A question that I am asked often is what is my favourite State and actually it isn’t a State at all.
Probably because it is so iconic and easily recognised but to actually be there is something altogether different the answer has to be Washington D.C
Every time I visited I discover more and more about this fascinating and prominent capital. The wide avenues and pristine roads that surround the monuments and the National Mall just make this city special….to me at least.
I have used this guide to visit D.C
Tip: More than likely you will be flying into Washington Dulles Airport. On arrival transfer to the terminal building and Homeland Security is by a mobile lounge. This is like a hall way with seating and they were designed as an homage to the space race. You will be encouraged to move down to the back but my tip is to loiter near to where you boarded because when the lounge starts to move it reverses out and then turns right around so you will be at the front and the first off to join the line for Homeland Security.
Tip: Dulles is approximately 35 miles from the centre of D.C and the traffic can be heavy with Toll Roads. If you rent a car be very careful regarding the Toll Road, if you have accepted not to activate the transponder at the front of the car that allows you to drive through the toll booths. Don’t take a taxi into D.C but take the Silver Line Express Coach to the Silver Line Metro Station called Weihle Reston East with easy links to the city. It is cheaper and a better way of getting downtown.
Tip: A travel pass on the superb Metro system is only around $15 all day. Make good use of it and it will help you discover history and take back memories that will be with you a long time. Of course you could take a trolley tour and hop and off all day but be adventurous and discover Washington D.C. The Metro system WMTA is efficient and very easy to navigate. The only time I have ever been on a busy train was going to the baseball game at Navy Yards to see The Nationals play. People are approachable and will help with directions to nearby facilities.
Tip: I would dedicate a couple of full days to discover the delights of this city and be prepared to walk. There is a cycle hire scheme similar to the one in London so I think the important thing to do is research what you want to see. Entrance to the monuments is free as is visiting any of the Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall. It goes without saying that security to almost all attractions is airport style and thorough.
Tip: Entrance tickets for tours of the Capitol Building or for the Ford Theatre or to get to the top of the Washington Monument (if it is open to the public) can be booked online. If you haven’t got a reserved time then you can get tickets on the day but get there early or you might have a long wait or be disappointed.
The National Mall is two miles long from the Capitol Building at one end to the Lincoln Memorial at the other. The wide grassy areas are flanked by the different Smithsonian Institute Museums. In the middle is the obelisk of the Washington Memorial that towers into the sky. It was once the tallest building in the world believe it or not. Surrounded by dozens of American Flags it is one of the most iconic sights in the world. If it is open (it has been closed recently for structural reasons) tickets are free to get into it. There are lifts to the viewing windows at the top but as space is at a premium it can be quite a long wait. The views from the top are spectacular. The White House is to the left as you look towards the Lincoln Memorial.
As the Capital City of the United States of America the monuments to the fallen in various conflicts are located along the National Mall. The simple but moving Vietnam Memorial wall and the striking statues of the Korean War are stunning as well as symbolic. The World War II memorial is relatively new and sits at the opposite end of the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. There is a Pacific side and an Atlantic side to see and is sunken so not to obscure the view of the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument.
Tip: When you tire of the National Mall, to be honest you can spend a whole day there dipping in and out of the museums and monuments, there is the Tidal Basin to see. In Spring the Tidal Basin is adorned in Cherry Blossom and in the Summer you can sail (well paddle at least) on it in paddle boats. The Jefferson Memorial dominates the other side of the Basin but the largest and most elaborate memorials is a hidden gem as far as I am concerned. The Roosevelt Memorial is a history of this most famous of Presidents and his quotes and achievements are immortalised in statues and art works. It is massive and really beautifully presented. It hardly gets a mention in guide books of the city which is a shame.
Looking over the Tidal Basin across to the other bank is the white monument to Martin Luther King Junior. His ‘I have a dream’ speech engraved into the white stone to the side of the sculptured image of the man himself.
When I started this post I was only going to mention a few things but there is such depth to the city that I have a feeling I could write about it for ever so I am going to break it down into different sections so watch out for more DC experiences that I have to share such as Segway touring, visiting the White House and the tour of the Pentagon.