Fourth of July in D.C. was great, but if possible day two was even more patriotic.
We woke up bright and early – as in, 5:45 am – to get a jump start on what would prove to be one of the most jam-packed days of sightseeing we’ve ever had. If you read any of our Europe recaps, you know that’s saying something. We have a habit of wanting to see ALL the things. Our trip to D.C. was no different except for the fact that we only had a day and a half to see them.
Bobby decided to start with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. It did not disappoint.
I was intrigued by the Farmers Cranberry Cucumber Cooler. It was light, crisp and refreshing, not to mention pretty to look at. The recipe was essentially club soda with a hint of cranberry and cucumber infused throughout, then garnished with lime.
For his entrée, Bobby ordered the Stuffed French Toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. He let me have a few bites and it pretty much melted in my mouth. We knew it would be hard to top the French toast from Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas, but this version did it.
I ended up ordering the Crab Eggs Benedict, which was as phenomenal from a savory perspective as the French toast was sweet. The eggs were done perfectly and the seasoning they used with the crab and sauce was just plain delicious. It was served with leek hash browns.
By this time the air conditioning had sufficiently cooled me off, so I also ordered some coffee. I loved the metal creamer container it came with – it looked like a milk carton.
We left Founding Farmers with happy bellies, ready for a day of exploration. As we made our way to the Metro, we stopped for a brief photo opportunity at none other than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!
The street directly in front of the White House was closed that morning, so we decided to come back later. We made our way down to the subway and a few stops later, arrived at Capitol South.
I couldn’t resist a picture of the gleaming white dome, but our destination that morning was across the street, inside the Thomas Jefferson building at the Library of Congress!
You can imagine my excitement. We were positively blown away by the beauty of the Great Hall.
The architecture, the ceilings, the artwork…everything was so gorgeous!
We climbed the stairs to the overlook of the Main Reading Room with its bronze statues and eight giant marble columns. Each of the latter supports a 10-foot-high female figure in plaster. They represent religion, commerce, history, art, philosophy, poetry, law and science.
We explored the various exhibit halls, as well, including Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Now this collection has an amazing story behind it. From the website:
By 1814 when the British burned the nation’s Capitol and the Library of Congress, Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States. Jefferson offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. Congress purchased Jefferson’s library for $23,950 in 1815. A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson.
What’s left of his collection was on display. Everything from the way he organized it to the depth of its subject matter was fascinating. I highly recommend visiting this area – it was our favorite.
After we had finished ooh-ing and ahh-ing, we walked from the library to the Newseum. I’ve lost track of how many people recommended this museum to us! Papa Bender said he could spend days in it. As a journalism school graduate, I was pretty excited to see what all the hype was about.
Our first stop in the museum was the Berlin Wall Gallery. Although this part of history was slightly before my time, it has always interested me. Having the chance to see the wall was amazing. Notice the graffiti that covered the West Berlin side with encouraging messages…
…compared with the stark walls of East Berlin. They were routinely painted white in order to better see people who were trying to escape. The gallery also featured a television depicting broadcasts from when the wall fell, as well as a lot of cool pictures of the ensuing celebrations.
A three-story East German guard tower that loomed near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin’s best-known East-West crossing, was also on display. We walked inside and I immediately had goosebumps.
We enjoyed the sights for a bit before heading back inside to the News History Gallery.
It’s true, we could have spent hours in here. There were so many great front pages to look at. As a fan of the Old West, I had to snap a photo of the paper from when Jesse James was assassinated.
And Bobby can attest I waited in line to see this one. I wonder why…?
The most emotional exhibit for us was the 9/11 Gallery. To see an actual section of the antenna mast from the North WTC, to comb through the various newspaper front pages from around the world after that horrific day – we’ll never forget. There really aren’t any words that can do it justice, but it was certainly a touching tribute to the bravery shown by the journalists, firefighters, police officers and all those who ran toward tragedy on that day.
All of the exhibits in the Newseum are a must-see. I won’t give anything else away, but truly encourage you to check it out for yourself when in D.C. Bobby and I also had a chance to relive the days when I thought I was going to be a broadcast reporter.
I think he’d make a good co-anchor, don’t you?
There was, of course, so much to see and do here. Highlights for me included waiting in line to see the actual Star-Spangled Banner flag that inspired our national anthem, as well as the original manuscript of the song written by Francis Scott Key. Maybe this is a huge oversight on my part, but I had no idea there were so many verses.
I also loved getting to see Dorothy’s ruby slippers!
After checking out the American History museum, we made our way across the National Mall…
…to the National Air and Space Museum!
We saw the Spirit of St. Louis…
…an inside of a plane engine (which for this nervous flyer was super interesting)…
…and planes, planes, planes galore.
By the time we had finished, we were admittedly pretty “museumed out.” Good thing we had a fun dinner planned. We ended up arriving at our original destination, Birch & Barley, a little early, so instead we were seated in their bar upstairs called Churchkey.
It just so happened to be happy hour, and the beer selection was endless. I ultimately went with an Endless River Kölsch (pun not intended, but I’ll take it) from Mother Earth Brewing Company in North Carolina. It hit the spot after a long and humid day of walking.
Bobby and I decided to share an appetizer and entrée. We started out with Sunchoke Arrancini, which were basically cheese and risotto “meatballs.” They were so tasty.
And for our main meal we had the White Bean Bruschetta Flatbread, served with spinach escarole, passatina, preserved lemon and ricotta salata. I’m not exactly sure what all that entails but I can tell you that it was a fantastic combination.
Feeling sufficiently refueled, we decided to test our walking legs a little longer down Pennsylvania Avenue. We passed the Old Post Office Pavilion, originally built in 1899.
But our final destination was the President’s pad. From the back you can get a sense of just how big the White House gardens are. I noticed security peeking out beneath the trees.
We ultimately walked around to the front side, too. It was sparkling white in the late afternoon sun.
As the sun began to dip lower and lower, we decided it was time for our last adventure of the evening: a tour of the memorials and monuments! We started with the Washington Monument, which unfortunately is covered in scaffolding due to the 2011 earthquake.
Although getting there was a bit farther than we had anticipated, it was worth it. The statue is huge, and the walls are covered with thought-provoking quotes from Jefferson that still resonate today.
Plus, we had a perfect view of the sunset, which lined the clouds in a ring of fire. (Bobby’s words!)
We made our way back to the National Mall and the World War II Memorial next.
It was beautiful, with two pillars signifying the “Atlantic” and “Pacific” and columns for each state surrounding a giant fountain. We stood near the Pacific pillar for a while and soaked it all in.
From there we made our way down the reflecting pool toward the Lincoln Memorial. We passed the D.C. War Memorial that commemorates the citizens of D.C. who served in World War I.
We also saw the Korean War Memorial, which I thought was very unique and special. In the growing darkness, we felt like we were walking side by side with the soldiers.
Finally, we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and gazed at Abe in the distance.
We turned back and caught a glimpse of the Washington Monument in the reflecting pool…
…then made our way up the stairs to see Abraham Lincoln up close.
He is certainly an “enduring symbol of unity, strength and wisdom.” The Gettysburg Address was written on one of the side walls, and reading through it with Abraham Lincoln sitting over our shoulders was definitely a highlight of the trip.
Looking back on it, I can’t believe how much we saw in one day. It was a lot of fun, and we were excited about what was still to come during our final leg of the trip. Until then, we dragged our achy feet back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Have you been to D.C.? If so, do you have a favorite place or landmark to visit?