Hey everyone! With Worlds in my hometown and people making travel plans, I thought it might be a good idea to write a little guide on how to get to the area, how to get around the area, and some things you might want to do while you’re here.
GETTING TO DC: By Air
Washington, DC is served by three major airports. They are as follows:
Washington Dulles International Airport
Hub for: United
Distance to downtown DC: 26 mi (42 km)
Easiest public transit access: buses to downtown and to Wiehle-Reston East metro station
Cities outside the United States with direct passenger service: Way too many to list, but essentially, if you’re in a major airline’s hub that’s not Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Auckland, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or Manila, you’ll have direct service. If you’re from Australia or Southeast Asia, you’ll have to connect, probably through Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Honolulu, or the US West Coast.
If you’re flying in internationally, there’s an upwards of 90% chance you’ll be landing at Dulles. IAD is located in the Virginia suburbs, and getting on public transit is STRONGLY advisable to getting a cab or Uber due to fares and traffic. Unfortunately, delays to the extension of the metro’s Silver Line means Dulles isn’t reached by rail service yet, however shuttle buses will take you the short drive to the line’s current terminus at Wiehle-Reston East.
Washington National Airport
Hub for: American
Distance to downtown DC: Across the Potomac River
Easiest public transit access: Metro Blue/Yellow lines, Washington National Airport station
Cities outside the US with direct passenger service: Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal
DCA is by far the closest airport to downtown DC and the only one with direct Metro access, but aircraft size and distance restrictions limit it to only domestic flights and Canadian airports with customs preclearance facilities. Don’t needlessly prioritize flying to this airport just for convenience. If you are flying into here and get to pick your seat, pick the left side window for the best views of DC if you fly the River Visual coming in (no promises that’s your approach pattern, though).
Baltimore-Washington International Airport
Hub for: Spirit, Southwest
Distance to downtown DC: 30 mi (48 km)
Easiest public transit access: MARC and Amtrak trains to DC Union Station
Cities outside the US with direct passenger service: London, Toronto, Ottawa, Frankfurt (seasonally)
BWI is where the cheap flights land. It used to be a great place to get cheap flights from Europe, but WOW Air went bust in March and put a stop to that. Now, it’s essentially just the cheapest airport for Americans.
GETTING TO DC: By Rail
Long-distance train is really only a feasible option if you’re on the Northeast Corridor, but for New England it is potentially cheaper than flying, if a bit longer. Union Station is one of Amtrak’s primary hubs and is the southern terminus of their only high-speed rail, the Acela Express, which runs up to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
European players, I would advise checking flight prices into New York area airports (especially EWR as that has direct rail access) along with Amtrak prices as that may be less expensive than flying directly to DC, as many of your low-cost transatlantic carriers only reach New York and Boston.
GETTING AROUND DC: By Metro rail
IMPORTANT: Metro does not operate for 24 hours a day for reasons too local and rage-inducing to discuss here. Operating hours are as follows:
Monday-Thursday: 5:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Friday: 5:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Saturday: 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
ALSO IMPORTANT: The start times are when the first trains LEAVE THE LINE ENDS HEADING INTO DC. The end times are when the last trains ARRIVE AT THE LINE ENDS. Plan timing accordingly (i.e. don’t expect a train if you’re downtown within half an hour of shutdown time). Depending on how early day 2 Swiss starts, this might mean you won’t be able to rely on the metro to get there in time.
Important Metro Stops:
- Worlds venue: Mt. Vernon Square (Green/Yellow)
- Nationals Park: Navy Yard (Green)
- National Mall: Smithsonian/Federal Triangle/Archives/L’Enfant Plaza (Orange/Blue/Silver/Green/Yellow)
- National Zoo: Woodley Park (Red)
- DCA: National Airport (Blue/Yellow)
- Shuttle bus to/from IAD: Wiehle-Reston East (Silver)
- Trains to/from BWI: Union Station (Red)
GETTING AROUND DC: By Road
If you’re not staying inside the city, avoid having to drive into the city in the morning (especially during day 1 as that’s a weekday). If you’re in the city, in all honesty, same advice follows. The traffic around this area is REALLY bad. Taking public transit is strongly advised. Most traffic will be gone by the end of metro operating hours at night if you’re out that late so don’t be too concerned with making the last train. Parking costs can also be pretty high downtown, especially if you’re there all day.
THINGS TO DO IN DC: Smithsonian Museums and Zoo
DC has a large number of museums, mostly situated along the National Mall, along with a fairly large zoo in the northwest part of the city. All of these facilities are run by the Smithsonian Institution and federally funded, and thus have free entry. A comprehensive list of Smithsonian facilities can be found at https://www.si.edu/museums, but here are some of the highlights:
Natural History Museum: Newly renovated fossil hall just opened after 5 years of work, complete with new tyrannosaur skeleton. Also well-known for the oceans hall on the main level.
American History Museum: Features significant objects and moments in American history and culture, including the flag flying over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 which Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner about, Dorothy’s original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the Revolutionary War gunboat USS Philadelphia, and more!
Air and Space Museum: My personal favorite (as you might expect), Air and Space actually has two locations: one on the National Mall and one next to Dulles airport (Udvar-Hazy Center) in Virginia. Udvar-Hazy has a significantly larger collection due to having more space, but you can find significant air and spacecraft at both. Notable items include:
National Air and Space (Downtown): Spirit of St. Louis (Charles Lindbergh’s plane), Mercury-Atlas 6 and Apollo 11 capsules, the first Bell X-1 to break the sound barrier, the COSTAR module from the Hubble Space Telescope, and a North American X-15 (the fastest manned aircraft)
Udvar-Hazy Center (Dulles): Space Shuttle Discovery, Air France Concorde, Boeing B-29 Enola Gay (dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima), Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, one of the Grumman F-14s from the Gulf of Sidra Incident, the Boeing 367-80 (prototype for the first 4 engine airliner), and the only surviving Arado Ar-234 and Nakajima Kikka.
National Archives: Home to many of the important documents in United States history, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Louisiana Purchase treaty, and the Emancipation Proclamation. An original copy of the Magna Carta is also there.
National Zoo: One of the only zoos in the country with giant pandas. Also a really good place to get some walking in.
THINGS TO DO IN DC: Monuments, Memorials, and Historic Places
THINGS TO DO IN DC: Baseball Games
The Washington Nationals will have home games against the Cincinnati Reds on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday preceding Worlds, and against the Milwaukee Brewers on days 1, 2, and 3 of Worlds. Upper level tickets (and tickets in general sometimes) tend to be pretty cheap, and the stadium is pretty nice. Pick a game where Max Scherzer is starting for the Nationals if you can. Come enjoy America’s pastime!
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps with your travel plans! If you have any DC-related questions, you can send me a DM here or on twitter (@JZGVGC) and I’ll see what I can do to help you out. Hope you have fun at Worlds!