A July 2003 trip
to Washington, D.C. by vampirefan
Quote: Several summers ago, my husband and I decided to pack up our tent, hit the raod, and head out to visit our nation's capitol, Washington, D.C. A trip to D.C. is something you will not want to miss out on.
If you want to camp in the great outdoors, then make your reservations for the KOA in Millersville, MD. It is located only about 30 minutes from D.C., and Baltimore, Annapolis, and Six Flags are nearby, too. They are a past KOA Campground of the Year. They offer RV and tent sites. If you don’t want to bring your own, you can also try one of their cabins or cottages. You just bring your linens. Go to the KOA website at www.koa.com or www.capitolkoa.com to make reservations or to learn more.
This campsite is beautifully located on 50 acres of woods. Again, make plans early and make your reservations early. You do not have to be a KOA member to stay. If you make a reservation early, then you have a better chance of getting a site out in the woods. In the summertime, it will be a much-needed relief. We had a great spot when we arrived. The later you wait, the more your chances of getting a spot in the open grassy area decline, or you could not get one period. The camp was full when we arrived (but like I said, I made reservations well in advanced) and had been for months.
This KOA offers electricity, for both tents and RV’s (to inflate your air mattress), as well as data ports, gas hook-ups for RV’s, a pool, and a slew of planned activities. They have a laundry facility. The showers and bathrooms are very well-maintained. They have a store in front with the office. We found it well-stocked for those things you invertible forget to pack and souvenirs. They also offer tours into D.C. and free transportation to the Metro station. But if you’re like us and not sure when you will return, the Metro station is only 10 minutes away.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 12, 2005
768 Cecil Avenue N.
You can also pick up a T-shirt to let the rest of the world know where you have traveled. You can also pick up jackets, fanny packs, mugs, glasses, and other stuff with the Hard Rock logo and then Washington, D.C. underneath it. Pin collectors (and there seems to be a lot of us) will want to make sure to pick up one for their collection.
It is located next to the Ford Theater. If you are here during a major event or over the summer, you may want to make an advanced reservation. You can visit their website at www.hardrock.com to make reservations up to 30 days in advance.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 13, 2005
Hard Rock Cafe
999 East Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20001
Attraction | "Old Towne Trolley Tours"
One of the best tours (and the one we took) is their 2.5-hour Monuments by Moonlight tour. It offers nighttime looks at the FDR, Jefferson, Lincoln, Korean War, and Iowa Jima monuments. These monuments are truly at their most beautiful and dramatic at night.
You first board the trolley at Union Station. If possible, try to get here early enough to take in the beauty of Union Station. Here you will find a variety of shops and restaurants.
The nice thing about their trolleys is they run on propane, which will help preserve the monuments for future generations to enjoy. Our tour guide, Alex, was friendly and very knowledgeable. Plenty of time is given to enjoy each monument. Information will be given on each monument prior to arriving. You also get to hear a ghost story or two along the way. This is definitely a great tour for both adults and kids.
Tickets will run about $30 per person. I strongly advise you to make your reservations in advance. You can make reservations on their website.
Old Town Trolley Tours
2640 Reed Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20018
Attraction | "The FDR Memorial"
The first room depicts FDR’s first term, when he launched the New Deal programs. The second and third rooms remember his term, which included our launch into WW II. The last room offers a reflection of the life of FDR. There is a huge statue of Roosevelt sitting with his dog. There is also an area to pay honor to his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, a hero in her own right. There is a wonderful statue of this remarkable lady who championed human rights and later served as a U.N. delegate. Anyone who admires this lady like I do will want to take a minute here. This memorial also offers an amazing view of the Potomac and the Jefferson Monument.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Ohio Drive SW
Washington, D.C., United States
You can always find national park employees around if you need any questions answered. There is a bookstore in the lower lobby. When I was here in 2003, there was construction work going on.
Outside the building you are greeted with a lovely view of the Potomac. You should also make sure to take pictures of the outside of this beautiful structure. Chances are, though, that there will always be hordes of visitors and school kids hanging along the steps, so it is next to impossible to get a picture without anyone in it. Oh, and be sure you watch for signs. My husband thought it was funny to let me sit under a sign that stated, "Restoration Work in Progress." So that is what my otherwise great picture had!
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
14th Street NW/Southbank of Tidal Basin
Washington, D.C., United States
Just sitting and reflecting on the steps outside can be a lesson in history. This is where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1939, the African American contralto Mariam Anderson performed an Easter Sunday concert on the monument steps. She had been shut out of performing in Independence Hall by the D.A.R. Eleanor Roosevelt arranged the concert. More that 75,000 people gathered here to hear her amazing voice. There have also been numerous film scenes here. Remember Forrest and Ginny meeting in the reflecting pool in Forrest Gump?
You should really try to visit the monument both during the day and evening. It is brilliant when it is lit up at night. Once again, there were will always been tons of people here, making it very difficult to photograph without people in your shot.
West Potomac Park
Washington, DC 20037
Attraction | "Korean War Memorial"
Upon your arrival, one of the first things you will see is a group of 19 stainless-steel statues depicting a squad on patrol. WW II veteran Frank Gaylord designed the statues. On a granite curb on the north side you will find a list of the 22 countries that sent troops or offered medical support to South Korea. Over on the south side you will find a solemn black granite wall, which has the actual faces of soldiers etched in the granite. There is also a reflecting pool nearby.
This is truly a monument to be seen at night. The servicemen’s reflections on the granite wall shine though by the moonlight. It is truly a somber and moving place. Here you will find visitors talking in whispers instead of shouts. This is one memorial that should not be missed.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
French Drive SW
Washington, D.C., United States 20024
Attraction | "Holocaust Museum"
When you first walk in, you take an elevator to the display area. The museum is pretty crowded, so expect a wait. You can pick up an identification card booklet that tells of the life of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.
A warning: This museum is not for younger children. Please do not bring them. It is hard enough for an adult to digest this. Graphic photographs and newsreels are shown all over the place. I didn’t make it without crying, so make sure to bring Kleenex. But these are not the kinds of images younger children need to see.
It is a hard museum to visit. You will see actual uniforms and other items donated by survivors or victims families. It is a somber reminder of one of the darkest times in history. One of the last things you will see is a freight cart that was used to take people to the camps. Upon entering, you get an idea of the hopelessness that people went through once they were onboard. If you have asthma or allergies to mold or mildew, you might want to pass on this. I have both and had an asthma attack.
Downstairs you will find the hall of remembrance and the children’s wall. Here you will find an eternal flame in remembrance to all the victims. The child wall remembers the 1.5 million children murdered, with over 3,000 tiles painted by American schoolchildren. This is the only place inside the museum you can take pictures.
There are also various special exhibits going on. You can visit their website at www.ushnn.org to see what is going on when you’re in town. I was lucky enough to see the exhibit "Anne Frank: The Unfinished Story". It was being held in honor of the museum’s 10th anniversary. On display were the actual writings and photographs from Anne. This was the first time many of these documents have been seen outside the Netherlands.
You do need a time-stamped ticket to get inside the major displays. They are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 7:30 that morning. Or you can get advanced tickets by calling 800/400-9373 or by going to www.tickets.com. There is no fee for the ticket, but there is a $2 charge per person for processing. I highly recommend buying them in advanced during the busy times if you don’t feel like waiting in line.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, Sw
Washington, D.C., United States 20024
So with that in mind I will say this: When people go on vacation, they seem to forget their manners. Don’t forget yours! While visiting the monument is fun, about all there is to do is look though a very slim piece of glass at the city. There is not a lot of room here and the window is not big. So please look around, take a few photos, and move on so other people can enjoy it. There is no reason to spend more than about 5 minutes at each window. Yet, there are always people who are insisted on hanging out and talking. You can do that downstairs. When you are finished, you can take the elevator back down. The elevator on this floor is crowded, so you can walk down a few flights of stairs and take the elevator from there.
You do need a time-stamped ticket to enter. You can get those at a booth in the front starting at 7:30am. Or do the smart thing and go to www.reservations.nps.com and order them. Again, there is no charge for the ticket, but there is a $1.50 per person fee. It is well worth it, especially during peak times or if you don’t feel like being up that early to go get a ticket. Tickets are usually gone early, so spend the money and have them before you go.
Near the Center of the National Mall
Washington, D.C. 20024
One of the first things you will see, in the center of the rotunda, is a very HUGE African elephant, displayed much like you would find in the wild. There you will find various presentations on elephants in the wild.
One of the most popular exhibits with both big and little kids is the dinosaur exhibit, also known as the Kenneth K. Berhring Family Hall of Mammals. This 25,000-square-foot exhibit displays over 274 mammals. You never get too big to be amazed by the bones of these once-magnificent creatures. Give yourselves plenty of time here; this exhibit takes up two floors, so there is plenty to see. And since it is one of the most popular exhibits, there are plenty of people to get in your way! You can take pictures, but for those who don’t want visitors in their pictures--it ain’t likely to happen!
Many people also head up to the second floor to see the geology, gems, and minerals room. When I was here, they had a diamond exhibit going on. You can even look into a crystal ball! Most visitors, though, come for one thing--the reported cursed hope diamond. This 45.52-carat diamond draws its share of "oohs" and "aahs". Quite frankly, I thought the thing was so huge, it looked fake and gaudy. But I myself am not much on diamonds (and you can bet my husband is very glad of that fact!).
There is also a beautiful display of our Native American cultures, complete with some very beautiful and intricately carved totem poles. My husband is part Native American, so this was his favorite. It was also a thrill for a little boy who was at the exhibit at the time to see "a real Indian"!
There are also exhibits on birds, meteorites, and Asian cultures. The little tykes will enjoy the insect zoo. There is also an IMAX theater on-site. If you want to see an IMAX film, make sure to pick your tickets up first (there is a charge for IMAX films) and then plan your visit around it. And finally, if you get hungry on your visit, make sure to stop on the lower level at one of the two restaurants for a quick bite.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
10th Street & Constitution Avenue NW
Attraction | "TR at the National Museum of American History"
You can see everything here from wristwatches, cars, and the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz to the flag that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. You can see a replica of the late Julia Child's kitchen. One favorite is the TV exhibit that features items from some favorite TV shows; here you can see Oscar the Grouch, Howdy Doody, Fonzie’s jacket, and Archie Bunker's chair, to name a few. There is a statue of George Washington draped in cloth that was so controversial at the time it was cast (1840) that, when it was originally displayed in Philly, it was shown to men and women on opposite days! Of course, today, hordes of schoolchildren go by it without batting an eye.
One of my favorite exhibits was the First Ladies exhibit. Here you see the inaugural gowns of the first ladies and find out about each of these ladies. There is also a Presidents exhibit. One of the most poignant displays is the flag that was draped over the Pentagon when it was bombed on 9-11. You can’t help be but a bit teary-eyed here. There are several museum stores to bring home some history, and a food court if you need energy to get though the entire building.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
14th Street And Constitution Avenue, NW
Today, about all you can do is walk in front of the gates outside and look around. Most people want to have their pictures taken in front of the White House, so there is never a shortage of people around to ask to take your picture. During peak times, there are hordes of people in front of the White House, so please be considerate to others and limit your time here. If you want to discuss politics, the President, or White House architecture, do that elsewhere.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Attraction | "The Vietnam Memorial"
Many people still remember this war, so emotions run high here. I found myself crying the whole time. People walk quietly and slowly, talk in whispers, point, and search for the names of loved ones whose names are on the wall. Many people still leave gifts in honor of those fallen. You can still find many Vietnam vets here remembering a time that should have never been. Overall, it is one of the most powerful and hardest places to visit. No one should visit DC without a stop here.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Bacon Drive and Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C., United States
Attraction | "The National Zoo"
The zoo is great for kids of all ages (that includes adult kids, too). Kids are not required to come here! In fact, I think it would be great to offer a no-children day at the zoo for those of us who do not prefer the company of children. There is a great gift shop and restrooms right as you walk in. If all the walking makes you hungry, the Mane Restaurant is on the premises. It pretty much offers up your standard park fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and salads thrown in for the low-calorie diners. There are also two other cafes on the premises, as well as vendor carts.
Here you can see elephant and sea-lion training, a rainforest, komodo dragons, or an elephant getting a bath. But most people who come here want to see the pandas. The giant pandas were given to the zoo as a gift in 1972 from China. The zoo is only one of a few zoos in the country to have such an honor. If you are coming during the summer, be prepared to wait. The pandas, like many other animals in the zoo, are not as active during the hot weather. We waited 40 minutes in line only to get to see the pandas for all of about 20 seconds! And the pandas just lie there. No worries about people hogging up time here--the employees will make sure to guide you out if you have been in too long. Since we had plans that night, this was the only thing we got to see in the zoo! I will make sure to allot more time for our next visit.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2005
Smithsonian National Zoological Park (The National Zoo)
3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Attraction | "Arlington National Cemetary"
Arlington is most noted for the rows upon rows of white tombstones and the Iowa Jima statues, but there are several other interesting things here. Moat notably is the eternal flame at the graves of John Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. Right across from their grave is an awesome view of D.C. There is also the Arlington House that was dedicated to the great Robert E. Lee, which is open to the public and offers tours. There is a memorial to the crew of the Challenger shuttle. Boxer Joe Lewis is buried here as well as President Taft. Pierre L’Efant is here. Section 27 is dedicated to the US Colored Troops. If you are here over Memorial Day or Presidents’ Day, you will get to see presidential wreaths presented.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia 22211
Most people think of lighthouses as tall cylindrical-shaped building, such as Cape Hatteras. You might be surprised when you see this lighthouse. It is a small building with white-washed walls and looks more like an old school building. But up on top you will see the lantern perched on the roof.
While you can’t go inside the building, you can walk around outside. You can also go on the porch. Set at the edge of a park, it offers a beautiful view of the Potomac. It is also a very nice walk from the parking lot to the house. It would be a great place to stop for a picnic. And make sure to bring Spot along to run in the park. For more information on the lighthouse and many others, as well as lighthouse items, visit www.lighthousedepot.com.
Jones Point Lighthouse
Potomac River/Jones Point Park
The nice thing is that once you get the hang of using the Metro system, it will help you in other cities that use a subway system. When we went to London and New York, we were able to pick up on their system very easily. Most tour guides and visitors kits list the Metro stops for most major attractions, hotels, and restaurants.
The sentinel paces 21 steps down the mat before the tomb, pauses 21 seconds, and returns. While to most it may look like a boring job. It is an honor to serve in this capacity. During the ceremony, two other sentinels come out. All three salute the tomb. One sentinel inspects the rifles. The sentinels change places and the old sentinel leaves. Much like the guards at Buckingham Palace in London, these guys are not permitted to talk while on duty. But you can come to the amphitheater at 10:40am and 2:40pm for briefings, when they will be glad to talk to you. This ceremony is not to be missed.
I was a travel agent for more than 5 years. Everyone always asks me for my advice for trip-planning. Here it goes… plan well in advance. Unless you have several weeks in D.C., there is no way you will see everything. Invest in a good travel guide (I am partial to Frommers myself), and get your visitor’s information from a reputable website (try www.washington.org), or travel advice from here. Whatever you choose, it is important to get traveler’s information. Then sit down and make a list of the things you want to make sure to do. D.C. is always changing, so you will find another reason to come back. Since I have been, they have added the WW2 monument, so now I have another reason to go.
Once you have your list, start planning. Make sure to take notes on hours of operation and what else is nearby that you want to see. Always check for updated information to make sure that what you want to see is open, or to see what is going on during your trip. If you are planning to come over the summer or during a major event such as the Cherry Blossom Festival, I cannot stress enough to plan well in advance. At least 6 months will be sufficient. We went during the summer, and I planned my trip about a year in advance.
D.C. is one of the best vacations I have ever taken. It is also one of the most economical vacations. It is nice not to have to dig into your pocket every time you walk in the door, and you will never run out of things to do. D.C. is also very close to so many other cities. Stay an extra day or two and enjoy her lovely neighbors: Baltimore, Annapolis, or Alexandria are just a few of the many town surrounding her. While we were here, we visited Baltimore. D.C. is one vacation you won’t soon forget. Before long, you will start pulling out your guidebooks to plan your next trip.
Charlotte, North Carolina