I had a small AirBNB in a great location, by the Eastern Market in Capital Hill. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, great walking, lots of shops and restaurants in the area, and a metro station just a few blocks away. A Trader Joe’s was in walking distance as well so I could pick up some groceries but I drove over to the Aldi a couple miles away to stock the fridge.
I walked down to the mall the first day, it was a lot of walking but allowed me to see the US Capitol and Supreme Court buildings and much more down Independence. Even taking the metro the rest of my stay, I still got 8-10 miles in every day, visiting the sites and then returning to metro stations.
There are so many wonderful museums and galleries in town, it would take weeks and weeks to see them all. Even those I visited I didn’t stay long enough at any of them to see all they had to offer. I spent 3-5 hours at each of those I did visit but know I could return and see completely different exhibits. The Smithsonian now has 19 museums and all are free. A “National Treasure”!
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened in 2016, is one of the newer Smithsonian museums. It is huge, and I spent 4 hours in the 3 concourse levels covering the international slave trade and the Civil War, segregation/reconstruction, and Changing America. I spent another hour on the 3rd and 4th floors, seeing the Cultural galleries and the Community galleries. There is a lot more to see but I needed a break. It would be good to go two days but tickets can be hard to get; currently, this is one of several museums that needs a timed entry ticket.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum also needs a timed entry ticket, and they are released several months in advance. I didn’t check their site until about 3 weeks prior to my visit, mid-March, for an early April visit and learned I need a ticket. Tickets were fully booked through May. I was planning on checking for daily release tickets but when logging on a few days later, saw lots of availability, which was confusing. I asked about that when visiting and they said they release tickets held for large groups that often double-book dates or cancel. I selected a 1000 entry, when they first opened. Like the African American museum, very painful history. The museum covered the Nazi rise to power to death camps and the Final Solution, including information on the war in Europe, the Allies and their politics back home.
There was a special exhibit, free entry, “Americans and the Holocaust”. What did Americans know? What more could have been done? It talked about how the Depression, isolationism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism shaped responses to Nazism and the Holocaust. It included videos on the American reaction to the war, newspaper coverage, government response and how the State Department kep Jewish immigrants way below the numbers allowed. Sadly, most countries refused Jewish refugees during the war. The curator, Dr. Daniel Greene, created a video tour of the exhibit.
I saw an advertisement somewhere for the “augmented” Notre Dame experience. It just opened at the National Building Museum on April 15th, so great timing for me. A private museum in the old Pension Building, tickets are $10 or $7 for seniors/veterans. Well worth it just for the Notre Dame exhibit, there was also an exhibit on architectural photography and house/home. There are also free exhibits on Border Walls and Gun Violence.
I didn’t spend enough time in either the National Museum of American History or the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Both would require days to see everything, but are worth a visit no matter how long you have. I spent much longer in the National Museum of the American Indian with the Native American Veterans Memorial on the grounds. Opened in 2004, the building is beautiful, and the history and art are great. I especially loved the Preston Singletary glass display of the “Raven and the Box of Daylight”. Beautiful!
The National Portrait Gallery is in the same building. I saw two special exhibits, “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” and “Block by Block: Naming Washington” plus the permanent America’s Presidents exhibit. I visited the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. There were several large installations at the Hirshorn. I also visited the National Gallery of Art to see the new Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibit.
Leaving town for Fredericksburg, I stopped at Quantico to see the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Opened in 2006, it tells the history of the Marine Corps from its “birthday” on November 10, 1775 to present. What a great museum, my Dad would have loved this. I only spent a few hours, it could easily be a full day.
At the time I visited, I needed timed tickets to the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of African American History and Culture, all other Smithsonian’s were open to the public.
There are many more Smithsonian Museums to visit, I would have loved to see the Asian Art Museum, the National Museum of African Art, and the private Spy Museum. I had visited the Spy Museum years ago when in Bethesda for work and really enjoyed it. I planned on returning this visit but was very busy with all the other sites however do recommend this very interesting museum.
Monuments and Memorials
I ordered tickets in advance to visit the Washington Monument. Glad it’s open again, it has great views and information on Washington and the building of the monument.
I walked the National Mall many times and visited the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.
I drove over to Arlington to see the US Marine Corps Memorial, with a stop at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Island. There are nice trails around the island.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is just off the mall, close to the American Indian museum. I took the audio tour on my phone and it talks about both his time as General of the Army and President.
I returned to the Vietnam Wall and made my second visit to the National WWII Memorial. I stopped by here the first time in 2017 when I was in Washington for one day on the Women’s March. The memorial took way too long, and my Dad, a WWII veteran, never got to see it but I did register him before he passed away and he saw the photos. It’s worthy of our Greatest Generation.
Pershing Park, dedicated in 1981 to just the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), lead by Pershing, is being expanded to a larger WWI Memorial. There are signs and information about General Pershing, WWI, and the statues still being developed.
I also visited the great Korean War memorial and the Vietnam War Statue, and stopped to see the new Pentagon Memorial for the victims of 9/11 at the Pentagon and of AA flight 77. I thought this memorial extremely well designed, there is a bench for each person, shaped like airline wings, those facing the Pentagon were on the airplane, facing away were in the building. There are 189 benches, set up by dates of birth, from 1930 to 1998, with family names also listed under the benches on the water. I stopped by one day but after seeing photos of the memorial at night, returned to see it lighted up.
I had never been to the Washington National Cathedral so definitely made time for a visit while I was there. They also require tickets. Available online, $15. $10 for seniors and veterans. I took the metro out to Cleveland Park then walked about a mile to the cathedral. There was an upcoming docent tour when I arrived but I had time to visit the viewing platform on the 7th floor before the tour. We also visited the crypt, heard about building the cathedral, the 2011 earthquake and reconstruction, the stained glass, including the “space window” with a moon rock in it. The Apollo 11 astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, were all present for the dedication of the window. The Bishop’s Garden is small but attractive, and I walked through it when leaving the cathedral.
I took the Lincoln Assassination Tour with DC Tours by Foot. I paid $35. I assume the price went up for high season because it’s now showing $65; it was a good tour but wouldn’t have been worth that. I took it Easter Sunday. Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, died Saturday morning and, 157 years ago, much of America heard the news and mourned President Lincoln on Easter. We started at Lafayette Square, hearing about the plot, the attempt to kill Seward, the plan to kill Johnson, visited the National Theater, where Tad was seeing Aladdin and heard his father was shot, the Willard Hotel, ending at Ford’s Theater and hearing how Lincoln was taken to the Peterson Boarding House where he died the next morning.
It was only 4 when the tour finished so I visited the Peterson house to see the bedroom where he died then the exhibit hall next door. I returned several days later to see the theater. Tickets are required (and include the Peterson House, I just got lucky and the ranger let me in the previous day). They can be hard to get online, but I stopped by and got a ticket from the box office.
Arlington Cemetery is free entry (paid parking) but the tram tour drives you around to 4 stops with narration. Rather expensive but I got a good discount as a veteran, I am not sure worth it otherwise. It is a large, very large property so does allow somewhat easier access. But it can take quite a while to wait for subsequent trams so it can still make for a long day. I visited the JFK Eternal Flame, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, saw the changing of the Guard, and Arlington House. I returned to walk around the cemetery to see several tombs, including RBG and Colin Powell and Audie Murphy.
I also stopped by to visit the Congressional Cemetery. A beautiful property with lots of cherry trees and a Native American memorial. It’s 50 years older than Arlington. Prior to 1830 most Congressman who died in Washington were buried here.
Being in Washington in April allowed me to see all the spring flowers including the beautiful cherry trees. My visit overlapped the National Cherry Blossom Festival and I attended Petalpalooza on the Riverfront.
I also heard about the White House Garden Tour my first day in town. The White House only opens their gardens to the public two weekends a year, one in the spring, one in the fall, neither have specific dates. Tickets are free, first come, first served, at the White House Visitor Center. I picked up a ticket on the way to the Washington Monument for later that afternoon. It was lovely. The Marine Band was playing and the flowers in full bloom, seeing the Oval Office, kitchen gardens, bee hives and more.
I wanted to see Lafayette Square. Conveniently, it was the starting point for the Lincoln tour. There were a few protests in the square and in front of the White House; what would Washington be without some protestors? I also walked through Black Lives Matter Plaza from the metro on the way.
Lincoln Park was just a few blocks from my rental and Boo and I walked over many days. The Emancipation Memorial was built with funds from freed enslaved people.
National Arboretum is amazing. I spent a long morning here, walking the trails. It’s very dog friendly except the Bonsai Pavilion. Loved seeing the old Capitol Columns, the azelas, flowering trees, the Asian Garden Valley and much more.
There are quite a few restaurants in the Eastern Market area. I met a friend one night at Mekki DC. It’s Moroccan food, the salads were good but the lamb tagine was not nearly as good as Morocco. The service was also quite below average and they seemed to be out of a lot of items on their menu, not recommended.
Also in the neighborhood was eat brgz. They mix ingredients together with the ground beef or chicken and it makes for a great sandwich. I had a good burrito from District Taco just a few blocks away. I walked up for take out one night and brought it back to my apartment. I had half one night and the other half a few nights later. It was quite large and very good.
I wanted to try Radici Market. What I thought was the “menu” online was pre-made items. The pork sandwich I picked up one day was expensive and small for the cost. I can’t recommend but if I lived in the neighborhood, I would probably shop at their market for some speciality items like fresh pastas and sun-dried tomato pesto.
When I was waiting in Lafayette Square for a tour, I found Immigrant Food @ The White House a few blocks away. I walked over, but it was Easter Sunday and they were quite busy and I wouldn’t have had time to wait for a table. I order the Banh Mi to go and had it in the square. It was very good! The service was great, too.
The last night in town, I met my friend again over in Georgetown. We went to Das Ethiopian and shared a large vegetable plate and a meat plate. Lots of food and I like the bread they serve to pick up the food.
I visited Mount Vernon with my family decades ago and took my daughter when we visited Washington in 1998, but wanted to return since I was in the area. I booked the grounds and mansion tour and also two speciality tours, “The Enslaved People of Mount Vernon” and “The National Treasure” tour. Both were very interesting. The enslaved tour visits the slave quarters and gardens and we heard about a number of the enslaved, George’s valet who “retired” to shoe making when he fell off his horse and hurt his knees and Martha’s lady maid, Ona Judge. Ona escaped to freedom and Martha viewed it as a betrayal. Fascinating that white slave owners can actually be surprised and “betrayed” when people prefer freedom. We also visited the Slave Memorial and Cemetery.
The National Treasure tour covers the scenes from Book of Secrets filmed at Mount Vernon. We heard about the set up for the party, then visited the basement, ice house and wharf. I hadn’t seen the movie in years so rented it on Prime before my visit.
I spent the entire day there. It’s a large property and just getting in and out, from parking through the visitor center to the mansion, takes quite a while. It’s dog friendly, so Boo was in the car while I was in the mansion but he visited the grounds with me, seeing the tombs, gardens, wharf and farm.
** All photos property of Lisa, not to be copied or reproduced **