Hotel Giveaway!!

IMG_20190211_172503_249.jpg

Dress from: Lauren Addison Boutique

Hey everyone! I am doing some market research and am launching a giveaway to say THANK YOU for participating! The random winner will receive a $50 gift card from Hotels.com to use on the destination of your choice!

The winner can ALSO request a free itinerary from yours truly to the destination they choose to visit with the gift card.

The best itineraries will probably be from places I’ve already explored, which are:

U.S.A:

•Pasadena, L.A., and San Fransisco, California •Spokane, Washington •Washington D.C. • Wisconsin • Minneapolis, Minnesota •Savannah, Tybee, Atlanta, Helen, Elijay, Blue Ridge, Georgia •Orlando, St. Petersburg, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, Destin, Panama City, Daytona, and Cocoa Beach, Florida •Charleston and Hilton Head South Carolina •Williamsburg,Virginia •Cape May, New Jersey

Abroad:

•Cozumel, Melaque, Guadalajara, Mexico •St. Thomas and St. Maartin, B.V.I •Rome, Venice, and Tuscany, Italy •Paris, France •Brussels and Brugge, Belgium • Bacharach, Boppard, Beilstein, Edam, Burg Eltz Castle, Hohenzollern Castle, and Black Forrest, Germany • Delft, Keukenhof Gardens,  and Haarlem, Netherlands

*If you choose another place, I will still do research and make you an itinerary, but it will be based on other online information*

Here’s how to enter:

*Find my giveaway post that is a picture of me looking way too excited on a beach*

  1. Be sure you are following me either in Instagram or my Facebook page, or both.
  2. Tag 3 friends who like to travel. (On Instagram or Facebook, or both)
  3. Take this survey: Travel Survey.
  4. Share my giveaway post on your Instagram story or on your Facebook timeline.

There are no additional entries. So once you have completed these 4 checkpoints, you’re done!

The contest will close Saturday, March 23rd 12pm EST, and the winner will be announced by 12pm EST on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

This giveaway is not sponsored by hotels.com.

 

Best of luck!

-Katie O.

Savannah, Georgia Tour Guide: A welcoming gift from locals to visitors

Savannah, Georgia has tons to offer when it comes to delicious cuisine and nightlife. Restaurants vary from super fancy to casual and fun. They even have plenty of coffee shops perfect for getting work done or taking a load off from sight-seeing. So many options can get overwhelming. I will be in this city for 1 year and know that there’s no way I’ll be able to experience everything. So, to narrow the list, I asked a few locals their favorite places to eat, drink, and explore in hopes to give you some guidance while you visit this lovely city.

If you are a military family, you may also want to check out this post -> The Ultimate Savannah, Georgia Guide for Military Families

Here is a tour guide I created for you with the help of my local friends. Screen shot it or print it out and mark it off as you go!

Savannah Guide

Here is the PDF if you would like to print it out: Savannah Tour Guide

Savannah has beautiful historic apartments and lofts available through Airbnb.com.

Here is $40 off your first purchase of $75 or more!

 

The Ultimate Savannah, Georgia Guide for Military Families

LRM_EXPORT_3402621925876_20181104_195639804

Being stationed in Savannah, Georgia has been so much fun this year! The city is lively, beautiful, and full of community. As an Army and Coast Guard town, Savannah businesses are so generous to show their gratitude in forms of discounts and even free tickets! Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Savannah as a military family:

Ft. Pulaski

LRM_EXPORT_3539469329850_20180910_163737863

As a national state park, Fort Pulaski is free to all military and their dependents. Tours are offered every few hours and cannon demonstrations are given on the weekends. The cannons are actually really fun to watch! Volunteers dress in Civil War attire and put on a full show.

This is one of the most in-tact forts in the southeast. It was defeated fairly quickly by the Union Army with their superior rifle cannon. When it later became a prisoner-of-war camp, the troops rebuilt the bombed portion so it’s almost perfect now.

LRM_EXPORT_3415187340819_20181104_195652369

Fort Pulaski could take 1 to 3 hours to explore. If you decide to participate in a tour, it will be longer, but more insightful than just looking around on your own. If you decide to visit in the summer, take the trail to the left of the parking lot and check out the Cockspur Island “beach.” It’s basically a channel, but many people fish and watch cargo ships sail by. We like to play Frisbee or soccer on this beach because there’s no sunbathers to accidentally hit!

Tybee Island Lighthouse Museum

LRM_EXPORT_3419068755765_20181104_195656251.jpeg

At the north shore of Tybee, the famous lighthouse stands tall, proud, and ready for you to climb. Until the late 1900s, this museum was an active Coast Guard station, which is why Coast Guard families get one free ticket. For example, when I went, my husband was not with me so they gave me the free ticket. This museum closes at 5pm, so plan accordingly. Give yourself about 1 hour to 1.5 hours to climb the lighthouse, view the old lighthouse keeper living quarters, and explore the Tybee museum across the street. You’ll enjoy learning about the history of Tybee’s “hay-day,” but I’m pretty sure kids will just care about climbing the lighthouse.

Savannah Theatre at 222 Bull Street

LRM_EXPORT_9020017400610_20181223_180541432.jpeg

The Savannah Theatre keeps a donation running that allows all active duty military and their dependents to enjoy their performances for free! If you are in town for Christmas, come see their famous annual “Christmas Tradition” show. It’s so festive and will really get you into the Christmas spirit! They will be performing Mama Mia at the beginning of next year, which is sure to be a hit as well.

Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity, even if you are visiting for a short time. These are regular $37 tickets, and their performers are incredible.

Hunter Army Airfield MWR and Ticket and Leisure Office

The closest base to Savannah is Hunter Army Airfield. Ft. Stewart is a bigger base, but it’s a good 50 minutes from Savannah. The MWR at Hunter Army has paddle boards, canoes, boats, and even RV spots to rent. Stop by the Ticket and Leisure Office, which is located at the Exchange, to get a list of several discounted tickets to local attractions. Savannah boat and trolley tours were the ones that stood out the most to me, but they have many more that may appeal to you!

Telephone: (912) 315-9554/9354
Season: All year
Directions: HAAF Outdoor Equipment Rental/Checkout Centers Bldg 8454, Stratofortress Road, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, GA 31409-5000

I hope you enjoy your visit in Savannah! If you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram: @katiewentthere

If your wanting to book a stay in downtown, here is my $40 off discount code with Airbnb.com: http://www.airbnb.com/c/katiec7787

 

 

Happy Travels,

Katie O.

Disney Military Discounts & other Orlando Military Travel Ideas

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the 2018 Military Salute Disney tickets. We called it our belated honeymoon since we married the week after he graduated Coast Guard basic training. I hope this post will fill you in on a few military opportunities concerning Disney World and other Orlando theme parks. Feel free to view the table of contents below and scroll straight to the information you are searching for.

Today’s Topics:

1. Disney Military Salute Tickets
2. When to Go
3. Eating at Disney
4. Disney Resort/ lodging
5. SeaWorld (free tickets)
6. Universal Studios/ Islands of Adventure
7. Cheaper Disney Swag for Great Pictures

LRM_EXPORT_2217222189619_20181104_192135031

Disney Military Salute Tickets

Although it changes every year, Disney has 5- day park hopper tickets available to active duty military for $246. They also offer 4-Day tickets for $226, but what’s $20 more at this point? That’s the price of a 2-day base ticket at the gate. 2018 is also the first year that Disney offers this deal to DOD civilians as well.

One military member or DOD civilian can activate 6 tickets. People accompanying the service member do not have to be dependents. You can purchase these tickets at the travel and leisure office at many of the military installations, although our base in Savannah only had 2 passes left when we bought ours. You purchase the vouchers on base and exchange them for a Disney pass at the ticket booth of the first park you visit.

The tickets will expire on December 19th of the year they were purchased. For example, we only bought our tickets a month ago, but they will expire this December 19, 2018. So, if you want to go next year, 2019, you have to wait until January to purchase them. There are no longer black-out dates for military salute tickets, so you can split up the days and use them however you want within the year.

LRM_EXPORT_2031370163388_20181104_191829179

When to Go

If you can, try to go during October, January, or February when most kids are in school. Weekdays are an amazing time to go because, 1. Resort stays are cheaper, and 2. The park is much less crowded. We went to Epcot on Friday, and it did not get crowded until 1pm. You may be able to ride everything in the park and explore every country by 2pm like we did.

Try to get to the park at least 30 minutes before it opens to go ahead and knock out your favorite rides while the lines are low. Even on Sunday, we were able to ride most attractions at Magic Kingdom before noon. I’m not sure why. I’m guessing because it’s tough to get out the door early with little ones, but I don’t have any yet so that’s just a guess.

LRM_EXPORT_2710660402452_20181104_193318794

Eating at Disney

Food prices are not terrible at Disney food kiosks. It’s the drinks that get you. Bring bottled water and refill it at fountains all over the park. In Magic Kingdom, go to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square before 12:00 and enjoy a ham, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich for $8.99.

Here is an eating schedule option for you while at the Disney Parks:

Breakfast before the park (eggs, cereal, muffins, fruit, etc.)

Light Lunch in the park and a shared coffee for some extra energy

Snacks in our backpack (tuna pouches and crackers, trail mix, fruit, granola)

Late Dinner after we shut down the park at any restaurant still open on the way back to the hotel

It might be fun to splurge one night and reserve dinner in the park ($20-$40ish per plate). Bring something nice to change into that doesn’t wrinkle, enjoy a dinner-date at the happiest place on earth, and end the evening watching fireworks together.

LRM_EXPORT_3087777704798_20181104_195124960

Lodging for Disney Parks

Disney has several resorts to choose from. They vary from luxury resorts all the way to Fort Wilderness campgrounds. Shades of green is a resort especially for U.S. military and their families as well as DOD civilians. From the looks of their website, Shades of Green is pretty booked for the rest of the year so be sure to plan ahead if you want to go in 2019.

During the holidays, prices jump up to about double, except if you book nights during the week. Weekday prices are very affordable and worth it for the dining options, transportation, character fun, and no parking fees ($25/day)! Prices are different per night depending on your military rank. E-1 though E-6 is the cheapest and officers and DOD civilians have the highest rates.

They have a food package offered as a “special deal,” which can include breakfast and/or dinner at their Garden Buffet into your nightly rate. This seems to only be a deal if your nightly rate is higher than an enlisted rate. If you are E-1 to E-6, it is just about the same price as if you just bought the meals yourself. If Shades of Green is booked, the Disney Animation Resort, Movie Resort, and Sports Resort are often around the same price. But once again, plan ahead for next year.

Orlando does have hotels that are cheaper than staying on Disney’s property, but the convenience factor is a major benefit of lodging with Disney. Parking adds up for one thing. We spent $75 alone in parking while staying off the Disney property. Also, Disney resort visitors get the privilege of EMC (Extra Magic Hours) at certain parks. Check the days you are going and see which parks you can go early or state late in.

LRM_EXPORT_3121611619525_20181104_195158794

One military and DOD perk that many don’t know about is Armed Forces Vacation Club. They offer condos and hotels from well-known companies like Wyndham Resorts for a super low price. There are several hotels in Kissimmee, Florida for $349 for 7 nights. The only catch is that each stay is usually Friday-Friday or Sunday-Sunday, so you have to be willing to take a full week of leave or just forfeit a few nights. But for just $50 a night, you may just want to book the week and stay for 4 nights or so. This option is great if you are going to Orlando with a larger group as most of these resorts offer 2 bedrooms, a pullout couch, and a full kitchen.

You might even want to book a stay through Airbnb.com. I found a few apartments that are $70 per night, including the cleaning and service fees. I have a discount code that can get you $40 off your first stay with Airbnb, but I would honestly use it as a last resort option: 40% off Airbnb stay

Staying at Disney or at a hotel with breakfast and a Disney shuttle would be my first two recommendations, followed by Armed Forces Vacation Club.

LRM_EXPORT_3026905646957_20181104_195024087

While you’re in town… SeaWorld!

I know some people have issues with SeaWorld these days, but if you don’t, keep reading! Each year, SeaWorld gives one free ticket to active duty military and their dependents. You can choose to use your free tickets at SeaWorld (San Diego, CA or Orlando, FL) or Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, VA or Tampa, FL). My husband and I decided to spend Saturday at SeaWorld for half a day since Disney would be busy. If you decide to go while in town, you will only pay for parking, which is $22, and a locker if you bring a bag, which is $6 for all day. If I were you, I would just leave bags in the car. The lockers are a hassle if you don’t really need anything from your bag. SeaWorld has more rollercoasters than I expected, and their shows are incredible. We also discovered a helpful tip. Go ride rollercoasters during the Shamu shows. Half the park goes to the show and the rides are practically empty! Of course, watch one Shamu show because they are so fun! Getting the military tickets couldn’t be easier. All you do is go to SeaWorld.com and either enter your military ID number or log in using your USAA account. They will email you your ticket and you’re done!

LRM_EXPORT_2640377674716_20181104_192838186

Universal and Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios also offers a significant military discount on their tickets. Once again, you can purchase them at your Travel and Leisure office on base, but the cool thing about these tickets is that the sponsor does not have to be with you at the park entrance. The tickets are about $180 for a 4-day, 2- park voucher. That is the price you would pay for a 1-day, 2-park ticket at regular price.

I hope this helps with your Disney vacation planning! I also hope you have an amazing time with friends and family at the most magical place on earth! Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you in December!

Click here to see some of my favorite items to use while traveling and it will help keep this blog going as I am affiliated with Amazon!

For cute Disney Pictures:

I bought some Disney swag at Kohl’s the other day because they have a junior’s line of Disney apparel for Mickey’s 90th birthday. They also have 20% off your purchase right now both in-store and online. I’m not affiliated with Kohl’s, they just had cute items for pictures at Disney!

Happy Travels,

Katie

 

Hike Hawaii: Oahu Trails with Incredible Views

This past week, March 7-14th, I spent my spring break from college in Oahu, Hawaii, and I miss it already! I’ve learned a few things about the island that I hope you can take with you on your Hawaiian adventure. The water was actually cooler than I expected so we opted to hike SEVERAL trails along the Southern Coast and North Shore. Luckily, hiking is free (besides $5 parking) so you don’t have to spend tons of money on Oahu to have fun. I would recommend taking on all of these hikes, but will say that my legs were feeling pretty tired by the end. To help with your trip planning, I have included a map with all hiking locations and will give you as much information as I can about the difficulty level, crowds, and landmarks as some trail heads are not easy to find.

Kealia Trail

On almost the furthest west side of the North Shore hides a wonderful trail right next to an airport that’s popular for skydiving and paragliding. This hike was slightly difficult to find, but Google Maps works just fine right up to the turning point that leads to the parking lot. Once you turn left after the airport runway into a road labeled “Access Gate,” keep going until there’s a parking lot on your left. Once parked, walk to the right and head toward the mountains down a gravel path until the “Kealia Trail” sign steers you in the right direction. This hike is 3.5 miles up, and consists of several switchbacks and rocky, uneven paths. The view is most beautiful during the hike so be sure to stop for some pictures rather than hoofing it up to the top so fast. At the top, after the picnic table, explore the trails that go further. Once you reach the artwork on the water tower, there’s not much more to see as your view is covered by trees. This trail takes about 4 hours from leaving the car to returning back down. On the hike, you might see several skydivers jumping from planes that took off from the airport below as well as gliders coasting over the ocean. March weather is perfect for hiking! However, even in Hawaii’s winter, it gets hotter toward the afternoon. Try to hike no later than 10am to 2pm in January-March, but in the summer, go as early as you can. After a job well-done, hop in the car and enjoy the coastal highway, H3, admiring the beauty of the land and the talent of the surfers. Perhaps spend the evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center buffet dinner and Breath of Life Show, which I will discuss in a future post. Unless you can reserve that for another time earlier in the day, which is what I would recommend.

_DSC2347-01

_DSC2358-01

Koko Crater Trail

This trail is challenging and steep, but the view from the top is incredible. The parking lot most people use for this trail is also used for ballfields, so it’s pretty crowded. Arrive no later than 8-8:30am in March if you want a spot. Koko Crater Trail is not for the faint of heart. It goes straight up for about 1,500 steps. The trail is an old railway with worn down ties and washed out dirt. It is only about 1.5 miles, but it takes about an hour or two to get to the top. You will weave in and out of those going up and will try to get out of the way of those experienced crazies running down! This is why I say you should go earlier than 8:30 if you can. The less people, the better. At the top, you’ll see why you climbed all that way. Hanauma Bay is in front of you and the giant crater is behind. There are plenty of high platforms on the top of the mountain for great pictures, including the old railway car housing. Spend a good 30 minutes to an hour photographing the views, meeting fellow conquerors, and hearing their stories. On the way down, if you are a less-than-avid hiker (I am just that) hike sideways to alleviate pressure on your knees while descending. The descent will be a breeze compared to the climb. This hike is the most difficult that some people will ever experience, but it will also be the most rewarding. Once you make it back down, don’t forget to look back at the impressive feat you just accomplished and remind yourself that it was all while on vacation.

_DSC2478-01

_DSC2486-01

_DSC2498-01

Diamond Head Trail

As one of the most famous hikes on Oahu, Diamond Head is always crowded. However, the parking spaces free up fairly quickly so wait in line until one is available. You will most likely head to the trail with a large group of others unless you get there when gates open at 6am. However, everyone has their own pace so the trail is not unbearably crowded nor is it extremely narrow. No matter, there will be hikers of all ages, so I just accept the fact that this is going to be a slow, leisurely hike. Explore every inch of this hike, and climb every set of stairs. Even if they look intimidating, you won’t regret it. Close to the top, there is a set of yellow stairs to the right, which you will want to ignore, but really should climb because it’s cool! There is a battery with rusted metal doors and a small artillery area that was used in WWII. The top of Diamond Head is so crowded that you might not want to stay long, but at least take in the city views to your right and the coastal waters to your left. Remember, gates open at 6am. So if you’re an early riser, beat the crowd.

_DSC2679-01

_DSC2703-01

Manoa Falls

If you’re not tired after Diamond Head, eat lunch and drive to Manoa Falls, which is about 20 minutes north. Once again, Google Maps takes you straight to this hike, and parking is about $5. Manoa is a 3 mile hike round trip. As you begin the walk, you’ll see why they chose this location to film Jurassic Park as it’s filled with bamboo shoots and jungle views that seem to go on forever. Although there is very uneven terrain, this hike is fairly easy most of the way, only getting difficult toward the end near the waterfall. You may see a few groups hiking along with you, but the real crowd comes at the waterfall. People wait for good spots to take pictures, but there probably never will be one. The bottom of the fall is just deep enough to reach your ankles, but the water is freezing! On your hike back, you may see a girl finishing up her music video in the bamboo shoots, and it will sound really good! I found her on Instagram, @OLIVIATHAI. She was on American Idol XV and won both Taiwan Idol and Megastar!

_DSC2753-01

_DSC2741-01

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

The last hike of this post is a 1.5 mile steep walk up a paved road. The ground is even, but the climb escalates quickly. After all this hiking, your legs may be giving out at this point, so it may seem more difficult than usual. The scenery is beautiful the entire way, with views of the rocky coast and bright blue crashing waves. It may begin to rain as you reach the top, but don’t turn back after going so far. The rain comes and goes in Hawaii. Now, I’m not going to lie, don’t expect a huge lighthouse, but its surroundings are still breathtaking. The waves will look like they have blue dye in them as they crash against the rocks. After staying at the top for quite a while, make your way back to the car and take a load off. Head to Waikiki and reward your efforts with an acai bowl from Tropical Tribe. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance, and you can spend the rest of your day on the beach where they film Hawaii Five-0.

received_10204787734129726

 

Here’s just a quick snapshot of how amazing Oahu really is!


I hope this was helpful in planning your next adventure!

I used an Akaso adventure camera for all my videos in Hawaii. It was amazing and way cheaper than a Gopro. The wifi feature doesn’t work, but that’s the only issue, which I think is well worth a $100 savings! Also, if you submit a review on Amazon, they will send you a whole package of accessories for free! It comes with body and head straps, extra batteries, etc.

We also stayed in an Airbnb in Alewa Heights while in Oahu, which is only about 10 minutes from the airport, in between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Here is my $40 discount off your stay if you are booking with Airbnb for the first time!

These links support my blog and help me to share useful tips with you about travel, so thank you for using them!

Come to the Georgia National Fair for the Ultimate Southern Experience

Fall rolls around in Georgia, not necessarily because the temperatures have dropped, but because every other billboard says the Georgia National Fair has arrived to Perry, Georgia. Usually the second and third weeks of October is something that every middle Georgian looks forward to. It’s not a question of if they’re going to the fair, but when and how many times. The fair is literally a part off middle Georgia culture. Friends meet at the clock tower, watch incredibly talented performers, ride rides, and eat the greasiest, most delicious food in the world. Some make a game plan, checking show times online to see all the entertainment available. Others go for the rides, buying an armband and screaming their heart out on the beautifully lit roller coasters. This fair is different than any other. I’ve met people from all over the country coming to enjoy this incredible week-long experience. The Georgia National Fair is a one stop shop to experience Georgia culture, Southern charm, and entertainment of every kind.

@jessicamaephotography

Scarecrows of famous characters line the front of a large building that’s filled with locally crafted art created by all ages. From photography and paintings to handmade quilts, these masterpieces depict the very essence of Georgia culture. A photo of an FFA (Future Farmers of America) high schooler spending quality time with his award winning cow warms the heart of everyone who stops to look. Paintings of woodlands with every creature imaginable depict what Georgians value most about their home. It’s eye-opening to discover how much talent is in our neck of the woods.

Jessica Mae Photography
Jessica Mae Photography

Something that’s also pretty cool to experience is Georgia’s emphasis on agriculture, especially at the fairgrounds. An entire warehouse is dedicated to selling, sampling, and promoting locally grown produce and locally raised cattle. This warehouse, called the Georgia Grown building, has honey, barbecue sauce, roasted pecans, and many other delicious treats grown right in our hometown. Free recipe books are handed out to let the public know all that they can cook with Georgia’s farm-fresh food. One of the best desserts available at the Georgia National Fair is, of course, the piping hot peach cobbler with melting vanilla ice cream on top.

2Edit(1of69)
Jessica Mae Photography

“Thank you, ma’am.” “Howdy, sir.” Georgia is still a place where everyone is expected to address someone older with the utmost respect. While we may only be joking when using the word, “howdy,” listen closely and you’ll hear the southern slang that makes Georgia so intriguing. Another taste of Southern living can be found in our music happening daily at the fair. The wonderful performers, mostly singing country music, get people up and dancing in their boots. Many emerging artists come and show off their newly discovered talent every night while a major music star will have a large concert the Friday before the fair leaves town. My first concert ever was at the Georgia National Fair when the Jonas Brothers came to town (still sad they are no longer a band.) This year, people flooded the fair grounds to see the talented Trace Adkins rock the stage.

@jessicamaephotography

So plan a trip to see the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia this year. Mark your calendar for mid to late October and enjoy some sugar roasted pecans, boot-stomping rhythms, and a good Southern time. Stay until 10:00 pm to end the perfect day with fireworks over the lake. See this nostalgic, beloved place light up one last time before it turns in for the night and rests for the next day.

Jessica Mae Photography
Jessica Mae Photography

Where to stay:

There are many Airbnbs around Perry, Georgia, which is usually the first website that I check for stays. If you find one you like, here is my link to get $40 off your first Airbnb: Katie’s Airbnb Discount
However, we do have several hotels in Perry like Comfort Inn and Suites, Best Western, and Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Perry that will be perfect for spending a few days at the fair. Although there are several Perry hotels with 4+ stars on Google, if they are booked, check out the nearby town of Warner Robins. Stay on Watson Boulevard near the interstate for quick access to I-75 and you’ll get to the fairgrounds in about 25-30 minutes.

Other sites around Perry, Georgia:

Perry’s town square is worth stopping by during your stay. With cute boutiques, pottery painting, and 2 Jerks Soda for dessert, downtown Perry makes for a fun little town to experience. I also recommend a trip to the Oil Lamp, which is highly popular with the locals, for some delicious country-style dinner.

Addresses:

Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter
401 Golden Isles Pkwy, Perry, GA 31069
Oil Lamp
401 General Courtney Hodges Blvd, Perry, GA 31069
Peach Palette Pottery
907 Carroll St, Perry, GA 31069

D.C. in a Day: Walking Guide & Lessons Learned

This past Spring Break, I took advantage of my precious time off from class and hit the road. My family, boyfriend, and I drove to the Historic Triangle in Virginia, consisting of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. The most fascinating stories of the first British colonies and the Revolutionary War were told to us by historians at each site. It was interesting to listen to the stories unfold and imagine how they lived during the 1800s. After exploring the primary towns responsible for the formation of America, we decided to do the fully American thing, and drove about 2.5 hours north to Washington D.C.

This post is a compilation of mistakes we made in D.C. as well as some things we really enjoyed. I’ll list the most useful ways of getting around and my favorite parts of our capital. Here’s the map of the walking route we took, which I think covered most of the historic landmarks.

We did not make it to the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Lost Soldier this trip, but that is definitely worth attending.

The Big Mistake:

The entire day before and even on our way to D.C., we were debating whether to search for a parking spot in D.C. or park at a metro nearby and take it into town. On the way there, I read a blog that recommended the metro so we got off at the next exit, parked our car, and took the metro. HUGE mistake!!!!!! Only one metro was working so they combined the yellow and blue line into one route. We spent about an hour and a half just trying to go what would have taken us 15 minutes by car. I recommend taking the risk of driving into D.C. and finding a parking spot. If you can’t find a metered spot, which can now be paid by credit card and phone, pay $24 for a whole day at the Union Station parking garage. Once there, you can buy a metro card for the buses. Plus, if you do want to tour Georgetown or the cute neighborhoods nearby, you can just go pick up your car and drive there.

The Holocaust Museum:

Our first stop was to the Holocaust Museum because we reserved a slot online the day before for 1pm. If you have a reservation, you avoid the long line that goes all the way out the door. We scooted on by and showed the front desk our tickets that we printed at our hotel and they let us right through. This tour took us about 2 hours, but you could spend so much longer if you weren’t on a time crunch. It is heart wrenching as you walk through each level and experience the lives of the Jewish people who begin as normal citizens and eventually have everything stripped away from them. For children, the first floor has a walk-through story about a Jewish child whose life is turned upside down by the Nazis. Although still very real and very sad, this portion of the museum is less graphic.

Air and Space Museum:

Even though I had toured D.C. before, this was my boyfriend’s first time ever. I wanted him to get the most out of the small amount of time we had in this incredible place. Growing up, he wanted to be an astronaut and then a military pilot, so we chose to tour the Air and Space Museum as it was 3 pm and we could only choose one Smithsonian before they closed. Once again, in every museum you can spend 30 minutes to 5 hours there, depending on how interested you are in the subject matter.

20170308_141714

The United States Capitol:

This is one of my favorite buildings for two reasons: 1.) The architecture and paintings inside are mind-blowing, and 2.) They give tours. I love tours because when stories are told by historians and tour guides who really love the topic, I get really into it and love their enthusiasm. We had a recent grad student lead our tour group who was an excellent speaker, knew his stuff, and even threw in trivia questions for fun. After the tour, we walked to the Library of Congress. It was closed, but we were still able to walk up the steps and admire just how amazing this building really was. I mean, even the door was made of three-foot thick solid wood!

20170308_140025

Dinner at Union Station:

Union Station should be on your list for sight-seeing even if you aren’t taking a train ride or even eating. It is simply beautiful. It’s ceilings reach all-time highs and it doesn’t disappoint when compared to the rest of the architecture in D.C. We ate at the Shake Shack, which serves overpriced burgers and fries. I would probably recommend choosing something else in the food court like Chinese food or Charley’s Philly Cheese Steaks.

20170308_181011

D.C. at Nighttime:

Go see the monuments at night! Lincoln looks even more gigantic then he already is and the White House is beautifully lit for pictures. We walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam and Korean War memorials and then to the WWII Memorial. They were all so much more breathtaking when every name on the wall of fallen soldiers was lit up in honor.

44103

Transportation Options:

While clearly I had a bad experience with taking the metro into town, others have had great luck. The parking is free, and the metro card is only about $5 each. If you do decide to use it, hopefully both metro routes will be working properly. If you choose to park in the heart of D.C., go for the Union station parking lot. As far as once you’re in the city, you walk and walk some more! The buses will take you to certain landmarks, but we just walked everywhere. As long as you make a giant loop around the city, it’s not a bad walk especially when the weather is nice. If you have more time to spend, take a car to see the outskirts. I’ve read of the amazing eats and cute neighborhoods that I will definitely go see on my next trip there. I live about 9 hours from D.C. so I’ve never flown in except on a field trip with a tour bus. I think renting a car would be helpful if spending a week in D.C. as you will want to see more outside the district.

Places to Stay:

Option #1 (cheapest):

In the city, places to stay will be pricey. I just looked it up on Booking.com and found several hostels available if you are looking to meet new people. Some hostels even serve breakfast. A 3 night stay was around $150.

Option #2 (Priciest):

Hotels on the outskirts of D.C. near Arlington Cemetery are $100/ night. However, you are paying for convenience if you choose a centralized hotel, which could be well-worth the cost if you are only staying for a few nights.

Option #3 (in between):

For families or groups of 4 or more, there is no beating Airbnb.com. More space for less money allows you to cook your meals, or at least your breakfast, and fit more people into one house or apartment instead of in multiple hotel rooms. I just looked and found several Airbnb stays for around $100/ night in neighborhoods close to the White House or Capitol Hill.

Here is my link for $40 off your first booking with Airbnb: Katie’s $40 Airbnb Discount

I hope these tips are helpful in planning your next trip to the capital of the United States of America!

Lovely Travels,

Katie

If you’d like to support my blog, use this link to search for and buy anything you need from Amazon.com: Katie’s Amazon link

20170308_140511
Castle Garden

20170308_135707

20170308_135647
Smithsonian Castle

44114