Things to do in Washington DC

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PerRock

Conductor
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Sep 16, 2006
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Well I'm taking the train to Boston South Station Via Washington DC (from Toledo, hey, more time on the train; plus it was cheaper) My question is I've got two hours in DC (assuming everything is on time) what should I do? the only other time I've been in DC was with my Boy Scout troop; so we were bussed everywhere. Whats in walking distance? Part of my time in DC will hopefully be spent taking some pics (I talked to the cust. relations guys at WAS and they gave me instructions on what to do to get permission) but other than that I'm free. For those interested my scheduled arrival time is 1:30p (#30) and I depart at 3:25p (#168)

I'll actually be in New Hampshire (at a funeral) so I don't need tips on things to do in Boston.

peter
 
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Feb 19, 2008
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Union Station is very close to the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings. Walk over to there, take some great pictures. Make sure you go around to the front of the Capitol and get some shots of the reflecting pool there and the Washington Monument. Depending on how quickly you walk, you might be able to stroll down the Mall area and pop into one of the closer museums (all Smithsonian museums are free).

There are great eateries in the bottom floor of Union station, also.
 

Galls

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Oct 29, 2007
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You could always go to the library of congress, stop in and fiddle around. You will not be able to take a book out, nor will you be able to actually read one as takes about 20 minutes for them to get it to you. But it is an amazing facility of this country. You could have fun with reference and ask them to give you a list of everything they have on Jesus or Socrates. A printed list on Socrates took about 2 hours. If you go on a walking tour it is definitly a great place to stop.
 

The Metropolitan

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I hate to be cynical, Peter, but #30's arrival in DC can be hit-and-miss. I've caught this train 5 times into WAS, and we averaged close to an hour and a half late each time. That said, the last time we came in on #30, we were only 15 minutes down, so it can happen.

Assuming you come in with good time, I'd think it would take you upwards of half an hour or more to do what you need to do to take any photos there. From there, Union Station is actually a destination in itself in Washington, DC. Lots of people actually go to this train station without any intention of catching a train - reason being the mall, food court, restaurants, and movies.

Even if the station doesn't captivate you, I probably wouldn't suggest wandering too far. DC is a very easy city to lose your sense of direction in, despite the easy "letters and numbers" setup. One quick suggestion from a rail perspective would be to follow the signs to the METRO, catch a RED Line train for Glenmont, and ride to the New York Avenue stop (next stop), then chill out on the platform for a couple minutes to view the New York Avenue yard before catching the Shade Grove bound train back towards the Station.

If you've never caught the Capitol Limited before I would tend to suggest focusing on the right side of the train from a comfy seat in the Sightseeing Lounge. Daylight should come just after Pittsburgh, and you'll have hours of scenery passing you by with the rugged Youghioehenny (sp) River east of Pittsburgh leading you up to "Sand Patch" which is the height of the Alleghenies.

From here, you'll be then descending for the rest of the ride, probably the best part of which comes shortly after leaving Cumberland. There is a HUMP yard on the right where freight cars are left to free roll into a yard for classification and coupling. After this comes some really good mix of bridges and tunnels as you ride along the border of West Virginia.

If you're interested in stuff to look out for along the southern part of the NEC, just let me know.
 

cbender

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Aug 25, 2004
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Alexandria VA
2 hours is not much time to walk far. The National Postal Museum is right across the street from Union Station, and is good for 45 minutes or so of entertainment.
 

AlanB

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One quick suggestion from a rail perspective would be to follow the signs to the METRO, catch a RED Line train for Glenmont, and ride to the New York Avenue stop (next stop), then chill out on the platform for a couple minutes to view the New York Avenue yard before catching the Shade Grove bound train back towards the Station.
While the view from the NYA station might be nice, the Metro's fare gates won't take kindly to someone entering the system at Union Station and returning to Union Station to exit. Since Metro's fares are based on distance traveled, the system doesn't know how to handle someone who, went no where.

So if you try this Peter, be sure to exit the system for a quick minute at NYA and then reenter. Otherwise you'd best hope for a very sympathetic gate agent back at the Union Station stop.

I'm not sure how things are today with the security things, although if you get a pass from Amtrak that would help, but one used to be able to get some nice views from the stairway windows in the attached parking gargage. And that doesn't cost anything.
 

The Metropolitan

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Actually, I recall a friend doing this - boarding and alighting from the same stop. He boarded at Rockville, rode with me to Union to see me off, then got back on the next train going back to Rockville without exiting the gates. IIRC, the fare gate simply charges you the base minimum Metro fare in effect at the time you entered. I'm sure it's fairly common for people to board Metro to accompany someone to their destination and simply jumping the next train back to where they boarded.

Very good point about the Parking Garage, it's like an "Observation Deck" for an Amtrak Geek. From the promenade near the Club Acela lounge, near the cordoned off waiting areas near the gate, you simply follow the up escalator to the garage, then go up 2 or 3 more escalators until you get the grand view of the majestic layout of the Union Station trackage. The platform canopies do obscure some of the trains laying over at the platforms, but you get a fantastic view of the tower and throat tracks, and you shouldn't get any hassle from a soul about gawking there.
 

AlanB

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Actually, I recall a friend doing this - boarding and alighting from the same stop. He boarded at Rockville, rode with me to Union to see me off, then got back on the next train going back to Rockville without exiting the gates. IIRC, the fare gate simply charges you the base minimum Metro fare in effect at the time you entered. I'm sure it's fairly common for people to board Metro to accompany someone to their destination and simply jumping the next train back to where they boarded.
Maybe Metro has fixed this problem then, hopefully.
 

rtabern

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Nov 15, 2006
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Suburban Chicago
I've taken the train to DC three times in the past 5 years... one of my favorite things to do is the Old Post Office Tower. It's not that well known, but it provides a great view of the city. It's off Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and White House... and you actually have to go through a small mall/food court to get to the elevator to go up in it, but it's actually part of the national park system. Just make sure you have time to do it -- you'd need 1-2 hours. I think there is a Metro stop close by though.
 

sechs

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ATL
2 hours is not much time to walk far. The National Postal Museum is right across the street from Union Station, and is good for 45 minutes or so of entertainment.
I'll second this. Since you don't have a lot of time, this is a great choice.

The museum is literally across the street from Union Station and it's free.
 

John Bredin

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suburban Chicago (Deerfield)
I've taken the train to DC three times in the past 5 years... one of my favorite things to do is the Old Post Office Tower. It's not that well known, but it provides a great view of the city. It's off Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and White House... and you actually have to go through a small mall/food court to get to the elevator to go up in it, but it's actually part of the national park system. Just make sure you have time to do it -- you'd need 1-2 hours. I think there is a Metro stop close by though.
I second the recommendation of the post-office tower. It's almost the height of the Washington Monument, with similar sweeping views of the city, but a tiny fraction of the wait. Some times, you just walk in and the only wait is for the ancient elevator.

The Old Post Office Pavilion is right across the street from the Federal Triangle (NOT Federal Center) stop on the Blue & Orange lines -- you can't miss it as you come out of the Metro. Take the Red Line from Union Station to Metro Center, then change to a eastbound Blue (terminal: Largo Town Center) or Orange (terminal: New Carrollton) train. Federal Triangle is the next stop east of Metro Center.
 
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