If you are driving, prepared to hit traffic. The further south you go, the more traffic you will hit. Regardless of the time of day, there seems to be traffic at any hour as you travel through Baltimore, Md. and into Washington, D.C.
Rest stops along the highway further south seem to get cleaner and cleaner as you go; there are an assortment of fast food places, but also a section called Market Place that has fresh salads, sandwiches and an assortment of lighter food choices.
On a whole, if you are traveling from Bergen County, plan on at least 4-6 hours of driving depending on traffic. Remember that once you leave New Jersey, you need to pump your own gas, and the prices for gas are about 5-15 cents more the further south you go.
The train will be about 2.5 hours, but it leaves from Newark Penn Station. About a 25-minute Uber ride and you’re there.
Communication Services and Cellular
On the ride there, you will pass through industrial areas and rural areas, cell services is consistent along the way. Once in Washington, D.C, the cell service is fine, except around the White House, the Washington Memorial and the surrounding fields. I asked a security guard and he explained that by the White House, there is a field zone of protection and by the Washington Memorial and fields, there is service but about one to two bars of cellular.
Sightseeing and Tours
All memorials, parks and museums are free of charge to enter. There are donation boxes available, if you choose to do so.
Be prepared to walk; make sure you wear comfortable shoes that are supportive and breathable. Layer in clothing that you can remove if you become warm from walking. I would also recommend sunscreen and packing a bottle of water. A crossbody or some sort of backpack is the smartest thing to do. Since you will be on your feet for a long time, I wouldn’t recommend carrying a purse.
There are many walking maps to follow, and are available online or at your hotel. Just stop by the concierge station and pick one up. If you plan on walking, be prepared to walk anywhere between 7-10 miles, depending on what you plan to see. If you are going to the White House and planning on following the route from there to see the Washington Memorial, Reflection Lake, War Memorials and Lincoln Memorial, that is about a 3-mile walk from start to finish.
Scooters are available for rent, which work like Citi Bikes in New York City – you pick them up at a station and can use them to go about the city then drop them off at station or simply leave them in one of the designated parking areas. They are allowed on sidewalks and no helmet is required; however, you need to be 16 or older to use one.
Guided tours are also available; you can find an assortment online and most provide a scooter, a Segway or a bus for transportation to each destination for viewing. If you choose to go with a guided tour with a scooter or Segway, you will be required to wear a helmet.
Walkways and paths are clean, flat and well maintained for strollers and wagons if you choose to pull a child along or are disabled and walk with a cane or use a wheelchair. Sidewalks are very wide to accommodate a large amount of people and the use of strollers or wheelchairs. Intersections have ramps for you to use and the crosswalks allow for a full minute to be able to cross.
Museums and Memorials
Washington, D.C. has museums, memorials and tours available for any culture, race or part of history you are interested in seeing. There are memorials for wars fought; military servicemen and women; our Founding Fathers, such as the Lincoln Memorial; and an assortment of museums for history of the United States, including an archive of historical documents which display the Constitution of the United States, handwritten orders from George Washington and many other fascinating documents that had direct impact on the outcome of how our country was founded.
There are many cultural museums including American Indian History, African American History, American University and German American Heritage Museums, to name a few.
If you are interested in seeing history in the form of artwork, visit the National Gallery of Art Museum. It focuses on Western Art from the Middle Ages to present day.
As you go about and enjoy Washington, D.C., please remember this is a place of respect and should be observed. As you visit memorials you will see veterans, soldiers and many other people. Some will be joyful and some will be somber. Please respect the rules of the memorials so you can too pay your respects and have a better understanding of the history of our country.
In general, no dogs, food or beverage or music playing on a speaker is allowed in any memorial or museum. This includes any portable video device your child maybe watching; it will need to be put on mute or your child needs to wear headphones. Strollers are allowed and children are can walk and touch anything they wish that is not roped off. You are allowed to take pictures and videos anywhere you choose.
You will find many water/beverage stations. There are some concession stands as well as light café’s to stop in for a bite to eat at the museums. What seems to be the choice of most tourists and locals is the food trucks along the way. You can get everything from cheesesteaks to pizza to Thai food. There are plenty of kid-friendly choices as well, such as macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, chicken fingers, etc. With the openness of the tourist area, you will easily find a bench, park or field to sit down in and eat your lunch. There are also a variety of restaurants, diners and bars to choose from on the side streets outside of the main museum area.
If you can, take a day trip to Great Falls National Park, located in McLean, Va. There are stunning waterfalls to see, with multiple viewpoints. All are on wide, paved and gravel walkways. There are also ramps for wheelchair or stroller use. A visitor center offers bathrooms and a café. Picnic areas are located along the walking path. It is a great place to relax for the day and see a spectacular site. The park is free to visit; a fee for $15 per vehicle to park is your only charge.
By Jessica LaPlaca-Bruno