Destination Review: Washington D.C.
HIGHLIGHTS: National Monuments, National Museum of Natural History, Sculptor Garden, The National Air and Space Museum, Good Eats, Potomac River, the Beach Exhibit, and the National Portrait Gallery.
"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
—from "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963
I had the opportunity to spend 5 fun days in Washington DC. I was there on photography business but also squeezed in a little sightseeing. We stayed near the Capital so took a night time stroll to check it out after our plane landed. Sadly, the Capitol building was under construction which we later found out was the local trend but it's a natural side affect of progress and growth. The Capitol building is still a good sight to see day or night and I felt very American in that moment.
TRAVEL TIP: Southwest Airlines often has amazing one way deals to Washington D.C. Check their $59 or $99 sales.
As I mentioned we stayed near the Capital at a new boutique hotel called the Liaison Capitol Hill DC-An Affinia Hotel. Overall, we enjoyed it especially the bar and the location was ideal too. The only issues and main reason I would not return is because of two reasons.
1. The rooftop pool was closed one full day for an event and in the evenings there was no lifeguard on duty so you could not swim. This was not clear on the website.
2. They charged additionally for the Wifi!! I have never ever in my lifetime encountered a hotel that did this. And since this was a partial business trip I was pretty inconvenienced. So make sure you read the fine print when it comes to Wifi at trendy hotels.
We tried to hit up as many of the tourist attractions as possible in our short time there. Of course, we did most of this on foot since we had such fantastic weather. Tromping around the city allowed me to notice all the amazing architecture which led us to the National Building Museum.
JULY 4, 2015–SEPTEMBER 7, 2015
The National Building Museum is hosting an interactive art installation called The Beach. It is monochromatic ball pit experience. It sounds weird but was one of the most hilarious moments of my life. After waiting an hour in line we entered the ocean made of all white plastic balls. It is surprisingly deeper than expected and I found myself often times completely submerged and giggling uncontrollably - like a child. Speaking of, the installation was jam packed with people of all ages. From babies to 80 something grandmas with nothing poking out of "the sea" but their white haired heads. Everyone was having fun! It's a must see if you are in the area!
TRAVEL TIP: Check for upcoming interactive exhibits before your next trip. They are typically unforgettable and will make your visit even more fun. The Beach was only open for a few months but it opened a whole new part of tourism I didn't know about.
Next up were the Smithsonian museums. We went to the National Museum of Natural History, Sculptor Garden and the National Air and Space Museum. These were both on opposite sides of the National Mall. I must say both had some interesting parts like the true to life mammal exhibit and the flight simulator where we practiced "barrel rolls".
TRAVEL TIP: Here's a list of 14 free places to visit D.C.
- Lincoln Memorial
- The White House and the Washington Monument
- National World War II Memorial
- U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress
- Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials
- National Gallery of Art
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
- Tidal Basin
- National Archives Museum
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington National Cathedral
Sadly, though, we did encounter a few under construction areas again. The National Mall and the elephant at the National History were under construction too. We also saw the Hope Diamond along with some other precious jewels.
I was very inspired by the entire gems and minerals exhibit. It was hard to believe that all of these colors and shapes came from our earth. Creative inspiration really is all around (and below) us!
Curse of the Hope Diamond
In 1839, a blue diamond weighing over forty-five carats appeared in the collection catalogue of London banker and diamond collector, Henry Phillip Hope.
It would become known as the Hope Diamond, and is famously alleged to have been surrounded by bad luck. Many owners of the cursed gem met with a grisly death, family tragedy, or a hapless fate. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who owned the diamond were beheaded.
Other owners and their families experienced suicides, marriage break-ups, bankruptcy, deaths in car crashes, falls off cliffs, mental breakdowns, and deaths through drug overdoses. Most grisly of all was perhaps the death of the man who discovered—or some say, stole—the diamond in 1642.
Today, spectators gaze in awe at the Hope Diamond through a thick glass in its case at the National Gem Collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C [ Source ]
TRAVEL TIP: Construction is just a normal part of traveling. Sometimes it helps to call ahead or check social media to see if some of your favorite sites are open during construction. Often times, they are still open just unsightly. Some locations will list on their website about the upcoming construction dates so you might want to wait or make other arrangements.
Later, we visited some of the National monuments; the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Statues, and the WWII Fountain. It's hard to fully grasp what each of these places represents but I know I felt very grateful to stand before them and thankful for the freedoms I have as an American which were paid with the lives of brave men and women. Every citizen should visit here at least once.
The Lincoln Memorial is still one of my favorite spots in Washington D.C. It's not only a beautiful view from the top but also the Lincoln Statue is so huge, 19-feet tall to be exact. So Climb the 87 steps. It's worth it.
Here are some fun facts:
- $2 million was appropriated for the project, but the end cost was $3 million.
- Work on the Lincoln Memorial commenced in 1915 and it was completed in 1922.
- There are 87 steps to get to the top, commemorating Lincoln'sfamous "four score and seven years ago" from the Gettysburg Address.
- The statue of Lincoln was sculpted by Daniel Chester French. It is
- Architect Henry Bacon designed the building that houses the statue. It has 36 columns, each representing a state that was a part of the union at the time of Lincoln's death.
- The memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922. Present were Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, hundreds of Civil War veterans and about 50,000 people in all.
- The original inscription of Lincoln's second inaugural speech carved in the interior of the memorial once contained a "typo". An "E" was carved where it should have been an "F". This was corrected by filling in part of the "E".
The Lincoln Memorial is open 24 hours a day. NPS staff is present from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m
The weather was so nice that we took a rest on the lawn next to the Washington Monument and listened to a band play while watching intramural dodge ball tournaments. The sun set and, again, I was reminded of freedom.
TRAVEL TIP: Wear comfortable shoes. We Walked so much that my feet were literally bleeding by the afternoon.
Chinatown, Georgetown, and the Potomac
On our last day of sight seeing we drove through vibrant Chinatown to have the best Nutella coffee at Compass Coffee just a few blocks away. This is a funky side of town and worth exploring.
Later we toured the National Gallery of Art. This is one of the few places I have specific memories of from when I was last here on an 8th grade school trip. Especially of the Voyage of Life series by Thomas Cole.
I think it was the first time I had seen art at this magnitude and probably my first gallery visit. I just remember thinking, I could stay here all day. I was 13 years old and now 28 years later I felt the same way. So we stayed all day.
TRAVEL TIP: Try not to miss these peices at the National Gallery of Art
We spent our evening near the Potomac River. where we ate some of the best food of our lives at Farmers Fishers Bakers. They have a huge menu to choose from like sushi and gourmet popcorn.
Yes, that is yellow cake with a thing layer of chocolate icing in a bowl of chocolate sauce. Order that for sure.
The entire area near here is really nice. Lots of shopping and a nice river font walkway.
After dinner we hit the stores in the quaint, but busy Georgetown. It's a great historic village but with tons of awesome shops. Once we had meandered through most of the stores we grabbed a cup of coffee and headed back to our hotel.
We could have easily have spent an entire week here and still not have seen it all. Next time I want go to the National Botanical Garden, the Library of Congress and explore more of Georgetown.
Until next time DC!