We’re one month into the New Year and have you had your first trip of the year yet?
I went for the long weekend to Washington, D.C. with my middle daughter to meet my new grandnephew. So cute! Our son came over from NYC. And while we were there we took in some sights. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I would like DC in January. But as it turns out, I really liked it.
To give you a small taste of what you can experience in DC, here's our itinerary.
Day 1 - Fly PDX – DCA Reagan National airport
Day 2 - We took our time getting up and out in the am. (remember there’s a baby in the house and we’re on West Coast time.) We went to the Smithsonian Information center, aka, The Castle. It is where you find out all about the other Smithsonian’s and where you can read and see displays of the history of the Smithsonian Institute and how it started. A good choice for a first stop.
We walked across the Mall to the National Museum of American History. Some might think this is a war museum. But it’s actually a history museum of American culture and life. The Star-Spangled Banner on display here is that flag that flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem. We also saw Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz, first lady gowns and White House china. And… the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. “Holy history, Batman!”
Lastly, we walked over to the National Archives to see the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was pretty awesome to be able to see these founding documents and read the stories surrounding them. I have it on my calendar to read the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July.
Day 3 - Saturday. Today we woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. But the life of a tourist continues on and we hopped on the train into town. The Library of Congress was first on our list. What a beautiful building where every little statue and decoration has a meaning and a purpose! We took a guided tour which are offered for free throughout the day.
(Tip: take a tour!)
The building was finished in 1897/98 and came in $200,000 under budget which the contractor returned to the United States Government! When do you ever see something like that happening today?!
Walking past the Capital Building and the Supreme Court building, we couldn’t help but be awestruck by their size. And another thing.. no crowds.. because Saturday....snow...January.. and a federal holiday weekend. (#travelintheoffseason)
Did you know that there are Van Gogh’s, Monet’s and Renoir’s and Picasso’s at the National Gallery of Art? So, we headed there to take a look around.
One last stop this Saturday. By now the snow had melted and it was raining! Really raining. My umbrella flipped inside out! Should we take a taxi? No, we're from Oregon, we'll just walk. So, 4 blocks in the rain we walked to the National Portrait Gallery. In the 20th Century American Gallery we saw the much talked about portrait of Michelle Obama. And marveled at the work of Robert McCurdy’s lifelike painting of author and Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison. Also, on display here are portraits of all of the Presidents of the United States. We liked walking around the room, looking at the portraits, reading their stories and pondering the story behind the portrait.
Day 4 – We’re pretty much museum’d out by now. But there’s still a few more things to see. We went in the morning to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture which just opened in 2016. Normally you get your tickets for this in advance (https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes). Or on the morning you want to enter, you can get on the internet at 6:30 am to snag an available timed entry ticket. One more option to enter on day of is to come at 1:00 and see what the availability is. Veterans, active duty personnel and first responders may enter the museum during any open hours as long as there is capacity and may bring one guest with them for their visit. That’s how we got in as our hosts are members of the military. Even though it was a Sunday morning in the middle of January, it was still crowded. This was the most crowded of all of the museums that we went to.
In this museum, you can learn about the over 400-year "uneven" journey of the African-American from slave trading in the 1600’s to 21st century life.
There is A LOT to see and read here. There are 4 floors. You could easily take one day just exploring each floor. But most visitors probably spend 3 or 4 hours here. And that’s what we did. In this museum on the top floor in the kind of foyer or entry like area, there was a display of African-American preachers. One section highlighted Rev. Howard Thurman who wrote “Jesus and the Disinherited”, which was a founding text for the civil rights movement. It’s on my list to read this year. Ask me about it!
We stepped out into the cold January afternoon, (think east winds here in Portland), and walked to a few monuments before heading back to our host home in Alexandria for a dinner of homemade pasta, a few games of Sleeping Queens, and baby snuggles.
Day 5 - A day of relaxing with family, and more baby snuggles, before our non-stop flight home.
I know most people will spend more than a long weekend in Washington, DC. Most of my clients spend 5 - 7 days. I hope this gives you a taste of what awaits you!
Tips: We actually ended up keeping our schedule pretty much on Pacific time which worked out great for us. (Sometimes when we’ve gone the other way to Hawaii, we’ve kept our schedule on Pacific time as much as possible, too.) Restaurants: There aren't many restaurants in the museum section of town. In the summer season, there are food carts available. But in the off season, either pack a lunch or head to the museum cafes. But check the hours. We just missed closing time at one.
I like being a curious traveler. Do you? If you enjoyed this blog, let me know. And please share it with a friend you think will also enjoy it! If you have any questions about a Washington, DC trip for you or a group, reach out for a free consultation.