Everytime I travel to a new place, I usually walk away either thinking, “That was cool. I’m glad I went there,” or “When do I get to go back?” Rarely, do I visit a place that I simply disregard altogether. It’s also hard to predict which place will leave a lasting impression. It’s all about trial and error. Further, no two people will likely experience a place in the same way.  You may be standing right next to your husband or wife, mother or father, daughter or son, or friend but everyone will have a different feeling and/or thoughts about a place when they step on the plane to head home. There may be a general consensus, but certain places will always stand out above the rest for different people. Places that have been built up in your mind because of movies, television and pop culture may also appear foreign and strange when you first visit. Such a place may turn out to be a disappointment or a pleasant surprise.
 

Washington D.C. is place that is often visited with preconceived notions, but after exploring the city for the first time, I was sincerely impressed by the depth that underlies its historical front.  As the city quickly rose to the top on my favorite list walking around the well-manicured streets, I was ready to set up camp and stake claim to a sidewalk bench.  Of course, I had imagined what the city would be like growing up in the United States and fully expected to enjoy my trip, but I was pleasantly surprised to find our nation’s capitol truly a treasure. 

 

Washington D.C. is a city with resounding character, umpteenth things to do, excellent food, a sense of community and an established reputation for being one of the world’s most famous capitol cities. Usually, I’m attracted to visiting places with natural beauty in the greater outdoors, but the history that serves as a foundation for Washington D.C. breathes a unique and beautiful aurora around the city.
 
After four non-stop days of walking the streets, I felt like I didn’t even brush the surface of the endless things to do in D.C. You can easily fill your days and nights by exploring the monuments and the National Mall (and no, it’s not an actual shopping mall)…
Jefferson Memorial
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Martin Luther King Memorial

 

Korean War Memorial
Vietnam War Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
World War II Memorial 

 

Washington Monument
A wide array of museums including the world-renowned Smithsonian Museums…. 
 
Smithsonian Institute

 

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

 

Hope Diamond
National Air and Space Museum
The Capitol … (and maybe even catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade, snipers and all!) …
U.S. Capitol Building
And the plethora of historic buildings such as the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights are held. 

National Archives
Old Post Office Building

 

 

The architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building, part of the National Library of Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court are also well worth a tour. Note: There are multiple buildings that actually make up the National Library of Congress. 

National Library of Congress – Thomas Jefferson Building

 

 

 

As a law graduate, it was particularly special to visit the U.S. Supreme Court. 
 
U.S. Supreme Court 

 

 

 
Of course, a trip to the capitol city would not be fully complete without a stop off at the White House. 
 
Another great place to explore is the National Botanical Garden.  One rainy afternoon as water poured down the sidewalks in streams and people hovered in doorways, my mom and I beelined it to the botanical garden only to find a vibrant display of colorful flowers lighting up the gloomy day.

 

 

 

If interested in art, the National Art Gallery is also a must see stop as it’s stocked full of beautiful impressionist paintings by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and many other artists. You can also view a few pieces of Pablo Picasso’s paintings among the famous works of art.

 

Additionally, Georgetown, situated along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, with its colorful row houses and flower window boxes, is a fun area to take an evening stoll. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can really walk everywhere in D.C. although the metro is an efficient alternative once your feet and legs start to fail. For first time tourists, Big Bus Tours or a trolley tour is a good way to get an overview of the city and pinpoint specific areas to visit. Additionally, Big Bus Tours offers a night tour, perfect for viewing the monuments at night while eliminating any potential concern for travelers walking around late at night alone. However, overall, at least in the summer when the tourist season is high, the city seems relatively harmless and surprisingly very clean.

 

As I spent my last evening walking the National Mall, taking shots of the sun setting behind the monuments, the grassy fields running its length in the center of the Mall were filled with softball and pickle ball games; the players in matching color-coded jerseys. Section after section down the 1.2 miles stretch from the Capitol to the Washington Monument were filled with players, onlookers, and even artists capturing the moments of the games.

The temperature was just right; the humidity was unnoticeable. It was endearing to be walking along observing even as a tourist. I stopped to catch a ball that had rolled out of bounds from a nearby game and casually threw it back to a player running after it. Even though I was simply a visitor to the city, an outsider by all other standards, the atmosphere was comforting. It didn’t feel as if people were divided by what city, state, or region they came from, but rather were collectively citizens of one place; the United States. There are very few places where you immediately feel like you belong. Washington D.C. happens to be one of them.

 

 

 

One thing for sure, as I left the city to head home, is that it was easy to leave with a strong sense of patriotism; to be very grateful and feel extremely fortunate for the country Americans are able to call home. The city is filled with constant reminders of those who served, fought and protected the rights and freedoms of the United States.  United States flags fly everywhere; the capitol looms large at the end of the National Mall; the Washington Monument towers bravely above the rest; and every street corner is filled with a historic building contributing to the United State’s cherished history. The city’s height is relatively small due to building height restrictions, which adds to the close-knit in a big city feel. But above all, Washington D.C. is not just a city filled with historic and nationally protected relics. It’s a community born to represent all and invites those that visit to stay and instantly  belong.

Quick Tips

Food, food, and more great food! Places to try: 

  • Rice (Thai Food) – 1608 14th St. NW Washington, DC 20009 
  • Old Ebbitts Grill (Historic oyster bar and grill located right next to the White House – American Fare)– 675 15th Street NW Washington DC 20005 
  • Ristorante Piccolo (Italian Food – actually located in the Georgetown area) – 1068 31st Street, NW Washington DC 20007
  • Le Pain Quotidien(Excellent French Bakery) – 979 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20004
  • Although I ran out of time, I also heard great things about the restaurant Founding Farmers (American) – 1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW,  Washington, DC 20006

Hotels: 

  • There are a ton of great hotels to choose from but we stayed at the historic and boutique Hotel Lombardy(Nice location between Georgetown and downtown D.C. and clean, comfortable accommodations) – 2019 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20006

How to Get Around:  

  • Walk the city! It’s the best way to see everything, and there is really no need for a car. No one wants to spend valuable time looking for a parking space. But if walking longer distances is not an option, the Metro is a good alternative. It’s about $3 per trip. D.C. also has a bike share program where you can rent a bike for an hour or more and drop it off at one of the many locations around the city. 

Top Ten Things to Do/See in D.C. (In no particular order) –

  1. Grab a map from a National Park Service kiosk. NPS provides a great park map to view the lay out of all the monuments and various Smithsonian Museums around the city. (There are a few kiosks located around the National Mall.)
  2. If new to the city, take a Big Bus Tour or trolley ride. Obviously this is a tourist thing, but it’s a convenient way to get around especially if you want to go to some of the outlying areas if you don’t have a car. You can hop on and off the bus or trolley anytime throughout the day. Also the best time to view the monuments is at night. It’s always great to have someone drive you around if you’re not sure how to get to where you want to go! 
  3. Walk around the entire White House. Arguably the best view is from Pennsylvania Ave. Unfortunately, the White House is not currently offering tours.
  4. Take a tour of the U.S. Capitol. Make sure to reach out to your representative and/or senator ahead of time to get access to the legislative wings. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still schedule a tour. But if you just sign up through the main visitor’s center for a general tour while you are there, you will only gain access to the rotunda and the hall of statutes. The short film that is shown at the beginning of the tour is worthwhile though.
  5. Explore all the Historic Buildings! Take self-guided or volunteer led tours of the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the National Library of Congress. If you want to actually enter the Library, you will need to present a photo ID in person at the Madison Building to get a registration card. Also walk through the National Archives Building to view the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Old Postal Building is an interesting place too, and you can go up in the tower. Since the Washington Monument is currently closed, the word on the street is the view from the tower is the best view of the city.
  6. Visit as many museums as you can. How often do you get free access to amazing exhibits? A lot of the museums in D.C. are free. Everybody loves free stuff! Some of my favorite Smithsonian Museums are: The American History Museum, American Art Museum, Natural History Museum (there’s a fantastic wildlife and landscape photography exhibit) and the Air and Space Museum. Although I ran out of time, the National Zoo is supposed to be great and the Postal Museum sounds intriguing too. The National Art Gallery is not a Smithsonian Museum but it’s a great one to go to as well. If you enjoy photography, also consider taking a tour of the National Geographic Museum at the National Geographic Headquarters. There is a free photography exhibit of lions, tigers and bears that the public can walk through or pay an entrance fee to learn about the history of National Geographic and walk through a pirate exhibit.     
  7. Walk around the Tidal Basin (It’s not a far as it looks!) and visit all the monuments. Make sure to take time to read the messages. Each one is very telling of different eras in the history of the United States. Some of my favorite monuments: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.
  8. Go to the National Press Club and/or explore the Newseum. Although a private club for journalists, the National Press Club welcomes the public to eat at one of its two restaurants, the Fourth Estate. The Newseum is a museum about the history of news. 
  9. Walk the National Mall at sunset. Stop to enjoy the city and rest on a park bench. 
  10. Walk over to Georgetown, down Embassy Row and/or to the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Grab dinner, a drink or whatever you please along one of the popular streets or at the waterfront.
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