Sunday, 25 November 2012
America’s capital is the ultimate political city and the centre of attention as voters prepare to choose their president on 6 November, the occupant of its key edifice, the White House (1). Whether Obama or Romney wins, Washington is a fascinating, historic metropolis that merits exploration.
Most flights from the UK land at Washington Dulles (001 703 572 2700;metwashairports.com), 26 miles south of the centre. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), United Airlines (0845 607 6760;unitedairlines.co.uk) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7310; virgin-atlantic.com) all fly here daily from Heathrow. United also covers the route from Manchester.
Metro bus 5A departs once an hour at weekends (every 40 minutes on weekdays), taking 50 minutes to the landmark square of L’Enfant Plaza (2) for a fare of $6 (£4). Super Shuttle (001 800 258 3826; supershuttle.com) runs shared van transfers to central hotels: $29 (£18) for a one-person booking, $39 (£24) for two. Washington Flyer Taxis (001 703 572 8294; washfly.com) is the official airport cab service. The drive takes about 40 minutes, costing $56-$64 (£35-£40). If you wanted go with more luxurious transportation limo service DC at affordable cost call @ 888-523-8661 or check out for more info and offers at www.singhlimodc.com
Singh Limo DC also serves Baltimore-Washington International, 35 miles north-east, with Shuttle service, connections.
Get your bearings
Washington was founded as a political capital in 1791. Its location was chosen by the man whose name it takes, George Washington, at a point between the established cities of the north-east and the Southern states. It occupies its own zone (the District of Columbia), independent of the 50 states, hemmed by Virginia to the south and Maryland to the north – at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
The centre spreads out around the National Mall (nps.gov/mall), a two-mile grassy strip that ebbs east to west as it plays host to the country’s most significant monuments and museums. Beyond, the city is organized into a simple grid. Streets that run south to north are numbered (eg 14th Street), while major east-to-west avenues bear letters (such as F Street).
Local transport (001 202 637 7000; wmata.com) consists of the five lines of the Metrorail subway system, and Metro buses. Metrorail fares are complex and vary according to time – but a single journey in the centre during off-peak hours (9.30am-3pm; 7pm-midnight) costs $1.70 (£1). A one-day Metrorail pass is $14 (£9). Bus fares are $1.80 (£1.10).
Monday, 5 November 2012
No matter how you are voting in this year's presidential election, we can all agree that the nation's capital is packed with must-see sights—and tourists. Want fun without the lines? Follow these expert insights on how to do D.C. just like a local.
Standing in line is no way to spend a vacation. Yet the 16 million tourists who visit Washington DC from around the world every year wind up ensnarled in queues at major monuments for most of their trips. Follow these insights—from a resident expert, budget-minded foodie, and mom—to do D.C. just like a local
1. Start with an overview
With Lincoln looming large over the National Mall and Arlington Cemetery beckoning two miles across town, it can be tough for first-time visitors to sort through the maze of D.C.'s must-see sites. The best way to dive in is with a brief introduction to them all. D.C. By Foot offers free walking tours that range from two-hour strolls along the Mall to a four-hour "All-in-One" epic that takes in the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and more. If you'd prefer to see the sights while sitting down, Old Town Trolley Tours runs nightly two-hour "Monuments by Moonlight" rides, which cruise past the FDR and Iwo Jima Memorials as evening falls.
2. Catch million-dollar views—and classical tunes—all for free
Sweeping vistas are a tall order in this low-rise city, where the height of buildings is regulated by an 1899 Act of Congress. But at 150 feet, the uncrowned Pilgrim Observation Gallery at the National Cathedral is your elevator to the sky, with unobstructed 360-degree views. Down on the ground floor you can attend free organ demonstrations every Monday and Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and explore the architecture of this neo-Gothic behemoth. (Bring binoculars to spot the carved head of Darth Vader outside, near the top of the northwest tower).
3. Get lost in space
Adults may see D.C. as a wonderland with more than 50 museums to explore. But those with children know to choose wisely—or pay the price. Home to vintage flying machines like Charles Lindburgh's 1927 Spirit of St. Louis plane and the 1969 Apollo 11 command module, the National Air and Space Museum is one of the most kid-friendly branches of the Smithsonian. Its lineup features a 20-minute planetarium show starring Sesame Street characters, and air-travel-themed story times, where little ones can keep their hands busy building model planes and rocket ships.
4. Booking a White House tour is worth the effort
It's not impossible to do a tour of the White House, but it does take some planning. And a lot of patience. Once you know when you are going to be in D.C., contact the office of your Member of Congress to request tickets. Requests can't be made more than six months in advance, but no less than 21 days before your trip. It can take five months to book one of the self-guided tours, though. Worth it to get access to the country's most important residence.
5. A new crew of fashion talent (really)
For all of D.C.'s draws—power, monuments, and living history—shopping hasn't traditionally been at the top of the list. At least until recently. A string of fashion-forward shops has popped up around 14th St. and the U St. Corridor.
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