The opportunity for a quick visit arose when we decided to road trip it down to Virginia to see my sister graduate from A.I.T army training, and I was determined to see D.C. while the chance was within reach.
But I learned a lot about the capital city that I didn’t know before. Basically, you have to see it to understand just how huge and overwhelming it is. But I loved it.
We were short on time, but here’s what I saw in the two days I visited Washington D.C., and what you should consider seeing on your trip there, too.
The National Mall
The first stop most tourists make to the city is the National Mall. It’s sprawling, confusing, and in the on-season, crammed with tourists. But it’s so entirely worth seeing. A visit to “America’s front yard” is free to the public (like most, if not all, of the monuments and museums are in D.C.), and you’re greeted with a full view of incredible American architecture and history. Centered within the National Mall is the Washington Monument (you can’t miss it!) and it’s anchored by the Lincoln Memorial on one site, and the U.S. Capitol on the other. Use the L’Enfant Plaza metro stop to begin here!
The White House
While strolling the National Mall, be sure to stop by the house everyone knows. The residency of the U.S. President, it’s an iconic historical landmark that you absolutely cannot miss. Just be mindful of the secret service patrolling the area, and do not cross any barriers blocking you from the yard. But definitely snap some photos! And if you’re feeling thirsty at this point in your journey, I recommend spending a dollar for a water with one of the non-official vendors (it’s much more affordable).
The Washington Monument
You seriously cannot miss this massive obelisk, even if you tried to! Although the interior of the monument, as I discovered, is closed until 2019, I was still awe-struck by the sheer size of it. Make sure to head up on top of the hill and take some great pictures!
The Smithsonian Museum(s)
The Smithsonian, as you most likely know, is all-encompassing. Spanning several buildings, the two most well-known are the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Museum of American History. But there are also the Air and Space Museums, the African American History Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. You can spend days checking them out – but on a short schedule, I was only able to choose one. I opted to visit the Natural History Museum (near the National Archives), first exploring the flowering yard outside, before checking out the galleries on the interior. You have the be sure to check out The Hope Diamond, the giant squid, and the Don Pedro Aquamarine, if nothing else! But I guarantee that you’ll be slack-jawed at this incredibly impressive collection of artifacts.
World War II Memorial
Directly before the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and at the end of the iconic Reflecting Pool, this is an impressive tribute to the 2nd World War. 56 granite columns surround the “Atlantic” and “Pacific,” representing the unity of the states during the time of crisis, and highlights the gorgeous water features on the interior. Be sure to stop by this monument and reflect upon those who lost their lives during that great war.
Abraham Lincoln Memorial
Abe is by far my favorite president, so I had to visit the Lincoln Memorial. But be warned: The Reflecting Pool is a much longer walk than it seems! From the columns outside to the impressive 19-foot statue of the president seated inside, it was a perfectly fitting monument to a great president. Inscribed within are inscriptions of Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address and, of course, The Gettysburg Address. The tourists are numerous, so make sure to grab some good pictures when you can. And definitely check out the stunning views of the Reflecting Pool from the top!
Korean War Veterans Memorial
In the Potomac Park on the right side of the memorial sits the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This is a place teeming with veterans on pilgrimage to visit and respect their fallen comrads, so please make sure to remain respectful! The statues in the center of the triangle represent a patrolling platoon – a striking visual to honor the soldiers who died fighting in that war.
The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
On the other side of the Potomac Park (cross back in front of the Lincoln Memorial and follow the signs) you will find the Vietnam Memorial. Like the Korean War Memorial, this site is filled with the families, friends, and fellow soldiers of the fallen – leaving wreaths and taking pictures next to the names that line the black reflective wall. Definitely be sure to visit this well-known site, and pay your respects to the fallen of the Vietnam War.
Some sites I didn’t get to see include:
- Arlington National Cemetery
- The US Capitol (up close)
- The Jefferson Memorial
- Martin Luther King, JR. Memorial
- Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial
- Vietnam Women’s Memorial
- Marine Corps War Memorial
- Pentagon Memorial
All in all, I would most definitely go back to finish exploring that incredible city, and I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!
Check out the official Washington D.C. travel website HERE