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Washington, DC

GW Memorial ParkwayIf you want a change of pace and new things to do, jump in the car. A scenic drive showcasing the natural beauty of the Potomac River as well as a tribute to the nation's first president, the George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed to bring people closer to nature and connect them with history. Built on land acquired by the federal government in order to protect the Potomac shoreline, preserve its historic features and provide public recreation areas, the parkway functions as a major commuter route but is first and foremost a park.

By the time he became president in 1789, George Washington owned some 8,000 acres of land along the Potomac in Virginia, and one of his dreams for post-Revolutionary America was to make the river the commercial gateway to the West. Washington lobbied to build the Patowmack Canal, which would route boats safely around the “great falls” 30 miles upriver from his estate—today the site of popular Great Falls Park.

First Family Connections

Other points of interest have a connection to the founding father as well. Fort Hunt Park is located on what once was part of Washington's extensive tidal Potomac farmlands. Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial was the home of Washington's step-grandson George Washington Parke Custis and where Custis' daughter Mary and her husband, Robert E. Lee, lived until the Civil War broke out. Two other U.S. presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, are honored at Theodore Roosevelt Island and Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove.

The 16-mile Mount Vernon Memorial Highway between Arlington Memorial Bridge and George Washington's Mount Vernon opened in 1932, the bicentennial of Washington's birth. Renamed the George Washington Memorial Parkway by Congress, it was extended northward in the 1950s and ‘60s. The 7-mile Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland was completed in 1970. Approximately 7,600 acres of national parkland protect the native habitat of the Potomac shoreline.

Parks, Preserves and More

The 25-mile Virginia section of the parkway follows the Potomac River from Mount Vernon north to the junction with I-495 exit 43. The Maryland section also follows the river from Chain Bridge in Washington, D.C., to a point north of I-495 exit 41. Entrances to parks, wildlife preserves, attractions and other points of interest are directly off the parkway. Several scenic pull-offs are on the northbound side of the Virginia section north of the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge.

North of the District the Virginia side of the parkway was constructed high above the Potomac, winding through heavily wooded terrain that is particularly lovely in spring and fall. South of the District, after passing through downtown Alexandria, Va. (where it becomes Washington Street within the city limits) the parkway runs along the river, which at this point is much wider. Here paved, tree-lined Mount Vernon Trail, a popular cycling and jogging route, overlooks the Potomac's broad reaches.

Parkway speed limits range from 25 to 50 mph. Some stretches are narrow and winding. Signs designate points of interest and intersecting highway interchanges. For more information contact the George Washington Memorial Parkway c/o Turkey Run Park, McLean, VA 22101; phone (703) 289-2500.

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Washington, DC

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Travel Information

Population

601,723

Elevation

23 ft.

Sales Tax

The District of Columbia's sales tax is 6 percent. Additional increments are attached when purchasing alcohol, restaurant meals, rental cars, commercial parking and hotel rooms. The higher tax rates range from 10 to 18 percent. The sales tax in neighboring Maryland is 6 percent and Virginia taxes range from 4.3 to 7 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

311 in Washington, D.C., or (202) 727-9099

Hospitals

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, (202) 444-2000; The George Washington University Hospital, (202) 715-4000; Howard University Hospital, (202) 865-6100; Sibley Memorial Hospital, (202) 537-4000; MedStar Washington Hospital Center, (202) 877-7000.

Visitor Information

1133 21st St. N.W. Suite M200 Washington, DC 20036. Phone:(202)347-7201

Air Travel

Visitors arriving by plane can land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

Rental Cars

Rental car agencies in Washington are numerous; most have conveniently located offices in the city and nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (800) 654-3080.

Rail Service

Trains pull into the

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 50 Massachusetts Ave. N.E.; phone (202) 289-5141.

Taxis

Taxicabs in Washington are metered.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus or subway is available in Washington.

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