The first weeks in April are a great time to be in DC. They’re also the most expensive and ridiculously crowded weeks to be in DC, aside from national holidays. It’s the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and tourists come from all over the world to take their photos with some pretty pink trees. I will be heading that way this weekend, and from all my years of living in the DC/MD/VA area, here are some tips for getting around:
- Take the Metro. Driving and parking in DC is a nightmare if you’re not a native. The Metro the easiest way to get around the city, but be prepared to share the trains, escalators and sidewalks with thousands of your closest friends. A daily pass is good, but if you’ll be around for more than one day, get a SmartTrip card and fill it up. You’d be surprised how much small metro trips can add up during peak hours.
- See the Cherry Blossoms on a weekday. Weekends will be packed, however strolling on a Wednesday afternoon is quite pleasant.
- Don’t feel the need to paddle boat on the Tidal Basin. Yes, this is a fun thing to do. But remember the Tidal Basin is huge and paddle boats will make your legs burn like no other. You’ll be winded by the time you make it to the Jefferson Memorial. Also know that it tends to be windy in April and the probability of paddling against the wind in choppy water is pretty high. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but do it another time.
- The Constitutional Mall is an awesome place to go, but remember that it is very long especially if you want to hit all the major sites: the Capitol, Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. Don’t forget that little White House a couple blocks over. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks. One thing the Mall doesn’t have are places to buy food. Also bring a light jacket. Inevitably your 12-year-old sister will not dress weather-appropriate and buying her an Official Cherry Blossom fleece is extortion.
- Make a reservation. DC is overflowing with a so many great restaurants. Don’t wait forever for a table. Make reservations well in advance. By well, I mean at least a week.
- When the Festival is on, the major DC attractions will be crowded as well. All of the Smithsonian Museums will be packed, so go early if you want to check them out. Otherwise, King Street Alexandria and Georgetown are other spots to take a nice stroll.