A Wanderer’s Guide: Washington DC

I’m not in anyway an expert, and I’m not going to pretend to be. I’ve been to DC on three occasions now, and I’m pretty sure I have gotten it down to an art. Well, I know what I want to see/do/show those I am with (Sam) and I know where I want to spend the remainder of my time. So, here are my Top 10 things to do in DC.

1. Probably not your expected number one, but definitely worth it. Do a Segway Tour.

Image Credit: Tony Hisgett

We went with City Segway Tours, and they were brilliant. Our guide (a girl named Rory) was knowledgeable, and interesting and funny. And made it a really great experience. Ours was the evening/night tour, which actually turned out to be the best thing we could do. There was a thunderstorm that night and the sky was beautiful. Although, we did very nearly get hit by lightening (I’m talking blinded by the flash, tree on fire 10ft away) But totally worth it!


2. Probably most peoples number one, and pretty obvious: see the White House.

Image Credit: Diego Cambiaso

Last time, we did this both on foot and on Segway. I recommend the Segway tours (can you tell?). They are ace. You see the sights (White House, Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial) and you get to ride on Segways. What is better than that?! But, back to the point. White House, you can’t not go! Go to see both sides, if you are early and lucky enough (and you know when you will be in DC) then try to book a tour. I doubt you will meet the President, but if you have the chance…. Why wouldn’t you go?


3. Capitol Building.

Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond

You might have noticed that I like architecture, if you haven’t, I love it! It’s imposing, yet elegant. It has history and life. And for some reason I can’t find any of my pictures to prove it…. The people at the Capitol recommend a day (There are full itineraries of things to do at Visit the Capitol.


4. The National Archives.

National Archives
Image Credit: Matt Wade

There are four things in there that I recommend. The first three, are the big three: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. It’s genuine American history, and I know it is a big deal in the USA. In fact, this is the city where we got asked most if we were still upset about loosing the States. It’s odd, but it’s not a major bit of British History; as far as I can tell, there was a general thought that the New World was in fact going to be another country. It was just too far, and too much of a melting pot, as well as a place for freedom and the escape of other nations. But, it is a big deal in the USA, it is because of them that the USA became the USA. The last thing to see in the National Archives, is a piece of our history – British history. There is a copy of the Magna Carta in the Archives – it was the basis of the Constitution and, seems to never have people looking at it. It is beautiful (I might be biased on that point) and it is older than the USA! Go see it; go see them all. As documents: they are stunning. As history: they are priceless.


5. The Smithsonian.

Image Credit: Robert Lyle Bolton

There are about a million hours worth of exhibit viewing. All for free. History is incredible, it should be seen and experienced. I set aside a day – in this time I can do about 2 museums. Any more and I get a bit ‘museumed-out’. But if you have more time, there is always something to see there. After all, there are 19 separate museums in the area (picture above is of the Smithsonian Castle, home of the Visitor Centre). See the star-spangled banner, some of the original flags, the Wright brothers plane, the Apollo 11 command pod, Egyptian mummies, Dinosaurs, a Blue Whale. And my favourite: Kermit the Frog! R2D2 and C3P0 are also in one of the museums if you are more into your Sci-fi, and Dorothy’s slippers if you are my Mum.


6. The Washington Monument.

Image Credit: John Hilliard

You can’t miss it. It is huge. But also, pretty stunning. Have a look, if it is open, you can even ride to the top!


7. World War II Memorial.

Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond

You have to go through it, it is between the Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It is huge and garish, and very American. But at the same time… a stunning reminder of the lives lost and the fight for freedom.


8. The Vietnam War Memorial.

Image Credit: treewoman8

It is two walls of reflective stone. With over 58,000 names of those killed during the War. This memorial will always hold a place in my heart. My late Great-Uncle fought, and visited. He found those friends who he lost, and those who he didn’t even know had gone. It makes me happy to think of the peace it allowed him, yet sad for the fears he still held.


9. The Lincoln Memorial.

Image Credit: Ed Schipul

You can’t miss it out. It is huge, and magnificent. The famous address is on the wall – you know the ‘Four scores and seven years ago…’ one. American history is maybe not my forte, but it does’t mean that I have anything against it, just that it’s never been my go to!


10. My favourite place in the whole of the city: The Korean War Memorial.

2012-09-01 13.10.05

This place brings me peace and reminds me that I am small and insignificant. And here for a fleeting moment. A blink of an eye. The part that gets me, and has made me cry every time I have seen it, is the wall by the flag. The statues and the etched faces are haunting. The memorial plaques a reminder of the real lives lost, and the appreciation of those whose lives were changed. And the reminder that Freedom is not free.


Did I miss your favourite place in DC? Let me know in the comments.


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