VISITING THE USA CAPITAL | Sharon Henry
There are many things to do in Washington DC the capital of the USA. Donald Trump’s promise to ‘make America great again’ is orchestrated from here, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We were in the States when the election campaign began in 2015 and followed the ensuing drama avidly. Like a juicy soap opera, it kept us hooked – and continues to do so!
Olivia Pope’s Stomping Ground
Visiting the political epicentre that is Washington, DC (District of Columbia) was like walking around a sprawling movie set, one that features heavily in our favourite movies and TV shows – Forrest Gump, The American President, West Wing, The Fixer, Madam Secretary, House Of Cards… It was epic, after a lifetime watching this iconic city on the silver screen there was a surreal familiarity seeing it in reality.
Our Race To The White House
Approaching the White House from Lafayette Square gave us goose bumps and ambling along the reflecting pool and climbing the 87 steps to the Lincoln Memorial was especially memorable.
There are monuments and museums galore in Washington that could fill your calendar for weeks. Much of it won’t cost you a cent. The famous Smithsonian Institution provides free admission to most all of its 19 museums and the National Zoo. Many of the capital’s monuments are also free.
Most attractions are within walking distance of the National Mall, but wear comfortable shoes – it’s quite exhausting. The monuments and museums are A LOT further apart than they appear on maps!
10 Things To Do In Washington DC
It is impossible to fit everything in one visit so we found it best to really appreciate and savour a few chosen attractions, and spent hours for instance in the Air and Space Museum alone.
Washington is named in honour of America’s first president, George Washington and was designed by a Parisian, Pierre L’Enfant in 1791. By law, buildings cannot be higher than the width of the street they front plus an extra 20 ft, and it appears unusually flat for a city. There is a good public transport system and we used the Metro train and the bus as well as Uber to get around.
Here are 10 great reasons to visit Washington, DC.
1. The White House. 10 Things to do in Washington DC.
The White House was smaller than I’d imagined but still wholly impressive. As a testament of free speech, protesters had set up camp outside the iron fence campaigning against planned parenthood and nuclear weapons. Tours are available but extremely hard to get. They’re only offered to American citizens who are required to contact their senator or house representative at least 21 days in advance.
2. The Washington Monument.
A tribute to America’s first president, George Washington, the Washington Monument is the city’s tallest structure as well as the world’s tallest stone structure. The obelisk stands 555ft, 5in high and contains 50 flights of stairs. It took a century to plan and build resulting in two different shades of unmatched stone.
3. Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
The Lincoln Memorial is arguably the most popular attraction in Washington and is open 24 hours a day. This iconic landmark hosted the civil rights rally where Martin Luther King Jnr delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. President Obama’s Inauguration took place on those very same steps. The statue of Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president is 19 ft tall and some believe the position of his hands spells the letters ‘A’ and ‘L’ in American sign language, of which Lincoln was an advocate.
3. Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
Our selfie on the Lincolm Memorial steps with the Reflecting Pool (behind us) is central in the scene in the ‘Forrest Gump’ movie of Jenny and Forrest wading through it for a happy reunion. It’s not something to try in real life, for a start the water doesn’t look inviting plus you’ll likely get nabbed by a park ranger.
There are 87 steps to get to the top of the Memorial, commemorating Lincoln’s famous “four score and seven years ago” from the Gettysburg Address.
4. National Museum of American History
This massive Smithsonian building is chuck-a-block full of Americana ranging from patented mouse traps to Dorothy’s red shoes to Abraham Lincoln’s top hat. There is also exhibits on the Vietnam War and the American Presidency.
5. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
This is a must-see for aviation and space age buffs. Inside you’ll find aircraft flown by Amelia Earhart and Wilbur Wright, a space shuttle flight deck, the Lunar Lander and loads more. Fascinating.
6. National Museum of The Native American.
This Smithsonian museum tells the story of the indigenous communities that were ‘disrupted, displaced and even destroyed’ after the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. Unfortunately I walked away disappointed, the experience felt fragmented and lacked authentic accounts and artefacts of Native North Americans.
7. The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial – The Wall.
Etched onto this black granite 164 ft wall are 58,000 names of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. The names are listed chronologically of the date they died.
8. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Built on the Tidal Basin just off the Potomac River this marble memorial has a bronze statue towering 19 ft tall of President Thomas Jefferson who was instrumental in drafting and writing the Declaration of Independence.
9. National World War II Memorial
Located at the Washington Monument end of the Reflecting Pool this memorial was dedicated in 2004. A circle of 56 pilings, representing the 56 US states and territories surrounds the Rainbow Pool, it is especially beautiful at night.
10. Arlington National Cemetery
Although technically Arlington National Cemetery is in the neighbouring state of Virginia, geographically it’s just across the Potomac River from Washington. It is the largest burial ground in America where you find JFK’s memorial and the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
Washington is epic and quite impossible to conquer in one day with so much to see and do. It’s a joy to photograph with so many iconic monuments and we’ve just scratched the surface. Click here for a listing of the best photo spots in DC sussed out by a local – it’ll make your trip to the city even more memorable.