In December 2014, I was on a road trip with two of the coolest people I know. We drove 10+ hours to spend one day in Washington DC. It was exhausting and just insanely fun.
We stayed with Hostelling International Washington DC. The price was great for us younggins, and the location was just right- about a 6 minute walk from the central train station, and a 10 or so minute walk from the National Mall. The young girl who checked us in was so sweet and energetic, we instantly felt a part of the hostel community.
We noticed a flyer for a free walking tour that night and were all on board. We had a bit of time before the tour started, so we took the small elevator to our floor and stuffed our belongings into our lockers.
Back in the lobby, we waited around for about 10 minutes, exchanging “hellos” and “where are you froms” with our fellow tourmates. Before leaving for the tour, our guide asked each person to say where they were from. There were mostly people from Australia, but there were some Hong Kongs, Canadas, and New Zealands thrown in there too. When it was our turn, my friend and I enthusiastically shouted “MICHIGAN!!” to which our tourguide replied “…why are you here?”
We all had a good laugh and the tour set off. We walked in a big group, all chatting like we were good buddies. I remember there was one Australian guy who talked about himself a lot. He wasn’t as bad as that guy from the airplane to Denver, but it was still worth a few eye-rolls between my girlfriends.
All of the sudden the group came to a stop. I looked around to see what monument was first on our tour. I looked to my left. “That’s the White House?”
Maybe it was because it was dark. Maybe it was because we were kind of far away. But I was really not impressed. It seemed way smaller than the photos make it look and there was nothing all that ornate or pretty about it. I studied it over with some dissatisfaction and decided the White House wasn’t all that great. It really just looks like a rich person’s large house, that happens to be white. Unless you get to go inside for a tour, it’s really not worth anything more than a quick picture stop.
Next, we headed south to the Washington Monument. Way cooler. In the night, the misty air mixed with the bright spotlight and made the monument appear like a giant candlestick. Yes…candlestick.
Continuing onward, we stopped at the World War II Memorial. The sounds of the water fountains cut the eerie silence creating a reflective atmosphere to just wander and take in the massive memorial and its purpose.
I was particularly impacted by the wall of stars. The wall itself displays 4,048 golden stars. Seeing this many stars arranged and knowing that each individual star represented 100 American military deaths during World War II, created a visually powerful message that was difficult to grasp.
Our next stop was the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Statues of soldiers, shrouded in steel ponchos, jutted out from the ground. In their faces, you could see the determination and fear. The sight gave me shivers as the ghostly figures stood frozen in the night.
Our group moved on to the Lincoln Memorial. The size of it was incredible.
While the memorial itself was beautiful, I really enjoyed the view looking out over the Reflecting Pool, back at the Washington Monument. I commented on the sight and how the symmetry was visually satisfying, but on the inside I was screaming “JEN-NAY!”.
Last on our evening tour was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had seen the traveling version of this memorial at a state fair in Ohio a few summers prior, so I knew what to expect. Mainly, the memorial is a wall with over 58,000 names of people who died during the Vietnam War. Walking along the wall and seeing all the names inscribed was moving. Especially passing a family as they located the name of a loved one on the wall.
Overall, our walking tour was a great way to get acquainted with Washington DC and to get a jumpstart on DC Sightseeing. Our tour guide was very informative and encouraged us to ask questions at any time. If you’re in the DC area, I highly recommend an evening walking tour!