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Touted as "The Nation's Greatest Springtime Celebration," Washington D.C.'s National Cherry Blossom Festival is probably the most beautiful time to visit the area, but it is also the busiest. For about three weeks from the end of March to the middle of April, the blooms illuminate the "ten miles square" that makes up the capital region, so pre-planning your visit and paying a little extra might well be worth the effort.
Summer weekends are the next most popular time to visit Arlington, VA., with hotels booked solid and often with inflated prices to match. Monuments and attractions will have fewer visitors and smaller crowds if you can travel during the week, and there will be a greater abundance of cheap hotel rooms as well. The shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall are truly the most ideal times to visit Arlington, as there are no crowds, plenty of accommodation options available, and the sometimes unpredictable weather is typically pleasant enough for walking around.
With rail and bus service, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, better known as just Metro, is renowned for being efficient and clean, and even New Yorkers and Londoners rave about how solid and consistent the Washington Metro is. Metrorail and Metrobus fares start at $1.75, and their online trip planner can help determine fares that are required depending on the zones traveled and which rail and bus service are utilized. SmarTrip cards can be loaded to pay fares on both Metrorail and Metrobus, with savings offered on each leg.
Most capital region attractions, including Arlington Cemetery and the Smithsonian museums, have dedicated Metro stations nearby, or are easily accessed by foot from a Metrorail or Metrobus route.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport connects directly to Metro's Yellow and Blue Lines, and the Metro station connected to the terminal by a covered walkway. If you're flying into Dulles International Airport, you can connect to Metrorail using Metrobus. The 5A takes you to Rosslyn Metrorail station on the Orange, Silver, and Blue Lines, or you can take the Washington Flyer bus to the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station on the Silver Line.
A taxi to the Arlington area from Dulles International Airport is a flat rate of $58. Flying into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is more affordable, with fares to Arlington starting at $14. Most of the airport hotels, like the Radisson Hotel Reagan National Airport and Holiday Inn National Airport/Crystal City offer complimentary airport shuttles.
But Arlington and the surrounding capital region have other public transportation options that are both inexpensive and easy to navigate. Created by a unique public/private partnership, the DC Circulator buses cost $1 and come every ten minutes, and head over the Key Bridge from Washington to Rosslyn and the hotels and Metro station nearby. Pedicabs are a unique option for the U.S. Capital region during the warmer months, and Capital Bikeshare has plenty of stations on both sides of the Potomac.
The headquarters of the Department of Defense, better known as The Pentagon, conducts in-depth tours of the facility free of charge. Tours operate between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Fridays, and must be booked between fourteen and ninety days in advance. Government-issued identification is required, and you must arrive up to an hour in advance of your tour in order to clear security.
Arlington National Cemetery is the United States' most sacred military cemeteries that is the final resting place of the first president George Washington, and he is joined by fellow former president John F. Kennedy and his brothers Robert and Edward, and more than 400,000 veterans and the nation's greatest heroes. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier takes place year-round during the hours that the cemetery is open, and is a moving tribute that honors the Unknowns who have fallen while serving their country.
Across the Potomac River, many of the major attractions do not require tickets and are open to the public, including the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian museums, the Smithsonian National Zoo, and, of course, the national monuments and memorials.
The tour company DC by Foot offers pay-what-you-like walking tours of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. Explore the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and the U Street corridor, while hearing stories, secrets, and useful information about our national treasures.
Most of the area's luxury hotels are across the Potomac in Washington, D.C., not in Arlington. However, the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City is worth a splurge for its posh decor and beds with Frette linens, plus direct access to the mall and Metro. Its famed Afternoon Tea and Sunday Brunch is a way to indulge without breaking the bank. Le Méridien Arlington is a petite boutique hotel on the Arlington side, with a complimentary wine hour on weekdays between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
With such a wide range of affordable accommodations and cheap hotels in the area, you may have a tough time narrowing down your options. The majority lies on the Washington D.C. side, but there are many Arlington hotels near Metro stations or within a short walk. Well-reviewed are the Inns of Virginia - Arlington, which includes free continental breakfast, and the Governor House Inn, which is a little further afield but also includes breakfast and has an outdoor pool.
AirBNB offers excellent and incredibly affordable alternatives to hotels in Arlington, near Metro stations and shopping. Private rooms with private baths that are within walking distance of the Metro but also with easy access to running trails and neighborhood parks and restaurants can be found for as little as $67 per night. There are also fully self-contained apartments available in Arlington. One is located in a historic home and can sleep six; the other has views of the Capital and Pennsylvania Avenue from the rooftop deck.
Stay Arlington, the Arlington, Virginia Convention and Visitor's Bureau publishes a guide that you can order, view online, or download as a magazine. The guide lists all the area's attractions and accommodations, offers a rundown of shopping, dining, and nightlife options, as well as a list of historic sites and a calendar of events.
And to infuse your visit to the capital region with some local spirit, the Washington City Paper is the area's weekly round-up of what's hip, what's hot, and what's happening in what some are calling "The DMV" of District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The Washington City Paper also hosts contests and promotions and sponsors many local events, so following its website before your visit and grabbing a copy once you're there will put you in the know and give you the heads up an any available discounts.
© 2016 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2016 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.