On our way to our summer job in Massachusetts we did a lot of exploring. We already made a post about our stops along the way but one in particular needed its own blog post – Washington D.C.! Megann had been to D.C. before but it was a first for me. We spent a week in the area and didn’t see it all! We found a great place to stay at the Greenbelt National campground. The campground was conveniently located just a few miles from a park and ride with access to the metro train system. We used the train to get in to downtown every day. One of the great things about D.C. is that all of the monuments and museums are free although some do require you to reserve timed passes.
Monument walking tour
Washington D.C., especially the National Mall, is literally covered in monuments. One of the first things we did was take a walking tour of many of the main monuments. It was really worth the money to get some back story on each of them while getting the lay of the land for the upcoming days. We booked through Free Tours by Foot and our guide was fun and really knowledgeable. She gave us some insights on the design choices for monuments and pointed out subtleties we would have otherwise overlooked.
A trip to D.C. is not complete without a visit to the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights (the Charters of Freedom) are all on display. Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed – well maybe that’s fortunately, for the sake of the documents anyway! It is truly remarkable to be able to look at the documents that define our country.
Ford’s Theater, the site of Lincoln’s assassination, was one of the stops that we booked ahead as it is quite popular. This is a two part stop: first is the actual theater where a short production depicting the day’s events is performed; second is the home across the street where Lincoln was taken after being shot and actually died.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
This is perhaps not the highest on Megann’s bucket list but it was on mine! I’ve always wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History and stand beneath the T-Rex fossil, and now I have! I love the fossils and skeletal representations of all the different animals – I’m a nature channel watching dork like that. I think the coolest part is where they have the fossils, skulls and likenesses of the various species of humanoids that have been found across the globe. One exhibit I know my sister would have loved was the gem and minerals, including the hope diamond!
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court was an unplanned spur of the moment stop and was one of the most interesting for both of us. We got to go inside the court and they had someone thoroughly explain the purpose of the supreme court, how cases are selected and how verdicts are rendered. It was extremely interesting and something I think every American should do if they are able to visit D.C. Again, photos were not allowed inside the actual court room.
U.S. Capitol Building
A visit to Washington D.C. would not be complete without a visit to the Capitol Building. We weren’t able to see congress in session but took the tour which included a video, access to exhibition hall and the rotunda.
National Gallery of Art
I was really excited about visiting the National Gallery of Art and to tell you the truth it was almost overwhelming there is so much to see! We started with the oldest and moved to newest but I almost wish we had done the opposite because I got so tired. We had to come back the next day to finish. It is just amazing though to see the famous works of art that we’ve grown up seeing in books up close and personal! The up close detail and depth is just awe inspiring.
National Museum of American History
We made a quick trip in to the Museum of American History because I really wanted to see Seinfeld’s puffy shirt but they didn’t have it on display at the time! We did get to see some other pop culture artifacts though. This museum in a fun lighthearted stop among many other more serious sights.
White House (outside)
Unfortunately, we were unable to get a White House tour – you have to book many months in advance but we did get to look at the outside. The street we took pictures from has since been closed off to foot traffic.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
I think the Holocaust Museum was the most impactful museum visits of the trip. As you enter the museum you are handed a passport book with the name and information of an actual person – as you walk through you turn the pages to find out the journey and ultimately the fate of that person. To totally immerse yourself in such a horrific series of events in history is saddening, disgusting, scary and also inspiring at the same time. It was an emotional experience. This museum is so well done, I wish more people could make the trip to see it. It had such an effect on me I didn’t take one picture!
National Museum of the Native American
The Museum of the Native American is a fairly new museum and pretty well done. Our favorite part was the section that highlighted individual tribes and their belief system, customs and artifacts. We thought this was important as many people think all Native Americans share one set of beliefs and customs instead of each tribe being unique. The most depressing part was the section contrasting various treaty agreements with the actual outcomes. We did get to see some artifacts and mention of tribes Megann is descendant from but couldn’t find the Grand Ronde flag hanging amongst the others for some reason.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is located just outside of Washington D.C. in Virginia. It is still a very active cemetery with around 30 funerals a day during the week. While there we visited the Kennedy Eternal flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We got to watch the changing of the guard – it was so intense!
From DC we drove to Gettysburg. We had just watched a mini-series about the battle of Gettysburg. When we got to Gettysburg we stopped at the visitor center to get a driving map of the battlefield. Having just watched the movie it made the points on the driving tour much more interesting. As you went through the tour you followed to course of the battle. For me the most impactful stop was at the top of Little Round Top. You could really envision the Union troops waiting at the top of the hill for the Confederate troops to charge from across the field. All along the way there are monuments for all the different military battalions.