Baltimore: Camden Yards accessible seating, Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Camden Yards Tours
Washington, D.C.: Arlington National Cemetary, Sightseeing tour, White House tour, U.S. Capitol, Monuments and Memorials, Mount Vernon
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By James Glasbergen
Arriving in Baltimore on a late Monday afternoon, we immediately headed over to Camden Yards where we had tickets to see the Orioles play the Blue Jays at night. We entered the park through the centerfield gates and couldn't help but stare up at the big warehouse above us. Camden Yards is easily one of the most beautiful ballparks in baseball. I would say it is the nicest park after the 3 oldest onesWrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium. The wheelchair seating was quite good. We sat about even with first base and probably around 25 rows up. We went to a game again the following night and had virtually the same seats except that we were on the 3rd base side instead of the first base side. The great thing was that, unlike the wheelchair seating in a lot of the other new stadiums, there was no overhang above us for the second deck so we could actually see the sky and had an unimpeded view of all the action. In fact, a foul ball even landed in the lap of the man sitting beside me.
The next day we got up and walked over to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, located just a few blocks from Camden Yards. It is basically just a small, square brick house where the Babe was born and which now functions as a museum. The entrance was not exactly accessible as there were a few steps going in (). However, they did have a portable ramp specifically for wheelchairs. It actually stretched from the doorway out on to the street, but they were more than happy to help out and make sure I could get in. The inside of the house was quite small and had a lot of baseball memorablia. Only the main floor was accessible, however, as there were stairs going to the upper floors.
Next, we walked over to Camden Yards to take a guided tour of the ballpark. The tour was great. It started off by the warehouse and took us around the entire stadium, including stops in the press box, a luxury box, and the Orioles dugout. The entire tour was accessible except for the Oriole dugout, which had a couple steps going into it. We entered on to the field through a gate behind homeplate and walked along the warning track to the dugout. Not surprisingly, we weren't allowed on the grass.
After a quick day and a half trip to Baltimore, we made the one hour drive to Washington, D.C. We immediately drove over to Arlington National Cemetary, where we took a tour of the cemetary. There was a tram that drove throughout the cemetary. It made a number of stops near key points of interest, such as JFK's grave and the Tomb of the Unknowns. Passengers had the option at each stop of getting off and seeing what they wanted to see and then just catching the next tram that came around. Not every tram had a wheelchair lift though so we had to wait for the right one to come around again, but the wait wasn't bad at all. We found Arlington Cemetary to be very interesting and quite worthwhile.
The next day we set out to see as much of Washington as we could in one day. If I had to do it again, I would have taken 3 or 4 days instead because there is so much to see. We made arrangements with a tour company for a city tour. We didn't realize that we were actually going to get our own private tour. We had an accessible minibus, a driver, and a tour guide. We just told them everything that we were hoping to see, and they drove us around all day and dropped us off at a number of locations. It was great.
Our first stop was the White House which was open to the public from 10 a.m. til noon. While the general public had to have tickets and they entered through the east side of the White House, people in wheelchairs did not require tickets and they entered through the Northeast gate since the other entrance was not accessible. This was great since we did not have to sit through the unbelievably long line waiting to enter the White House. The tour was really cool. We entered through the front door and then did a self-guided walk through the East, Green, Blue, Red, and State Dining rooms.
Next, we went over to the U.S. Capitol. We went inside and saw a disability office there, so we inquired and found out that they actually offered special tours of the building for people with disabilities, so we waited a few minutes before a guide came out and showed us around for a while. He gave us tickets to sit in at the House of Representatives and the Senate, which were both in session that day. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to stick around any longer as we had to go catch our bus. That was easily the biggest disappointment of the trip.
We also visited a number of the monuments and memorials. The FDR Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Washington Monument were all accessible. The Lincoln Memorial was probably my favorite. There was an elevator that took wheelchairs up to the level where the staue of Lincoln is. (The elevator was incredibly slow though. We waited quite a while for it to come to us after we pressed the button and we weren't really sure if it was working or not.) The view from the Lincoln Memorial was awesome as you looked out over the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.
The Washington Monument also had an elevator that took people to the top. The only bad part was that the windows at the top were quite high so there was no way that anyone in a wheelchair would be tall enough to see out of them. However, they had a periscope () for people who could not stand up to see out of the windows. One of the monument workers saw me and brought it to us. It worked quite well. The view of Washington was amazing as you had a great overhead view of the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial.
On our last day in Washington, we took a day tour out to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. We were picked up by in an accessible bus (which was full of peoplenot a private tour this time). Mount Vernon was fairly good for accessibility. The main floor of the house was accessible, although the upper floors were not. We managed to get to the tomb of George and Martha Washington, which was a short walk down a sloped dirt road. I had to have someone hold on to my handlebars on the way down to make sure I didn't slide off track. I was glad to be in a power chair too, as a manual chair would have had difficult going up and down that slope.
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