Before I traveled to the nation’s capital, I was kind of skeptical. I mean, I wanted to go and see the city I thus far had seen only on TV, but I also had the impression of a dry government city where there’s nothing to do.
That can’t be farther from the truth. It’s a really lovely city—although I’m sure that the nice warm springy weather that weekend helped a lot.
And indeed, seeing all these famous buildings and monuments, standing next to the giant Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, seeing the house where the president lives, and visiting the grave of John F. Kennedy (albeit technically not in D.C.)—I had the time of my life. I had wished to do all that ever since I was a boy, but I hadn’t really imagined myself doing it. And then suddenly I was in the center of American democracy!
One thing that amazed me a little was the size of the city. On the map the center of Washington doesn’t look big at all. It seems that you could walk to every single landmark within a day. But the truth is, the National Mall alone is about five miles long from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, so it goes without saying that one should wear really comfortable walking shoes when visiting D.C.
The sad part was that twice we went to the White House and twice Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park in front of the most famous building in the world were closed within half-hour of us getting there. Normally people can go up to the White House fence and with 20/10 vision probably even see people inside the building, but when important people drive from or to the White House, the Secret Service closes the street and the park. And on the south side of the White House, the annual egg roll thingie was happening, so we didn’t get close from that side either. Fortunately though, we got to snap a few photos of the White House before the front was closed.
I’m sure that when you want to go inside every accessible landmark in Washington, you’d need at least a week to fully enjoy everything. But if you only visit their surroundings and don’t spend hours standing in line to gain access to the Capitol, the White House or the Smithsonian, three days is definitely enough—and that includes visiting Arlington National Cemetery. And in addition to walking, you can use the pretty quick Metro system or take a dirt-cheap cab to conveniently get around the city.
Oh, and stay in Arlington. Cheaper, lower sales tax and nice views of the capital if you’re in the right spot.