Monday, August 11, 2014

10 great things to see in D.C.

There is way too much to see and do in D.C. to fit everything in one trip, unless you plan to stay for a while. So this post's intent is to highlight some of the things to see while in town so you can decide what interests you most, especially if your time is limited.

National Mall /Memorials and Monuments

This one is probably on the top of most everyone's "to see" list, especially if coming to D.C. is a once in a lifetime trip.  If you want to see the National Mall in its entirety, you might want to spend a good part of one day doing this if you want to see it all. It is a lot of walking (and/or trying to find parking spots - but this can be a bear), and definitely worth seeing. 

National World War II Memorial

Keep in mind the summer months (and even part of spring and fall) can get kind of hot, so bring water. And wear comfortable shoes. Visiting the monuments at night is also an interesting experience. There are also formalized tours you can take for both days and nights.

Smithsonian Museums

With well over a dozen museums downtown, plus the National Zoo, there is a lot to take in. While I have been to the museums many times, there are still a few I haven't gotten to yet and many new things to see are always being added to those I have been to. 

You can see the1903 Wright Flyer at the Air & Space Museum

If your time is truly limited, I recommend at least seeing the Air & Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History and the American History Museum. These are very popular and the most kid-friendly if you're traveling with little ones. 

Capitol and Library of Congress Tours 

I'd been to the Capitol countless times, but never ventured inside until 2012. I realized how much I was missing out! I've gone back several times since. You won't need a lot of time for this as the (free) tour is structured. Additionally, these days you can reserve your tour time online without having to go through your local Congress member's office. 

Taken during my tour of the U.S. Capitol Building

Once finished with the Capitol (earlier post) tour, you can take the underground pathway to the Library of Congress. If you enjoy art and architecture, the LOC is definitely worth a visit. 

The Library of Congress is stunning

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America. It is also one of the 10 largest in the world. Every year approximately one million people visit the Basilica to attend Mass and /or tour the church and its numerous chapels. 

Stopping to listen to a choir practicing

There is also a gift shop and a cafeteria. Truly a beautiful structure and is open to people of all faiths. The Basilica is located at 400 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. Parking is free and, during my last visit in the fall, was easy.

National Archives

Another gem I'd been missing out on for years as I was intimidated by the long lines anytime we walked by. We happened to catch it during late afternoon one day walking by and decided to wait on the (shorter) line we'd found. The line moved relatively quick and was definitely worth the wait. Inside you'll see an original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can also see one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta.  I've only been twice but definitely want to return since I still haven't gotten to see everything.

U.S. Botanic Gardens

The gardens are great at any time, but my favorite time to visit is during the holidays when the festive exhibits are up. Inside you can see exotic and rare plants and various exhibits showcasing beautiful plants and flora from around the world. 

Taken in 2012 during a holiday visit

As a time-saver, if this is something you want to see, plan to do it when visiting the Capitol and/or Library of Congress since it is in such close proximity.

Ford's Theatre

I always enjoy going back to Ford's Theatre and have done so a number of times. In recent years, much has changed and the experience has been largely expanded with additional exhibits/expanded property. If you have visited in the past, it is important to know, tours are now timed and you can't just walk in as in days past. I recently wrote a post about visiting. Tour times offer different experiences, so be sure and check so you don't miss out on anything you want to see or do and can reserve the tour you want.

Ford's Theatre

These are only a handful of things to see and do, so if time is limited, these are my recommendations. If you have more than a few days, you can also consider visiting President Lincoln’s Cottage, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Newseum, Octogon House, International Spy Museum, Union Station and the Arlington Cemetery, to name a few. Another option is to walk through one or more of the District's great neighborhoods. There is still a lot left for me to explore, I just want to do it all!

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