Visiting Arlington, VA and the Greater Washington Area

We look forward to welcoming you to our nation’s capital! Visitors will find that they will have to ration their time as there are weeks’ worth of museums, parks, and other attractions in the Washington, D.C. area. And of course, Americans frequently come to Washington to watch our government at work and to voice our opinions in person about how that work is proceeding.

The Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel is located in Crystal City, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from downtown Washington. Numerous restaurants at various price points may be found on Crystal Drive three blocks north of the hotel. Arlington Cemetery is a few stops north of Crystal City on the Metro’s Blue line, and the bustling shops, restaurants, and historical sites of Old Town Alexandria are a few stops south (on the Yellow or Blue lines). In Old Town, we recommend a tour of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which is very close to the King Street Metro stop.

Another appealing way to explore Arlington and Alexandria is on the bike path which borders the Potomac in both directions. (See below for more information on renting a bike.) If you head north along the river, you will pass Reagan National Airport and then find lovely views of the various monuments across the river. If you head south on the path, you will reach Old Town in two-and-a-half miles. If you are really feeling ambitious, you can follow the bike path ten more miles to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.

Farther afield, the Smithsonian Institution comprises free museums of every description. Highlights on the National Mall include the Hirshhorn useum (for modern art), the American Indian Museum, and the African American Museum (for which prearranged tickets will probably still be highly advisable). Families with children will want to visit the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum, and the National Zoo. The American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery are housed in a single building a few blocks north of the mall. Several justly famous museums are not associated with the Smithsonian—the amazing National Gallery of Art (which is on the National Mall), the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (just south of the Mall), and the Phillips Collection,a small jewel near Dupont Circle. SMT members may be especially interested in the Performing Arts Reading Room at the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress. But we also highly recommend a guided tour of the architecturally spectacular Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, the site of the Library’s Main Reading Room. The usical Instrument Collection at the National Museum of American History contains priceless instruments from Europe as well as the Americas. The weekend of our conference will be an exciting one at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: Leonard Slatkin will be leading the National Symphony Orchestra in The Rite of Spring and Angela Meade will be singing Handel’s Alcina with the Washington National Opera. Foodies are in for a treat. The burgeoning D.C. region food scene was recently recognized as the subject of a Michelin Guide. The city and suburbs are particularly rich in excellent Chinese, Ethiopian, Korean, Mexican, and Vietnamese food. Finally, we want to recommend a favorite Washington activity: strolling around three storied, beautiful neighborhoods: Georgetown, Embassy Row, and the Capitol Hill neighborhood, just east of the Capitol.

Getting Around Arlington and DC

Metro’s system of subway and surface trains is almost certainly the easiest way to get around the DC area for visitors. All riders must have a plastic “Smarttrip” card: note that these cards are personal, so cannot be used to pay more than one fare per trip.  These cards can be bought at station vending machines, or online in advance of your trip. The fare system is arcane and convoluted, but if you maintain $10 on your card, you will be good to go pretty much anywhere.  The large white “M” signs identify metro stations.  In the downtown area most stations are underground; however all stations have elevator access and cars are designed to be accessible. Smarttrip cards are also accepted on the Metrobus system, as well as on Arlington Transit buses.

If you plan to use two wheels to get around, you’ll find that Arlington is a bike-friendly city and Washington DC is regularly selected among the nation’s best cities for bikers. The conference hotel has complimentary bike rental for guests, and Capital Bikeshare offers its distinctive red bikes at over 400 stations around the metro area.  You can pay by the hour or purchase a 24-hour or 3-day pass.  Bring your own helmet!

The DC area is well served with traditional taxis and with drivers for TNCs (transportation network companies). If you require a wheelchair accessible cab, call Royal Taxi at 202-398-0500 or Yellow Paratransit at 202-544-1213. Note that the metro region is regularly quoted as having the second-worst traffic in the nation, so driving is not recommended to visitors as a mode of getting around, unless you must.