Summer Bus Trip 2011: Toronto To Washington DC And Virginia

I first wrote about our summer bus trip from Toronto last year, when we visited New York city and Atlantic city. In partnership with Travelmart, this bus tours from Toronto is our summer offer to our friends and customers who like to getaway on the long weekends of summer, which starts on July 1 in Canada – for cheap.

For this summer, we visited Washington DC and Luray, Virginia on exactly the same date as when we left last year. And this year also, it seems a lot more people are attracted to join because we are two (2) bus-full when we went.

We scheduled at least two trips for this year – one to the U.S. (which is this one) and one in Canada (same old Montreal-Quebec city-Ottawa trip). Unfortunately, we were not able to gain much interest for the Canada bus trip, so we had to cancel that one.

Going on a bus trip from Toronto to various places in Canada and the United States is a fun and cheap way of discovering neighboring towns, cities and travel destinations within a 12-hour drive. There is a lot to learn and enjoy around our neighboring towns, cities and States if you are a travel bug like us.

I will write more about that topic in future post but for now, let me tell you about our bus trip to Washington and Virginia this summer.

We left very early July 1 on Canada Day (1.30 am) – different from last year’s when we left after the Canada Day fireworks. The drive from Toronto to the Peace Bridge (Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York crossing) was a short 2 hours, so we were lined-up at the border just a few minutes after 3 am. We were held up trying to cross the US side because there are other public buses ahead of us (Greyhound and Coach Canada).

What I learn from being behind a public bus crossing the US border is that if you’re also traveling in a private bus coach, there is a big possibility that you’ll get held up at the border. US Immigration takes their time in scrutinizing public buses looking out for suspected illegals or other people flagged as undesirables to enter the US.

I’ve seen at least 3 people took their luggages out of the bus and ordered to return to Canada. If your name appears in the INS or Homeland Security system, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian citizen, you will never be allowed into the US. That’s why if you know that you have an existing immigration record in the US, like a previous deportation order, don’t bother to cross.

Anyway, we were able to drive to our destination a little after 5 am, that’s why we are really behind our schedule. It’s a good thing we are to spend the remainder of the day at the hotel where we will stay for the night before proceeding to Washington DC.

The drive from Toronto to Westin Element at Hanover, Maryland – where we will spend an overnight, is supposed to be about 9 hours but because we had to have several pit stops plus the border stop, took us 12 hours. The drive is very scenic, specially the roads and highways of Pennsylvania, where the highway was carved around forested mountains.

element by westin maryland u.s.a.
Entrance to Westin Element Maryland
welcome to element by westin at arundel mills maryland
Welcome at Element by Westin
mall close to element by westin - arundel mills mall
Arundel Mills Mall at Maryland U.S.A.
queen size bed at westin element
Main bed at Westin Element
extra sofa bed in roooms at element by westin
Sofa bed at each suite
kitchen of each suite at element by westin
Kitchen area

And probably because of the oncoming 4th of July, flags can be seen at almost every balconies and windows of houses and establishments, more so in many parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Americans and Canadians are very much alike in celebrating their countrys’ birthday – flags everywhere and fireworks at night.

July 1, early evening, first stop – Element by Westin at Hanover, Maryland. We are going to stay here overnight to rest and refresh.

This hotel does not look like a regular hotel we stayed at in most of our trips. Each suite has its own kitchen complete with utensils that the occupant might be needing to cook their own food. It comes with a king size bed, a pull-out sofa bed, a microwave oven and a dining table. I think 6 people can fit in each suite – Pinoy style – but our booking only allows a maximum of 4 person per room.

view of bathroom at element by westin
Bathroom entrance
shower room for each suite of element by westin
Shower area
shower room at westin element hotel
Shower booth

I overheard one of the guest saying that it is a time-share hotel but I did not bother to verify it from the staff. Elements by Westin is also very close to a very large shopping mall, the Arundel Mills Mall.

After dropping off our stuff in our room, we heated the food we brought with us for dinner and then after, headed to the mall and bought some souvenirs. The mall is open until 9 pm. The prices there are cheap compared to Toronto’s but it is not at Arundel Mills Mall where we found real bargains on a lot of merchandise. I’ll talk about that later. The rest of the day was for a good nights rest to get ready for Washington DC the next day.

office table at each suite in element by westin
Office table at suite
breakfast area at element by westin
Breakfast area
breakfast area at westin element hotel
Breakfast area
breakfast area at element by westin
Breakfast area
breakfast area at element by westin
Breakfast area
breakfast area at element by westin
Breakfast area

July 2, free breakfast at the hotel and then leave for DC at about 8.30 am.

We arrived at Washington DC after an hour drive from our hotel, stopped and waited at the Old Post Office building where we met our tour guide. The view of the US Capitol Building can be seen from the street fronting the Old Post Office and so is the Canadian Embassy (I didn’t get the name of the street, though). I took some photos of the famous landmark (US Capitol) while the bus was waiting for the tour guide.

washington capitol from old post office building
Washington Capitol from afar
old post office building at washington dc
Old Post Office
federal building at washington dc
Another Federal Building
court house building washington dc
Court House
washington dc capitol
Washington Capitol
national archives at washington dc
Archives Building

Next was the tour of Washington DC. Our tour guide aided the bus driver around for us to glimpse the must-see parts and structures of DC. We passed many Federal Buildings like the IRS, Old Post Office, White House, Capitol Building, Edgar Hoover Building, FTC, National Archives, the Washington Monument and others. We were also given a historic tour of the old Washington DC residential areas.

old post office washington dc
Old Post Office Building
honest abe gift shop washington dc
Honest Abe souvenir shop
washington dc white house
White House
washington dc police patrol car
Washington DC Police
washington dc metro bus
Metro bus
washington dc tourist rickshaw tricyclepolice car
Rickshaw tricycle

Another part of the tour is a stop-over at The Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion, where we also had a chance to take photos of the church and a brief stop and history lesson on The Washington National Cathedral, a church considered The National House of Prayer because all religious denomination can carry out religious services there.

lincoln memorial at washington dc
Lincoln Memorial
washington monument at washington dc
Washington Monument
open top tour bus
Tour bus
Trolley tour bus
Trolley tour bus
interactive globe video at museum of natural history
Globe video
african elephant at museum of natural history
African elephant

The best part of the tour for me was when we went the length of Massachusetts Avenue or Embassy Row, as what it is more popularly known. That strip of road was lined with the Embassies of more than a hundred countries, left and right of the street. It was funny how the tour guide quickly called out and pointed at each countrys’ Embassy as we pass, making all of us quickly glanced left and right just like watching a tennis tournament. Although the bus was slow moving, there is not enough time to remember the location of all the country he’s pointing at because they’re almost beside each other.

back entrance of museum of natural history
Museum of Natural History rear entrance
front entrance of museum of natural history
Museum of Natural History front entrance
washington dc public bus
Public bus

In the end, the guide quizzed us about the location of countries he will name, whether it’s located to the left or right of Embassy Row. It was hilarious.

national basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion
Immaculate Concepcion Basilica
washington dc tour mobile bus billboard
Tour bus billboard
museum of natural history dinosaur bones
Museum of Natural History
museum of natural history in washington dc
Inside the museum
Immaculate Concepcion National Basilica
Immaculate Concepcion Basilica
independence day flags at smithsonian rear entrance
Independence Day flags

The last leg of the tour was a quick stop at the Lincoln Memorial. I always remember the scene in the movie Forest Gump where Forest met his girlfriend in that area and the scene was shot from Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument. I quickly went to the approximate spot and took a photo – my own version of that scene. At the end of the tour, we were dropped off at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.

Please write your comments below. I would love to know what you think…..

(Continued bus trip Toronto to Washington DC and Virginia…..)


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4 thoughts on “Summer Bus Trip 2011: Toronto To Washington DC And Virginia

  1. Hey! I enjoyed your post! I’m just wondering where can I find that bus tour (Toronto – Washington DC)? I couldn’t find it anywhere. My fiancee and I have always wanted to go to DC and learn about history, lol. Thanks!

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