Safe Day Trips from Greenbelt during covid times are a challenge but there ARE ways.
Getting There Safely
I wasn’t about to take the Metro for an unnecessary trip during the pandemic, but driving from Greenbelt to the National Mall is actually quicker – about 30 minutes, off-rush. (And the “rush” these days is awfully light.)
What convinced me the trip would be easy was hearing from a friend about reserving and paying for parking ahead of time. For me, that’s easier than hunting down an empty spot on the street and worrying about what parking meter app it uses.
What was truly easy was using Parking Panda to find a parking garage, which is how I found a cheap one at 280 6th Street N.W., across the street from the Newseum – just $10.45 for the whole day. However, DO print out your receipt or have it open on your phone to show the attendant. It’s self-park, so no “valet” will be driving your car.
Suddenly there’s lots more things to see and do around the National Mall – especially with timed reservations – and still more are opening September 25. – here’s the list.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture – Visitor Information Reserve Passes
- National Portrait Gallery – Visitor Information Reserve Passes NPG & SAAM*
- Smithsonian American Art Museum –Visitor Information Reserve Passes SAAM & NPG*
- Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum – Visitor Information
Opening September 25:
- National Museum of American History – Visitor Information Reserve Passes
- National Museum of the American Indian (DC) – Visitor Information
But while we’re having glorious fall weather, I’d rather stay outdoors! Anyway, I’m averse to going to indoor public spaces, so I’m sticking with the gardens. Here are the gardens to see that are at or near the National Mall..
- Open always are the ones around the Smithsonian Castle: the Haupt Garden in front of the Castle, the Ripley Garden between the Castle and the Hirshhorn (a favorite among serious gardeners), the Folger Rose Garden in front of the Castle, the Natural History Museum’s Pollinator Garden along 9th Street and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden.
- The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden is also open and has food and bathrooms!
- At the eastern end of the Mall there’s the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is surprisingly still closed – even its multi-acre native-plant National Garden. What IS open is its Bartholdi Park at the base of the Rayburn Building, which was renovated and made accessible in 2016 and is filling in very nicely..
What’s brand new this month and open all the time is the Eisenhower Memorial across Independence Avenue from the Air and Space Museum. I went during the day and following the advice of the Washington Post’s reviewer, I’ll go back to see it lit up at night.
A concern for many visitors, including ME, is the availability of rest rooms. My favorite option, available 11-4 every day, is the Pavilion Cafe at the National Sculpture Garden. No reservations needed! And its food is ordered and consumed outdoors.
The Eisenhower Memorial also has open rest rooms (without a reservation or going through security). Though the memorial is always open, I can’t find information about the hours of the book store and rest rooms.
The food kiosk at the Lincoln Memorial was closed when I was there.
Presumably, museum visitors may use the rest rooms there.
Silver lining-wise, the streets and sidewalks have never been so uncrowded! So on my second trip I packed my bike and went for a long, leisurely ride to all my favorite memorials, including the Lincoln, MLK and FDR.
If you don’t bring your own bike, I noticed a few rental options around the Mall – bikes and scooters, too.