D.C. Tourist Season Is Here

D.C. Tourist Season Is Here

With warm weather kicking in and cherry blossoms blooming all around the District, this can only mean one thing – it is officially springtime! But wait, this also means that it’s that time of year when there will be an influx of tourists in the city. A city like D.C. naturally attracts tons of people around the spring holidays, but the sudden temporary population boom can get a bit overwhelming at times for newcomers to the city like me.

 

 

Over the last two weekends, I’ve been trying to visit the National Air and Space Museum, but the line to enter the building was so long that I ended up leaving. I really regretted not going there at the start of my semester, when crowds were practically non-existent. I then decided to try out the monuments as an alternative—but it was just as impossible to navigate through the crowds there, too! In the end. I finally told myself that if you can’t beat ‘em, join em. And so, I resorted to joining the swarm of tourists for a day at the Tidal Basin to check out the cherry blossoms. These trees usually look their best for about 3-4 days after their peak bloom, then go into a pivot point where they start to fade fast after that. So, I’m not taking that chance to miss them!

 

Here is what to expect when attempting to tour D.C. at the peak of tourist season, compiled from my personal experience.

 

1. Long Lines To Everything

Be prepared to wait thirty minutes or more to get into museums, particularly museums like the National Air and Space and International Spy Museums (two of the biggest tourist hotspots). Though the lines are not crazy long for museums like the National Gallery of Art or the National Museum of the American Indian, don’t ever assume there isn’t one. Also, once you’ve battled your way into the museums, there’s still another line to get past: the checkout lines at the museum stores. This is unavoidable unless you leave without a souvenir, which is unlikely - who leaves a museum without purchasing some merchandise? Later on, you’ll also find yourself lining up for food and restrooms as well. In short, half your day will basically be spent in line.

 

 

Solution: To avoid long lines to museums, try to head to your destination early in the morning, right before opening time. I can’t assure you that there won’t be any lines, but they sure won’t be as long. As for the other lines (like the restrooms and checkout counters), they are pretty much unavoidable, so patience is the only solution there.

 

2. Extra-Crowded Metro Stations

Vacationers in D.C. tend to stay fairly close to a Metro station and will depend on this mode of transportation for as long as they’re in town. Put regular local commuters and tourists together, and you’ve got a Metro bursting at the seams.

 

Smithsonian Station when I was making my way to the Tidal Basin

 

Solution: Use alternatives like the Metrobus or the Capital Bikeshare. Uber is another option, but it might cost you a lot since there’s going to be traffic. If you must keep using the Metro, make sure your SmarTrip card is fully loaded so you don’t have to deal with the lines at the fare card machines.

 

3. Unintentional Photo Bombers

Have you ever visited a landmark for the first time and realized how incredibly hard it is to take a decent photo? We see breathtaking photos of these sites all the time in the media but how exactly do photographers capture those picture-perfect postcard moments? Because in reality, these places are usually filled with people (even more so during tourist season) and taking a photo without strangers blocking out your subject is quite a challenge.

 

Solution: You can ask politely if those individuals could stand out of your shot for just a few moments, opt to arrive at the place at odd hours (super early or late), or stand in a spot for an unbearably long time and wait until all the people walk out of your camera screen (which was what I did to get that perfect picture below). Or, you could always work with the unavoidable and capture the buzzing atmosphere of the crowds as it is.

 

After countless attempts, I finally got a picture of the

Jefferson Memorial, people-free!

 

For the record though, I have no regrets whatsoever about my trip to the Tidal Basin last weekend. The cherry blossoms were absolutely spectacular in person. Having seen them up close, I totally understand why tourists flock to marvel at their beauty. After that, I made my way to the Jefferson Memorial, since it was along the Tidal Basin. I sat by the water just to bask in the sun for an hour. From where I sat, I could see the Washington Monument from across the basin while little boats paddled past me. I also saw the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which were along the bank as well. Don’t miss out on all of this—come down to the Tidal Basin at least once. There’s definitely more to see than just the cherry blossoms.

 

Washington Monument reflects in the waters of the Tidal Basin

 

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial (1), Jefferson Memorial (2), Franklin

Delano Roosevelt Memorial (6); the rest is the view from around the basin

 

Well, after all is said and done, I think patience is key during tourist season. But if that is not your best trait, you could opt to hibernate for a while or seek out the low-profile spots of D.C. for your adventures. Tourists are sure to hit the popular spots like the National Mall and Georgetown. Check out new spots in Dupont Circle or U Street, if you want to chill and escape the throngs of tourist. Check out these lists of lesser-known attractions: Offbeat D.C. and D.C.'s Most Underrated Tourist Attactions.

 

#RANDOMTHROWBACKS: Global Festival

TWC hosted the Global Festival a couple weeks ago, in conjunction with the Global Citizenship Day. This festival is a cultural celebration where students from the program come together to showcase their cultures. Everyone can have a chance to get to know more about each other’s culture and share their stories and food in cultural booths that they can sign up for to participate in during the event. This event was held at the RAF, as usual, and there were more than a dozen countries around the world represented by the students from the program. From Jamaica to India to South Korea, I got to see all these fascinating traditional outfits worn by the students. There were food and performances as well, which really wrapped up the night beautifully. I really enjoyed the whole thing. It was so awesome to see things like native dances and Chinese calligraphy writing by students, and even a classical guitar performance from our very own TWC staff. It was a very entertaining night filled with cultural diversity and exchanges. With so much diversity in TWC, you’re bound to have amazing cross-cultural experiences during your internship.

 

 

Lizzy

 

Read Lizzy's previous blog posts here

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More