I was sick for my eighth grade field trip to Washington D.C., so for me this trip was a long time coming. I wanted to go in with an open mind and a clear agenda. I only had a short list of places that I knew I wanted to see (which happen to be the top three places on this list). D.C. is a city quite unlike New York. Yes, both have traffic and swarms of people. But, D.C. doesn't have the weird smells and inescapable litter that's found throughout New York. Washington has unparalleled cleanliness that one would expect from a national capital. The people were wonderful and the city had a lively energy to it without a sense of frantic rushing. After spending the past week in D.C., I've compiled a short and sweet list of my nine favorite spots that I saw along the way.
1. National Archives
The Constitution. The Declaration. The Bill of Rights. Need I say more? For me, seeing these documents was a borderline religious experience. I cried, shamelessly. I stared and ogled until the security guard told me to move on so that the other tourists could see. And, of course, I thought a lot about the Hamilton soundtrack. In all seriousness, seeing those documents alone made the trip worth it. Photography was, naturally, strictly forbidden, but I did get a picture of this wonderful guy outside of the Archives.
2. Museum of the American Indian
Now, I'm going to preface this by saying that if you are not a museum person (i.e if you don't enjoy reading wall panels about Native American history and traditions) you might not enjoy this as much as I did. I am a major museum person and can confidently say that I had a blast. The museum featured wings dedicated to tribes of North and South America, from the Inuit to the Inca. Beautiful pottery and cultural artifacts adorned display cases. Wall panels articulated the tragic histories that unfolded following European contact. Something I found incredibly fascinating was the architecture of the museum itself, which was intended to evoke a natural rock formation molded by the elements. And, I do have to say it, gift shop was a 10/10. Everything there was handmade and sourced from tribal communities. I got a beautiful little Chilean chanchito, a three legged pig that supposedly brings good fortune.
If I had $2.5 million, I would buy a townhouse in Georgetown. I would describe Georgetown as a mixture of SoHo and the Hamptons, but without the pretentiousness. While it is a part of D.C., it felt more like a busy village than it did a part of a city, if that makes sense. I loved it beyond measure. If anyone wants to buy me a townhouse, let me know. I won't decline the offer.
4. Korean War Memorial
Reminiscent of an art installation, the Korean War Memorial brings attention to America's "forgotten war". Life sized soldiers are planted in a bed of greenery. Their faces convey everything from fear to sheer confusion. The inscription dedicated the monument to honor the soldiers "who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." It was moving, to say the least.
5. Lincoln Memorial
An obligatory tourist attraction. A Doric temple to the legend himself, Abraham Lincoln. The engravings of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address were moving touches to the monument. Reading them under Lincoln's gaze was far more powerful than simply reading them from a book.
6. Union Station
Now, I'm sure you're wondering, in what world would a train station make a short list of must see places? Well, I have an affinity for train stations, and I took the train down to D.C. so it was the first thing I saw in the city. Union Station is like a cross between a Greek temple (if a Greek temple had Starbucks) and Grand Central Terminal. Looking up, you'll see beautiful sculptures of Greek gods and stunning gold coffered ceilings (art history vocabulary is useful, folks). Seriously beautiful.
7. Capitol Hill
Talk about being in the room where it happens (or outside the room... but close enough for a plebeian like me). Again, exquisite. I'm obsessed with this city's architecture. Being in such close proximity to the building makes you want to run for Congress.
8. World War II Memorial
As luck would have it, I went to the memorial on the 74th anniversary of D-Day. I was able to catch a ceremony for the veterans that was held that morning, which truly gave life to the Memorial and the history. The Memorial itself is sunken into the ground with two taller structures, each representative of a Theatre of the war, Atlantic and Pacific. Carved wreaths adorn the columns that enclose the monument, with each column bearing the name of either a US state or territory. It was definitely worth experiencing
9. Washington Monument
Another obligatory tourist stop. Yes, it's closed to the public to replace the elevator system so no, I didn't go inside. The monument is intimidatingly and inescapably massive. It inevitably appeared in every single photo I took at the National Mall and in the surrounding area. It's supposed to reopen for summer 2019, so I guess I'll have to go back to see the observatory at the the top of the Monument.
All in all, I loved D.C. I actually loved it almost as much as I love New York. There were several places in the city that I didn't have an opportunity to see, mainly the museums (it was just too nice out to be inside). But, if you ever find yourself in D.C. and you get to the Newseum before I do, let me know how it is!
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