As a resident of D.C., I figured I'd whip up a list for loyal MNN readers of things to consider if you're visiting this fine city for the Rally to Restore Sanity.

1. Breaking the law on the National Mall

You wouldn’t know it from Washington’s crime rate, but at least around the National Mall, it's hard to get away with much. Between the Secret Service, the Capitol Police, the National Park Service, the Department Interior guys, the actual Metro Police Department, and a few other agencies that I don’t even know about, the place is crawling with law enforcement. So if you're planning on drinking, openly smoking some grass or just causing mischief, I would recommend you do it elsewhere. I certainly don’t want to sound like anyone’s mom, but the Mall on any day of the week has to be the most heavily patrolled area in the country, excluding the 5-foot radius around Charlie Sheen. 

2. Getting rid of waste: Trash and poop

The National Mall is canvassed with trash cans and recycling bins. They are almost always right next to each other. Green is for trash and blue is for recyclables. Throwing your trash on the ground will simply result in some government agency spending time cleaning up your mess. As for literal human waste, there will be port-o-potties all over the place. While there won’t be as many at the Jon Stewart rally as there were at the Obama inauguration, there will be plenty of places for you to do your business. So don’t go in the reflection pool, the running paths or behind a tree. Some of us like to enjoy the National Mall, and a few others even live there.

3. Bring food

There are always a few street vendors selling hot dogs and the like around the National Mall, but if I had a dollar for every tourist who asked me for tips on a place to get a bite around the Mall, I’d have at least 20 bucks; and I've only been here a year. The Mall is notorious for its lack of munchie offerings. So pack a lunch, and enjoy the rally on a full stomach.

 

4. It’s going to be beautiful — perhaps you should bike around?

This isn’t just me being a super-green pro-biking weirdo. (OK, maybe it is, but northwest D.C. is a very bike-friendly place.) If you don’t have a bike, Washington has an amazing new bike-share program; in fact it is the largest in the nation. All you need is a credit card (to keep you from stealing the bike) and you can sign up for a $5 day pass. Here’s a link for all the information you need to take advantage of this amazing new program. Of course, the Washington, D.C., city government does a pretty awful job providing people with maps of the routes, but here is one link to bike routes, and here is a better one for the downtown area around the rally. You can’t ride on the sidewalks (legally) in D.C., so wear a helmet, and watch out for cabs. And speaking of cabs…

5. Things to know about cab drivers

For the most part, cabs in D.C. are decent, but they aren’t like New York City cab drivers. They are kind of the junior varsity cabbie team, while all the studs are playing on the major league team in NYC. They do take credit and debit cards, but they will almost universally give you an attitude if you ask them to use that 1980s carbon copy machine that is buried under their captain's chair. Also, they don’t always know where they are going and don’t always have a GPS system, so it’s best to know where you are heading — because they may not, and the meter will run. Lastly, if you are traveling by cab from downtown to outside of the district, shop around for the best cab price. You should be able to get to the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland without spending more than $30, and you should never spend more than $20 for getting anywhere within northwest D.C.

6. The Metro can throw you curveballs

The DC Metro system is a great resource for getting from wherever you are staying to the National Mall, but it will be crowded, and none of the recommended stops are right on the Mall. But don’t worry — there will be volunteers at the Federal Center, L’Enfant Plaza, Archives-Navy Memorial and the Federal Triangle stops to direct you from the stations to the National Mall. Also remember that it wouldn’t be a weekend in Washington without delays caused by maintenance on the Metro. Metro has already issued warnings to plan for an extra half hour of travel on the system because of work on platforms, rail bridges and the rails themselves on all lines. If you are still going to take the Metro, it’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time. That's right, tickets. You can’t just put cash in the turn-styles. Instead, you have to get a pass at a machine located inside a station. Ten dollars should be plenty for getting around for a day and a half, but using the machines is kind of annoying and usually requires some time in line, so if you are planning to Metro around all weekend, 20 bucks is probably worth it. Lastly, when you’re on the escalators in the Metro, walk on the left side and stand on the right. If you fail to comply with this rule, you will be treated like some out-of-season Cherry Blossom Festival tourist.


7. Have a blast

Washington, D.C., is a great place and a beautiful city. And it’s a Saturday, so your experience is even less likely to be ruined by lobbyists, Beltway insiders and members of the Heritage Foundation. Enjoy the show!

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