Health Journalism 2008: Travel and things to do
Washington means museums, cherry blossoms and baseball
By Rebecca Adams
As you plan to attend the 10th annual AHCJ annual meeting March 27-30, one of the first highlights is the location itself. You don’t have to be a political junkie to enjoy the Washington, D.C., area – which only occasionally merits its reputation as a town, as John F. Kennedy put it, of “Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
Thanks to the largesse of lobbying dollars, Washington offers a wide range of innovative dining experiences. If it’s been a while since you’ve been here, you may want to check out the newer museum attractions in your spare time. Springtime in D.C., of course, means Cherry Blossom time. The Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws more than a million visitors crowding around the picturesque trees along the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, starts March 29. Peak blooming can happen anytime between March 15 and April 15.
First, the basics: Fly into Reagan National Airport (DCA). It’s a mile from the conference hotel, which dispatches a free shuttle, The shuttle leaves Reagan National Airport every 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. every day. Between 10 a.m. and midnight, it leaves every 30 minutes. The meeting place for the shuttle depends upon which terminal you fly into.
If you fly into Terminal A (AirTran, Midwest, Northwest, Spirit) or Terminal C (Frontier, United, US Airways), watch for shuttle bus pick-up signs in the baggage claim area. If you fly into Terminal B (Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Air Canada), look for exits 5 or 9. If you don’t want to wait, a cab should cost less than $10. Reagan is a fairly easy airport to navigate and, due to years of patronage and prodding by members of Congress, offers convenient flights to a long list of U.S. cities.
If you must fly into another airport, go for Dulles International, which is 25 miles away and requires a drive of about 45 minutes (SuperShuttle costs about $30 and taxis run about $45 from Dulles to hotel). Baltimore-Washington International Airport is 45 miles and a little less than an hour away (SuperShuttle costs about $37; taxis about $60).
Photo: JakeMcGuire.com/Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corporation
Cherry blossoms should be in full bloom during the AHCJ conference.
Renting a car isn’t necessary in the Washington area, unless you hope to reach far-flung parks like Great Falls National Park or the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in northwest Washington or the Food and Drug Administration’s headquarters in Maryland.
Public transportation and cabs are easily accessible. The hotel is about two-thirds of a mile from the Crystal City Metro (subway) station, and hotel officials say they shuttle guests there every half hour. The Metro can put you in downtown Washington in less than 15 minutes.
You could even get to sites such as George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon by public transportation, although it would require about a half hour subway trip followed by a bus ride. For more convenient sightseeing by Metro, try the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, the International Spy Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or, if it has opened, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, which is tentatively slated to start welcoming visitors at the end of March.
With all of the food and live music options available, there’s no reason to sit in your hotel room. Old Town Alexandria — which includes many restaurants, shops and pubs along cobblestone streets - is about a 10-minute Metro or cab ride from the hotel.
Local spots such as Iota Club & Café in Arlington or the Birchmere in Alexandria host bands with varying levels of national recognition. Other neighborhoods with interesting dining or entertainment options include Washington’s Adams Morgan, Penn Quarter and Georgetown.
You can find dining reviews online by The Washington Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema or through Washingtonian magazine, which ranks the metro area’s best restaurants and best cheap eat bistros in annual listings.
Sports fans may want to check out the Washington Capitals hockey team that plays home games March 27 and March 29. The Washington Nationals baseball team plays a spring training game in their new ballpark March 29 and their first regular season game March 30.
The average high temperature in the D.C. area in late March is about 60 with the average low of about 40. Dress is business casual for the conference and don’t forget a jacket or sweater for those notoriously cool conference rooms.
Rebecca Adams is a senior writer for Congressional Quarterly. She has lived in the Washington D.C. metro area for 10 years.