The White House

Washington, DC: A Capitol Idea

The best time to visit Washington, DC is either Spring or Fall. I went in July. It was a family gathering and, well, if I wanted to see the grandkids and the sights that was it.

The daily temperatures were in the high nineties. The humidity was about the same. Hint: wear dark clothes. Because unless you roll antiperspirant all over your entire body, which would be akin to wrapping up in Saran Wrap, you are going to pour from every pore. Of course you also need a jacket because you will be going in and out from air conditioning to sweltering heat all day. The itinerary included a tour of the Capitol Building, visiting my Congressman’s office, and seeing the Science and Art Museums. We also went to the Washington Monument and stood in front of the White House for selfies.

If you have not seen the Capitol of the United States, I suggest that you book at least three nights during cherry blossom season. You will need one entire day to see the Capitol Building and the various Smithsonian Museums, which are free admission (but only truly free if you avoid the gift shops). The second day you can go from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Note from the Washington Monument the Treasury Building and White House are on a spur off the middle of the National Mall which is what the open green grass is called. The entire National Mall is approximately 309.2 acres and the walk from the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (near the Capitol Building) to the Lincoln Memorial with the reflecting pond is 1.9 miles. Add to that the miles inside the museums and cutting across the mall for ice cream and, well, bring your sneakers.

Inside the buildings the scale of grandeur cannot be expressed in words. Very much like the grand cathedrals in Europe, there are echoing domes/rotundas, grand staircases, and massive galleries all gold gilt with ginormous columns. It has to be experienced to be believed. The art museums and Natural History Museum are fantastic. The Air and Space Museum is wonderful on the mall and if you can get there, the new one near the airport is even better with a tower you can stand in and watch real airplanes land at the real airport.

We ate at the USDA cafeteria, a widely kept secret, but must know location. Check it out on line USDA Cafeteria, 1200-1398 Independence Ave. SW, (South Building). It is the size of a massive stadium. There are salad bars, sushi bars, delis, Italian, Chinese and Indian food court areas. The food is excellently prepared and priced fairly. Especially a good idea with a big family. Also, desserts at the Capitol Building Café feature white chocolate domes with fresh fruit compote. Yummy.

Capitol Cafe dessert

As mentioned before, the ice cream and snack shacks along the National Mall are a must. Look for the old green gazebos. These are wonderful relics of hundreds of years ago. The outer side paths of the National Mall are lined in several rows on both sides with ancient elm trees. The grass areas on the mall are 300 feet wide and almost two miles long.

Many of the museums are so popular you must get your free tickets in advance (Ex: National Museum of African American Culture and History and The United States Holocaust Museum). You must also apply for tickets for the Capitol and White House tours months in advance and it’s best if you ask via your local Congress representative.

My suggestion is sensible shoes. Make an itinerary so you don’t have to crisscross the mall too often and remember in a pinch there are cabs and buses. Also, if you stay outside of the Capitol, because hotels are much cheaper near the airport, their subway system is easy and fast to get around. No matter your politics, remember if you are a US citizen, you own the place.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to MenopauseShe hosts a local radio humor segment, “Baby Boomer Humor with Sassy Sally”.

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