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.