Welcome to Washington, D.C.
is a great city. About three days will be plenty, leaving enough time to pack in as many sites,
landmarks and museums. On our first visit, we spent the best part of half a day
was spent waiting in line to visit the White House (see tips below for
more info). We visited Washington D.C. even before the West Wing
TV series had made a dent in our viewing habits, but it's amazing some
of the building and streets you recognise when watching the program,
which has been a lot since that trip!
Places of Interest:
Everywhere! Seriously, Washington D.C. has so many places to visit that
you will already know of, you hardly need us to tell you. However, some
of the places visited and enjoyed were The White House,
where visiting in December is probably not the best time of year for
outdoor activities in Washington. How they hold the Presidential
Inauguration Ceremony outdoors in January is beyond us. Just tough I
guess. Getting into the White House even at this time of year is a slow
process. The queue stretched from 'a side entrance' (that's not meant
to be secretive, we just can't remember the exact entry gate) around
the front to The Mall against the fence for something like three hours.
In the blistering cold. The only entertainment? Watching the heavily
armed Secret Service patrol the grounds, but even that became boring
after a while. After passing through security, the tour takes about 15
minutes and you think to yourself "that's it?" No Oval Office, no
Situtation Room, no Nuclear Launch Codes, Nothing. Except a few rooms
named after Presidents only some of us can remember, some paintings of
people nobody knows, and more Secret Service agents. Still, if you want
to say that you've been to the White House like us, then it's worth the
wait. And it's free.
Try picking one or two of the Smithsonian Museums as there are loads of different ones in Washington D.C. We visited the National Museum of American History,
which featured a lot about the American system of Government, various
war campaigns fought in, and other exhibitions from various periods of
the country's history. Excellent for an overview of the country's
progression and often they have travelling or special exhibitions, so
worth a look for that. Also visited the National Air and Space Museum.
Needless to say, this was pretty cool and had enormous replicas of
planes, space capsules and everything else the Americans have tried to
launch into the air or orbit over the last 100 years or so. Find out
more at www.si.edu/museums
We didn't actually venture inside the US Capitol Building but seen from a realitively close distance, it is impressive. As is the Lincoln Memorial with its huge statue of Abraham Lincoln and view over the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument. There are two really amazing and moving places to visit: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetary.
The former has the names of almost 60,000 service men and women who
died or are missing in action from the Vietnam War. When we were there,
many people were looking for the names of relatives along the wall, but
I'm sure this is the case most of the time. The latter is actually
outside Washington D.C. but is an easy cab or metro ride. The most
famous grave here is John F. Kennedy.
There is so much more to see and do in Washington D.C. and surrounding
area. Even if you are not American (like us), it is still easy to
appreciate the depth of this country's history, present and, in some
cases like Georgetown University, its future. A revisit to the city sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Accommodation: being big
internet hotel bookers (sometimes using guidebooks as well but they
seem a bit 1990's now), we came across Red Roof Inns (www.redroof.com)
on our first trip to the US and duly booked the Washington location for
a couple of nights. It is situated in the Chinatown district and it
easy to reach by taxi or bus from the central train station. We also
found it easy to get into the main part of town using either our feet
or the metro. As far as memory serves, it was around $US90 per night
for a big double room that was clean and quiet, with traditional
vending and ice machines at the end of the hall, and coffee and donuts
in the lobby come morning time. It didn't include breakfast.
Food: our culinary experience of Washington DC was not that exciting, but mostly through our own choosing.