Early Saturday morning Roman and I arrived at Washington Dulles on a Southwest flight from Chicago Midway. Coming into Dulles the wind was crazy strong, at a near 30 mph, and we hit the tarmac hard. After a wait for a shuttle that took forever, we picked up our rental car, checked in our hotel near the airport and then headed into Washington DC.
From Herndon, Virginia, Washington DC is about 45 minutes even with light traffic. One thing that we noticed is that traffic in the DC area is kind of insane. It’s always happening with so many cars and tourists around the DC area, so plan accordingly! We decided to rent a car and commute into DC to save money and have personal freedom. Also parking in DC is relatively easy with parking garages ranging from $10 – $20, all around the major tourist areas.
Parked our car and then popped out to find we were within walking distance of the White House. But first a Starbucks, since it was chilly outside. Walking up to the White House feels like well, walking up to the White House, meaning I had been told the White House is small so don’t be shocked when you walk up to it by its size. And I wasn’t. It looked exactly how I imagined it would.
And that’s not a bad thing necessarily. In fact having low expectations helps me not be disappointed and when I first saw the White House I wasn’t disappointed. I was more intrigued and curious to see where most of our presidents have lived throughout our history. That little fact is kind of cool since these are the monuments every American learns growing up. And here it is, historically beautiful and totally American.
So we walk behind the White House and of course there are hoards of people trying to get pics of really not much. The White House was so far from the gates that a good camera shot was difficult and kind of ugly. We snapped one photo and got out of there. Next up was the Washington Monument, directly behind the White House and hard to miss.
The good thing about the Washington Monument is how spread out the grounds are. We walked up to the American flags and the wind was whipping so strong on top of the tiny hill. We felt downright patriotic and learned that there were 50 American flags surrounding the Washington Monument, of course representing the 50 US States!
The Washington Monument is part of the famous the National Mall, a 2 mile stretch of very important monuments including the Jefferson Memorial, US Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, Tidal Basin, etc. Did you know that the Washington Monument is the tallest stone structure in the world; yeah neither did we. But it is actually very impressive.
Across the way is the also very impressive Reflecting Pool and Jefferson Memorial, except that the Reflecting Pool was empty! Yeah we were kind of upset because in pictures, speeches, etc. the Reflecting Pool is gorgeous when it’s filled with water. We took one photo and then walked up to the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. You must stop by this monument as it’s probably the most beautiful in DC. There isn’t much inside besides Lincoln himself, a couple of important passages carved into stone and a gift shop but it’s still well worth the hike.
Nearby there is the famous Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as the Korean Veterans Memorial. We stopped by the Korean Veterans Memorial, thinking it was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and then walked over to the Tidal Basin, which was supposed to have all the beautiful cherry blossoms. Well turns out they weren’t in full bloom and the trees that we thought were cherry blossoms actually turned out to be magnolias.
But even by the water there were basically no trees in bloom, except one. And it turns out that this tree was actually a true cherry blossom, barely coming into bloom. It was beautiful and we instantly knew it was a cherry blossom by all the tourists surrounding the tree. It’s such a shame though, since even as I type the cherry blossoms are probably fully in bloom all around the Tidal Basin. But at least we still got to see a live cherry blossom.
A short walk through the Roosevelt Memorial, which is not a must but still pleasant enough, we came out across the Jefferson Monument. Another classically beautiful monument that all new visitors should go to, the building alone is worth the visit. Inside there is a stunning ceiling with a statue of Jefferson surrounded by some of his most famous quotes.
Now that we had walked for a couple of hours and a couple of miles, it was time to find some food. So we headed directly north from the Jefferson Memorial to near Fords Theater or aka the place where Lincoln was shot. This area now has the one area to find reasonably good food for a reasonably good price and we wanted to go to &pizza but too busy so went over to White Apron. Along the way I shot some photos of this magnificent marble building.
With another rest at Starbucks it was clear that we were tired of walking. We decided to start making the long walk back to our car and head back to the hotel to get some rest. As tourists, we always underestimate how much our feet can handle and near 6 hours of non-stop walking is really the limit. Plus we had been up early to get on our flight!
The next morning we were up early and rolling into DC on Easter Sunday at around 9:30. We parked near the National Archives, plenty of time to walk over to the National Air and Space Museum, which is supposed to be one of the top museums in Washington DC. As people who love planes and aviation, this was a fun museum and really cool to see real artifacts used in space and from early flight.
The museum is free, like almost all museum in Washington DC, and promptly opens at 10:00 am. You can wait in line to get in but there probably is no need as the museum is large enough to hold a vast crowd. We got in and ran up to the top and toured those exhibits first before coming down to the bottom exhibits.
The most impressive exhibits, for me, were the large planes they installed in the center of the museum. Much of what we looked at was original and used in space flights or for general aviation. They even displayed an old Northwest 747 cockpit for aviation lovers. They also have old planes, some original, that were part of the first generation of airplanes, something most of us wouldn’t get to see too often.
You only need an hour in that museum and the good thing is there are plenty of other museums right next door. It would be a mistake to think you can do it all and actually care about what you’re seeing so don’t bother planning your day full of museums. We headed right across the way to the National Gallery of Art, which so happens to be the number one rated thing to do in DC on TripAdvisor, and I love art!
So they are kind of strict over at the National Gallery of Art and hate selfie sticks. Immediately when we walk in they out me because of my GoPro selfie stick saying that I must put it away. Also we had to store our bags, like many art galleries, and could only walk with our cameras. At least it’s all free and only slightly annoying.
First off the building is impressive with a beautiful entrance and ceiling. It feels like the early classy 1900’s and you instantly feel regal. It feels like time has almost stood still and you’re going back in time where opulence was taken for granted. I love it. The gallery is big so we decided to walk through the gallery fast and only stop at artwork that we truly liked.
For me I love most art but I love impressionism and it just so happens that the National Gallery of Art has some very impressive works of impressionism. To me it’s also exciting to see an artwork in person that you know from study and you actually know the background behind it. It somehow feels more personal and you have more of a connection to want to look at the art. Below are some of the famous paintings at the National Gallery.
One of the big bonuses of this museums and any in DC is the very fact that they are all free. If I lived in DC I would come and hang out at the National Gallery of Art because there are several rooms with skylights; really bringing beauty inside. In some rooms it’s possible to relax, read a book or simply just people watch, what more could you ask for?
Once we made our rounds through the Gallery it was finally time to head over to Capitol Hill. We knew it had scaffolding on it, making it ugly and really a major disappointment. I mean this is our US Capitol building and if I had traveled all the way from Europe like many tourist did, I would be pissed. But hey the one in Texas is taller so maybe I already saw the best one.
It is pretty though. We tried to imagine without the hideous scaffolding and were able to see the beauty more in the surrounding buildings. This part of Washington DC ended up being the easiest to do since basically no tourists had ventured that far to go see it. Behind the US Capitol, there is the Library of Congress and the US Supreme Court.
Closed on Sundays the Library of Congress couldn’t be seen but from photos I know it’s gorgeous in the inside. I really wanted to go in but never made it back to go see the inside. Now the US Supreme Court is right next door and covered with brilliant white marble. The effect is actually pretty stunning and when we stepped on the entrance we were engrossed with how alluring the structure is. Totally worth the walk.
For Easter Sunday we had reservations at Founding Farmers which was located on the other side of the White House, far from Capitol Hill. So instead of taking a taxi we decided to walk the 2.5 miles and stroll down famous Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s about a 45 minute walk but on a really good Spring day, the walk is pleasant and non threatening. There are famous landmarks, cherry trees and it’s a wide boulevard.
Finally we celebrated Easter Sunday at Founding Farmers, a famous brunch place on Pennsylvania Avenue just left of the White House if looking north. What can I say about this place, except that the food was amazing and the atmosphere was really fun. Of course it was crowded on Easter for brunch but we had reservations at 2 and got seated right away.
After a large brunch and our feet shot from all the walking we opted for some Starbucks for an hour or two before we met some of Romans friends for drinks at Park Tavern, near the Nationals Baseball Stadium. This is what happens when you put too much strain on your body in one day. So after 3 or 4 hours of drinking and nearly 9 pm, it was time to call it a day. That’s was full day of walking, eating and drinking! We had a really great time in downtown DC but now it was time to explore the outer parts of the Washington DC area, all in Part 2.
images by: shawnvoyage