It’s rare you need to drive anywhere in the DC area. Focus on public transportation. The primary means are the subway and the various bus systems. The primary systems nearest you are Metro (www.wmata.com), which has the subway and a bus system. It is probably the only system you will need.
It is against the law to eat or drink on any DC-area public transit. You can carry it in a closed container to consume outside of the system. Although rarely enforced, they do arrest people. Large coolers and other bulky items are not permitted, especially during heavy use periods. Suitcases are accepted.
The subway system runs close enough to the hotel that you won’t even get outside. Either the Yellow or Blue line will get you into DC, but which one to use depends on where you want to go. Subway system-wide maps are available at any subway station, as are maps for Metro buses in that area. System-wide bus maps are available at the Metro Center subway stop.
Fares vary depending on trip origin and destination and the time of day. Fare boards are available in all stations. Fare cards are available through the machines in each station, not the attendants. Ask the attendant in the kiosk if you get confused or have problems. It is usually best to buy a fare card with enough on it to last a few days. You can add more later if you have money remaining on the card at the end of your stay, you can fill in a form at Metro Center (some other stops have the forms, too) and they will mail you a refund for the balance. More information is available on the web site. Remember to swipe your card when you enter the system and again when you exit the system.
All subway stops are equipped with escalators and elevators. Escalators are wide and the DC rule of thumb is stand to your right, walk to your left. Don’t be surprised if you are standing on the escalator and people are running up (or down) past you on the same escalator. Also, do not try to hold train doors. If you do, the person running the train is likely to offload the entire train.
July 4th is especially problematic in DC. Subway and bus lines and stations are frequently packed completely out the entrance. Sometimes it is best to take the subway in the wrong direction and, once you see the trains in the opposite direction have cleared enough, move to a train in the right direction. The fare is no different so long as you do not exit the system. Allow a LOT of time to get in and out of DC on July 4th. Don’t even think of driving into DC on July 4th – especially after about 2pm.
The Yellow Line will take you in to DC the fastest. You’ll cross over the Potomac River and get to see sights as you go into town. The first stop in town is L’Enfant Plaza. If you go out the Maryland Avenue exit, you’ll find the National Mall (Smithsonian buildings and some monuments) just a block to the north (U-turn at top of escalator, go to the corner, turn right to head north). The Blue Line will take you to the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and a few other stops before going into town. The Blue Line’s Smithsonian stop has an exit right on the National Mall, but will take more than twice as long to get there. Some entrances to that stop are frequently closed on July 4th.
Blue Line or Yellow Line? Both of these DC Metrorail trains come directly into Crystal City in Arlington just down the ramp from the Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel where you will be staying when you come to The Society of American Magicians Convention this July. (3-4-5-6).
Leave the car at the hotel and get to see all of Washington DC. The Arlington Cemetery is just three stops away on the Blue line. The Yellow line takes you into the center of town where you can visit the White House, or the Capitol. See the Mall, Lincoln Memorial, or the Washington Monument. Visit the museums, the Smithsonian or the Viet Nam Memorial or all the other memorials on the mall. Come in a day early or stay a day later to add these highlights to the magic. See the DC Information Convention page on www.magicsam.com If you are not registered yet, do so before the rates change.