Our Nation’s Harbor: A Walking Adventure
Route: Alexandria, Virginia to National Harbor, Maryland and back again
If your goal is to see Old Town and National Harbor while walking for miles and miles and miles, here’s the day plan for you!
My sister and I started from Old Town Alexandria, which you can easily reach by Metro or Amtrak. (If you are trying to park your car in Old Town on a weekend when the weather is nice: good luck.)
1) Start out with brunch in the morning in Old Town. We ate at Flat Iron Steak and Saloon on King Street. I recommend the Eggs Benedict, and don’t skip the home-style potatoes. It’s a long, long journey, so be sure to eat a bunch of crap in advance of it.
2) Follow Washington St. until you come to the path leading across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The ground is marked with a big circle and an arrow pointing to “MARYLAND.” Go in this direction.
This was my 3rd trip across the bridge, so I am now an expert. Some warnings: the Virginia stretch has sound barriers making the stroll quiet and sublime. Then, you enter Maryland, the sound barriers disappear inexplicably, and your throat will become scratchy and your voice hoarse from screaming at your companions and inhaling vehicle exhaust. Just don’t forget to enjoy the lovely views of Old Town and D.C. while doing so.
3) Once you reach the Harbor, your back is probably really sunburned in weird splotches because you just can’t reach around like that. Buy your tickets for the Capital Wheel. The line was not too long by the time we got there at about 1:00 on a Sunday, so sadly I can’t complain about that. Thank the heavens, we got a gondola to ourselves, so I can’t even complain about being forced to suffer through the ride with strangers. Even though my sister spent our time in line pondering the different ways we could plummet to our deaths, it was actually a pleasant experience, truly.
Random observations: 1. the company calls the enclosed capsule you ride in a “gondola.” 2. They sure pump the air conditioning into your gondola. Even if it’s 85 degrees and humid, bring a parka into the gondola. 3. A VIP gondola is available for $50 each (versus $16.50). To our untrained eyes, it looked identical to the proletariat gondolas except it was a different color and had seats instead of benches.
Gondola, gondola, gondola.
4) Eat more stuff at Our Nation’s Harbor. Even though it’s really only been a couple of hours since the Eggs Benedict, it’s probably time for guacamole and sea salt cajeta ice cream at Rosa Mexicano. YUM.
5) Take the water taxi back to Old Town. This is $8 one-way and provides excellent views of the National Harbor and Old Town waterfront. And it goes under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. And you can just stand there and the boat will move you; no walking required.
6) At this point you are totally pooped and really sunburned. Take the free King Street Trolley from the waterfront all the way back to the Metro. Don’t feel guilty about it.
Flat Iron to the Capital Wheel is just about 4 miles. With all the additional to-ing and fro-ing, I estimate we walked somewhere between 7 and 62 miles total.