My Tourist – Free DC (and Tourist Tips)

Spring in DC will usually feel more like winter or summer.  The only thing you can count on is a huge influx of tourists.  I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy the real spring weather this weekend. My neighborhood is between to tourist heavy areas, which means getting anywhere can be frustrating on an average day.  Walking up past the Zoo, though, means I’m stuck in a throng of people, strollers, stuffed animals, cameras and a few stray children who are lagging behind their parents.

Dealing with crowds of tourists like that stresses me out.  Something about the lost looks, need to carry maps unfolded, or it could be the need to walk three and four across down the sidewalk (and refusal to move out of the way for others). After struggling through crowds going to and from the library I decided it was safest to spend the rest of the weekend in my own neighborhood.  I also made a list of things tourists could to do help us want to help them.

  1. The sidewalk is for everyone. Please share it and move aside so others can pass.
  2. Don’t make yourself a target.  This means:
    • Don’t walk around with a map out – ask for directions.  Most locals will help you if they’re able.  Same for guidebooks.
    • Don’t walk around with a name badge on from a conference – you’re giving away a lot of information with one little badge.
    • Don’t walk around with tablets out in your hand.  It’s too easy grab.
  3. Learn the unspoken rules of Metro:
    • On escalators: Stand right, walk left.  This cannot be overemphasized.  I repeat: stand right, walk left.
    • Wait until most of rush hour is over before you jump on the train.  You can’t use daily passes during rush hour anyways.  Also, everyone using metro is not on vacation, and much like you probably are during the week, we’re rushing to get to get to work.  Enjoy your vacation by having a slow morning, and let us deal with rush hour.
    • If you have luggage and/or strollers, please use the elevators whenever possible.
    • If you need help figuring out the fare machines, ask someone.  Please don’t just stand there staring at the instructions.
  4. DC is a social city.  If you want to eat out during a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, make a reservation.
  5. Please keep in mind people actually live in this city, and we are still trying to go about our lives while you try to find your way walking from the Zoo to the White House.   Not all of us can give help, either due to time or lack of knowledge.  And we will complain about you.  We do appreciate your visit though, and the infusion of money into the local economy.
  6. Found from another site: one question DC residents will be happy to answer and discuss with you at length: why the license plates say, TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.
  7. Come anytime other than Spring Break or summer vacation and you might actually the sites more.

Just a couple blocks off Connecticut Avenue the city noise is low, and residential streets lead to Mitchell Park – tucked into the middle of Sheridan-Kalorama.  This was like an oasis in the middle of the city, and perfect place to eat my lunch.  Tables surrounded by plants, flowers and trees (yes, shade!) and an open green space provide a quiet place to relax, and a playground and basketball court, barely visible through the greenery complete the park.  I’d always liked Kalorama Triangle Park, but this is has a very different feeling, and much less thru traffic.

After a break in the shade and some lunch I wandered a little more and found the Spanish Steps.  Something totally unexpected –even though I knew they existed, make it feel like you are far from the city.  I walked down them and stopped for a moment to enjoy the shade and silence.  Walking just a block further away I was brought back to the city by a protest outside a nearby embassy.

There is so much more to DC than government and politics, but it’s easy to forget some times.  Most of DC is a little too hooked into the news and what is happening on the campaign trail on the Hill.  Taking some quiet time to wander, relax and find a place to detach from the rest of what DC is, was a great way to renew myself for the coming week, without the stress of dealing with tourists.

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