Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together … to Washington, DC!
As we learn to navigate through this new world of social distancing and staying at home, it is difficult to find ways to include adventure in our lives. We’re just beginning spring and thoughts of planning for trips and activities to enjoy as the weather gets better are put on hold. In fact, as of this writing, I was actually supposed to be on my way home from an overnight trip I had booked to Pennsylvania with a group – that trip, of course, was canceled. But, adventure doesn’t have to be a trip or a big outing with lots of people – it is as close as our imaginations. Currently, I’m reading a book that has me in the midst of the gourmet restaurant and summer beach scene in Nantucket and I’m loving every page as I imagine myself right there with the characters. I try every few days to just go for a ride – maybe sit in my car at Point Breeze watching the geese and dreaming of being out on the water with the warm sun on my face or driving around on some of our beautiful country back roads to see what’s going on in the world around me from the safety of my car. The internet can bring the world closer to us, as well – there are a lot of places around the world that are offering virtual tours and ways to see and participate in things you may never get to do otherwise. Or pick a place you’ve always wanted to go to and research it – learn all about it and take yourself on a creative journey.
Let me take you on a virtual adventure, today. Like the Golden Girls’ Sophia Petrillo would say: “Picture it! 2017, 2018, and 2019! Three small town girls in the big metropolis of Washington, DC…..”
Two of my traveling buddies and I decided we wanted to go to Washington, DC. I had never been and it was years since either of them had gone. So, we met up to talk about when to go and what we each wanted to see while we were there. We soon realized that if we did everything we were putting on our list, we’d have to stay for several weeks! So, we came up with the idea of making it an annual trip and limiting it to a few days each year until we’ve seen and done it all. And so, our annual girl’s trip to DC began.
We take the Amtrak train down on Monday, spend three full days seeing the sights, and return on the train on Friday. I love traveling by train! It is a long ride to DC – we catch the train early in the morning in Rochester, change trains in Penn Station in NYC, and arrive at Union Station in DC that evening. But, it is a beautiful and relaxing ride along the Hudson River in NY and on down to our destination. We always stay at the same hotel in an amazing location right downtown and within walking distance of just about everything and within a couple blocks of the Metro station for places that are further than we care to walk. Perfect!
If done right, DC can be a relatively inexpensive vacation. Most museums and points of interest are free – some things do, however, require advance booking, like the Capitol Building, White House, and some of the newer more popular museums, so check online before you go for more info. There are guided tours you can take that come in a wide range of prices or you can do it on your own and save the tour costs. DC is definitely easy to get around on foot and the Metro system is awesome – get a city street map and you’re good to go. One thing we discovered the first year is that there is a bus called the Circulator – you pick it up outside Union Station and it is like a hop-on-hop-off type bus without the HOHO ticket prices. It costs $1 each time you get on (sometimes it is free) or you can buy a day ticket if you think you’ll do a lot of hopping on and off. It takes you to all the major points of interest, including several stops along the National Mall. You can get off, spend as long as you want, walk as far as you want, and catch another bus at the same or different stop whenever you want. You definitely don’t need (or want) a car to get around.
Not to be missed, of course, is the National Mall. Plan to spend a lot of time wandering around the various memorials and monuments – they are amazing! We have spent time there every trip, so far. Each one is emotional and spectacular, so it is hard to pick a favorite. I highly recommend seeing the Korean War Memorial at night – the statues are so lifelike and seeing them at night totally took my breath away. I also found the WWII Memorial to be stunning. The FDR Memorial is more of a journey than a monument – it takes you through each of his administrations and all the turmoil our country was going through at that time. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is extremely impressive overlooking the tidal basin. Like I said – they are all incredible and well worth the time to see each and every one of them.
On our second trip, we visited the National Cathedral in Georgetown. The day we were there was the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a distinct honor and emotional experience to be able to sit in on a Holy Eucharist Service where the priest included an abbreviated version of Dr. King’s last sermon – delivered there three days before his death. What a blessing! We were also able to listen to an organ demonstration on the Great Organ – one of 20 largest organs in the world, consisting of 189 ranks and 10,647 pipes. To say the sound that came from this amazing instrument took my breath away was an understatement! What a treat to be blessed with the chance to hear the sermon and the joyful sound coming from the organ.
That second year we were also lucky enough to get to see the cherry blossoms in full peak bloom! WOW! Cherry blossoms don’t last long and it is difficult to pick the right week when you have to plan ahead. But, we did it!!! The blossoms are all over the city, but the best place to see them is along the walk around the tidal basin in the National Mall. The basin is lined with cherry trees and when they are all in peak bloom it is incredible.
Some other highlights from our first three DC trips: I recommend booking a “DC at Night” tour – it is a double decker bus tour with an open top that takes you through the city and along the National Mall all lit up at night. It is amazing and well worth the cost and time. We also try to see a show every year. The first and second year, we attended plays at Ford Theater – the theater where Lincoln was shot. It is really surreal to sit there watching a play and looking at the box where he was sitting when he was assassinated. They also have a nice museum and gift shop downstairs. We also saw a delightful play called “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center – it is so funny, interactive, and family friendly (the kids really get into it). To avoid any spoilers, I won’t say why, but will tell you it is a joy to see multiple times – we saw it in our second and third trips. It is a thrill to be at the Kennedy Center – go a little early so you can see the sunset over the Potomac River from the terrace – awesome!
Another wonderful side trip is Arlington National Cemetery – take the trolley ride tour to get all the information, history, and stories. We were also honored to see a burial off in the distance while we were there – very emotional experience. Of course, see as many Smithsonian museums as you can – the Holocaust Museum is heart wrenching, but amazing.
We have been in early May, early April, and late October – all were good times for weather and things to do, although it was pretty crowded the year we were there at peak cherry blossom time. We have not, yet, been to the Capitol Building or the inside the White House (we did see it from the outside). We had reservations to tour the Capitol Building last year, but it was the week that Rep Elijah Cummings passed away, so much of the building was closed to the public in preparation for his Lying in State, so we will try again next time. Given all that is going on, now, I’m not sure if we’ll go this year or skip it and return to our annual visits next year, but I do know we still have a LOT left to see and do!
Visit my Blog at www.thoughtsbykim.com for more on our first three trips (type “DC” in the search box on my page and it will bring up all three DC Adventure posts) and other adventures I’ve enjoyed over the years – search with key words or just scroll through the posts and see where I might take you.