the way (Holy Rosary and the Ukrainian Church are stand outs)
Then drive over to Fells Point for some great houses, boats, and beer/lunch.

You can then go to inner harbor (park here for the game) and visit the aquarium, the ships, the science center...
Before the game, hit Pickles Pub for some local flavor, then head across the street to the game.

All of these areas are as safe as anywhere else, especially during the day. They are heavily 'touristed' so plenty of people will be there at the same time. When you leave Camden Yards, 30,000 of your new friends will be leaving with you and chances are, if you parked somewhere close like the inner harbor ($20) they will be walking in the same direction.

One could spend weeks exploring Baltimore but with only a day, these are a good start. Check Baltimore Neighborhoods for more information.

Also, A. Aubrey Bodine created some amazing images of Baltimore back in the day. Check him out if you get the chance.
01/14/2016 01:48:11 PM · #20
Originally posted by SEG:

Thanks for all the advice. I have another question as I really want to see an Orioles game. I know some have said that Baltimore is not safe but I did want to spend a day there, catch the game and head back after the game. Is it really that unsafe? I grew up in New Orleans and I always here that it's not a safe city but if your smart about what you do and don't wander around into non tourist areas you are absolutely fine. Is Baltimore the same?

Also, we are trying to figure out transportation if we go. Should we rent a car for about $50 and worry about parking in the city then parking at the game,a paying each time etc. or would these options that my wife looked up for public transport be safe and viable? Is there enough to see/do around Penn Station to fill a day before the game?

we could
(A)
*use the MARC train and leave from Union Station in DC (earliest it at about 9am) to Penn Station in Baltimore for $8/person
*then take light rail (which could be bus or possibly street car) for $3.40/per person for two trips (from the station to the game and back) or $4.00/per person for a day pass
*then take Amtrak back from Penn Station to Union Station for $13/per person

Option A would cost about $50

or (B)
*take Amtrak from Union Station to Penn Station (whatever time we want in the morning) and back that night for $26/per person round trip
*then take light rail, $4/per person for day passes

Option B would cost about $60


Not really a lot to do to fill a whole day around Penn Station. That's kind up north of the action. Whether you take the MARC or Amtrak from DC, you'll want to take the light rail south again. Along the way, you could hop off near the Walters Art Museum (if you're in to that), which is conveniently next to the Peabody Library I mentioned earlier. Camden Yards is right on the light rail line, so that's convenient.

Fells Point that others have mentioned is a great area for shops and eateries, but is way off the light rail line to the east of the Inner Harbor. If that interests you, I'd recommend driving.

With Harbor Place, the Aquarium and the Science Center, you could fill the day at the Inner Harbor. And it's not too far from the Bromo Tower (if you're there on Friday or Saturday, walk over to do the clock room tour for $5).

Safety-wise, as others have said, if you stay in the right areas and don't get involved with the drug dealers, you should come out alive. Only certain parts of the city are like The Wire.
01/14/2016 01:49:11 PM · #21
Originally posted by MaryO:

My daughter lived in Baltimore and still goes to school there. She drives in and out of the city each day and her school is in an interesting area of the city.


Where does she go? By that description, I'm guessing either MICA or UB?
01/14/2016 04:16:34 PM · #22
Go to Mo's Fisherman's Wharf.

Best f*ckin' crabcakes in the world bar none.

Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop is virtually right next door for dessert.

Smashing eclairs!

You'll be right there in Inner Harbor as well where there's plenty to see and do.
01/14/2016 04:47:09 PM · #23
Originally posted by LN13:

Originally posted by MaryO:

My daughter lived in Baltimore and still goes to school there. She drives in and out of the city each day and her school is in an interesting area of the city.


Where does she go? By that description, I'm guessing either MICA or UB?


Johns Hopkins medical school. Finally graduating this year after *10* years in their MD/PhD program (to be fair, she could have finished sooner if she hadn't slowed down the PhD research to have a baby). If things work out, she's going to be doing her residency in Neuropathology there after graduation. I'll stop bragging now (but you did ask <g>).
01/14/2016 06:03:20 PM · #24
Originally posted by MaryO:

Originally posted by LN13:

Originally posted by MaryO:

My daughter lived in Baltimore and still goes to school there. She drives in and out of the city each day and her school is in an interesting area of the city.


Where does she go? By that description, I'm guessing either MICA or UB?


Johns Hopkins medical school. Finally graduating this year after *10* years in their MD/PhD program (to be fair, she could have finished sooner if she hadn't slowed down the PhD research to have a baby). If things work out, she's going to be doing her residency in Neuropathology there after graduation. I'll stop bragging now (but you did ask <g>).


Oy. That's an even sketchier area. I used to work in the old Church Hospital in the same area (gone now). I never left the building except to go home.

And congrats! You have every right to brag. Not every parent gets to see their kid graduate from Hopkins Medical!

Message edited by author 2016-01-14 18:04:57.
01/14/2016 06:28:57 PM · #25
Originally posted by NikonJeb:

Go to Mo's Fisherman's Wharf.

Best f*ckin' crabcakes in the world bar none.

Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop is virtually right next door for dessert.

Smashing eclairs!

You'll be right there in Inner Harbor as well where there's plenty to see and do.


You just mentioned one of my wife's favorite foods and my favorite dessert. I'm all in for this

As for the advice I can't thank everyone enough. I think there is enough info here to make an educated decision.
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