Thursday, March 28, 2013

Washington Vacay (or how to see D.C. in 2.5 days)

Part One
It's quite the anomaly when this family takes a vacation. As you may or may not know, Super Hubby owns and operates his own computer consulting biz. He's the one and only employee of this fine institution and has been providing for this family, quite nicely I might add, for the last 20 years! Super Hubby needs to be readily available for any and all technology issues that crop up (especially during a full-moon phase) at any of his numerous client locations. So, "getting away" like the "normal crowd" does is not the way we roll. We can't, because if Super Hubby isn't working, Super Hubby can't bill hours. And, if Super Hubby can't bill hours, Super Family doesn't eat, pay bills, or go to expensive private schools. See? So, part of Super Hubby's success (other than the fact that he's a genius at what he does) is his immediate availability and quick response time to technical issues at a multitude of companies. Could you imagine telling a mega advertising agency that has a print deadline at midnight but can't access files off the server that their tech guy just can't get to them today to fix the problem because he's in Bermuda for the week? No, not the way to keep clients in this kind of business.

Now that we have an understanding of how rare it is for our family to get away, I'm happy to report that Super Hubby cleared his schedule last Friday (and prayed for no emergencies) and we headed out on a 6-hour drive to Washington, D.C. We're used to getting in a lot of sites in a short period of time when we do get away so it's always a whirlwind of mind-blowing activity. People can't believe how much we get in, but we do and, although we're exhausted in the end, it's totally worth it. So, if you're heading to D.C., here's what we did on our short excursion.
View from our room on the 17th floor: Arlington National Cemetery
OK, let me share with you a rule I have about hotels. Many people out there take the position that when you close your eyes and go to sleep, all hotel rooms look exactly the same, so why spend the money on an expensive hotel when a cheap hotel serves the same purpose. I DO NOT agree with this philosophy! I want to make this clear. I have always considered the hotel selection as part of the vacation experience. It makes for such a nice, memorable and comfortable vacation. And, because our vacations are so rare, I don't mind splurging on a great hotel. When we went to Disney, we stayed at the Grand Floridian, when we were passing through in Virginia, we stayed at The Homestead, and when we vacationed in Colonial Williamsburg, we stayed in our own Colonial Historic House right on Gloucester Street. So, when we travel to a city that has a Ritz Carlton, we stay at the Ritz, Club Level (it's the only way to go). What is "Club Level"? Well, it's this fantastic way to enjoy all the amenities The Ritz offers in a way only The Ritz can do. First, you get the best views the city has to offer. You get the top 2 floors of the hotel, card access. And, the best part, you have access to the Club Level lounge all day long. They offer breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch bites, mid-afternoon snack, hors devours and dessert buffet. All the soda pop, waters, juices, wine and liquor you want. And the service! Oh, the service is fantastic. They always know your name and bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable and happy. It's an experience you should have at least once in a lifetime.

And you could see the Pentagon and Washington Monument from our room.
This all sounds expensive, but it really is rather economical. Washington has 4 Ritz Carlton's and we stayed in Pentagon City; it's $100 less per night than The Ritz right in D.C. Also, they honor the AAA Club discount, so it's quite a savings (best rates are on the weekend, too)! The best part about the Pentagon City Ritz is the easy access to The Metro (the only easy and fast way to get around D.C.) and the fact that it's connected to a 3-story shopping mall, so there's a food court you can go to if you're still hungry after all that Club Level munching.
And we saw the Capitol from our room, too!
The Ritz also has these AMAZING beds. The beds are so well-known for their comfort and luxury, The Ritz sells the mattresses online (takes about 6-months to make). And, after a long day of pounding the D.C. pavement, nothing beats a Ritz mattress. So, taking all of this into consideration, The Ritz makes sense, and our infrequency of travel justifies the indulgence (at least, in my mind).

Who can resist?
We knew this going in but I don't want you to be surprised if you plan to stay there, as well. The Ritz does charge $35 per night for your car sitting in their parking garage. Once you get to Washington, you won't be using your car unless you decide to go to Georgetown or Mount Vernon. The nice part is, on the last day, tell the front desk you'll be having a "late car departure". That means you'll still check out at noon, but you'll pick up your car later after you see some more D.C. sites. Then, just check your luggage with them and they'll hold it for you until 5:00. Safe and easy, peasy!

We arrived in D.C. on Friday around 2:30 in the afternoon. After checking out our new digs (could not believe our view), partaking in the Club Level's mid-afternoon snack, we headed out the hotel lobby, walked about 30-feet, and took the escalator down to the Metro subway. After taking a good bit of time trying to figure out that whole system (see tips below) we boarded the Blue line that took us to the National Archives.

Metro Tips
1. Only buy what you need!
2. Remember you need to get back, so double the price for round-trip.
3. Be sure to add $1 each way because you are getting the PaperFare ticket.
4. Tickets are ONLY for 1 person and are not to be shared and are non-transferrable.
5. Pay attention to Peak and Non-Peak Rates and calculate correctly.    

Note: it's important to get a handle on when buildings and museums close for the day, then make your itinerary accordingly. We were lucky when we chose to go because the day of our arrival was the first day many museums extended their hours for the Spring season!

This post is getting kinda long so I'll only cover the first day...

First stop: The National Archives. That ended up being a loooong line. We waited over 30 minutes just to get into the building. It closes at 5:30 so we still had plenty of time. It doesn't take very long. The original documents are really fading. We could hardly see John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence! You do stand in awe, knowing these are the originals! So, after viewing the Magna Carta (reproduction), the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence, we took off and headed to the Spy Museum.

The International Spy Museum would have normally closed at 5:30, but on the day we were there, it started it's Spring hours and extended the close time to 8:00 - woo-hoo! Works for us! Most of D.C.'s attractions are FREE, but not the Spy Museum. We used our AAA cards and got the discount! For the 3 of us, it cost about $50 for entrance. It was mostly a James Bond museum, really. Cool stuff from the movies including the Dream Mask and the Golden Gun, Golden Bullet, and Invisible Car (yes, we could see it). It was a fun experience and I'd recommend it since you're there.

We left the museum at about 7:00 and were ready to rest our tired bones on those Ritz beds when Super Hubby had us walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. We ended up at the White House, backside. It's so beautiful, and so white! We walked to the front and saw a room all lit up with the most beautiful chandelier. We could see people preparing the room for some kind of party. Hmmm, our invitation must have been misplaced. Sequester? What sequester?

It was after 8:00 when we got back to the hotel. We grabbed something at the mall's food court and took it to our room. Afterwards, we headed up to the Club Level to enjoy the dessert buffet, took in a nightcap and fell into our comfy beds. ZZZZZZ!

D.C. Part 2 - to be continued next week...  


Suzan Wood-Young said...

It was destined to be a great trip if you're on the 17th floor!

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