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Discovering D.C. A Breeze Aboard Weekend Train

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RACHEL CHISM
The Capital

ODENTON, Md. (AP) — For Beverly Richardson of Severna Park, a weekend visit to the nation’s capital is now hassle-free.

While only about 30 miles away, fighting traffic and paying for costly parking had discouraged her and countless other area residents from making the trip. Richardson said she had given up really enjoying Washington.

“It’s just too overbearing for me to drive in, find a parking space and pay a $20 fee,” Richardson said.

But that all changed last month when the Maryland Transit Administration began offering weekend MARC train service to Union Station in Washington, making the city an accessible destination for a quick getaway. For $10 round-trip, the train will take you from the Odenton Train Station to Union Station in under 30 minutes. (Weekend service also is offered to and from Penn Station in Baltimore — more on that later.)

After traveling on the train earlier this month to visit the National Archives Museum with her sons, Richardson already is planning summer trips with her family using the MARC train. “It’s a whole new renaissance as far as getting into D.C.,” Richardson said.

“When we caught the train on the morning, my son and other families had to stand up it was so crowded. I think this is what people are looking for. It’s so convenient. It’s a no-brainer,” she said.

For other area families looking to enjoy the District of Columbia, your southbound trip starts at the Odenton station, where there is free parking. There are nine trains running to the district and back on Saturdays, and six on Sundays. The train departs as early as 7:59 a.m. on Saturday mornings and the last train heads back at 10:30 p.m., getting you into Odenton at 10:59 p.m.

Once on board, sit back (if the seats are not all taken) and relax as the train makes just two more quick stops along the way before ending in Union Station.

For those who are limited on time, Union Station itself has enough for a quick trip into the district. Featuring an upscale shopping mall with stores like Jos. A. Bank and Swarovski Crystal, the station also is home to several tourist shops including the Smithsonian Shop, which features products offered in the museums and the National Zoo.

For great views of the station and unbeatable people watching, dine at the Center Cafe, which features a weekend happy hour from 3 p.m. to close. House wines and beer are half price. No time to sit down? Union Station is home to several fast-food favorites including Chipotle, Au Bon Pain and Chop’t.

Old Town Trolley picks up in front of Union Station every half hour, taking visitors throughout the city along 20 different stops. The cost is $39 for adults and $29 kids ages 4 to 12.

You can also catch the Metro at Union Station for transportation to other parts of the city.

There are a number of other places to visit within a short jaunt from Union Station. NoMa, an up-and-coming neighborhood, is an easy walk to the east of Union Station. Categorized by large modern glass buildings and home to the new NPR building, the expanding neighborhood boasts the newly rejuvenated Union Market at 1309 5th St. NE.

Union Market hosts nearly 40 artisan shops and vendors surrounded by fine-dining options that bring in visitors from all around.

“It’s a blend of vendors who have been juried and selected to offer products that are fresh, as local as can be, and sustainable,” said Lynn Voight, owner of All Things Olive.

Visitors flock to Rappahannock Oyster Co. oyster bar to get locally farmed oysters that are served in hundreds of restaurants across the United States. The Union Market location hosts one of the three Rappahannock restaurants that boast a weekly-changing menu and phenomenal chefs.

“People keep coming back to us. Food-wise, everyone always leaves happy,” said general manager Jean Paul Sabatier.

Food truck vendors Takorean and DC Empanadas also have set up stands at the market. Red Apron Butchery serves cuts from animals that are raised sustainably and are humanely treated. “I know it’s stuff you can’t find elsewhere,” said Voight.

Also at Union Market is Bidwell, a 120-seat, full-service restaurant which, later this spring and summer, will feature vegetables and herbs grown on the building’s roof. Sort of roof-to-table rather than farm-to-table. On the weekends, Bidwell’s will be open for brunch and dinner.

On your way to the market be sure to take a quick coffee break at the friendly neighborhood coffee shop, Ebenezers, at 201 F St. NE. Owned by the National Community Church, all profits go toward community projects.

Also just a short walk from Union Station is Capitol Hill, the political center of Washington, home to landmark buildings and attractions for visitors.

Or go to the Old Post Office Pavilion, one of the district’s hidden gems. Greeted by friendly guides, visitors will take a 12-story glass elevator to the observation deck for a 360-degree view of the city. If you want to enjoy the pavilion, at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, go now. It was leased to Donald Trump and will become a luxury hotel, so it will be closing this spring.

Also consider a visit to the Library of Congress at 101 Independence Ave. SE. Myesha Stephney-Dorsey and her husband Dawan Dorsey, who are stationed at Fort George G. Meade, traveled on the MARC to research their genealogy.

“We’re in the heart of information, literature and research and we wanted to take advantage of that,” said Stephney-Dorsey.

History junkies and foodies alike should take a trip to the icon of historic dining, the Old Ebbitt Grille. This charming upscale restaurant is located at 675 15th St. NW, just blocks away from the White House. The former boarding house reportedly once housed President William McKinley. These days, don’t be surprised if you spot a well-known politician, actor or musician dining there.

For families traveling with kids, the International Spy Museum at 800 F St. NW is a must-stop. Packed with interactive exhibits and films, this museum is worth the price of admission. James Bond fans will love the newest exhibit, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains” that allows visitors to disarm “bombs.”

Hungry? Head next door to Shake Shack for a burger and an impressive list of shakes.

The Verizon Center at 601 F St. NW, home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards, also hosts various concerts and entertainment events throughout the year. Jay-Z’s Magna Carter World Tour makes a stop there on Jan. 16. Check out Living Social and Groupon for discounted tickets to events.

The Chinatown area, at 701 9th St. NW, is a tapas-lover’s retreat. Located next to Gallery Place Chinatown Metro is Zaytinya, a small-plates Mediterranean restaurant with fair prices and an extensive drink list. Sister tapas restaurants, Jaleo (Spanish) and Oyamel (Mexican) are in the Chinatown area as well.

These are just a few suggested stops for your weekend train visit to Washington. And like the Rendina family from Gambrills, you’ll need more than one trip to enjoy them all.

Rebecca Rendina took the MARC train last month to visit the Smithsonian Museums with her family. “I don’t go to D.C. enough,” she said. “But this (the MARC train) is perfect and I’m so excited. I am absolutely going to take advantage of D.C. now.”

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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