Travel Stage: Washington D.C.
Date Range: March 20-29, 2016
Summary: We made it to DC in time for the Cherry Blossoms! We stay with Tom’s Aunt Adele in Arlington and make multiple trips into the city to see what we came to see, plus a whole bunch of other amazing things we found in our nation’s capital.
Tom had been to Washington, D.C. as a child and young adult. However, I had never been to our nation’s Capital save for a quick drive through going to and from JFK Airport for a wedding. I think I just barely glimpsed the backside of the Lincoln Memorial, and maybe one of the Smithsonians.
We visited Arlington Cemetery on that trip, which was incredible and moving, but we didn’t even scratch the surface of the things to see and do in that city. This time around, I saw a whole lot more.
Washington, District of Columbia
It was Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant‘s (and a few other guys’) idea in 1791 to put (mostly) everything you want/need to see in D.C. all in one place, but they pretty much did. It is called the National Mall, and it has pretty much every monument, the Tidal Basin, most of the Smithsonian museums, and the government buildings. Just a few blocks to the north is the White House. Granted, the Mall is about 2 miles long and over 300 acres – so bring some comfy walking shoes. I highly recommend bikes (available for rent if you don’t have one when you’re there).
Getting Into the City – Metro, Bike, Drive
We rode the Metro the first time in, and to be honest I wasn’t impressed. It was expensive, and if we hadn’t been able to ride our bikes to the station in Arlington it would have cost us quite a bit to park a car at the station if we could have found a spot. If you can, stay within walking distance to the Mall or bring some bikes. Get a SmarTrip card that you can refill. Each rider must have his or her own card – which doesn’t make any sense to me. Biking is very doable in this city – lots of bike lanes. The only thing is that it is crowded most of the time with tourists, so you may have to go slow or get off and walk in some areas like around the monuments. We parked for FREE at the Teddy Roosevelt State Park on the other side of the river and biked into the Mall. It was about 3 miles, and there was a section just before the bridge where we crossed the highway (pretty terrifying and dangerous) for a shortcut. But it was well worth it for cost savings! As for driving, traffic is pretty terrible, and finding parking can be difficult. We managed to do it with our big dually truck, but it was nerve racking. The meters accept credit cards (if you find one that is open and works).
What to See in Washington, D.C.
We have some friends who recently returned from a 6-month adventure of Europe to their home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. After seeing all the big attractions, museums, monuments, churches, and more in Europe, they wrapped it all up with a tour of their own country’s national museums to see everything with new eyes. One of the biggest things they noticed? How many of our National Museums are free. After shelling out hundreds of dollars to for admissions in Europe, they could hardly believe it! We truly do have a lot amazing national treasures available to us, and so many of them are free! And you know how we LOVE free!
Tidal Basin (Cherry Blossoms)
The Tidal Basin is a body of water on the south side of the mall. It is famous for having over 3,000 flowering cherry trees all the way around it. The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan.
Interesting Facts: The original shipment of 2,000 cherry trees to the U.S. were found to be infest with bugs and had to all be burned and destroyed. The second shipment of 3,000 were planted. In 1997, in cooperation with the United States National Arboretum, cuttings were taken from the documented surviving 1912 Yoshino cherry trees shipment to ensure preservation of the trees’ genetic lineage. These trees will be used in subsequent replacement plantings to preserve the genetic heritage of the grove. Find out more about the History of the Cherry Trees.
This was after all the main reason we had come
More Monuments and Memorials
Lincoln Memorial This is a very popular memorial and if you go in the middle of the day it will be swarmed with people. We hit it early and while there still were some people, the morning sunrise glow on Lincoln was incredible!
Washington Monument This monument is incredibly hard to miss. Due to its 555 feet in height, it can be see from various places around the Mall and the city. It’s really tall. Our favorite view was from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise, with that orange sky in the Reflecting Pool.
Vietnam Memorial This memorial is probably one of the simplest-looking monuments from first glance, but until you see just how many names are on this wall you can’t understand the emotion it evokes. The wall is a timeline, and it lists the people killed by day as the war progressed. Letters, photos, and flowers are left along the wall.
Korean War Memorial
Look for more “Things to See in D.C.” in the next blog about Our Nation’s Capital – Part 2: Museums.
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