October 15, 2006
This was our last day in Washington DC, and luckily my mom got tickets to the Washington Monument online. We took the metro downtown again, and walked over to the monument for our 10:30 appointment. There wasn't much waiting in line because the tickets were for a specific time. Everyone from the 10:30 time slot took the elevator to the top of the monument at the same time.
There was a lot of fighting about building the Washington Monument in the mid-1800's, and before construction could be completed, the Civil War broke out. When the war ended, thoughts of the monument resumed. It was finally finished in 1885. At a height of 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world for four years until the Eiffel Tower was finished. It still is the tallest freestanding (no mortar was used in its construction) marble structure in the world.
When we got to the top, we were free to look out the eight small windows facing in all directions for as long as we wanted. The view of the city was amazing. The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol, and Pentagon were all clearly visible from the top. The great view, minimal waiting in line, being able to stay at the top as long as you want, and the free price make the Washington Monument a no-brainer for anyone visiting Washington DC.
Back on the ground, we took a long walk around the National Mall. We started at the World War II Memorial, then walked along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial and over to the Vietnam Memorial. Finally, with only a few hours left before everything closed, we went back to the Natural History Museum. I saw the Hope Diamond and exhibits of bugs and the Earth's geology, then decided to check out the art museum across the street. I was too museum'd out by that point, though. I just couldn't squeeze any additional sightseeing into the short amount of time left.
We were all thoroughly worn out by the end of the day, so we went back to hotel and slept. I didn't realize there was so much to do in DC. I feel like three days was barely enough time to scratch the surface of the city's attractions. I guess I'll have to come back again someday.
Some thoughts on Washington DC:
- If you carry a bag or backpack of any sort, be prepared to be searched whenever you enter any building.
- Searches are very inconsistent. Sometimes they thoroughly go through everything and make you turn on all electronic equipment. Sometimes they send everything through an x-ray machine. And sometimes they just do a quick once-over and care more about doing their job quickly than making sure the building is secure.
- The Smithsonian's are great. Put together, it's the biggest museum in the world, and it's all free. The artifacts on display are second-to-none, and they're set up in a totally non-boring way. Just give yourself a few weeks if you want to explore them thoroughly.
- Definitely don't drive downtown in the day. There's almost no parking to be found. The subway is a much better option.
- There are people walking around from all over the world. I must have heard at least fifty different languages being spoken. I even saw a Chola walking down the road once! Our government is at an all-time low in popularity internationally, but that hasn't stopped foreigners from visiting our capitol.
- I've heard DC is one of the most dangerous cities in the country, but the parts I visited didn't seem dangerous at all.