Visiting Washington DC

 My favorite places to visit in Washington D.C.

And the best thing about D.C. is that all these places listed are free admission!

1. National Archives:

  • Entrance closest to corner of 9th and Constitution.
  • Head upstairs and follow signs to the Rotunda. This is where you will see the “biggies” such as the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc. The room is dark and often crowded, but you should be able to get through in 30-60 minutes.
  • There are lots of additional rooms to look through which are more museum-style, but if you’re limited on time, do the rotunda only.

2. Smithsonian – Natural History Museum:

  • Across the street from the Archives building, you can check out our natural history.
  • Print a map online if you can, or else you have to buy a booklet to get a map, and a map is helpful to find your way around. http://www.mnh.si.edu/visit/floorplans.htm
  • Recommend: First floor – Mammal Hall.
  • Second floor – Gems/Minerals/Geology (Hope Diamond, but also excellent displays of different minerals which is interesting to guys and girls.) Also, check out Written in Bones and Egyptian Mummies! The main section will reopen Nov ’11.
  • Note: If you walk in from the archives side, you need to go up a floor to get to the exhibits. If from the Smithsonian side, you will be on the first floor by mammals.

3. Smithsonian – American History Museum:

  • As a history major, you would think this museum would be my favorite. It was not. Too generic and not as much to see as I thought there would be. BUT, a few great things to see there if you do go. http://americanhistory.si.edu/visiting/
  • First Floor: Julia Child’s Kitchen (especially if you liked the movie Julie and Julia)
  • First Floor: If guys are along, take them to the machinery/inventions area!
  • Second Floor: First Ladies, has a dress from each one, shows the changing times.
  • Second Floor: A quick peek at the Star Spangled Banner, wowza!
  • Third Floor: Lincoln exhibit. Look for the gun he was trying to get the military to use.
  • Third Floor: Gunboat Philadelphia – AWESOME!
  • Third Floor: Price of Freedom (wish they had more documents displayed; informative!)

4. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/

  • First off, great book store! I’m not much into stores, but they have tons of good books!
  • To enter the four floor museum (allocate a minimum of 3 hours to see it all) you must get timed tickets from the desk. We walked right up and got tickets with a minimal wait. They really can get a lot of people through there.
  • When you go to enter the elevator, be sure to grab a “Passport” document which gives information on a particular Holocaust victim and serves as a memento.
  • If you have to wait to go up, or if you just have a half hour to spend there, then we recommend heading upstairs (enter the building, head to the far end, past the front desk, and up the main stairs. At the top of the steps, go right and head into the room there. Go back a couple sections and to the left on the wall will be a video screen that has the Nuremburg Trials. The movie is 10-15 minutes long and gives clips from the trials from some of the Nazi participants. Also includes footage of concentration camps and other actual live footage which is dramatic.

5. U.S. Capitol Building:

  • To enter the Capitol, you must go around back, or to the East side. There, you will see green towers and between them are stairs going down. Head inside and walk down to the Information area, where you can get timed tickets to tour the Capitol.
  • OR Contact your local congressman through their website and sign up for a tour. I’ve found that to be very frustrating and they only get back to you at the last minute, if at all. Plan months ahead of schedule if you go this route. It’s the only way to get a tour of the WHITE HOUSE. All the other tours they offer are open to the public on a first come, first served basis.
  • Plan a hour for a tour, plus more time if you have to wait for the next tour. You don’t get to see a whole lot, but the area under the dome is pretty cool. 🙂
  • From underground, you can take a nifty tunnel right over to the Library of Congress!

6. Library of Congress Building:

  • Breathtakingly beautiful architecture and design! Upstairs is an exhibit you can go through. Timing is whatever you have available. You can keep busy there, but you can also just take a quick peek for curiosity sake!

7. Smithsonian – Air and Space:

8. J Edgar Hoover FBI Building: Did you ever wonder if those men in black suits were for real? Here’s your chance to find out! 😉

9. Lincoln Memorial:

  • Walk upstairs, head right and stop for a few minutes to read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
  • Reflect.
  • Notice the number of times God is inscribed in his words….
  • Why don’t people speak or write like that anymore?

10. White House:

  • Like I said earlier, you have to get approval months in advance to actually head inside. I’m sure it’s wonderful inside if you get the opportunity.
  • If not, you can still see the white house, north of the Wa. Monument.
  • Security levels change, so you might get to go right up to the front lawn, or you may be fenced off way back. No tellin’ which day you’ll get.
  • Michelle Obama’s garden is out front. So small, I wonder how it feeds the millions of employees within the executive branch? 😉

Disclaimer: If I did not list a place, it’s probably because I haven’t been there yet.

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WHERE TO EAT

  • I have yet to find a decent, affordable place to eat anywhere near the Smithsonians/Memorials. I suppose that is to be. If you do want to eat in D.C., then I recommend checking out 7th street around the Verizon Center. Lots of name-recognized places to eat.
  • If you’re down by the Archives, check out Teaism. (400 8th Street NW) They have a variety of teas (I love the Chai Cinnamon Gelato smoothie. Mmmmm!)  and their restaurant is more casual than others. I get the Buffalo Burger, they also have a lot of healthy Chinese type foods (I am probably describing it wrong, but that’s what it looks like to me!)
  • Look up seasonal farmers markets. Some offer soups and snacks amongst the groceries.
  • Cowgirl Creamery, if you like tasting good cheeses (919 F Street NW). Just up a few blocks from Teaism.
  • ONE NOT TO EAT AT: Gordon Biersch Restaurant on F Street. Cool old Bank building, we were excited to eat there, but our waitress was 100% intoxicated on something! We informed the front desk guy and he did nothing about it. We ended up leaving before we ate. So extremely awkward!
  • We ended up leaving DC and eating at Red Hot and Blue BBQ in Annapolis. It’s right on 301/50 at exit 28, very easy on and off.
  • IDEAS? If you know of a good place to eat lunch or dinner, please comment to this post!

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MAP: http://washington.org/browse-dc/dc-map

Check out DC tourism websites and consider getting a free tour guide from them. That way you can pick ahead of time what you want to see (I do it in a list of preferences, with what is most important up top) and try to plan your sightseeing within as few blocks as possible. From Lincoln to the Capitol building is at least an hour’s walk. The brochures can include a helpful map. You must bring a map with you of the downtown sites or you will most likely be lost all day!! http://washington.org/ “Request a free visitor’s guide”

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  • Security metal detector screening is in place at most sites, so pack light.
  • Tons of walking, so wear appropriate shoes. MBT style shoes work great.
  • If you get worn out, the Lincoln Memorial area has lots of guys on bikes with buggies behind them that serve as a type of taxi. Kinda fun, too!

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TRANSPORTATION

VIA CAR: I did a farmers market in DC, so I have a specific route I like to take to park. I do NOT care for the Metro, because I find it very creepy. Others are totally opposite, refusing to drive in DC. DC is on a fairly easy grid. Yes, one way streets and traffic cameras, but I keep to my route and have never had a problem. Parking downtown in a safe garage is $17-20 for the day and puts you right in the heart of everything.

My Route from Hwy 50/301: (Mapquest address: 425 8th street NW; Washington, D.C. 20004) Follow all signs to Washington DC on Hwy 50. Once in town, you will see a series of stop lights. Keep in the middle lane (the left lane includes left turns, so that can really slow you up. The right lane includes sections of parked cars, so you have to get back over. Middle lane = can stay there all the way!) Watch for signs and follow 50/NY Avenue. Just past the 395 turnoff, you will see a row of houses on the right that are white brick with black outlines. That’s my indicator to veer to the right (If you stay in the middle lane, it will take you right there. (If not, you can stay on 50, but a little more congested traffic.) At the first light, you will be at 7th street. Very quiet at this intersection, so a good place to take the LEFT turn onto 7th.  Head down 7th street past the Verizon center and keep going until you see a building on the left with a golden globe. that’s my indicator that I am getting close to D street. Take a right onto D street, then the next road is 8th street, take a right. Immediately look on the right for a parking garage. Enter, take a ticket, and park. You will pay on the way out. When you exit the parking garage, you must take the street elevator (not the hotel one). It will put you back out onto 7th Street. Walk south (past the golden globe) and you will soon be standing next to the National Archives. Entry to the archives is on Constitution Avenue, so when you get to that street, keep on the sidewalk and head to the right. You will pass in front of the building and exit. Then you will see an entry sign. Be prepared for security, which includes walking through metal detectors and possibly checking your bag.

South area good parking: Virginia street between 4th and 6th Streets. Puts you just south of the Air and Space Museum and is a good place to park if you are wanting to see things more towards the Capitol and Library of Congress.

VIA METRO: We come from the East, so the closest Metro area to park your car is at Exit 6 off of Hwy. 50 at New Carrollton Station. Cost is $8.25 for the parking space for a day. Metro tickets are a few dollars per person. Note: New Carrollton to Downtown is about 10 miles. This map can give you routes: http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm

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One thought on “Visiting Washington DC

  1. Cindy

    Another great job on this tour guide for D.C. We haven’t found any place great to eat in D.C. Several times we have taken a sack lunch. Red, Hot and Blue is a good choice if you are headed back towards the Eastern Shore.

    Like

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