19 December 2014

Washington, DC

Capital of the United States, and home to made-to-impress monuments and museums, Washington, DC is an obvious stop on any visitor's itinerary. And the city delivers.

Washington, DC is divided into four quadrants- north-west (NW, with the bulk of sights), north-east (NE), south-west (SW, the smallest quadrant) and south-east (SE). The Capitol is the center of DC, where all the quadrants meet.

The bulk of the attractions in Downtown are located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, between Constitution Ave NW and Independence Ave SW.

Lincoln Memorial and around
Just a stone's throw from the Potomac river, the Lincoln Memorial forms the western boundary of sights in Downtown DC. Just across the river is the town of Arlington, Virginia, where the Arlington National Cemetery and Pentagon are located.

This section takes you anti-clockwise leading from Lincoln Memorial around the Reflecting Pool.

The Lincoln Memorial, built in the honour of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, stands grand by the Reflecting Pool.

Lincoln Memorial
You can go inside the memorial to see a statue of Abraham Lincoln as well as inscriptions of two of his famous speeches. Up there, one has great views of the Reflecting Pool leading to the Washington Monument.

Walking east (towards the Reflecting Pool), if you turn right to walk around the Reflecting Pool, you will find the Korean War Veterans Memorial ahead.

Statues of the Korean War Veterans Memorial
The memorial consists of 19 statues, which represent a squad on patrol. While walking around the memorial, don't forget to take a look at the wall.

Continue walking east and you will stumble upon the small DC War Memorial.

DC War Memorial
The memorial commemorates DC citizens who served in the World War 1.

Walking north again, returning to the Reflecting Pool, at its opposite end with respect to the Lincoln Memorial lies the World War 2 Memorial.

The floor at the entrance to the memorial
A quote on a wall in the memorial

From here, you have a perfect view of the Washington Monument. With nothing around to compare, the monument surprises visitors with its size as they come closer.

Washington Monument
Built to commemorate George Washington, America's first president.

Going back to Lincoln Memorial from the other side of the Reflecting Pool, north-east of the memorial, you will come across the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial.

Tidal Basin and around
While walking around the DC War Memorial, you will notice another body of water, this is known as the Tidal Basin. 

Very close to the DC War Memorial, on the Tidal Basin, is Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.

Entrance to the memorial

Check out the wall in the memorial with a list of his famous quotes.

From the memorial, you have a perfect view across the Tidal Basin to Jefferson Memorial.

An impressive structure modeled after Rome's Pantheon, the memorial is a fitting commemoration to Thomas Jefferson, one of America's Founding Fathers and the main drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and America's third president.

Jefferson Memorial
From the memorial, you have an unparalleled view out to Washington Monument. 

The White House and around
For foreigners who have never been to DC, the White House is among one of the best known buildings in DC. Home to America's President, the White House is located north of the Washington Monument. 

White House South Facade
The South side can be viewed from E St NW. You can walk around it anti-clockwise to go the north side. Interesting architecture includes the buildings of the Department of the Treasury and Department of Commerce. The north side is at Lafayette Park. 

There is also some worth-seeing architecture, including the buildings of SunTrust and Bank of America at the junction of New York Ave NW and 15th St NW. 

The SunTrust Building

The National Mall and around
The stretch leading from Washington Monument to the Capitol, bounded approximately by 14 St, Constitution Ave NW, 1st St and Independence Ave SW is known as the National Mall, a vast open swathe, jogging ground, protesting ground and tourist attraction all rolled into one. Surrounded by renowned museums, many of them free, and good views of the landmarks around, the Mall is worth a stroll.

Just south of the mall on 14th St SW lies the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (free entry, from 1000 to 1730, daily), a touching memorial and museum to one of the greatest human-caused tragedies of the 20th century. Its exhibitions (where photography is not allowed), with pictures of the victims, continuous film plays, videos and other objects, make for an enriching experience.

Next to the museum is the beautiful building of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Continuing east along the Mall, you'll encounter the National Archives at the corner of Constitution Ave NW and 7st St NW. Also free to visit, photography is not allowed. Start your visit by viewing the David M Rubenstein Gallery, housing the Record of Rights. With engaging interactive displays, the gallery shows the evolution of political rights and civil liberties in the United States, with original affidavits, letters etc which pushed for these. Move on to viewing the original Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. A fun and exciting place indeed. The souvenir shop has some nice, non-cheesy souvenirs and gifts. 

Behind the National Archives, on the opposite side of the corner of Pennsylvania Ave NW and 7th St NW is beautifully sculpted and detailed US Navy Memorial.

A section of the US Navy Memorial
On Madison Dr NW between 7th St and 4th St is the National Gallery of Art, also free to visit. 

Finally you arrive at the Capitol Reflecting Pool and right ahead looms the impressive structure of the US Capitol

The Capitol
Just south of the Capitol Reflecting Pool lies the US Botanic Garden.

Penn Quarter
North of the National Archives is the Penn Quarter, a bustling neighbourhood full of restaurants and shops. 

On 10th St NW between E St and F St is the house where Lincoln died.

North of Penn Quarter lies DC's Chinatown.

The beautiful Chinatown gate is located near the entrance of the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro station, at the corner of 7th St NW and H St NW. 

Mt Vernon Sq and around
The small pedestrian plaza at the corner of 10 St NW and I St NW is home to beautiful and well lit (at night) Christmas decorations during the season. 

Home to lovely architecture, affluent homes and a lively shopping district makes Georgetown worth visiting. West of the centre, Georgetown has no metro station so reaching there requires some planning.

Who says all free worth visiting museums are located around the Mall? On 32nd St NW between R St NW and S St NW is Dumbarton Oaks, Now a property of Harvard University, the research library, museum and gardens is a historic estate. For the visitor, the points of interest are the gardens and museum. We visited in winter so the gardens were not in full bloom, however, the museum, with a large Byzantine collection, is worth visiting. The museum also has ancient objects from Mesoamerica.

A room at Dumbarton Oaks
A block west of 32nd St NW is Wisconsin Ave NW, one of the major Georgetown arteries with lots of shops and restaurants. Walk south until you reach its junction with M St NW, which forms a focal point of the neighbourhood.

If you continue walking south on Wisconsin Ave NW, you will finally reach the bank of the Potomac, and the Georgetown Waterfront Park. There are good views of the skyline of Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington, VA as seen from Georgetown Waterfront Park
The waterfront is a popular eating out place, with an ice skating rink during winters.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Washington DC- Convention Centre, located at the corner of 10 St NW and K St NW, near Mt Vernon Sq. Got a great deal for a 4-people room with breakfast and evening snacks/drinks included. Overall satisfied with the experience. 

Note that many restaurants in the Mt Vernon Sq area are closed on weekends. 

&Pizza- has several outlets across town, we went to the one at E St NW between 10th St NW and 11th St NW. Watch them make your own pizza. Choose from crust to cheese all the way to the finishing. Not very pricey too- less than $9 for a pizza. Good service, though seating is extremely limited- you may have to get a takeout. 

Thomas Sweet- on the corner of Wisconsin Ave NW and P St NW in Georgetown. Popular ice cream joint. 

Portion of the menu at Thomas Sweet
Native Foods Cafe- we went to the outlet of this vegan restaurant at Pennsylvania Ave NW near the National Archives. Found the food OK, though the drinks are interesting (example, a watermelon based juice) with free refills.

Standard big-city precautions apply in Washington, DC. While tourists are unlikely to stray into areas with the highest crime rates, and DC is no longer the murder capital, the area around Mt Vernon Sq becomes very quiet on nights and weekends when offices and even many restaurants and shops are closed. Although the area is not particularly dangerous, take particular care there. Watch out on the metro as you would on any public transport network- don't get engrossed in your phone/tablet etc and watch your bags and pockets. 

The metro will be mildly useful to travellers. Walking is the way though, along the Mall and the area around the memorials, to appreciate the architecture and setting. Signage in that area is quite helpful to locate various museums and memorials though having a map will be needed. You can pick up one from the information stands- there is one just south-east of the Lincoln Memorial.

Last visit- Dec 2014
No of visits- 1

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