Northeast - Visiting D.C. next weekend (Apr 6 - 9 or 10) - bring bikes?
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04-01-12, 11:04 AM
Coming down from central NYS with my wife and two kids. Have never brought the kids down there, and I haven't been to D.C. in many years (over a decade).
I think we will be staying somewhere near the zoo (but we're open, in planning stages), and will want to do a lot of exploring with the kids.
Should we plan to bring bikes? The kids (11 and 13) are good for 15 to 20 miles of easy riding in a day, the more stops the better! But neither the kids more my wife have done much riding in traffic. What will we find in terms of bike lanes and paths, and bike friendliness for getting around the city? I'm ok sheparding them around our village side streets when I have to, but most of their riding is on the more country type roads around here.
And - theft? I'm assuming it's more of a problem there than where I live (Endicott, NY) -- so I'll probably look at picking up some new locks before we go.
Appreciate any comments, and if there are resources online for riding in D.C. that you could direct me to that would be great. THank you.
04-01-12, 04:18 PM
If you want to ride what you are used to, bring your own bike. Renting is an option. So is Capitol Bike share, but it is very popular and finding 4 bikes at a station might be tricky.
DC is a pretty bike friendly city. Lots of paths and bike routes, and the streets are generally bike friendly.
Here are some resources: http://bikewashington.org/
The zoo is reasonably central for biking. The Rock Creek Trail runs along the eastern edge of the zoo. On weekends Beach Drive (Rock Creek Trail above Tilden Street) is closed to cars. It's like having a 22 foot wide bike path through a great park. South on the RCT takes you to Georgetown (good to explore on a bike) and turns into the river trail, which take you to the monuments and the Mall. Unfortunately the cherry blossoms were two weeks early this year and you just missed them. Still plenty of flowers (azaleas are also two weeks early and two of the best azalea collections in the country are here).
If you want something special, bring lights and ride the Mall at night. Full moon is the 6th and seeing the monuments by moonlight is magical. China town at night is also quite a site.
I ride Connecticut Avenue often, but it is busy. After crossing the Taft Bridge (sidewalk), go right on Kalorama and take 23rd, S and 21st south through nice neighborhoods. Or take Calvert Street into Adams Morgan, a very lively neighborhood. 16th and 14th streets are both good for getting downtown.
If you haven't made your plans yet, you might consider staying in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, immediately across the river from Georgetown (easy walk across the Key Bridge) and the Mall (Memorial Bridge or Roosevelt Bridge).
When you get in town, buy a copy of the Friday Washington Post. The weekend section will give you a good run down of what is going on and where.
04-01-12, 06:59 PM
cc - thanks for the really excellent reply. We've decided to go ahead an bring our bikes based on the info you provided...the kids are really excited to see DC, and being able to ride around it will be awesome.
04-03-12, 02:25 PM
I live in DC and can say that I've taken friends (who haven't ridden in city traffic before) out riding with me with no problems.
Early on the weekends, the traffic downtown is light so you shouldn't have any issues, depending on where you're going. The area around the zoo can be a bit hilly going north, but going south towards downtown and the Mall will be a breeze. cc_rider is right that riding on the Mall at night is great - from there it's only a couple minutes biking to the White House.
There are lots of bike trails in/around DC if you'd like to do some off-street riding. Google Maps will help you out now that they have bicycling directions. You can also take the (crowded) Mt. Vernon Trail to Gravelly Park to watch the airplanes take off right overhead. http://themeanestmomma.com/play-space-review/gravelly-point-park-22202/
04-04-12, 05:34 AM
My brother was visiting a couple of months ago and I took him on this route. I think it hits most of the downtown highlights, plus takes you out the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda, and back via Rock Creek Pike. Maybe this will help:
04-04-12, 05:50 AM
I'm prepping to leave DC right now, just had a business trip here and brought my bike. There's great cycling here!
WO&D path is great, as is the Mount Vernon Trail. I've been told that the C&O Towpath is great too, but I didn't have the time to make it to that one this trip.
04-04-12, 07:36 AM
@Jim - That was pretty much my ride last weekend. A good ride for billy's visit, but probably break it up into two for the family.
I'd probably extend the route into Georgetown and East of the Capitol into Capitol Hill, maybe Eastern Market. That way you see some of the neighborhoods along with the monuments.
I'd also go from the White House to the Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue. Nice view on the approach.
This weekend they are having the cherry blossom festival fireworks. That might be the time for a night ride.
04-04-12, 07:57 AM
Hey, thanks everyone for the great info. We're really getting exciting, and I think the kids will have a lot of fun riding in some new places. We are staying at the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn which seemed decent and the price was good. My kids are good for anywhere from 15 to 20 miles of riding in a typical outing - albeit slow with a lot of stopping so this should work out great.
On a non-riding question - got any recommendations on food? Lunches would prefer to grab some good take out or food truck food and eat outside if possible.
04-04-12, 11:32 AM
Key Bridge Marriott is a good location. Custis Trail, Mount Vernon Trail and Key Bridge all come together there. You can watch the fireworks from the bridge or go down to the Mall.
Here's a route that gives you a good view, especially at sunrise.
Lots of choices for food.
When I'm on the Mall, I like to go to the food court at the Post Office Pavilion. Many choices, but the Indian place is particularly good. Take the elevator up the tower for the best views after the Washington Monument.
Eastern Market is also good. There is an eatery inside, but the crepe stand outside is very good.
Georgetown has many choices, some pricey but many reasonable. Tu oTu does good paninnis (I'm a bit biased since I helped them open their second location at the end of Key Bridge, but they are really good.)
Not sure about Rosslyn itself. Many places are geared for lunch. If you go down Wilson you'll find a lot of choices at Courthouse (where I used to live), Clarendon or Ballston. I like Toscana Grill or Summers near Courthouse or Delhi Club at Clarendon, but I don't have a particular strong recommendation.
04-04-12, 02:25 PM
How much do you want to be on the bike versus doing other touristy things? You could consider the "Arlington Loop," sometimes referred to as the Arlington Triangle. It is a combination of the Mt Vernon/4 Mile Run/W&OD/Custis Trails that is just over 16 miles and runs right by the Key Bridge Marriott. Things to do off the loop are visit Roosevelt Island (Teddy Roosevelt Memorial), enjoy the views across the Potomac, visit Arlington Cemetery, see the Pentagon, watch the planes land at Reagan-National Airport, stop in Shirlington for lunch (it's about half way around from your hotel), with not much in the way of a tourist destination on the way on around to the hotel. Another option on this is to keep going another mile and a half out the W&OD Trail from the Custis Trail intersection and get on the Orange Line of the Metro at East Falls Church and take that back in to Rosslyn if your kids are getting tired. Note, it only saves about three miles total.
04-04-12, 06:30 PM
...and if there's a little rain, don't fret. This might be the best thing that can happen to you! My wife and I rode the whole "monument tour" a few years back on a day with just a mist falling. This was just enough to keep the tourist traffic light and our biking route wide open!
04-04-12, 07:45 PM
Wow...thanks everyone for all the suggestions. A lot to wrap my head around. I think one day we'll try to have a set plan and agenda and go for a decent length ride and the other we'll just hope on the bikes and explore / poke around the city.
One more question - how worried about theft should I be? I was planning to bring my old beater mountain bike with slicks for me to ride, but have a problem with the rear wheel I"m not sure I can sort out by Friday -- so I'm considering bringing my Tricross. I'm picking up good u-locks tomorrow -- but is leaving bikes locked up for an hour or two while we go in a museum a bad idea?
04-05-12, 06:42 AM
As long as it is locked, a couple of hours outside a museum should be fine.
Along the streets, sign poles and light poles are generally ok if you're not blocking the sidewalk. Fences ok unless they are posted, but be discrete. Avoid locking to trees, the police are more likely to take action if you do. And if you have saddle bags or a rack-pack there are some places you might get stopped if you try locking up, mostly near the Capitol and White House.
Also, there is no riding bikes on sidewalks in the central business district. Around the Mall is federal land and all the sidewalks are MUP's, but north and east is restricted to above Mass Ave. Here's a map
This is a good map for biking near the Mall
Enjoy. Looks like we'll be having good weather this weekend.
04-05-12, 11:46 AM
Thanks again...yes, the weather looks like it will be awesome this weekend. Getting excited. Got a wheel after all for my beater bike - having trouble getting u-locks believe it or not.
Appreciate all the input.
04-05-12, 12:37 PM
Have a fun time in DC. As has been said, biking around the tourist area is a breeze and there are plenty of trails and safe roads for the rest of the area.
Be sure to add to the DC picture thread after your weekend:
04-05-12, 07:55 PM
I've been riding the Rock Creek trail nearly every day this week. Biking on the Rock Creek trail is quite fun, although the trail isn't the paved that well. (There are some cracks and roots.) But it's great for kids.
PM me if you want to meet up and ride; I'm currently here in the district, and staying a few blocks from the zoo.
04-06-12, 04:34 AM
Neil - thanks I'll let you know - my agenda tends to get set by the women in my life (wife, two daughters, dog!) so not sure. Plus the girls tend to be look around and do a lot of stopping type riders.
04-06-12, 09:03 PM
Ok - well, we're here. Got to Rossyln around 2, and by 3 or so were were on the bikes. Popped out the side door of the Marriott and saw a couple cyclists going by so we followed. Started heading south down a nice bike path...crowded, but not too bad. Lost the guy we were following, ended up heading over the Roosevelt Bridge. Really wasn't sure where we were going, but we were just glad to be out of the car after the 6 hour drive down.
Got to the Kennedy center and didn't' want to keep going that way so we sort of doubled back and picked up the bike path running behind it, heading south again. Wound up at the Lincoln Memorial and started to show the kids around the Mall.
After Jefferson, we headed over toward the Wash Mnt....and well...for a place where cycling isn't allowed on the sidewalks it seemed like everyone was there. As we were going past...I think it was the Engraving bldg, I popped out onto the street while my wife and kids stayed not the sidewalk. Felt much better there.
Headed past the Wash Mnmt (not quickly mind you...lots of pictures), then up toward the White House. Nearing the east side of the whitehouse (not sure the street) was the only place all day I saw a bike lane. Walked past the White House, took the first right, and told the wife and kids we had to ride in the road...I just couldn't take being on the sidewalk. They objected at first...they were nervous. Wehre we live we never have to ride in traffic anything like this. Headed up 17th st, cut over at some point and then wound up on M street heading back toward Gtown. M street wasn't bad, but my wife and the girls were still a bit intimidated...my youngest is great, she'll follow me anywhere and is pretty fearless.
Broke my chain in Gtown (my fault - didn't have a pin for a 7 speed chain so tried to use one for a 9 speed...doh!) Was trying to repair it and broke my chain tool. Said some choice words. Then as we're walking down the street....my wife sees - Big Wheel Bikes a block away!! Just caught them at closing time, new chain, new chain tool....whew. Grabbed some burritos and tacos up the street, then popped the lights on for the ride back over the Key bridge to the hotel.
So...lessons learned. 1 - study the map and the info you guys gave me a bit more tonight, and make plan! My wife wants to head over to the capitol in the morning to try to get tickets to go on a tour later in the day....so that's our first destination. Probably go up to the zoo after that. Will also try to find a good place to go watch fireworks tomorrow on the bikes. 2 - don't be stupid and try to use the wrong size pin when putting a chain on. 3 - Big Wheel Bikes = sweet bike shop. 4 - Gotta teach my wife and kids how to drop the hammer and merge with traffic ;)
Oh...and the crossing over the Roosevelt bridge in lots of wind is a bit scary - narrow sidewalk!!
And I think the two most impressive memorials for me were MLK - incredibly powerful, and FDR.
04-07-12, 01:34 AM
Sounds like an adventure :)
Once you're on the Mount Vernon Trail you can follow it all the way though Alexandria to Mount Vernon. Very pretty. You can cross at either the Memorial Bridge or a little bit farther down at the 14-st bridge.
If you go the other way over the Key Bridge, you can catch the Capital Crescent Trail, or even the C&O Canal Towpath (if you have the appropriate tires for the unpaved but well-packed surface.)
04-07-12, 02:58 PM
:) Yep, a mini adventure. Just got back (for now) from our roam around today. My wife wanted to go to the Capitol and take the tour, so we left around 8 am down the Mt. Vernon trail. Crossed the Arlington bridge, past the Lincoln Memorial down the paths to the Capitol - easy enough. Took the tour, walked around, went to the Botanical gardens, walked down to the air and space but the line for that was crazy. Looked at the sun through a telescope - cool.
Last night I studied the bike route / path map (thanks cc rider) and took it with me today. We rode from the Capitol to the Old PO Pavilion to get lunch and the girls did great on the streets. I had them watch some other riders a bit, showed them how to own the lane when there was no bike path, and they really did well (traffic was lighter today of course). Had a little hiccup getting onto Penn Ave, but all in all pretty smooth ride. Came back up Mt. Vern Trail.
I guess one question which is probably an obvious answer - is how to get to the other side of some streets (yeah, I know...cross them!) - like if we came off the MV Trail onto the right hand side of the Arlington Bridge heading into DC....how would we have gotten from the MV trail to the left side of the bridge? Same thing on the Roosevelt.
Thanks all -- off for a swim and a beer, then heading out for fireworks tonight.
04-07-12, 04:23 PM
The only path on the Roosevelt Bridge is the one you already saw.
On the Memorial Bridge, the east path is easier. Crossing the road is possible but tricky an you have to be quick. You can get to the west side path by going around Lincoln Circle (but you have to cross the traffic), or on the road up from Rock Creek. From the MVT there is a little dirt connector, but you have to cross a busy road. I usually stick with the easier way on the Memorial.
Have you tried the Key Bridge? Both sides are accessible.
04-08-12, 05:12 PM
Hey cc - thanks for the info. Found the short way and long way onto the Arlington. Took the GM bridge over to the Jefferson and then down the channel to watch the fireworks last night. Rode the monuments at night - fun. THen got a flat near Lincoln. No problem...swapped tubes...and had to swap over the mini pump from presta to schrader...and damn, the stupid nub on the schrader side was broken off!!! Can't put air in the tube!! A guy riding with his wife and guests from FL who we had been seeing all night offered to throw a bike in his truck and give one of us a ride back up to the hotel!! THanks Dmitri from Alexandria!
Today shot down to Air & Space, then up to Ooohs & Aaah for some mac n cheese that we ate in the little park a crossed the street watching the drunk dudes yell about something. Up V street (nice bike lane) to the zoo - which was hella crowded so we didn't see all of it. Took the Rock Creek Trail (very nice) back down to the canal towpath, back to the hotel. Starting to get the hang of this place...really fun riding around town. Wish we weren't leaving tomorrow. The kids love it cause it's something new.
Thanks all for the tips - we'll be back for sure.
04-08-12, 05:34 PM
Glad you enjoyed your trip. Glad to help.
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