The Washington metropolitan area popularly known as DMV is the metropolitan area that is centred in the Washington area. It covers Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia and most importantly is served by the Metro. This is my favourite tourist destination in the United States of America mostly because of the abundant and free Smithsonian museums but also other national and international monuments and it is one of the easiest states in America to navigate and explore, it is easy to access the cities through a ride in the Metro or hop on the DC bike to explore all that DC have to offer. It is also easy to walk around, if you are feeling lazy and depending on the time of the year of your visit, the summer can be extremely hot for those of us from Europe you can sit back on a double-decker tour bus and soak up the history that the city has to offer.
However, you choose to explore this magnificent city do make it count. I remember when I first visited DC. I took the Metro from Hyattsville (Prince Georges Metro Station) where you can get a day ticket or weekly ticket depending on the length of time you are visiting. The train ride was short, I got off at the Smithsonian metro stop. I still remember walking off the train station and bursting out the sunny DC morning and feeling like a child that just received the best Christmas gift ever. The views were very humbling and amazing, years of watching moves that depict and showed DC, the capitol, the white house, the mall and other amazing sites and now I am standing there looking and witnessing this, it was breathtaking. I have gone back to visit over and over again and each time was like the first time. There is a power and spirit that draws and calls out to you in this magnificent city, the architecture, the open spaces and the monuments and museums and the sea of unending tourists.
After years of visits to DC, I have decided to put together my list of the most important and interesting places you should visit if you ever visit DC.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
This reminds me of watching presidential inaugurations and movies. The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, constructed in 1922 and designed by Henry Bacon, has to be on the family itinerary! It is the largest of the many reflecting pools in Washington, D.C., constructed after the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. It is approximately 2,029 ft. long and 167 ft. wide and holds about 6,750,000 US gallons in 18 inches of water. Once you’ve reached the top of the stairs facing Lincoln, turn around to view the National Mall facing the Washington Monument, and be prepared to be blown away by the amazing view!
The National Mall
The National Mall is unmissable from any direction you take to get into DC. it is the very long, grassy open space called the National Mall and it is home to some of the most iconic monuments in America this includes the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monuments. To the east, you see the iconic domed US Capitol and the White House is to the North of the Park. The Mall is also flanked in all sides and directions by some of the Smithsonian Museums and the lawns and pathways are always filled with tourists, ice cream trucks and hot food trucks, it is also always crowded with school groups on school trips, group and joggers mostly in the morning. If you’re here in the spring you’ll have the added treat of walking among the cherry trees in full bloom.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is home to the National Centre for Earth and Planetary Studies. It has some of the most fabulous and significant collections of aviation and space artefacts in the world. They also have impressive Imax experience and simulators. This surely is a very wonderful attraction to families with young children especially young boys that are interested in seeing the first and original Wright Brothers flyers, the Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo moon vehicles and many more, some of them actually hanging from the ceiling.
Library of Congress
This surely has one of the most impressive and magnificent buildings in the DC area. Founded in 1800 which makes it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation, the Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, boasting more than 162 million items on about 8383 miles of bookshelves, the collections including over 38 million books and 14 million photographs, just for starters! The Library also holds over 700,000 volumes of rare books, which also incorporates the largest collection of 15th century Western Hemisphere tomes, including 100 extremely rare children’s books such as “The Children’s New Play-Thing” (Philadelphia, 1763) and “The Children’s Bible” (Philadelphia, 1763) as well as the smallest and largest books. But don’t just read about it here; bring the family and enjoy a tour around this fascinating site.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
This is a world treasure, about two acres of land dedicated to honouring more than fifty-eight thousand US service members of the United States Army that died during the Vietnam War and South East Asia and those who were missing in action.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
This is a very family-oriented museum to visit as it offers many opportunities and interest for the entire family that are interested in learning all about nature and the world. It first opened its doors in 1910 and it has entertained and educated us ever since. The museum has over 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artefacts which include 30 million insects carefully pinned into tiny boxes as well as 7 million fish in liquid-filled jars and much more besides, including 400,000 photographs housed in the National Anthropological Archives. There is a restaurant on site but you are also able to bring your own refreshments to this free museum which offers hours of educational fun for all.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
This amazing memorial site dedicated to the late, great Martin Luther King, Jr. envelops four acres and includes a statue of King by sculptor Lei Yixin. The memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011, after more than two decades of planning, construction and fund-raising. Only the fourth non-president to be memorialized in such a way, the monument is a must-see attraction for everyone. It includes some of the most amazing quotes from speeches from Martin King. It is very easy to navigate.
National Portrait Gallery
This historic art museum was founded in 1962, its wonderful collections concentrating on images of famous Americans which include residential and first lady portraits, as well as a wonderful portrait of Richard Nixon, painted by Norman Rockwell! The gallery also has a superb collection of George Washington portraits, mostly painted during his lifetime. It recently took delivery of portrait of the 44th president of America Barak Obama and his wife Michelle Obama. Very excited and looking forward to seeing this on my next trip. This will be interesting and enjoyable learning for all the family.
This is the most iconic monument in Washington DC. The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington DC and can be seen for miles from every direction. It was built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States. A visit to the stunning Washington Monument that towers above the city bearing his name is really a must-see for all the family. Built-in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk and completed in two phases, one private (1848-1854) and one public (1876-1884), it was at that time the tallest building in the world, standing at 555 ft and 5 1/8 in. You can ascend to the top of the building by elevator, and watch a short video as you wait to board. There is no time limit on how long you want to stay. With a stunning view both by day and by night, this will be an unforgettable experience for all the family.
This is among the most symbolically important and architecturally impressive buildings in the nation. The Capitol houses the meeting chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate a guided tour of the Capitol is very much recommended.
After watching tons of movies, TV series and documentaries, seeing the white house was top on my list when I visited Washington DC for the first time. And it sure didn’t disappoint. If you want to do the guided tour, you need to be there early and there a few rules and regulations that you need to strictly adhere to which the tour guide will explain to you before the start of the tour.
An awesome experience for all.
This is a lovely area to spend with the family; situated along the Potomac River, this historic neighbourhood was originally created in 1751 as a port and remained a separate municipality before the District of Columbia was created in 1871. It is now popular with locals and tourists alike for its many bars, restaurants and high-end shops – not forgetting the fabulous Georgetown Park enclosed shopping mall! There are plenty of scenic waterfront restaurants located in the Washington Harbor to enjoy as well. Take a walk or bike ride, relax at one of the lively coffee shops and make sure you get to sample one of the famous Georgetown cupcakes!
The National Archives Museum
Another unforgettable attraction has to be the National Archives Building, which is the original headquarters of the National Archives and Records Administration. Prepare to be totally captivated when viewing all the documents on display (and there is no time limit to this) which include the three main seminal documents of the United States and its government; the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (including many original drafts with editing by early presidents and other historical people!). It is also home to an original version of the 1297 Magna Carta, confirmed by Edward 1, together with other important historical documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, fascinating collections of photography, and other historically and culturally significant American artefacts.
National Postal Museum
This almost hidden treasure is a must-see for all the family! The museum is rarely overcrowded and has a mass of interesting interactive displays all about the history of the United States Postal Service and mail service around the world, as well as an enormous collection of stamps, for all you philatelists out there! The National Postal Museum was established through a joint agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Postal Service and opened in 1993, also housing a gift shop and a separate stamp shop, exhibits on the Pony Express, an exhibit on direct marketing called, “What’s in the Mail for You,” that produces a souvenir envelope with your name printed on it and a coupon for the gift shop as well as other fun, learning items.
National Postal Museum
This is the newest addition to the Smithsonian family. I was so excited to see this museum I had to wake up three times a week to try to get a ticket. Yes, you need to get a ticket to go in. The tickets are free but man is it difficult to get hold of. Tickets are released every morning at 5 am but it finishes in a second. After days of waiting, I took a chance and went to the museum without a ticket and alas they give out tickets twice every day at 9 am and at 1 pm. I was very lucky I got one after waiting for about two and half hours but going inside this magnificent building, was worth the wait.
This is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by the Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artefacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.