April 9 2009 by Karla Henriquez
The last time I visited Washington D.C., my plane arrived at dusk. On the way to meet friends for dinner, my host recommended we stop by the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I had never seen. It was a humid night and it was just beginning to sprinkle. The cicadas were out. I quietly walked through the field, looking into the faces of the soldiers all around me. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion and I regretted knowing so little about this conflict or what the experience was like for those who fought in Korea. I pledged to learn more.
Washington D.C. always makes me connect with American history and government. My first visit was when I was in 9th grade. My family was living in Paraguay and I participated in a program called Close-Up. I joined students from all over the United States to explore the capital city - its buildings, its monuments, and the people and processes that make up our government. I remember thinking that all Americans should go there. Sixteen years and a few more visits later, I feel the same way.
One of the added bonuses of exploring D.C. is that you can pack your trip with visits to museums and monuments where admission is free. The city also offers a convenient and clean rail and bus system that is easy to navigate and inexpensive to use. Add to that a stay at one of the area's convenient Best Western hotels, and a trip to the nation's capital fits almost anyone's budget.
There are so many things to do and see in the D.C. area, that it makes a lot of sense to pick up a guidebook at your local library before you head out there. To get you started, here are a few of my personal recommendations:
Visit the Lincoln Memorial in the early morning and read the inscriptions on the wall
Make your way through the National Air and Space Museum (Bonus: free admission)
Nibble through the Maine Avenue Fish Market in the summertime
Get a picture of yourself in front of the Supreme Court Building
Take a free tour of the U.S. capitol (book in advance, online)
Ride the Smithsonian Carousel (in front of the Arts and Industries building)
Read the names of those who served in Vietnam at the Memorial Wall
Window-shop and unwind in Georgetown
Pay your respects at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery
Bike along the Potomac, between D.C. and Mount Vernon
Drive or walk through Kenwood when the cherry blossoms are out
Stroll along Embassy Row (Mass Ave) and on R and S streets in Dupont
Hike in Great Falls National Park to see the Potomac flow through Mather Gorge
Visit the Washington Memorial and the WWII Memorial after dark