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Will no one think of the tourists! - What to do if stranded in DC

photo by Mike ShowalterI know, I know, I'm supposed to finish up my discussion of African Americans at Arlington. I'll get to it, but for those of you who may not be paying attention, those of us in DC have been a little busy recently. As I write this, the snow has started again here in the Nation's Capital, and supplies of milk and humor are running low. Fortunately, we're still have some reserve stocks of beer, or things could be looking desperate.

I spent the first few days of this white nightmare holed up in my friend's place in Maryland; after staging an impromptu reenactment of the fall of Saigon with my two kids, getting out of here as the storm hit. Thanks to them, I still can make at least a tenuous claim to sanity, but I couldn't avoid heading home forever. After a few days of hanging out with three dogs and five children under five, and passing the time shoveling four hundred feet of driveway; we took advantage of the brief window between blizzards to bust our way back into DC yesterday.

So what's this got to do with visiting DC? I mean, who would be trying to visit us right now? And even if you wanted to, it would be virtually impossible to get here, as my wife has been finding out this last week. But what if you're weekend trip to DC was this week, and you're spending some more time here than planned? This doesn't happen often, but what do you do in DC when all the stuff you came to DC for is canceled?

So, in the off chance some of our visitors are trying to make lemonade out of yellow snow, let me give them a hand.

1. Transportation - You brought it with you! That's right, those two appendages sticking down from your pelvis. Just about everything else is going to be shut down or unreliable. Buses go fairly early, outside some main routes. Metro rail will stay open until we get about eight inches, then the above-ground stations will shut down. Even on the underground lines, be prepared for some serious headways (time between trains). And you have very little business driving in DC in the best of times, much less now. Cabs will still run in most weather, but will be scarce. Watch the meter, they're not allowed to charge more than 25% in a snow emergency. So focus on exploring the area around where you're staying and/or near open Metro stops.

2. What's open? Right now, precious little. In most cases, once the above ground lines shut down, the museums will follow suit, as it's hard to get staff in and out. One exception I've noticed: the Newseum has been persistently open these last few days, and Air and Space and Natural History were open today. Everything else has been more or less shut down since Friday (feel free to let me know if I'm wrong in the comments). The monuments shut down during the heavy winds, but if you're up for a good winter hike, I strongly recommend a stroll down to see them. The Korean Memorial is particularly striking in the snow.

3. So, if all the touristy stuff is shut down, then what? Despite some well publicized problems, I strongly recommend a good snowball fight. If you can't get a pick-up one going, blogs and twitter feeds are a good way to find out where folks are meeting up. This time around, good ones got going at Dupont Circle, the Mall, and Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. You can also grab a piece of cardboard and go sledding. I personally like Capitol Hill, a traditional favorite. The only trick is avoiding the Capitol Police. Some are cool, some are, well, not.

4. And finally, you'll need a place to warm up. I find that locally operated places tend to do a better job of staying open than chains and such. For example, my personal favorite, Peregrine Coffee near Eastern Market is routinely fueling my habit while the Starbucks a block over might as well board up. So rather than head downtown, try Eastern Market,Dupont Circle, or some other Metro accessible neighborhood where the most of both the clientele and the staff normally walks there (and will to get out of the house!).

Ideally, you're reading this back home in some relatively less snowy place like Buffalo, but if you are stuck in DC, I hope this helps.

Reader Comments (3)

RiRa Irish Pub in Bethesda is open! Always open during these blizzards. It's a nice respite with good portions of hearty food and lots o'beer and good cheer.

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoLynn

The Dupont Hotel in Dupont Circle is ALWAYS OPEN...complete with a Snow Bar and outdoor grill.
You gotta give it to their GM, the man is always up for some fun.
Several bars/Restaurant along Connecticut (the block between R and Florida) are open too.

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDCist

Some time before, I really needed to buy a good house for my business but I did not have enough cash and couldn't purchase something. Thank God my sister proposed to try to get the credit loans from creditors. Hence, I did so and used to be happy with my short term loan.

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOFELIAMEADOWS18

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