Wednesday, May 22, 2013

48 hours in Washington DC

The weekend before last, I travelled to Washington, DC so that the law school I work for could swear nine of our alums into the US Supreme Court Bar. I'll write about that whole experience in another post. What I really want to go into is what I did in DC when I wasn't working (this is the longest and most photo-heavy post I have ever written! You've been warned!).

The National Mall is where most of DC's major attractions are and everyone I spoke with told me I could find plenty to do there. My hotel was nearest the Capitol side, so I started my exploring there. Unfortunately, I got in too late Saturday for a tour and it wasn't open on Sunday. The Washington Monument has been closed for almost two years (since an earthquake struck the area) and tours of the White House aren't happening due to the government sequester. It was kind of a crummy time to visit and I would have been pretty bummed if this was a trip I was spending my own money on. Come on government, work with the tourists!

The Supreme Court is being restored so they have a massive drape over it... kind of a bummer since that was the reason I was there!

The Back Side of the Capitol

On Saturday afternoon, I just walked down the mall for a while. There are many Smithsonian museums along the mall, all of which are free to get in to. The Air and Space Museum was open late that night, so I checked it out. It is definitely a kid-friendly place. 

A Soviet Space Suit

You know you wonder...

A potty for a lady astronaut. Think about it and you'll figure out what goes where.

Full-scale Hubble Space Telescope (I think)

Orville and Wilbur Wright's original plane... the wood is the real deal but the cloth has been replaced.

A rocket in the museum

John Glenn's Space Suit and Yuri Gagarin's Space Suit

I was disappointed to see that food choices near the National Mall were museum cafes and food carts. Luckily I did my research and found a highly rated Indian restaurant fairly close and grabbed dinner there. It was more a fine dining place and not ideal for take-out and the portion was tiny (my $17 chicken dish didn't include rice!) but it was pretty good.

Since I was free all day Sunday, I wanted to get started pretty early. I started with a trip to Chinatown Coffee which was only a few blocks from my path back to the Mall. The coffee was great (and there was latte art!), so I would definitely recommend it. The Chinatown area has some really cool architecture, too.

I was awkwardly trying to take a picture from around a tree, but you get the idea.

The top item on my list to do was go to the National Museum of American History. I love pop culture, so I knew that was the place to see Dorothy's slippers, Archie Bunker's chair, and Julia Child's kitchen. But, the museum was a lot more than pop culture. They house the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner in this amazing, dark exhibit with dim lights on it and a lot of info on the history about that flag. It was sewn by a woman, her daughter, niece, and her African-American servants (I don't remember if they were considered slaves or free). The flag was larger than the first floor of the home and they had to use a nearby warehouse to complete it. I dare you to go through that exhibit and not feel patriotic! (No pictures allowed in that exhibit, though.)

1) A house that was moved into the museum. It's history from before the Civil War to the 1940s was an exhibit. 2) The Woolworth's Counter from the Civil Rights era. 3) Lincoln's pocketwatch and a cast of his face. 4) The nuclear "football" from the Clinton Administration. 5) Dorothy's slippers! 6) Kermit! 7) Archie Bunker's Chair 8) Michelle Obama's dress 9) Julia Child's kitchen

There was a really interesting exhibit there on the history of African Americans in the U.S. that featured Abraham Lincoln's top hat from the night he was shot and one of his suits as well as a really detailed history of the March on Washington in the 60s (no photos allowed there, either, but it was really cool).

There were also exhibits on every war the US has been involved in, a hall of First Ladies' dresses (usually from the inauguration ball), and all kinds of Presidential memorabilia - like President Clinton's saxophone.

After three hours (!!!), I left to see what else DC had to offer. I stopped at the WWII Memorial, which was very cool.

I passed the back of the White House along the way. This is as close as I got.

A view of the WWII Memorial. There was a column for each state as well as for some of our allies during the war.

View of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pool kept making me think of Forrest Gump. See the metal cage around it from the restoration?

I made my way along the reflecting pool and up the steps to Mr. Lincoln. I have seen the Lincoln Memorial on TV, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. It is so huge! I don't know what I was expecting, but it was bigger than I thought it would be.

From afar

Some scale... it was huge.

Carved inside 

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial was close to the Lincoln Memorial. It was somehow smaller than I thought it would be, though taking in the size of the walls and the tiny font the names were written in really did show the enormity of the loss during that war. I didn't feel right taking photos there, but I am very glad that I went. I also went by the Korean War Memorial, as my grandfather fought in that war. While it isn't very well known, I still thought it was a very respectful memorial.

Since being alone and visiting war memorials wasn't depressing enough, I made my way to the Holocaust Museum. It is free to get into, but you are supposed to get tickets in advance, which I of course didn't do. I was lucky though, and I got in right away. WOW. It is a very powerful place. There were a lot of people and a lot of panels to read and film clips to watch, so I couldn't see everything I might have been interested in, but it was very moving and just so... sad? Powerful? There are no adequate words to portray the horrors that the museum was able to convey, but it was very well done. I recommend a visit there, but just be prepared.

I was ready for a little bit of levity after this, and it was getting late. I really wanted to check out the Hope Diamond at the American Museum of Natural Science. This museum was so kid-friendly (and there were kids everywhere). They had taxidermied animals in situations close to their habitat and bones of almost every animal you can think of, dinosaur bones, a giant squid, a really cool exhibit on ocean life, insect stuff... a science nerd's dream. Unfortunately, I'm not really a science nerd. I walked through the things that looked cool pretty fast, took a few pics of the Hope Diamond, then I went on my way.

I walked through the Smithsonian Castle on the way there. It used to house the Smithsonian collection, but now it's just offices and a gift shop.

A "stuffed" giraffe in the Natural Science Museum. I liked how they posed him.

The Hope Diamond

For dinner, I wanted to check out Mike Isabella's restaurant, Graffiato. Mike came in 2nd place on Top Chef All-Stars and was known for his pepperoni sauce, so I was dying to try it. I found the restaurant, put on my big girl pants, and went and sat at the bar alone. I have never done that before! I ordered a great cocktail made with rosemary syrup and took a look at the menu... no pepperoni sauce (I think it's only on a dish that is on the lunch menu and this was dinner). It was a small plates kind of place, so I ordered a Caesar Salad (forgot it would come with anchovies... I ate them if I didn't see them and they were actually good, and pushed aside the ones I saw) that came with cream cheese croutons. Little squares of cream cheese lightly fried so that they broke and became a rich, gooey mess when you bit into them. Um, yum. I also had the pork neck gnocchi with ricotta. Usually I wouldn't want pork neck but I love gnocchi and I have had pork neck before (it just tastes like... pork) so I got it and it was great. I could have eaten more, but I was alone at a bar and kind of afraid to look like a total pig. But, I figured I walked around all day, so I earned it!

I walked around Union Station (pretty much everything was closed by then) and then went back to the hotel where I saw my coworker at the hotel bar, so I hung out with her for the rest of the night.

After the ceremony and lunch on Monday, my coworker and I had a few hours to kill. I had yet another restaurant in mind - Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery. Spike was also on Top Chef All-Stars and Life After Top Chef, and he has two casual restaurants in DC. We had already eaten lunch, but I considered this an early dinner and got a snack size fry and a kid's toasted marshmallow milkshake... it was good, and priced well, but if we are talking about Top Chef burgers, I prefer Richard Blais' FlipBurger in Atlanta. I'm glad I got to go, though - another Top Chef place to add to my list!

We the Pizza, his other restaurant, was right next door.

Spike was there! Well, kinda...


Inside Good Stuff Eatery.

I really had a great time in DC. I would have loved to have my husband with me, but it was a great chance to get outside of my comfort zone. And, now I have scoped out part of the city, so if we ever go again, I have an idea of what I'm doing!

All the places I went on Sunday. Google said it was seven miles!

Have you ever gotten to explore a city alone? Is there anything I missed in DC? Can you believe I walked twelve miles in three days?


  1. Dang girl, that's a lot of pictures! And that's cool that you got to go there and explore alone, I haven't been to DC since I was in 8th grade (field trip lol). And I've never explored alone though, I think I would be nervous. 12 miles in 3 days? You definitely got your workout in! Love how they posed that giraffe, and I love your latte art. All your food looks yum too!

    Uh meanwhile, how do you feel about taking a class with me at the gym sometime? Would be nice if I had someone else with me! :) I think I'm trying out Body Pump tonight, I'm super nervous tho!

  2. I'm not EVEN going to tell you how long I started at that lady toilet. So crazy.

  3. Wow, you got to do and see so much! And you ate at really cool places it seems!
    I loved DC and I want to go back again since it's been 5 years.
    The National Museum of American History was my favorite. The Lincoln memorial was huge to me also; I had no idea!

  4. That sounds like a great trip! D.C. is definitely on my very long short list of places to go. I think I'd need 2 weeks just for the Smithsonian, though.

  5. I love DC! And you definitely saw a lot of the city. Work trips are so much fun when you have down time! Next time you go, check out Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot). It's pretty cool to see the history there. And DC has a fun zoo. Last time I was there, they had baby pandas :)

  6. I love DC! The last time we went, we walked SO far! Our feet were killing us for days after we returned!

  7. Isn't it weird how like...every other city in the US is completely walkable, and you'd never dream of walking around Houston? Haha! Seriously though, walking around new cities and just exploring around is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I've never been to DC but it's absolutely on my list of places to go! Great pictures!


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