#ETLUSA Adventure: Washington DC, Orlando & Miami

So to part two of the #ETLUSA adventure...if you missed part one, then you can catch up here or you can keep following my adventures on Twitter.

Stop Five: Washington DC 
Once again we took the Megabus, this time for $6 each, from Philadelphia for 3 hours to Washington DC. When staying in Washington, we had to downgrade our 4 star hotel room to a 6 bed shared dorm at the Hosteling International for £28 a night. (...Atlantic City was actually cheaper than this :O ) 

But to be fair, the location of this hostel can not be faulted. It is so close to downtown DC and you can walk pretty much everywhere. So we took the metro 2 stops and walked up 11th street to check-in. Our room was nice and clean, with secure lockers and free wifi which was good. The rest of this day was mainly spent catching up on laundry, buying some groceries and booking more of our adventure on the West Coast.

The next day we went downstairs to enjoy our yummy free breakfast and then we decided to walk down to 15-17th street and visit the White House, WW2 memorial, the reflection pool and the Abraham Lincoln memorial, all of which are free and were pretty awesome!

My favourite thing had to be "big Abe" but one struggle we did face was the 34c heat on our walk down there. Around 2pm we headed back to our hostel for an afternoon siesta and then in the evening we went to the Warner Hall to watch the   comedian Russell Brand play his latest tour, the Messiah Complex and it was brilliant. 

After a night of crazy but exciting thunderstorms, we decided the next day to avoid the continuous mid-day heat and pay a visit to the Smithsonian Museums which are all mostly free. Our first stop was the Natural History Museum and I loved it. We visited the fossils, dinosaurs, mammals and an amazing stone and gem exhibition where we also saw the stunning Hope Diamond. 

From here we moved onto the mesmerising Air and Space Museum (free) to see just how tiny our atmosphere truly is and to observe the first ever aircraft. 

After taking a little rest break in the park, our next stop was at the National Art Gallery of Modern Art (free). Here they were hosting a beautiful exhibition on Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes.

On our final day in Washington we had a stroll around the city to take in the beautiful and historic buildings once again before heading back to our hostel for a late lunch. In the evening, we went out for beers in Washington and to watch the amazing singer Jake Bugg play a gig at the 9:30 Club. His voice is truly incredible live, if anyone can get to see him I highly recommend it! Plus he's from my home town of Nottingham! 

Stop Six: Orlando, Florida 
We found that the cheapest and quickest way to move from DC to Orlando was through an internal flight for £70 ($105).

When landing at the airport we took a Lynx Bus for $2 to our hotel that was located on International Drive where all the major Orlando theme parks are. 

The next day we met up with one of my boyfriends American friends that he met a few years ago whilst working at a US summer camp. We drove 45 minutes out of the Orlando to a place called Kelly Park, a natural spring and park that people could visit and go tubing down the river. 

It cost us $5 to rent huge rubber rings from a near by bar and then another $2 per person to enter into the nature park. Floating down the crystal clear river, we chilled out in the Florida sunshine for the next few hours. As we drifted along we saw turtles, fish and a small deer at the waters edge...when getting out of the river to head home, we also saw a baby alligator. Eek! I'm so glad I didn't see that floating down the stream! 

In the evening we drove to get some food and the boys took me for my first US Hooters experience of chicken wings, beer and boobs. After that we paid a visit to a few bars on and around International  Drive, but we ended up at a piano bar called the Howl At The Moon. This place was amazing, you had to write down your chosen song and a live band will play it for you then and there. 

The next two days of our trip were spent visiting Universal Studios! This was AMAZING! If you're staying on International Drive and want to make your own way to Universal Studios then there is the option to take a taxi ride, which depending on where you are located, will be anything from $15-30 per ride. Alternatively, you can take the regular public bus called the Lynx. This costs $2 per ride and all you need to do is take the 8 or 42 bus and then switch to the 37 when you get to the 7/11 supermarket. Overall this takes about 20-30 minutes and is a cheaper alternative to get you to the parks. 

We also chose to buy our tickets on the Universal Studio website and saved ourselves $40 each on a 2 day pass ($122). We didn't really see a better deal whilst there.  

Also, if you're planning a trip to Orlando, I highly reccommend going in mid September time. The weather is still HOT, but the queue times at the park were no longer than 30 minutes. The big Harry Potter ride only took us 15 minutes to queue up on! We didn't stop once! 

Overall it was an amazing two days and my favourite rides were Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Transformers and Despicable Me. 

Stop Six: Miami
From Orlando to Miami, we left our transportation to the very last day as we wanted to see how much renting a car would be. The result? It was seriously expensive compared to the average coach costs of $20-40 each. 

Something the car hire companies don't tell you on their websites (or I'm sure they do but in VERY SMALL print) is that there are so many hidden costs that they do not include in the quote. 

For example, we checked out one company online and completed a thorough quote which came to $55 per day, obviously we knew we would have to pay for gas, however it turned out that our quote did not add the insurance policy, taxes or toll charges with our car rental. So when we actually went into their office to go through with the purchase, for the same car they quoted us $192 per day, which is nearly 4 times the amount of the online price. Before booking anything online, I would call the companies and ask what the additional charges may be. 

So, once we arrived in Miami (by bus haha) we checked into our hotel, Jazz on South Beach, at midnight and headed to bed after a long journey. The next day we woke up and decided to head down to the beautiful South Beach to soak up some sun and enjoy the big waves.

Over the next few days we relaxed on the beach, went shopping in the Art Deco District, had a drink at Big Pink (thanks to the lovely @LuannEdwards401 for her Twitter suggestion on this place :) ) and went to the popular Ocean Drive, which is full of lively clubs, bars and restaurants. 

I get used to living in Miami ;)

Next Stop...New Orleans.
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