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A Capital Place for RVers

When Pierre Charles L'Enfant gazed northward along the banks of the Potomac River in 1791, he envisioned a magnificent city, calling the area a "pedestal waiting for a monument." He could never have pictured today’s monumental capital city, where public transportation makes it easy for visiting RVers to explore dozens of American landmarks. Quite simply, Washington, D.C. welcomes RVers with an array of colorful neighborhoods (including many tasty restaurants in Georgetown), culture, history, government buildings, museums, memorials and, of course, lots of monuments.

Strategically located midway along the eastern seaboard and right on the Potomac River, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area actually refers to the District of Columbia, seven Maryland counties, five Virginia counties, and six Virginia cities (historic and easily accessible Alexandria in Northern Virginia is a particular favorite for visiting RVers).

Public Transportation

The area is notorious for heavy traffic at times, so veteran visitors recommend choosing a convenient campground and then taking advantage of the excellent public transportation system in the area. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA; wmata.com) makes it relatively easy to explore the area, with more than 100 miles of Metrorail track and 86 stations, plus 1,500 buses in the Metrobus system (there’s even RV parking at several stations, making it easy to park and ride for those who didn’t leave their RV at the campground). Once downtown, getting around by foot, WMATA services, taxi, or tour bus is much easier than with any size RV.

What to See in D.C.

Any list of sightseeing options in and around D.C. will be monumental. The possibilities, which are generally less crowded during non-summer months, can include: the National Mall; the Washington Monument; the National Zoological Park; Smithsonian Institution Museums; the White House (and its relatively new residents); the U.S. Capitol; the Supreme Court; the National Archives; the Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Korean, Vietnam, World War II memorials (and many more); the US Holocaust Memorial Museum; the intriguing International Spy Museum; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (a “living memorial” with three theaters and much more); the National Geographic Explorers Hall (since RVers are explorers by nature); and the neighborhoods of Georgetown (see dining recommendations below) and ethnically diverse Adams-Morgan. Many of these options and others are free or low-cost, making a D.C. visit affordable (especially for RVers who bring along their own accommodations).

Other Attractions

Situated along the western banks of the Potomac south of Washington, D.C. proper and known as "The Fun Side of the Potomac," historic Alexandria is also very visitor-friendly. Accessed by frequent public ferries, the Metro, and buses, the convenient City Marina make visiting Alexandria easy. Once there, highlights of very walk-able Old Town Alexandria might include: the Torpedo Factory (marina, shops, restaurants, and more in an old World War I torpedo parts plant); the recently-reopened Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum; Gadsby's Tavern Museum; Christ Church; The Lyceum (Alexandria's history museum); cobblestone Prince Street; and dozens of other historic homes and buildings. George Washington's home Mount Vernon is a short drive or boat ride away (and well worth a visit!).

Even further afield, other easily-reached and -explored destinations that might interest RVers include: historic Annapolis (Maryland’s capital); the Civil War battlefields of the Manassas area in Northern Virginia; Baltimore; the bucolic “Delmarva” peninsula (the DELaware, MARyland, and VirginiA coast); and more. For those based at a D.C.-area campground, public transportation can connect with Amtrak to reach many of these other areas.

Thus, from Washington, D.C. proper to more options in Alexandria and beyond, this is surely one of America's capital RV destinations. Whether you want fall colors or lots of red, white, and blue, our nation's capital and the rest of the capital region await.

For information to plan your trip, contact Destination D.C. at 800-422-8644 or visit washington.org.

Nearby Campgrounds

Several D.C.-area campgrounds are strategically located near public transportation. A few favorites with those in-the-know include: Duncan’s Family Campground (duncansfamilycampground.com); Cherry Hill Park (cherryhillpark.com); and Greenbelt Park (nps.gov/gree). Though there are other possibilities in the area, one or more of these three varied options will be an ideal base for Washington, D.C. area exploration.

Located about 20 miles southeast of the capital in Maryland, full-service Duncan’s Family Campground has been a family-run operation for more than 30 years. They offer van transportation to the nearby Metro and guided tours leave right from the campground (plus, there’s even a new Dog Park of which they’re particularly proud).

Just 10 miles or so north of downtown DC in suburban Maryland (just outside the Capital Beltway), Cherry Hill Park (“A Monumental Experience”) is another full-service option, with city buses that stop right at the campground at least hourly and run straight to the nearby Metro stop. Gray Line guided tours also pick up three times a day inside the campground for full- and half-day sightseeing trips.

Also located in suburban Maryland about a dozen miles north of the capital proper, Greenbelt Park is a National Park Service option. There are no electric or water hookups here, but the park’s hiking, natural programs, and convenience (note that RVers will need to get themselves to the nearby Metro stop) all make for a unique DC-area base. The rustic campsites aren’t huge, so larger RVs may need to pay for two spots.

A Taste of Historic Georgetown

A tasty destination in its own right, Georgetown was founded in 1751 and actually pre-dates D.C. Georgetown University was founded in 1789. There are lots of historic buildings (think rowhouses), cobblestone streets, shops, and great restaurants. Parking is notoriously bad, so a taxi or the Foggy Bottom Metro stop both make for better ways to enjoy a hassle-free taste of Georgetown.

Like much of the D.C. area, Georgetown’s vibe and restaurants are ethnically diverse. Here are a few local favorites (most on Georgetown’s “restaurant row,” M Street):

*Martin’s Tavern, 1264 Wisconsin Avenue NW: Since 1933, Martin’s has been the place to see and be seen by DC politicos, including Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy (he proposed to Jackie here), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and many more. Their homemade soups are worth the wait. martins-tavern.com

*Café Milano, 3251 Prospect Street NW: The food and atmosphere (grab a sidewalk table) are like a trip to Italy without crossing the Atlantic. Italian diplomats will likely be seated nearby. cafemilano.net

*Hook Georgetown, 3241 M Street NW: Truly fresh and creative seafood from around the corner or around the world. hookdc.com

*Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar, 2917 M Street NW: “Locavores” love this place, which specializes on naturally-raised meats, seafood, and seasonal produce from the Mid-Atlantic region. mendocinodc.com

*Agraria, 3000 K Street NW: is another farm-fresh favorite, thanks to a collection of more than 40,000 family farmers across the country. agrariarestaurant.com

*Mie N Yu, 3125 M Street NW: “World” fare from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. mienyu.com

*The Tombs, 1226 36th Street NW (at P Street): This neighborhood saloon and restaurant near Georgetown University was the inspiration for St. Elmo’s Fire back in the 1980s (their famed Tombs Brownie is still on the menu). Sunday brunch here is a Georgetown tradition. tombs.com

The St. Elmo's film crew used Third Edition, 1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW as their set. thethirdedition.com

*Vietnam Georgetown, 2934 M Street NW: Authentic Vietnamese fare served on white tablecloths or out in the peaceful backyard patio. vietnamgeorgetown.com