Monday, March 16, 2009

37 and One Half Hours in Washington DC: Day One

This post is based on--heck, totally stolen from--the 36 Hour series produced by the New York Times. If they send a cease and desist order, well, I’d have to agree that I pretty much copied the idea and would have to comply. Although, technically, this is called the 37 and One Half Hour Series.

That being said, this is my version of 36 Hours in Washington DC. It’s not for us residents. It’s really for visitors to Washington DC. Some of the timing is intentionally vague. It may take some folks an hour to explore the Lincoln Memorial and I’ve seen some do it in 20 minutes. Depends on the individual, their interests and transit options. Anyway, enough explaining.

Day One
Early Afternoon: Where else to start but the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW). The leader of the free world lives right in downtown DC. Not in a gold plated palace, or shining house on a hill, but in two story mini mansion (well, 132 rooms worth of mini mansion) within a stones throw from offices, apartment buildings, coffee shops, schools and hotels. The White House really is part of the city. There are local bus routes running all day and night a block away from the place. The main street (Penn Ave) is no longer open to traffic, but works as a great pedestrian thoroughfare. A publicly accessible park is right across the street. It's official name is Lafayette Park, but its also known as the People's Park. The White House itself would be a little underwhelming if it weren't universally known who lives and works there. Before heading on, stop at the Saint John's Church or the Blair House for a quick shot of DC history and photo op. For something more substantial, try the Decatur House.

Next, make your way down to the National Mall to see some memorials, but on the way, stop in to see the Organization of America States. Their beautiful headquarters (17th and Constitution Sts NW) was designed to incorporate architectural traditions from North and South America. The OAS predates both the League of Nations and the United Nations. It promotes the cooperation of 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere, basically most of North, South, Central America and the Caribbean. If time permits, see the affiliated Art Museum of the Americas, a block away.

As day turns to night, hit the "Big Three," the Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans and the Korean War Memorials. No one can see all of the major memorials on the mall in three days, but Lincoln Memorial is a must-see and is very close to the timeless and beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the austere and stately Korean Memorial. Each is appropriate for a moment of refection for those looking for such a thing; or great photo ops as well.

After a fair amount of walking, make your way back downtown for a bite to eat. Between the Metro Center and Gallery Place Metro stations are plenty of choices. Try Kanlaya (Thai) Rasika (Indian), La Tasca (Spanish) or Ella's (pizza!). Afterward, if time allows, get a drink at Cafe Mozart, an unassuming German market and restaurant. Nothing special, but you're almost guaranteed a quiet, other-tourist-free nightcap before you head to the hotel for some sleep. Other options for a post dinner drink are Bar Louie (party hardy), Poste (see and be seen), or Capitol City Brewing (cold, fresh beer). Catch some local news on the tube and stay out of the hotel bar! Sleep tight and get ready for a full day two...

Any suggestions or corrections, feel free to post in the comments! Day Two tomorrow.