This post was written by USA Today Editor and ONA DC leader Jess Estepa
Hi ONA17! As a seven-year resident of our nation’s fine capital, I’m excited to welcome you to Washington, D.C.
1. What to pack
The weather in D.C. can be a bit unpredictable this time of year. We’re inching toward fall weather this coming weekend, with lows dropping into the 50s, but by the time the conference starts, we could be back in the 80s again. So: Bring a jacket, pack a comfortable pair of shoes, layer up and don’t forget your umbrella for the surprise rainstorm.
2. How to get around
Public transportation is your (somewhat unreliable) friend. In most cases, you should be able to take the Metro or a bus to get to where you want to go, and you can plan your trip on the Metro website. But keep in mind we’re in the middle of track maintenance. The weekend of the conference, that equates to single tracking (or, waiting longer for trains to show up) along the orange line, so if you’re staying in Northern Virginia, plan accordingly. Additionally, keep in mind what time the Metro closes (and that last train doesn’t always quite line up with closing time): 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 p.m. Sunday.
Buses are also an option, and if you decide to go that route, we suggest you download an app that lets you know when the buses are coming and where the routes drop off. (We use DC Next Bus, which does both of those things.)
For either of those options, you’ll need a SmarTrip card, which you can buy at any Metro station.
The other popular options: taxis (there’s an app for that) and ride shares. We have Uber, Lyft and Via. Uber and Lyft can take you out of D.C. and into the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland, while Via (which has a set price for each ride) will only take you to certain parts of the city.
3. What to do
D.C. is a popular tourist destination for a reason. We have the National Mall. We have all of the Smithsonian museums (which are free, FYI). If you want to visit the brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture and haven’t already reserved your timed entry pass, set your alarm early. The free passes book up months in advance, but same-day passes are released each morning at 6:30 a.m. They tend to go very quickly.
If you want to see the main sights in one go, you can take one of the bus tours. While a little pricey, it’s a good way to hit all of the must-see spots.
Some personal favorites: The Kennedy Center for a free show at 6 p.m. every day at the Millennium Stage. The Capitol at sunrise. The Lincoln Memorial at night. The National Archives to see the very documents this country was founded upon. The front pages from every state that are set up outside of the Newseum every day. The indoor courtyard that sits in the middle of the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum. Also, Union Market for its wide array of delectable foods.
Have a wonderful time in D.C. And say hello if you see me!