In December 2014, two of my best girlfriends and I took a road trip to the capital of the United States: Washington DC. We chose D.C. as our destination for a few reasons:
1.) We had an Australian on board and thought it was a good place to take her.
2.) It was relatively cheap- most museums and attractions are free! Can’t beat that!
3.) I had wanted to visit D.C for quite some time and as the driver and Chief Planner-of-Trips, I got to make the executive decision.
I planned it out so that we’d arrive in DC late in the afternoon on a Saturday night. We’d have a full day on Sunday to explore, then high-tail it back to Michigan on Monday.
If you only have a short time to spend in Washington DC, here’s a great way to see a lot on a limited budget!
The drive took about 10 hours to get to DC from Michigan, avoiding toll roads (Those Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are no joke $$$). I drove the whole time and as a person with a love/hate relationship with road trips, I should probably get some kind of certificate of achievement…
We parked the car at the Grosvenor Metro Station in North Bethesda, Maryland. From there, we hopped on the train and got off at the Metro Center station in Washington, D.C
Stepping out onto the streets of Washington D.C., I was instantly in love. It had been a few months since my last good city-fix and D.C. quickly filled me back up. The streets were not too filled with traffic and the sidewalks weren’t flooded with people. The lights and architecture kept my head turning in every direction, soaking it all up.
After we checked into our hostel, we joined a free evening walking tour to get a bit of sightseeing squeezed in before our one-day adventure.
In the morning, we were up early- eager to get as much exploring in as possible.
Here’s how it went:
Our first stop was The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Now, I’m really not big on museums, but I did enjoy looking at all the animals from different parts of the world. We got to see the famous Hope Diamond, which was supposed to be a big deal but I wasn’t all that impressed. I was expecting a diamond the size of my head, but I guess that isn’t too practical for wearing purposes. My favorite part, though was definitely seeing the Eternal Life of Egypt exhibit. Mummies are an incredibly fascinating part of human history and I was a little geeked out of my mind to see them in real life. Creepy? A bit. But mostly super cool. (Cost = Free!)
After the museum, we walked and ran into the National Archives. It was free. We had time. Why not? We waited in line for probably 5 or so minutes, before going through security. The interior of the building was really pretty, consisting of mostly marble. We made our way up to the second floor to the Rotunda, which houses important documents of United States History. It was cool to be able to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I was annoyed, however, at the number of people that were stopping to try and actually read these documents. The words are teeny, written in fancy, old-timey script, and very faded. Plus, the text is displayed all around the room, so if you really needed a good read, pick there instead. (Cost = Free!)
Well, after a solid 20 minutes at the National Archives, we were ready to head on to the Capitol Building. After stopping at a truck near the park out front for the Aussie’s first corn-dog experience, we hiked around the building to the underground entrance. We didn’t want to shell out for a tour, nor did we really want more information on the Capitol Building. We were satisfied enough just to say we’d been there and taken photos. (Cost = Free!)
We continued walking uphill until we got to the Library of Congress. I was really excited to see the largest library in the world, but what I saw was completely unexpected. It was SO beautiful on the inside. The marble. The gold. The towering columns. The statues. The staircases. I couldn’t take enough photographs.
I was disappointed to learn that as tourists, we couldn’t go into the actual library floor, but was quickly cheered up when I saw there was a whole section just about maps. As a travel enthusiast, I am completely in love with maps. This one of what they thought Michigan looked like was especially amusing. How about that “Mitten State”, eh? (Cost = Free!)
Next on our list was the Holocaust Museum. I had heard about the museum experience a few years earlier and wanted to experience it myself. Upon arrival, you receive a small booklet with information about the life of someone who had a first-hand experience of the Holocaust. The whole museum is set up like a time line, depicting the horrific events in chronological order. At different points within the timeline, you read more about what was specifically happening in the life of the person in your booklet. It was so much more intimate to read about this person and feel like you were part of their story as you walked through the museum.
It was incredibly moving and I insist you go there. I do have one request though: The museum itself is powerful enough to make a lasting mark in your memory. You do not need to take photographs inside.
(Cost = Free)
By the time we were done at the Holocaust Museum, it was dark and still raining. We had a choice to make: Go back to the hostel to get out of the rain, or keep on going despite the weather.
We chose the latter.
We headed down towards the river, to make the loop around the Tidal Basin. This walk encompasses a handful of famous memorials (Cost = Free!), including the Jefferson Memorial:
The Roosevelt Memorial, (it was too dark for a good picture of this one) and the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial
On our way back to the hostel, we stopped by the Washington Monument for a second time. The bight white-grey looked so cool contrasted with the dark and rainy sky. (Cost = Free!)
By the end of the day we were exhausted, soaked to the bone, and thoroughly pleased with our day in DC. (Dollars Spent = $0)
Have you been to Washington D.C.? What did I miss during my time there?
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This is perfect timing for me as my husband and I are planning a quick trip to D.C. in April. I am really excited for the museums, but the number one on my list is the Holocaust museum. I can imagine it is very moving and will probably agree with the impact it makes on one’s memory.
I am also hoping to catch the cherry blossoms. It looks like you all were able to fit in quite a lot on your trip!