An Eight-Day Vacation in Washington, D.C.

This was a vacation designed for fun, learning, and discovery of our nation's capital.

An Eight-Day Vacation in Washington, D.C.

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

Most memorable moments for us: Seeing the Supreme Court hand down an opinion, Walking through the White House, Touching the Apollo 11 capsule at the Air and Space Museum.

Best Things To Do: The National Gallery of Art for Adults, the National Museum of Natural History (quite a mouthfull)'s Orkin Insect Zoo for kids, Gazing at the Declaration of Indipendence and all four pages of the Consitution that make it all possible.${QuickSuggestions} The Washington D.C. convention/visitors bureau runs a good website from which you can order an informative book. Mt. Vernon and Georgetown also maintain websites, as do all the Smithsonian Museums. If you don't know who your representative is, just use the keyword "House of Representatives", and with a few clicks, you will find out who your representative is and be directed to the right website. ${BestWay} Metro by far is the easiest way to get around. For tourists, there is a one-day pass ($6.50) or a weekly pass ($32.50) that allows unlimited travel with unrestricted times. Check out their website and learn the lines before you go. Compared to the NYC subway, Metro is easy, clean (!), free of crazies, and fast. Take care with your Metro pass--folds or small tears will invalidate it. If you fly into Reagan, you can acess Metro right outside baggage pick-up and get to many D.C./Virginia-based hotels.

Marriott Courtyard

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 3, 2005

The Courtyard is located a few blocks from the Rossyln Metro stop in Arlington, VA. It is thus very convenient to Reagan National and all points served by the Metro. This is the primary reason we picked this hotel.

There is also a Safeway food store just behind the hotel that makes buying such items easy. Around the hotel are several fast-food joints, like Quiznos and Subway, plus a Memphis-style barbeque place and a nicer-than-normal Chinese restaurant. There is also an Italian takeout/dine-in place (good) called Il Raddichio. The Marriott also has a van that can take you a bit farther afield if you would like to nosh at several other restaurants, including a Cheesecake Factory. Ask the front desk for suggestions.

Courtyards offer a somewhat pricey breakfast and complementary cookies in the evening. We used their whirlpool, as did many other guests, to massage our tired feet at the end of a long day. The pool is small and always full of noisy kids. The rooms are Courtyard standard. Our rate was about $129 for a double with three people.

Courtyard by Marriott Arlington/Rosslyn
1533 Clarendon Blvd.
Arlington, Virginia, 22209
(703) 528-2222


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 1, 2005

We had a rather late lunch at this spot, which was recommended to me. Filomena's, like many nice restaurants, is less expensive for lunch, even though the menu is largely the same as dinner. It is just off the intersection of M and Wisconsin Avenues, and the Georgetown Connector (the royal blue-colored bus) stops steps from its doors.

It is a rather small restaurant done in green and white, with a liberal use of mirrors to make the dining room appear larger than it actually is. Filomena's is proud of the many celebrities who have dined there, and a card outside the door tells you just who has been to their establishment. Most recently, President Clinton and Hillary dined here Valentine's Day, 2005. Fridays, there is a reasonably priced buffet ($11). We, nevertheless, ate off the menu. My sister-in-law pronounced the eggplant parmesan the best she has ever had and devoured every morsel. My usually picky-eater niece cleaned up her lasagna. I enjoyed my ring pasta napoleano plate. We were too full to order one of their spectacular desserts.

Now, I must also add that I think we had terrible luck with the waiter. He seemed distracted throughout our meal. We had to prompt him to get us beverages and bread. Our entrées did take an inordinate amount of time, I mean, half an hour for pasta? The quality of our meal did make up for it. I guess it’s just too much to hope for a good waiter, prompt service, and a fine meal.

We wondered if Bill and Hillary had to ask for things and kinda guessed they didn't. Nevertheless, I still recommend Filomena's. Be sure to look to your right as you descend the stairs and observe the little Italian madonnas making the pasta by hand. I understand that reservations are a must for dinner.

Filomena Ristorante of Georgetown
1063 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, District of Columbia, 20007
(202) 337-2782

National Air & Space Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

The National Air and Space Museum is supposed to be the most visited museum, not only in D.C. but in the world. After our visit, I think this is true. The museum highlights the development of Aviation and Space travel, including the role of Aviation in WWII. Although, like nearly all of D.C.'s museums, entry is free, IMAX movies are shown for a fee. We did not see any because they tend to induce motion sickness in me. Allow about 2.5 to 3 hours to see this museum. We arrived prior to opening time (10am) and entered the moment it opened, along with over 500 waiting people. Like most D.C. museums in the post-9/11 era, there is the security check.

The main hall features milestones in flight, including the actual Apollo 11 Command Module, the X-15 aircraft and the aircraft that circumnavigated the globe without stopping, the Voyager. The Wright flyer used to be front and center, but now is located upstairs in a more informative gallery dedicated to the Wright brothers. Other gallerys are devoted to the Apollo missions, the Hubble Space Telescope and the current Space Station. Kids will love this museum and the many hands-on features, including the chance to touch many artifacts, as well as a moon rock. There is a separate dining area with national fast-food retailers like McDonald's if you need refueling.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
Independence Avenue At 4th Street SW
Washington, DC

Holocaust Memorial Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

The Holocaust Memorial Museum demonstrates, if nothing else, that there is no limit to the inhumanity of man to his fellow man. Galleries and displays do not sanitize the horror of the Holocaust, and as such, it is not recommended for children younger than 13 due to the images. There were images here I had never seen before, and they are horrifying. I can only guess that the filmstrips I saw in school were edited because they were considered too "strong".

The museum itself is designed to resemble an early 20th-century factory--an analogy, I think, to the factory-like mechanization of death the Nazis developed. As you enter, you are encouraged to pick up a "passport" that corresponds to a real victim of the Holocaust. Cues in the museum tell you when to open your passport and find out who you are, what your life was like prior to the Holocaust, and your fate. The museum recounts the rise of the Nazis, the beginings of the "Final Solution", and implementation, and well as the liberation and what followed. The experience is sobering and shocking. Two items in particular struck me: one a image of a fetus cut from its mother's womb and tossed in a mass grave, the other a model of the gas chambers, showing each step from the entry of the victims into the undressing rooms to their deaths. The sculpture clearly gave individual victims expressions of terror and pain in the gas chamber. Although not fun in the slightest, this is an important museum to visit, "lest we forget".

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, Sw
Washington, D.C., United States, 20024
(202) 488-0400

National Gallery of Art

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

This was the most beautiful museum we visited. We gravitated towards the Italian Renissance galleries, as they are my favorite. Each gallery has tablets in a holder describing the works in depth. The museum is quite large, so it is helpful to stop at the information desk and ask about highlights if you have limited time or have an area of special interest, like Rembrandt. Currently, the museum has a special exhibition of Gilbert Stuart portraits (look at your $1 bill--that's a Stuart of Washington) until late July. The reason is the normal home of these paintings. The National Portrait Gallery is undergoing renovation. A notable highlight familiar to anyone who has seen the movie "Glory" is a cast of the memorial to Shaw and his black union troops. The museum is quite a bit quieter, given its nature, than any other museum. Children are notably fewer. Allow at least three hours to see the works.
National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

National Museum of Natural History

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

There is one overriding reason for women to take in this museum--the gem collection! An entire gallery is dedicated to some of the finest examples of rubies, opals, diamonds, and emeralds the most famous houses (Cartier, Tiffany, etc.) have designed. My personal favorite was a ruby/diamond ring with one of the clearest (very rare) pigeon-blood red rubies in the world. The stones are mesmerizing. Expect crowds in this gallery that inch along the display cases. The Hope Diamond is such a draw, it is mounted in a case that allows for visitors to encircle it. The gem in its diamond necklace rotates around, giving everyone a good look-see. Kids will love the dinosaur exhibit, as well as the Orkin Insect Zoo. The Insect Zoo features all sorts of living creepy crawlers, including the world's largest spider and a beehive housed in a glass-encased cement tree. The hive has a plastic tube with an opening drilled through the wall to exit the museum and forage for food. Be sure to pick up a guide and select what you would like to see, because your feet would fall off if you tried to see it all.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
10th Street & Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC
(202) 633-1000

The National Archives Experience

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

During my last visit to D.C., the archives were undergoing renovation, and the Charters of Freedom, the Declaration, and Constitution were unavailable for public view. If you wish to see these documents--and I hope you do--be prepared to wait quite a bit if you hit it at peak times. We waited in line over an hour in the June heat. The "Experience" gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the Charters and see a film.

We choose to go directly to the document room. You will be surprised at the low light level. It is kept so for the sake of the documents. The documents are in a large semicircle with other documents that lead up to and expanded upon the Declaration and Constitution. It's really a thrill to be able to get "nose to nose" with the Declaration and the Consitution. The Declaration is protected by special glass and illumination. It is a challenge to read, as the ink is quite faded. All four pages of the Consitution are displayed for the first time ever, with the same glass and illumination.

If you ask a guard how the Charters are protected, he will tell you that after 9/11, that information is secret. Formerly, the Charters were known to have a 50-ton vault deep underground they could be lowered into in case of an emergency (nuclear strike) with the touch of a button. Fans of National Treasure will note that the real thing is quite different from the movie. That was a set that resembled the former display area, not the current one. I was amused by the fact that the DVD of National Treasure was for sale in the souvenir shop.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw
Washington, DC, 20408
(202) 357-5350

National World War II Memorial

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on June 30, 2005

The WWII Memorial sits between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool. Most of the memorial is below ground, so as to preserve the line of sight from the Lincoln Memorial down the Mall. With fountains, eagles, wreaths, and stars (400--one per 1,000 killed in action), the Memorial pays homage to the "greates generation" that saved the world from darkness. Panels and the entrance ramps show the start of the war (for the U.S.) with depictions of Pearl Harbor, scenes of citizens leaving family and home to enter the military, the homefront contribution, and the return of the victorious heroes at the Southern Panel. Scenes typical to the branches of service at the time decorate the North Panel.

The Pacific and European have theaters of operation with their major battles incribed in granite from a pool and fountain. Each state and territory that contributed or sent citizens into battle is noted. The most touching aspect of the memorial during our visit were the flowers and wreaths, with personal messages left in tribute by surviving veterans.

Combine this with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietman Memorial. The closest Metro is the Smithsonian, so expect a significant walk. Since the Memorials are open 24/7, try for late afternoon or early evening if visiting in summer. Rangers are available until early evening.

National World War II Memorial
Constitution Avenue And 15th Street, Nw
Washington, DC, 20024
(202) 426-6841

The Library of Congress

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 1, 2005

The Library of Congress was a revelation for me. It is easily the most ornate federal building I have ever seen. Tours are conducted through lobby/display areas of the library, which is a true library, although most of its collections are located elsewhere. A nondescript white building just east of the Cannon offices houses many books. The Library of Congress struck me as a love poem to all things connected to books, done in stone. Everywhere you look, you will see paintings, mosaics, and statues dedicated to thought, learning, and writing. The genesis of the library was the collection of Thomas Jefferson.

Now, the collection ranges from two copies of every book published in the USA to countless other one dimensional objects (that is the critera) like Bob Hopes' joke script. You will get to see two of the world's rarest books, a perfect Guggenheim Bible (one of three in the world), plus a giant Rheims hand-lettered Bible. They are housed in temperature-controlled, upright-piano-looking cases. Your guide will point out that the library's roof is capped with what was then rarer and far more costly than gold, an aluminum ball. The breathtakingly beautiful main reading room is familiar from countless films. For a neat souvenir, you can get a card that entitles you to read material but not check it out. Tours are on a first-come, first served basis and last about an hour. Wait times for a tour are about half an hour. You may also make arrangements through your Congressman for a tour; this may help cut down on your hassle wait time. Don't forget to take a look at the slightly riske Jupiter fountain outside. Free, of course--you've already paid through your taxes! Young children may be bored with the explanations of the symbols used in the decorations.

Jefferson's Legacy: The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, D.C., United States, 20540
(202) 707-5000

The White House

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 1, 2005

Unfortunately, things have changed since my first visit in '91 with regard to visiting the White House. Tours are currently ONLY possible in groups of 10 (private citizens) arranged through your congressman. I applied for my tickets for June in January. Typically, they will give a yeah or neah 1 month before the date(s) you ask for. Further, you will be asked to provide full names and social security numbers for each person wishing to enter the White House. After a simple background check, your congressman will let you know your appointment time.

At the White House, you must provide a picture ID and follow the rules, which you will receive beforehand. They are the strictest rules for any "sight" in D.C.: no cameras, no cell phones, and no packages, bags, purses beyond a specified size. One lady ahead of us failed to follow the rules and could not enter with her giant purse. If you do as your asked, though, getting in was easier than I anticipated, just a quick check of the list by a uniformed officer, a run through what must be more than your typical airport detector, and you’re in.

There are no tour guides following you around, but instead, guides are posted in the various rooms you will see to answer any questions and give you a short spiel on what your seeing. It’s quite odd to realize you’re walking down the same hall you see the president using when he has a speech to deliver in the East Room.

Rooms are filled with period furniture and paintings. The most famous paintings are the full-sized portrait of Washington in the East Room and Lincoln in contemplation in the Formal Dining Room. Portraits of our most recent presidents and first ladies are also displayed. The White House is surprisingly warm and inviting, not at all intimidating like the Supreme Court was.

Tours are conducted beginning at 7:30am every half-hour until 11:30am, when visitors are shooed out, the carpets fully rolled back, and VIPs like foreign dignitaries start to arrive. You are allowed to take a good look and only be prompted to "move along" should the crowd begin to bunch up. The day we visited, an Amish family with their 19th-century dress was in line, along with a fellow who only needed a sprig of wheat to complete the farmer tableux of overalls and work boots. Then came us Hispanic Americans. We are certainly a diverse people. E plurubus Unum!

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C., 20500
(202) 456-2121

Washington Monument

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 1, 2005

Currently, the area around the monument is undergoing renovation and construction. The only way to approach the base of the structure is to obtain a ticket at the national park kiosk (clearly marked). Do know that tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at, I believe, 8:00 or 8:30am. They go fast! You are better served by logging on the NPS website and securing your ticket this way. You can select a date/time convenient to you. We secured ours about 6 weeks out. If you plan your visit during the popular summer tourist season, get your tickets ASAP. A small convenience fee may apply (well worth it).

The monument offers the best views of the city. New high-speed elevators whisk you up to the observation level, where four windows offer spectacular views in each direction. It’s about the only way to see the Pentagon in its entirety. Planes will, at that point in their approach/takeoff from Reagan National, be lower than you. The views of the Lincoln Memorial to the West, White House to the North, and Capitol/Mall to the East are picture-postcard-perfect. Look up while your here and note the way the tip is tapered. The entire structure is composed of marble, and on the way down, your elevator will pause, and the operator will point out the many memorial stones submitted by each state and territory.

Waiting in line and security takes more time than the actual visit, and the whole thing should last 1 to 1 1/2 hours start to finish. The NPS is also adamant about certain rules regarding food and drink; in a word, no food and only water is allowed in clear bottles, the rational being that years upon years of minor spills lead to problems renovation (paid for in part by Target) had to overcome. There are stairs up the 55 stories, but you will not be allowed to use them. If you cannot be denied, a once-a-week tour on Sunday led by a park ranger descends down the steps, with stops at the major commemorative stones, including the million-dollar jasper job given by Alaska and the hunk of petrified wood sent by Arizona.

Washington Monument
Near the Center of the National Mall
Washington, D.C., 20024
(202) 426-6841

Arlington National Cemetary

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 1, 2005

Pay homage to the men and women who have fallen in the line of duty, as well as those who served when their country (you and me) needed them most - visit Arlington. The premiere national cemetery in the USA is easily accessible via the Metro. A visitor's center has exhibits dedicated to Kennedy's interment, as well as the history of the cemetery. Should you happen to know someone resting here, there is a dedicated kiosk to provide directions and localization of a grave. You will need the full name of the deceased, plus branch of service.

Tourmobile offers a get-on/get-off service for a fee of $6 (adults). If you have already walked a great deal, it’s a good idea. Distances can be greater than you realize, since roads are winding in the cemetery. The Tourmobile stops at the Kennedy gravesite, the Amphitheater/Tomb of the Unknowns, and Arlington House, former home of General Robert E. Lee, whose plantation became the cemetery. Be sure to pay your respects at the Tomb of the Unknowns; the inspiring changing of the guard takes place every half-hour in summer and every hour in winter. When the cemetery closes to the public at 7pm, the Honor Guard continues 24/7, 365 days a year, even in the most inclement of weathers. Stop off too at Audie Murphy's (WWII’s most decorated soldier) and Chip Burlingame's graves. Capt. Burlingame was the pilot of the jet that crashed into the Pentagon. Leave a pebble atop their stones. Pause at stones dedicated to the lost crew of the Challenger, Columbia, and failed Iranian hostage rescue team. Do not fail to see Robert F. Kennedy's simple white wooden cross a short distance from JFK, Jackie, little Patrick, and a stillborn daughter resting underneath the eternal flame.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
Arlington, Virginia, 22211
(703) 607-8000

Lincoln Memorial

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

Be prepared to walk if you wish to visit the Lincoln Memorial. The closest Metro stop is Smithsonian. Another option is to take the Tourmobile that stops here and 19 other places around D.C. It’s a jump-on, jump-off-type of service. We arrived via the Metro. Anytime day or night (unless it’s quite late,) the LM is crowded with visitors. If you want a photo of yourself and the Great Emancipator, you must either be patient or willing to have other people in the shot. Take time to visit the sides of the memorial to read Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address” and other notable speeches. Ask a park ranger if Lincoln's hands are spelling out the initials of Galludette University (for the deaf) in sign language. Amazingly, Lincoln's son was present when this most beautiful Grecian-style temple was dedicated in the '20s. Lincoln's view of the Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument, and the Mall beyond offer great photo ops. If you are in a playful mindset, have members of your party pose so as to lean against the Washington Memorial or poke its tip. The Lincoln Memorial is beautifully illuminated at night. If at all possible, visit then.
Lincoln Memorial
West Potomac Park
Washington, DC, 20037
(202) 426-6895

Mount Vernon

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

If you have a Metro day or week pass, there is an inexpensive way to reach Mt. Vernon. Take the yellow line to its terminus, Huntington Station; exit the lower stairs; and use the Fairfax Connector bus no. 101. The cost is a mere $1 per person, and it runs about every hour. The ride (with stops) to Mt. Vernon takes about 20 minutes. This mode of arrival offers a significant advantage over the Tourmobile that departs from Arlington Cemetery.

1) You can take as much time/little time as YOU want to explore Mt. Vernon
2) There are some cost savings that can add up if your party is large. In addition, the Tourmobile service is seasonal. When ready to leave, just pick up the no. 101 right in front of the gift shop and you will be back at the Metro Station again.

Weekends are busiest at Mt. Vernon. The Saturday we were there we arrived at 10:20am (opening is 9am) and spent over a half-hour in a slow-moving line that snaked its way around the ellipse outside the mansion, through a separate building that served as servant quarters, and then inside the home. About 6,000 are said to visit on weekends per day. Mt. Vernon is not owned or operated by the National Park Service. Instead, it's an association much like the group that also owns/runs the Alamo in Texas. Upkeep of the site mandates a fee to enter therefore. Adult tickets cost $11, and children, I recall, are $8. Naturally, credit cards are accepted.

Inside the mansion, guides will offer commentary on the rooms and furnishings. Most of the furnishings are Washington's. One ingenious item we saw was a "fan chair." Given that there was, of course, no electricity, if you wanted to cool down you sat in this chair and pumped your feet on some pedals. The pedals were connected to a fan above your head. Smart. Besides the home, there are stables, carriage houses, barns with animals, and a designated kid's area that the wee ones will like. I saw kids having a blast playing with Colonial games and toys and learning something despite themselves. Do not forget to visit Washington's tomb. He lies there with Martha.

If you want to take a load off your tired feet, there are chairs on the porch facing the Potomac. The view is unchanged from Washington's day, meaning no modern development within sight to spoil the view. It’s no doubt the work of the same association that manages the mansion. There are also museums with Washington artifacts, including (although I missed them) his dentures. If you get hungry, there are fast-food merchants or a colonial-style sit-down restaurant. Time was short, so we had burgers. If you desire a souvenir, consider a flag that has flown over Mt. Vernon. They are $25, of good quality, and in the gift shop. Allow 3 hours to tour the grounds.

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, VA, 22121
(703) 780-2000

Supreme Court of the United States

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

This neoclassical building looks far older than it really is. The Supreme Court met in odd rooms in the Capitol (you'll see one if you tour the Capitol) until the early '30s, when this structure was completed. Tours start at 9am when the court is not in session. After the usual security checks, a set number of visitors will be ushered into the actual court chambers. A guide will discuss the workings of the court, plus the symbolism of the sculptures and friezes above. The decorations are of lawgivers throughout time: Confucious, Hammurabi, Mohammed, and Moses, among others.

By sheer serendipity, the Thursday we choose to tour the court was the day of a very rare opinion. Usually the court hears cases October through April and delivers decisions the each of the first Mondays in June. This day (June 23, 2005), the court delivered opinions on six cases, the most important being the last the New London "Eminent Domain" decision. We were excited to have secured a seat inside, along with all the suits. The session was set to start at 10am. A few minutes before, a buzzer sounded, which indicated the justices were ready. Then a gavel sounded with the words, "ALL RISE! THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNDITED STATES IS NOW IN SESSION!" Believe me, you hop to it and rise. An officer of the court reads out a statement that sounds like it’s from Merry Old England--"Oyes, Oyes, all parties having petitions for the Court approach and be heard, God protect the United States of America and this Supreme Court!" The Justices then enter through some deep-red curtains and take their seats.

My observations: With the exception of Scalia and Ginsberg, they are all white-haired and elderly-looking. Chief Justice Rehnquist's voice, even with a mike, was weak and scratchy. He is rumored to have throat cancer. While one justice read an opinion, the others would rock in their chairs, whisper to one another, and even yawn (Justice Thomas). They seemed oblivious to the audience's presence. Nevertheless, the court does have "whips" to keep the audience in shape. One lady in my row leaned her head on the shoulder of her male partner and was quickly scolded by a "whip." After opinions were finished, they were available in printed form in the press room outside, a neat souvenir we picked up.

Downstairs there are exhibits, a short film, and portraits of past justices. Be sure to take a gander before the court opens, or afterwards at the sculptured doors at the entrance. Each door is bronze, weighs 6.5 TONS, and is decorated with famous law scenes. When the court is open for sessions or tours, these giant works of art slide into pockets in the sides and are not visible. Pamphlets describing the court building and workings are given out free of charge. The closest Metro stop is Capitol South.

U.S. Supreme Court
1 First Street NE
Washington, District of Columbia, 20543
(202) 479-3000

The Vietnam Memorial

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

The Vietnam Memorial is a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial. Books are available (laminated and protected against the elements) if you are looking for a particular individual. The books are arranged alphabetically and give you a panel number and line. The Vietnam Memorial is arranged something like a "V," with the intersecting point having the name of the first and last soldier to die/go missing.

A statue of three soldiers is set into the space behind the "V" on grass. They appear to be looking at the memorial. Close by, in a grove of trees, is a memorial to the nurses who also served. The tributes left by family members and fellow soldiers are touching. Periodically, they are picked up by the NPS and stored. We later saw some of the more remarkable ones (a violin and a Medal of Honor award in the National Museum of American History). There is no "bad" time to visit, but do know though that going during twilight, before the lights come on, makes seeing the names on the black granite a bit harder.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Bacon Drive and Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C., United States
(202) 426-6841

Georgetown Kennedy Walking Tour

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

The Georgetown Visitors Bureau on M Street, just off the intersection of M and Wisconsin, offers self-guided walking tours of the home JFK lived in prior to becoming president. The homes, beginning with JFK's days as a freshman senator, dot the area. Included is the home he bought Jackie as a wedding present and where Caroline and JFK Jr. were born, as well as the Catholic church they worshipped at. We were somewhat foot tired and could only handle about half of the spots.

Georgetown offers great shopping and lots of dining possibilities, when you’re ready to take a break. We choose Filomena's. Georgetown is easily reached using the Georgetown Connector bus, a royal blue-colored, small bus that picks up patrons at either the Rossly Metro, George Washington University/Foggy Bottom Metro, and, I think, Dupont Circle Metro.

The cost is $1, and it runs till the wee hours of the morning. It'll save your dogs (feet) lots of steps. We picked up the Kennedy tour brochure and some other stuff on the bus. The info is the same as that available at the Georgetown visitor center.

If you have the energy, there is also the Old Stone House on M Street. It’s the oldest home in the D.C. area and predates the Revolution. It’s run by the NPS, and entrance is free.

Georgetown Kennedy Walking Tour
Georgetown Visitors Bureau
Washington, United States

Bascilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 2, 2005

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in the United States. It is a 10-minute walk from the Brookland/CUA (Catholic University of America) Metro stop. The Church is dedicated to Our Lady. It is n prayer in stone to Our Lady with two levels, a Great Upper and Lower of Crypt Church. The Upper Church has many-sided chapels decorated in mosaic to the various appearances of Our Lady. The main alter has a Byzantine-styled mosaic (said to be the largest in the world) of Our Lord. He has his arms upraised and looks quite stern. The guide said that many people are disturbed by this Byzantine-styled Jesus, as opposed to the meeker, softer Jesus of Latin depictions, but I liked it just fine. I thought it was an accurate portrait of Our Lord at the Second Coming, ready to separate the sheep (those going to heaven) from the goats (those going to hell). Also, one transept has a frightening mosaic taken from the book of the Apocalypse (Revelations); a great Red Dragon, and the Women Clothed with the Sun, pregnant with our Lord. Rarely have I seen anything from the final book of the Bible depicted anywhere in a Catholic Church. Tours are available, but we just walked through ourselves.

The Capitol

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lgarcia45 on July 3, 2005

The best way to see The Capitol is by contacting your representative and arranging for a tour conducted by one of his/her aides. This way, you will avoid the extremely long lines the "general visitor" must tolerate. With summer's sometime-sweltering temperatures, this can really save some frazzled nerves. I contacted our rep several months ahead to set up our tour, but you may be able to do with only a few weeks notice with your rep. A small bonus was that after meeting our representative at his office, his aide lead us to the Capitol via the extensive underground tunnels that connect the Capitol, House of Representatives office buildings, and Senate office buildings. Our wait time for the security check with a guide was significantly shorter than the general visitor, and we waited in air-conditioned comfort. Be warned, The Capitol can be nearly cheek to jowl with visitors depending on the time of day.

You will see the "crypt" where the Supreme Court used to meet before they got their own building, the Rotunda, the Hall of Statues (check out the freak Father Daminen statue from Hawaii), and the so-called "whispering gallery." The whispering gallery is an anomaly where one person whispering toward the floor on one side of the room can be heard distinctly clear on the other side from a certain point, despite the overall noise. The reason is above your head, as the domed archway picks up sound, transfers it, and magnifies it. Pretty cool. The rotunda is a marvel, well known to anyone who saw Regan’s funeral last year (he lay in State here) or has seen photos of JFK lying in State also. Ask your guide about the catafalque used to raise Reagan's coffin. It is the same one used for JFK and other state funerals, starting with Lincoln. The catafalque is stored in The Capitol "crypt" but is not on display.

At this point, our guided tour ended and we were free to join yet another security line if we wanted to see the "action" on the floor of the House. Do it. You can stay as long as you like and will see details, like the Eagle decoration on the ceiling, that are never shown during a presidential address to a Joint Session of Congress.

If you want to see the Senate in action, be sure to request a pass (different from your House pass) from your rep PRIOR to the start of your tour. We failed to do this, and if we had wanted to pursue seeing the Senate, we would have had to go back to our rep's office, get a Senate pass, and go through every level of security yet again.

Please note that there is extensive construction on the east side of The Capitol. A new underground visitor center is being built but will not be ready till sometime in 2006. As a consequence, there are many construction barriers that can change around over time and photos of the east side during this phase will show an ugly view. True to form, the initial cost was projected at $75 million, but has skyrocketed to $550!!! Seeing The Capitol took much longer than we anticipated due to the crowds and security checks. Allow about 2 1/2 hours. If hunger pangs strike, a decent cafeteria and fair prices is available in the bowels of the rep's office buildings. As tourists, we were in the minority for the lunch crowd, as it was mostly Congressional aids and the like, but it made for interesting eavesdropping!

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