My husband and I moved to the East Coast three years ago, and while we have visited a lot of historical locations in the area, we have only been to Washington, DC for a specific reason, once for a holiday party and once for an alumni luncheon for his University’s local chapter. We actually live about an hour from there, so we could have visited a number of times, but life tends to get in the way and plans always change. I am also not someone who likes to play tourist in the summer. I don’t like being hot and I tend to burn easily in the sun, so that means we visit places in the early spring or fall. The weekend was supposed to be in the low 50’s and sunny, so that to me was perfect touring weather. Warm jacket, gloves and a hat/scarf combo and I was all set.
Now my husband is all about the planning, and we thought it would be nice to take one of the buses that allow you to get on and off all day at their stops. He downloaded their app and made sure he had a copy of the different routes around the city so we could decide what we wanted to see and where we needed to get off for each location. Of course, with us, nothing ever goes as smoothly as we hope and there were plenty of things that made me go hmm.
While my husband made sure the GPS had the latest maps downloaded, it didn’t recognize the address for the parking garage. As we got close the location, he wanted me to pull up the address on his phone and we would find it that way. The only problem is I couldn’t get it to tell me right or left turns, so we usually ended up the opposite from where we needed to be. Eventually we found the parking garage and as we exited we were looking for the gift shop on the corner where we would pick up the tour bus. At this point, a homeless woman began screaming and cussing at us for looking at her. Now, we initially didn’t notice her, and we probably would have walked on by, but now we did. Another homeless person pointed at her and said ignore her, she gives all of us a bad rep. I nodded and gave him all the money in my pocket. My husband told me to remember we just arrived and to pace myself on the donations.
After finding the corner where the map and the app said we could board the tour bus we waited for a bit, seeing all the other different tour buses stop and go, but not ours. I looked down the block and thought I saw the bus we were waiting for, but it didn’t come where we were at. We walked down to that street and learned that the map and app were one block off. Once on board, we decided to sit on the top where it was open. The sun was out so it didn’t feel too bad despite it being about 50 degrees. We were able to see some of the most famous DC landmarks before getting off at the Jefferson Memorial.
Now, a little tip. When you come across a bathroom, use it. Bathrooms are scarce. So are restaurants near the major sites. Our guide told us that the restaurants in the museums are closed on the weekends, so you really don’t have much of a food choice there. We saw hot dog and pretzel carts on the corners and refreshment kiosks, but the restaurants were closer to downtown. There were two streets where food trucks were lined up, but not any place near the places we were getting off. Once it became cloudy, the wind picked up and the gloves came out. It was really cold on the top of the bus, especially when the route took you onto the highway and going 50 mph meant chapped lips and wind burn.
While our day went by quickly, we learned several things that will make our next visit even better:
- See a bathroom, use a bathroom.
- Plan to eat downtown on the weekends or hop off when you see the food trucks.
- Sit inside the bus if the route takes you onto the highway.
- Make sure you bring plenty of sun screen and lip balm.
- Not all of the maps or apps are correct and may lead you to wait in the wrong location.
- Bring an extra memory card to ensure you can take lots of photos.
The day went by much too quickly. On the way home we talked about what we will do differently for our return trip, probably in the spring. I would like to see the Cherry Blossoms when they are at their peak. We might take the train to Union Station and just stick with the local Connector bus or maybe try the trolley tour. Either way, I’ll remember the lip balm and sunscreen.