Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and is home to over 680,000 people. Georgetown, one of the districts inside ‘D.C.’ is the oldest part of the city, which was founded 40 years before Washington D.C. Interestingly, D.C. accumulates more rainfall per year than Seattle, with a striking 39 inches falling each year!
D.C. is home to persons from all kinds of walks of life and has a vast amount of cultural influences. There are literally so many things to do in D.C., that you’d most probably need a week to cram everything in. There are dozens of museums that you can spend all day in, a great nightlife, amazing food and most of all, there are monuments and buildings that are simply sublime. If Washington D.C. isn’t on your list of places to visit – it should be.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO THE U.S.
If you’re traveling to Washington, D.C. from outside the US and more specifically from one of the countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, be sure to check out ESTA Form for all the information you need with your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
WHEN YOU FIRST ARRIVE IN WASHINGTON
It’s hard to forget that this is the capital of the United States. When you arrive in D.C, you will undoubtedly be saluted by American flags and there is an unavoidable sense from what feels like a tightened security presence. To be completely honest, Washington D.C. feels safer than any other location I’ve ever been to. Quite ironically, I had this idea that D.C. wasn’t going to be very safe. Of course, I was just naive.
I arrived in the middle of July, and if, like me, you do the same… it will be HOT. I arrived and the temperature was a stifling 38 degrees Celsius (roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit) for you American readers)! My advice for your arrival would be to carry plenty of water, pack comfortable shoes and layer up with sunscreen. Unfortunately, managed two out of the three and ended up with a serious case of sunburn. Please, learn from my mistakes!
FIRST STOP: THE WHITE HOUSE
Upon arrival to D.C. like many others, The White House is one of the first places you will probably think about visiting. When I visited it was home to the then President of the United States, Barack Obama. I was under the impression that somehow I would catch a glimpse of said President, again naive.
HOUSE OF CARDS
I’m a massive House of Cards fan. Not quite sure if it’s to do with the constant story line that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or if Kevin Spacey looking into the camera and speaking to the watcher on a personal level. Whatever it is, I love that show!
With that being said, it’s easy to believe you’re in an episode of House of Cards when you arrive in D.C. You will recognise places that you have seen on the hit TV show around the city. A little tip though, you won’t find Frank’s Ribs. That’s seriously unfortunate, I know.
You will however, find sublime food and hospitality around the city. With the vast amount of culture that Washington has to offer, you can find everything from Japanese food to Mexico and everything in between. Whatever your heart (stomach) desires, you will not be disappointed. I promise you that.
I could write a whole article about the food in Washington D.C., but that’s already been completed. Before I travelled to the Capital, I read many articles about food – because let’s face it – food is life. Here’s an article about the best cheap food you will find in Washington D.C. Personally, I would always recommend Korean BBQ! You cannot go wrong – simple as that!
MEMORIALS AND ABE
After a swift walk around the White House, I decided to follow a hoard of tourists who looked as if they knew where they were heading. A bold move, granted. It paid off, though.
A stark reminder of World War Two ensued. I made my way to the Lincoln Memorial. Wow. Seeing this in movies and TV is nothing compared to seeing it right there in person. The workmanship is incredible and something you HAVE to see with your own eyes. Do not take my word for it though, GO!
It’s breathtaking to look, but, more importantly, it’s very humbling. There is a deafening silence surrounding the memorial with many paying their respects and taking pictures. You can hear the faintest sounds coming from the other end of The Mall.
Walking around The Mall in this heat will most probably start to take its toll, as it did with me – I sweating profusely and almost out of water! – That’s why one of the tips I previously mentioned of carrying water is so vital; I remember wishing at that very moment that I could jump into the water beside me, in a Forrest Gump-sque style. Alas, I didn’t. Probably best not to do that, either.
After a whole day of walking around Washington D.C, I ventured over to Arlington National Cemetery. Upon arriving there, I didn’t know what to expect. However, what I witnessed was death on a cataclysmic scale. With over 400,000 graves for fallen soldiers, Arlington puts life and war into a serious perspective. I’ve never been a fan of cemeteries at the best of times, and I’m still not a fan. There was something about Arlington that I cannot put my finger on.
You have to realise though, that the men and women buried inside had fought for their country and although there was a uniquely strange atmosphere buzzing around the cemetery, you can sense the vast amount of respect and honour that is represented around the grounds. American flags soar high into the sky. The grass is cut to perfection. American families paying their respect to everyone.
The most memorable moment of my time at Arlington came at the tomb of the ‘Unknown Soldier’. On March 4, 1921, the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I was approved by Congress. The respect and honour that the Unknown Soldier receives is supreme and like no other thing I have ever bare witness to.
A guard proceeds to ‘Walk the mat’. Walking the mat is a systematic and methodical process that the guards on duty follow whilst watching over the graves. The process is as follows:
– The guard marches 21 steps south down the black mat laid across the Tomb. The guard then faces east, toward the Tomb for 21 seconds.
– The guard then faces north and changes their weapon to the outside of their shoulder, whilst waiting for another 21 seconds.
– The guard then takes precisely 21 steps down the mat.
– Next, the guard turns and faces east for 21 seconds.
– The guard proceeds to turn and face south, again, changes the weapon to the outside of their shoulder and waits for 21 seconds.
– The guard repeats this entire routine until they’re relieved of their duty at the Changing of the Guard.
Surprisingly, the guards do this every single day. No matter the weather, no matter the day. The Tomb is ALWAYS protected by the guard. Outstanding, if you ask me.
Have you visited Washington, D.C.? Please share your own tips with our readers in the comments below. Read Next > A New Yorker’s Guide to New York
By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Sophie Jones