"Washington has done much in the way of shedding its uptight white-collar image. The contrasts of the world’s first planned capital are increasingly evident and stark."
Perhaps Charles Dickens expressed it best from his vantage point across the Atlantic when he said, “[Washington, DC] is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions.”
Washington, DC is, indeed, a city looming with stereotypes: crotchety old people in dark suits rushing from governmental office to governmental office, lobbyists protesting the latest political faux pas, bright-eyed interns pounding the pavement to find their niche in legislative society, and all manner of ruthless politicians politicking their way to the top of the bureaucratic food chain.
However, Washington has done much in the way of shedding its uptight white-collar image. The contrasts of the world’s first planned capital are increasingly evident and stark. From an eclectic restaurant scene to the eccentric U-Street music stores to the harried bartering at the Eastern Market, DC isn’t nearly as despondent and dull as the generalizations might lead you to believe.
I, for one, am long overdue for a jaunt back to DC. I haven’t been there since an eighth grade class trip and I’d like to think my appreciation for, and interest in, the history and culture of the city has burgeoned since then.
Even as a fourteen-year-old kid though, I was nevertheless intrigued by the power and influence found within the Capital of the Vast Republic.
The museums, in particular, were a treasure trove of knowledge for my developing brain. Within the cryptic boundaries of the Smithsonian Institution lay 19 different museums—an astronomical overload of records and information. I was overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of this celebrated megalopolis of history. In less than an hour I had seen one of Mr. Rogers’ illustrious cardigans, a replica of the Serengeti plains, Dorothy’s very own ruby red slippers, and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner.”
"Washington, DC is a smorgasbord of historical moments and monuments."
Although it’s possible to spend weeks in just the museums alone, most visitors are compelled by time restraints to spend only a day or two wandering the labyrinthine network of exhibits at the Smithsonian. Unfortunate though that may be, it’s hard to feel too dejected. Washington, DC has more than its fair share of historic sites and locales.
A stone’s throw from the Smithsonian lie “marble temples” all dedicated to the greats of this nation. Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington are each memorialized within these monuments. The walk connecting the memorials, White House, Capitol Building, and Smithsonian museums may prove demanding for some—especially in one of DC’s muggy summers or frigid winters. I specifically remember sore heels and a nasty sunburn from it all. Yet, the insight gained from each of these historical edifices is worth a blister or two. And keep it mind, entrance to all of these sites of interest is entirely free! If that doesn’t pique your curiosity, then not much else will.
Washington, DC is a smorgasbord of historical moments and monuments. From the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his awe-inspiring speech for civil rights to Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln met his fate, the capital of the United States relies on its past to make way for its future. So, jump on the Metro and revisit the past—who knows, in the process you might make your own mark in history!
Places to Stay
1823 L Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20036
“Among the many hotels in Washington, DC, one gets it right, inside and out - The Quincy. Our downtown Washington DC hotel suites feature a sleek, contemporary style and a congenial staff of consummate professionals. This favorite of Washington DC hotels is not a few blocks away from, or just around the corner from - but precisely in the middle of everything. At 18th and L, you're at the epicenter of DC's downtown scene. The K Street power corridor, the nightlife on M, the restaurants on 19th, and late-night strolls to Dupont Circle. Discover spacious accommodations and superior comfort in an unbeatable location.”
“One of the most powerful cities in the world offers you one of the nation's most intriguing homes. Just 12 blocks from the White House, this imposing red brick mansion offers an opportunity to recapture the lifestyle of an era long gone. Situated on Sixteenth Street, the Avenue of the Presidents, with a view at one of the most striking monuments in the Nation's Capital, The Masonic Scottish Rites Temple, Toutorsky Mansion offers an unmatched combination of luxury and old-world grandeur.”
“Ranked #1 of 48 Washington DC B&B's on Trip Advisor, and recently selected as a 'Fodor's Choice' property for 2010, Embassy Circle Guest House is a stunning Dupont Circle Bed and Breakfast Inn that is renowned for its elegance, convenience and hospitality. Owned and managed by Raymond and Laura Saba, this lovely boutique bed and breakfast accommodation is housed in a beautifully renovated former embassy in Dupont Circle - DC's most popular and convenient downtown neighborhood.
Make yourself at home in one of our 11 spacious and elegant guest rooms, each individually furnished with beautiful antiques, handmade Persian carpets, and comfortable beds with silky linens and luxury firm mattresses.
Relax, unwind, settle-in and enjoy! You'll love it here!”
Things to Do
This exclusive enclave of DC boasts some of the city’s finest museums and swankiest art galleries. It’s also one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city. Foreign dignitaries and embassies amalgamate here. Consequently, the food scene is decidedly diverse and tantalizingly tempestuous to the palate. Hop off the Metro at Dupont Circle stop.
Escape the frenzied political pace of city life for a day retreat to the peaceful oasis and final resting place of America’s Founding Father. Mt. Vernon is an exquisitely styled estate that has undergone meticulous restoration. The estate encapsulates a 14-room mansion, four gardens, smokehouse, stables, slave quarters, and a museum dedicated to George Washington’s life. Brace yourself for throngs of tourists.
The antiquated houses running along tree-lined cobblestone streets comprise the upscale neighborhood of Georgetown. It’s located right alongside the Potomac River, which served it well as a major port and commercial hub during colonial times. Today, major renovations have restored Georgetown to its glamorous past. Being picturesque comes at a price though—Georgetown boasts some of the city’s most exclusive and expensive real estate. Those unable to afford a refinished colonial mansion here may, instead, wish to indulge in a sumptuous, albeit pricey, meal…or maybe just an appetizer.