Visitor Guide

Brief Practical Guide to Bethesda, MD and Washington DC

Questions about Bethesda, MD (the meeting place/hotel location) and Washington, DC (the City)? I’m your guy. After many years residing in Downtown DC and then living overseas I currently live in Downtown Bethesda and was raised not far away in Kensington, MD. Feel free to contact John Huey at jhuey92@yahoo.com.

Bethesda, MD is a high-end, high-income, urban area with retail to match the demographic. It’s booming and you still will see allot of construction going on in October 2020. New Metro Purple Line to Silver Spring/College Park going in, New Marriott Corporate HQ under construction as well as five or six other major developments under way, or nearing completion, near the hotel then.

The Bethesda Hyatt is a first class, recently (2018) renovated property with a good, below market rate of $129 for the convention. Hotel, therefore, is considerably cheaper than Toronto. Nearby, reasonably priced food choices abound, and it’s a very walkable environment with Bethesda Row http://bethesdarow.com/shop/ a block or so away.

A note on the Hotel vs Air B&B. Personally, I have found at our last two Conventions, in Austin and Toronto, that being in the hotel gives you the full Convention experience without the hassle of traveling to and from and with a easy place to “flake out” between meetings. In Santa Monica in 2014 there was no Convention Hotel and we found ourselves in a Marriot in Marina Del Ray battling LA traffic to get to the site. No fun at all. As to Air B&B, as of Summer 2019, there are few cheap single room choices near the hotel and most of the apartments are in luxury buildings in the $150-$350 a night range. Bethesda real estate is overheated now, and this won’t get better by October 2020. The cheap rooms in Downtown DC tend to be in “up and coming” areas that might be OK for the seasoned traveler but could prove both problematic and inconvenient for folks looking for comfort not to mention the transit times to the Convention. As to the outer Maryland suburbs, forget it! I’d rather be back in a room in Siberia. Anyway, a big part of our support for the Convention is in the number of room nights in the hotel. Please strongly consider booking the Hyatt. Better for you, better for the organization.

The location of the Hotel is perfectly situated for transportation with the Bethesda Red Line Metro literally downstairs from the Lobby exit. It should be fully Metro accessible from Dulles Airport (Silver Line extension to Dulles opens September/October 2020 and we have our fingers crossed on that) as well as Reagan National. BWI can also be reached by rail using the BWI MARC Railroad Station which connects directly to the Metro Red Line at Union Station. Uber and Lyft come almost instantly of course. There is a regular Taxi Stand in the Hotel driveway. One-way Uber from Dulles is about $45, from Reagan National, about $30 and from BWI around $75. Of interest to our International and other Members who may want to visit New York City (as well as our New York area resident members) there is a non-stop Bus direct to Bethesda from Penn Station with morning and evening departures and a 3.5-hour transit time both ways. Fare is about $35-$50 each way (depending on the time of day) and drop off/pick up is within easy walking distance from the hotel. Tripper Bus

If you insist on bringing a car (not advised unless you are used to DC streets and traffic) you can pay the Hotel in and out rate or use the far cheaper, brand new, very large, totally safe, Capital Crescent municipal underground garage (Bethesda Avenue or Woodmont Avenue entrances) three blocks away which is free on weekends on Saturday and Sunday (they start charging again at 7:00 AM Monday) and $1 an hour other times. Map to Garage

DC is a perfect place, of course, to tag on a day or two for sightseeing. As to cost if you are on a budget all major National Monuments, Smithsonian Museums and most Art Museums are free and all are easily accessible on Metro with fast transit times (Farragut North/White House 15 minutes, Metro Center or Gallery Place, around 20 minutes, Smithsonian 25-30 minutes) from the Hotel.

For free Art Museums few in the world can match the comprehensive collections of the National Gallery of Art in both the East and West buildings. The Hirschhorn on the Mall is one rich guys vision but is OK. The very interesting Freer Gallery next to the Smithsonian Castle is wonderful for Asian Art as is the Sackler Gallery (not the Oxycontin Sackler, the other one) for Islamic Art adjacent to the Freer. At Gallery Place Metro, (9th and F Street exit), is the National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art which is quite fine and is housed in the very historic Old Patent Office Building which was converted into a Hospital during the Civil War. Walt Whitman often visited wounded and dying soldiers there as a volunteer to write letters for them.

My favorite, however, is the Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle Phillips Collection (Dupont Circle Metro – Q Street Exit). This is, in my opinion, one of the very best smaller galleries anywhere and is, generally, a wonderful place. It’s not free but it’s worth it. Also, you can take a great walk in a great neighborhood without the crowds around the Mall which can be wearisome.

“Cool” areas, for nightlife and restaurants, are Downtown with my personal favorite still being Dupont Circle (Dupont Circle Metro) which was the site of my own bohemian “complications” of the 1970’s and is still a great place despite extreme gentrification. Adams Morgan (closest Metro Woodley Park but quite a walk from there) is also still interesting despite the aforementioned “gentrification” factor but still has a touch of the old funk. Newer, “hipper” areas include, most prominently, the streets all around 14th and U Street, NW, (U Street Metro), Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro and Eastern Market Metro up on Capitol Hill. H Street NE is also interesting. We will be posting a “things to do at night” list close to the Convention date and there will be handouts at check in.

The oldest neighborhood in DC is Georgetown and a walk through its historic streets and shopping areas along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue should not be missed. Of course, every Atheist should walk down the Exorcist Steps adjacent to Prospect Street near Georgetown University where you can also pay your respects to the Jesuits if you like.

One general note for the traveler…If you want to do allot of running around Downtown DC, other than for the free stuff, bring money. It’s not cheap but, then again, it’s not Manhattan, Paris or London.