As many times as I visit Washington D.C., I never tire of the ivory monuments, the hustle of serious minded politicos scurrying to their appointments, new memorials that had been erected and those special places I go back to again and again. But it’s only on my most recent visit that I remembered how romantic a city that Washington DC can be, as much for the sharing of history and perseverance of the U.S. as for the open spaces to stroll and admire the landmarks from under the shade of well preserved cherry blossom trees. One of my most memorable walks was along the tidal basin, making my way at dusk from the Jefferson Memorial over to the Lincoln. With the moonlight as a backdrop, the monuments glowed amber from within and cast shadows onto the still water, giving a surreal lasting quality to both the statuesque buildings that honor these great men and their ideas that have stood proud with time.
D.C. is an escape to the past, present and future with a plethora of available free sights to explore. The Smithsonian alone could easily take up a couple weeks with visits to its nineteen museums, nine research centers and the national zoo all part of its domain. Though I don’t discourage visiting the select few indoor venues with which you have the most interest, I do recommend that you make the rest of your trip concentrating on the city itself, a place of endless renewal. May I suggest a more whimsical visit to DC that will include a good pair of walking shoes, an eye for architecture, appreciation for natural surroundings and the soul of our ever evolving nation’s capitol.
Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite jaunts to start you off:
1. The National Mall: A large grassy area with walking paths between the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol building and the National Monument. The Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the World War II Memorial are among the many landmarks you’ll encounter. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/walkingtours/Washington_DC_Walking_Tour/index.html
2. Around the tidal basin: From the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson is a delightful evening tour that you can do by foot or driving. The walk itself is a blissful experience. On the way you’ll find the memorial for Franklin Delano Roosevelt where you’ll learn about his life spread over several statues, plaques and waterfalls. http://dc.about.com/od/touristattractions/a/TidalBasin.htm
3. Meridian Hill Park: http://www.nps.gov/mehi/ Known unofficially as the
Malcolm X Park, you’ll find a thirteen basin cascade fountain, memorial statues of Joan of Arc, Dante and James Buchanan. Also nearby is Rock Creek Park with trails surrounded by wilderness, a nature walk at its finest. Or you may wish to catch a live performance in the park at the new Barron Amphitheater. For more info: http://www.nps.gov/rocr/
4. The canals of Georgetown: The C&O Canal begins in Georgetown and runs through a peaceful neighborhood of row houses that you can walk alongside. Dawdle down the path and imagine you're in the backsreets of Venice, Italy while stepping over the arched bridges that cross over the canal. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/338711/a_georgetown_walking_tour.html?cat=16
5. The Kennedy Center: Located at the edge of Georgetown, you’ll want to walk along the river past the crew teams rowing and station yourself on the back terrace of this national performing arts complex. After your eyes glitter in the reflection on the Potomac, maybe catch a symphony, a play or the ballet. http://www.kennedy-center.org/
6. Dupont Circle: Host to a phenomenal array of art galleries, bookstores and outdoor sitting areas, Dupont is a prime location for dallying. Walk among historic homes and vibrant residents to get a feel for a proud cosmopolitan neighborhood. Look for the “Art on Call” boxes that can be found randomly throughout the neighborhood, each a work by a local artist from the community.
7. Adams Morgan: Centered at 18th street and Columbia Road. A funky neighborhood haunt with a young crowd and a strong Latino vibe. Plenty of places to shop, eat and drink. Nice area to stroll through pretty row houses and historical commercial buildings. Plenty of clubs to dance late into the night. http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/information2550/information.htm?area=2517
8. The National Cathedral and the National Zoo: How’s this for a combo. Discover one of the most stunning cathedrals in America and then take the outdoor walk through the zoo where admission is free. http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/dch_tourism2555/dch_tourism.htm?doc_id=41246
9. U Street and Logan Circle: A superb area for date night. Considered a neighborhood in transition, heads are turning for this hip and trendy locale with eclectic restaurants, dozens of galleries featuring local artists work, and live music galore. If you are a fan of Duke Ellington, fantastic selection of ethnic foods and cool places to hang, this is the area for you. For more information: http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/04/14/travel/escapes/14washi.html?pagewanted=1
10. National Arboretum: Nine miles through 446 acres of plant specimens oh my. http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/info-url_nocat2536/info-url_nocat_show.htm?doc_id=45312
And for those who wish to venture outside of the district, here's some ideas:
Old Town Alexandria: Quaint cobblestone streets in a waterfront port community. Shopping, dining and bar hopping all available here. http://dc.about.com/cs/sightseeing/a/oldtown.htm
Great Falls Park: Glorious natural waterfalls with plenty of places to hike among them.
Mount Vernon Estate: Home to George Washington on the Potomac river with over fifty acres of garden serenity. http://www.nps.gov/grfa/
For more information on walking tours: http://www.culturaltourismdc.org
To help plan your trip to DC: http://washington.org/