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Washington D.C.

December 2013
After visiting so many foreign capitals, I took a trip with my mom to Washington D.C. to once again visit my own nation’s capital. We had a good time exploring the city, seeing the sites. I am not going to do a full trip report, but just record quick notes and lists of many of the places we visited.

The United States Capitol Building
We paid our respects at

Arlington National Cemetery

, with the endless rows of graves from people that served in the military. The Changing of the Guard was the best behaved I have ever seen a large group of tourists, with everyone being quiet and solemn throughout the entire ceremony.

Botanical Gardens

had a dizzying array of plants from all over the world. The aromas were very powerful and pleasant to the nose. The moist and warm green houses were a nice contrast to the cold December weather outside. They also had a collection of model Washington D.C. buildings, built entirely from plant materials. There were very impressive and detailed recreations of the White House, Capital building and more. A model railway exhibit was also setup, showcasing even more plant based models and creations.

Ford’s Theater

is still a working stage that holds productions. A museum is in the basement however, which tells of Lincoln’s rise to the presidency and events of the Civil War. Upstairs has been restored to how it appeared in 1865, including the presidential box where Lincoln was shot. The boarding house across the street where he actually died had more information on the former president and the Civil War. It also contained a three story high stack of books, all of which were about Abraham Lincoln.

Library of Congress

is the most impressive library I have ever seen. Besides having in its archives almost every book ever published, the physical building is amazing. Marble statues, painted ceilings, and engravings adorned the insides. That did not even include the cavernous Reading Room, with a soaring domed ceiling and stately desks.
We walked all over

The Mall

, including visiting the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Jefferson, Korean War, Martin Luther King Jr. and World War II Memorials.

National Archives

had original copies of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. The documents themselves were very faded and behind several inches of glass, but it was still something to see the actual paper that the founding fathers signed.
We took the elevator up to the top of the

Old Post Office

. The food court and gift shop area inside the atrium was mostly a ghost town, but the peak of the bell tower had great views of Washington D.C., probably the best available since the Washington Monument was still closed for renovations.
The White House at night
We explored the excellent

Smithsonian Museums

, including the Post Office, Air & Space, U.S. History, and Natural History Museums. They have amazing collections and free entry, although they have mostly gone from primarily displaying and interpreting artifacts to having large, elaborate exhibits and storyboards that tell a specific narrative. This change is not all bad, but seems targeted at attracting visitors rather than educating. The private
International Spy Museum
though, takes the concept of infotainment to the extreme. It was geared to trying to get visitors to play being a spy or the hyped-up Hollywood version, rather explaining what, how, and why spies did their job. They did have some interesting artifacts and stories that accomplished the latter goal, but the fact that a full ⅓ of the museum was devoted to James Bond summed up the place.

Supreme Court

had a commanding, formal building to show the respect and rule or law in our country. Although that is good, since for any controversial decisions (at least ones that make the news), justices appointed by one party’s president tend to vote one way, while those appointed by the other party vote another, I end up a bit jaded. Still, the system is a lot more good than bad and I sure do not know a better way.
One thing Congress can agree upon is building monuments to itself, as evidenced by the expansive visitor center and museum attached to the

U.S. Capitol

. It told the history and many changes the building has been though, as well as exposing the greatness of Congress. We got a tour of the interior of the Capitol from our Representative’s office, which was a much nicer experience than the normal large tour groups. He also took us on the House Floor (which was out of session), but standing there was still a neat experience.
We tried to get a tour of the

White House

, but put in our request too late during the busy Christmas season, so we just got to admire it from the outside and the National Christmas tree out back. Its visitor center was undergoing major renovations as well, and only a tiny trailer held a few temporary displays.