Visiting Washington, D.C.

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One place you should visit before leaving this earth is our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

Why? It is a city that showcases our heritage like no other in the United States. President Washington commissioned a leading French architect to design the Capitol. When you visit, you will feel, as I, that the city more resembles one in France than in the U.S. This is but one feature that makes our country’s capital city so outstanding and different.

It now claims a population of almost 600,000; add to this the region around the District of Columbia in neighboring states and there are more than 5.3 million residents.

It was my good fortune to live just outside Washington, D.C. in a nearby town in Virginia. We were about 25 minutes from the center of the city. The entire area is filled with interesting points of interest. And, 25 miles south, in Virginia you find yourself in the old south. Here are friendly people, many living as residents did many years ago, offering wonderful southern cooking in restaurants, and many are very polite. Often, I would drive the car south to the middle of Virginia and wander through the little towns seeing tiny shops and drugstores. I even found a drugstore that featured an old-time marble lunch counter with high stools for seating. I asked if I could have a chocolate soda and the answer was “Yes” — and the man who prepared it was the druggist, just as I remembered from many years ago in Los Angeles.

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Metro Services photo

But, I’m getting off subject — our nation’s capital. The Smithsonian Institute is made up of some 52 museums in the area and all are important to our heritage. You could spend over a year visiting all of them, giving the time they deserve for a complete inspection. They are loaded with important documents, antiques, books and memorabilia detailing the wonders and achievements of the people of this country. After a few days of sightseeing you will feel much pride in being an American. We really are a special people living in a special country.

Some of the more important and interesting venues to take in would include the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ford’s Theatre was restored and renovated in 2009 and is currently a working theatre presenting productions which may have interest to you. The tour and its museum are open for daytime visits. Your guide will give you details on where President Lincoln was sitting when shot and information regarding the tragedy. Be sure to visit the museum across the street, which is where Lincoln was taken after the shooting and where he later died.

The famous Jefferson Memorial must be seen and photographed — it is open daily. The 19-foot statue of the third president of the United States is surrounded by passages from the Declaration of Independence and other famous Jefferson writings.

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts should not be missed and if there is a presentation being offered when you are there, buy a ticket. The entire complex is quite impressive to say the least. You may be able to see a play, a concert with the Washington Symphony or perhaps even an opera. There are six theaters in all here. Sometimes there are free performances at 6 p.m. daily.

The Library of Congress is fascinating in the Thomas Jefferson Building, known for its magnificent 19th century architecture and decoration and changing historical exhibitions. There are guided tours at half-past each hour except noon.

The Lincoln Memorial is a must and overlooks the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. Inscriptions of the Second Inaugural Address and the famous Gettysburg Address flank the 19-foot marble statue of the 16th president. It is open daily.

Just outside D.C. is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate & Gardens.

You can explore the estate on your own or take a tour. I would recommend the tour, as it will impart important information. It is now 45 acres, but it once was some 600 acres before the estate was split between relatives and sold off. You’ll see where the slaves were kept as well as tour the home. The surprise to me was how actually small it was. The only large room was the dining room which could host State dinners or double as a meeting room. Around here are river tours, hands-on activities, and farm animals, shopping and dining. Now featured are 25 galleries and theaters and 500 artifacts and high tech immersion experiences. This is another don’t miss.

Also just out of the District is Arlington National Cemetery. This is our nation’s most treasured burial ground and is home to more than 285,000 honored dead. Among the headstones are those of JFK, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Joe Lewis and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is open daily.

Nearby is the Marine Corps Memorial Iwo Jima Statue. It is one of the largest bronze statues ever cast. It commemorates all the Marines who have died in battle since 1775. The 32-foot-high figures are shown erecting a 60-foot bronze flag pole from which a cloth flag flies 24 hours a day. It is open 24 hours of each day.

The National Archives & Records Administration houses the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill of Rights and more than 3 billion records. It is open daily. I suggest you see this on a tour.

The National World War II Museum is located between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. It honors the 16 million men and women who served to protect our home and nation and the 400,000 who died doing so.

You may be interested in visiting the Newseum. It features the greatest news stories of our time and five centuries of news in various forms. It is a most interactive museum. It’s both fun and educational.

The Pentagon may be visited by tour. You may contact the tour office by calling 703-697-1776 for details.

Check into obtaining a Power Passtravel Fun Card by calling 1-800-490-9330. It will give you free instant access to dozens of great Washington attractions and tours. You will receive an in-depth guide containing maps and other useful information. It will help you plan your Washington visit.

The Supreme Court is one of the more attractive buildings in D.C. and you may visit Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. when the court is not in session. Phone 202-479-3211 for more information.

The U.S. Capitol & Capitol Visitor Center is another don’t miss. Tours of the U.S. Capitol are conducted from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Tickets are required and can be obtained by contacting your congressman. The House of Representatives is open whenever the body is in session and you also want to contact your senator to allow you into the Senate when in session. You’ll never forget this visit.

This may seem strange, but another must is visiting the Washington Union Station. For nearly 100 years, Union Station has been the gateway to the nation’s Capitol. Every year, 29 million visitors enjoy shopping, entertainment and dining in this beautiful, large building. And, yes, you can still take a train from here. When I was living in the region, guests would come for a visit and of course wanted to visit the Capitol. We usually took the subway into the city, went to the Union Station and from there selected the tour company to see the important sights of the area and city. Parking is difficult at the various points of interest and the tour buses have special areas they may use for sightseers. You don’t have to worry about traffic either.

The various war memorials are not to be missed including the Vietnam Memorial. It doesn’t first appear to be much, but after viewing you are very touched. More so than almost any other memorial. All the names of those who gave their lives are etched in marble on the slabs which you walk past.

The Washington Monument is important as well as a tour of the White House. I often passed the White House in my automobile and was always in awe of the importance of the home and occupant. Power, power, power.

We have only mentioned a few places to visit, but you can obtain more information at the tour desk in your hotel. Rates are cheapest on weekends.

Many tour companies will pick you up at your hotel while others will depart from Union Station.

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