Lines, hikers and wares, oh my! A Fourth of July holiday tour of Washington D.C. and Williamsburg was absolutely fantastic, except the day when all the toilets were on lockdown!
For a change, we planned ahead and made reservations in January at Bull Run Regional Park. We chose this over the better-rated Cherry Hill, thinking it would be quieter away from the expressways. Bull Run features a huge water park and a shooting range, so pops, bangs and happy screams of children are the background noises there.
Unfortunately, upon our arrival, we were directed down a road to our site that was torn up for culvert replacement, and the construction crew would not be done for two hours or more. We asked the desk clerk to send a ranger to help us get turned around. It took a while, and we approached our site from the other way to find white powdery substance all over the ground. No one seemed to know what it was, although one assumed it was lime due to a sewage spill. It was a holiday weekend, and all other sites were taken. It took some arguing, but they finally asked their workampers to clean it up for us. That couple was so nice, and they were only ones who apologized for all of the trouble instead of bombarding us with a barrage of excuses. Earlier, I had to interrupt the front desk clerk’s litany of excuses and tell her it wasn’t my problem. They were the employees, and they need to take of the situation. Gads! If we return to tour the area again, we might try Cherry Hill instead, but Bull Run was sure dark and quiet at night…
The thought of spending the holiday on the Capitol Mall was rather intimidating, especially because the ranks of port-a-potties were all locked up tight for some reason the day before. So we opted to tour the colonial areas closer to Bull Run that day.
We drove around Yorktown then parked and did a late-afternoon
walking tour of Williamsburg. What a treat that was! Shopkeepers and residents work to keep the colonial feel intact, and if one walks slowly back through town at sunset, one can hear snippets of ghost stories and other hysterical lore being delivered bard-style to small groups of tourists.
The shops are fun to explore as well, with a variety of wares, including candles, soaps, pottery, ales and other colonial-era items. Spark up a conversation with a costumed shopkeeper and enjoy the old-fashioned language. A red-letter day indeed! Here is a map of colonial Williamsburg with pins to show where we parked and enjoyed wine and scrumptious sandwiches.
Museum crawl at the Mall!
We spent several days touring the National Mall and Museums, and we saw only a small piece of the whole. For as much as we enjoy museums, a full day per museum is usually the plan. But we are not getting any younger, and our poor old bodies just cannot take that furious pace, even with leisurely walks around a couple monuments each day or two.
Entry is absolutely free, and carried lunches via a daypack are great, but be prepared for X-ray security searches at some locations. Combine foods into large, clear plastic bags so they are easy to remove and hand-carry through the metal detectors. Water bottles may also be hand carried.
Food trucks galore line the streets just one block from mall center, and there is an international array of restaurants nearby, so there are lots of foodie options. We left feeling happy to have seen so much, but our bodies were totally worn out, used up and sore as heck! We needed a vacay from our vacay!
The Air and Space Museum was one of our must-see places, but it has been divided up into two locations, one on The Mall, and one adjoining Dulles International Airport, which is called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Among the staggering displays there are the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Discovery. If going, take lunch or deal with McDonalds as the only option. We had to special-order a salad to be made without chicken, but the dressing packets were sadly lacking in quality, healthful choices.
Our best travel tip for DC: Metro is the way to go! Buy a pass for the week, or however long you will stay. Senior passes are available only at select locations, so go to one of those first. Bull Run was closer to one station, but the next nearest Dulles was the one with the senior passes, which saved more than $20 compared to the cost of a regular pass. The pass works on the Metro and the red Circulator bus that loops around the National Mall and the memorials. Sadly, there are no bus stops on Roosevelt Island, so we didn’t experience Teddy’s memorial.
Good Eats: If you love an eclectic dining experience, try Busboys and Poets @ 5th and K, a delightful vegan-friendly restaurant within walking distance of The Mall. We went after touring part of the Museum of Natural History.
Pay to play!
Numerous museums with admission fees surround the National Mall, and we decided to try the International Spy Museum. What a hoot!