All Roads Lead to OTAKON!

This FAQ is aimed at those getting to Otakon by means other than driving themselves. Basically, it’s a guide to get you to Otakon using the Washington-area public transportation systems; of course, taxis are another option. Also included are a few tips for those driving to Otakon.

NOTE! The information on this page has been largely written by our amazing community. It contains consolidated tips from Otakon Members, Volunteers and Washington-area transportation specialists. We hope this will serve as a useful guide for those of you new to the area and we make every effort to ensure accuracy. However, Otakon can not bear responsibility for last-minute changes (schedules, fares, highway conditions, etc.) Prices quoted are from various official online sources at the time of writing, but make sure you have a little extra with you just in case.

Here are a few highlights on major updates from last year for your consideration:

  • This guide has been updated to focus on the Washington DC area, now that Otakon is moving to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
  • WMATA Safetrack is scheduled to wrap up by the end of June 2017, and the new hours for Metrorail will go into effect in July. Metrorail will close on Monday-Thursdays at 11:30 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 1:00 AM, and Sundays at 11:00 PM starting July 1, 2017. Still, expect delays on Metro during the summer season.
  • Metro announced changes to fares, schedules and system hours that will take effect on June 25, 2017.  More information on their website, but of note is the B30 bus from BWI Airport-Greenbelt is now running every 60 minutes and they are eliminating Saturday and Sunday service.

Public transportation in Washington tends not run late at night, and Metro shuts down at 11:30 PM weeknights (Mon-Thurs) and 1:00 AM weekends (Fri-Sat), so those staying at hotels not within walking distance from the WEWCC  may have to use alternate methods of getting back to their rooms at night. 



Introduction and Quick Notes

Important Notes Before Starting

map_hiroko.gif As stated at the top of the document, all efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, but Otakon cannot be responsible for last-minute changes or emergencies such as construction, traffic jams, disasters, tsunami, blizzards, giant lizard attacks…. You get the idea. Please plan accordingly.

Not all transit or transportation services operate on the same schedules on weekends versus weekdays. Some operations do not operate at all on weekends. Please consult all applicable schedules to be certain.

For the purposes of your Internet map services or GPS:

  • The Walter E. Washington Convention Center (WEWCC) is where Otakon will take place and is your ultimate destination.  The street address is: 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, DC 20001.
  • Buses, Amtrak, and commuter trains all go to the same place: Union Station. Union Station is in downtown Washington, D.C. at 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, about 1 mile east of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (at Arlington, VA 22202) is about 5 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., on the George Washington Memorial Parkway)
  • Dulles International Airport is located about 27 miles west of Washington, D.C. at 1 Saarinen Cir, Dulles, VA 20166
  • BWI Airport (at BWI Airport, MD 21240) is about 30 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. at the south/east end of I-195.

For those of you not driving to the con, you might have noticed that the official hotels downtown, do not, as a rule, offer shuttle/limo services to the airport. The hotels near the airport do, but possibly only to the airport and back! Don’t worry, there are public transportation options from all the airports. At least you won’t have to deal with parking. 

So, assuming you can make it to the Washington D.C. region, how the heck are you gonna cover those last few miles/meters/cubits to Otakon?

A NOTE ON TEAMWORK (aka Team-work makes the dream work!)
Hiroko & Hiroshi We suspect that many of you will be traveling to Otakon with friends - they can really help make the journey more affordable!  However, if by some chance you are traveling solo and you need to travel via taxi or mass transit to downtown, we suggest you travel on and come off the bus/plane/train looking very obviously Otakon-bound. Wear an anime-themed tee shirt. Carry a manga. Hold a sign saying something like “Going to Otakon” (not “glomp me”). When you do arrive, look around for fellow otaku and consider approaching them and offering to split a taxi ride to the WEWCC/hotel or perhaps walking together.

There is safety in numbers. Every taxi should be able to handle two or three otaku plus their luggage/gear. Even if you never see that otaku again, you’ve just made a $9 taxi fare into a $3 or $6 fare. And maybe that stranger is a friend you haven’t met. (Please use judgment and discretion in this as well.)

You may also want to check the “Ride Central” forum of the Otakon Bulletin Board to look for ride-sharing buddies, bus charter plans, or other possible ways to combine efforts.


ARRIVING VIA TRAIN

aka “Where the heck am I NOW?” -or- “Otakon Express 999”

DC Metro (WMATA)

DC Metro Logo The Metro is the easiest way in and out of the city - plus you don't have to deal with parking!  The closest station is Mt. Vernon Sq / 7th St-Convention Center on the Yellow and Green lines.

To ride metro, you're going to need a SmartTrip® card to pay for your fare.  You can purchase at the card at any station, but you can save time by planning ahead and ordering online via their website.  The price for the trip will vary based on how far you travel and the time of day, but you can use their Trip Planner to price things out.

You can also download a copy of the Metro Map to help you plan where you're going.

Tip: Save money by staying at a hotel a little futher away from the convention center, but near the Metro!  Our Hotels page has a list of hotels where we've negotiated discounted room rates for Otakon members, but also check out this useful site that lists hotels by their distance from a metro stop: http://hotelsneardcmetro.com/

Amtrak, MARC, VRE

All Amtrak, VRE, and MARC trains from Baltimore arrive at UNION STATION, on the Metro Red Line. (Hey, this is where all the Greyhound buses stop as well!) Again, you could take Metrorail, DC Circulator, or – if you're feeling your oats – you can walk the mile due NORTHWEST.

For schedules and fares check:

NOTES TO REMEMBER ON MARC

  1. Only the MARC Penn Line runs 7 days a week. MARC Camden Line trains operate on WEEKDAYS ONLY!
  2. The fare is $8 one-way from Baltimore to DC, less from stops in between. Make sure you get your tickets before you board the train. Buying your tickets on the train will cost you $5 more, and it is cash only on board.

NOTES TO REMEMBER ON VRE

  1. All VRE trains operate on WEEKDAYS ONLY! You will need to take an Amtrak train if you are leaving on Sunday.
  2. Fares vary depending on what startion you start from. The fare is $11.55 from Fredericksburg and $9.50 from Manassas to DC, and less from stops in between. You MUST purchase a ticket before you board the train because no tickets are sold on the train. Make sure you have your ticket validated when you purchase it. (The machine will prompt you to do so when you purchase your ticket.)

ARRIVING VIA BUS

aka “Where the heck am I NOW?” -or- “Another One Rides the (Neko) Bus”

Greyhound

All Greyhound buses now arrive at Union Station. From this bus terminal, there are three options: city transit (Metrorail/Metrobus/Circulator), taxi, or walking. More on these options are below.

BoltBus

BoltBus is a low-cost bus service service Boston, New York, Newark, and Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. The BoltBus stop in Washington, D.C. is Union Station. To reserve a ride and get the cheapest price, go to www.boltbus.com. You can also go directly to the bus and pay to board, but it costs more to do so. BoltBus offers reserved seating, free Wi-Fi, plenty of legroom, plug-in outlets at every seat, and most standard amenities found on a motor coach: restroom, air conditioning, panoramic views, etc.

BoltBus also offers charter bus services. If you contact BoltBus, a travel coordinator will assist in arranging exclusive use of one of the buses. All the extra amenities are included. It is noted that weekend availability may be limited, so a group that may want a chartered bus for Otakon may want to call in advance to see if the group can reserve a BoltBus.

ICC Commuter Bus

The ICC 201 bus travels between BWI and Shady Grove Metro for only $5 (one-way) and leaves every hour, on the hour, between 9AM and 11PM.  Unlike the B30, the ICC 201 operates on weekends and holidays as well.  While it may not be the fastest way to get to DC, for $5 it's not bad for those looking to save a little $$$.

Find out more here: https://mta.maryland.gov/sites/default/files/201June2015.pdf


GETTING FROM UNION STATION TO THE CON

aka “Where the heck am I NOW?” -or- “The transit colors of Otakon”

Union Station is the central hub of transportation into and out of Washington, D.C. This makes getting to D.C. easy, and getting to the WEWCC even easier. There 3 public transportation options to get from Union Station to the convention center, Metrorail, Metrobus, and the DC Circulator. Additionally, you can take a taxi or, if you’re feeling adventurous, walk (Union Station is about a mile from the convention center).

Metrorail
Union Station is on Metro’s Red Line.  You will want to get on the Red Line toward Shady Grove (NOT Glenmont) and change to the Yellow or Green lines at Gallery Place. From there, it’s one stop to the north to the Mt Vernon Square / 7th St-Convention Center stop. Use a train in the direction of Fort Totten or Greenbelt to get you there. The fare is $2.15.

Metrobus
Take the number 80 bus to McPherson Square from North Capitol St. and Massachusetts Ave. Get off at H St. NW and 9th St. NW and walk north 2 blocks to the WEWCC. The fare is $1.75.

DC Circulator
DC Circulator’s Georgetown-Union Station line. You would want to get off at the Massachusetts Ave/7th Street (or 9th Street) stops. Bus runs 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM with additional service to 2:00 AM. The fare is $1.00.

Taxi
If you are short on time or running late, there is also a taxi stand outside Union Station. When you get there and claim your luggage, walk outside. You will see a line of taxis (mostly yellow). Walk up to the one in the front, tell them where you want to go (Walter E. Washington Convention Center, specific hotel, etc.) and ask what the approximate fare is before you get in so you know how deep you’re getting into from the start. Most drivers will err on the side of caution when estimating. A trip during rush hour might cost somewhat more, since the driver might spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. After that, get in and let him do his job.

The average taxi fare from the Union Station to the WEWCC is around $6. The distance from Union Station to the Mount Vernon Place entrance is 1.1 miles. Nearby hotels (Sheraton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) may cost you a dollar or three more, depending on distance. And please be nice and add an extra dollar or two for the driver’s tip. Maybe two if you have him loading and unloading a lot of luggage. It sounds expensive, but tips are where they really make their living, just like waitresses and pizza delivery guys. We suggest you pay for your taxi fare in cash so as not to allow the taxi driver to possibly overcharge you for the fare and tip.

Uber and Lyft are also options from the Union Station. Fares using Uber or Lyft to the hotels around the WEWCC range around $6-$8.

Walking
You can walk from the bus terminal to the WEWCC; it’s a simple one-mile walk on Massachusetts Avenue walking toward the northwest. You just walk down Massachusetts Avenue to 7th St NW, which is where the Carnegie Library is. Make a right and you will see the WEWCC looming on the left. 

Walking to the WEWCC from Union Station is possible, but a word of caution: given typical DC-area summertime weather (hot and muggy), and especially if you are carrying a lot of luggage/props with you, you may want to use alternate means to get from Union Station to the WEWCC. The bus or cab fare you’ll spend will most likely be the best money you’ve ever spent. (Again, look for fellow otaku with which to share rides.)


ARRIVING VIA AIRPORT

“Where the heck am I NOW?” or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the WMATA”

PLEASE NOTE: By now you have heard about the adventures of flying in the years since 9/11; the TSA checkpoints, the carry-on requirements, the long lines, the mostly abysmal airline customer service.... Some of it is exaggerated, but for your own sake, we strongly advise doing research on airline travel. (What to take, what not to take, which airlines charge for extra bags, etc.) This could be a serious issue in the case of (for example) cosplay costume details, props, or items you'll buy in the Dealer's Room at Otakon (swords, jewelry, etc.)

Your fellow otaku can help make the cost cheaper if they ride with you.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is a domestic airport located in Arlington, VA, just outside of Washington, DC. It has 3 terminals, Terminal A which was originally built in 1941, and Terminal B/C, which were added in 1997. Reagan has a total of 44 gates: 9 in Terminal A, and 35 in Terminal B/C.

Transportation Options from Reagan

Metrorail
Reagan National Airport has an elevated rail platform just outside Terminals B and C which is serviced by the Blue Line and Yellow Line. There are pedestrian walkways from Terminals B and C to the platform. If you are coming from Terminal A, just take an Airport Shuttle from the street. To get to the WEWCC from here, you can take the Fort Totten bound Yellow Line straight to Mt. Vernon Sq. 7th St – Convention Center.

Taxi
Taxis can be found outside any baggage claim area at the airport. The estimated fare of a taxi to the WEWCC is about $16. You can also call an Uber or Lyft to pick you up at the airport.

Wheelchair accessible taxis are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and if there is not one around another can be sent out upon request. If this is a service you will need, it is recommended to call the taxi dispatch at 703-417-4333 at least 24 hours ahead of time. to be sure these taxis will be in service

Driving
Here are the directions from DCA to the WEWCC in the event you wish to rent a car or get a ride that weekend. Just keep in mind that parking in downtown DC is scarce and expensive.

  1. Exit via George Washington Parkway North. Stay on this road for about 2 miles.
  2. Take the exit for I-395 North to take you into Washington, DC.
  3. Stay on I-395 North in the right lanes. You will be going through a huge tunnel.
  4. Take Exit 10 on the right side to Massachusetts Avenue NW. At the top of the ramp, turn left.
  5. In about half a mile, you’ll turn right on 7th Street NW, and you’ll see the convention center straight ahead on your left.

 

Washington Dulles International Airport

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) originally opened in 1962 and is located in Dulles, VA, about 30 miles outside of DC. It is named after John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State under the 34th President of United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has 139 gates and directly services 49 international destinations.

Transportation Options from Dulles

Metrorail
Metrorail is currently working on extending the Silver Line to Dulles. The station is projected to open sometime in 2020. Until then, a shuttle bus operated by Washington Flyer called “The Silver Line Express” connects Dulles to the Wiehle-Reston East Station. The bus is $5 one-way, and runs every 15 minutes during peak times and every 20 minutes during off-peak times just outside of the Arrivals Terminal at Door 4. To get to the WEWCC this way, take the Largo Town Center bound Silver Line to L’Enfant Plaza. Then take the Yellow Line to Mt. Vernon Square 7th St. – Convention Center.

Metrobus
The Metrobus 5A is an express bus from Dulles to D.C., making limited stops along the way. The bus stop is on the second curb after exiting the ramp from baggage claim. To get to the WEWCC this way, take the 5A to the last stop at L’Enfant Plaza. Then walk half a block west to the L’Enfant Metro Station and take the Yellow Line to Mt. Vernon Square 7th St. – Convention Center.

Taxi
Taxis are located just outside the Doors 2 and 6 at the Arrivals Terminal. The estimated fare cost to the WEWCC is $60-$68. You can also call an Uber or Lyft to pick you up at the airport.

Driving
Here are the directions from IAD to the WEWCC in the event you wish to rent a car or get a ride that weekend. Just keep in mind that parking in downtown DC is scarce and expensive.

  1. Follow Saarnin Circle to Dulles Access Rd.
  2. Continue on Dulles Access Rd for 14.2 miles, then merge onto VA-267E
  3. In 2.3 miles, merge on I-66E. Stay right, then take the exit for E St. on the left.
  4. Turn left onto 18th St.
  5. Turn right onto H St.
  6. Turn left onto 14th St. NW
  7. Turn right onto L St. NW
  8. Slight right onto Massachusetts Ave. NW
  9. Continue onto Mt. Vernon Place NW. The convention center will be on your left.

 

Baltimore-Washington International Airport

(Okay, so technically it's “Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport” - great guy and all but it's too much of a mouthful. Henceforth, “BWI”.)

BWI Airport (BWI) is a massive, well-equipped airport, complete with lots of food and information options. Throughout the airport, there are maps. If you want a guide, look for a purple-topped brochure called “Terminal Map and Guide.” Please note – many of the better food/drink selections are on the concourses before exiting the secured side of the airport through the TSA checkpoints. If you like the looks of that pizza or beer or souvenir, get it right away and do not assume you can come back and get it later!

If this if your first time in Maryland, welcome! We suggest a stop at the Maryland Information Center, located on the ground level (arrivals) between Baggage Claims 3-6 and 7-9. They should be able to provide you with answers to any questions you may have and items such as state highway maps, Baltimore maps, Light Rail timetables, and tourist brochures (especially important if you have people with you with no interest in Otakon, like parents!)

For those who are fascinated with air travel and transportation, there's an observation gallery on the upper level (departures) between Concourses B and C. It is highly recommended if time permits.

A Meditation Lounge is available for airport patrons from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM daily on the upper level, next to an elevator between the Delta counter and the International Terminal. This is available for your prayer, meditation, or other spiritual and/or quiet needs.

Transportation Options from BWI:

MARC train
The MARC operates 7 days a week, though it is on a reduced schedule during the weekends. To get from BWI to Washington, D.C., take the shuttle bus from the terminal to the BWI train station. From there, catch the southbound Penn line to Washington D.C., Union Station. The fare is $7.

WMATA Metro Shuttle
The Metro now offers BWI Express Metro bus service between BWI and Greenbelt Metro Station. There are two bus stops, one on the lower level of the International Concourse, and one on the lower level of Concourse A/B. The B30 bus picks up in front of the bus shelter every 60 minutes from around 7am - 10pm, Monday to Friday.  Check the WMATA website for exact timetables.  From Greenbelt Station, take the Green Line Mt. Vernon Sq/7th St – Convention Center. The Express bus fare service is $7.50.  Note: starting June 25th, Metrobus has eliminated weekend service for the B30.

Airport Shuttle
There is also a "Super Shuttle" van (you've probably seen them at airports before) that runs from the airport to wherever. This, however, is a bit more expensive: $16 single and round trip for the first person, $15 for each additional person. Between 9:00 AM and 2:00 AM, go to the Ground Transportation desk (BWI lower level) and ask for help; otherwise call 888-826-2700 and set up a reservation. You may need to call from your hotel in order to make sure they stop to pick you up for your return: call 888-826-2700 or, better yet, ask your hotel concierge.

The shuttle may also be reserved (at least 24 hours in advance )at 1-800-258-3826 or www.supershuttle.com, with a slightly more complex pricing scheme. This might be necessary if you want to get there outside of the MTA-LR operating hours (especially on Sunday) or don't care for public transportation, but you'll have to do further research yourself.

As with any form of transportation, if you have a schedule to keep (like, say, a plane to catch), make sure you allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination. People (ahem) have missed flights due to cutting things too close or unanticipated delays. Smoggy the Boar says: Don't let this happen to you!

Taxi and Uber
If you decide to spurn the walking/public transportation route and decide you need a taxi, check out http://yp.yahoo.com. Enter your LOCATION as "Washington, DC" (or use one of the hotel addresses from the web page) and then do a search for "taxi" — you should get about 3 dozen. Also note that prices should not change for a group if they all get on/off at the same locations. Most taxis can accommodate three persons in comfort, four if they don't mind getting close in the back seat. However, factor in luggage in the trunk or on laps as well.

Note that not all of the taxi services will pick you up everywhere! They can drop you off most anywhere, but only airport licensees can pick you up at the airport, and only city licensees can pick you up downtown. Call ahead (or print out the whole list) to make sure you have one that will get you from point A to point B.

Uber is also an option – its drivers can pick you up from the arrivals area from Fares will vary depending on time of day, but generally, the fare from the airport to the WEWCC is around $50. Check Otakon's website closer to the convention. Last year, Uber offered first-time users a $20 credit for the first ride, which means you could be traveling from the airport to Otakon on Uber's dime! Check out www.uber.com for more information on their app and service.

Driving
Here are the directions from BWI to the WEWCC in the event you wish to rent a car or get a ride that weekend. Just keep in mind that parking in downtown DC is scarce and expensive.

  1. Take I-95W to Exit 4B for I-95S
  2. Stay on 1-95S to exit 22B for Balt/Wash Pkwy toward Washington
  3. Merge onto US-50W/New York Ave. NE toward Washington
  4. Continue on New York Ave to Mt. Vernon Place. 
  5. Continue on Mt. Vernon Place. The convention center will be on your right.

PARK & RIDE

aka “Where the Heck am I NOW?” -or- “Session 5: Commuter Blues”

Parking in downtown Washington DC can be very expensive, even more so than Baltimore. Most hotels will quote at least $16/day, with some as much as $35/day. If you wish to bite the bullet and park downtown, check out Spot Hero to purchase multi-day parking in advance. Otakon has at times offered a special for convention parking, so make sure to check the website if they will offer some savings for parking.

A good option for cheaper (or free) parking would be to park a car at one of the many remote parking lots along Metrorail and riding into town. If you go to wmata.com you can find Metrorail maps, Metrobus schedules, what public transportation is available near the Convention Center, and what parking is available at the various Metrorail stops.

This option works best if there are only 1-2 persons in the car and they are willing to leave the car there for 2-3 days. It is also possible in theory for an individual to drive a car/van load of people to the WEWCC, then have the driver park the car in a remote satellite lot and ride back in. If there's a van load, you're dealing with $1.70 times the number of passengers each way on Light Rail/Metro.

The Park-and-Ride lots are heavily patrolled by both local police and transit Police. Your vehicle should be safe unless you are practically inviting people to steal thousands of dollars of stuff left in plain sight in the car. Nevertheless, if you have a choice, pick the one with the alarm system.

Please be advised: most end-line Metro stations have huge parking lots/garages, but only three Metro stations have officially designated “multi-day parking” spaces: Greenbelt, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield.  In practice, WMATA doesn’t mind if you park at a Metro station with a lot of parking for more than 1 day, but they do have the right to tow away your car if you leave it at a station for too long, especially if you aren’t leaving until Monday when the regular commuters prize every single parking space at many lots.

Recommended Park & Ride lots:

  1. If you are coming from the south (I-95), we recommend you park at Franconia-Springfield or Huntington.
  2. If you are coming from US 50 from the east (Annapolis, Eastern Shore, etc.), you have New Carrollton (Orange Line) and Largo Town Center (Blue/Silver Lines). If you’re coming up from Southern Maryland via MD 5, you want to park at Branch Avenue (Green Line).
  3. If you are coming from I-95 from the north or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway/MD 295, we recommend Greenbelt Station (Green Line).
  4. If you are coming from I-270 from the northwest, we recommend Shady Grove station (Red Line).
  5. If you are coming from I-66 from the west, we recommend Vienna station (Orange Line). If you are coming from Tysons Corner or Leesburg, we recommend Wiehle-Reston (Silver Line).
  6. Other Park-and-Ride options: One could park at a remote station along the MARC Penn Line and taking a Penn Line train into Baltimore. Stations where this may be feasible include Halethorpe (southwest of town near I-695) and Martin State Airport (northeast of town outside I-695). Please see previous sections covering Amtrak/MARC before considering this option. Also please note that most MARC stations have very full parking lots during the weekdays.

One last park-and-ride thought: If you have friends, business associates, or the like in the DC area, you might consider the possibility of parking your car at a friend's house/garage and taking Metrobus/rail or a taxi/Uber downtown. You might also try the parking lot of a willing business. BE SURE that all parties are amicable and that someone can watch the car. Don't just put the car in a shopping center parking lot and leave it for several days. Your car may be towed or burglarized.


DRIVING TO OTAKON
(and other transportation methods)

We assume if you’re reading this section, you (1) can drive or have a driver, and (2) can find your way to Washington, DC, the Washington Convention Center, and your accommodations. If your sense of direction is a lot like Ryoga or Zoro, attending Otakon is the least of your worries. However, we want to offer a few useful tips about driving on a “road trip.”

Gas Prices: Gasoline tends to be more expensive the closer you are to the immediate Washington, DC, area. Gasoline prices tend to be about 20 cents higher within the Capital Beltway than outside of it. Check gasoline prices at www.gasbuddy.com and gasprices.aaa.com.

WAZE
If you or your friend has a smartphone, get the Waze app. It is a free navigation/traffic app, and it provides real-time traffic and road information, including hazards, accidents, speed traps, and more. If you and your friends are headed to Otakon, you can track each other's locations while on the Waze app – you can even send them ETA messages as well to let them know you're on the way. Your friends don't even have to have the app installed on their phone to see your location and ETA.

LOCAL RUSH HOURS

The “Balt/Wash” metro area is one of the nation’s most congested highway zones for rush hours. You are guaranteed to hit heavy traffic on the “Beltways” around Baltimore (I-695) and Washington (I-495) between the hours of 6:30 AM and 9:30 AM and 3-7 PM weekdays, although historically rush hours on summer Fridays tend to be a bit lighter.

Traffic around the Washington, DC, area is legendary for its traffic woes every day, especially on Friday, the last day of the workweek for many people, and traffic tieups can happen at practically any time of day. Traffic tends to be extremely heavy along the north and west sides of the Capital Beltway (I-495) as well as I-66 on the west side and US 50 on the east side.

TRAFFIC REPORTS ON THE RADIO
The following are recommended radio stations for traffic reports in their areas:

BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON

  • WTOP (103.5 FM) every 10 minutes “on the 8's and when it breaks” every day. Reports here tend to be more DC-centric, but some Maryland/Baltimore traffic is covered.
  • WTTZ (93.5 FM) continuously; provides traffic and transit information mostly for the immediate Baltimore area and its highways.
  • WBAL (1090 AM) every 10 minutes on the 5's in the mornings and evenings and on the half-hour 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

PHILADELPHIA

  • KYW (1060 AM) every 10 minutes on the 2's all day.
  • WTMC (1380 AM) continuously; listen for the “New Castle County” reports for Wilmington-area traffic.

NEW JERSEY:

  • WKXW (“New Jersey 101.5”) every 15 minutes all day (at :03, :18, :33, :48 past the hour).

NEW YORK:

  • WCBS (880 AM) every 10 minutes on the 8's all day.
  • WINS (1010 AM) every 10 minutes on the 1's all day.

Listening to traffic radio can be like listening to a cryptic code if you are not used to knowing the local highways. If you are not intimately familiar with the local roads, use traffic radio primarily to listen for major highway closures or traffic jams/backups. One example: “JFX” refers to the Jones Falls Expressway, or I-83 inside the Baltimore I-695 beltway.

 

INTERSTATE 95 ADVICE/TIPS

If you are driving from the Baltimore area: 

The two main ways to DC from Baltimore are I-95 and the Baltimore/Washington Parkway (295), plus US 1.

  • I-95 is four lanes in each direction and usually very crowded. Speed limit is 65.
  • MD 295/Baltimore-Washington Parkway is two lanes each way albeit more scenic. Speed limit is 55.
  • U.S. 1 is a local road between the two, going through all the towns, traffic lights, and commercial areas. We do NOT advise Route 1 unless you’re looking for food, motel space, sundries, or gas.

If you are driving from Virginia via I-95: 

The reversible lanes are designated as Express Toll Lanes. The toll varies on the time of day, the length of the drive, and the amount of traffic currently on the roads. In general, the tolls will be higher going northbound in the morning on weekdays than any other time of day. Given DC's legendary traffic problems, these lanes may get you to Otakon faster on Thursday/Friday morning. 

EZ-Pass IS REQUIRED to drive in these lanes. Make sure you have enough money on your EZ-Pass account to cover the tolls – about $20-25 should be in your account if you choose to use the Express Toll Lanes in Virginia on Thursday/Friday morning. 

If you do not have an EZ-Pass while driving in these lanes, you will be mailed a bill for the missed toll at the time plus a $12.50 fee. You can avoid the $12.50 fee if you visit this website (https://www.expresslanes.com/missedatoll) within 5 days of the missed toll.

If your car has a special “EZ-Pass Flex” transponder, you can avoid the toll entirely by having 3 or more people in the car and the EZ-Pass is set to “HOV” mode. Be careful! If you are driving in “HOV” mode and you don't have at least 3 people in the car, you can be pulled over and ticketed. The HOV rules are enforced 24 hours a day on I-95.

If you are driving from the North (Philadelphia, Wilmington, etc.): 

Driving through Delaware from Philadelphia/I-95 South, your drive will be faster if you take I-495 around Wilmington instead of staying on I-95 through Wilmington. The speed limit on a clear day is 65 MPH and three lanes in each direction provide lots of space.

Driving into Delaware via the Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295), be aware that the toll after entering Delaware is $4. No toll is collected leaving Delaware.

There are TOLLS collected at the following Maryland locations, which all take E-ZPass.  If you have access to an E-ZPass account/transponder, use it (and make sure there's enough money on it). Maryland residents with E-ZPass accounts may qualify for toll discounts. Visit ezpassmd.com to see if you qualify.

  • The toll plaza at the Maryland/Delaware state line ($4 per car, both ways). If you wish to avoid this toll, you can get off at Exit 2B in Delaware (896 North), continue to Rt. 4, turn left, stay on to the T intersection, and turn left again. You'll enter Maryland via MD 279, and eventually get back on I-95. This adds about 10 minutes to the trip. Coming back from Otakon, you would exit at Exit 109 and take MD 279 north into Delaware, then right on Rt. 4, and right on Rt. 896, where you'll rejoin I-95.
     
  • The Tydings (I-95) and Hatem (US 40) bridges across the Susquehanna River ($8 per car, NORTHBOUND/EASTBOUND direction only). No toll is collected in the direction of Baltimore. Remember to come home from Otakon with that $8 in addition to your gas money!
     
  • An 8-mile stretch of I-95 between exits 61/62 and 67 contains express toll lanes in both directions. EZ-Pass is recommended (though not required) to drive through these lanes, which can come in handy if traffic is heavy. The toll ranges from $0.70-$1.75 depending on the time of day. If you do not have EZ-Pass, you will be billed for the toll + $1.
     
  • The Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95), the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895), and the Key Bridge (I-695) ($4 per car, both ways).
     
  • If you are coming from the Eastern Shore of Maryland or lower Delaware, the Bay Bridge (50/301) toll is $4 in the Eastbound direction only. No toll is collected Westbound. Be sure to come home from Otakon with that $4 in addition to your gas money.

 

REST AREAS

  • On I-95: Between Wilmington and Baltimore, you have the Delaware Welcome Center, between exits 1 & 3; Chesapeake House, midway between the Delaware border and the Susquehanna River at mile marker 97; and Maryland House, about midway between the river and Baltimore at mile marker 82. These places are full-service facilities with gasoline pumps and food courts, including a tourist information bureau open 8AM-5PM daily. Free WiFi is available 24 hours a day.
  • Between Washington and Baltimore, a set of rest stops near Laurel offers only basic restrooms and vending machines, plus a tourist information office open 8:30 AM - 4:30PM.  
  • Along I-95 north, the rest stops are located in Ladysmith at mile marker 107 past the Flying J truck stop exit, and in Dale City at mile marker 155, south of Potomac Mills. These rest areas offer basic restrooms, vending machines, pay phones, and a picnic area.
  • On I-66: The Manassas Safety Rest Area is located at mile marker 48, both inbound and outbound.  It is open 24 hours and offers restrooms and a picnic area.

 

GENERAL TIPS FOR ROAD TRIPS

If you have never taken a long road trip with a group besides your family before, I STRONGLY advise you to take the following advice, gleaned from 25+ years of driving solo and in groups: 

  • PACK SNACKS/DRINKS IN EXCESS so you don’t have to stop as often. Pack a cooler and gallon jugs of water/iced tea/punch and make at least SOME of the snacks/drinks healthy — apples, carrot sticks, raisins, juice, trail mix, etc. Don't forget ice!
  • CONSIDER ANY DIETARY OR MEDICAL NEEDS IN ADVANCE. Is anyone a vegetarian? Then don’t stop for BBQ or burgers every time. Does anyone get carsick? Pack the right pills. Do you want the windows open or the AC on? How cold? Anyone have allergies? 
  • TAKE BREAKS when you stop for gas to stretch, get out, move about, and get the blood circulating. Ideally you would want to take a break every 2-3 hours. 
  • IF SLEEPING IN THE CAR while riding (not in Baltimore, please), pack a small pillow to go under the small of your lower back for lumbar support. Your back will thank you for it later. And don’t sleep while driving, please. Ensure the person riding shotgun with you keeps you awake! 
  • CHECK THE CAR OVER THOROUGHLY — air in the tires, oil, fluids, etc. PURCHASE OIL, etc. IN ADVANCE from an auto parts store or Mal-Wart, L-Mart, Bullseye, etc. You’ll save money doing it that way rather than paying twice that price at the gas station. 
  • ESTABLISH RULES ABOUT THE DRIVING SITUATIONS. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, make them. Random examples/suggestions: 
    • The car’s driver/owner gets to decide what plays on the radio/CD player or you take turns. It doesn't matter what the rules are — just make them before you start. 
    • The driver gets to decide when and where to stop for fuel/snacks. 
    • In case of any disputes, the parent/driver/car owner decides for the group. 
    • Etc… 
  • DECIDE WHO PAYS FOR WHAT. A typical arrangement is that the owner of the car/van gets the gas/oil paid for by the rest of the passengers (“You fly, we buy”). It’s really the fairest system as the car gets the wear and tear. 
  • BE KIND TO THE DRIVER(S). Driving long distances for a whole day is actually quite stressful and exhausting. Split driving duties if possible. Leave the driver alone more than you want to. Under NO circumstances whatsoever should any one driver try to drive more than 15 hours in a day. 
  • HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN: Credit cards from a parent, a cell phone, a sleeping bag, a roadside emergency kit, etc. are almost must-haves for groups traveling long distances. Take it from a guy whose car died for good in another state while full of valuables. Take it from a guy whose car hydroplaned off a highway in rural Pennsylvania, went down an embankment 200 feet backwards, and might still be there if he hadn’t been darned lucky. In some circumstances, such as driving across several states, packing a tent and sleeping bags is not out of the question. Never count on being able to find a motel room. One major event — a sporting event, a festival, etc. — can book every available room in a 50 or 100-mile radius! 
  • DON’T SPEED (excessively). It sounds lame, but you lose more time with a badly-timed food stop than you gain with the increase in speed from 70 to 80 mph. And you reduce your attention by the police. On average, a driver will gain more time driving EFFICIENTLY than he will driving fast. Limit the stops, keep moving, and plan to miss rush hours if distance covered is a criteria. 

CHARTER A BUS OR VAN

If you find that you have a lot of friends or new friends that are going to Otakon from a particular geographical area (say, New York City, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, northern New Jersey, or Richmond), you might find that it is possible to charter a bus from your area to go to Otakon! It sounds ridiculous, but some anime clubs have already done so — at least three charter buses appeared at Otakon in 2006. For a fare not much more (and possibly a lot less) than a bus or Amtrak fare from your chosen point, you can enjoy a comfortable bus ride straight from your point of origin (say, a shopping center parking lot, a school, or bus terminal) directly to the Baltimore Convention Center on Thursday or Friday morning, and a comfortable ride back on Sunday! Most charter buses hold 45 people — the critical break-even point financially seems to be about 30-35. If you think you can find a group of 40 willing people to pay $20-30 in advance, you might want to call bus companies and see what happens!

If you don’t have quite enough people or time to warrant a bus, you might be able to rent a van. Large passenger vans are capable of carrying up to eighteen passengers, although luggage may cut into that figure. Some bus companies will direct you to companies that hire vans complete with driver, an arrangement similar to a small charter bus. Car rental companies also rent vans on occasion, but you provide the gas and driver.

In addition, if you know for a fact that you are staying at a hotel in the suburbs and a lot of other people are as well, you might consult with your hotel’s manager to arrange for a group ride to Otakon in a van or bus. In 2006, one hotel in Columbia, MD provided a tour bus to and from Otakon each day of the convention. It’s best to confirm you have a “critical mass” too big for a car — say, ten or fifteen. At worst, the hotel will give you the number of a local taxi. At best, they’ll do all the work for you. Expect to pay a price per person for this “luxury” — perhaps $5-10 round trip — but it's still cheaper than the parking fees or gas!


BICYCLING

Washington DC and the surrounding areas are relatively bike friendly and have a decent system of designated bike trails and lanes.  Please make sure to obey all traffic laws and of course always wear a helmet.  If you're commuting into the city, you can bring your bike on Metrorail as long as it isn't during rush periods (please refer to their website: Bring Your Bike on Metrorail).

Bicycle Parking

If you're lucky, you might be able to find space in an outdoor bicycle rack, though secure/lock your bike at your own risk.  There are some newer/more secure options like Bikestation DC near Union Station.  Some parking garages may also have bicycle parking. Be sure to park your bicycle legally or you run the risk of having it impounded by the city!

Please keep in mind -- You will NOT be permitted to bring your bicycle into the WEWCC! 

If you are staying with friends at a downtown hotel, most hotels will make accommodations for your bicycle (such as locking it in a back storage room) if you are a paying guest. Ask your hotel for information.

Bike Share

Even if you're not commuting by bike, you may want to rent one to do a little exploring around the city.  There are a number of options for bike rentals:


GOT A BOAT?

Another option under the right circumstances: if your family or friend’s family (or you) happen to own a boat capable of allowing passengers to sleep aboard, Washington, DC has several marinas close to the mall.. This actually may be a feasible option IF you have access to the boat AND can pay the dockage fees.

The closest marina to Otakon is the Washington Marina Company. Call (202) 554-0222 for rates and reservation details. Rates for transients for the weekend are $2.50/ft/night, $3.50/ft/night for 40+ ft, + electric, if space is available. Other marinas are located in the Navy Yards area south of downtown. If you actually have access to a boat, you probably know how to find dockage.


GOT YOUR OWN PLANE?

Hey, we’re just making sure we cover all the possibilities. (^_^) If you have a private aircraft, we recommend Martin State Airport, about ten miles east of downtown Baltimore in Middle River. There’s also the Essex Skypark, on a remote peninsula southeast of Baltimore, and Baltimore Airpark along I-95 near Perry Hall, northeast of Baltimore. Small aircraft may also use part of BWI Airport. From there, you have the above-detailed transit and car rental options.


SKATEBOARDS / ROLLERBLADES / SKATES?

No, we’re not seriously advocating this as a transportation alternative. This is just an excuse for us to remind you that you may NOT use skateboards, skates, or “Heelys” in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. It’s the WEWCC’s rules, not ours. In fact, we most strongly advise not even bringing them at all, even if it’s part of your character’s appearance for a cosplay sketch.


Other Information Sources

Web sites you might want to visit:

Recommended Apps:

*DISCLAIMER: THESE APPS COME RECOMMENDED BY OUR STAFF. OTAKON AND OTAKORP DO NOT RECEIVE ANY COMPENSATION FOR THEIR RECOMMENDATION IN THIS GUIDE*

  • Guidebook – Otakon’s official programing book app
  • Waze – Crowd-sourced GPS
  • Google Maps
  • City Mapper – Public Transportation guide for over 20 major cities world-wide. 
  • Uber – In case you need a cab
  • Lyft – Also in case you need a cab

This version of All Roads Lead to Otakon was compiled/updated by Jeremiah Soria, Kun Sun Sweeley and Kimberly Merani.

The original All Roads Lead to Otakon was long hosted and maintained by George E. Hagen. He has graciously allowed us to capitalize on the hard work and move it into Otakon’s main site to be maintained by Otakon staffers and we’re grateful.

Last Updated: 6/30/2017