Travel Review: Washington DC
There is much more to America than the bustling streets of New York, or the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. If you’re looking for a more cultural and historic experience, why not swing past Donald Trump’s hood?
Washington DC is often called the political capital of the world, owing to its status as the seat of the United States Federal Government and numerous international institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Politics aside, it’s also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million annual tourists. From world-class eateries and endless museums to bustling nightlife and high-end shopping, Washington DC is effortlessly cool compared to its local competitors. Even if you’re not politically inclined or have no interest in American history, the sights and sounds of the American capitol are so famous and iconic, you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement of it all.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY & CULTURE
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum in America devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. Following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans, the museum opened in September 2016 and is considered the newbie on the scene.
To date, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artefacts, and you’ll need to spend a full day working your way through its four levels. But be warned: it’s a heavy journey that starts below ground in a heart-wrenching slavery exhibition. Items on display include a dress sewn by Rosa Parks that she was carrying when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, and the funeral casket of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955 after a white woman said she was offended by him in her family’s grocery store. To say it’s a deep and depressing experience is an understatement. But fear not, because as you progress through the museum, the energy becomes more uplifting. By the time you reach the fourth flour, you’ll find iconic outfits worn by the likes of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.
INFO: For tickets and more information, visit nmaahc.si.edu
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
Even if you’re not a culture vulture when it comes to art, the famous National Portrait Gallery is a must-visit during your trip to DC. The National Portrait Gallery was authorised and founded by Congress in 1962 with the mission to acquire and display portraits of “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States”. As the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House, the “America’s Presidents” exhibition lies at the heart of the Portrait Gallery’s mission to tell the country’s history through those who shaped it.
It’s also home to the famous Michelle Obama portrait that was unveiled earlier this year. The painting instantly went viral after little Parker Curry, age two, was snapped staring at it, which led to her appearing on The Ellen Show and even meeting actual Michelle.
Nobody will judge you for re-enacting the moment (we certainly gave it our best shot).
INFO: Free entry, npg.si.edu
No trip to DC is complete without a cheesy tourist snap in front of the White House. Getting inside for a tour takes months and is tremendously difficult, so we suggest taking photos of it. Although, depending on the situation and who’s in there, it’s not always easy to get up close to the iconic property. We suggest heading to the north side of the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue, which you’re probably most used to seeing on TV. You’ll have to walk through Lafayette Park – a great location for seasonal flowers – to get to the gate. Once there, you’ll be able to snap away and give your followers insta-envy.
The White House aside, Washington DC has no shortage of famous landmarks and monuments. Most of these major attractions are located on the National Mall, which extends from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, with many of them running along Constitution Avenue. A lot of these monuments and memorials are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you don’t need to make advance reservations. These include the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, the FDR Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
However, there are also several major attractions that do require advance tickets. These tickets are usually free or have a minimal charge. Tours of the US Capitol also need to be arranged in advance. Free reservations can be made via the visitthecapitol.gov website. Guided tours begin at the Capitol Visitor Center and include a 13-minute introductory film, along with visits to the Crypt, the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall.
Another must-see is the famous Jefferson Memorial. Surrounded by water, the structure is located on the National Mall’s Tidal Basin, a large body of water that is bordered by DC’s famous cherry blossom trees (we sadly missed them all full bloom). On a moonlit night, the memorial creates a beautiful, shimmering image on the water, and in springtime, it’s joined by the reflections of the blooming trees.
Picture credits: Shutterstock, Supplied.