I hadn’t planned on going back to D.C. for a long time, but when my boyfriend, Matt, got a great deal from JetBlue, I found myself googling museums and monument locations. I’d only been to D.C. once, in middle school with my parents, and though I appreciated the history of this interesting place back then, I was excited to go back with fresh, older eyes.
I didn’t find out officially until I got back, but while I was in D.C., I was very sick and tried fighting it. So now I lament over my pictures, missing coffee and wishing I could be horizontal.
What Everyone Goes to D.C. to Do…
…Walk around and look at monuments! We had to check out all the sights, even though we’d both already seen most of them before. The Washington Monument was practically our North Star when it came to getting around D.C. When in doubt, we’d point to it and know (sort of) where to go (once we pulled up the Maps app in our phones).
We didn’t go to look at the White House until day three (when it was the nicest weather), but we didn’t get the joy of seeing DJT, so it was obviously a loss.
The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most celebrated sights in D.C. (Celebrated because you get to celebrate when you get to the top of all the stairs. And, looking at the photo below and the fact that there really aren’t many stairs at all, I realize I need to go to the gym.)
The M.L.K. memorial is a sight that neither Matt nor I saw before, as it was built only a few years ago. The structure was massive, and M.L.K.’s stance and glare get him a bonafide spot on my “People To Not F*** With” list.
The war memorials are sights that fascinate me, sadden me, and remind me that I need to study up on history because my high school American History class clearly barely touched the Korean War because I didn’t know a thing about it.
I wasn’t able to go to the Holocaust Museum when I visited DC years ago because it was closed on the day we planned on attending. In middle school and high school, I feel like I didn’t learn much about the Holocaust; my middle school had a Holocaust course I couldn’t fit into my schedule and American History’s focus on WWII focused primarily on the US’s influence. So I didn’t know much about the Holocaust, to be honest, which meant I was excited to learn about it.
When you enter the exhibit, you collect an identification badge, which would have belonged to a victim of the Holocaust. This immediately showed me that this museum would be relatively immersive, sending you back to the early twentieth century as the person whose badge you own.
This museum was more reading-heavy than artifact-heavy, but it was perfect for people — like me — who might not know a lot about the Holocaust. There are interesting artifacts and rooms in which you can view short films along the way, so it’s not like you’re just reading a life-size textbook.
The design of the museum was incredible. The rooms themselves took you on a journey, whether it involved the floor changing from the typical cobblestone of the era to the footbridges used in the ghettos. There were specific rooms dedicated to specific pieces of art, memorial rooms, and other rooms that invoked emotions different than those I experienced while reading about the horrible conditions.
It was an emotionally-heavy museum, but it was an excellent experience for so many reasons. We spent about two hours in the exhibit, so it takes a great deal of daylight, but it was a humbling, fascinating use of time.
Matt came across the Newseum during his research before going to DC, so we decided to check it out. This museum does cost money to enter, about $25.00 — but a little less if you have a AAA card — but a lot of the items in the museum surely cost a great deal to own and upkeep, so my ticket price felt justified.
The Newseum’s main focus is on the influence of news throughout history. Nowadays, the media has made a significant impact on current events, so learning about the history of news and the media was an interest of ours. A good amount of the Newseum involves showing artifacts — such as a section of the Berlin Wall and a portion of one of the Twin Towers — and exposing the media’s response to these events. Another section, which Matt and I didn’t participate in for time reasons, includes a VR Lab, where people can try out virtual reality headsets. One of the coolest sections revealed a world map, labeling which countries allow (and don’t allow) for freedom of media. A memorial of journalists who have been killed while on the job revealed how dangerous a profession it is.
Since the Newseum’s focus was, understandably, the news, Matt and I got to try out being reporters for thirty seconds. Not to toot my own horn, but years of acting led up to that moment and I read that cue card like it was my damn job.
The portion Matt and I were looking forward to the most involved music’s influence on history and the media. There were some incredible artifacts from all throughout history, from Lady Gaga’s meat dress to the outfit Bruce Springsteen wore on the cover of his Born In the USA album to Bill Clinton’s saxophone. Big posters around the exhibit showed the top five hits on each president’s inauguration day, which was a fun touch. (All politics aside, the top five from the 2017 inauguration were pretty pitiful. Closer was #1?! Come on! Bill Clinton’s inauguration had I Will Always Love You and we had Closer?!)
National Museum of American History
Of the three museums we hit, this is the one I’d actually been to before. Although they circulate a lot of the artifacts, I saw some repeat items from years ago. This museum is artifacts-based rather than reading-based, making it quite the opposite of the Holocaust museum. Some of the most famous pieces this museum houses are the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Julia Child’s kitchen, and even the hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing on the night of his assassination.
A lot of the exhibits were under construction and renovation, but the sections we did see were great! There were sections on the evolution of transportation in the US, the wars we participated in, the history of food in America, and my favorite, a display of the gowns the first ladies wore at their husbands’ inaugurations. The rich history of this museum is incredible; some of the artifacts date back to centuries ago but are kept completely intact.
We’re Not Gonna Take It
It wouldn’t be a weekend under Trump’s presidency without a good old-fashioned protest outside the White House. After seeing the Walk for Life on Friday (and walking against it — ahh, the symbolism), it was cool to see the other side of people speaking up about the recent travel ban. Watching history being played out while you’re in the place in which these laws are passing is pretty crazy. Note: Matt and I didn’t protest because we were “hangry” and looking for a place to eat.
Girl’s Gotta Eat
Since I was sick, I didn’t have my normal appetite, so on this trip I just ate how much a normal person would eat. Some of the food we had was pretty awesome and worth talking about.
On night one, Matt and I went to get some barbecue on 7th Street NW (which is an excellent street for restaurants, fellow travelers, and an excellent place for pharmacies, fellow sick travelers). Hill Country BBQ Market was a casual place with a loud bar and awesome, calorie-rich foods. Matt and I split a two-person meal of pulled pork and ribs, mac and cheese, beans, and cornbread. This place serves up the ultimate comfort food with good portions and good prices. The best part is you go up to order your food yourself, so you get your dinner quickly even if it’s crowded!
For lunch the next day, Matt and I went to Cava Grill, which is like if Chipotle had a love child with Greek cuisine. This is a small, emerging chain that’s growing around the U.S., but I hadn’t heard of it before. Matt and I got chicken pitas, which were filling and so delicious! I hope one of these opens up in Boston!
For lunch on Sunday, we were pretty hungry and we wanted to go somewhere close to the White House, which is where our “hanger” began. Grilled Cheese D.C. popped up on our map and the thought of grilled cheese on a chilly January afternoon really hit the spot, so we headed over. I got a four-cheese grilled cheese with bacon and tomatoes while Matt got a short rib mac and cheese. We left the restaurant full and satisfied, ready to take on the rest of our day.
Our trip to D.C. was an excellent way to start 2017! Not only did I learn a great deal about our country and the world, I got to spend time with one of my favorite people. We only crossed a small amount of stuff off the grand list of things to do in D.C., but it was a weekend well-spent!
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