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Old 12-30-2012, 04:16 PM   #21
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DC in August is very unpleasant in terms of both the weather and the crowds. Being one of the most delightful cities in the world in terms of its attractions, those two things cancel each other out, but only just. If you can arrange your visit in the spring or fall, you'll enjoy it immensely.
The kid won't be able to get 12 days off except during summer break so spring and fall are out. If you go in August then do any outdoor sightseeing first thing in the morning. Most attractions in DC are indoors in the A/C so not really a problem.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:46 PM   #22
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DC in August is very unpleasant in terms of both the weather and the crowds. Being one of the most delightful cities in the world in terms of its attractions, those two things cancel each other out, but only just. If you can arrange your visit in the spring or fall, you'll enjoy it immensely.
...
If one visits just after Labor Day in early September, would that be OK? Or by fall do you mean even later?
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:58 PM   #23
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I agree with most posters that there is at least three vacations' worth on the OP's list. Be selective! IMHO May is a lovely time to visit Washington, with pleasant temperatures, moderate humidity and cherry blossoms.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:28 PM   #24
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FWIW, during the last 2 summers, August in DC wasn't nearly as awful as July. The later in August you go, the better your odds are.

Tours are no longer given at the FBI. The area around that hideous building is quite safe. Pretty much all of tourist DC is quite safe. The Washington Monument remains closed due to earthquake damage in 2011. If you want to visit the While House, contact your member of Congress months in advance.

If you want to visit Niagara Falls, make sure you all have and bring passports. The best views, by far, are on the Canadian side.

The cherry blossoms in DC bloom, on average, in early April.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:29 PM   #25
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If one visits just after Labor Day in early September, would that be OK? Or by fall do you mean even later?
Impossible to say, since the weather varies so much from year to year.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:37 PM   #26
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If you want to visit Niagara Falls, make sure you all have and bring passports. The best views, by far, are on the Canadian side.
In general, I would agree. However, I was just there last March, and the visitor's park on the US side has been revamped very nicely.

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The cherry blossoms in DC bloom, on average, in early April.
This is nearly impossible to predict, but if you get there at the right time, the effect is absolutely magical. When I was there, I used to go for a run every day at lunchtime, from the Pentagon to the Lincoln Memorial and back, and during cherry blossom time it was like being in another world.
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When will the cherry blossom trees bloom?

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is planned to coincide as nearly as possible with the blooming of the trees. Peak Bloom Date is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees are open. The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions. The mean date of blooming is April 4, but nature is not always cooperative and the National Park Service horticulturists cannot make an accurate prediction much more than 10 days prior. The blooming period starts several days before the Peak Bloom Date and can last as long as 14 days; however, frost or high temperatures combined with wind and/or rain can shorten this period. See more information about the blooming period.
FAQ | National Cherry Blossom Festival
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:51 PM   #27
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I found this very cool and informative weather site:

Average Weather For Arlington County, District of Columbia, USA - WeatherSpark
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:03 PM   #28
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The cherry blossoms in DC bloom, on average, in early April.
My bad! Goes to show the folly of making decisions based on one experience. I stand corrected.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:16 PM   #29
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Thanks for all the help. We are a little stuck because both sons are on travel baseball teams, and since we live in a cold weather state, our season is compressed from April to early August, in which time we do about 60 games or even a few more.

DW and I both agree that we are NOT the kind of parents that pulls their kids out of school to do vacations.......I guess its a family thing. I think we have to decide on Boston/Niagara Falls trip and forget Maine for now, or do the DC and then Blue Ridge Parkway Drive and head down to see my aunt and uncle in SC..........
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:48 PM   #30
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Thanks for all the help. We are a little stuck because both sons are on travel baseball teams, and since we live in a cold weather state, our season is compressed from April to early August, in which time we do about 60 games or even a few more.

DW and I both agree that we are NOT the kind of parents that pulls their kids out of school to do vacations.......I guess its a family thing. I think we have to decide on Boston/Niagara Falls trip and forget Maine for now, or do the DC and then Blue Ridge Parkway Drive and head down to see my aunt and uncle in SC..........
Someone on this site mentioned this link: APPALACHIAN TRAIL

It might help with some trip planning.
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:47 PM   #31
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Three additional thoughts as i read through this wonderful D. C. advice:

a.) Get White House passes from your Congressman/woman. The waiting line is MUCH shorter. You may even get a bit better tour. Takes about 4-6 weeks to get the tickets.. Very glad we did this. We were there when Clinton was President. Being from Arkansas, we were half-expecting an audience. Didn't happen.

b.) Eat lunch in the Senate dining room. The prices aren't bad and you will recognize some famous politicians. Glad we did that, also.

c.) Years ago, at my K-4 school, we ran numbers on how many days of school a student missed and their grades. It was a rather affluent school for our community and it was frustrating how many families took their kids out for vacations. all. the.. time. We wanted data to encourage parents to stop this harmful practice.
We were very surprised at the results....those students were doing better, grade-wise. If the days away from the classroom are spent in a productive way...
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:48 AM   #32
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Procedures for visiting the White House have changed in recent years. You can no longer simply stand in line to get tickets. American citizens must make a request through their member of Congress, and non-Americans must request tickets through their embassy.

Tours & Events | The White House
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Old 12-31-2012, 11:00 AM   #33
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I'm living here, and so I have a different take on August. I like it, because the politicians are on vacation, and therefore their staffs are too. That means less traffic.

During the rest of the year, you can do what I did a couple of weeks ago: go sit in the gallery of the Senate while they were in session discussing some treaty or other work. It truly is amazing how easy it is for anyone to go in and be just a few feet away from all the old windbags you see on TV, while they are at work. The House and Senate offices are also open to the public, and anyone can go sit in on a hearing.

If you need affordable lodging, I usually recommend Crystal City, near National Airport. Cheaper than in the district, with a Metro stop and short ride to all the touristy stuff. Feel free to PM me if you need other recommendations.
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:32 PM   #34
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If you need affordable lodging, I usually recommend Crystal City, near National Airport. Cheaper than in the district, with a Metro stop and short ride to all the touristy stuff. Feel free to PM me if you need other recommendations.
I looked up Crystal City and there are many lodging choices there (on Tripadvisor). Any suggestions to narrow down the list?
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:10 PM   #35
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If you are flying into DCA, then get a hotel as close as you can to the Metro stop (whether or not you decide to stay at Crystal City). That way you don't need a car. When it's time to go to Philly or NY, there are numerous ways to get there on the cheap as well, between the Chinatown buses and Amtrak. Everything really depends on your budget and travel style.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:51 PM   #36
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...I guess its a family thing. I think we have to decide on Boston/Niagara Falls trip and forget Maine for now, .......

Niagara Falls does not take a lot of time . Portland Maine is close to Boston but still gives the Maine experience .
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:09 PM   #37
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I would couple a visit to Niagara Falls with a trip to Toronto instead. Stay at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Go to Fort George. See something from the Shaw festival. Drive up to Toronto and go to the ROM, go up the CN tower, ride the subway, eat Indian food. Drive back around Georgian Bay and cross over at Sault Ste. Marie and see the UP on the way back to Wisconsin.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:47 PM   #38
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Niagra Falls and Toronto is a good option. I've not been there in a while but it has a real international feel.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:56 PM   #39
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For anyone insisting on DC in August, I suggest doing the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials at night. The area is well lit, well populated and open until 11pm. Traffic and parking are easier and the temperature (and humidity) are more comfortable.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:54 PM   #40
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Having worked in Washington DC for ~3 years (lived in Maryland), and having been to Boston and Niagara Falls (I've been to Maine too, but not the coast), my suggestion is this:

1) Skip Boston. If you or your son really must see Boston, do it on another trip. To me it's just too busy and crowded to be any fun as part of a rushed vacation.

2) Skip Maine. The coast of Maine deserves more time than just 2 days I would think.

3) Visit DC. Stay outside the city and ride the Metro in. Two days max seeing the sights and then maybe a third day at The National Zoo. The zoo is part of the Smithsonian system, so it is FREE.

4) Drive to Hershey, PA. Visit Hershey Park. It's actually a very nice amusement park, and if your son likes roller coasters, it's pretty fun...got several good ones. This could just be one day, or take a second day and go to Chocolate World right next door. Hershey Park is just a little more than a 2.5 hour drive from Washington DC.

5) After Hershey Park, drive to Niagara Falls, NY. Mapquest says this is 6 hours 8 minutes. I've only visited the Canadian side, and it was filled with touristy cheesy stuff, but that's fun sometimes. Maid of the Mist is a MUST. 2 days is enough there.

That seems like a lot and enough...can add days to any of those spots if you want or need.
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