Five Days in D.C.
Posted on April 1, 2019
As I write this, cherry blossom fans are on high alert. Last year, Washington, D.C.’s pink floral fireworks happened on the few days either side of April 5. While it would be wonderful to witness this display, it certainly isn’t the only reason to make the trip east. Our nation’s capital is a treasure-trove of must-see sights that are available year round. I spent five days in D.C. last summer and had a great time, but there were times when I felt like I needed roller skates to get to everything on my list.
The good news is that the 17 museums and galleries known collectively as the Smithsonian Institution are all free of charge. The challenging part is that they can be crowded at certain times of the year and the two most popular require advance reservations. Visitors who want to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture from March through August can apply online for a timed pass up to three months in advance. nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes
Likewise, the Holocaust Museum requires timed-entry passes, arranged online in advance, to view the permanent collection during peak times and seasons. During off-peak times, visitors can enter the museum on weekdays without passes. ushmm.org/information/visit-the-museum/admission-tickets
The Newseum is an interactive exhibition about the top news stories of the past 30 years and how they were reported in print, online, and on air. It isn’t free, but it is fascinating and easily my favorite D.C. museum.
Another highlight of my time in D.C. was touring the Capitol with an intern from the office of my Member of Congress, Scott Peters. This was easily arranged via an email request to his staff. Meg Rickard escorted me through the grand marble Rotunda under the lofty dome of the Capitol. It felt very much as it is often described: “the symbolic and physical heart of the country.” Being there was definitely an “Oh wow” moment, not dissimilar to my first view of Machu Picchu. We also walked through National Statuary Hall, where California is represented by Junipero Serra and Ronald Reagan, the old Supreme Court, the old Senate chamber, and the crypt. However, the highlight for this news junkie was sitting in the guest galleries of both the House and the Senate and looking down on the place where history is made.
Speaking of history, I saw Hamilton at the Kennedy Center during my D.C. days. I’d seen the show before, but not the Center, so I arrived several hours before the performance and took a complimentary tour offered by Friends of the Kennedy Center. Did you know that because the KenCen is a memorial to JFK, 60 countries contributed to its construction? The seven crystal chandeliers in the Concert Hall are a gift from Norway. All the marble (3,700 tons) was given by Italy. The decorated ceiling of the Circle Lounge was donated by Israel. After dinner in the KC Café, I attended one of the free performances offered nightly at 6pm on the Millennium Stage and then headed up to the Opera House for my date with A. Ham. kennedy-center.org
Best D.C. Digs
The JW Marriott was my perfect home away from home in D.C. I loved the location, a block from the White House and walking distance from all the museums. The huge windows in my corner king room framed the Washington Monument and gave me a good view of the Lincoln Memorial and the Old Post Office Building. When I wasn’t in a rush in the morning, I enjoyed breakfast at the hotel’s Avenue Grill (amazing ricotta pancakes), and when I was short on time, I was immensely grateful for the Starbucks in the lobby.
I also appreciated the caring staff, who never seemed to tire of giving directions and answering my questions. They also went beyond the call of duty when some unhappy back muscles threatened to ruin my trip. The kind concierge found a massage therapist who saved the day (week, actually). She also gets credit for suggesting I see the city’s famous monuments on a “Monuments by Moonlight” tour offered by Old Town Trolley Tours, and it was truly wonderful.
Did I mind that the cherry trees weren’t blooming? Not one bit. Elizabeth Hansen
Cherry blossoms, Smithsonian NMAAHS, Lincoln Memorial: Photography courtesy of Washington.org Capitol dome: photo courtesy of Washington, D.C. Convention & Tourism Corporation JW Marriott: Photo courtesy of JW Marriott D.C. All other photography courtesy of ADAMS/HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS