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#1 Ryan

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:46 AM

Things to do during a layover:

Visit the US Capitol - it's a very short walk up Capitol Hill to the Visitor's Center. Timed tours are available by reservation, which can be made on the internet. Walk up tours are also available, but in the busy season (Spring is the busiest, Winter time is the most slow) the wait can be LONG. Tours are free.

Go for a walk - Walk straight out the front of the station and you'll see the Capitol in front of you - go just to the left of it and you can walk down First Street NE/SE between the Capitol grounds and the Supreme Court (NE) and the Library of Congress (SE). Once you get past the Capitol, hang a right and walk down the mall as far as you would like. The Air&Space and American Indian museums will be right there if you want to wander in, or you can just loop back towards the station. The National Archives is also right there and worth peeking into quickly.

Here's a map, this route is 3 miles, but you can shorten it considerably:
http://goo.gl/maps/cS4l

Shorter version:
http://goo.gl/maps/qV28

There are a number of hop-on, hop-off type vehicle tours that use Union Station if you'd like to venture a little farther afield. I'll defer to others that have used them.

If you're interested in seeing train type stuff, all the lines of the MARC (Penn, Camden and Brunswick), both lines of the VRE (Fredericksburg and Manassas) and the Washington Metro (Red Line) all stop at Union Station. The Penn Line runs on the NEC up to Perryville, MD and allows stops at local stops that Amtrak doesn't serve. It has the most frequent service, so if you want to spend a little time on the NEC for cheap, this is the way to go. The Camden Line also serves Baltimore, but runs along the CSX freight route and terminates at Camden Station (home of the Orioles). It's possible to do some same day turns on the Camden Line if you time things correctly. It's also possible to use the Light Rail in Baltimore to transfer between Camden and Penn stations to do a loop trip if you desire. Finally, the Brunswick line follows the route of the Capitol Limited as far as Martinsburg, but also has a branch that diverges at Point of Rocks that serves Frederick, MD. On this line trains run inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon, so you can't do a same day turn. You can however take the Brunswick line outbound as far as Rockville and transfer to the Metro Red Line and then use that to return to Union Station in the afternoon.

I think that VRE also has some reverse peak service, but I've never ridden it.

There's plenty more to add, I'll try to get back here periodically and put in more information of interest.

Edited by Ryan, 21 April 2011 - 08:02 AM.

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#2 jis

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 07:51 AM

To be quite pedantic.... reading through the post it appears that you meant to use the word "Nation's Capital" as in "the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country, state", and not "Nation's Capitol" as in "the building in Washington, D.C., used by the Congress of the U.S. for its sessions" in the thread subtitle?

Edited by jis, 21 April 2011 - 07:53 AM.


#3 Ryan

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 08:03 AM

Fixed, thanks. I know the rule and still hose it up half the time.
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#4 Tracktwentynine

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 10:12 AM

The Old Post Office Tower
If you want nice views of the city from on high without waiting in long lines to go up the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office Tower is your ticket. The tower is the 3rd tallest structure in the city. Riding to the top is free, and the only wait is for the elevator (there is rarely a line). You do have to go through magnetometer and put your bag through an x-ray machine, but it's not too much of a hassle.

Getting there is pretty easy. The building is located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW in Downtown Washington. From Union Station, you can take the Red Line to Metro Center and exit to 12th Street to walk a few blocks south. Or at Metro Center you can transfer to the Blue/Orange Line and go one stop to Federal Triangle, which is directly across the street from the Old Post Office. You could also walk or bike. It's 1.3 miles from Union Station. And there's a bike rental place right next to the station (on First Street NE @ Massachusetts Ave).

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#5 VentureForth

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 05:02 PM

Is there a public place to sure and watch trains coming in and out of WAS?

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#6 Ryan

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 05:42 PM

Sort of. You can take the metro one stop north to NY Ave/Florida Ave station and see lots of action from the platform. I've heard of people getting hassled, but I've never had any issues.

You can also go to the top of the parking garage and see the trains and K Tower from above:
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#7 Tracktwentynine

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 03:18 PM

If you want to be able to watch trains running at speed on the Corridor, take the Metro Orange Line to Landover and just stand on the platform. Landover is one stop inbound from New Carrollton, which is also a stop for Northeast Regional and MARC trains.

Amtrak: 35,600 miles, 24 routes, 44 states, 2 provinces. First trip 5/2005. Miles in 2014: 10,154.

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#8 NETrainfan

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:25 AM

We stayed at the Hyatt, near the Capitol, last year and enjoyed this area for walking. We came in on the Capitol Limited and left the next morning on the Acela- timed just right for some R&R in DC.

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#9 jerichowhiskey

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:03 PM

Is there anything open late night? I will have a couple hours to kill before boarding a 3:15 AM train back to NY. My plan for now is just to walk around the Mall and take a closer look around Union Station.

#10 Acela150

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:59 PM

Maybe a decent amount of bars. More so in the area of Georgetown since the school is there. But other then bars I have no clue.
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#11 SarahZ

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:17 PM

Awesome thread. We have a several-hour layover next February, and I wasn't really sure where to go or what to do since I'm not familiar with the DC map. Thanks, Ryan. :)

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#12 Ryan

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:34 PM

Maybe a decent amount of bars. More so in the area of Georgetown since the school is there. But other then bars I have no clue.

Georgetown is a pain in the neck and not real accessible. You're not going to find much open at that hour, unfortunately.


Awesome thread. We have a several-hour layover next February, and I wasn't really sure where to go or what to do since I'm not familiar with the DC map. Thanks, Ryan. :)

Happy to help - look me up when the time gets a little closer and I'll be happy to provide you guys a little more specific advice.
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#13 AlanB

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 01:17 AM


Maybe a decent amount of bars. More so in the area of Georgetown since the school is there. But other then bars I have no clue.


Georgetown is a pain in the neck and not real accessible. You're not going to find much open at that hour, unfortunately.


Can't speak to what might be open, but actually from the train station Georgtown is real easy to get to, although it could take a good hour to get there. But all one need do is walk upstairs to the bus area attached to WUS and ride the DC Circulator bus direct to Georgetown, a one seat ride. It only costs a buck to ride that bus, cheaper than the Metro.
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#14 Mikewritesfic

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 12:51 PM


Maybe a decent amount of bars. More so in the area of Georgetown since the school is there. But other then bars I have no clue.

Georgetown is a pain in the neck and not real accessible. You're not going to find much open at that hour, unfortunately.


Awesome thread. We have a several-hour layover next February, and I wasn't really sure where to go or what to do since I'm not familiar with the DC map. Thanks, Ryan. :)

Happy to help - look me up when the time gets a little closer and I'll be happy to provide you guys a little more specific advice.


If you can get out of the DC Metro, I suggest spending some time in McLean, VA. It's close by and is one heck of a great place away from the city.

#15 Ryan

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 07:54 AM



Maybe a decent amount of bars. More so in the area of Georgetown since the school is there. But other then bars I have no clue.


Georgetown is a pain in the neck and not real accessible. You're not going to find much open at that hour, unfortunately.


Can't speak to what might be open, but actually from the train station Georgtown is real easy to get to, although it could take a good hour to get there. But all one need do is walk upstairs to the bus area attached to WUS and ride the DC Circulator bus direct to Georgetown, a one seat ride. It only costs a buck to ride that bus, cheaper than the Metro.


Good point, I forgot about that Circulator route.

If you can get out of the DC Metro, I suggest spending some time in McLean, VA. It's close by and is one heck of a great place away from the city.

I can't think of a single thing in McLean that would make it worth visiting over the dozens of other faceless suburbs around here. With a few hours to spend in DC, there are dozens of better things do to.
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#16 jis

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 08:12 AM


If you can get out of the DC Metro, I suggest spending some time in McLean, VA. It's close by and is one heck of a great place away from the city.

I can't think of a single thing in McLean that would make it worth visiting over the dozens of other faceless suburbs around here. With a few hours to spend in DC, there are dozens of better things do to.

Yeah. I was a bit puzzled by that one too, having spent endless hours in McLean on various business trips.

#17 Pat Harper

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 12:50 PM

When we had a 5-1/2 hour wait in D.C. before catching our train back to RVR, we opted for a Duck tour. They use those amphibious contraptions that go on land or water. Therefore, we got a land tour AND a cruise for a reasonable price.

Made it back to Union Station with an hour to kill.

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#18 June the Coach Rider

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 11:26 AM

Will be making a connection in Washington during Cherry Blossom time, does the train run anywhere that I can see the cherry blossoms from the trains? I am coming in on the CL and leaving on the SS. I only have a 2 hour lay-over if the CL is on time so don't have time to go anywhere, but would like to see them from the train if possible. Also, is there a better side to see things on the CL into Washington.



#19 Ryan

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 11:29 AM

You may get a quick glimpse of them out the right hand side as you're leaving WAS on the Star. Just before you head out over the river.

Edit: Yeah, I think you will. Here's how it's going to go down. Leaving WAS, you'll be in a tunnel. When you pop out of the tunnel, you'll be in a slight right hand curve. Looking out the right side of the train you'll see a glimpse or two of the Capitol (you very nearly went under it while you were in the tunnel). You'll straighten out and go 4 blocks or so, then make a left hand curve. More buildings and 4 blocks later, you'll pop out right by the Jefferson Memorial. The Cherry blossoms are all behind it. As you head out over the river, you may be able to look over top of the 14th street bridge to see them along the waterfront. It'll be quick, and the view may be obstructed by cars and by non-Cherry trees.

Edited by RyanS, 05 March 2014 - 11:33 AM.

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#20 Tracktwentynine

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 02:05 PM

You may get a quick glimpse of them out the right hand side as you're leaving WAS on the Star. Just before you head out over the river.

Edit: Yeah, I think you will. Here's how it's going to go down. Leaving WAS, you'll be in a tunnel. When you pop out of the tunnel, you'll be in a slight right hand curve. Looking out the right side of the train you'll see a glimpse or two of the Capitol (you very nearly went under it while you were in the tunnel). You'll straighten out and go 4 blocks or so, then make a left hand curve. More buildings and 4 blocks later, you'll pop out right by the Jefferson Memorial. The Cherry blossoms are all behind it. As you head out over the river, you may be able to look over top of the 14th street bridge to see them along the waterfront. It'll be quick, and the view may be obstructed by cars and by non-Cherry trees.

The cherry trees will be visible out BOTH sides of the train, just before you cross the Potomac River.

 

NOTE: There are 2 water crossings. You'll first cross the Washington Channel and then you'll cross the Potomac a few seconds later. The cherry blossom area is between those two water courses.


Amtrak: 35,600 miles, 24 routes, 44 states, 2 provinces. First trip 5/2005. Miles in 2014: 10,154.

"My heart is warm with friends I make, And better friends I'll not be knowing; Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, No matter where it's going."
--Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Travel"

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