Our first stop was to get the rental car and head towards the National Mall. We wanted to go up in the Washington Monument so the first thing to do was get tickets which prior research suggested that they are gone by mid-morning. I dropped off my wife close to the ticket window and drove off to go around the mall and pick her back up. After getting some of the last tickets available we headed towards the capital with reservations for morning tour. The United States Capital Visitor’s Center is quite impressive once you find it under the Capital Plaza. Your tour begins with a short film about the Capital and then a tour of the Rotunda area. I was a little disappointed that was all the tour covered as the last time I toured the Capital Building we were able to find our Congressman’s office. That was pre 9-11 and much has changed regarding security so it is understandable.
After the Capital, the kids wanted to see the Library of Congress as it was difficult to imagine a building that can house all of these books. Most of the collection is kept behind locked doors so there isn’t as many books to see as they had hoped. A brief walk around the lobby which is quite ornate and then a quick view into the research area which resembles most libraries with shelf upon shelf of books. This area is protected with glass surrounding you as you walk through the observation balcony. There are a number of exhibits to see highlighting music and movies as well.
Being satisfied with exploring this library we decided to continue on to our next destination which was the National Archives. Getting something to eat from one of the nearby food trucks we stopped briefly before entering the line waiting to go in this building. At first there really didn’t appear to be much of a wait until we reached the entrance area. After finding the back of the line we weren’t sure if we should wait as it looked like it could take an hour or more to get in. Fortunately we stuck it out because the line moved fairly quick and we got to see the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence as intended for our Constitution Tour. Time to head back to the hotel for an hour of relaxing before heading back towards the mall for more exploring.
Upon returning the the National Mall, we grabbed a quick bite from one of the numerous food trucks lining the streets and hurried to the Washington Monument for our chance to ride the elevators to the top and look out over Washington D.C. Just a reminder of you go to tour Washington D.C., there is a security check at most of the sights so don’t plan on bringing a lot with you. Through security and it was up to the top to view this area from the highest point in Washington D.C.. We enjoyed seeing so many historic buildings and monuments from this centrally located observation area giving a different perspective on the layout of this city. After spending time looking out in each direction and taking in the views from this point we descended and moved on to the night walking tour of the monuments ranger program.
Our night tour began at the World War II Memorial which is relatively new. This was the first time I’ve seen it as it did not exist on my last visit to Washington D.C.. It is definitely a beautiful and peaceful memorial enhancing a solemn atmosphere surrounding it. As darkness continued to fall we approached the Vietnam Memorial which has added to the original memorial to honor those that served in Vietnam even though they may not have died during combat since I was last here. One of my uncles is named on this wall adding to its’ significance to me personally and has a profound impact on me each time I’m here. Our next stop on this walking tour was the Lincoln Memorial. This is an impressive memorial just because of the shear size of it. Adding in the reflection pool and the Washington Monument in the background almost insists that you sit for awhile to contemplate our history that each of these monuments stands for. The last memorial on our night tour of the monuments was the Korean War Memorial. Another relatively new memorial that was being constructed on my last visit making this the first time I’ve seen it. During the day it captures imagines these soldiers endured but at night it looks quite different. I think the impact is higher when viewed at night because of the lighting and reflections that lighting creates.
That concluded our one long day of touring Washington D.C.. There are so many other sites to take in that one day is not nearly enough time to take in all that is offered here. Again, our purpose was not to see everything possible but merely to get a taste of what’s to see. Also, there were plans to return for anther day or two later in our East Coast adventure.