Don’t make the same mistake I did: saving just a day to see some of the sites in our Nation’s Capital. In the end, though, I grabbed my cousin’s bike and rode all over the National Mall to check out the monuments. It was stunning.
Lincoln Memorial. I had the chance to visit at night and during the daytime. The nighttime visit was intense. Around the statue of Lincoln are key inscriptions from the day: the Gettysburg Address. His second inaugural speech. And if you can imagine this wartime president and what he saw as his duties to reunite the Union, you can get an idea of the weight on his shoulders. Heavens–no wonder he’s sitting down.
Jefferson Memorial. Set at the far side of the Tidal Basin, this is a fitting tribute to our third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Again, the inscriptions are all around his stand-up profile inside the memorial. And his gaze is fixed at the Washington Monument in the distance.
Washington Monument. Even though I lived in Washington, DC for three years, I never went to the top of the monument. I recommend it. Make your reservations in advance. It’s the tallest point from which you can get a clear view of the mall and the rest of Washington, DC.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This includes the statuary as well as the famous Wall, where all the names of those soldiers lost in the Vietnam War are inscribed. It’s difficult to articulate the strong emotions when visiting a sacred place like this.
The Franklin Roosevelt Memorial. Our longest-serving president has a new memorial documenting the 12 years he served. This includes the Great Depression, as well as World War II. Spend the time to read the inscriptions.
Smithsonian Institution. When I lived in suburban Alexandria, Virginia, I would spend my weekends at the Smithsonian. There are so many museums–and so many treasures–you really need to pace yourself, since you could spend a full day in each area, IMHO. I picked the National Air and Space Museum–because I just cannot get enough of aviation and space history. To see the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright brothers’ plane from Kitty Hawk. HA! And right next to it–the X-15 super-fast air force plane. Wow!!
The Museum of the American Indian. This is a new Smithsonian Museum and it’s worth several hours. I spent about 90 minutes–and it wasn’t long enough. This museum includes the history of Native Americans from South America to the Arctic and documents their civilizations, as well as their interface with Europeans. It offers you an opportunity to see the European conquests from a Native American’s perspective. There is an incredible gun collection, as well as a collection of Bibles that had been translated into many different Native American languages. There is jewelry and finery made from the gold of South America and Mexico. Take the information that’s offered at this museum and compare it with the lessons you learned in history class. Hopefully, it will cause you to do your own research–and to draw your own conclusions. This is a vital museum.
The National Portrait Gallery. I only got to scratch the surface of this display. It’s located in “Penn Quarter” at 9th and F St. NW. For me, it was fascinating to see the portraits of many of our nation’s leaders just as I’m reading about them. I’m reading “American Lion” about Andrew Jackson. And all the figures in the book: Jackson, Henry Clay, John Calhoun–they’re all on display. Also, many of the Civil War generals from both sides are on display. The portraits are just one part of the art museum–and it’s worth going.
What did I miss? Museum of Natural History, the Spy Museum, the Capitol Building, the White House. Already, I’m planning to return with the family.
I recommend riding a bike around the Mall. You can rent one at Union Station, or at several other locations around Washington.
Share this Post