The price difference between the three airports can be big depending on what airline you take. However, if you are traveling to DC for just a weekend you may want to splurge a little on DCA so you don’t waste a lot of transit time.
Directly on the DC Blue Metro line. Very easy to hop on the DC Metro and get to DC in about 20 minutes. Cost is less than $5 a person. The metro is very easy to use. Just purchase a ticket at the machine and swipe when you enter and exit at your destination.
From the airport you take a free 15 minute shuttle to the BWI train station. Both Amtrak and the regional Marc train lines run through the BWI station and get you to DCs Union Station in about 25 minutes. The downside is depending on when you land at BWI you could wait up to an hour for a train if you arrive at an off time. Both train lines schedules are available online. (Timetables: Amtrak and Marc) I think it would be safe to assume you could deplane, get your luggage and be at the train station an hour after you land. Amtrak train tickets are between $12 and $20 if you book two weeks in advance. The Marc train takes a little longer but is only $6. I’ve also taken the SuperShuttle to BWI and it’s about $37 a person, $12 for each additional person in your party. However the airport is about 50 miles from DC and traffic can get pretty bad around rush hour. The train is really the best way to go.
There is a 5A metro bus that leaves from Washington DC and Rosslyn, VA that takes about 45 minutes and costs about $6. Since the airport is about 30 miles from Washington DC, leave lots of time for traffic hang ups.
The DC Metro system is really easy to use, and as long as you aren’t traveling during rush hour, getting around with your luggage should be pretty easy. DC traffic can be unpredictable so the DC Metro is really the best way to get around. Having a car is more of an inconvenience because you will need to pay to park it. Bring some change because not all of the meters accept credit cards. Street parking is free on Sundays and Holidays. You can usually get free 2 hour parking in Georgetown or some other neighborhoods. But be prepared to move you car to a paid spot after 2 hours. The DC Parking Enforcement have a pretty sophisticated system using your license plate number so you can’t just move your car to the next street.
Unique Things to Do and See in Washington DC
Tour of the Capital: You can request a tour of the Capital building from your congress rep. Approval might have a 4-6 week turn around time so you have to make the request early.
Tour the White House: I believe there is a 3 month lead time for tickets to tour part of the White House. Be prepared to give a lot of personal information so they can screen you!
See DC on a Double Decker: I’ve done the night tour on the Big Bus Tours. It’s a great way to see the city in 2.5 hours. If you have a couple of days it might be fun to get the full city tour. It’s also a great way to rest your feet after seeing all those museums!
Visit another country without leaving DC: Things to Do DC organizing everything from Embassy events, pub crawls to cooking classes. It’s a great way to mix with the locals and see a different side of DC beyond the historical stuff.
Local Art Events: Check out the Pinkline Project for interesting art and theater events.
Discounted Events and Activities: Visit Goldstar.com for discounted activity and theater tickets. Check back often, the list is always changing.
Try out New Restaurants: One of my favorite apps is Scoutmob or Scoutmob.com. Unlike Groupon or Living Social, Scoutmob doesn’t require you to purchase the deal ahead of time. Once you locate a participating restaurant you want to visit, just show the 50% off discount on your smart phone or print out a coupon from the web. It’s a great way to try new places!
I promise to write-up a full DC uncovered posting in the future. These are just a few highlights.