Washington DC is an amazing city (district?)! It took us three days before we felt that we had seen an adequate amount to claim that we had in fact been there. In reality, we barely scratched the surface!
We were fortunate enough to have the luxury of staying at a friend’s house nearby in Maryland (~45 minute drive), and bonus – she loves to drive! And she knows where to find the best priced parking! So I don’t have tips when it comes to where to stay, but I can say that on the second day we parked at The Willard Hotel, right near the White House. It costs a bit ($~30), but it’s valet parking in a safe garage and there’s a lovely bathroom in the hotel you can hit on the way in and out of the city. I can also say that it was wonderful to stay at a house as opposed to a hotel so maybe check out AirBnB for apartment rentals. But we were with a friend. And her fluffy dog, so that helped!
On our first day exploring we actually met up with a high school friend of mine for lunch (right after checking out the Washington National Cathedral) before taking to the sights. We happened upon some street parking near the restaurant that was less than $10/2 hours (great rate in DC), so after lunch we left the car there and rushed around under the rainclouds, first hitting the National Archives to see my country’s famous documents including The Declaration of Independence and The US Constitution. I’ve heard the line can go on forever here, but we were lucky enough to not have to wait at all! A rainy October day turned out to be the best time to visit!
Having a restricted amount of time due to our parking situation (and having a late start due to jet lag and traffic), we didn’t make it into any other buildings on this first day but did enjoy walking around the mall and hashing out our plans for what would turn into two more visits.
A couple days later we returned on a mission. We didn’t exactly know what that mission was, accept that we knew we wanted to fit a LOT into our day. We started at the White House, just a short walk from where we parked at that hotel I mentioned earlier (The Willard). On this particular sunshiny day, a loudmouthed lunatic with a megaphone decided that today was the day to turn up the volume on his hateful beliefs and share them with each and every passerby, without filter. This was also my first time seeing the White House. Shame those days coincided. I’m all for free speech (in most circumstances), but I can’t help but feel for our president when assholes project hatred in high volume right outside his backyard. And it was because of said lunatic and his minions, that extra security was installed in the form of a barricade that restricted access to the fence which you could normally put your camera through to get an un-obstructed photo. Bummer. But the leaves were sure pretty!
From there we decided to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was one of my must-sees of our visit. No photos are allowed inside, which is perfect because no camera could capture the emotions unveiled in the exhibits as you wind your way through the building. It took us probably just over an hour and a half, and that was with only reading some of the information. I would highly recommend visiting this tribute, but be emotionally prepared. Many images and facts are quite graphic; as they should be in order to accurately tell the story. Being prepared doesn’t make it much easier though.
After finishing up at the Holocaust Museum, we hightailed it to the National World War II Memorial, then onto the Lincoln Memorial, followed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and then the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
All that sightseeing left us exhausted but we did manage to squeeze in a quick drive over to the Jefferson Memorial just before the sun set, illuminating it and the surroundings with a lovely evening glow. On the way out of town we drove through the gorgeous Georgetown area. Now that’s my kind of place! Cafés, bars, shops, and restaurants lining the streets – many of which didn’t seem to be chains. Not so much one for the shopping though.
Conceding that we hadn’t accomplished our goal to the best of our abilities, we agreed that one more visit was in order. But look at the pretty sunset and US Air Force Memorial:
A few days later, we returned again to DC, on our final afternoon in the Northeast. This time we rushed to see the Library of Congress. It is so beautiful! I have to admit though that I expected to see more of the building, not realizing the research room area has restricted access. They must have had passes in ‘National Treasure’…
From there we hit the Air and Space Museum, one of the must-sees my partner had in mind. Overall, I can’t say that I loved it. I do have a fear of flying though so being surrounded by aircrafts isn’t necessarily my idea of a good time. I was thankful to get out of there and restore my anxiety level back to its normal heightened state.
On the way back to the car we stopped at the US Supreme Court and found ourselves inside having a quick look around. There weren’t many places we could see without a tour but we did get a brief glance inside the courtroom. I can’t imagine how intimidating it would be to be under trial and drive up to this massive building, even without the handcuffs and media. Especially if I was guilty!
On the way to the car we passed the Capitol Building, covered in scaffolding.
As we ended our third day in DC, we arrived at Arlington National Cemetery (not before getting lost and driving around the Pentagon’s entire parking lot) just prior to its closing, so we weren’t allowed much time to take it in and reflect. But we did get an idea of the magnitude, despite seeing only a small fraction of its more than 400,000 headstones. It’s a hard task to describe this place, for as far as you can see in most directions, the pristinely manicured lawn is speckled with white dots set in perfect rows. So perfect that even the diagonals are straight. But you have to remind yourself that they are not just a part of the pattern. Each one marks the life of an individual (some represent 2 people, the veteran and his or her spouse) who fought for our nation’s freedom. It’s a very heavy reality to take in. But a necessary one to recognize and be grateful for.
As the day drew to a close, the setting sun threw a stunning glow among the stones, casting tall shadows along the grass. That paired with the trees’ autumn colors made for a very solemn, yet memorable scene.
I am so very thankful I finally got to see my nation’s capital after all these years of exploring the capitals of other countries! As you can see, two of the three days we spent in DC were sunny and wonderfully warm but I have been told that in the fall the weather can change in an instant, so bring layers and an umbrella. It was a great time of year for us to visit because in addition to so few other tourists (relatively speaking), we got to see the amazing colors of the fall leaves. Totally worth it!