As you’re already aware, we arrived in Washington, DC on August 24th, after a 30 hour, overnight run. Needless to say, our first day here was spent catching up on sleep. Also, it didn’t hurt that the first day here was also a rainy day, so lying around the boat and sleeping in wasn’t really a waste of our time. Instead, it gave us an opportunity to actually plan where we were going and on what day we were going there. So, with our bodies rested and plans made, we decided to get up early on the 26th, catch the bus and do some exploring.
The “Circulator,” that fantastic bus that comes ever ten minutes like clockwork, runs right by the marina. For us, it’s just about 100 yards from our boat, up the dock and across the street to the bus stop. We caught the bus around 9:15 and, since we were the only people on the bus, started chatting with the driver. When he found out that we were going to be in town for a month, he suggested we get a “Smart Pass” at the nearest METRO station. We learned that if we had a Smart Pass, you got every other ride on a bus or subway free (the catch is you have to board the next mode of transportation within a 3.5 hour window of exiting the previous vehicle.) So, armed with this information from the bus driver, we went to the METRO station before we did any sight seeing.
Once under ground, we went to a ticket window and bought two cards, at $5.00 each. Then, since the cards come with a “Zero” balance, we paid an additional $20.00 per card, which loaded and activated them. We also learned that the cards have additional benefits over running around town with a fist full of dollar bills. If you loose the card or it’s destroyed, the METRO will replace it free of charge. It’s good forever, so if you still have a credit balance on the card, it will still be usable on your next trip to DC. The Smart Pass is good on the METRO, the Circulator and the Metropolitan Buses, so with these three modes of transportation, you can go to every place in DC proper, reach Georgetown, Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon and Alexandria, VA plus get all the way to Mt. Vernon. You really don’t need a car here at all. So, with our Smart Pass in hand, we left the METRO station, got back on the Circulator and headed towards the National Mall and the Smithsonian Museums.
Our first stop was the Smithsonian Castle, which is the main office of the Smithsonian. There, we watched an 18-minute video orientation and saw the scale model of the federal city. We also picked up a free guidebook for all of the museums, got times and details on special movies that were showing this week and learned about any current, special exhibits.
From the castle, it was off to the American History Museum, which had been closed during our short visit here last year. The National History Museum exhibitions explore major themes in American history and culture, from the War of Independence to the present day. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War surveys the history of U.S. military conflicts and examines ways in which wars have been defining episodes in American history. America on the Move features the sights, sounds and sensations of transportation in the United States from 1870 to the present. Other exhibits include, The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden; American First Ladies; the original Star-Spangled Banner; Abraham Lincoln’s top hat; Dizzy Gillespie’s angled trumpet and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Our next day was spent at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The main building on the National Mall contains 1.5 million square feet of space overall and 325,000 square feet of exhibition and public space; altogether the Museum is the size of 18 football fields. Contained therein are exhibits of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, the ocean and sea life, dinosaurs and gems and minerals. To see this museum properly, you should allow an entire day. Even then, you’ll probably not see everything that the Natural History Museum has to offer.
From the Natural History Museum, that was a whole nother day spent museueming. We went to the National Air and Space Museum. The National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics. There are actually two display facilities. The National Mall building, where we went this round, has hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is out by Dulles International Airport, displays many more artifacts including the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” and the Space Shuttle “Enterprise.”
We spent about 6 hours in the Mall building and were able to see all of the exhibits with no problem. The Dulles building is on the schedule for later in the month.
On the south side of Washington, DC sits the Washington Navy Yard, so on Monday,we went to the home of the National Museum of the United States Navy (yes, the have some United States Marine Corps stuff there too.) Devoted to the display of naval artifacts, models, documents and fine art, the museum chronicles the history of the United States Navy from the American Revolution to present-day conflicts. Interactive exhibits commemorate our Navy's wartime heroes and battles as well as peacetime contributions in exploration, diplomacy, navigation and humanitarian service.
One of the most extensive collections of ship models, films, cannon, aircraft, and some life size vessels detail the U.S. Navy’s history in the service of America. Tools, equipment and personal effects, of historical figures and regular duty naval personnel, offer visitors an exciting chance to learn more about naval history, customs and way of life.
Once we finished with the museum, we took a self-guided tour of the U.S.S. BARRY (DD-933.) This destroyer, a veteran of Korean, Vietnam and Middle Eastern conflicts, is maintained in perfect condition and allows visitors to see what it would be like to serve on a modern naval vessel.
From the Naval Museum, it was a short walk up 8th Street to the Washington Marine Barracks, at the corner of 8th and I Streets. This active Marine Corp post is the home of the Commandant of the Marine Corp, the Silent Drill Team and all of the Marine Security Force that guards the White House and other important Federal Buildings. Ah, to be wearing a set of Dress Blues again, and to be that skinny too (lol.)
So, there you have it, our first week in Washington. It’s been pretty busy, but really interesting and a lot of fun. Please take a look at the slide show we’ve attached. We sure hope you enjoy it.