Why You Should Visit Washington DC
When the press and politicians around the world think of the US, they think “Washington”. However, not many tourists think that way. Well, perhaps it’s time to change that. In fact, DC offers an enjoyable, enriching, and fulfilling experience like no other. Read on to see what I mean.
Washington DC is a very tourist-friendly place. The whole city is planned, commissioned by none other than President Washington himself. The nation’s capital is based upon the original plans from European cities such as Paris, Milan, and Amsterdam. Hence, there is an abundance of avenues and open spaces.
Unlike most other famous US cities– New York, Chicago, and the like, Washington does not have sweeping skyscrapers. In fact, there is a law that limits the heights of buildings. While this limits vertical growth and is a factor in the city’s traffic, the resulting low skyline helps give the city a more “open” feel.
The city’s master planning also gives the whole place a logical layout. You can easily find streets, and there are also lots of public transport options. The efficient Metrobus and Metrorail provides connections to virtually any point in the city. Most hotels are located around the vicinity of these networks, so it’s easy to get around. There’s also an abundance of parking spaces for car rentals, and enough taxis to service the millions of visitors that come annually.
It’s almost as if the city has laid out a red carpet for your visit, guaranteeing a stress-free stay. Now, let’s take a look at the city behind the master plan.
A City of Monuments
One of the biggest group of attractions in DC center is the “National Mall”. For the uninitiated, do not expect a gigantic air-conditioned building with shops and all. The Mall is an open park located between the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Around it stands the most prominent sights of the city.
To the south of the Mall stands the “Tidal Basin” — a reservoir that is part of the West Potomac Park. It is marked by a beautiful row of cherry blossom trees, gifts from Japan to the US. It also houses several famous memorials — Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, as well as the District of Columbia War Memorial.
Another prominent structure around the National Mall is the Smithsonian Institution. This is a Congress-chartered foundation. This is a must-see place for anyone with an ounce of curiosity. Like most other things in the city, it seems to be a tempting invitation. The museums and their massive collections are open to the public free of charge.
There’s the National Museum of Natural history, which occupies 1.5 million square feet of DC. From an ancient house circa 1700’s to the sparkling grandeur of the National Gem Collection (which includes the famous Hope Diamond!), the Museum contains priceless artifacts curated by a staggering host of 180+ scientists.
Another museum attached to the Smithsonian is the Air and Space Museum, which contains the original aircraft flown by the Fathers of Flight, the Wright Brothers. It also contains the Apollo 11 command module, which would make any space fan squirm with happiness.
Art aficionados will have a perfect time exploring the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden as well as the Sackler and Freer galleries. There is also the Arts and Industries building, all of which are attached to the Smithsonian. Like the rest, visits to these are all free of charge.
Of course, the whole visit to DC would be nothing without a trip to the White House. This amazing structure is the nerve center of not only national but international politics. There are tours that allow you inside the legendary building, too.
While we’re on buildings with political significance, one other stop you should see is the Holocaust Museum. It contains various relics from one of the darkest times of modern history. A particularly moving part of the museum is the collection of shoes from the Holocaust victims, a stunning reminder of the atrocities of WWII.
Another building with political significance (but unfortunately one we did not get to visit yet) is the International Spy Museum. It would have lots of interesting James Bond-esque exhibits that would be perfect for an exciting afternoon.
Aside from the historical places, Washington also has its own culinary culture unlike any other. You don’t have to go far, either. All you have to do is traverse the H Street — a group of streets that make up Washington’s well-defined quadrants and you will find some of the best eats in the city.
A famous one is the “Toki Underground”: A cozy, Asian-inspired noodle house. It has a great menu, too. I had a bowl of ramen and another of tsukemen and both were perfect.
For those looking for a good drink, you shouldn’t let the POV experience pass. It’s a rooftop lounge with an interesting interior design. Then, for the DIY fans, there’s the Union Square Market that offers international fare in a food warehouse setting.
For those who want an All-American dining experience, there’s Beuchert’s Saloon over at Capitol Hill. It’s old-fashioned in appearance but the menu is really well thought out. These examples are just a small sampling of the many places in DC where you can grab a good bite after a day of touring.
If ever you want to take a trip down history lanes (not only US History, but that of the whole world) and you don’t have a fortune to shell out, try visiting Washington DC. From natural history to that of the arts, from political history to that of the evolution of technology, you will find everything here. Oh, and don’t worry about where to stay the night either. The city has a huge number of accommodations, from budget hotels to bed-and-breakfasts, to campgrounds and high-end places. Knowing all of these, you should be in Washington as there’s no reason not to be.