To See and Be Seen in DC

As cap­i­tal cities go, Washington of­fers plenty of what you’d ex­pect – and more than a few sur­prises

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Michelle Harbi and Ross Atkin­son

As cap­i­tal cities go, Washington of­fers plenty of what you’d ex­pect – and more than a few sur­prises

Among all the cities in the US where you might con­sider spend­ing an ex­tra few hours or even days, there would be a few iconic nick­names that in­stantly come to mind: The Big Ap­ple, un­doubt­edly; the Windy City, cer­tainly, per­haps Mu­sic City or The Big Easy or Tin­sel­town. One that might not im­me­di­ately rise to the top of the list is the na­tion’s cap­i­tal city.

How­ever if your busi­ness trav­els take you to Washington, DC, you won’t re­gret ex­tend­ing your trip by a cou­ple of days to take in ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer. The Dis­trict is home to a wealth of his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural trea­sures, not to men­tion some of the coun­try’s most im­pres­sive ar­chi­tec­ture. More­over, be­hind the mar­ble façades and bronze stat­ues, there’s a vi­brant city that loves to throw a party al­most all year long.

Here­with a few of our picks for what to see, where to see it from and how to make the most of your time in the city on the Po­tomac.

Na­tional Mall Me­mo­ri­als

It’s likely that much of your time will be spent in and around the Na­tional Mall. The nearly two-mile-long green space be­tween the Capi­tol build­ing and the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial is not only bor­dered by a su­perb ar­ray of mu­se­ums but is home to a num­ber of mon­u­ments. A stroll or cy­cle around the Mall pro­vides a telling in­sight into the com­plex history of the na­tion. From the War of In­de­pen­dence and Civil War, to the World Wars, the con­flicts of Viet­nam and Korea and the civil rights move­ment, many of the events that have shaped the US are com­mem­o­rated.

At the Mall’s cen­ter is the Washington Mon­u­ment, the tow­er­ing 555-foot mar­ble obelisk that is the city’s most prom­i­nent land­mark. En­er­getic visi­tors can as­cend its 897 steps and be re­warded with a spec­tac­u­lar panoramic view. Tick­ets are re­quired, but free; they’re avail­able same­day at the Washington Mon­u­ment Lodge on 15th Street.

To the east, in front of the Capi­tol, Civil War gen­eral Pres­i­dent Ulysses S Grant sits on horse­back fac­ing the im­pos­ing Lin­coln Me­mo­rial to the far west. Ded­i­cated in 1922, the cen­ter­piece of the multi-columned Greek-style tem­ple com­mem­o­rat­ing the“Great Eman­ci­pa­tor” is a huge mar­ble statue of Lin­coln. His Get­tys­burg ad­dress is in­scribed on one wall, while at the top of the steps, the spot where Martin Luther King – him­self im­mor­tal­ized in stone a short walk away – de­liv­ered his 1963“I Have a Dream”speech is marked. At the other end of the long, still Re­flect­ing Pool – in which For­rest Gump took a dip in the 1994 film – is the Sec­ond World War me­mo­rial, added in 2004. To the south, two leg­endary pres­i­dents are re­mem­bered, Thomas Jef­fer­son and Franklin D Roo­sevelt.

Per­haps the most evoca­tive of all is the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans me­mo­rial. Maya Lin’s de­sign con­sists of two ad­join­ing gab­bro walls sunk like gashes into the ground, in­scribed with more than 58,000 names of troops who died. As you walk to­wards the cen­ter, the walls be­come deeper and higher so that the sheer vol­ume of names be­comes over­pow­er­ing. Well-thumbed

books dis­play­ing names in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der al­low you to pin­point ex­actly where each one is etched.

The Mall is open 24 hours, with Park Ser­vice rangers on duty at me­mo­ri­als 9:30 AM – 11:30 PM; nps.gov; dcby­foot. com; bikethe­sites.com.

Na­tional Mu­seum of Amer­i­can History

Whether you’re into history, art, science or cul­ture, Washington has a fan­tas­tic range of mu­se­ums to choose from, a num­ber of which line the Na­tional Mall. Many are part of the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing the Nat­u­ral History, Amer­i­can In­dian, African Art, and Air and Space mu­se­ums, the Sackler Gallery of Asian art and the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum of mod­ern works, and most are free to visit.

I headed for the Amer­i­can History mu­seum – three sprawl­ing floors of na­tional trea­sures broadly grouped around the themes of trans­porta­tion and tech­nol­ogy, lives, ideals, wars and pol­i­tics. Ex­hibits in­clude the orig­i­nal Star Span­gled Ban­ner that inspired the Na­tional An­them, Thomas Edi­son’s light bulb, and the “whites only”Wool­worth lunch counter at which four black stu­dents staged a sit-in in Greens­boro, NC, in 1960.

Oth­ers range in gravitas from an 1833 slave ship man­i­fest – with ages, heights and skin color noted – to the orig­i­nal Ker­mit the Frog pup­pet. The leather jacket Bob Dy­lan wore at the 1965 New­port Folk Fes­ti­val – the first time he went elec­tric – and Muham­mad Ali’s box­ing gloves are also on dis­play, along with Dorothy’s ruby slip­pers from the Wiz­ard of Oz.

Open 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM daily; ad­mis­sion is free; 14th Street and Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue NW; amer­i­can­his­tory.si.edu

Na­tional Gallery of Art Sculp­ture Gar­den

Also on the Mall, the Na­tional Gallery of Art houses a huge col­lec­tion of works from the 13th cen­tury to the present. All man­ner of mas­ters are on ex­hibit, but should you not have time to delve into its vast col­lec­tion – or the weather is too nice to go in­side – you can grab an art fix by strolling through its 6-acre sculp­ture gar­den.

The col­lec­tion pri­mar­ily show­cases mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can works – Louise Bour­geois’Spi­der, Roy Licht­en­stein’s House I and Mark di Su­vero’s Aurora are among the stand­outs – but in­ter­na­tional artists such as Spain’s Joan Miro and Bri­tain’s Barry Flana­gan are also rep­re­sented. Na­ture lovers will no­tice ev­ery­thing from Le­banese cedars and Ja­panese snow­bell to Dutch elm and South­ern mag­no­lia in the pretty grounds. There is a café with an out­door ter­race for sum­mer peo­ple-watch­ing.

Open­ing hours vary depend­ing on sea­son – check web­site. Ad­mis­sion is free; be­tween Sev­enth and Ninth streets at Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue NW; nga.gov

Newseum

It’s fit­ting that Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, the street that leads from the Capi­tol to the White House and that has pro­vided the set­ting for so many global news events – from pres­i­den­tial pa­rades and fu­neral corteges to protest marches – is the home of this su­perb mu­seum ded­i­cated to the history of the media. Newseum tells the story of jour­nal­ism from its ear­li­est days to to­day’s mam­moth mul­ti­me­dia oper­a­tions.

The var­ied gal­leries cover nearly 250,000 square feet across seven lev­els. The News History sec­tion dis­plays five cen­turies of news­pa­pers in chrono­log­i­cal or­der – tak­ing in ev­ery­thing from the 1649 death sen­tence passed on Charles I to Neil Armstrong land­ing on the moon. The 9/11 gallery fea­tures the man­gled an­ten­nae from the World Trade Cen­ter’s North Tower along­side a wall of global cov­ers re­port­ing the at­tacks, and the fi­nal pic­tures taken by Bill Big­gart, a pho­tog­ra­pher who died in the wreck­age. More than 2,000 news gath­er­ers who have died on the job are hon­ored in the Jour­nal­ists Me­mo­rial.

Other ex­hibits in­clude eight sec­tions of the Ber­lin Wall, Richard Reid’s shoe bombs, and the world’s largest col­lec­tion of Pulitzer Prize-win­ning pho­to­graphs. The To­day’s Front Pages gallery pro­vides a snap­shot of the day’s global head­lines. Fun gifts from that well-known or­a­cle of truth, The Onion, are on sale in the shop.

Open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily; Ad­mis­sion is $22.95 plus tax; 555 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue; newseum.org

Na­tional Ar­chives

The Na­tional Ar­chives is where the na­tion’s most hal­lowed doc­u­ments – the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, the Con­sti­tu­tion and Bill of Rights – are kept. They’re dis­played in the grand – and grandly ti­tled – Ro­tunda for the Char­ters of Free­dom, which fea­tures two mu­rals de­pict­ing var­i­ous Found­ing Fathers.

The doc­u­ments are faded now – and housed in hu­mid­ity-con­trolled, bullet- proof dis­play cases to pre­vent fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion – but it’s a plea­sure pick­ing out the names of the sig­na­to­ries and the“un­alien­able rights”that still guide Amer­i­can law and gov­ern­ment. Also on dis­play is the Magna Carta – a pre­cur­sor to the Bill of Rights – while the 1,100 records in the Public Vaults ex­hi­bi­tion in­clude ma­te­ri­als from the Water­gate and JFK as­sas­si­na­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Open 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM daily; free ad­mis­sion; be­tween Sev­enth and Ninth streets at Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue NW; ar­chives.gov/nae

A City of Cel­e­bra­tions

No mat­ter what time of year you visit DC, there is a very great like­li­hood you will be sur­rounded by a cel­e­bra­tion. There seems al­ways to be fes­ti­vals, con­certs, pa­rades or other na­tional or city-wide events.

Of course, there are fa­mous oc­ca­sions that at­tract visi­tors from around the na­tion, and even the world. The Na­tional Cherry Blos­som Fes­ti­val in late March through early April, the White House Easter Egg Roll, Me­mo­rial Day Week­end events, and lots of sum­mer fes­ti­vals.

In­de­pen­dence Day al­ways draws huge crowds. (If the Mall is your des­ti­na­tion dur­ing this cel­e­bra­tion, be pre­pared for jammed Metro trains and zero park­ing.) More than 100 march­ing band units step out at noon along Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue for the Fourth of July pa­rade. Mu­si­cal groups en­ter­tain from mid-af­ter­noon un­til evening when the Na­tional Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and an all-star line up of guests per­form.

But if you’re a fre­quent visi­tor to DC, you’ve likely al­ready dis­cov­ered lesser known events worth con­sid­er­ing.

Pass­port DC: Travel around the world with­out leav­ing DC for the en­tire month of May. Pass­port DC cel­e­brates in­ter­na­tional cul­ture with more than 50 em­bassy open houses. Tour se­lect em­bassies and learn about the cul­ture and cus­toms of coun­tries from all over the globe. May 1 – 31.

Smith­so­nian Folk­life Fes­ti­val: One of the Na­tional Mall’s best-loved events, each year dur­ing the last week of June and the first week of July this fes­ti­val rolls out the red car­pet to celebrate one of the world’s many cul­tures. This year’s cel­e­bra­tion show­cases Peru’s col­or­ful com­mu­nity with mu­sic and dance, mar­kets, tex­tiles, food and more.Visit fes­ti­val.si.edu for de­tails.

The Cap­i­tal Fringe Fes­ti­val: From July 9 to 26, the 10th An­niver­sary Fringe Fes­ti­val will see more than 500 per­for­mances of theater, dance, mu­sic, po­etry and pup­petry at unique venues around the city. Each year, the Fringe lets more than 120 artists con­nect with the com­mu­nity through cre­ative, edgy, con­tem­po­rary per­for­mances. Find out more at cap­i­tal­fringe.org. BT

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