Learn about Washington, DC, by reading A Capital Idea For a Trip by
Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member. It features a
mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need
to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective
information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the
end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact
information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
A Capital Idea For
or not you have visited the Nation’s Capital in the past, there are at
least two new reasons for taking a trip to Washington, DC soon: the new
World War II memorial on the National Mall, which finally honors those
who have been called “the greatest generation,” and the Smithsonian Air
And Space Museum Stephen Udvar Hazy Center annex at Dulles Airport.
WWII memorial was officially dedicated on Memorial Day 2004, which
launched a long awaited salute to the heroism of this generation.
Visitors may tour the memorial and participate in walking tours, see
special exhibitions and enjoy different events, all geared to honoring
the World War II participants. Some hotels offer special “Greatest
Generation” packages and many restaurants also are offering specials.
memorial is located on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the
Washington Monument. With its fountains, granite pillars and a wall with
4,000 gold stars to signify the 400,000 Americans who lost their lives,
it is both a reverent structure and a proud remembrance of the heroic
actions and sacrifices made by this generation. It honors the 16 million
Americans who served in uniform and the millions more who sacrificed on
the home front. Two 43-foot pavilions and two 70-foot flagpoles, framing
the entrance, mark the memorial’s north and south entrances. Operated by
the National Park Service, the Memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. Try to visit it at night as well as during the day for a
particularly impressive sight.
Photo from Washington Convention and Tourist Corporation
The new World War II memorial recognizes what has been called “the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has always been one of the most popular
destinations for residents as well as visitors and the addition of the
Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport makes this even more
of a top attraction. The center is named for the person who made the
major financial contribution for the facility. The Center is providing
space for many of the aviation treasures that heretofore were stored in
the Smithsonian’s Silver Hills restoration shop. Here you will see many
and varied aircraft including the Enola Gay, the plane used to drop the
first atomic bomb on Japan that brought the end to the conflict, and the
recently retired Supersonic Transport. Shuttle buses can take you from
the downtown Air and Space Museum to the Dulles facility.
two new attractions in Washington are enough to consume much of your
trip time but there is a myriad of other structures, statues, museums
and centers of power to fill your days as long as you might be able to
National Mall, in addition to now holding the WW II memorial, has other
must-see symbols of American history. The Mall stretches from 3rd
Street N.W. to 14th Street between Independence and
Constitution Avenues. That site was laid out in the city planning for
the purposes of rallies and demonstrations. Although this is the
official designation of the Mall, locals widely use the term to refer to
the expanse of monuments and statues from the grounds of the Capitol
Building on the east to the Lincoln Memorial on the west. The Washington
Monument towers 555 feet above the Mall at 15th Street. (Its
interior will be closed until January 2005 for installation of new
security barriers.) Farther west at Constitution Avenue and Henry Bacon
Drive is what is often referred to as the “Wall,” where the names of
those killed, were prisoners, or missing in action in the Vietnam war
are listed chronologically on the black granite forming a V-shaped
memorial. Not far away is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial honoring, the
service women and nurses who served in the conflict.
memorials you might want to visit include the Jefferson on the Tidal
Basin, the Marine Corps Monument of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, which
is adjacent to the Arlington National Cemetery, and the Franklin D.
Roosevelt Memorial consisting of four “rooms” to signify the
unprecedented four terms of this president.
Washington Convention and Tourist Corporation
all the monuments and statues in Washington honor government
dignitaries. In this city of monuments you will find many like this
tribute to Albert Einstein. Walk along the path between quaint houses
and the C&O Canal in the Georgetown section of Washington, the
original town in Maryland around which the District of Columbia was
Holocaust Memorial traces the story of Jewish persecution under the Nazi
regime. The Spy Museum reveals some of the secret ways intelligence is
gathered. Almost every government building has tours. You can watch
money being printed in the morning and in the afternoon see the FBI
exhibit of John Dillinger bank heists.
are at least 40 additional memorials scattered throughout the area
ranging from the Journalists Memorial and the Robert E. Lee House to the
USS Maine Memorial and the Woman’s Titanic Memorial. But Washington is
much more than memorials. There’s everything from watching government in
action (or inaction depending on your point of view) to plays and
musicals, and dining at restaurants where the persons at the next table
might be foreign ambassadors, power brokers, agency heads or member of
to decide what to take in and what to delay until a future trip can be
overwhelming. Your best bet is to determine whether you want a
sightseeing journey, a history tour, or close-up look at your
government. Either way, a tour might be your best bet. Your first stop
could be the Visitors Center in the Ronald Reagan Building for
guidebooks, maps, and any other help you might want.
one-day tour covers the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of
Congress in the morning. At all of these sights, be ready for delays and
security searches. Security is very tight but once inside the buildings
you will find the experience worth the wait. Guided tours of the Capitol
Building take about 45 minutes, and like all government facilities, are
would be normally at the Union Station, a beautifully restored railroad
station only about two blocks from the Capitol Building and the Senate
office buildings. Afternoon will cover the National Gallery of Art and
the Smithsonian Museums. There are 14 Smithsonian Museums and it would
be impossible to visit them all in one afternoon, particularly if you
select the Air and Space Museum, which can entrance flight enthusiasts
night life head for Georgetown, Adams Morgan, or Dupont Circle areas,
all trendy neighborhoods known for their taverns, restaurants, shopping
Metro rail subway or taxis are the best ways to get around the city.
Taxis have the zone system of fares, meaning that the fare is the same
within a zone but adds the second zone fare if you cross the zone line.
You’ll pay more going two or three blocks crossing a zone line than you
might when traveling much farther within a zone. Check your cab driver
Washington has many fine hotels and so do the suburbs. Rates for good
hotels outside the District generally are less but you also have the
added cost and some time constraints getting to the places you want to
Visiting Washington isn’t quite as easy as it was prior to the 9-ll
terrorist attacks. Before that day changed our lives you could freely
enter most government buildings with little surveillance, drive around
the White House and Capitol Building, or drop in freely to visit your
member of Congress. You can still do these things but security is
visible all over the city and this sometimes makes for slower going.
Don’t leave backpacks, brief cases, or other possibly suspicious items
unattended. Be ready to go through security stations to enter government
buildings and some other structures. But if terrorism concerns you,
remember that Washington D.C. is probably the most well protected
community in the nation.
with politics and government, is a vital part of the Nation’s Capital so
the city officially and businesses in general are geared to provide a
welcome atmosphere for the visitor. Before starting your trip, visit the
tourism web site,
www.washington.org, and get the answers to many questions and find
suggestions for scheduling tours, finding lodging, and getting around.
Where to Stay:
You have a wide, wide variety of
facilities in the area, including fine hotels in suburban Maryland and
Virginia. Here are just a few in the District of Columbia by location:
Foggy Bottom Area
Dupont Circle Area
Best Western, rates from $119
Doubletree Suites, rates from $159
Marriott Washington, rates from $109
Washington Suites, rates from $149
Courtyard by Marriott, rates from
Hilton Washington, rates from $165
Radison Barcelo, rates from $239
Capital Hilton, rates from $99
Hay Adams, rates from $259
Holiday Inn, rates from $80
and make reservations through WTA’s Online Travel Booking Service at
where deep hotel savings may apply.
Places to Eat:
Capitol Hill Area
District Chop House- entrees $16-25.
Occidental Grill - walls practically
papered with pictures of Washington bigwigs.
Old Ebbitt Grill - here since 1846.
Adams Morgan Area
The Monicle - American classic food
but the people you see might be even more interesting.
Cafe Berlin - among the few German
restaurants in town, Classics like Wiener Schnitzel.
Felix - elegant nightspot. Try the
sauteed shrimp with angel hair pasta.