I am back with more fun tidbits from my weekend in Washington D.C. My weekend trip to D.C. centered around visiting the NMAAHC which I recapped in a previous post. I really could have spent my whole weekend at the NMAAHC, but since we brought my two little cousins (12 and 13 years old) along I knew they had to see more than just the inside of the museum! Maybe it’s the years of showing family around D.C., but somehow we finally managed to cram in most of the highlights in one short weekend *pats self on the back.* I’ll highlight my foodie experiences in a later post, but here is my weekend itinerary!
With only one whole day in town, we had to make the most of every minute of this trip. To do this we booked the earliest flight out of Houston and arrived in Baltimore at 10am, tired but ready. The Baltimore airport is further out, but tends to be considerably cheaper than Reagan and Dulles. As far as traveling from Baltimore to D.C., we opted for the Super Shuttle which was surprisingly cheap for five people. There are some options to take a train from BWI into D.C., but the directions online confused me! So if you are smarter than me, that is definitely a cheaper and likely more scenic mode of travel.
We made our way to our downtown hotel to dump our stuff and hit the streets for food! As you will see in my next post, food proved to be a tricky topic for most of the weekend. Let me tell yeah, traveling with finicky teens and pre-teens really kills my foodie goals. For Friday, we had to settle on a quick franchise spot near our hotel to quell their hangryiness. Once we fed them, they were ready for the day.
Our hotel was a few blocks from the White House which made walking to all of the monuments super convenient. We started our day heading there first and then to the National Mall. Once we reached the Pennsylvania avenue side of the White House we saw it was blocked off by temporary fences preventing us from getting the best photos. A secret service agent said the fences were up as they continued to break down elements of the Inaugural parade stage. This may be true, but I worry that we will no longer be able to get as close to the White House. Darn fence jumpers *shakes fist* Thankfully, you can still get great pictures from the South Lawn which we did.
From there, we made our way to the National Mall. The best part about this area is you will encounter a memorial every few feet. Just keep walking straight towards Lincoln! Starting at the Washington Monument, we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial stopping by the WWII Memorial on our way.
At the Lincoln Memorial we lucked upon a school’s Black History Month program on the Lincoln Memorial steps. The students each recited a few lines of “I Have A Dream” and belted out “We Shall Overcome.” It was super cute and kudos to the school for landing this location! Even without a program or event, the Lincoln Memorial still remains one of my favorite. It is a beautiful structure with some amazing views of the city and National Mall.
At the feet of the Lincoln Memorial you will find the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorial. We visited the Vietnam Wall before moving on to our next stop to Capitol Hill.
Supreme Court/ Library of Congress
If I had been thinking, I would have headed to the Capitol Hill earlier so that we could have had time to stop through the Supreme Court. SCOTUS closes earlier than some of the other buildings, but if you plan this correctly you can stop by before heading on a Capitol Tour. Anywho, as a lawyer, the Supreme Court is my favorite “check and balance” so a moment here is required!
After our Capitol Tour, we walked through the connected tunnel to the Library of Congress. During my visits here, I usually “ohh and ahh” and take a few pictures in the Great Hall area and leave. It is beautiful do not get me wrong, but one day I am going to have to figure out where the books are! Next visit, I am spending more time here for sure.
The size and grandeur of the Capitol is a reflection of our founding father’s intention to make the legislature the most powerful branch of our government. The White House has nothing on the Capitol y’all, so if you MUST pick one for a tour, I would go with the Capitol all day every day. So many elements of the Capitol stop you dead in your feet as you walk through. The must part of the Capitol though is the rotunda. There are paintings from the dome down to your eye level which depict the major moments in American history.
5am flights guarantee a nap is in order at some point in the day. After a quick nap, we headed back out into the city in search of dinner. After dinner I stayed at the hotel and contended with my little cousins, while my sister hit the streets with a couple of her old co-workers. According to her, bar hopping near U-Street was a fun experience.
We dedicated our entire Saturday to visiting NMAAHC (check that out here). If the NMAAHC does not tickle your fancy or you are unable to land tickets, there are millions of other museums to visit. I would start with the other Smithsonian Museums (American History Museum, Air and Space Museum or the Natural History Museum) which do not require tickets for entry. The Holocaust Museum is another good option that requires tickets during peak months.
So after spending all day in the museum, I could not convince this crew to do anything other than kick their feet up in the hotel. We also ordered room service for dinner *sighs* IF I had a more energized group, I would have probably hit up Busboys and Poets for dinner. Another thought is to swing by some of the monuments at night when there are less people.
Before our flight out we tried to catch a few more places we had not seen. Earlier on the trip, my little cousin picked up a slap bracelet with five spots on it and we were determined to send him home with a picture in front of each location.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial/FDR Memorial/ MLK Memorial
To start our day out, we ubered to Thomas Jefferson’s memorial which sits on across the Potomac from the National Mall. From this location, Jefferson is supposed to “look over the city,” but that just means you kind of have to go out of your way to see the monument! Since you are across the river, you can catch some good photos of the Washington monument and the MLK memorial.
After a few photos with Jefferson, we headed to see the Martin Luther King Memorial across the river. We followed a path around the river bank and encountered the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial on the way. For the FDR memorial, they clearly decided to make it’s length/size proportional to his time in office. The memorial is more of a park than other Presidential memorials with a couple of monuments of FDR, his wife and even his dog y’all. The whole family got some shine.
Next up THE Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Fun fact, MLK is the only non-president with a memorial on the National Mall. Here, we took a moment to show the kiddos around and reflect on some of his greatest quotes. Before leaving, I sized up a nice little spot next to the MLK memorial for Barack H. Obama’s future memorial too :).
Finally we took a cab across the bridge to Virginia to head to Arlington Cemetery where America’s heroes are buried. Years ago we made the mistake of visiting Arlington Cemetery in the dead of winter and walking through the cemetery. This time we paid the thirteen bucks for the trolley. Smartest decision of the day! Using the trolley allowed us to maneuver through the cemetery with minimal walking and expeditiously. Here we visited the Kennedy family gravesite, paid respects to Thurgood Marshall at Supreme Court Hill, witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown and visited Arlington House.
We also stopped by Arlington House, the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee which sits perched on hill overlooking the cemetery, the district and Virginia. During the war, the union army seized his land and began to bury the dead soldiers there ensuring that Lee could never return home. Arlington House also included exhibits about the slaves who resided there including one who was likely the child of Lee’s father in law. Y’all know I love a full story, so I made note of the family name Syphax, so I could research more when I got home.
We ubered to U Street for lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl before heading to the airport for our 8pm flight. U Street has been an area where African American businesses have thrived. The African American cultural influences are still very present in this area.
As I type this, I amazed that we packed all of this in during one weekend! Again, this is one of the best itineraries we every fully implemented!
Although I lived in D.C. for a brief time while studying for the bar exam, I felt like a longterm tourist so these are some things that I found helpful then and now.
- Just an FYI, literally every building has a metal detector that you must go through to enter including the museums. Keep this in mind as you prepare your bags and purses for the day.
- I walked about 12 miles between Friday and Sunday. Walking is the best way to get to the monuments efficiently. For example, from the Lincoln Memorial is about 2 miles. One time we stop on the Memorial steps and decided the Capitol couldn’t be THAT far. Well, that “hill” took us out.
- Book your Capitol Tours through your Representative or Senator. If you do it ahead, they will have one of their staff members escort you. This is all around better than the general public tour, because it’s smaller and more personal.
- From your same representative you can obtain gallery passes to sit in on the Senate and House proceedings. We happened to visit on a Friday, a day that is apparently a part of the weekend to Congress! If this is something you want to do, plan to arrive on Thursday or stay through Monday.
- Make sure to walk to the back of the Lincoln Memorial for views of Arlington Cemetery and Robert E. Lee’s house at the top of the hill. Also, inside of the memorial, squeeze into the corner and check out the back of Lincoln’s head. They say the sculptor put Lee’s face in the back of Lincoln’s head. I can always make out the beard.
- Visit ALL of the bookstores at each monument. They have carefully selected items that relate to the monument. If you like history books like me, you will find interesting books on very narrow topics.
- White House tours must be booked well in advance and requires more documents to get in. You also cannot take pictures while you are inside but may have a small photo-op on the White House steps as you leave.
- The train in D.C. is really easy and useable. We did not use it this time because we mainly walked and did not venture to far out of the district but do not be dissuaded from using it. I found the D.C. trains much easier than NYC for example.
There are a few other places that I really like, but we did not get a chance to see this go around. With a longer itinerary, I would squeeze in one of these options in.
- National Cathedral
- Mount Vernon
- The Wharf (summer months)
- Alexandria,VA (it’s SO PRETTY)
- Crystal City/Pentagon City