Everything about Washington DC screams power and history, like a living museum writes Chris Herden.
“Ladies and gentlemen you are looking out over the National Mall, it spans 2.2 miles from the Capitol’s west front, all the way past the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. The National Mall is America’s front yard and it is where we celebrate our nation’s history.” Our tour guide Leroy is an ex-serviceman with a booming baritone that announces every sight-seeing moment with passion and authority.
Everything about Washington DC screams power. It is more than just the capital of the United States of America, it is a living museum. And the good news is, it’s easy to get to. My wife and I took the Amtrax fast train from New York City and within a couple of hours we were standing in front of the seat of Congress, the Capitol Building.
You can visit the Capitol Building for no charge but you must book a day or two in advance. The National Mall is a large pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard that attracts approximately 24 million visitors each year. It is a grand vista of memorials and shrines, each of truly monumental proportions.
The Lincoln Memorial is a must-see. The building, which is in the form of a Greek Doric temple, was dedicated in 1922 and is one of the nation’s last major public works of neoclassical architecture. At the top of the steps, make sure you stop at the plaque that marks the spot where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famous I have a dream speech. From here as you look out over the Reflecting Pool your eyes are drawn to the towering obelisk in the distance, the Washington Monument.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial the nine-metre-high stone-carved statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln is hardly dwarfed by the mammoth 30-metre-high structure that surrounds it. His solemn gaze burns with authority, a defiant fist hammers into the armrest; a telling clue of the constitutional crisis facing the nation at the time.
Budget cuts caused The White House to cancel general public tours in March 2013. You can walk along Pensylvania Avenue to see the front of the President’s home, the oldest public building in DC. But you’d be more familiar with the back, the protruding oval portico seen in many films and on TV. A good vantage point for photographs is nearby Lafayette Park, the site of the National Christmas Tree.
There is so much to see in DC. The National Mall is also home to 17 museums of the educational foundation, the Smithsonian Institution. All are open to the public free of charge. You can marvel at the greatest feats of aviation and space travel at the Air and Space Museum, observe the news of the world timeline at the Newseum and gaze upon the Hope Diamond at the Museum of Natural History (I warn you fellas, it’s hard to drag your sweetheart away from that sparkler!)
And while not part of the Smithonian, the International Spy Museum is definitely worth a look.
Even if you only spend three nights in Washington DC, as we did, you will also be left wanting more.
Our Amtrax train travel was courtesy of International Rail, tel: 1300 387 245.