Transportation Tourism in the Nation’s Capital
My all time favorite band is the Talking Heads, and my all-time favorite Talking Heads song is “This Must Be the Place.” (Considering the group’s discography, probably the most “transportation-related” tune from their repertoire would be “Road to Nowhere,” but no: this is the song I love.)
“This Must Be the Place” starts with a somewhat melancholy first line: “Home... is where I want to be.” It’s still the words that run through my head every time I experience something terrific about Washington, D.C. Whenever a new acquaintance asks where I’m from, I have the honor of replying “here!” And just like the song says, it’s where I want to be. A true native daughter, born steps from the McMillan Reservoir and the Armed Forces Retirement Home, right off North Capitol.
I could write a book on what to see and do here - and many professional writers have done just that (the National Zoo! Free summer concerts at Fort Reno! Many fantastic art museums, my personal recreational activity of choice!) But we’re talking ITS. So if your interest in mobility goes far beyond your professional duties, perhaps sticking to a “themed” visit next month is in order.
A not-at-all comprehensive list for you to consider as you finalize your travel plans:
Museums: Start with the great museums in this town, several of which are free. The American History Museum's "America on the Move" exhibit is one of my very favorites. It’s impossible not to mention the downtown National Air and Space Museum and it’s suburban counterpart, the Udvar-Hazy Center. I’ve never been to the National Capital Trolley Museum, but it gets rave reviews. The College Park Aviation Museum is only eight miles from downtown. And although Union Station is certainly beautiful, there are also a number of smaller, suburban train exhibits, like the retired caboose in Arlington’s Bluemont Junction Park or the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders Club headquarters in nearby Vienna, VA.
Take it Outside: Like biking, jogging, or maybe just a casual stroll? Early June in D.C is typically beautiful weather. I’d recommend the C&O Canal Path and the Crescent Trail; a number of routes through Rock Creek Park; Hains Point; the W&O Park Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk trail; the U.S. National Arboretum, or a loop around Theodore Roosevelt Island. Biking options abound, on these paths and elsewhere: John Lower has already mentioned Capital BikeShare; and there are a number of additional bikeshare, scooter, and micromobility options in D.C.; like Lime, Jump, Bird, Skip, Spin, and Lyft.
In the Air: Plane watching at Gravelly Point isn’t just for kids. Bring a picnic (and some earplugs if you are sensitive to loud engine roars.) I’ve already mentioned the Air and Space exhibits - maybe consider one of the area’s flight schools.
Be a tourist, or just act like one: Want to see the city from a unique perspective? What about a Segway? A pedicab? A… “pedal pub?” The iconic DC “TourMobile” buses ceased operations in 2011, but there are a number of “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour companies are available these days.
Hit the water: A sunset trip with DCSail is a marvelous experience. Take a watertaxi from Old Town Alexandria to National Harbor; jump on a duckboat; and even though the cherry blossoms have faded, paddleboats on the Tidal Basin still run through the summer season. If you’d like to strike out on your own, try Thompson’s Boathouse for kayak rentals or other lessons. Spend a slightly more glamorous night on the Odyssey or Spirit of Washington. You can even climb aboard a pirate ship.
Classics Enthusiasts: Love collectible cars? Katie’s Coffee and Classics event in Great Falls, VA happens every Saturday morning - stay for the weekend and head out for brunch.
Brand New Key: I’m advocating for bringing back four small wheels: rollerskating at Ancostia Park counts as a “mobility option,” right?
Getting Around, otherwise: Stand to the right! The Metro is D.C.’s commuter option of choice. WMATA also operates Metro buses. The DC Circulator is more than simply cost-effective, and the surrounding suburbs offer Arlington’s ART bus, Montgomery County RideOn, and many others. Certainly a number of rideshare companies operate in DC, as well as a number of taxi companies. Something else to check out: the DC Streetcar along H Street. (Visit GoDCGo for more info.)
There is no way I covered it all - I welcome both additional recommendations and public shaming at @lsheltongross. See you in a few weeks!