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Thread: Union Station to National Zoo with Kids

  1. #11
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    I took my eight year old grandson to the zoo on bikes without difficulty but we approached the Zoo from the north - near the Maryland line. This allowed us to stay entirely on the bike paths and off of the roadways. Having the bikes is an ideal way to get around DC as long as you stay off of the roads and on bike paths. One practical way to extend your reach and avoid motor vehicles is to take your bikes on the Metro. Bikes are allowed outside of crush hour times. Details are here: http://www.wmata.com/getting_around/...guidelines.cfm The cathedral as mentioned above is perched at the top of one of the highest points of the city and cannot be accessed via bike trail although it is possible to get there on side streets crossing only one busy thoroughfare when starting from from the Zoo metro stop. The cathedral is quite a destination though.

    Have fun here in the center of the known universe!

  2. #12
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    Riley beat me to it. As long as you avoid rush hour (which starts at 3:30pm and goes to 7pm) I'd recommend using Metro and bikes to get around in DC. This works great to cut off those long sections while still giving you the flexibility of riding around in the bike-friendly areas.

    It's a shame, but the Mall area is actually a lousy area to ride on the roads. No bike lanes, and too many tour buses and congestion from through traffic.

    However, if your rental bikes are mountain bikes or at least have off-road tires, the wide gravel pathways of the Mall are great to ride slowly. It's a pedestrians' first area, for sure, but with wide tires and slow speeds, the Mall's sidewalks and gravel paths are much more fun to ride than walk with kids -- the Mall is really long. Many a tourist has started on foot from the Capitol and headed to the Lincoln memorial, and then wilted from the distance (plus there's no Metro near the river-side memorials to take back). Off-road bikes are a great solution as long as you're not in a hurry and watch out for spastic pedestrian.

    I have no idea if it's technically legal to ride on the gravel and paved sidewalks on the Mall, but I doubt it would a problem if speeds are low and peds get the courtesy and right of way.

  3. #13
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    FYI: the zoo metro station is closed this weekend for repairs. It will reopen on Monday.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenbelt View Post
    I have no idea if it's technically legal to ride on the gravel and paved sidewalks on the Mall, but I doubt it would a problem if speeds are low and peds get the courtesy and right of way.
    I should hope so, they're all green on google bicycling maps! http://g.co/maps/b86t9

  5. #15
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    Lots of great advice here. Thank you very much for taking the time to help us.

    I have decided that I should rent bicycles. The only question remains is how many days. The peeps at Bike and Roll have graciously agreed to let me rent individual bicycles and then switch to the trail-a-bike attachment if I need it, but only because it is early in the season, not too busy, and they can use it as a training opportunity.

    If available, I would like the mountain bike tires. I wonder why they don't pave the bicycle paths designated down the National Mall?

    We are going to attempt the Zoo, or at least the ride back. We will probably also do the East Potamac and all the monuments.

    We will also likely go swimming at the Rumsey Aquatic Centre near Eastern Market.

    The weather is looking fantastic until the following weekend. Lucky us and you!

  6. #16
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    Not sure when you are arriving but you may wish to check out the cycling events at Crystal City being held tomorrow (Saturday). It starts around noontime and goes all the way till midnight. Races of various sorts, bike polo, etc. It's easily accessible by metro (bring a map of the location though since it's possible they won't post signs from metro) and by bike (though probably too far by bike for your kids). It's all free too. You may wish to either walk or take a taxi to Gravelly Point and see the planes take off and land at National Airport (you're right under the flight path).

    Details can be found here: http://www.diamond-derby.com/

  7. #17
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    We'd love to hear about how it went afterwards. Good luck!

  8. #18
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    We are back home after a wonderful 9 nights in DC! What a fantastic trip we had. As you know, the weather was amazing... like summer with temperatures in the low 70s.

    We passed under Crystal City on Saturday night at 7 pm on the Metro from the airport to the hotel, which was too late to enjoy the bicycle fest.

    We rented bicycles for 4 days, for a total of $144 plus taxes = $152, using the Entertainment coupon. They work on a scale of decreasing cost per day as your rental lengthens. We had two "comfort" bikes, one trail-a-bike, and one child's bike.

    I highly recommend touring the sites by bicycle for an active family. We headed to the zoo via National Mall and the Rock Creek Trail. If you start out early in the morning 9-10 am-ish, you can avoid the hordes of walkers. Most of the time we had empty sidewalks and gravel paths to navigate. The only vexing aspect of this was the crossing of major roads. If you don't enjoy curb jumping and try to steer your bicycle over the wheelchair curb cutouts, you will find yourself coming off the corner of both streets and veering back to cross the street. The best place to cross is down the middle on the gravel paths, where there are lights for pedestrians. The problem with those are the very long wait times, despite sometimes a complete lack of traffic. We never crossed against the lights.

    The ride to the zoo was very easy. There was only one questionable stretch beside the busy highway where there is nothing between you and the cars. We walked that very short distance. The path was easy to follow and in good condition, except for a few tree roots creating ripples through the pavement in only two spots. We did not even feel the elevation gain, since it was so gradual, save the short steep hills near the turn into the zoo. We were surprised how quickly we reached the zoo. Total trip time is about one hour, which is at a very leisurely pace, about the speed of a runner.

    The trip back was faster.

    The Cathedral sidetrip was done after arriving at the Zoo and walking in the hot (!) sun for 2 hours. What a mistake. I guess I was emboldened by the easy ride to the zoo. What should have been a quick 20 minute trip dragged into an hour as my 9 year old suddenly refused to ride at all, not happy with the hills. My husband was cycling up these same hills with his trail-a-bike with the 7 year old in back without a problem.

    We also had a ride around the monuments on another day. Navigating the criss crossing diagonal paths with long intersection waits and the narrow pedestrian paths was challenging.

    We did swim at Rumsey Aquatic Centre. The cost for our family of 4 was $22(!) and we were surprised how empty it was given that admission is free for DC residents.

    Thanks again to all for your excellent advice.
    Last edited by karencoutts; 03-20-2012 at 12:32 PM.

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