We went to Washington, DC to watch my friend Komal’s documentary, Dream, Girl, at the White House, but we also took the opportunity to spend a few days on holidays in DC. My mom and I had been before, but Kevin and my dad had never seen any of the Washington, DC attractions, so we got to work quickly on our tourist experience.
We stayed at a hotel within walking distance to Capitol Hill, which also put us within a short distance of the Washington Mall.
If you’re not familiar with Washington, DC, here’s how Wikipedia describes the National Mall:
The National Mall is a national park in downtownWashington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the National Mall, which is part of its National Mall and Memorial Parks unit. The term National Mall commonly includes areas that are officially part of West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardensto the west, and often is taken to refer to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, with the Washington Monument dividing the area slightly west of its midpoint. The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year.
Here’s a photo of the National Mall, and some notes on different landmarks, relative to our hotel.
We started early in the morning with a quick breakfast and a walk around the Capitol Building. The heat was pretty intense, so my parents opted for a relaxed, air-conditioned morning at the hotel while Kevin and I rented some Capital Bixi bikes, and biked down the Washington Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial.
With Tony & Judy relaxing, Kevin and I bike in the sun along the Mall, past the Smithsonian museums. We stopped for a photo op at the Washington Monument, and then carried on to the WWII memorial. I’d seen all of this before, but it was great to see it again. The size and beauty of the National Mall is always impressive, and even Kevin agreed with that, so it was fun to see him enjoying himself so much.
The WWII Memorial in particular includes such great attention to detail. Between the carvings, and the sounds of the fountains, it’s truly a work of art.
The weather was nice and hot, but it was too early in the year for DC’s infamous humidity, so we enjoyed the sun as we biked along the reflecting pool and then climbed the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.
Because we were in DC for Memorial Day weekend, it was an especially busy spot. At every memorial and landmark, we saw different veterans and veteran groups, which added a bit of extra meaning and context to all that we were seeing. As a Canadian, American politics can sometimes be a bit bewildering, so it was interesting to see Americans expressing their meaningful politics on this set of national landmarks.
After the Lincoln Memorial we saw the Vietnam War Memorial. It’s one of my favourite things to see in DC because it’s so different from typical war memorials. Rather than celebrating achievements or supposedly high minded ideals, this memorial is a wall of stone, cut into a hill, with all the names of the American soldiers lost in Vietnam carved into it. Rather than celebrating the state, it recognizes the American soldiers who were lost in the war. It’s rather emotional to walk along, even more so when you’re walking behind and in front of Vietnam war veterans.
On our way back to the other end of the mall, we stopped for a photo op near the White House, then headed to the Museum of Native American History for lunch (which was excellent).
After lunch we met up with my parents at the National Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian has a really impressive collection of things in general, and this museum was no different. We saw exhibits covering the first attempts at flight, the first launches into space, and real pieces of modern spaces stations and technology. It was a great way to see and understand the progress of travel over the last few generations.
Kevin was pretty bummed to not see Cape Canaveral when we went to Florida, so he was quite thrilled to see some spaces ships, rovers, etc at the Smithsonian.
Next up we went to the National Gallery of Art. We only had time to see the basement floor, but we stumbled upon some Mark Rothko paintings, so we were quite excited. All in all, we had a great time on our first day exploring DC!
After the museums closed, we headed back to the hotel to shower off all the sweat and sunscreen of our day. After changing, I headed out with Kevin and my Dad. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t feeling well so she stayed back in the room to sleep.
Before going to dinner, we went to the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. It was “Jazz in the Garden” night, which I thought meant that it would be full of stuffy rich people doing the polite golf clap while listening to jazz. I could not have been more wrong. By the time we got there, the garden was completely full. We found a line up, bought pitchers of beer and sangria, and stood in the garden to listen to the music and enjoy the energy of the crowd. It was a great crowd of people of all ages, gathering for what was clearly a very popular Friday night social event. It also helped that we were at the season debut. If you’re in DC on a Friday night, I highly suggest you check out this awesome free event!
Next up we headed to a wine bar for dinner. I did some heavy research on WikiTravel for this trip, as I’d been advised that good restaurants were hard to find in DC due to the high amount of touristy/business-y nonsense restaurants. Fortunately, I found a great list of places, and we didn’t have a single bad meal.
On Friday night we ate at Proof. The food was excellent, and the wine was also great. The wine list wasn’t as varied as I’d been hoping, but everything we ate and drank was delicious. Unfortunately, the aesthetic of the restaurant includes lighting so lacking that you can’t even read the menu. I found this to be completely pointless, and annoying. Otherwise, it’s a top notch experience, but eating in the dark is just plain weird. That said, we ate some of the most delicious charcuterie of all time there, so it was worth going to. Still, it was the weak point of meals over our weekend, which likely says more about how well we ate in DC.
Photos are below, in reverse order for some reason: