Our first full day in Washington was a busy one! Sharon had checked before we left home to see if there were any advance tickets available for the Washington Monument, but there weren’t. That left us with one option: lining up at 7am to get tickets. We woke up just after 6am and made our way to the monument (taking the very efficient Metro). Part of me thought that Sharon was the only tourist crazy enough to line up so early but sure enough, there were about a dozen people already in the line! I should have known better than to question her!
In our rush to get there however, we didn’t have time to stop for coffee. As we had to wait an hour and a half until the ticket office opened anyway, that gave me lots of time to find a Starbucks and return with coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Before long, we had our tickets in hand and went to line up at the Washington Monument!
We made it to the front of the line for the 9am tour, just ahead of about six tour buses, thankfully. It’s pretty cool that you can go up to the top of the Washington Monument, and once you’re there you have a clear view of many of Washington’s major attractions, including the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. It was very cool, and the staff were all so welcoming and entertaining – it was definitely a highlight of the day.
Next we made our way to the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Constitution Gardens. It all looks relatively close together on the map, but make no mistake, we walked a lot. There were tons of tour groups at each memorial. I think my favorite was the Lincoln Memorial – it was just so impressive. We also found the spot on the stairs where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic speech, marked by the words “I Have A Dream”.
After the Memorials, we made our way back toward the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Once we got there however, we decided it probably made more sense to get some lunch first. We wandered toward the office buildings, passing the Old Post Office and the J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) Building, eventually spotting Teaism. Continuing with our good timing, we just beat the lunchtime office crowd, and managed to snag a seat inside. I ordered a Chicken Bento Box, Sharon ordered the Chicken Udon soup, and since it was a tea place, we shared an Iced Black Tea. Everything was pretty tasty, and Teaism proved to be quite popular – the line was out the door for most of the time we were there (they do both eat-in and take-out). On our way back to the museum, we decided to check out the Old Post Office, taking the free tour up to the top of the clock tower. Compared with the Washington Monument, it was a bit underwhelming.
We spent most of the afternoon inside the National Museum of American History, visiting all three floors. There was lots to look at of course, including a couple of relatively new exhibits. One was the “Star-Spangled Banner” exhibit, and the other was the “I Do Solemnly Swear” (pictures from Obama’s inauguration). I really enjoyed looking at all of the shots from that event. The Lincoln exhibit was a nice complement to our visit earlier in the day, and I also liked the “Lighting a Revolution” and “America on the Move” exhibits. Sharon was excited to see Julia Child’s kitchen. We would have spent more time in the Pop Culture exhibit, but it was packed with tour groups of kids.
By the time we were finished at the museum, we were both getting pretty tired. Up since 6am and walking almost non-stop since then was starting to take its toll! We decided to walk over to the National Mall to sit for a while before going for dinner. We did some people-watching, and tried to imagine the 2 million people who where there for Obama’s inauguration. At one point, Sharon remarked “Jogging – Washington’s Official Sport” – there were definitely a lot of joggers passing by (all day actually).
We hopped back on the Metro, and made our way toward Chinatown. We still had a bit of time before our reservation, so we walked around the area, passing the Verizon Center and many familiar logos (though interestingly, many of them had both English and Chinese signs). Eventually we walked to Proof, one of the restaurants Sharon had picked out. At first I was a little worried that we were underdressed, but it turned out to be fine (not nearly as awkward as our Gramercy Tavern experience in NY). We decided to go with the Charcuterie and some appetizers, in addition to a variety of 2oz samples of wine. Sharon will be writing all about it later, but I can say that we really enjoyed it. The cheese and meats were fantastic, as were the appetizers (spicy meatballs, pork confit, and gnocchi). It was a great dinner!
We briefly considered walking over to the Jefferson Memorial afterward, but decided to come back to the hotel to rest instead. The weather today was great – warm and sunny but not sweltering or unbearable. Hopefully it’s more of the same tomorrow when we’re off to the Capitol Building, among other places!
You can see my photos from the Washington Monument here – the rest of today’s photos (nearly 250) will be uploaded later!