'Fall' in "love" with wonderful Washington in the 'Fall'.
Washington DC means different things to different people: from being the Capital of the United States, one of the most powerful countries in the world, to the Arlington Cemetary, where many of the fallen have been buried. We visited in the 'Fall' when the weather makes it a perfect time for sightseeing, the air is crisp and cool in the mornings, sunny and warm in the day time and cooler at night, but the sights of the autumn leaves on the trees around the green areas of Washington are a joy to behold.
Washington is an extraordinary, diverse city: history, government, museums, all rich in the history of the USA. It has wide tree lined boulevards (the city was designed by a Frenchman -Pierre Charles L'Enfant, in a similar style to Paris), and it is set on the North Shore of the Potomac River. Our visit was for four days, a short stay but it does give you the flavour of the Capital. We landed at Dulles Airport, and took a taxi to our hotel in the district of Georgetown, but a shuttle bus can be arranged, just contact your hotel before hand and they will arrange this for you, approximately $22 each way per person. We stayed at the Georgetown Best Western, a good location but a tired hotel and really needs an upgrade; next door however is the Renaissance Hotel which is more expensive but more upmarket, so shop around when booking your hotel. If your stay is short then the Best Western is fine, the breakfast was included with a hot and cold buffet and is adequate to "fuel you" up before you take on this wonderful city.
The Big Red Bus is a must for all travellers, the Hop on Hop off is a great way to see the city. The cost is $57 per person and worth every penny as it includes 4 bus tours and a river cruise and the ticket lasts for 48 hours. We visited the Lincoln Memorial, the iconic statue of a great president. Lincoln sits and watches over the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument (which sadly is covered at the moment due to the earthquake damage) and has in his sights the White House, just to keep an eye on things! The Lincoln Statue is a good place to start your city tour, on the steps leading up to the statue is the spot where Martin Luther King gave his 'I have a Dream' speech – look down on the top step and see the inscription – many people miss it and walk over it!
To the left of the statue – with your back to the Lincoln Statue – walk through the park land area to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. A sad, poignant place and much bigger than most people imagine, flowers and letters are left for the fallen. Across another green area is the Vietnam Women's Memorial to acknowledge the part played by women who died or were unaccounted for. The area is well signposted and will guide you to the memorials; not to miss are the statues depicting the Korean war. This can be done at night also and is eerie and ghostly in its appearance as it is illuminated so that the statues look almost real, but day or night it is a stark reminder of another war the Americans were involved in. It is quite a walk to the Washington Memorial past the Reflecting Pool, but worth it, (the Hop on Hop off bus does drop you there), and in front of the Memorial is the World War 11 Memorial which honours 16 million Americans and the 400,000 who died. The Washington Memorial is next on your way to the White House – take good shoes and water it is a long walk!.
The White House was our next stop – wonderful – what an experience to be outside one of the most iconic buildings in the world – yes, us and many more people! It is a very busy place with tourists flocking there – definitely a photo shoot area – but if the crowds get too much, go and have a either light refreshment or a meal at the Old Ebbit Grill, it is on 675, 15th Street, North West, about 5 mins walk from the White House, just ask for directions, it was recommended to me, so now I recommend it to everyone who visits Washington DC.
Then the highlight of our tour – we visited Capitol Hill – we booked a guided tour, this can be done by writing to the Senate Office or just arrange it on line before you go or speak to the concierge at your hotel. They give you an allotted time for your tour, which is extensive and educational, we even sat in the gallery looking at the Senators making their speeches. It is free to go in and has disabled access. Across the road from the Capitol Building are the Botanical Gardens, a beautifully presented building with a stunningly beautiful array of tropical and local plants, it also has a cafe and a loo (!!), a must on these long days around the capital.
The Institute of Smithsonian Museums – too many to see on a short trip – we went to the American History and Natural History Museums – are all free and very interesting. The National Mall is where most of the Smithsonian museums are, all with good facilities and all disabled friendly. We also visited Arlington Cemetery, the Hop on Hop off bus takes you there and it is worth staying for a couple of hours, the burial grounds of the Kennedys and of course the un-known soldier, the guard changes on the hour every hour and it is quite a moving ceremony – don't miss it. The Jefferson Monument is spectacular and stands proud, glimmering in the sun. The statue of Martin Luther King, the Pentagon, Grand Union Station with its food court and shops, even a trip down the river by pleasure boat is included in the Hop on Hop off bus itineray – really good value for money.
The trip to Washington was just too short and we have "fallen in love" with this beautiful city in the 'Fall'.