The Reflecting Pool towards the Washington Monument

My favourite city in the world is Washington DC. I was (and still am) a huge fan of the TV series ‘The West Wing’. I love US politics and have come to love all of the famous Washington monuments that are found across this great city. It is an exhausting city – the first time we stayed for a week up near the back of the White House for a week and we spent nearly all of our time just on the National Mall. There was so much to do. However, there is little shelter and I came to appreciate the reason why George Washington himself called it ‘the swamp’ and why he tried to make sure that he was nowhere near during the summer months.

Map of the National Map and central Washington DC

The city was laid out in a very organised gridiron fashion where each of the key aspects all line up – the Washington Monument is a central focus – in one direction you can go towards the White House, in another you can walk towards the Lincoln memorial, in another you can move up the long grassy parkland towards the commanding Capitol building. It is a feat of architectural genius designed by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791 and is now a national park run by the United States National Park System.

The first time that I arrived here – we walked down 15th Street and stood at the bottom of the Washington Monument and marvelled at the design of the whole area. You really could see everything of importance and could easily see why this was often called the triangle of power. We got the lift to the top of the monument for a better look but were a little disappointed by the small, green tinted windows that did not offer the best place for photographs.

The outside of the Lincoln memorial

The big issue was with Washington is that we wanted to see everything – and on out first visit we had a young toddler with us who was not really that fussed on going to every museum and hitting the sites at every single opportunity. We wandered around the whole area – getting down to the different memorials and gardens and then back up towards the Capitol building where we could stop of in the much needed air-conditioned museums such as the Smithsonian Castle, the National History museum, the museum of American history and my favourite museum of all time – the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. You could (and I did) spend a whole day in that museum. Not only does it have its own McDonalds but we were able to come back later to watch a film on the amazing 3D cinema screen. I have always had a fascination with planes, space and flying so to see all these different vehicles from the first of the Wright brothers creations to the most modern aircraft and missiles was just a dream come true.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

For a museum freak like me this really is a paradise. There is nearly too much to see. We spend too much time in museums. We do serious amounts of walking to try and get as much done as possible. Our legs are aching but this is an amazing space where history is celebrated, valued and shared so that future generations will have an idea of how progress has been made in our lifetime.

In our first visit, we happened to be in the city for the 4th of July, Independence Day celebrations. Unfortunately there was a lot of rain about but later that evening we managed to get a good spot close to the front of the White House where we could watch the famous fire work display – and we managed to just about stay dry!

I’ve been to Washington DC 3 times now and it never disappoints. So much to see. So many things to do. The last time we visited we stayed in a very different place and were able to explore some different parts of the city and enjoyed working our way through Georgetown in particular. But, we were always drawn back towards all the different attractions and things to see and do along the National Mall.

The Smithsonian National History Museum

(c) T Manson, 2021. All images copyright by the author

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