On my recent trip to New York, I was determined to see as much of the East Coast as I could without needing to take out a second mortgage. I was really lucky to be staying with friends so I extended my trip beyond a long weekend in the City, to see Washington DC, Philadelphia and Niagara Falls. I hopped on a Megabus and, a few hours later, I was in the capital of the U S of A! As a side note, I would really recommend getting on a Megabus for shorter distances. They are incredibly reasonable, have free wifi and the toilet facilities are far better than any other mode of public transport that I have ever used. Anyway, about DC…
Washington DC has so many historical buildings that it can be difficult to decide which ones you need to see. I made this mistake on the first day and ended up kind of wandering between them without really ‘seeing’ them, if that makes sense? I would totally recommend doing a bit of research so you get to see the ones that interest you the most. The good thing about this is that the majority of the buildings and museums are free to get into!
The Thomas Jefferson Building was a must for me and I spent hours wandering the marble staircases, staring at the intricately decorated ceilings and walls. You can peer into the Library itself and there is usually an exhibition ongoing where you can learn a thing or two. Once you are done, you can take the tunnel underneath the building over to the Capitol Building. Another beautiful white building, busting at the seams with history and an incredible exhibition all about congress and the Capitol. I thought I knew about US history until I visited here.
The main place on my ‘must see’ list was the White House. Luckily for me, Trump was out of the country, but the building is incredible although this is as close as you can get thanks to the road blocks and secret service officers guarding the front. It is quite cool to try and spot the snipers on the roof though, I wondered what they would think of me getting excited and pointing them out.
The main sights of Washington DC are all along the same street and there are so many museums that it would be impossible to see them all. I enjoyed the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum with the World War II aircraft and the largest component of America’s first space station. There are often events running on the lawns in between the main roads and I visited on a gloriously sunny day, which meant a quick sit for ice cream to take it all in.
Another spot at the top of my list was the Lincoln Memorial. Wander up the steps and, firstly, stop at the entrance and take in the view of DC from the top. Then take in the mighty Lincoln Memorial, in all its glory. Despite the crowds it was so quiet and thoughtful. Visitors spent their time just looking up at Lincoln before wandering back down the stairs to get on with the rest of their day. It was really quite surreal. As with the museums and Capitol buildings, a visit to Lincoln is free.
For my second day, the fabulous people of IceLolly.com sorted me with a special tour to take in the war memorials and a hop into the neighbouring state of Virginia to visit Arlington Cemetery. The £50 was worth every penny for a day of being dropped at each memorial, a commentary about each one and then entry to Arlington. It saved so much time and I saw so much more than I had the day before!
The Americans really know how to honour their war heroes and each memorial still has fresh flowers laid and lots of visitors paying their respects. It is truly humbling and I genuinely cried at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, where the names of all those who fell are etched into a black marble wall. I’m not sure if it a regular thing but there was a Vietnam Veteran talking to people at the wall and many left in tears after listening to his stories.
A quick stop at the US Marine Corps Memorial and we hopped over the bridge for a quick drive by at the Pentagon, including a commentary on that fateful day on 9/11 when the plane hit, before I bid farewell to our fabulous guide and heading into Arlington Cemetery.
The tour included our entrance to Arlington Cemetery, the national cemetery for those who have served the United States. The white headstones dot the rolling green hills with views over the Capitol State. It is also the resting place of John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie as well as a number of famous war heroes. I thought I would be in and out of here once I had seen the eternal flame, which burns at the site of JFK’s burial, but I was here hours taking in the sheer size of the place and how serene it is. There are buggies to guide you between the different areas of the cemetery and the guides are great at explaining what the larger memorials are for.
I shed more tears at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where a number of unknown soldiers are buried in a tomb, to honour those soldiers who died for their country, but remain unnamed. The site is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the change of the guard is a humbling site. The officers look like they are floating along the ground and everything about them is immaculate. From their shiny sunglasses to the impressive guns, they look after this tomb so the soldiers, although unknown, don’t go unremembered.
Would you add any sights to the list?
With thanks to IceLolly.com for arranging the most memorable tour.