Day Trip to Baltimore from DC, Part One: Getting There

While you need a few months in Washington, DC to fit everything in, sometimes you just want to get out and see more! Baltimore is a great option that offers a different city feel with some great cultural and historical options. A day trip to Baltimore from DC is easy – on public transportation or by car – and fun – from Children’s Museum to Fort McHenry and one of the oldest saloons in the country! This three part series will get you there, get you around, and get you sightseeing!

HOW TO GET THERE:bw

By Car

If you have a car, driving is the best option. It’s only a short one hour drive on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295). Note: This is also the commuters preferred route so keep that in mind during rush hour. You’ll likely be going the opposite direction of the commuters, but traffic can be a pain!

Parking in Baltimore is made simple through a service called Parking Panda. You can view all of the garages in the area and their prices for your required time period. Simply select a garage that works for you and pay ahead of time. Parking Panda will email you the parking pass and you will have a spot saved for you at the garage, guaranteed.


Another option is to use public transportation. Buses and Trains both have daily service to Baltimore. Train and bus options leave from Union Station (Red Line on the DC Metro). Just beware that the red line is notorious for delays so give yourself plenty of time to get to the station. There are plenty of food options in the station so a good idea is to plan on grabbing breakfast there and you can cut it short or relax depending on what time you get there! Once in the station, the train tracks are on the ground level in the back – they support both Amtrak and MARC trains, so be sure you get on the right train. Buses depart from the rear parking garage and there are signs throughout the station to help you get back there from the Metro.

By Train

This is the best option for those without cars or who don’t want to worry about parking. You can take either the commuter MARC train or the Amtrak train. Baltimore has great public transport options around the city, so you won’t be confined to only walkable areas.
marcThe MARC train from Union Station offers a one hour trip for $7 one way. Tickets can be bought at the station from any ticket kiosk. (Don’t be worried that it says Amtrak on it!) The machines accept all major credit cards.

You choose which station you’re going to but the ticket is good on any time train and valid for the next six months.  It also doesn’t matter is all the tickets have one person’s name on it. They do not check that the name on the ticket matches the rider’s ID. As long as each person has a ticket. If you’re running late for the train and don’t have a ticket – don’t worry! You can buy tickets on the train for $10 cash paid to the conductor as he checks tickets.

There are a three MARC train lines that depart Union Station: Camden, Penn and Brunswick. You can ignore the Brunswick Line.

PENN LINE – this line will bring you to the city center. The trains on this route are nicer, newer, and faster. The train service also runs more frequently with off peak and even weekend hours. The station itself is not near most of the tourist sites but is well connected to the entire city by light rail, bus, and taxi service. Penn Line Quick Schedule (Mon-Fri) and (Weekend)

CAMDEN LINE – this historic line has older trains, slower service and only runs during commuter hours – however, if that fit’s into your schedule, Camden station is closer to Camden Yards, Met Park, and the Inner Harbor. Camden Line Quick Schedule

To check the most current time schedule, the MARC website has easy to read time schedule and up to date information. MARC trains do not run on federal holidays.

Alternatively, there are Amtrak trains that travel to Baltimore’s Penn Station. You can use the same self service ticket kiosks to purchase a ticket. Ticket prices are slightly more expensive $10-15 but the trains and fast and nice. They also run during more hours: Trains depart Union Station from 3:15 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. The exact fare, availability and time schedule, as well as the option to purchase in advance on the Amtrak site.

There are two lines: Northeast Regional and Acela Express. They both run regularly from Union Station and while Acela is an express train, it’ll cost you double the ticket fare to save only 11 minutes! The higher rate might not be worth it on such a short journey.

By Bus:

greyhoundGreyhound buses depart Union Station from 1 a.m. until 10 p.m for a 1-1.5 hour journey depending on how many stops they make. The fare is anywhere from $8.50-$14.50 for a one way journey. The bus station in DC is in the parking garage of Union Station. When you arrive in Baltimore, the bus station is south of Camden Marc Station. About a 15 minute walk to the Met Stadium/Camden Yards area and then 15 minutes to the Inner Harbor. Advanced tickets bought online will save you the most money!

Bolt Buses also connect the two cities for a low fare of $12-$25, depending on when you book and what time you leave. The buses run nearly every hour during the day but when you purchase tickets online, you actually purchase a ticket to New York, and just alight at the Baltimore stop. It is an outdoor stop at Maryland Ave in Baltimore, not far from Penn Station.

Next, Part Two: Getting Around.

Skip to Par Three: Things to Do with Baltimore

Day Trip to Baltimore from DC, Part Two: Getting Around

While you need a few months in Washington, DC to fit everything in, sometimes you just want to get out and see more! Baltimore is a great option that offers a different city feel with some great cultural and historical options. A day trip to Baltimore from DC is easy – on public transportation or by car – and fun – from Children’s Museum to Fort McHenry and one of the oldest saloons in the country! This three part series will get you there, get you around, and get you sightseeing!


GETTING AROUND BALTIMORE

There are buses, Metro, light rail, water taxi and free shuttle options, but they are poorly connected. Personally, I think the best way to see a city is to get lost in it but with advance planning you can use any of the below options to traverse Charm City.

Your best bet is a Day Pass for $3.50 which offers unlimited rides on the light rail, bus and Metro. Insider Tip: Your DC SmarTrip card works on Baltimore transportation, too!

3416253-MTAs_Light_Rail-BaltimoreMTA Light Rail: The light rail runs north and south and goes pretty far out of the city center in either direction. In downtown, there are stops near Penn Station, Camden Yards, Cultural Center and Charles Street. Fare is $1.60 cash or card and can be bought at ticket kiosks at the stations. You cannot pay on board. The light rail runs 6am-11pm except Sundays/Holidays, 11am-7pm. There are now Light Rail trackers at the stations to let you know how long until the next train. As an above ground option, you’ll see much more of the city this way!

4618621-Touch_screen_ticket_machines_BaltimoreMetro in Baltimore offers one line that runs east and west. In downtown, you can access it from Lexington, Charles Street or Shot Tower Stations. Fare is $1.60 and the Metro runs 5am (6am on weekends) until midnight. Tickets can be bought using cash or card at one of the kiosks in the station. Trains operate every 10-15 minutes depending on day of the week/peak hours.

MTA Buses are like any city buses and not known for being timely. In addition, they are the main mode of transport for city schools so if you’re travelling when school gets out beware that a bus might be full and not stop. Fare is $1.60 and exact change is required when paying cash. You can let the driver know where you want to get off and (s)he can help let you know when it’s your stop. If you know where you’ll be gone, when the stop is announced, touch the yellow strip to request a stop. If no one requests the stop, the bus might keep going past. Please use back doors of the bus to get off when possible.

Despite a poor reputation, the Metro, Bus and Light Rail have never caused this writer any issues! A prepared rider can make use of the different options. The MTA website has a Trip Planner to help you get to and from your destination.


A FREE RIDE?!

The Charm City Circulator is a free hybrid bus throughout Baltimore. It operates 7 days a week, connecting parking areas, Amtrak, MARC, Light Rail, Metro Subway and buses are scheduled to run 10 minutes apart but just to be sure you can use the NextBus app to see when the next bus will arrive – just choose your route, direction and stop!

Green Route which runs from City Hall to Fells Point to Johns HopkinsAll_Routes-04_2

Purple Route which runs from Penn Station to Federal Hill

Orange Route which runs from Hollins Market to Harbor East

Banner Route which runs from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry.

Harbor Connector which offers offering three free routes on the Water Taxi: Maritime Park – Tide Point, Canton Waterfront Park – Tide Point and Harbor View – Harbor East.

A printable/downloadable map of all the routes.

Summer Operating Hours (May 1 – September 30)Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.42.23

Circulator
Monday-Thursday: 6:30am-9:00pm
Friday: 6:30am-midnight
Saturday: 9:00am-midnight
Sunday: 9:00am-9:00pm

Harbor Connector
Monday-Friday: 7:00am-7:00pm

While it may seem like a nice way to get a free bus tour of the city, they do limit rides to one loop so you can’t just sit and ride around the city!

Now that you know how to get to Baltimore, get around Baltimore, part three will tell you what to do there!

 

washington newseum

Visiting the Newseum

This post is a review of the Newseum in Washington DC with tips on planning your visit and video previews of what you will see.  With so many high quality yet free museums in the city, it’s easy to overlook those that charge a fee. However, guests should keep an open-mind to exploring some of Washington, DC’s ticketed museums, particularly the Newseum.  


After 11 years and nearly 10 million visitors, the Newseum closed to the public on Dec. 31, 2019.


 

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Uber | The Best Way to Get Around DC

Washington, DC is fortunate to have a great public transportation system, making it quite easy to get around the city. Between the  metro, bus system, and Capital Bikeshare, traveling throughout DC — and to neighboring Virginia and Maryland — can be fairly simple. However, metro track work and traffic can cause major delays, and the elevated cost of paper metro cards can really add up. Fortunately there is a new alternative on the market.

Uber is a car-sharing service that operates like a taxi, but is safer, cheaper, and more reliable.  With just one click, guests can request an Uber driver to arrive at a specific location and with a specific type of vehicle. The cost of sharing an Uber for a family or group of friends is often less than the combined cost of individual metro or bus fares. In addition, Uber is 18% cheaper than a taxi ride.

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U.S. Air Force Band: Spring Performances in D.C.

U.S. Air Force BandA special treat for visitors to DC during the Spring season is to see a performance of the U.S. Air Force Band. Founded on September 24, 1941, the United States Air Force Band has now been entertaining and inspiring people for over 70 years.  Today, there are 177 active-duty airmen and women who are members of the prestigious U.S. Air Force Band.

As there vision states, “the excellence demonstrated by the Band’s Airmen musicians is a reflection of the excellence carried out 24 hours a day by Airmen stationed around the globe.”

There are 6 different ensembles within the U.S. Air Force Band. They include the Concert Band, Singing Sergeants, Airmen of Note, Air Force Strings, Ceremonial Brass, and Max Impact. Each spring, they perform a number of free concerts to the public around Washington, D.C.

 

Here is a list of some of their events that should not be missed: 

Jazz Small Groups @ Smithsonian National Museum of American History (Flag Hall) 

  • Date: Friday, April 25
  • Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm

Celtic Aire & Brass Quintet @ White House Garden Spring Tour

  • Date: Sunday, April 27
  • Time: 10am – 12:45pm

Max Impact @ National Harbor Waterfront Plaza Stage

  • Date: Saturday, May 24
  • Time: 6pm

Air Force String Orchestra @ Kennedy Center Concert Hall

  • Date: Sunday, May 25
  • Time: 3pm
  • Note: This performance will be specifically dedicated in remembrance to the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the march to victory. Admission is free, but tickets are required for entrance. Contact Music Celebrations International Presenter for details. T: 800-395-2036 

Concert Band & Singing Sergeants @ Air Force Memorial

  • Date: Friday, May 30
  • Time: 8pm
  • Note: This performance will include a special D-Day 70th Anniversary Salute and will feature the winner of the U.S. Air Force Band’s Young Artist Competition, euphonium player Joe Brown.

Concert Band & Singing Sergeants @ U.S. Capitol Building (West Side Steps)

  • Date: Tuesday, June 3
  • Time: 8pm
  • Note: This performance will include a special D-Day 70th Anniversary Salute

 

However, keep in mind that the U.S. Air Force Band is also known to make a few surprise appearances around the city as well!!

Guidelines Going Through Security in Washington, D.C.

Capitol Building

No… liquids, gels, sprays, aerosols, sharp objects, food, weapons.

They will let you bring in essential medication like epi pens or inhalers but saline solution in a medical kit will need to be thrown out. Any type of edible products – candies, unopened bags of chips, fruit will be tossed. Packets of gum is okay! I’ve had them ask me to throw out my hand sanitizer before. A good theory is if you don’t want to throw it away, don’t bring it!

Nail clippers and cuticle scissors count as sharp objects. Because I’ve been asked this before – bottled water counts as a liquid. However, you can bring in empty bottles.

If you bring something not allowed in, they make you go back outside to throw it away!

You will need to take off your jackets, hats, belts and take all electronics and metal objects out of your pockets! Bags will go through scanner as well.

Library of Congress / Archives

No… weapons. That’s about it. Please dispose of opened food and drink.

Unopened food and drink can be brought through as long as it stays in your bag.

You will need to take out all electronics and metal objects and place all bags through the scanner.

Smithsonian Museums

Please present your bags for inspections. In most museums it is a person who looks into the bags. At the Air & Space there is a scanner. If you do not have a bag, you can just walk through! You do not need to wait in the bag line or check in with the guard. They are ONLY checking bags!

Holocaust Museum

All electronics, keys, metal objects should be put through the scanners in addition to all bags.

All opened drinks must be consumed prior to entering the museum except water. However, you will be asked to take a sip from your water before continuing through security.

Gum chewing is not allowed anywhere in D.C. Ever. 🙂

Budget friendly travel options throughout the US

Free Tours by Foot offers pay-what-you-like walking, bike, bus, food and theme tours for every budget, because we believe that everybody should be able to explore the stories, history, and hidden gems of the city they are visiting.  We offer tours of U.S. cities such as BostonChicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charleston and New Orleans and we often have visitors exploring our tours in different cities. We frequently get the question, what we suggest are the best ways to get around the U.S. and while most travelers have a car or rent a car, that option does not always suit everybody. Here are some budget-friendly ways to travel from city to city without car.

Connecting New York – Boston – Philadelphia – Washington D.C.

A great, easy, and budget-friendly option to travel between the big cities of the northeast is by bus.  There are several different bus companies that are connecting the Northeast cities; and depending which route you take, tickets can be as cheap as $12 one-way. Thanks to the increased number of bus companies, there usually is enough time to book your ticket online 24 hours in advance, unless you are set on a specific time schedule or travel with a larger group.  Also, bear in mind, rush hour departures/arrivals around 9am and 5pm can add another hour to your trip if your bus gets stuck in traffic.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Boltbus – a crowd pleaser with guaranteed seating, and easy boarding process, they usually book out last minute, so book early.
  • Megabus – offers a lot of departure time options, as their fleet departs more often than the others
  • Peter Pan – another great budget option and especially popular for Boston trips
  • Greyhound – the classy and a little more pricy option with more flexibility for refunds; make sure you arrive 30 minutes early for boarding to grab a good seat
  • DC2NY – as the name suggests they operate between NYC and DC; if you like a little more upscale bus ride experience; only rides twice a day; during the summer months, they also offer travel to Rehoboth Beach in Maryland
  • Washington Deluxe – operates between NYC and DC; great if you want to be dropped off in Brooklyn

Connecting Washington DC – Chicago – New Orleans – Charleston

First, check with your airline or flight search engines, such as Kayak, you might be surprised to find a sweet deal for a flight.  If flying is not an option, your best bet to connect these longer distances might be by train.  Going by train will certainly feel like an adventure itself and it is a more relaxing way to see the country compared to sitting in a bus, because you can walk around, read a book, etc. and let’s face it, sometimes the journey itself is the reward of travel.  Make sure you book your ticket at least 3 weeks in advance, because last minute travel by train can get really pricy. Check with Amtrak for times and prices. Here are the current estimates:

  • Washington to New Orleans – 26 hours; $147 one-way
  • New Orleans to Chicago – 19 hours; $127 one-way
  • Chicago to Washington – 17.5 hours; $94 one-way
  • Washington to Charleston, SC – 9 hours; $97 one-way

Greyhound also connects these cities, though you might have to add on some extra travel hours and transfers.

Free Tours by Foot is looking forward to seeing you soon at one or more of our many tours. Save travels!

Best Cheap Eats in DC

Washington, DC is an expensive city, and can be tough to do on a tight budget. Even though there are amazing world-class museums and stunningly beautiful monuments to visit for free, finding cheap eats in DC that aren’t your run-of-the-mill national fast food chain can be very tough. We thought we would highlight some of our favorite local “cheap eats in DC” and arrange them by neighborhood. You should be able to find something filling and delicious at each of these spots for no more than $10-$15.

Check out our DC Tourism Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Washington DC attractions

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Public Pools and Fountains in DC

It can get hot here and humid and then all the museums are crowded because they (unlike the Memorials) have air conditioning.

So where do the locals go to enjoy the sun but not melt?

Local Pools

DC has a great resource of public pools and while they are free for us, they are accessible to non-residents for a small fee paid in advance or on site by credit/debit card and good for one entry for the whole day. (Re-entry not permitted).

Youth Daily Swim Pass – $4.00
Adult Daily Swim Pass – $7.00
Senior Daily Swim Pass – $4.00

Banneker Pool on Georgia Ave NW is the largest and the most popular and East Potomac Park is the closest to the National Mall, but here’s a handy map of area pools.

Yards Park

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.07.29 PM

On the waterfront in the newly renovated SE area of DC – in the shadow of the National’s Ballpark, Yards Park features waterfalls and canal basins for cooling off.

At 11 inches deep, the basin frequently has kids jumping around in the summer months trying to stay wet, get wet, or avoid the fountains all together.

There is no lifeguard on duty!

If you time it right, there are Friday evening concerts to serenade your fountain playing.

Free and open to the public!

Georgetown Waterfront

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.10.29 PM

Along the Potomac River, on the other side of the city from Yard’s Park, is another place to run around and get soaked – and not with sweat!

A rubberized surface and arched water sprays, you’ll often see local kids running through the streams.

DC’s Hidden Gems

For those of you who have been to DC several times, or are local to the area, I wanted to highlight a couple of places to visit in the city that you might not have heard of. These houses are great for anyone interested in history and compliment many of our tours.

1. Anderson House is located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, between 21st and 22nd streets along Embassy Row in the heart of Washington’s historic DuPont Circle neighborhood. This house is open to the public for free tours Tuesday through Saturday from 1-4pm. The house was once owned by Lar Anderson and his wife Isabel. Their wonderful collection of art is on display and the house itself is a real marvel. Currently they are running an exhibit on Pierre L’Enfant. www.societyofthecincinnati.org

2. Woodrow Wilson’s house is also in DuPont and visiting it is like going back in time to the 1920s. Wilson and his wife lived here from 1921 until his death in 1924. Many of the original furniture, books and decorations fill the rooms on display. Admission is $8 and the house is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 – 4pm. The staff is wonderful and passionate about sharing the history of the house. www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org

3. The National Parks Service runs the Clara Barton House in Glen Echo, where she lived for 15 years. The house is a joy to visit! Photographs, original furniture and mementos will please any civil war buff. The house is right next to Glen Echo Park, making the drive well worth the effort. Tours start on the hour, daily from 10am to 4pm. Admission Free. www.nps.gov/clba/index.htm