I am finally rested up from our trip to Washington, DC. Whew! Wrangling two buses of middle school students for a week is tough. Overall, though, they were pretty well behaved. I was especially proud of them for maintaining absolute silence during the changing of the guard and wreath laying ceremony at Arlington Ceremony. Who would have thought so many teens could be so still for so long? It was an event filled week with a lot of walking and sight seeing. There is history on every corner of DC and so much to do that you can’t do it all in one week. I absolutely loved the city and all of its history and politics. I hope to go back in the next year or two and see the sights I missed this time. It sounds very hokey, but I truly feel like a better American because I’ve visited our nation’s capitol and learned so much more about my government. Most of the museums in town are free, so you can come and go as you like. There is tight security in each building and you can speed up your entrance into these buildings by leaving bags at home. I recommend carrying only money, an ID and sunglasses. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to get through the metal detectors. Also, no gum is allowed at many of the facilities, so you’re better off to do without it. For those of you interested in visiting, here is my assessment of the tourist spots there:
Washington monument-Visible from EVERY corner in DC. Make the trip to the top of the monument for a great view, but pick up your free tickets for the elevator ride at the beginning of the day. That way you can visit something else nearby (Treasury Dept. or Holocaust Museum) while you wait for your designated tour time and don’t waste your “waiting” time. Also, they give out only so many tickets per day.
Lincoln memorial-Check this out at night. It’s beautiful then. Ditto for the Jefferson Memorial. The other war memorials are fabulous and should be seen, but I recommend seeing them at night too. They are just so much more impressive in the evening, especially the Korean War memorial.
Capitol building-Very cool building. The tour is very interesting.
White House- I would have been disappointed if I had stood in line with 20,000 tourists in the hot summer sun to see this one. You get to see only a few rooms. It was much more fun taking pictures in front of the White House and learning lots of great facts about the building and its operations/history from our tour guide. I highly recommend tour guides. They really do enhance the visit. We did see the presidential dogs being walked on the lawn and Dick Cheney’s motorcade while we were standing there. That was kind of fun.
Library of Congress-Do not miss this building. It is probably one of the most beautiful buildings in the country, if not the world (on the inside) and most folks don’t know that because you just don’t hear about this building. It’s free. Take advantage of it.
National Archives-Many of the exhibits are interesting but you should go just to see the original copies of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation and Magna Carta.
Franklin Roosevelt memorial-Would have been only slightly interesting without the tour guide. The guide made it very interesting.
Arlington Cemetery-A must visit place. Learning about the intense training and precision required for the changing of the guard before you go makes it so much more interesting. As you stand on the steps and face the tomb of the unknown, sit on the far right for the ceremony. This is the best seat in the house for watching the fascinating movements of the soldiers. The ceremony is very impressive, and the cemetery is striking. If you have small children, do not visit during a time when they are likely to be tired or cranky. Some parts of the cemetery require silence.
Smithsonians-Fascinating places that hold everything from Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers to Lincoln’s stove pipe hat. There are several, and you will want to spend plenty of time in each. Allow a minimum of one day for this. You may want two or more days if you are a museum/history buff and like to take your time.
National Holocaust Museum-My favorite stop of the trip. The permanent exhibit at this museum is well thought out and highly effective. It’s a fabulous exhibit. My 14 year old daughter and her friends truly enjoyed this museum. It’s a heavy subject, but you emerge from the building having learned an incredible amount of information. Even if you think you know all there is to know about the Holocaust, you will be surprised at how much you will learn at this facility. If you have limited time in DC, put this one near the top of your “must see” list.
Ford Theater-the place where Lincoln was shot. There is a museum below the theater that holds the pillow he died upon and other artifacts from the assassination. The bed in which he died can be viewed at the boarding house across the street. I did not get to visit the theater, but others in my party did and said it was VERY interesting. I hope to visit it the next time I’m there.
Also, make a point to drive by: the Kennedy Center, Embassy Row, the Watergate Hotel and the Washington Cathedral. Whatever you choose to see, just go, go, go to DC. It’s a fascinating place.
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