With Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive closed due to freezing rain we headed to explore Washington D.C. If you need help in planning your visit to the Capital you can download the Official NPS National Mall App. The app has a comprehensive list of the sites with a good description of each. However, the “tour” map proved useless as it continually crashed. The winter months don’t seem to be very popular with the tourists. No lines, no waiting anywhere and the Mall was virtually abandoned.
You will find cheaper accommodations at Arlington. We spent the night at the Days Inn for $70. The neighborhood also had some great eats and a mediocre brewpub. Busboys & Poets is a “conscious” restaurant with vegetarian and vegan choices. After filling your belly you can head to Capital City Brewing where the conversational topic of the night is anything and everything politics.
Your best bet is to park at the Pentagon City Mall. The Metro Station is inside and either line will take you into D.C. We were pleased to find that parking only cost $16 for the entire day as opposed to the much steeper prices within the city. The lot fills up by rush hour so get there early.
Our 11-hour tour of DC proved to be arduous and exhausting. On the plus-side the freezing rain, sleet, and snow kept the numbers of tourists at bay. We recommend wearing full rain gear. You’ll be dry and warm while the fashionable are cold and miserable in their fancy shoes and jeans.
We passed in front of the White House while the President was pardoning Popcorn and Caramel in a ridiculous Thanksgiving tradition. Hilariously, a 3 block radius needed to be cordoned off by the Secret Service, complete with rooftop snipers. We joked that we saw ONLY a couple dozen Secret Service Agents because the Ninja Patrol is only seen when they desire to be seen.
We could bore you with our stories of the nation’s capital, but we’d rather not take the fun out of your exploring. Instead, here’s our list of the must-see sights.
The National Archives: No reservations required in the winter
The National Archives are one of a kind and this time of year, reservations are not required. Seeing the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights documents is strangely intoxicating. The Public Vaults also house some really sweet exhibits.
Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and Peterson House: free
Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is very cool as well. The theatre and Peterson House both require free tickets for timed admission. Since it was the off-season, we had no problem with this but you may want to reserve in advance during the peak season.
If you need something to eat while near the White House, grab a bite at G Street Foods; cheap street food without the actual street. Service is quick and the coffee is good. We recommend the falafel.
Pentagon 9/11 National Memorial
Visit the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial after dark. The lights come on creating a spectacular effect accentuated by the D.C. skyline.
Unfortunately, Washington Monument is closed until next year due to structural damage from a 2011 earthquake. Many tours, such as the White House, Pentagon, and Capitol Building, require advance scheduling. As such, we were unable to enter any of these, so we highly recommend planning ahead.
We hope you enjoy your stay and are keeping our fingers crossed that you’ll be greeted with better weather.
For more national park adventure, visit our National Park Service Guide.