THE BEAUTIFUL CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHAT TO DO IN WASHINGTON? MY JOURNEY
MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS IN WASHINGTON
Inside of the Jefferson Library
Sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial
If you look at a map of Washington, you can see that downtown is a huge park with the Capitol at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other. And that’s where a lot of the free monuments and museums are.
First, start with the impressive Capitol. You can walk around the outside to admire this monument. I was surprised by the size of this building. Little tip, around noon there are fewer people in front of the Capitol. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to the Capitol visitor center but see if this is the case when you go there by clicking here.
As you walk around the Capitol, you have a map that indicates the various points of interest to discover. There is the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson for example. A beautiful building from the outside but I absolutely did not expect that inside. Beautifully decorated ceiling and the building from inside is amazing. This building was opened to the public in 1897 and we have the impression that it opened yesterday thanks to its good preservation. You can observe part of the library from above, without disturbing the people who work there. There are a few exhibits present in the bookstore. When I was there the exhibitions were on the life of Rosa Parks, and on the beginnings of photography, very interesting. When I was in Washington, to visit the library, you have to book a few days in advance via this link (click here). A good hour is enough to visit the bookstore.
Around the Capitol, you also have the Botanical Garden. A beautiful place with different species of plants and trees. An hour is enough to go around the building. It is a peaceful place (when it is not too crowded) and very pleasant to walk around.
During my visit to Washington, I did 3 museums. Here is what I thought about it.
1. The National Museum of the American Indians exhibits the history of the various American tribes. We learn a lot about their traditions and beliefs. Then, we discover the relationship and the different treaties that there have been between several tribes and the United States over time. I found it very interesting and well done. A great museum if you want to discover a part of the American history. To properly visit the museum, it takes between 2 or 3 hours.
2. The Natural History Museum has nothing to do compared to the one in New York. There are different exhibition halls on various subjects like dinosaurs, marine animals, mammals… There is information from all over the museum and lots of people. If there are certain subjects on animals that interest you why not go there, but personally I did not find it essential.
3. The National Museum of American History has different exhibits on America’s history and different kinds of interesting topics, such as the role of the wife of the President of the United States, the development of transportation in the country. I had a lot of fun visiting this museum, very interesting. To visit it, I would say that a good 3 hours is not bad, but there are so many subjects covered that you can easily stay longer.
After the park where there is some museums, you will come across the Washington Monument. You can enter and climb the tower by booking through the website here. Not having done so, I cannot tell you more about this visit. From this place you can see the White House a little bit far. Honestly, I went near the barriers, and you can see much better from the Washington Monument!
Entrance to Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress: free
Entrance to the botanical garden: free
Entrance to the National Museum of Native Americans: free
Entrance to the Natural History Museum: free
Entrance to the Museum of American History: free
IN MEMORY OF THE DEAD
Inside the Lincoln Memorial
The Arlington Memorial
Past the Washington Monument, you will be at the World War II Memorial. It is from this place that you can take a tour of all the memorials. Yes, there are many memorials honoring war dead or presidents. From the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, you can observe the huge Lincoln Memorial. It’s even more beautiful during the sunset! Take a tour and pass by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial. The memorials are magnificent, a very beautiful tribute. And the Lincoln Memorial is awesome! The statue is impressive to see in person! A must do when visiting Washington. I give you my little bonus tip, go there at sunrise and look at the Washington Monument, the landscape and the colors are so beautiful! And besides, you hardly have anyone at the Lincoln memorial, unlike at sunset where there are a lot of people.
Next, visit Tidal Basin where there are memorials all around like Martin Luther King Jr, Franklin Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. They are all so different but as incredible as each other. Preferably take this tour early in the morning as there are a lot of people visiting this part of Washington.
To visit all the memorials, a good 2 hours will be enough. Yes, the place is very big!
Continue your visit to Arlington Cemetery located 30 minutes walk from the Lincoln Memorial. This military cemetery is impressive to see. You can see the tomb of the Kennedy family there, as well as the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you’re lucky, you might see an Unknown Soldier ceremony during the day. I did a good walk for an hour and a half, but I didn’t see everything. The cemetery is not open all day, check the schedules before going. When you go there, if there are ceremonies going on, please respect them and stay away.
Admission to Arlington Cemetery: free
THE DIFFERENT DISTRICTS OF WASHINGTON
At the Washington monument
Because there are not only memorials and museums to visit, there are also different neighborhoods to discover. If you arrive by bus or train in Washington, you will probably pass through Union Station. A huge station somewhat similar to the one in New York. Around the station there are tents of homeless people, don’t venture too far into the area, especially in the evening.
The Georgetown neighborhood is a beautiful residential and student district in Washington. Super cute streets with colorful houses. Take a trip to Georgetown University which has very beautiful buildings, and a unique little chapel. It’s quite pleasant to walk around this area, especially along M Street Northwest and Wisconsin Avenue Northwest. A good 2 hours is enough to go around.
And why not let yourself be tempted by a little baseball game in the Yard district? Thanks to the website https://gametime.co (note that the website only works when you connect via WiFi from the United States or Canada), you can find cheap tickets for sports matches such as a baseball game. Don’t hesitate to have this unique experience, it’s worth it!
End the day in the Wharf district. Many bars and restaurants by the river. A very lively area in the evening, the atmosphere is really nice, and the walk very pleasant. The neighborhood is not big, your visit time will depend on what you are doing there.
I really liked Washington, one of my favorite cities. So many interesting activities and the city is very nice. I really didn’t feel like I was in a capital.
WHEN TO GO?
I was there at the end of April, and the beautiful days were starting to appear. On the other hand, early in the morning and at nightfall, it was cold.
There is so much to see and do. I stayed there for 3 days, and that was enough for what I wanted to see. But of course I haven’t seen it all. If you want to take advantage of the activities there are to do there and take your time, I think 5 days is ideal. For me, 3 days is the minimum.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
1010 Pennsylvania Ave. SE,
Washington, DC 20003
Price: $47 – €44.50 / person / night in a mixed dormitory of 4 beds
Hostel link to book: click here
A very cozy hostel. The rooms are not large but I found that it allowed to meet people and discuss with others. If the weather is nice, they have a very nice rooftop to hang out. The staff is lovely and the location is great, 20 minutes walk from the Capitol.
To do your groceries, there is the trading Joe’s supermarket not far away and not too expensive for the city.
To do your laundry, you have Slow Nickel Series-Laundromat (1101 C St NE, Washington, DC 20002). For $5 I was able to make a machine, have some product and do 3 rounds of drying (not enough but some clothes were dry).
MY 3 TIPS TO VISIT WASHINGTON
- Look at the tours before D-Day to see if you need to book your visit.
- There are many museums, sort out what interests you. The museums are big, you won’t be able to do everything.
- Go to the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise, the colors are amazing and there are not many people. Certainly waking up can hurt but the reward is really worth it.