When you live in Las Vegas for awhile, This becomes your reality and you really need to escape it to realize that this is NOT how the rest of the world operates! The 24/7, the oddity is the normal, everything at your fingertips, etc… This little universe in the desert begins to seep into your soul and you begin to use it as a judgment point on the rest of the world.
Debbie and I recently went on an anniversary trip to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. This was not just a little weekend getaway. Oh, No. This was the full tourist deal. The whole “let’s disconnect from our reality and put ourselves firmly back into the normal person’s reality” type of a trip. We got to play tourist for a full week Actually eight days!
First up… We have a really cool airport in Las Vegas to begin a really long trip. It’s clean, wide open and always well lit.
TWith the opening of terminal 3 and the demolition of terminal 2, you forget just how small some of these older airports are and how antiquated they can be since the retrofits after 9/11. We flew into Reagan National and it reminded me of McCarran International Airport in the fact that it’s literally a stone’s throw from the heart of the tourist district.
Unfortunately, Reagan is about the size of old terminal 2 with not an inch of space to spare with all the security screening and TSA podiums. You get behind a person with a stroller and a piece of luggage and it’s like the Spaghetti bowl at 5 pm on a Friday. Bottleneck city.
Here, we are lucky the airport is close to the Strip and it has every airline known to the free world in one stop. McCarren is rated as one of the best in America for being delayed at. Reagan? Not so much.
Not Vegas Tourist Pricing
Did I mention it was cold there? Yes. I know. It’s March, what were we expecting? But you forget what cold really is when you leave the dry, aired desert for the humid east coast. Thankfully the Smithsonian Museum had some really nice winter jackets that were not Vegas Tourist priced! Actually, they were affordable. A shocker when you consider all the tourists that pack Washington Mall, the prices were not what I expected. They were less than expected. Including the food options (more on that in a minute).
We were actually doing the trip the beginning of March in order to avoid the tourist stampeded that was expected in head of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Think CES only blooming trees! We were hoping to avoid the crowds (we did), yet get a chance to see some of the famous blooms. We did see some, not many, but enough to satisfy Debbies desires and the crowds were actually manageable. And we never had to fight through a sea of selfie sticks because most museums banned them!!
Add to that, almost all of the museums are free. You don’t even need to have a park pass or anything. No upgrades or upsells. Some do have an IMax theater or other feature that has an extra fee, but all the Smithsonian museums and history museums are free.
We were warned by friends living in the area about the homeless “problem” Washington DC has in the tourist area and in the Metro tunnels. Seriously?? If what we saw was a “problem”, we should see if they will trade theirs for ours. It would make walking the Strip a whole lot less crowded. To be honest, it did feel a little strange being able to walk down the street or stand on a street corner and not get molested by homeless people, porn peddlers or time share vultures.
Taxi vs Uber vs Vegas
Our first full day there, we used a taxi to go from our hotel to the Washington Mall. The taxi wasn’t a rolling billboard. It was clean, it was well kept and it had a fresh car smell to it. What a difference from a typical Vegas cab.
Unlike Vegas, in Washington DC, you can pay by credit card and not get price gouged with an added credit card fee. They actually want you to use a credit card. The driver spoke English and instead of long hauling us, he just said he had no clue to where we wanted to go and started to drive off in the wrong direction.
So I decided to try Uber. I know, I must be the last person on earth who has not tried Uber yet! What a difference that was!! Good Bye Taxi, Here comes Uber! For 1/3 the price, we usually got a better ride, nice drivers, and a flat fee upfront. I didn’t care if they got lost or not.
We really weren’t going to get lost because I saw that most of our Uber drivers used the greatly improved Waze App. (Try it, you’ll like it) Out of 8 Uber rides, 2 were below par and the rest were all 5 stars. Uber even gave me an instant credit after one ride was unsatisfactory (seriously unsatisfactory).
FYI: You can tip the drivers, you just can’t do it on the app or by credit card, it has to be cash. Unfortunately, you can’t have a favorite driver. If so, we would have always used the first driver. It’s not a deal killer because all but one of the drivers was super easy to ride with and talk to when they felt like talking.
In Vegas, the drivers get an opportunity to make some extra referral cash by recommending places to go and see. They can offer the guests’ coupon books and flyers with the driver’s referral code on them. In DC, didn’t see any of that. No magazines or in car advertising. (missing and opportunity?)
It’s All real!
Remember when the Luxor gutted their “museum artifacts” and the Natural history museum made a big deal because they accepted the “actual artificial artifacts”? Yea. That kind of sums up Vegas doesn’t it?? But here in Washington DC, it’s all real.
When you’re in the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, you are not standing in front of a replica of the Space Shuttle Discovery, you’re standing next to the real thing. Burn marks and pot holes and all. – Just for the record, this museum is AWESOME and so worth the effort to go see it…
It’s 5 pm, So??
This is where we get spoiled in Las Vegas. Almost everything is open 24/7. In Washington DC, this is like last call, the town shuts down at 5pm. Worse yet, many of the stores and restaurants that close at 5, start getting ready to close early so that they can lock the doors by 5pm. What The ?? Restaurants on the Tourist corridor, the Washington Mall and around there. Good luck finding anything to eat before 10 am or after 4:30. Here we have a Walgreens, McDonald’s, or a taco bar almost on every corner. There? Far and few between. I know it keeps the visuals all clean and pretty. But for the tourist who got wrapped up in a museum and forgot to watch the clock, when you finally come up for air, you want to eat. You don’t want to hunt down a fancy restaurant 10 blocks away!
It’s like Vegas where we don’t have clocks or windows in the casinos; There, you get lost in the museum displays and artifacts, you forget the time or that you are starving after 5 hours of walking. Like Vegas, you walk and you walk, and you walk. You really need a good pair of comfortable shoes and a few protein bars packed away to survive a tourist trip to DC!
Being from Las Vegas and being in the tour business and being a tourist, you find yourself saying either “Vegas needs to do that” or “That’s not how we do it in Vegas” with nothing in between. You forget that not every town has a 24-hour open sign. That stores actually close on a nightly basis and that you can really survive without having a convenience store on every corner. And it may surprise certain CEO’s, but your business will survive if you don’t charge ten times the value of something just because you are selling it to a tourist. Tourists may actually buy more from you if you treat them right and charge a reasonable price.
In the Vegas tourist corridor and even in some of the suburbs, you are almost assured that no matter where you are or what time of day it is, there is a fast food franchise, a bar, a convenience store and a hooker that is open for business within a two block radius of you. That tends to spoil you if you live here and think that’s how it is every place else!
Eight days in our Nation’s capital was an amazing trip. It was nice to get away, detach from the craziness that is Las Vegas and see another part of this great country of ours without a tour group following behind me!!
Seeing how the rest of the world really lives and works kind of gives you an appreciation for what Vegas has and doesn’t have. Some may disagree with me. but it did give me something to think about. Las Vegas really is a town that truly does operate its own little universe and you really need to escape every so often to realize that!