We were back in Washington DC last week, which is a place that we are very familiar with. The National Mall is a park that extends between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capital, which is approximately 1.9 miles long. It is obviously a huge draw for tourists that visit Washington DC as the Washington Monument sits at the heart of the park and the White House and Jefferson Memorial are also very close by. There are several walking paths throughout the park and vendors are there selling ice cream, water, and other items. There are also many food trucks in the surrounding area.
It isn’t just a location for tourists, but the National Mall is also a popular place for locals to come and enjoy the scenery and to walk, jog, and bike along the many paths. On nice days, you will find many families and couples out enjoying the weather and relaxing in the park. Since we have been to all of the museums and seen all of the important sites on previous visits to Washington, we decided to enjoy the park as the locals do, simply walking along the Reflecting Pool and having a relaxing day in our Nation’s Capital.
Many of the most important museums are located in the general vicinity of the National Mall as well, including the Smithsonian Museums. We also walked through Lafayette Square, which is on the other side of the White House and then walked passed the White House on our way to the National Mall. If you’d like to go to one of the historic restaurants in Washington, we’d recommend going to the Lafayette Square area where you can find many restaurants with a colorful history. Even if you are visiting Washington DC for the first time, it is worthwhile taking your time while you are at the National Mall and taking your time to truly enjoy it and relax.
We had the opportunity to visit Austin, Texas, and enjoyed the opportunity to have some good barbeque, country-western music, and wonderful hospitality. Congress Street in downtown Austin has a variety of restaurants, shops, and music venues, which makes it the perfect place to stroll. Austin is the capital of Texas and the tourist section of Congress Street starts or ends there depending upon how you look at it. At the opposite end of Congress Street from the capital is the Congress Bridge, which will take you across Lady Bird Lake, which is a river-like reservoir on the Colorado River in Austin. There is a nice park and walking paths to enjoy.
We only had one day downtown as we were there for a work trip, so we made the most of our time walking the streets of downtown. We started our day in the Red River District and made sure to get some beef brisket before heading towards the capital, which seems to be the most photographed image of Austin. The grounds of the capital are quite beautiful with several statues and you can even take a tour of the governor’s mansion depending upon when you visit. After walking in the Texas heat for a while, we decided to stop in The Driskill Bar and Grill, which is located in the historic hotel. The inside of the hotel is quite beautiful and it was an elegant place to sit and relax before continuing to enjoy downtown Austin.
We couldn’t leave Austin without listening to some country-western music and oddly enough we found an Irish pub with a live band that met our needs perfectly. It was almost a family affair as different members of the band joined at different times, so the music was constantly changing. It was quite a lively atmosphere and we enjoyed it very much. Afterwards we continued to walk around downtown Austin looking at the varying architecture, which is a mixture of historic and modern buildings sitting side by side.
After having some seafood for dinner, we made our way back to our hotel. We definitely enjoyed our time in Austin and are looking forward to visiting again in the near future. There is more to see than what we were able to do in such a short period of time, but what we did see left us wanting to see more.
With its array of monuments, museums, and landmarks, Washington DC is truly a world-class city. You could easily spend a couple of weeks in Washington and still not see everything that it has to offer, which is somewhat ironic for the two of us. We both lived outside of major cities growing up, one of us outside of DC and the other outside of Philadelphia and other than taking friends and family into the city when they came to visit, we avoided the tourist locations due to the crowds. So, despite living close to great cities for much of our lives, we actually saw more of those cities later, after we had moved to Colorado and then gone back as tourists ourselves.
We had taken the kids to Washington during the summer of 2001 and it was an amazing time, albeit a whirlwind trip. Unfortunately, it was one of the hottest and muggiest summers for the area, one where the heat was downright oppressive. At the time, the kids complained literally every fifteen minutes about how miserable they were due to the heat and that all they wanted to do was go inside and do nothing. But these were the days of what we like to call “education vacations”, so we were determined to see as much as possible, despite the complaints and weather. At the time it seemed like none of the children enjoyed a single moment of the trip, but years later we would find out that they actually truly appreciated everything that they saw.
There is so much to see in Washington that is hard to know where to start. Being the nation’s capital, it is obviously important to see the United States Capital as well as the White House. We were there before the attacks of September 11 and access to these seats of government was greater than it is today. There is so much history associated with these great landmarks and every American should see them at least once in their lives. Seeing the National Mall and the Washington Monument is another absolute must while you’re visiting Washington. Completing the tour of the monuments by visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial should put you in a patriotic mood as you pay homage to the founding fathers. While at the National Mall, you should also be sure to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is a very moving tribute to the victims of the holocaust and meant to educate people about the atrocities that man is capable of so that future generations don’t repeat the atrocities.
The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial are both beautiful and haunting. Seeing all of the names on the memorial wall of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial is something that is very meaningful to people of our generation who had family members who served at the time. Visiting the National Cemetery and watching the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is something that you will never forget. Seeing the respect that our current military pay to the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice is incredibly humbling.
Then there is Old Town Alexandria, just across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, truly one of our favorite places. Seeing Ford’s Theatre where President Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth is another place that will make you pause and reflect. Not everything in Washington is about the memorials, there are the Smithsonian Museums with their dazzling array of artifacts and pieces of American history. There is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which still has performances on a grand scale that are definitely worth attending. And certainly there are no shortage of restaurants to suit anyone’s tastes.
Washington DC is probably America’s greatest city. It is truly a different experience and was designed specifically to be that. From the layout of the streets that was planned by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in the Baroque style, with avenues radiating out from rectangles to the height restrictions that ensure that the Washington Monument and United States Capital are visible for all to see. Washington DC is the closest thing that the United States has to an “old world” city and it is truly a pleasure to visit and see. There is so much more to see than just the monuments and museums, too much to describe in a single post. It is truly a city that everyone should visit at some time or another and definitely a city that every American should be proud to have as our nation’s capital.