DC, I Love You

Last month, I began watching House of Cards, a show that basically manifests every crooked and debauched thing we suspected about DC and brings it into your livings rooms. I’m elated that I got hooked on the show after I went to DC, and some friends advised me to take this course of action. After watching a few episodes, any political aspirations I ever had were quashed and any faith I had in politicians dramatically subdued.

Now I’ve finished season 2 and have to wait until mid 2015 for the next season: cue feelings of impatience. There’s some absolutely spectacular acting in this show, it ranks as one of my all-time favorite shows now. The sinister and omniscient personality and character that Kevin Spacey, the lead actor, portrays makes you wonder just how far from the truth this show is (my guess is NOT very far).

You don’t even have to be super hyped up about politics to love the show, it’s more about power and money than debating the economy or gun control. Political theory or ideologies are rarely mentioned at all in the show, but political junkies will still appreciate the story line and how perfectly crafted it is. If you watch one episode, you will have to fight yourself to not continue to watch-it’s that addictive.

Anyways, Onto My Trip….

Washington is undeniably the bedrock of American Democracy, and millions of people visit each year to learn about one of the oldest constitutions and forms of government in the world. If you aren’t interested in learning about American politics and the nation’s history, I don’t recommend visiting the city.

The last time I visited DC I was on my eighth grade class trip and it was one of my first times out of New England (how things have changed since then!) This time around, I was the one dodging all of the eighth graders and trying to keep a level head and avoid them at all costs, which was virtually impossible. When I say there were tens of thousands of middle school students there, I am not exaggerating. They were everywhere. If you ever want to visit DC, do it in the off-season when there might not be as many school groups. They didn’t keep me from seeing everything I wanted to see, but after a while they get aggravating very quickly.

May is a popular month for school groups to visit the nation’s capital, so know that you will be sharing your journey with them at all of the top tourist attractions in the city during the month of May. But the good news is that there’s also plenty to see outside of the National Mall area where you will be eighth grader free. The neighborhoods of Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, U Street, etc are all culturally diverse and are great to walk around at night or during the day for shopping or dining.

A view of the Capitol from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave.

A view of the Capitol from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave.

One of the things that surprised me was how much I forgot about DC, such as where things were or how something looked. Maybe it was because I was coming with a new perspective. One thing I did remember was the sorry state of the Declaration of Independence. I could barely make out any of the words on the document, even John Hancock’s signature was difficult to make out. The Constitution, on the other hand, was much more legible. Hats off to the people responsible for preserving these documents because it isn’t an easy job.

This time around I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which is only a few years old and is located just off the National Mall. It’s a beautiful memorial located on the shores of the Potomac River and looks out across the river to the Jefferson Memorial. It’s ironic that MLK’s memorial faces Jefferson’s seeing as Jefferson is known to have owned hundreds of slaves, maybe the designers overlooked that fact. The landscaping is immaculate and the Dr. King’s quotes etched in walls that surround the memorial are a great way to learn about who this icon was.

I also visited the Vietnam War Memorial at night, something you MUST do while in DC. What few people know is that the memorial is actually meant to be seen at night as it’s illuminated with the Washington Monument in the background. You can’t see the names too well, but it’s still a different side of DC most don’t get to see.

I took a tour of the U.S. Capitol and wouldn’t recommend it to others if you are pressed on time. The process of booking the tour

Arlington National Cemetary

Arlington National Cemetary

and what you actually get to see wasn’t worth it in my opinion, but you are able to say you’ve been inside the Capitol. I would have loved to see the House and Senate Chambers, but visitors need to obtain separate passes for those and you can only visit when Congress isn’t in session.

One of the coolest things I did was take a free walking tour of DC called a “Secrets and Scandals Tour.” I learned all about the shady and scandalous sides of our Founding Fathers and I was captivated for all 90 minutes of the tour. The best part is that YOU decide how much you think the tour is worth at the end when you tip your guide. Mine was extremely knowledgeable and funny and was able to give me other advice on what to do in the city. Topics such as “Did George Washington really have wooden teeth?” to the real story behind the Reagan assassination attempt are covered, I’m so glad I did this!

The city really has so much to offer both young and old and if you plan carefully you can see a lot and maybe even see a presidential motorcade! So many museums are free, including all of the Smithsonian, so it’s an affordable option for college students and families looking for a great city to visit. And don’t miss the Newseum, it is my new favorite museum in DC and if you’re interested in journalism it’s a treasure trove!

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in the National Mall

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in the National Mall

I’ll leave you with some transportation advice: the metro is the best and most affordable way to get around the city, but check that your line is actually running before you make any plans, there’s always work being done on the metro. And some of the museums and memorials are far away from each other or where your hotel might be, so don’t think you can walk everywhere (I found that out the hard way). 🙂

MLK Memorial

MLK Memorial

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