Friday, October 17, 2008

Visiting NARA: Staging a visit to Archives I

I recently made my first visit to the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). This is one in a series of articles inspired by that visit to help you make your first visit to the National Archives. Last time I talked about Archives I vs. Archives II. This time I'll talk about where I stayed and how I got to Archives I, which is the main National Archives location in downtown District of Columbia.

Staging a visit to Archives I

Archive I - The National Archives building in downtown Washington DC I’m a westerner. It doesn’t matter where I go, I rent a car. Out west one can’t so much as stop at a gas station without a car. I doubt I could brush my teeth without a car sitting outside. So after flying into Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport, we rented a car. I'm glad we did.

We stayed at the Greenbelt Courtyard Marriott. Did it seem a little below par because our room had been smoked in recently? Or was it just a little lower quality than I prefer? There are other choices nearby. While I didn't care much for the room, I did like the price: $109 a night. And the location. It was close to highway 295, which provides quick and ready access to BWI airport. There were familiar fast food and chain restaurants along Greenbelt Road. Since we had a rental car, it was easy to zip up and down the road without needing a GPS unit.

And, it was just a short drive to the Greenbelt station on the Green Line of the D.C. Metro.

The D.C. Metro subway system is a fast, clean, safe way to get to the National Archives. The Archives station on the Green Line is—surprise, surprise—directly across Pennsylvania Ave. from Archives I. We picked our lodging so that we were close to a green line station far enough out of the city to get lodging rates that we liked.

We purchased a SmarTrip® card when we entered the metro station because it is required to pay the parking fee (currently $4.25 for the Greenbelt station) when you exit the metro station parking lot. If you arrive at the parking lot prior to 10:00am on a weekday, be careful not to park in a Reserved space. The card costs $5 plus whatever amount you put on the card for paying parking and metro fares. A very courteous metro employee stepped us through the process of buying one using a credit card.

A postcard showing a metro train, a message board and the ceiling of an undergrand station Fare amounts are posted on the vending machine so that you can figure out beforehand how much money to put on the SmarTrip card. If special arrangements are made, seniors and the disabled can ride at half the regular fare. Reduced fare is charged on weekends. Currently, Greenbelt to Archives is regularly $3.70, $1.85 senior/disabled and $2.35 reduced fare. The distance is 11.51 miles and the expected travel time is 33 minutes.

It's all pretty straight forward and there are nice people to help you out if need it. So! Am I tempting any of you to attempt a trip some day? The economic circumstances might not allow it at the moment. I'll talk about some of the preparation you'll want to do before waltzing off to Washington. There's no reason you can't start preparing now!

What arrangements have you used to visit the National Archives? Do you have a favorite hotel? Mass transit line? What tips can you share about arrangements?


  1. Since we travel in a motorhome, we stay in campgrouds. Cherry Hill is an excellant park with public bus transportation to the metro station.

  2. Marriott is a smokefree chain. Did you report the incident?

  3. Dear Marion,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I'm certain many of my readers are motor home travelers that will appreciate this information.

    -- The Insider

  4. Dear Randy,

    The smoke was at least a week old, so I did not report it. If hotel management sent a smoker down to check the room or give it extra cleaning attention, they would be unable to detect the smell. However, UM held some event during the week we were there that prompted the hotel management to post a special "no-partying" notice with associated fines. That evening, I did report a room that had cigarette smoke wafting into the hall. Fortunately, our room was not affected by smoking or partying that night.

    -- The Insider


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