Written by Tamara Corrie.
Our National Anthem – we all know it, we’ve all sung it or heard it sung at sporting events, but I will never hear it the same way since our family vacation to Washington DC. My husband, Alan, my son Jeremy and I were fortunate enough to travel to our nations capital over the Labor Day weekend this year. It is obviously an area rich in history and culture, truly a destination that every American should visit at least once. Seeing the actual “Star-Bangled Banner” that inspired our anthem will leave you with goosebumps and a feeling of pride in what it took our ancestors to give us this country we call home.
Washington DC is an area that takes time to explore, so plan accordingly. And bring very good walking shoes! We discovered that a weekend, even a long one is not enough time to see everything you want. So, we made our list (and checked it twice) and off we went! We were hoping to make the most of our time and travel light with only carry-on luggage. However, this was at the time when no liquids were allowed in carry-on luggage so we had to change that plan. We left from Detroit early Friday morning and arrived at Reagan National airport before noon. We had planned on using the Metro to get to our hotel, but since it was raining quite hard and we were not sure how far we would have to walk, we decided to take a taxi instead. We stayed at the Residence Inn in Arlington, VA. This turned out to be a great location. We got a great price on a two-room suite with a full kitchen that included a full, hot breakfast each day. We were walking distance from the Metro stop and a few restaurants. If you give them a list in the morning, they will shop for you and put the food away in your room. They then bill your room account for the items only – no additional charges!
When we got to our hotel, it was too early to check-in, so we had them hold our luggage, made sure we had all we needed and headed out to start crossing things off of our list. We walked to the Metro station and purchased unlimited day passes for $6.00 each and headed to downtown Washington DC. The Metro worked very well for us. It was easy to understand, clean and safe. There are attendants at main stations if you have any questions on how to use the system. Our first stop was one of the Smithsonian museums. There are actually several Smithsonian museums including: National Air and Space Museum (the most popular), National Museum of American History, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of Natural History and more! Of course, we did not have time to visit all of them, nor even the ones we had put on our list! They are very extensive and so interesting it is hard to rush through them. You really WANT to see everything! On this day, since it was raining we had adjusted our plans and decided to do as many museums as possible. We started out at the National Museum of American History, but had to make it short since we had a scheduled tour of the US Capital at 2:30 p.m. So we ate lunch at the museum cafeteria and made our way to the Capital. We had arranged the visit with our congressman ahead of time. It was led by one of his staff and we walked along with another family. It was very informative and fun. We continued our day with a visit to the Library of Congress and then headed back to our hotel to unpack and grab dinner.
Saturday morning we started out early and went to Ford’s Theater. This is the theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. We joined a tour that included walking across the street to the house Lincoln was carried to after the fatal shooting. This is a National Park operation and is done very well and a stop I definitely recommend. Then, since this was a football Saturday and my husband (ok all of us) are big Michigan State fans; we had lunch at the ESPN Zone and watched the game. This is a great spot for all sports enthusiasts, but expensive to stay too long. During big sporting events they require a minimum dollar amount be ordered per person per hour to keep your table.
After lunch we went to the International Spy Museum. This was the only attraction that we had to pay admission for. It is an interactive museum, fun and interesting and if you like James Bond stuff! Then we visited the National Archives and saw our countries important documents and other displays. We then took the Metro to the Pentagon. It was closed but we just walked around the building to say we had been there. Now, it was late and we headed back to our hotel and dinner. We ending up eating at Ruby Tuesdays every night we were there! It was close to our hotel, good food, good value and we were so tired each night we just wanted dinner and to relax a bit before bed! Now, my son and I were too tired and sore, but my husband just had to see the monuments at night. So, Jeremy and I relaxed and Alan headed back out on the Metro to take some pictures! I wish I had gone with him and hope to visit again with plans to “make it” out for the night tour.
On Sunday, we started out early again with a visit to Arlington Cemetery. Because we were trying to get so much done in our day, we opted out of the escorted tram tour. If you have the time though, that would be the way to go. We were very moved by the sights including the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We continued on the Metro and headed back to the Museum of American History to see what we missed on our first day. Then we did a brief visit to the Museum of Natural History, and met with a family friend that had just moved to Baltimore. We took her with us to walk the Mall and see Washington’s Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. All were very moving and beautifully done. We then headed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Unfortunately, it was now close to closing time and we were not able to take our time with some of the exhibits.
We are now at the close of our trip. We had dinner back at our Ruby Tuesdays and then packed up to prepare for our morning flight home. This time since we knew the “lay of the land” we took the Metro to the airport. It was easy, yet not convenient to get to our airlines area. It was more cost effective than the taxi though, so it just depends on your priorities.
We had a wonderful and very memorable trip. We are all hoping to get back and see all the things on our list that we did not have time to visit. Like the National Zoo, the National Air and Space Museum and much, much more!
I highly recommend this destination to each and every American. You will feel pride and joy at all of the wonderful sights in this great American city!