a VirtualTourist member
My family will be visiting Washington DC and staying either in DC or in Arlington by the Metro next month.
We will be using the Metro to get around during our visit.
My concern and question is what areas should we avoid and what areas are safe to visit and choose to stay in at a hotel?
Thanks in advance for any information you can share!
You can go to Wolftrap Farm Park , C & O Canal , Great Falls Park and Georgetown.
Most of the things you want to see in DC are in "safe" areas. Arlington, either out the Orange line or near National Airport in the Crystal City, even farther south down the Blue and Yellow lines to Alexandria are safe areas. There are some nice hotels around the King Street Metro station. The area around the Mall, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Supreme Court and Library of Congress are safe areas of town. There are some rough neighborhoods north and east of Union Station and south and east of the capital. That being said, I will ride a bike through most of these areas in the middle of the day.
DC is a major city and has the typical risks of a big city with big crowds.A few basic big city precautions help. Don't carry a wallet in a back or outside pocket, be extra careful with smartphones and tablet comuters, they are favorites of grab and run thieves. I carry both and I have never had a problem, but my phone is always in a closed bag or inside pocket. Don't leave a purse or bag hanging on the back of a chair, especially along a walkway, or it may walk away. Stay on busy streets, don't wander around marginal areas after dark. Stay aware of your surroundings, if you feel uncomfortable, move to a well lit area with more people around. Pick pockets tend to work in crowds, when in crowds make sure that items that could be easily lifted are hard to get to, the pick pockets are looking for an easy target.
The locals can spot a tourist from a block away. If you talk on the Metro, 90% chance you are a tourist.
DC is becoming "gentrified", and the formerly "bad" neighborhoods just east of the Capitol are slowly being turned over. Actually, we had lunch east of the Capitol a year or two ago, and the neighborhood was busy busy with a lot of lunch traffic. And north of Union Station, the construction of the new convention center is changing that neighborhood as well.
Are there still "bad" neighborhoods? Sure, they're just being pushed out. And as David listed, most of the areas near places that visitors would want to see - the White House, the Capitol, the Smithsonian, the Mall, Georgetown, and so on - are busy, full of tourists, and plenty of police as well.
Note David's reference to Arlington and Alexandria. We are in Alexandria once or twice a year (the Official Spousal Unit's mother lives in Alexandria), and a number of people try to stay in Virginia to save money on hotels, since the Metro is really convenient (it's a real public transit success story for the US).
Yes, the King Street station area in Alexandria has itself been sharply gentrified, and is now full of hotels, restaurants, businesses, and yuppies. :-0
So, in addition to being able to perhaps save some money by staying here and taking the Metro in, the near edge of Old Town Alexandria is just a quarter mile away and is an easy walk. Old Town itself is a fun place to walk around and eat (and both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were here!). And I don't know if it matters to you, but the Alexandria Amtrak station is just across the road (or under a bridge, anyway) from the King Street metro station.
Also note that there is a Metro station AT Washington Reagan/National Airport, which is really convenient for visitors to the DC area.
Just to re-enforce what has been said, I visited D.C. before the gentrified efforts began. I traveled all round the city by Metro feeling quite safe and never bothered by anything or anyone.
When I told my Aunt, who live and worked in D.C., where I had gone, sShe freaked out! She told me that several of the stops I made were in really dangerous areas.
They were ethnically diverse, which I am quite used to, but seemed safe enough to me at the time. As mentioned, any city in any country can have it's dangers or parts that might not be interesting to tourits, but unless there is an active war going on, most people need only to be aware of their surroundings at any given time and behave prudently.
Have fun in D.C. it is a beautiful City and a trip to Alexandria is worth seeing.
I was there in 2009 with a group of high school students. We were mostly out during the daytime and we never felt in any danger. We explored most of the tourist places--monuments and memorials, the Smithsonian museums, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the National Mall, the Chinatown and U Street neighborhoods, etc. as well as the Arlington National Cemetery and Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington and we didn't have any problems. We used the Metro to get a lot of places and it was perfectly safe. This must have been before the 'gentrification' efforts as well. Basically just be smart and use common sense and you should be just fine, like anywhere else. :)