can you help with our Washington DC Planning

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by Brumeiser, May 16, 2010.

  1. Brumeiser

    Brumeiser Total Disney Nut

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    Has anyone been to DC lately? We are wondering how tight is the security in DC with the museums, memorials, federal buildings etc? Do they allow any carry on bags, carry on beverages, food? Is my wife allowed to bring any food in her purse if no backpacks are not allowed. What about camera or camcorders are they allowed only in certain places? Is it true that many of the federal buildings that don't allow anything to be brought in have no lockers on the entrance way to store things?
    If you are not allowed to bring beverages how accessible are the vendors to buy beverages? With it being in July we are going to need plenty of beverages to drink. Is it true that the sales tax on food is around 10 percent?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. disney1990

    disney1990 <font color=royalblue>Wow, it make my heart skip a

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    This should cover the Smithsonian Institution and the Air and Space Museum -- two places you will probably go. In addition, all of the memorials are outside and you are free to carry whatever you want to carry when visiting them. There are vendors everywhere that sell drinks, but we usually get in one of the Smithsonian restaurants.

    http://www.si.edu/visit/security_and_policies.htm
     
  3. MEM

    MEM DIS Veteran

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    My family and I were in DC this past March. We went to the Holocaust museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum. At all of the museums our backpacks were scanned but we were allowed to bring them in with us. My guess is that the scanning isn't very sophisticated because I had forgotten that I had my Swiss Army knife at the bottom of my backpack and no one said a word.

    There were no photos allowed in the Holocaust museum but I did take photos at the American History museum.
     
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  5. Fyrefly

    Fyrefly Mouseketeer

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    I live in Maryland and am currently finishing up at the University of Maryland, so I live literally a 20 minute Metro ride from DC.

    Most of the museums you are talking about should have their restrictions online, as people have mentioned.

    July in Maryland/DC is hot and humid. You'll want to check about restrictions on bringing in open containers of water and such into the museums. It's been a while but I would recall and assume the art galleries are particularly restrictive about such things. So you may have to finish drinks in between buildings.

    Wear very light clothing, and good walking shoes. Do NOT attempt to drive anywhere in the city. It is not worth it, DC literally has no parking and so many tourists come in thinking they can just park next to the National Mall and go look at everything! :confused3

    Are you staying in the city in a hotel or out? If out, the best thing you can do is find your nearest Metro station http://www.wmata.com/ and take it in every day and use it to get around. The trains and stations are clean and well-maintained, just keep little ones in reign, and you can go within a block or two of almost anywhere in DC via metro.

    Any other questions in specific? :thumbsup2
     
  6. maleficentmom

    maleficentmom Mouseketeer

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    My family, like the OP, is considering going to DC in late July.....are crowds worse/better/same at this time of year? Went during inauguration with group of H.S. orchestra kids:confused3..lol...but it was January and cold,the city seamed packed,but the museums were managable at that time. I think they also,looked through our bags at some places,like they do at Disney...but i am sure security might have been stepped up during inauguration time.
     
  7. magik

    magik Mouseketeer

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    I'm not sure about the food tax, but I'm fairly certain that you can not bring food or beverages from outside into any of the museums or government buildings. There are tons of outside food carts and the museums have cafeterias. The memorials are outside, so you can have whatever food/drink you want with you to look at them.

    For the museums, you can bring bags in with you, but they will most likely be searched. For other buildings, depending on what they are, you might need to check a bag, have it searched, and/or scanned, or might just not be allowed to bring one at all - it all depends on what building it is.
     
  8. kidtink

    kidtink Earning My Ears

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    popcorn::Going to DC this summer too. Interested in the replys.
     
  9. D&DDisney

    D&DDisney <font color=red>Don't you get it?? You see the hat

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    We were there in July 09 and the crowds weren't too bad. The weather was HOT!!! Luckily there were plenty of vendors on the Mall and on the streets to buy water or food.
    Wear good shoes because you will do A LOT of walking.
     
  10. elle bell

    elle bell Mouseketeer

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    We did a short visit to DC last month. We didn't go to any of the federal buildings, so I'm not sure what their rules are, but we did go to several museums. I have small children, so bringing in a bag was a must for me. We went through medal detectors and had to but our bags through screeners. Some museums seemed more strict about this than others. Outside food and drinks were not permitted. However, no one hasseled me about my kids sippy cups.

    Have fun and get ready to do lots of walking!
     
  11. magik

    magik Mouseketeer

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    One more thing - if you plan to use the metro to get around (which really is the best way to get around DC), know that during morning and evening rush hour during the week, it will be VERY crowded as many people use the metro to commute to/from work. The stations will be crowded and the trains will be crowded, and sometimes commuters get a little impatient with people who don't "know the rules" of the metro (for instance, on escalators - if you aren't walking up the escalator, stay to the right and leave space for people to walk up past you - if you block the people who want to walk up the escalator or you stand on the left side, you may get some bad reactions or rude comments).

    With vacations and people taking time off of work, the metro is slightly less crowded during summer than during the rest of the year during rush hours, but still very crowded. So, if you can wait until after 10 am and before 4 pm, you'll probably have a nicer metro experience. If you don't want to wait until after 10 am, then make sure you prepare yourself and your kids for the experience. It's unfortunate for tourists who are just trying to enjoy our nation's capital, but DC commuters are not always in the best mood and they can get quite cranky with summer tourists. You can google for DC metro etiquette, but it can be boiled down to:
    • if you're standing, stay right on the escalator, and make sure any of your "stuff" (bags/strollers/etc) is also not blocking the left side
    • let the people getting off the metro exit before you try to get on
    • unless the train is pretty empty, have small children sit on your lap rather than taking up their own seats
    • if you only have a few stops to go, consider standing up unless there are lots of free seats
    • stay out of the way of people exiting the train - this may mean you have to step off the train to let people off and then step back on
    • don't just stop at the bottom of escalators or when exiting the train - keep moving until you're out of the way, and then stop to get your bearings.
     
  12. librarygal

    librarygal Mouseketeer

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    I live in the DC area but have not toured the White House for years. A friend of my DH and his family came to Washington last year and had arranged a tour of the White House before they left. I was shocked to discover that they could not bring anything but a wallet inside. No cameras, purses, backpacks, etc. They did not provide lockers and told them the closest lockers were at Union Station which is miles away! Since they were staying in Alexandria and there scheduled tour time was at 7am they determined that the only thing to do was to have one person sit outside with all the stuff.

    From the web site:

    Prohibited Items

    Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, the following: handbags, book bags, backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders or any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items (make-up, hair brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, etc.), any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, etc.), aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size. The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit any other personal items. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are permitted.

    Please note that no storage facilities are available on or around the complex. Individuals who arrive with prohibited items will not be permitted to enter the White House.
     
  13. Fyrefly

    Fyrefly Mouseketeer

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    DC isn't Disney. I wouldn't really say crowds are an issue. It's a city so there are people. In the museums/zoos/touristy stuff there will be more people at 2pm on a Wednesday in July than there is in February because people are out of school. But the museums are big and if you're used to jamming in body to body at Disney to see stuff anyway, you won't mind.

    I think an important thing to keep in mind when you're visiting is that D.C. is a city, not a tourist attraction. Yes there are tourist attractions, but they all serve a purpose unless it's purely a museum. If you're going into the White House, and in today's day and age, they won't let you bring stuff in because at the end of the day, the president still has to live and feel safe there. Same as any other federal building which serves a vital purpose to our nation. And the streets and metro and stuff will be full of people, but a large number of them are going about their daily lives. So it's a little different than going to say, Las Vegas where the tourist is all that is around. Most of us are friendly, polite people who are happy to give directions if you ask, not saying we aren't, just as a native person here, I guess I think about it a little different than out-of-staters.

    Also steer clear of sketchy people that wait by the metro to prey on tourists by selling them really expensive water or maps with directions and stuff. Move away from the stations and find cheaper water and a passerby who doesn't look crazy busy or something.
     
  14. ohanaMAMA

    ohanaMAMA DIS Veteran

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    we were in DC in January of this year and in April the year before.We LOVE DC. There are still a lot of musems we havent seen all of or even at all.

    * I suggest getting a good tour book. They have all the maps you will need in one easy spot.

    * we didnt encounter any restrictions on our backpack contaning water and snacks in any of the smithsonians or the national archives or memorials.

    * crowds will be bigger and badder than ANY you have EVER seen in WDW. They will be in huge tour groups and the lines are LONG. No fastpass here sorry. (although sometimes you can pre-arrange tours with your representative's office. Get on it NOW. Check out thier website to see how)

    * I suggest using Tourmobile. Buy the two day pass that includes the arlington tour. On day one ride the route from begining to end, and take the last tour of Arlington for the day. The tour ends after tourmobile quits for the day. But there is a metro stop right there at Arlington. Just take the metro back into town. On day two get on and off at the stops that interest you further. . Utilize it well. I found that distances on the Mall are decieving. What looks like just a few blocks and a distance not worth getting back on tourmobile will actually turn into a 1/2 mile schlep in 90 degree heat. I totally prefer the ac on the bus :) The kiosks are easy to find at Union Station and begin early. I think I paid $145 for all 4 of us.It is worth every single cent and then some. If they offered a 3 day deal Id go for that and then use tourmobile to get from smithsonian to smithsonian.

    * be prepared to pay Disney prices for museum food. We are talking $60 for a mcdonalds lunch.

    * DEFINATLY park in an outlying suburb and use metro to get into town. Id stay at a hotel outside town too. A pool and free parking is TOTALLY worth the metro ride into town in the morning! I suggest checking out Greenbelt MD.
     
  15. DEA

    DEA DIS Veteran

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    Yes, the tax on food in restaurants is 10% in DC. Sales tax is 5.75%. Hotel tax is 14.5%. This is why I generally eat and shop in Virginia.

    To which Federal Buildings are you referring?

    Generally, bottled water is allowed in the museums, but no other food and drink in the museum areas themselves. Pretty much every museum has a food option (generally counter service), but there is no Smithsonian Dining Plan yet. :) There is a list here: http://www.si.edu/dining/default.htm

    Expect a bag check going into any publicly accessible building. This includes backpacks and purses. They will not throw you out for having a sandwich in your bag, but they discourage bringing in outside food. There are some shady spots here and there on the Mall if you would like to eat your own food.

    There are a lot of crowds in the spring with school field trips, so you will be missing that fun.

    Edited to add: On escalators, ABSOLUTELY stand on the right, walk on the left. There is no more sure way to annoy DC Metro area natives than by blocking the left-hand lane on the escalators when they are trying to walk up/down.
     
  16. Brumeiser

    Brumeiser Total Disney Nut

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    for your wonderful responses. This will help us out with our trip planning for July.
     
  17. laurafergie

    laurafergie DIS Veteran

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    We go up to DC a few times a year. I was last there Thanksgiving. We went to the National Archives (get timed ticket from recreation.gov - walked right by the HUGE line of folks), Museum of American History, Air and Space Museum and Mount Vernon.

    It was crazy busy. Loved everything. Mount Vernon is sooo worth it, for a day trip. We spent SIX hours there.

    In my tote bag for the younger girls, I had water bottles, crackers in a plastic container, a Peanut butter sandwich in a plastic container and a Campbell's Soup at Hand - on both days. My bag was scanned at all museums and they let me in with food with no comment.
     
  18. pat fan

    pat fan Sad my tag won't fit :(

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    We're thinking of going in late August just for a weekend (2 nights) and getting there via Amtrak.

    We were looking at hotels online not too far from the Amtrak station, but since we don't know the area, have no idea if it's a sketchy part of town or not, or if there is transportation from the station to the hotel. Or if there is transportation to the places we want to go, like the Lincoln Memorial etc...from the hotel. Any tips?
     
  19. rbork

    rbork DIS Veteran

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    Magik forgot to add to the Metro ettiquette sp?
    Don't speak LOUDLY on your phone while riding the Metro :thumbsup2 I answered my phone while on the Metro (above ground) down by Rockville....didn't realize how loud my voice was so, this man shot his head around and gave me the most evil look. I had to laugh but did tell the caller I'd call them back from a better spot.
     
  20. kaywoody

    kaywoody I wish we were on our way again!

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    We went to the Capitol last summer and they made me throw away my water bottle. It was empty- the sign said no food or drink, but I thought an empty water bottle in the bottom of my backpack would be OK. It was my favorite water bottle that I used all the time. If I had brought a disposable water bottle I wouldn't have minded so much, but this one was a reusable bottle. Ugggh, then I didn't have water for the rest of the days walking around and had to buy one on the street from a vendor.
     
  21. DEA

    DEA DIS Veteran

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    The area around Union Station is not the greatest, but it is also a Metro station, so getting to other areas of DC is pretty easy. If you head west from Union Station, you will be getting to less sketchy areas.

    If you can find a hotel that is close to a Metro stop, you will be in the best shape for getting around the city and the near-in suburbs. And also for getting to the hotel from Union Station. Union Station also has a taxi stand if you want to take a cab to your hotel. I'd say that, unless you have a lot of luggage, you will be fine taking the Metro. Just familiarize yourself with the lines before you head down. The wmata.com website has maps and a trip planner that can help get you where you're going.

    You can PM me if you want more help.
     

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