Washington, My Home... Washington D.C. that is

Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2003 07:58 am
Is Washington, D.C. your home?

My spousal unit thinks we ought to visit Washington D.C. and spend our entire time at the Smithsonian. I admit, the idea has real appeal, but would we like the city, d'ya think? Do we need a car or are there good places to stay and good transportation in town?

What's the best time of year? We were there once in late May for a couple of days. I liked it, the weather was nearly perfect. (Has anybody seen the
cherry blossoms in full bloom? The photographs I've seen are gorgeous, thank you Japan!!!) Are their any splurges or frills that would make it a more special trip? Have you ever visited your Senator or Representative? What about a boat ride on the Potomac?

Love to hear who's been there and what's what!


The Smithsonian's website
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:00 pm
We'll have to get Joanne in here - she lived and worked there too. I grew up around D.C. and lived there for almost ten years. Its a beautiful city although there are some unsafe areas of course, not far from the big tourist attractions.

The Metro (subway) is a very good clean system and pretty easy to use. If you don't want to pay a lot of money to stay downtown you could easily stay out in suburban Maryland or Virginia and take the Metro in every day. There are stops at most of the major attractions, including in the suburbs - Arlington Cemetery for example has a stop on the Metro. And it is a must-see I think, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its changing of the guard, JFK and RFK's graves, etc.

In Maryland - Rockville, Bethesda, and Chevy Chase all have lots of nice hotels, and in Virginia you might want to stay in Alexandria, Roslyn, or Falls Church. All of these are near Metro stations, if not walking distance. However, staying downtown might not be too expensive, but I'm not sure. I would think the hotels in Georgetown would be the priciest, along with the famous ones like The Mayflower, downtown. That would be a nice place to stay - its not too far a walk to the White House, and several Metro stations are nearby. But last I heard Georgetown didn't have a stop on the Metro and you'd have to taxi. Great nightlife in Georgetown though!

Even when I lived there, traffic was terrible, so it can be frustrating - but if you just want to stay in the city or use the Metro system, you won't have to deal with it.

Spending the entire time at the Smithsonian museums is great and they would be my first choice - especially the National Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum. But I wouldn't miss the National Gallery of Art (right across the Mall from the Smithsonian Museums and not far from the Capital), the National Archives (if you are researching geneaology don't miss the opportunity to do some there!), and of course the Vietnam Memorial is very moving. I also like the Library of Congress, and not far from it, the Folger Shakespeare Library. Most of these attractions are gathered around the Mall, the strip of land stretching between the Capital and the Washington Monument. They appear to be bunched together on some of the tourist maps, but in fact you can end up walking half the day if you don't plan ahead. Not that thats bad in Washington during the right time of the year. Its perfect as early as late March and into late May, and then again in late September to November. But its unbearably hot and humid in July and August - hotter than Florida, as a matter of fact. The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful, and are mostly around the Tidal Basin area near the Jefferson Monument - a bit of a trek from the Capital end of the Mall. But you could have a nice day walking down from the Washington Monument to the Vietnam Memorial to the Jefferson and the cherry blossoms. I think the Lincoln Memorial is down that way too, but I can't remember the layout. From the Tidal Basin and Jefferson you can see across the Potomac to Arlington Cemetery and Lee's Mansion. Lots to see if you like history! Beware of the cherry blossoms though, they are fickle and don't always bloom at the expected time.

Ford's Theater is in downtown D.C., but not close to the Mall. Thats a great place to visit too and pay respects to good old Abe - if you get over that way, don't miss lunch or dinner or a drink or three at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a famous old bar and restaurant frequented by many of the Senators, Congressman, and other infamous Washington figures. You want Washington atmosphere, there is the place.

There are lots of things to see further out from downtown - the National Cathedral, a nice place to visit, and also the Naval Observatory. The Vice President's residence is on the grounds there, so I'm not sure what the status of tourist trips to the Observatory is. They are just 10-15 minutes drive from downtown. As is the National Zoo, a great zoo with most of the people there to visit the pandas. DuPont Circle and Adams Morgan are just a few minutes from downtown, both very diverse and lively areas with some great restaurants and bars, Gary Condit apparently knew them well.

If you want to get out of the city, and you have a car, Mount Vernon is about a 30 or 40 minute drive into Virginia - a nice historical place to visit. As is the Civil War battlefield at Manassas/Bull Run, which is in Manassas, Virginia, an hour or so drive south of the city. Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown are a day trip away, three hours or so south, near Richmond. Gettysburg is a three hour trip north into Pennsylvania, Antietam is in Maryland, about three hours drive I think.

Years ago I really appreciated my trip to the Supreme Court, they were in session and tourists were let in a few at a time for a specified period of time. I've never visited any of my representatives, but you should still be able to do it. The Capital is a great place to visit, as is the White House, you can't help but appreciate them, despite whoever may be currently occupying the various offices. I was lucky, I had a relative in the Secret Service so I got to sit at the President's desk in the Oval Office, and even shook Jimmy's hand, I shook a Nobel Prize Winner's hand! Imagine that, I just realized it.

My subjective opinion of the sites I would visit if I only had a day or two: 1)Air and Space Museum, 2)Vietnam Memorial, 3)National Gallery of Art. My splurge would be dinner at BeniHana's, the Prime Rib, or any of the numerous ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan, then a night on the town in Georgetown, especially Blues Alley, home of some famous jazz clubs. I believe they still have plays at Ford's Theater, or a night at the Kennedy Center (Performing Arts) would be nice too. And then I'd insist on a late night cab ride around downtown D.C., no traffic and the Capital, Washington Monument, and all the memorials and museums are lit up - its an inspiring site.

By the way, you may need tickets to get into some of these museums and sites - the best strategy I used was to get to the places first thing in the morning and get tickets for later in the day. The last I checked, all these places are free. The Air and Space Museum has two or three theaters inside, at least one is an Imax theater. The films are usually not that long and its a nice break in the day to sit and relax. Don't miss "To Fly" if its still showing. You definitely need to get tickets early if you want to plan on seeing one of the movies later in the day.

Obviously, all of the above is affected by security and I have no idea how it has changed sightseeing there, so maybe someone else will chime in who has been there recently.

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art Calendar

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Arlington Cemetery

Lee's Mansion

Naval Observatory

[URL=V]Naval Observatory Tour Info[/URL]
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:07 pm
I'm sure I'll remember a few more tidbits as I think about it.

I typed all that (above) in, in the minutes leading up to when A2k went down this morning - when I hit "submit" and nothing happened, I almost had a heart attack!
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:17 pm
Wow, Larry. Thanks a lot.

Those cherry blossom links were quite interesting. I noted that in 2001 the blossom were fully blooming on April 8th, for example.

Also, loved and had to quote this from the article about re-propagating the original gift trees. (I didn't realize that it had been more than 87 years. What an amazing gift, in retrospect.)

OK, here's the quote:
But as the trees grew, Dix had to turn from tender loving care to tough love. Most cherry trees have weak apical dominance, which basically involves hormones instructing one branch to become the main stem of a tree. Some cherry trees would be happy enough just being cherry bushes.

This meant Dix had to cut off stray, straggling branches and stake the trees to bamboo poles to grow them into upstanding members of the Tidal Basin community.

Cherry Bushes??? Kind of appropriate given the current resident of the White House...

I'd love a plan to visit blues alley in Georgetown. Great ideas, all of 'em.
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:21 pm
LarryBS wrote:
I typed all that (above) in, in the minutes leading up to when A2k went down this morning - when I hit "submit" and nothing happened, I almost had a heart attack!

Wow, I'm glad it wasn't lost! LOL Very Happy -- I know those heart attacks... they're fearsome. Of course, that little Copy Post to Clipboard button is right there, but still, I forget most of the time!
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:24 pm
The Cherry Bushes! Laughing

You could make a fun trip out of just going to sites of infamous Washington episodes - Gary Condit (Adams Morgan), Wilbur Mills and the stripper Fanny something-or-other (the Tidal Basin), the Watergate, etc. And of course the infamous episodes in the Supreme Court building two and a half years ago that helped produce the cherry Bush presidency.
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:25 pm
Poor LBS! Ah, Washington! Last time we were there, we went to the Holocaust Museum. Haunting. See: http://www.ushmm.org/

On a lighter note, I was at Dumbarton Oaks many years ago. It's beautiful. See: http://www.doaks.org/

DC Tourism Bureau: http://www.washington.org/index.cfm
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:26 pm
Copy post to clipboard - thats why my post was saved, except I use CTRL-C instead of that button.
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:27 pm
My one trip to DC was 1968, day of the Mothers' March on Washington.
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:29 pm
Its changed from the Washington I knew in the 60s, thats for sure!
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 12:37 pm
Thanks for all these links... Dumbarton Oaks does look beautiful and it was so odd to see that the Madrid Codex is there. I was just reading about it in another context.

Edgar -- My parents took me and my sister & brother there in 1959. I don't remember much, being quite young, except that a "drunk" decided my mother was his mother. He was being chased by another man in a slapstick-sort-of-way and they were using my mom as "protection" -- I was in shock. That's MY MOMMY! Never thought of that until you mentioned the Mothers' March.

Larry, that's very smart of you to remember what all your control-commands mean. I wish I was better at that!

Nobody has ever visited with their congressman or woman? We have a flag that was flown over the Capitol, given to my F-i-L by a senator from Minnesota during a visit to D.C. Apparently they used to be friendlier to their constituency.
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