Everyone has a bucket list. Some of those lists are longer than others. One big item was crossed off my bucket list this summer when I was able to celebrate Independence Day in our nation’s capital.
Getting off the plane at the Baltimore Washington International Airport wasn’t all that memorable, nor was 95 percent of the bus ride that took us to the heart of Washington D.C. But as we made our way out of the dense, green maze of trees and into the colorful metropolis of the city, the Washington Memorial rose seemingly out of nowhere as a bright, towering beacon of power in an otherwise dark and unforgiving maze of row houses. That first glimpse of the Washington Monument is one of the memories I will remember for the rest of my life.
Time was of the essence that first day, since we flew in on the Fourth of July and got to our hotel mere hours before the fireworks were shot off along the national mall. Getting there to see the fireworks required a 1 1/2 mile walk to the national mall, along with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends who were also in town to celebrate America’s birthday. (Side note: all transportation inside the city itself should be done via walking, bus or metro as the traffic appeared to be one giant ball of congestion wrapped in an even bigger ball of frustration.) The usual time it would take to walk from our hotel to the national mall takes approximately 30 minutes, but on the Fourth of July weekend it would have been wise to add at least an extra 30 to 60 minutes of travel time on top of the original estimate.
The fireworks on the national mall were very impressive. Let it be known though that I am not a huge fan of large crowds, so watching the fireworks with thousands of people in every conceivable direction wasn’t on the top of my list of fun things to do. That being said, I was standing in the middle of Constitution Avenue with the Washington Memorial to my right and the White House to my left, so it wasn’t all bad.
The monuments were as special as advertised. My favorites, in order of most impressive to least were: The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument.
Unfortunately we were on a semi-guided tour and only had 15-20 minutes to spend at each memorial. If I were to do it over again, I would plan to spend as much time at each memorial as possible, especially at the Lincoln, Jefferson and World War II memorials. There are so many quotes to read and special details to see.
We were able to go to a few of the Smithsonian Museums, including the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History. Though both museums were very interesting, my favorite was the National Museum of American History for its war exhibit alone.
The most memorable, and devastatingly painful destination we were able to visit was the United States Holocaust Museum. Be warned that the images, videos and displays are haunting and emotionally draining. If you are lucky you will be able to hear a Holocaust survivor speak. We were fortunate enough to do so, and it was incredible to hear a firsthand account from someone who experienced such an awful historical event. Hearing someone who lived through such hell and still has such a positive outlook on life is truly inspiring and uplifting.
Overall, this was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. Washington D.C. is a destination that every single person should visit no matter what your interests are, especially if you are a fan of American history.