Washington D.C. 2017 - Day 1

Thank you for visiting my blog.  This week my blog will feature the first day of our four day weekend in Washington D.C. & Southern Virginia. Our whirlwind trip would take us to world renowned museums & historical destinations that helped build a nation. So keep reading to learn how to travel to Washington D.C. on a budget. Don't forget to subscribe to my blog so you do not miss any of my posts from our trip. Read on to learn more about our trip.

Getting to Washington D.C.
We chose to fly to Washington D.C. on Southwest Airlines. To learn more about getting to Washington D.C. read my previous blog post.

So you want to go to Washington D.C.?  You have checked prices near Washington D.C. popular tourist attractions & perhaps decided a trip to D.C. is not in your budget. Don't let those prices discourage you from visiting Washington D.C.  When we traveled to Washington D.C. in 2011 I learned staying in the outlying areas that are serviced by the metro subway can save lots of money.  So when we returned this year, I once again looked for hotels near a Washington D.C. metro subway.  We really enjoyed the hotel we stayed in back in 2011, but was it still as nice seven years later?  After reading reviews I discovered the hotel was still rated favorably. After checking comparable hotel prices, we once again stayed at the hotel we enjoyed so much in years past.  

The hotel we selected was Residence Inn Alexandria, VA located at Old Town/Duke Street. We stayed Saturday & Sunday night of Columbus day weekend. I booked our room 6 months in advance with the easy cancellation option. I frequently checked prices up until our trip & the prices NEVER dropped, they increased A LOT.  I guess the moral of the story is, book early & keep checking for lower rates. I was able to get our studio queen room for $145 per night but I booked almost 6 months prior to travel date. 

The Residence Inn is located about a 5 minute walk from the King Street metro station in Alexandria. The walk to the station is through a pleasant neighborhood that I would feel safe walking in after dark. King Street metro station is about a 25 minute metro ride to the Smithsonian station in Washington D.C. It is also a convenient 8 minute ride from Reagan International Airport.  When you fly into Washington D.C. make sure you choose Reagan Airport if you plan to stay at the Residence Inn Old Town/Duke Street. We never felt the need to have a car because everything was within walking distance. We did not have a rental car because we relied solely on the metro to get to Washington D.C. or we walked to Old Town Alexandria.

Budget tip: Residence Inn Old Town/Duke Street Alexandria, as with most Residence Inn hotels, is less expensive during the weekend.  This type of hotel is geared toward business travelers, who usually go home for the weekend.  Vacant rooms mean cheaper prices for you! 
Residence Inn Old Town/Duke Street Alexandria, VA
The hotel also offers free shuttle service to Reagan Airport & Old Town Alexandria, VA. Monday - Thursday night a complimentary evening social that includes a light meal is provided.  A full complimentary breakfast is available daily as well. As before, we liked Residence Inn because we had a hotel room that was more like a studio apartment.  Our room (Room 833) included a full kitchen, queen size bed, sofa with pull out bed, dining room table, desk, & plenty of room to stretch out. 
Our room was a studio queen with sleeper sofa.
Our queen sized bed was incredibly comfortable, but then again after walking 20,000+ steps in a day we could have slept just about anywhere! 

Full kitchen in our studio queen room
The kitchen in our studio queen room was great to have! One night we walked over to Whole Foods located about 1 block from our hotel & picked up pizza. We were able to store the leftover pizza in the refrigerator for dinner the next night.  The room has a small dining table that will seat 3 if you bring over the desk chair. 
Studio queen room living area
The sofa converted to a full size bed making the studio queen work for our family. Without this feature, we would not have been able to stay in this hotel as our son would have no where to sleep. The TV rotates for viewing from the sofa or bed. 
Bathroom/vanity area in our studio queen room
The vanity area is located outside the shower area making for getting ready in the morning easier. There is no door separating the vanity area from the room. 

The breakfast area offers a variety of hot breakfast foods, including eggs, biscuits, sausage, gravy, oatmeal, & waffles.  Cold breakfast offerings included cereal, yogurt, boiled eggs, pastries, & fruit.  I liked the plates were glass as opposed to styrofoam we typically have at complimentary breakfasts in other hotels. There is adequate seating with a nice fireplace area.

The only negative thing I have to say about this hotel is, they are a pet friendly hotel.  My husband and son have pet allergies so we were concerned about getting a previous pet room.  I requested a pet-free room & was not disappointed.  However, the elevator did have the aroma of dog once when we were on it. 

We really liked the Residence Old Town/Duke Street Alexandria, Virginia.  You could stay a weekend or a whole week & feel as though you were home. We liked the rooms are more like apartments, the room was quiet & clean, we were close to the metro station, & we were close to Old Town Alexandria. We highly recommend this hotel!   

Getting Around Washington D.C. & Alexandria, VA:
We arrived at Reagan Airport at 11:00 A.M. on the Saturday of Columbus day weekend. We hopped on the metro from the airport & went to the King Street station approximately 8 minutes south of the airport.  We walked five minutes over to our hotel & checked in.  After dropping off our luggage & doing a quick check of the room we were off to our nation's capital by 12 noon. 

We relied on the WMATA metro system to get around while in Washington D.C. You will need a SmarTrip card that you can pre-order loaded with the amount you estimate you will need or you can choose to purchase the card at a kiosk at the metro station. If you visit the WMATA website you can use the trip planner to research fares between locations to have a better idea of the cost. We spent about $15 each for 2 days travelling from Alexandria to Washington D.C. using the subway.

From our hotel we walked to Old Town Alexandria, VA.  It took about 15 minutes to get to Old Town.  If you do not want to walk to Old Town you can take the hotel shuttle or you can take the Old Town Trolley for free.

Activities Day 1:
Our day in D.C. started with lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. The Old Ebbitt Grill is a DC tradition since 1856.  It is located near the White House. About a week before our arrival I made reservations for lunch at 1:15 PM.  I don't know if it is because we were visiting during Columbus day weekend or what but we definitely needed our reservation.  When we arrived around 1 PM, I overheard the hostess tell someone in front of me the wait without a reservation would be 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Thankfully I had a reservation and we only had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated. Old Ebbitt Grill offers tasty cuisine, served by top notch servers, in an atmosphere that is fitting of Washington D.C.  We highly recommend eating at Old Ebbitt Grill during your visit to Washington D.C. 
To get to Old Ebbitt Grill we took the metro from King Street station to the Metro Center station & then walked about 5 minutes to the restaurant. 
Old Ebbitt Grill should be on your Washington D.C. itinerary.
Make sure you make reservations at Old Ebbitt Grill so you do not have a long wait for a table.
Old Ebbitt Grill cuisine is tasty & affordable by Washington D.C. standards.
After lunch we walked over to the White House for photos.  The last time we visited Washington D.C. we toured the White House.  We did not have time to tour this year so a photo would have to suffice. If you wish to tour the White House you must reserve tickets (they are FREE) up to 3 months in advance. To learn more about booking a tour of the White House, click here

It was incredibly crowded while trying to get our photo of the White House.

After our photo we headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Archives.  I guess if there was only one thing I can tell you about Washington D.C. it would have to be that you walk A LOT! According to my Fit bit, on both of our days visiting D.C. we walked about 24,000 steps each day.  This is more steps than anyone day at Disney World. Thankfully the weather was nice. 
Pennsylvania Avenue
The former post office is now Trump International Hotel.  You can still go up in the Old Post Office tower for the second highest point in D.C & some great photo ops. To learn more visit the NPS website.
We arrived at the National Archives building to find a line out the door & around the HUGE building. I overhead the security guard say the wait was 45 minutes to get in without a reservation. Thankfully I had booked a reservation months before arrival & was able to walk right in. There was a $4.50 processing fee I paid for my reservation, but it was well worth the cost to avoid waiting in a long line. To learn more about reserving a tour of the National Archives click here.  The cost for touring the National Archives is FREE.
The National Archives
We arrived for our self-guided tour of the archives at 3 PM. We walked to the front of the (long) line, think Disney World FastPass line, and to the security checkpoint.  When you visit the National Archives (or any federal building in D.C.) be prepared to go through a security check. Once inside we were free to tour with no time limitations. The National Archives houses some of the most important documents of our democratic society. A tour of the archives will give you the opportunity to see one of the four remaining versions of the Magna Carta from the year 1297. You will also have the opportunity to see the United States Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, & Constitution.  In addition, the National Archives has rotating museum displays.  When we were there artifacts about women's suffrage were on display. I would show you pictures from our tour of the National Archives, but photography (in any form) is not permitted - and they don't play! Touring the National Archives should be high on Washington D.C. bucket list.  Remember to make reservations so you do not have to wait in line.

After leaving the National Archives we walked across the street to the National Gallery of Art.  While we do not consider ourselves to be art aficionados, we wanted to experience great works of art.  What better place to do this than the National Gallery of Art? After all the entrance fee was certainly affordable - it was FREE!
Washington Before Yorktown is one of the few life sized portraits of George Washington on horse back. 

My 13 year old son could not help but laugh
at all the displays of nudity found in the National Gallery of Art.
Boys will be boys!

Self portrait of Rembrandt

Cascade Waterfall inside the National Gallery of Art is a sight to see!

The light tunnel at the National Gallery of Art is awesome!
Located in the underground walkway between the East & West Buildings.
Next on our itinerary was the National Mall.  The National Mall is 146 acres that includes the U.S. Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, & various memorials. We did not visit any museum other than the Smithsonian Castle because we knew we would spend the next day in the museums.  Instead our focus was on visiting monuments before sunset. We started on the east side near the National Gallery of Art & walked to the Lincoln Memorial on the west side of the mall. We spent the next two hours at the National Mall doing a self-guided tour of the monuments. We were disappointed we missed the tour of monuments offered by Tim with Walk of the Town. Tim is a fountain of knowledge about Washington D.C. His tour is informative & entertaining. We went with Tim on a monument tour back in 2011 when we spent 9 days in D.C. & were hoping to catch him again this year.  Alas our plane landed too late for us to make the tour. I highly recommend touring with Tim when you visit Washington D.C. His tours are FREE with only a donation requested. To learn more about the Walk of the Town with Tim click here. 
National Mall near the U.S. Capitol.

The National Mall is host to many different public events throughout the year.  When we visited the event was a Christian faith based rally.  The entire perimeter of the Mall was surrounded by tents.

We stopped in at the Smithsonian Castle for tourist information for the next day when we would visit the Smithsonian Museums located at the National Mall. 

Next we headed to the Washington Monument. 
Touring the monument is closed until 2019 for repairs.

Next we headed to the World War II Memorial - my personal favorite.  Absolutely breathtaking! 
 We left the World War II Memorial and walked along side the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. It is 2,029 feet long & 167 feet wide.  When we visited Washington D.C. in 2011 the pool was drained for maintenance so it was nice to see it with water this year.  I must admit though, I was disappointed with how dirty the Reflecting Pool was. 
The Lincoln Memorial at sunset was incredibly crowded.

Did I mention how CROWDED the Lincoln Memorial was?  Maybe it was because it was Columbus Day weekend... 

Make sure you go around to the back of the Lincoln Memorial for picturesque shots like this. (minus the crowd)
 With the sun setting and our day beginning at 4:00 A.M. in Texas we headed back to our hotel. We walked over to the Foggy Bottom Station (about a 20 minute walk) & hopped on the metro back to the King Street station in Alexandria.
We took the Blue Line of the Metro to King Street station.
We had a rather large lunch so for dinner we decided to go to the nearby Whole Foods located 1 block from our hotel.  This Whole Foods has a wonderful deli offering a variety of food options.  My son wanted pizza so I ordered 3 slices of pizza to go & took them back to our room. Because our room had the convenient kitchen/dining area we were able to save the cost of drinks as I had stocked our refrigerator with drinks from the nearby CVS. Our dinner in our room cost us $15 that night.  If we had gone out to eat for dinner our cost would have been well over $18 per person. Thanks Residence Inn for offering rooms with kitchen/dining areas!
Dinner from Whole Foods located 1 block from our hotel was a budget saver for our family.

We ate dinner in our room & were asleep soon thereafter.  
Thoughts of the days to come on our trip filled my mind as I drifted off to sleep. 

Below is a map of places we visited on Day 1 of our trip.

May God bless you each day of your travels. 

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