• Thursday- Amtrak from NY Penn Station to DC Union Station. Everyone is staring at the board waiting to see which platform to board the train. I blinked and missed it while everyone was running to the platform area. Arrived at Union Station a little before 11. Walked to hotel, Washington Court a few blocks away. Room wasn't ready yet, stored luggage, off we went.
Walked to the Capitol building. Amazing to see in person. Walked to the other side to see the Supreme Court. What a disappointment. The facade was covered with a sheet while they are remodeling. Metal detector to get in. Next stop was the Library of Congress. The fountain outside was gorgeous, very Romanesque. You can go up to see the research area of the Library but no pictures. There are two old bibles that are on display but you cannot take pictures of them.
Basement level, there is a connection to the Capitol Visitor Center. The line here is way shorter than from the main entrance. Again, metal detectors and this time NO LIQUIDS. SUGGESTION: if you have kids under 10, do not subject them to this. They will be bored to tears and they will want to claw their eyes out. I saw many children trying to get away from it all. Leave them home or better yet, just don't come, they don't understand the significance of it.
Lunchtime: cafeteria was packed; we couldn't find any seats so we left. Walked back to Union Station's food court, pretty cheap considering their location.
Scheduled time for the International Spy Museum, got a discount from Goldstar. Walked from the hotel to Penn Quarters. Was about a 15-20 minute walk. Encountered a few homeless people along the way. I'm from NY so it's normal for me but to have 2 people within 5 minutes of each other ask for money was a bit different. Huge line to get in. With the prepaid tickets, we got to skip the ticket line but waited at least 20 minutes to get in elevators to bring you up. There were displays all around. On the side there was a DIY coat check or stroller check. They had a James Bond movie playing in the back. You can choose a secret identity. Afterwards you are herded into a theater to learn a little more about spies. This place is packed. I was not ready for the amount of people in the museum. You can barely move around. Herds of families hog the interactive displays. Some of them are mindlessly clicking on the buttons just to do something. I couldn't get near any of it. There is an area where you can crawl through an air duct. The sign outside says to keep quiet because you want to experience listening in on people or silently getting from one place to the other, like a spy. Of course all the kids were banging away and screaming inside. There were no staff around to keep the peace. Once you move beyond this area, it's not as loud but just as bad with the crowds. The exhibits were interesting but it takes away from the mood with so many children running around. Don't bother memorizing your identity. It was a computer stimulator at the end where you answer a few questions. You can just guess your way through; you get nothing for answering correctly or not. Also, leave your camera in the hotel, no pictures in the museum.
Decided to buy train passes today so that we are not looking like idiots during rush hour in the morning.For Smartrip cards, it's the machines next to the ATM machine. Costs $5. Then head to the main machines to add money. I put $20 into the card for the trip.
• Friday- Early day to Mount Vernon. Grabbed breakfast to go. From Union Station, took the red line to Gallery Place for the yellow line. HINT: On the red line, be in the back to transfer. We were in the front and missed a train. Once off the yellow line to Huntingdon, get off on the front of the train to go downstairs to get the Fairfax Connector. Check the schedule before you go. We just missed a bus and waited ½ hour for the next one. At Mount Vernon, make a U-turn once exiting the bus to the front of the entrance. Watch a short movie about the estate. Most people were falling asleep. The tour: they didn’t even really check the time on your ticket. It was a wait and thank goodness the weather was good. They have shortened the time of the tour where you are just walking through it without stopping. The historical interpreters were repeating the same thing over and over. The house is a lot smaller than expected but it's interesting to see. The view in the back is to die for. It is amazing and so refreshing to sit in the chairs and just take in the view. The estate is pretty big. There were also lambs and piglets that were just born. Lunchtime was crowded in the food court. There were so little seats that people were standing around waiting for people to finish. We wanted to go to the Inn for lunch but there was a 30 minute wait. Walking by it, it looks like a nice place, beautifully decorated and everyone was dressed in colonial clothes.
Returned to Huntingdon, took the train to Arlington Cemetery. The visitor's center offers a map of the cemetery as well as directions to Iwo Jima. It is very hilly and it took us a bit to walk to the Tomb of the Unknown for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. To see the guard's dedication to their work, their respect for those that fought in the war, it's unbelievable. Best view is to the right. Saw JFK's resting place, it was pretty crowded. Then off to Taft's resting place which is across the street, it was practically empty but it was also almost closing time. The directions to Iwo Jima were confusing. Cross the street from the main entrance, there is a pathway that leads to Iwo Jima. It is a bit of a walk next to the highway but there's no way you can get lost. Once we got to Iwo Jima, we found out there is a path from the cemetery to Iwo Jima and it's not on the map, gee thanks. Iwo Jima is massive and should not be missed. Continue on the original path and you will be at the pedestrian bridge. Cross it and keep going to get to the Metro. At CVS make a left, cross the street and the Metro is past the bus stops. It was hidden but most people are friendly and will point you to the right direction.
• Saturday- Another early day. The Zoo. Took the red line to Cleveland Place. It was a smooth walk to the zoo, about 10 minutes. There is a 7 Eleven across the street where you can buy snacks and drinks to bring inside the zoo. The panda was not out. They were in breeding mode, bummer for me. Walked all around the zoo, left around 2 from hunger and exhaustion. Walked down to Woodley Park station. The escalators were out. I have never been on escalators that were so continuously long. Some people were too scared to walk down at the midpoint. It was a pain to go down and it was pretty steep.
• Sunday- Walked to Air and Space museum in the morning. Pretty cool to see the development of air and space travel. There were a lot of Secret Service agents walking around the museum with their ear piece, just like in the movies. Wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History but it was getting late and I needed to go to the Crime and Punishment Museum for my timed entry and CSI class. Walked from the Mall to Penn Quarters. Was early so I walked around. Chinatown was actually 2 blocks with barely anything in it to make it Chinatown. The stores all have names with Chinese translation. It was raining and there were a lot of homeless people mulling around on the side of the street asking for money. Again, they are harmless. In the museum, went straight down to the crime lab. Online, the CSI lab sounded so cool where you learn different things about forensics science. It's not as cool as it sounds. It's a workshop more for young tweens. You have to pair up or triple up before going inside. There were 3 students there running the workshop and they will rotate around 5 stations to learn the different aspects of analyzing evidence. I did not learn as much as I had hoped. The kids that were in my group shouted out all the answers that were posed so it wasn't as fun. You are basically lead to the answer by the questions that the student guides you to. Was not worth the money but if you can find a discount price then go for it. I went through the museum in less than an hour. The exhibits were so much nicer than the Spy Museum with ¾ less people. You can actually breath and read information without craning your head. There were plenty of misspelled words and bad grammar throughout the exhibits though. In this museum there were more interactive exhibits that were pretty cool.
I ended much earlier than expected so I walked back to the mall to go to the Museum of Natural History. I enjoyed it a lot for their displays. The Hope Diamond was so beautiful and shiny to look at. They had a lot of dinosaur bones on display. I enjoyed the ocean exhibit on the first floor. The bug zoo was pretty neat. There are a lot of bugs that I haven't seen before and they are right up against the glass too. Left right before the museum closed to go to dinner in Penn Quarters.
Nando's Peri Peri. I sat down and was waiting a long time for a waiter to take my order. Of course I realized that you order at the counter. The food was pretty good though a little pricey. I was expecting more food than what I received. Drinks are free refills; you get your own silverware and sauce. Haagen Daez for desert right by Gallery Place.
• Monday- Checked out, stored luggage in the front. Walked to the Archives. There are two entrances; one for general entry and one for timed entry. Don't ask the guards that are walking around the street for information, they don't know anything. I walked up towards the entrance of the timed entry entrance and another guard checked me off for my entry. The line is so much shorter just by paying $1.50 online. Metal detectors again. The main things that people come to see are the original piece of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. Everything else was a short glance. The Magna Carter was also on display in the Archives. You can barely read what is written on the original documents. They do not want people to line up to see the documents which is actually stupid. People were piling over each other to reach these documents. A line to go around the exhibit should be reinforced. It would give you a much longer viewing time because people will push and nudge you over.
Walked to the front of the White House or the "south side". Couldn't get too close to the White House with all these people for the Easter Egg Roll. Walked towards the Washington Monument. It's a shame they haven't fixed it up since the earthquake. Walked around the Mall.
Found the World War II Memorial. It's so beautiful and much larger than expected. Continued down the Mall to the Reflecting Pool and to Lincoln's memorial. There were a lot of people along the monument. Beautiful view across the pool and towards the Washington Monument. The Korean War Memorial was beautiful and the phrase "freedom is not free" is so true. I was exhausted and hungry so I decided to save the Vietnam Memorial for my next trip.
Walked down the Mall to the National Gallery of Art where the Cascade Cafeteria is supposed to be gorgeous. I had to check my bag in the free coat check at the museum due to its size, (a small day pack). The cafeteria was pretty but that's all it is. The food there was extremely expensive and they were getting ready to close. I had little food to choose from. Good thing we got to Union Station earlyearly because they boarded much earlier than in NY.
• How to spot a NY'er. They do not wait for the light to turn to cross the street. Everyone looked at us like we were crazy to cross an empty street while they waited for the light to turn. By the end of the trip, I still had 4 something left on my Smartrip. I should have used it more; my legs were killing me by the end of my trip.
Hotel: Close location. There is a soup kitchen close by but the homeless people are harmless. There are a lot of them that hang out between the Postal Museum and Union Station. The hotel was fairly clean. Saw some rust stains in the bathroom, needs a little dusting. Bathroom door handle looked a little loose and needs replacing. Lemon-y fresh bath amenities. Sometimes there is a slight sulfuric smell in the water. Bed and pillow were way too soft. Water in pressure in bathroom could be better. Toilet flushes real slow. Atrium view is much quieter than city view. Newspaper one out of the four day stay. Concierge was helpful.
Washington Court Hotel: Go
Supreme Court: Go or Skip
Library of Congress: Go
Capitol Visitor center: Go
Spy Museum: Skip
Mount Vernon: Go
Arlington Cemetery: Go
Iwo Jima: Go
Air and Space Museum: Go
Crime and Punishment Museum: Skip
Museum of Natural History: Go
White House: Go
Lincoln Memorial: Go
World War II Memorial: Go