Thursday, October 3, 2019

If you plan it they will come... days 6 & 7

Welcome to Washington DC! Sharon and I were here on our first big road trip in 2011 but we only allowed for one full day. We realized rather quickly that much more time is needed to fully enjoy everything this city has to offer. 

Parking spot for the second day. Check out the map towards the end of this post.

We have booked the hotel for three nights which gives us two full days to enjoy and explore. Another thing we recalled from our first trip is that parking can be expensive. There are a number of places where parking is free but limited to a couple of hours and we didn't want to have to return to the car and move it three or four times during the day. Some research led us to a couple of spots where you can park all day for free. I'll get to that later on in this post along with some tips on getting around.

Wednesday October 2nd

From our hotel in Capitol Heights it was a thirty minute or so drive to our chosen parking spot in East Potomac Park (more on that later).

Our parking spot for the day.

Once parked we walked about 10 minutes to the bus stop to catch a ride on the Circulator with our first destination being the Smithsonian Castle. From there we visited the Hirshhorn Museum then spent some time in the National Air and Space Museum.

Entrance to the Smithsonian "Castle".

Phyllis and Sharon enjoying some shade.

Centre court of the Hirshhorn Museum

Admiring the view in the Air & Space

We grabbed a quick lunch at one of the several kiosks on the Mall then made our way to the National Natural History Museum and after that the National American History Museum.The Washington Monument, White House and Lincoln Memorial rounded out our afternoon.

In the Natural History Museum

19th century fire engine in the American History Museum

Sharon and me and the White House
Washington Monument in the Reflecting Pond from the Lincoln Memorial
Phyllis, Andrew and Abe!

Our plan was to hop on the Circulator bus and ride almost the full loop to the stop closest to our parking location. We discovered that this was the last bus of the day and it was only going as far as Union Station. End result is that we ended up walking a little further than expected but we made it OK. We learned that this was the hottest October day on record for DC with a high of 97°F/36°C!!

As we returned to our parking spot we were treated to a beautiful sunset...

Sunset over the Potomac River
...then we hopped back in the car to return to the hotel, freshened up and then went to Sardi's Pollo a al Brasa restaurant nearby.


Thursday October 3rd

After our breakfast we repeated our route into the heart of DC and went to East Potomac Park again for free parking. We found a spot that was closer to the bus route so that our walk was a little shorter.

Thomas Jefferson

On the steps of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
 After a quick visit to the Jefferson Memorial we crossed the street to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for one of their tours. Our next target was the National Gallery of Art but before we got there we discovered that this was a day of protest for the trucking community. Drivers and their rigs were there in force to protest current and proposed regulations for the trucking industry.

"That's a big 10-4 on DC" protest on the National Mall
Spent a couple of hours in the National Gallery of Art, mostly in the west building, and then had our lunch in one of the on-site restaurants. From there we made our way past the Capitol and to the Library of Congress. We arrived just in time to join one of the docent led tours.

In the lobby of the National Gallery of Art

Looking past the Grant Memorial to the Capitol

Library of congress

Sharon and me.
Andrew and Phyllis on the Supreme Court steps

The walk from the Library of Congress to our next stop, Union Station, goes past the Supreme Court so we stopped for the obligatory photo on the steps leading up to it.

Union Station is major transportation hub serving commuters and tourists alike with train and bus services, not to mention all the stores and dining facilities inside! Grabbed a coffee and a snack before hopping on the Circlulator bus for the ride back to the car. 

The main hall of Union Station

We spent a quiet evening at the hotel going over our plans for the following day which would see us travel south through Richmond VA to Raleigh NC.

Tips and tricks

Sharon did quite a bit of research on where to park for free in the DC area. We ended up parking on Ohio Drive SW which goes around East Potomac Park and past Hains Point. The first day we took a spot on the Washington Channel side which put us about a kilometer from the nearest Circulator bus stop. On the following day we parked on the Potomac river side of the park close to the US Park Police Headquarters. We had no difficulty finding our spots but that may be a bit of a challenge during the summer when things are a lot busier.

Free all day parking spot
Our chosen parking spots were reasonably close to the National Mall but to make things easier we took advantage of the Circulator bus. We used the National Mall route, one of six in that make up the Circulator system. The cost to ride is $1.00 per person regardless of where you get on or off. Transfers are available if your destination is on a different route from your starting point.

If you have any tips for a visit to Washington DC we'd love to hear them. Leave them in the comment section below and we may just use them on our next trip to Washington DC. 

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