Trip Coach: April 1, 2008 Jeff Dickey, co-author of 'The Rough Guide to Washington, D.C.,' answered your questions about Washington, D.C. Budget Travel Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 1:23 PM Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Trip Coach: April 1, 2008

Jeff Dickey, co-author of 'The Rough Guide to Washington, D.C.,' answered your questions about Washington, D.C.

Jeff Dickey: Hello, I'm Jeff Dickey (sometimes called J.D.), writer for Rough Guides, here to discuss the many aspects of traveling to Washington, D.C.—capital of our nation and home to presidents from Adams to Bush, musicians from Chuck Brown to Henry Rollins, civil rights pioneers from Frederick Douglass to Mary McLeod Bethune, and scores of pundit-journalists, political rogues, and other colorful characters. It's a great place to visit, starting about this time of the year when the cherry blossoms appear, so let's begin the chat!


Orlando, Fla.: We will be staying in a vacation home in D.C. What is the best way to get to Mt. Vernon if you don't have a car, and how much time should one schedule for a visit there?

Jeff Dickey: To reach Mount Vernon, you can go by tour bus via Gray Line or Tourmobile (usually a complete four-hour trip for each) or by boat from Southwest D.C. or Alexandria, Va., through Spirit Cruises or Potomac Riverboat Company, respectively. The cheapest way is to take the Yellow Line Metro and hook up with a Fairfax Connector bus, although obviously this will take the greatest amount of time to get from D.C. proper to the estate. Cyclists may also enjoy taking the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail from Theodore Roosevelt Island, near Arlington, to the home of the nation's first president. Three hours should be sufficient time to view the estate, although you'll want to budget a little more time to see Washington's gristmill and distillery, three miles away.


Sacramento, Calif.: I will be in D.C. (June 18- 23) for a swim meet. I would like to sightsee that Thursday and Friday and maybe Sunday. I have already written to my area representative so I can visit the White House on Thursday. What other tickets do you recommend I get before I arrive in D.C.? YL

Jeff Dickey: Thanks for your question. Getting into the White House and a few other sensitive locations can be challenging in the years after 9/11. The White House itself, as you know, requires setting up a tour well in advance through your senator or representative. Contacting your member of Congress is also required for a pass to the gallery of either house; you can tour the Capitol itself (including the Rotunda) by first getting same-day tickets, beginning at 9am, at the service kiosk near the Garfield memorial southwest of the building (more details at Pre-purchasing advance tickets (for $1.50) over the phone for a Washington Monument tour is also a good idea (see the NPS website for details); get the tickets at the monument's will call. The International Spy Museum is also a hugely popular draw, despite the $18 fee, and tickets should be reserved ahead if you want to ensure entry. More elaborate protocols are required to get a look at the State Department's Diplomatic Reception Rooms or the Saturday morning tours of the Treasury Building; contact each department for details. Only special groups like school tours can get into the Pentagon these days; FBI tours have been suspended entirely until further notice.


Santa Fe, N.M.: I'll have about a day and a half in early May to show my 9 year old daughter the sites of the Mall in DC. I'm thinking the Metro will be our best access due to the lack of parking (right?), but what's the best way to get from site to site? She may poop out on the long walk from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Should I consider a taxi, tour bus, or bike rental (that could be fun!). Thanks, Russ

Jeff Dickey: The Metro is almost always your best choice to see the main sights of the District—except around the Mall, where stops are few. You can alternatively take a taxi (the city is changing its metering system at present, but rates will still be cheap to travel the two miles from one end of the Mall to the other), or rent a bike from a vendor such as Big Wheel Bikes, or even enjoy a bike tour through Bike the Sites. The Tourmobile is an adequate option, giving you the opportunity to hop on and off the bus at your own pace, but you'll necessarily be confined only to the major tourist attractions. Driving is not recommended, as the Capital Beltway can be nightmarish to newcomers, and the District's many roundabouts and erratic directional changes and traffic patterns can take some getting used to.


Lansing, Mich.: We have visted D.C. dozens of times and think it is one of the best big cities in the USA. We have visited most of the major historic sites and attractions. Can you recomend something for us to do that is out of the ordinary and off the beaten path?

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