I last visited Washington DC over 10 years ago and vowed to return to explore the museums once again in a dedicated trip. Thanks to my mileage account, I was able to redeem a free flight for a short 3-day excursion for more in-depth exploration. The architecture was grand and well-maintained. Beggars were not easy to spot and the security presence seemed more subtle in most areas. Big Brother didn't seem to be too obviously watching over everyone.
The good impression began with the metro system, whose stations were well-maintained and had decent architecture. A smart card would give seemless access to both trains and buses. However, I wished there were better discounts for transferring between the two.
Union Station was saved from neglect and now is both a major transport hub and shopping mall.
Future and current lawyers should visit the US Supreme Court and hear a few controversial cases.
Bookworms should head next door to the Library of Congress. There are many exhibits and the building is quite elaborately decorated. Unfortunately, the main reading room is not easily accessible so I settled with the viewing gallery only upstairs.
Be sure to pop by the glass box to see the Gutenberg Bible.
The National Museum of the American Indian showcases the various indigeneous groups' cultures, their history of interaction with the invading white men, treaty betrayal, and final eviction from their homelands.
You can spend days exploring the free museums along the National Mall. Great collections won't cost you an arm and a leg to enjoy.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by an architecture student to commemorate the over 58,000 Americans who died. Simply two triangular black walls below the ground, it looks towards both the Washington Momument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Once a swampy marsh, the Lincoln Memorial site was transformed into a grand monument for this pivotal president in 1914. Walk up the long staircase, turn around, and enjoy views of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument beyond. Be amazed.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995, 42 years after the armistice that stopped the war. 19 stainless steel statues in ponchos are seen moving towards the US flag, while the wall next to them bear images of over 2400 veterans.
Perhaps the cold weather deterred visitors from walking around the Tidal Basin where these monuments are located. I had most of these spaces all to myself. Long forgotten but recently revitalized in 2011, the DC War Memorial was dedicated in 1931 and commemorates 499 local citizens who perished in World War I.
he Tidal Basin offers a nice backdrop to many of the monuments in the National Mall area. Benches along the waterfront are a great place for a picnic in the summer.
The FDR Memorial opened in 1997 and stretches quite a long linear distance over 4 outdoor rooms, each depicting one of his terms in office.
The Jefferson Memorial was conceived by FDR, who believed his role deserved a monument just like Lincoln. Dedicated in 1943, his statue was later recast in bronze and now looks towards the White House.
The Washington Monument is made of 36,000 pieces of marble and granite. Construction began in 1848 but stopped part-way due to lack of funds, only to resume in 1876 when the president authorized its completion. Today, the different colours on the monument mark the two different construction periods. Damaged by the 2011 earthquake, the elevator to the top gallery is still being renovated and hence the monument remains closed until 2019.
President Lincoln came here for an evening performance in 1865. The rowdy crowd was the perfect cover for the assassin to carry out his deed. Ford's Theatre still serves the same purpose today, but free tours are available to see Lincoln's VIP box and a museum of his legacy. During low season, it is not necessary to pre-book online for a nominal fee of $3.
The Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon in 1974. Otherwise, the buildings remain in use today, including apartments and a hotel.
Some colours on mundane and boring buildings can spice up the streetscape.
While the Old Post Office has been renovated into the Trump Hotel, the clock tower is freely-accessible to tourists as it is managed by the National Park Service. Built in 1899, an elevator now takes you up 315 feet for a panoramic view of the city.
Chinatown here is quite small although stores do show off their Chinese names, even for mainstream stores such as Hooters or Dunkin Donuts.
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