Sightseeing in Washington, D.C.
I arrived home about a week ago from a trip to our Nation's Capital. It was a wonderful trip with a small group of nine from our school district here in the midwest. Our group consisted of 2 middle schoolers and 2 high schoolers (one of which was mine), 2 teachers, and 3 parents.
I guess the first thing I should tell you is that we drove about 1100 miles to get to the College Park, University of Maryland Campus; where we were staying! After arriving, we relied totally on public transportation for the entire week!
One of the first things we did was grab the college shuttle bus to go to the metro station to buy a pass that would allow us to ride all week, anywhere and anytime. This was probably one of the most important things we did to make our sightseeing enjoyable! The pass was $47.00 for each person. Well, worth it! The metro system took us where we wanted or needed to go and is a whole separate post, in itself! We loved it!
Well, I'm supposed to be writing about sightseeing, right?! Our first stop was Ford's Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot to death! We had purchased advanced tickets beforehand (by just googling the theater) for $9.50 each ($2.00 service charge). But, you can get in line to purchase tickets early in the morning and get in the same day, according to your time on the ticket. The theatre is beautiful and an actor tells the story of that fateful night in an entertaining way. Well, worth a visit!
Next, we visited the Old Postal Pavilion, just a few blocks from the Ford's Theatre. We hadn't planned on going there, but another tourist gave us a tip that it had a great view from the top and they were right! The building is old and beautiful. An elevator or stairs takes you to the top of a clock tower to get a panoramic view of the city and some other famous landmarks. We took some really cool pictures from the clock tower of the Capital and Washington monument. The Bells of Congress are also housed at the old Postal Pavilion and well worth seeing this gift from Britain. The bells do ring, on special days.
At this point, I should digress and tell you that, of course in this day and age, you do have to pass through security in the public buildings. Our first experience with this was the Post Office Pavilion but the guards are pleasant and quick. Just be prepared to have your bag x-rayed and pass through a metal detector, very much like at the airports. This never bothered us, as we were thankful that the check points are to make sure everyone is safe.
Our next stop, was to be the National Archives.........well, we had to pass that by due to a line being wrapped around 2 sides of the building. It was probably about 11:30am now. Unfortunately, we never did get into the archives. Part of our group did go first thing in the morning, when we were at Ford's Theatre. Apparently, that is one of the most important tips for sightseeing DC is that you get in line early in the day......Yes, even before things open.
We had a bag lunch from College Park, so we stopped by the Sculpture Garden, right downtown. It is a lovely spot with a beautiful round fountain in the middle. You can take a much needed, relaxing break here and even soak your feet in the fountain if need be. Be be forewarned, DO NOT go there thinking you'll let your children frolic in the water. We saw park workers yell at fountain sitters who were just standing up at the fountain edge, to sit down! It is a very relaxing space and we loved it. You just need to practice some common sense and have good control of your children. If you don't; I'd skip this spot. We ended up returning to the Sculpture Garden at the end of the day for a rest. It was probably our favorite spot.
A nice surprise on this trip was that while in line at the Ford's Theatre, a lady gave us tickets to go up in the Washington Monument at 1pm. Now, I had tried to get tickets online before our trip but those were gone. The tickets are free but timed, so you need to have one to go up into the monument. The day we went, we heard they were gone by 9:30am. So, act quickly, again....first thing in the morning!
The Washington Monument is beautiful! An iconic landmark for our first president and nation. The elevator ride is quick and the views are great from the top. It is worth getting the tickets to do this, just to get a view of the other landmarks and layout of the city. The park rangers are helpful and pleasant. They also do a great job of lining people up to go to the elevator (8 at a time). You'll not be able to "budge" (as the children say) in line here. A few people tried it and it did not work. The lines are timed and move along, so just be patient and enjoy your visit!
Unfortunately, we did note some unsightly things by this point in our day. One, the mall, usually pictured a verdant green in ones' mind, was brown and dry. The grass was crispy, in fact! And the famous reflecting pool; it's drained right now! So, there is just a mud pit with a lot of construction equipment around the whole area.
Not as picturesque as we remembered. It was disappointing. We read after we got home, that they are renovating the reflecting pool so that it will actually have a water exchange with the Tidal Basin and be easier to care for. It's just not what you expect to see, right now!
Well, we did go into the museums and see the monuments but that will have to wait for the next post! Thanks for stopping by! Have a great Saturday!